KanColl Books


The Railroad Builds Westward

     In 1868 and 1869, Charles Rath slowed down on the long trading trips to the various Indian camps, selling mostly from the trading post, where the Indians brought their robes and other hides. By late 1869, he must have given up the trading post and ranch altogether, although no record is left of the transaction. He may have abandoned the building and everything, which would soon be moved away, piece by piece, by the settlers who were beginning to come into Kansas. Most certainly no one else ever ran the trading post when Rath had given it up.

     Undoubtedly, he had known all along that there would be an end to the big money made in Indian trading. Always there had been huge profits but by 1863, the buffalo robe business was enormous, the profits breathtaking. And the herds of stolen horses a trader could get from the Indians were another big source of huge profits. He could still go for them but the government had increased annuities, providing clothing and blankets and other necessities, so that profit from goods would lessen year by year.

     Always a man to be where things were moving, he may have felt the need to look for a new frontier, and strangely he went east. Without doubt, he had been hearing a great deal about the new railroad Cyrus K. Holliday would soon be building out of Topeka and all the long way to Santa Fe. The news was on everyone's lips.

     The chances are that he gradually closed out his trading post on the Walnut for no record is left of its sale or other disposal. It had served its purpose and now there was no further need for it. Towns would spring up along the route of the Santa Fe railroad, town merchants would supply the needs of the countryside. Yes, Charles Rath was prepared to move on to a new frontier.

     When Dan Blush, contractor for the railroad, ran an advertisement in the Record, a Topeka newspaper, October 28, 1868, for helpers for railroad graders, offering $1.25 a day, people began believing the rails would be laid. [1] Shortly after that, Charles Rath had come to an agreement with the contractor.

     Since he was still operating his freighting business, he had wagons and teams, good strong mules and oxen. He had scrapers, also, for he had first needed them when the toll bridge was going

1. Santa Fe by Marshall, page 10.


up at the Walnut Creek crossing and he had used them again when he threw up earthworks in an effort to Save his property in the spring of 1864. The Cheyennes had sent word they were going to clean him out and he had feared they would set his buildings afire, which they eventually did. Remains of these entrenchments can still be seen to this day and some viewers thought they were on the site of a fort but Homer H. Kidder, an old timer, declared there never had been a fort there, only a ranch. Rath offered to bring a gang of men, his mules and all his equipment to help on the grade, and probably left Walnut Creek at the time he moved them to Topeka.

     According to relatives, Charles Rath also had a contract to furnish fresh meat for the railroad gang. He killed the buffalo and helpers skinned and quartered the animal, afterward hauling it to the camp cook.

     With all this talk of railroad building, to Santa Fe, Charles Rath must have been doing a lot of thinking about the good times ahead for Kansas and its people. Anyway, he began buying land.

     August 14, 1869, he began investing money in Osage County. The first was a tract of eighty acres, which he was later, August 19, 1872, to deed as a gift to his wife, Carry Rath. The second purchase was one hundred nineteen and forty-two hundredths acres. April 4, 1873, he sold one and one-half acres to School District Number 38. July 1, 1881, he sold part of the balance to C. C. McCormick and the remainder to John Welch, March 17, 1882.

     He may have had a building site in mind when he bought one acre of ground; if so, he must have changed his mind about building for he sold this tract to J. A. Drake, October 20, 1870. He would sell but kept buying up land.

     He purchased an undivided one-half interest in the East 1/2 NE 1/4 of Section 10-15-15, on October 8, 1870, which he kept until March 24, 1876, when he sold his interest to Thomas J. Peter, trustee for Thomas Peter. July 20, 1875, he bought the West 1/2 of Section 11-16-14; the SE1/4 of Section 18-16-15; the SW1/4, of Section 18-16-15; the NE1/4 of Section 19-16-15; and the NW1/4, of Section 19-16-15, all of which added up to 914.90 acres. August 16, 1880, he sold the West 1/2 of Section 11-16-14 to the Osage Land and Mining Company. On the same date, Rath sold the balance of this land described as South 1/2 of Section 18, Twn. 16, Range 15, and the North 1/2 Section 19-16-15, to the Carbon Coal and Mining Company of Kansas.

