KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
CATTLE TRADE OF THE WEST AND SOUTHWEST, BY JOSEPH G. McCOY




Chapter XIX.


THE PRINCIPAL WESTERN RAILROAD LINES ENGAGED IN THE LIVE STOCK TRAFFIC -- THE H. & ST. JOE -- THE ST. L, K. C. & N. -- THE C. & A. -- K. P. -- THE N. R., FT. S. & G. -- THE L. L. G. -- THE A. T. & S. FE -- SOUTHWESTERN KANSAS -- WICHITA AND GREAT BEND.

     Now that the live stock of the west has become one of recognized importance and magnitude, it would seem proper that some mention at least should be made of the principal railway lines over which the larger portion of the live stock is moved to points of concentration; also those which are the favorite and best routes over which the principal shipments are sent forward to eastern points. Of the latter, the Hannibal & St. Joseph terminating at Quincy, where both Chicago and direct Buffalo connections are made was the first to appreciate and encourage the western cattle trade. And it has never ceased to extend the utmost effort to secure and accommodate a large patronage. Its practical management has ever been from the first opening of the cattle trade, of that far-seeing enterprising character which wins the appreciation and patronage of wide awake shippers. It makes a speciality of the live stock traffic and is particular to treat the stock shipper in such a fair, honorable manner as secures his warm friendship and patronage. It was the first road in the State of Missouri to place its stock trains practically under the control of its live stock shipping patrons; stopping to water, feed, rest, or if need be, unload and reload any car of stock, when necessary, by reason of any portion of the stock shipping badly -- at any station or hour that the shipper might demand. No employee of the road could retain his situation after repeatedly violating this requirement. Of course so humane and considerate a policy could only redound to the road's ultimate great advantage. Such appreciation of the stock shippers interests bears its own rich reward to the Company, in a large list of friendly stock men. But this line did not long enjoy a monopoly of the stock traffic.

     Soon the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad extended its line to Kansas City, and entered the arena, bidding lively and with a great degree of success for a part of the rapidly increasing live stock freights of the west. By securing a direct connection, by way of Louisiana, Mo. -- crossing the Mississippi river on a fine iron bridge -- with the Chicago and Alton railroad -- thus reaching by a short direct route, the grazing and feeding regions of central Illinois, as well as the Chicago market -- it gave the St. L., K. C. & N. road the double advantage of offering both St. Louis and Chicago marts to its patrons. Being a line of few gradients or sharp curves, but passing over a level route it has been able to make quick time and to carry live stock in such a manner as to deliver it in fine condition, at its destination. The road with which it does its Chicago business (the Chicago & Alton) stands at the head of the list of Illinois roads as an unequalled live stock route.

     There are other railroads which carry live stock freights from Kansas City east, but the above-named are the principal and favorite ones with stock shippers, and do nine-tenths of the forwarding of stock eastward.

     Of the several railroads which gather the live stock from the western plains and concentrate it, the Kansas Pacific Railway is the oldest and the first in the stock traffic. But as it has been previously mentioned, possibly too often, in this work it will here be passed, only remarking that its facilities to handle stock and its live stock resources are alike immense and are rapidly increasing and developing.

     The next road completed, that bid for the southern cattle trade, was the Missouri, Fort Scott & Gulf road, which made its cattle depot at Baxter Springs. At that point it secured a large stock traffic for several years, but the habit of driving on more westerly trails was so firmly fixed with southern drovers that, coupled with other reasons, it did not succeed in securing and holding the stock business at Baxter Springs to the extent that had been expected. Nevertheless it still receives a portion of the Texan cattle traffic at Baxter Springs. besides no inconsiderable amount of stock shipped from Texas direct via Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway. The country through which it passes is an elegant one, well adapted to stock growing and stock fatting combined with agriculture. For the latter the soil and climate is most propitious. In the fall and winter seasons all along the railway line, can he seen numberless well filled corn cribs and feed yards. in which are full fed many hundreds of bullocks preparatory for market.

