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




Chapter XX.


THE MISSOURI, KANSAS AND TEXAS RAILWAY -- ITS CONSTRUCTION, LOCATION AND TERMINI -- THE CHARACTER AND ADAPTABILITY OF THE DISTRICTS THROUGH WHICH IT PASSES -- SHIPPING FAT CATTLE FROM TEXAS VS. DRIVING THEM.

     The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, from its geographical location, and its termini, is destined to become the chief Texas live stock route. This great road with its present terminis in northern central Texas, is well located to command and accommodate the exportation of live stock from that broad State. The construction of the line commenced at Junction City, Kansas, in 1868.

     The company is composed of an association of some of the best and most active business men and capitalists of New York, men thoroughly acquainted with the business wants of the country, and possessed of the requisite knowledge of the demands of trade, to develop and successfully construct a line of railroad to meet all the various interests of cheap and rapid transportation from Texas to the sea board, and the northern lakes.

     In a few months the line was extended down the Neosho valley to, the southern line of the State of Kansas and a branch, destined to be the main line, was completed to Sedalia, Missouri, there securing complete rail connections for St. Louis.

     In a contest arising before the Interior Department, with another new Line, the right of way across the Indian Nation was awarded to the M., K. & T. Railway. This valuable franchise secured, the work of extending the line southward to Red river and Texas was pushed energetically forward, until about the first of January, 1873, it was completed to the flourishing city of Denison, about five miles south of Red river in Texas.

     Before the southern extension was completed, a line from Sedalia in a northeastern course to Hannibal, crossing the Missouri river near Boonville, was projected and vigorous work began. In less than six months from the completion of the line to Denison trains were run through to Hannibal. This completed line from Hannibal on the Mississippi river, where direct Chicago and Toledo connections are secured, to Denison, Texas, is one, remarkable alike for its great length; for the brief space of time transpiring in its construction; for the substantial manner in which the road is built; and for the excellence of the material used in its construction.

     The climate is mild and healthy, and the country through which the road passes, produces cotton, wheat. oats, corn, and all kinds of wild and tame grasses abundantly In all these respects it stands unrivalled by western railway lines.

     But in another respect one in which it is the province and scope of this work to deal, it is none the less; remarkable, and worthy of special note; that of it being a trunk line over which the live stock freights of the great southwest, including not only a large portion of the State of Kansas, and Missouri, but the Indian Territory and the State of Texas also, must find its way to profitable market.

     As a live stock line it has a length of nearly eight hundred miles, and not only runs through a great variety of fine stock country, but passes through and into the home of nearly every grade and breed of live stock. Beginning upon the margin of the ever green, growing regions of Texas where exist uncounted thousands of cattle, lineal descendants of Cortes' importations into Mexico, which know not what it is to be fed by the hand of man -- thence it passes in a northeasterly course through the Indian Territory. In the Nation are found thousands of cattle whose progenitors were the old-fashioned American cattle such as existed throughout the Union before the advent of the heavy quartered Durham, whose rounded progeny are found in great numbers upon every farm in central and eastern Missouri. No other line of railway in the Union reaches so completely the natural homes of all classes and grades of live stock; as well as the countries best suited to the various modes of growing and fitting the same for market. Upon the great area situated at its southern terminus, is found a country and clime where stock raising and fatting upon the rich native grasses, is not only extensively but profitably done upon a large scale, and from whence an immense annual supply of beef can and will, for years to come be produced and put upon northern and eastern markets. In central Missouri a blue grass and corn- growing region is traversed, in which stock feeding and fatting, rather than stock-growing, is extensively and very profitably conducted upon a large scale.

     For the accommodation of this trade, this great and growing commerce in live stock, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway have made ample arrangements both in the way of suitable rolling stock and motive power, and have provided suitable, complete loading and feed yards at such points along the line as will best serve the interest and convenience of stock shippers.

     At Denison, Texas, a substantial, commodious shipping yard is located, which is capable of affording accommodation for two thousand head of cattle, besides serving the additional purpose of a resting and feed yard for such consignments of live stock as may be received from the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. It is the intention of the company to enlarge their facilities for doing live stock business at Denison by securing for grazing purposes a large tract of prairie country west of Denison and convenient to the ship- ping yards. This prairie land is covered with grass the year round, and has fine, clear water running in numerous branches and creeks, thus making it a very superior herding ground. But if the stock man desires a larger territory upon which hold his herd, he is accommodated in the Chicksaw Nation, wherein a large tract of prairie kind has been leased by the Railway Company expressly for the accommodation of cattle men. In the midst of this large tract, at Colvert Station, snug substantial shipping yards have been established.