     The Carbon Coal and Mining Company of Kansas filed its Charter with the Secretary of State, March 15, 1873, and the Directors named for the first year were Thomas J. Peter, John T. 8argent, D. F. Blandin, William N. Ewing, and Ed. E. Strait, all of Topeka. Osage Land and Mining Company of Kansas filed its


charter May 26, 1876. The directors named in the charter for the first year were C. K. Holiday, W. N. Ewing, T. J. Peter, and D. F. Blandin, of Topeka, and Robert Craig of Osage City, Kansas. Although evidence of their operations can still be seen, neither are operating today; the charters for both corporations were cancelled for failing to meet statutory reporting and fee paying requirements. [2]

     In some way, not clear to the author yet, the coal lands were turned over to his relatives. [3] They had revenue from their operation for many years. George Prickett, a relative, related this bit of evidence to another relative, that Charles Rath had told him he had deeded all the coal lands to his relatives. "Why did you do that?" Prickett asked. "Why didn't you keep them?" Charles Rath had laughed shortly, and queried, "What would I want with coal land?" Later some of the relatives sold out their land and eventually the price of coal dropped until it was not profitable to run the mines any longer.

     Rath purchased thirteen and ninety-seven hundredths acres, March 24, 1876, and then sold it to The Park Association of Osage City, January 5, 1882. All the land he had bought was in Osage County and with this last sale he had closed it out. The land sold to the Osage Land and Mining Company and the Carbon Coal and Mining Company, is the land Andy Johnson refers to as the thousand acres when he broke sod for Charles Rath, beginning August 1871, and later farmed on shares for him. He had come at Rath's insistence, from the same small community, Sweetwine, Ohio, where the Rath family lived. The first winter, 1870, Andy Johnson stayed in Leavenworth.

     From this time on, the name of Andy Johnson is tied up with practiclly every enterprise that Charles Rath engaged in, for he was Rath's trusted friend and employee, the man who did all the building and other heavy work. Andy Johnson says, " . . . Where I worked until October, 1871, for Chas. Rath, who at that time was engaged in breaking 1,000 acres of sod." [4] During the winters of 1871 and 1872, he went with Rath on buffalo hunts, his job being to transport the buffalo hides and meat to Hays to be sent on to eastern markets. At the end of the buffalo hunting in 1872, Charles Rath leased his farm land to Andy Johnson for one-half the crop, furnishing all the teams, implements, and seed, needed to farm the 1,000 acres.

     And again, Charles Rath left a trusted friend in charge of a business, this time farming, for Andy Johnson says, "Charles Rath stayed two or three months in Osage City, and then took a contract to distribute ties for the Santa Fe railroad then build

2. Letter from Paul Shanahan, secretary of State.
3. Family History.
4. Interview with Andy Johnson by Tom Stauth, in author's possession.


ing into Dodge City." His contract was from Emporia on west. And shortly thereafter, he made arrangements to go into partnership with two trusted friends, R. M. Wright, and A. J. Anthony, starting a store known as the Charles Rath Mercantile Company. When the store building was finished: he moved his wife Carry on to the frontier town, their first living quarters probably were above the store building.

     The store's principal business was to outfit buffalo hunters, buy and Ship buffalo hides and meat, but from that beginning, in short order, the store bought and sold everything needful for those early days, the management made the boast they could outfit a whole caravan. In no time at all, it seemed, the store was supplying outlying towns, great freighting outfits, and forts, with supplies, and practically running a banking business on the side.

     To go back to the time of his leaving the Walnut - No sooner did Charles Rath get his gang of men working on the Santa Fe grade out of Topeka, the whole probably being overseen by his trusted friend Harvey West, than he went to Ohio for a long overdue visit. He may have bought the silk in Kansas City or even farther eastward but when he arrived he had the promised silk for dresses for not only his mother and sisters but all the sisters-in-law as well. Two of his brothers, Will and Chris, lived in Kansas, both married, and this may have set Charles Rath thinking about marriage, for only one brother was older than he, Chris.

     It was said Charles Rath even had a girl in mind he hoped to marry but in that he was disappointed for she had married another. Up to this time, he had thought that his place of abode was not a fit place to bring a woman from the East. He seemed also, according to relatives, to have a feeling that German men did not make good husbands, which may have held him back heretofore. It is said he once told his sister Carry, "Although I am a German myself, if I were a woman, I would sooner marry an Indian than a German." Now, however, he was older, a man of much wealth and was a great influence in any community where he lived. It would be the same in Topeka and a wife would have a proper home there. Altogether, he was in a receptive mood for what happened.