     The third railroad completed to a point which gave it position to compete for the Texan cattle traffic, was the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston. This is operated from Kansas City to Coffeyville on the Southern line of the State of Kansas, at a point sufficiently far west to enable it to enter into sharp competition with all other lines seeking patronage from southern drovers.

     From the fact that the line was well built, and is so direct and short that only eleven hours are required to place stock in Kansas City from the Indian Territorial line, and the farther fact that it required less time driving from Texas to reach it, than more westerly and more northerly points; coupled with the additional fact that the practical management of it has been in the hands of live, wide-awake men, who have taken especial pains to satisfactorily serve its live stock patrons; from all these reasons the line has been and is fast growing in decided favor among southern stock men. Of all the lines seeking southern live stock traffic, this one is so situated that it can offer the lowest rates of freight and the quickest time table, hence can place its live stock freights in the Kansas City market in the best condition.

     Reaching the very southern limits of the State it has as a grazing district, the entire Indian Territory, which near Coffeyville, its cattle depot, is principally prairie land covered with a bountiful growth of grass. Abundant water for stock and camp purposes with ample wood for fuel, are upon all sides. The whole region is one in which cattle can be held with the greatest ease and the least possible expense, during the summer. The railroad company maintain ample free shipping facilities, and is particular to leave nothing undone the doing of which would add to the comfort, convenience or accommodation of stock men.

     The country surrounding the terminus within the State of Kansas, is remarkably fine, closely settled and in a high state of cultivation. Corn is largely grown and cattle feeding either full or "roughing through," is fast becoming a leading and profitable industry, and will in time develope to be a resource of great wealth to the shrewd agriculturist of those regions.

     In the Indian Nation on the south are broad valleys in which cane profusely abounds which, keeping green during winter, affords unlimited food for wintering stock; while in the country west of Coffeyville it is hilly and broken, intersected with numerous gravelly rocky living streams of clear water, on either side of which in the valleys immense amounts of hay can be secured, costing only the labor of making it. Here also wintering advantages are afforded which are not excelled in Southern Kansas.

     Into those regions in the fall of 1873, several thousand head of Texan cattle were put into winter quarters and cared for during the following winter without sustaining loss in flesh or numbers worthy of note.

     The railroad company owns many thousands of acres of good land, a large tract of which, situated farther up the line from Coffeyville is held or reserved. Upon this well watered tract unlimited summer grazing is afforded to wintered Texan or to native stock. Taken as a whole the L.. L. & G. Railroad and its practical managers are deservedly listed among the western and southern stock mens true friends, and bid fair to be classed among their benefactors.

     Perhaps within the borders of no other State or Territory has so great a proportion of the public domain been donated to Railway Corporations as within the State of Kansas. Besides the donations from the General Government divers large tracts of land formerly held as Indian Reservations have passed for nominal considerations into the possession of railway corporations.

As a result of the liberal if not prodigal policy of the Federal Government, Kansas now has a munificent, completed railway system far in advance of its settlement, population, or agricultural development.

     Indeed the old order of building railroads into well settled and developed districts has, by the stimulus of land subsidies, been reversed in the west. So that it has become almost impossible to speedily settle or develop a section of country through which there is not in operation one or more lines of railroad. The average American emigrant demands a railroad completed and in operation, to carry him to the immediate vicinity to which he would go as the necessary condition upon which he will graciously deign to accept as a free gift a quarter section of rich agricultural land as a home and a heritage. If Uncle Samuel fails to provide the prerequisite -- a railroad -- although it may cost a few million acres of his domain -- why, Jonathan will indignantly stay in the land wherein he is a dependent tenant. It is expected that the next generation will demand of the Government a petit system of narrow gauge railroads upon each quarter section of public land, centering at the most eligible spot upon which a homesteader would naturally be supposed to locate his grain bins; that his crops may be garnered without private expenditure of cash or labor.

     Of all the munificent land grants to railway corporations within the State of Kansas, none excels in number of acres, variety of country, quality and depth of soil, and salubrity of climate, the donation to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company.