     At Denison are located several first class banks, one of which, the First National, has a capital of $100,000 and the corporation is composed of some of the best business men of Texas and Missouri. The eastern connections of this bank are such that accommodations at reasonable rates are given to stock shippers in any amounts they may require in their business. Other banks are also prepared to assist the stock trade, so the shipper may be certain of being accommodated without delay on his arrival at Denison. The hotels at Denison are numerous, large and commodious, and prices to stock shippers and dealers are made very reasonable.

     At many stations through the Indian Nation are located good shipping yards of capacity equal to the business offered. All the shipping yards are owned by the Railway Company and are free to the shippers.

     At Chetopa, on the Kansas State Line, a good feed and resting yard is located, wherein are found ample convenience for both feeding and resting stock. This point is about two hundred and fifty miles from Denison, which distance is a good run from the latter point. Chetopa is a point to which many cattle, before the completion of the railway to Texas were driven across the Indian Territory, and there shipped to northern markets. Indeed it yet enjoys a respectable amount of live stock business, and perhaps will continue to do so as long as cattle are driven, instead of shipped from Texas.

     At Sedalia, Missouri, another good feed and resting yard is located, at which such consignments as are destined for St. Louis are fed, rested, and re-shipped upon another line, while such shipments as are intended for central Illinois, Chicago, or eastern markets, either with or without having been rested and fed, go direct to Hannibal, where again ample facilities for resting, loading, and reshipment are provided.

     At Hannibal the shipper has choice of good competing routes to Chicago or Buffalo; in addition to being in the midst of a large cattle-feeding and grazing district, which annually requires many thousands of imported cattle to consume the grass and corn crops of those regions. Certainly a very complete cattle market could be established at Hannibal, one that would be alike beneficial to the southern cattle producer as well as to the northwestern feeder and grazer; a market in which the Texan, the Indian, the old-fashioned native, the graded and full blood Durham could be had in ample supply.

     Such consignments as are destined for Kansas City leave the M., K. & T. at Fort Scott, and reach that market via the Missouri River, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad. Thus it will be seen that no route from Texas or the Indian Nation offers such advantages as does the M., K. & T. Ry., reaching as it does from the Red to the Mississippi river. Coming north the shipper can turn to the left and reach the Kansas City packing market -- or turning to the right go upon the St. Louis market -- or going straight forward can reach the central Illinois feed and grazing markets, or go direct to Chicago the greatest live stock market in the world. Over this route reasonable rates of freight and charges only are exacted, rates as low per car per mile as are afforded by any other route in the west, and that, too, without expensive, tedious and risky drives which always deteriorates the stock in value even more than it saves in prices of freights, not to mention the expense, risk and labor of such long drives. But there is another inducement, well worthy of note to Texan live stock men, located at Denison. The Atlantic and Texas Refrigerating Car Company, which has constructed one hundred new cars arranged and adapted to shipping fresh beef, has been located and established at Denison for slaughtering cattle at the rate of five hundred daily. This company is prepared, and was organized for the purpose of making a market at Denison for all good fat cattle that may be brought there. It will pay in cash, good prices for cattle suitable for the eastern markets. They have capacity for shipping three trains each week, and the success they are meeting with will doubtless induce them to largely increase the business.

     To Texan live stock men that ought to be and doubtless is an enterprise which should meet their approbation as well as hearty co-operation and patronage. Such a thing as a home demand and a home market, steady and reliable, is a desideratum they have never had, but have long desired and needed. The establishment is complete in all its arrangements for slaughtering the bullock, and cooling the carcass, at a rapid wholesale rate. When the meat is cooled it is hung up by the quarter in a car specially arranged for its protection and transportation. Each car will hold double the number of carcasses of cattle that an ordinary stock car will hold of living cattle, besides the meat goes to market without bruising or delay, and in only about one-third the time and at one-half the expense required to market beef by the old methods. It has been successfully demonstrated that beef can be laid down in New York at reasonable prices and in fine, clean order by this mode of shipment. The great saving of freight is divided between the producers and consumers. If Texan live stock men have their own best interests at heart, or have sufficient public spirit they will hardly let that enterprise which promises them so much timely relief and profit go unaided and unsupported by their patronage.

     In addition to the advantages enumerated for the rapid shipment of live stock to good eastern markets, the M. K. & T. R. W. are now having constructed a large number of cars that are known as the "Palace Stock Cars." They are cars made longer then the usual stock cars now in use, and are so built that each animal is provided with a stall in which it can lay down to rest. The stalls are provided with feed boxes and hay racks, also tanks for the purpose of watering the animals. In those cars fine beef cattle and blooded stock can be transported over long distances and be taken from the cars as unfatigued as if they had not made a journey. Trains of this kind will run regularly, and the advantages to shippers cannot be over estimated.