     Caroline, daughter of Henry Markley, one of the landed gentry near Cincinnati, was just out of Ottobein College. She liked being a society girl and she was passionately fond of dancing. She was beautiful and she longed for her fill of expensive clothing and costly jewelry. Perhaps her father's hired man had squired her around a few times and Henry Markley had thought little of the matter. But when Caroline looked favorably upon this young man, even to the extent of running away, if her parents objected too strenuously to their courtship, Henry Markley balked. Not


for this had he sent his daughter away to college. He lost no time but promptly sent the young man packing.

     While the young lady sulked, there was talk around the countryside about the handsome young man in from the west, who spent money lavishly on his kin. The neighbors recalled how he had left home long ago, a green country youth; returned, a recognized man of the west; the general opinion being, according to relatives, Charles Rath was quite the cat's whiskers. No doubt all these reports aroused Carry Markley's curiosity and she may have asked about Charles Rath. Perhaps her parents had mentioned in a casual way that he had rocked the large ornate walnut cradle in which she lay when he was a lad of twelve years, for at that time he was caring for the Markley children during the strawberry picking season. [5]

     The upshot of the matter was Caroline knew in her heart this handsome, well dressed man, this wealthy man, would buy her all the lovely clothes and beautiful jewelry her heart craved; she would be, as the wife of this influential man, a woman "lookedup-to" in any community in Kansas. It turned out that Henry Markley and his wife Catharine, thought well of their daughter's choice. Charles Rath probably stayed on for the wedding. He had his teams and equipment in the hands of a trusted friend and the work would go on along the Santa Fe grade whether he were there or not. They were married April 26, 1870, With all the lavish setting the Markley home could furnish. There was a large wedding photograph, as well as many gifts from relatives and friends, topped perhaps by the jewelry from the groom.

     He brought his beautiful bride to Topeka, where they lived until 1871. The Government Census was taken at the Rath home, the 29th day of June, 1870, by J. D. McFarland, Ass't Marshal, with this listing: Chas. Rath, 163, 164, 34 years, Freighter, place of birth Germany, R. E. $5,000, Personal $15,000. Carrie Rath, wife 19 years, place of birth, Ohio. [6] & [7]

It has been said by relatives that when Charles Rath first went west, his first gifts sent east were buffalo robes, one to each family of his relatives. Now this fall, he was going on a buffalo hunt again and it could be that he had a mind to send buffalo robes to his wife's relatives in the east. The Henry Markley buffalo robe, resplendent in its outer fringes of red, blue and tan scalloped felt, was returned many years later to Robert M. Rath, a grandson. [7a]

6. Records Div. KSHS.
7. Deposition in Adobe Walls Indian Claim damage. Case No. 4593, Chas. Rath & Co., in author's possession.
7a. Now at Canyon Museum. Canyon. Texas.
7b. Now owned by Walter Mudersbach, Cincinnati.


     Now that fall had come, Charles Rath was starting west ith a train on a buffalo hunt. The Daily Topeka Commonwealth, December 30, 1870, tells of a happening on one of these trips, which it captions, Shooting Affair. [8]

      Mr. Charles Rath, who has been making a business of buffalo hunting this winter in the neighborhood of Hays City, was shot a, few days ago, but not dangerously, the ball entering above the hip, and passing through the body, leaving a rather severe wound. His train was passing along west from Fort Larned, on the Pawnee brk and towards evening he and Dr. E. A. Crane of this place rode on ahead, to look for a good place to camp. When they were ebout four miles from the train, a man appeared behind some bushes and called out, `Halt' and at the same time levelled his rifle at them. Rath called out, `Do not shoot,' but the person continued to hold the rifle at them. They being unarmed, turned to ride to the train when five or six shots were fired at them; after riding a few hundred rods, Rath found he was shot and with difficulty made his way to the train. He is now in the hospital at Fort Larned and will be able to be conveyed to Osage ',City in a week or two. Six or eight men started on the trail of the would be murderers, and it is hoped will overtake them. The probability is they were horse thieves or deserters who supposed they were being pursued.

     The man was captured, according to a report handed down from Carrie Rath to her son, Robert M. Rath. He was brought to Larned. It developed he had been trying to waylay Charles Rath, hoping to rob him, for he was known to carry large sums of money on his person. It is doubtful if the man was brought to trial. However that may be one way or the other, the man went scott-free, for Charles Rath, always in sympathy with the underdog in his characteristic behavior, said, "Let him go."