     As its name would indicate, the line begins at Atchison, Kansas, and passes in a southwesterly course through the Capital city, and through vast coal fields to the Neosho river, thence bearing more westerly it reaches the great Arkansas river up the level north side valley, of which to the western line of the State it passes aggregating a total length of four hundred and seventy miles.

     For two-thirds of its length a belt of rich farming and grazing land from ten to twenty miles in breadth, is the munificent gift of the Federal Government.

     But it is the province and scope of this work to treat only of such subjects, as have a connection, bearing, or adaptability to the live stock business, or using a phrase more expressive than elegant, "Look at every thing through a cow's horn."

     Of the A., T. & S. Fe Land Grant, the western third situated upon the upper Arkansas river, may be regarded as being naturally fitted and adapted to exclusive stock-growing, which of course includes wool-growing. There is water range and shelter for hundreds of thousands head of stock. The grasses are principally of the buffalo grass variety, with occasional broad valleys covered with blue stem. But a small per cent. of the many good eligible stock ranch locations, abundantly near the railroad, are as yet taken. This is true of the government lands (which can be had for the taking), as well as the company's lands. There are uncounted opportunities for live stock ranching operations of as large or small dimensions as the heart may wish. Chances to grow cattle by the dozen or by the thousand annually, and equally as good opportunities to grow wool by the wagon or car load, in a sunny, almost rainless clime, and in a winterless latitude, upon lands to be had at extremely low prices. upon long credit with nominal interest, and all within sight of a railroad, the owners of which are as anxious to promote the general welfare of its patrons and the general development of the country as the settlers possibly can be. This line will be extended during 1874, in a southwesterly direction from Granada, Colorado, its present terminus, in the direction of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The country through which it will be located is unsurpassed on the continent for live stock growing.

     But to return, the remaining two-thirds of the land grant is located within that belt in which joint agriculture and stock growing and feeding can be most profitably conducted. The soil is very rich and deep. Water, blue stem prairie grass upon the bottoms or valleys, and buffalo and winter grass upon the uplands are abundant; indeed in limitless supply. Every specie of grain, vegetable or other production peculiar to that latitude can be produced without limit and at the smallest possible expenditure of labor.

     The great Arkansas valley when fully settled and developed will produce more grain than any other valley in the world.

     It is in that valley that the railroad company have established its cattle shipping depots for the concentration and shipment of Texan cattle. In the live stock traffic this line has been a determined and successful competitor of the Kansas Pacific Railway, since the spring of 1871. Its first live stock depot was at Newton, but the rapid settlement of the country necessitated its re-establishment, which was done at Wichita and at Great Bend. Both points are in the Arkansas valley, the first upon a branch railroad, the latter upon the main line,

     At Wichita during the first season after the road was completed to that point, a cattle shipment was made of near four thousand cars, which amount was nearly duplicated during the following year. So great a commerce thrust suddenly >upon the town created an unprecedented demand for business accommodations, store rooms, banks hotels, &c. The town soon grew to the proportions of a city, and imposing brick and stone buildings arose upon all hands to accommodate the increased business, among which the Occidental Hotel, an edifice that would do credit to rebuilt Chicago. The limitless rich-soiled valley surrounding this point must ultimately become so thoroughly and compactly settled that a foreign cattle commerce will no longer be practicable. The settlement already extends fully twenty miles beyond the river, and only by an amicable arrangement made with the settlers before the cattle arrive in the spring, can they be brought through the settlements to the shipping yards, of which the company has most excellent ones.

     Every needed accommodation exists in the way of able banking institutions, hotels and large business houses, to accommodate an immense cattle trade, and the railroad is thoroughly equipped with superior rolling stock, motive power, and all needful facilities to transport more than one hundred thousand head of cattle annually. Stock from New Mexico or Southern Colorado are provided with a shipping depot at Granada, the present terminus of the railroad line. Great Bend, on the main line, is located near the river and immediately surrounded by a rich valley which, upon either side, is bounded by millions of acres of upland, covered with buffalo grass and watered by small living streams of water. This point is destined, at no distant day, to be recognized as the chief shipping depot for Texan cattle on the line of the A., T. & S. Fe R. R. By its location it is accessible from the best stock ranges in Kansas, and has had in the past no inconsiderable stock business from Colorado. Herds stopping in the vicinity of Great Bend have the advantage of the market and competition of the K. P. Railway, which is distant only about forty miles. This fact alone will secure it a good business. The adjacent country is such that it will remain unsettled for years to come, unless taken for stock ranches for which the country presents magnificent opportunities and advantages.