     But the question whether it would be more profitable and advisable for southern cattle men to continue to drive their cattle to western Kansas and the territories as has been their habit for the last seven or eight years, or leave them upon their native pastures until fat, and then send them by rail direct to market, is becoming of more urgent importance daily, and is beginning to exercise the minds of southern drivers to a great extent. In view of the facts that the years of 1871, 1872 and 1873, have, taken in aggregate, entailed immense losses upon the southern drover, whose herds have been taken to western Kansas; and again, that the western territories have become so largely and completely supplied with cattle that instead of being buyers of large numbers as heretofore upon the western Kansas market, they now are and hereafter will be large sellers; and inasmuch as they are able to send very fat cattle to market, their competition is not only great but disastrous to the driver of fresh Texan cattle -- in view of all these facts is it not full time that a change in the mode and manner of marketing Texan cattle be effected? Besides the territorial demand in former years constituted one of the principal inducements to drive to western Kansas. Now since this inducement no longer exists, but rather the reverse is true, it becomes a serious question, one which may be narrowed down to that of the profitableness of marketing fat and lean cattle. The observing, sensible drover, or the one who has experimented in shipping live stock, needs no words or figures to convince him that fat stock only can profitably be put upon the northern markets. Few business propositions are so little understood and comprehended by Texan cattle men as the fact that whilst a bullock which is fat may be worth many dollars, at the same time and upon the same market a bullock which is lean is almost worthless; if salable at all it is only at mean low prices, and when driven upon the scales it weighs very light, almost nothing, hence brings little or nothing above expenses of marketing; whilst the fat bullock, although no better animal, only fatter, weighs heavy, sells at high figures and pays: out a handsome price and profit above cost and expense. No man living ever made a dollar by shipping poor thin cattle to market -- many have lost thousands of dollars. Now in view of these indisputable well known facts, and in view of the fact that upon an average not one bullock in ten when driven to western Kansas, unless wintered there, becomes fat enough even for packing purposes, and not one in a thousand becomes in such condition of flesh as to be put on the eastern markets the same season in which they are driven from Texas and must for the very reason named be sold at low prices. In view of these facts, in connection with the falling off of the demand for other than fat cattle, is it not time the Texan should cease to exhaust his herds of stock and breeding cattle, and reconstruct his habits of driving and let his cattle remain upon their native plains until fat, then send them direct to market. Take an example: A thin-fleshed four-year old steer does well to weigh nine hundred pounds gross, and at two cents per pound (a price about the average realized during the last three years) would bring eighteen dollars per head, out of which driving and other expenses must be paid, leaving but little net for the bullock; whilst a bullock of the same quality and age only actually fat, weighs about twelve hundred pounds, and is easier to sell at three cents per pound gross weight, or upwards, than the thin one was at two cents; and will amount to thirty-six dollars per head, or twice as much as the thin one, and the expense of marketing is nothing more but the margin for profit is large. There is a lesson that live stock men need to learn thoroughly and perfectly -- that it pays to market fat live stock and only fat live stock -- poor, thin ones never. If it be true that by driving their herds to Kansas, they prevent them from becoming marketably fat, do they not do themselves a financial injury by so driving, especially since they have now a means of marketing their live stock direct and quick from Texas to any desired northern market, upon which they need not go until their stock is fat and fit for the mart, and not then unless the market will justify. When the rate of freight exacted from western points to St. Louis or Chicago is compared with that asked from Texas over the M., K. & T. Road to the same markets, it will be found that the difference in favor of the western routes is scarce above one dollar per head, a sum that will hardly pay above one-third the actual costs of driving, not to mention the depreciation of the stock in flesh and consequent value, or rather the loss of the time and opportunity to appreciate its value by fatting the animals instead of driving them. In years gone by before any railroad was built to Texas, when there was a great demand for cattle in the territories, and upon the Pacific slope, and native cattle were scarce in the north; there was a necessity for, and a profit in driving, to western Kansas, but since the conditions are changed, and the demands from those sources has fallen off so that fat cattle only can be profitably marketed, it would seem to reasoning and reflecting minds that the day for driving cattle is past, and the time fully come when ranchmen in all sections should retain their stock at home until fat, and then ship direct to market. The advantages of such a course are numerous and manifest; there need be no heavy loans of money, or loss of time in holding and fattening the stock; there would be no simultaneous running of many thousands upon the market at once, or within the space of a month's time; there would be no necessity to sell at the first approach of frosty weather, whether the cattle were fat or not, or the market good or bad. If the market should be unusually low as has been the case in former years, then the supply could be withheld for another year and better prices; again the drover could enjoy the substantial comforts of home with its thousand endearments instead of hardships, exposure and risks of a long drive and the tedious expensive holding in a country abounding in prohibitory legislation dead lines, and herd laws.



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