     At this time Charles Rath and his wife were living in Osage City and after this they had begun investing in lots in Topeka. August 1, 1872, (Carrie) C. R. Rath bought of Jesse W. Crane, Lots numbered 230-232-234-236-238-240 on Lincoln Street. October 15, 1873, Charles Rath bought of Jesse W. Crane and his wife, Clare R. Crane, for a consideration of $1,000. (Which was owing to the Topeka Building Association) lots numbered 13-15-17-19-2123-25-27, on Quincy Street North, in the City of Topeka, and on the same day Rath also bought of Jesse W. Crane and his wife Clara R. Crane for a consideration of $1,600. the North 1/2 of SE1/4 of Sec. 28, Township 12, Range 15, containing 80 Acres more or less; also lots numbered 230-232-234-236-238-240, on First Avenue East. These lots were sold November 4, 1878, to John Brier. Family history says that Charles Rath was required to

8. Newspaper Div. KSHS, page 4. Col. 2. The only record known to author of injury to Charles Rath during his years on the plains.


give his wife Carrie a silk dress to get her signature on the deed and it was where the Santa Fe Depot stood. But records say on lot number 240, First & Washington, was where the old round house stood. [9]

     A niece of Charles Rath, Jennie Bell, of Donna, Texas, wrote, "Uncle Charles owned a farm near Lyndon, Kansas, and sent money for the tax each year but the tax collector put the money in his pocket and accepted that of another man who had moved onto the land as the taxes. So when Uncle Charles needed the land the occupant claimed the land and got it."

     Presumably there was much speculation among the relatives when they learned Charles Rath had lost the land. Since it did not show up in the records, it may have been a school section. And he may have neglected to make a payment on it which resulted in his losing the land.

     As the railroad built west, Charles Rath felt duty-bound to move with it. His first move had been to Osage City from Topeka, sometime after the census was taken in June, 1870. He may have felt that his wife would be happier there because a number of his relatives lived in Osage City and he would be away from home for weeks at a time. By September, 1872, he had moved west again and this time he took up his residence in the newly organized Dodge City.

     The frontier town, first called Buffalo, was mostly tents, sodhouses, and crude foot-wide board structures for business buildings. They all faced Front Street, which in turn faced the Santa Fe Railway tracks. Before each a barrel of water set on the board walk for fire protection and at the edge of the walk hitchrails lined it. There saddle horses were hitched and in the street wagon trains vied with one another for space to unload their freight and re-load.

     Since the Charles Rath Mercantile Company building had a second story, the chances are that Charles and Carrie Rath first lived there. Carrie often told about hearing the rackets, carousing, and sometimes shooting in the place next door that often kept her awake all hours of the night. The general merchandise store was located at Front Street and what is now the east side of Second Avenue, extending northward to what is now West Wyatt Earp Boulevard, formerly Tin Pan Alley, so named from the tinkle of tin cans being flattened by oxen's hooves. Sometime later, but while it was still fall, the Rath family moved across the street to the west, where two rooms at the north end of Fringer's Drug store was partitioned into two rooms, hav ing a connecting door with a transom above it. Fringer's Drug


store faced Front Street, now U. S. Highway 50. The west room had a door in the west and a window, and there young Dr. T. L. McCarty and his pretty brunette, Kentucky-born bride lived. The east room had a door facing east; here, Charles Rath and his pretty, blonde, blue-eyed wife lived.

     The two young women became fast -friends. They both relived many an early day experience in Dodge City in their old age, rocking side by side, in the Rath parlor in downtown Dodge City. One tale they loved to dwell on, and laughed about longest, although it was no laughing matter at the time, was when Charles Rath ripped loose a board in Dr. McCarty's offIce at the rear of the drug store and hurriedly shoved the great Sioux Chief Spotted Tail through the foot-wide opening, where he landed under Sallie McCarty's bed. That resourceful young lady held back her screams, rushing into the other room to her friend Carry.

     There they bided their time until Charles Rath could rush around to acquaint the two women of the great need to keep the Indian chief out of sight. Because of this scare, the Rath's first child, Jesse, born the following May, missed being the first white child born in Dodge City, because Carrie went to her Ohio home for his birth. Not Sallie McCarty, she stayed on, and her son, Claude was born late the following fall, or more rightly winter for it was in December, being the first white child born in Dodge City. Before this event, however, the two wives witnessed many a happening they would not have thought possible even in the west, certainly not where they had come from. Dr. T. L. McCarty was fast learning about the west and of course Charles Rath had come through so many western scary scenes that this frontier was simply another one to him.

9. Shawnee County Court records, Book 33. page 27; Book 36. pages 378 and 379; Book 53, page 357.

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