     Parties seeking to purchase Texan cattle for market, feeding, or ranching purposes, find Great Bend a point so located that from it all the southern and western cattle stopping near Wichita, or near the A., T. & S. Fe R. R., as well as all those stopping on the line of the K. P. Railway, can be seen without great difficulty or extremely long rides in the hot sun. This gives purchasers an opportunity to make selections of stock and find good bargains, not equalled by any other cattle point in the State of Kansas. The shipping facilities are all that the most fastidious, or the largest operators could desire, and the citizens are unanimous in the determination to promote and facilitate a large cattle trade.

     The A., T. & S. Fe Railroad presents many advantages to the southern stockman. Among which is its limitless grazing facilities, abounding in every variety of lands and grasses, with abundant living water in low, easy banked, shallow, swift streams, having sandy or gravel beds; the choice of two good competing shipping depots and frontier marts; besides offering the shipper choice of two routes; one by way of Atchison thence by various lines to Chicago and the east -- or up into the corn regions of northern Missouri, Iowa and eastern Nebraska; or to go by way of Kansas City and enjoy its numerous advantages. The practical management of this line has been from the beginning of that enlightened liberal character that could not fail to secure and retain many patrons among live stock men.

     But a sketch of the A., T. & S. Fe road would be incomplete that did not point out the great advantages offered by the vast country through which the road passes, for growing, wintering, and fatting live stock. The eastern third of the line passes through a corn-growing and stock-feeding section of great merit. The middle third is well adapted, if not specially designed, for joint stock growing and agriculture, the western third is among the best exclusive stock and wool growing sections in the State of Kansas.

     If the driving of cattle from Texas to Kansas must needs continue in the future, the drovers would act wisely to possess themselves of choice stock ranch locations, and hold their stock, if need be, over winter until it was fat, instead of putting it upon market whilst unfit by reason of its poverty.

     Too much cannot be said against the suicidal policy of shipping or marketing poor, thin stock. It is sure financial ruin and bankruptcy to those who persistently practice it. It is a common practice of southern drovers, and as unwise if not actually foolish as it is common, to ship their unfatted, immature stock direct to market, where they inevitably realize low, mean prices, besides the stock weighs next to nothing, and of course brings little comparatively, above shipping and selling expenses. Millions of dollars are annually lost, or rather the means out of which to make millions of dollars, are annually sacrificed, lost, thrown away, by marketing thin-fleshed stock. It is like one burning his own resources. It is on a par with the wisdom which dictated the cutting open of the goose that laid the golden egg. It is a foolish sacrifice of great resources. It is like giving away ones opportunity to add fifty per cent. to ones assets, or the opportunity to double the value of ones property within a year. There can be no tenable justification of such conduct on the part of live stock owners. With millions of acres of grass and unlimited amounts of feed being annually burned up, or allowed to rot unused, or sold for a trifle above cost of production, nothing but a lamentable lack, of business sense and thrift would ever allow or permit so many unfatted cattle and hogs to go to market, there to be sacrificed for nominal, unpaying prices, realizing scarce one-half the net sum that a little fat or tallow would make attainable. A reform in this respect is in order, if not imperatively demanded, by the best interest of western live stock men.

     Of the cattle coming from Texas two-thirds are marketed when almost totally for consumption, thus entailing, comparatively, immense losses upon the parties selling them. Rather than continue this foolish, wasteful and ruinous practice, drovers had infinitely better buy stock ranch locations in western Kansas and Colorado, and there keep their stock until it is fat. When they comprehend their own best interests they will see the force and truth of these observations.



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