KanColl Books


A Time of Change

     The Dodge City Times, October 20, 1877, carried an important notice, Charles Rath returned from a business trip to Texas last Sunday morning just in time to welcome the new arrival of a son-an only son and an only child. The parents received congratulations from us and numerous friends who hope that the new visitor may have a smooth road through measles and brash and all other enemies of infants.

     A later report from the mother to the son and verified by "Mexican" Ben Hodges - it was a rainy night when the little one arrived. Because Charles Rath still was at outs with the doctor in town because of little Jesse's death, he would have none of him at this time. Rounding up Ben Hodges, he sent him away on his pony, post-haste, to Fort Dodge for Dr. Garland.

     No sooner had the sober-faced little son arrived until Charles Rath had figured out a name for him, if he hadn't before. He named this son for another of his very dear friends, Robert Wright.

     When the lad was in school, he learned that other boys had two names, while he had only the one, Robert, so he promptly gave himself another name, making the whole, Robert Wright Rath. He often said, he was almost twelve years old before he learned that Uncle Bob Wright was not really his uncle. As he grew older, Robert found it was hard to say his name, so with great resourcefulness, he dropped "Wright" and added in its place his mother's maiden name, "Markley" and liked the combination of names so well that he never again changed his name of Robert Markley Rath.

     While the little son was getting old enough to travel, his father was busy. Charles Rath had been on the county commission from the time there was one and at least some of the time on the City council. Now he tendered his resignation for the county commission, giving as his reason, his absence from the county. It was accepted. He and Robert Wright may have talked some about the business also too, for Charles Rath was in the city so little that maybe he had more interest in the Texas stores.

     By November 10, the Times announced, Charles Rath and Lady accompanied by Markley, left wednesday on the evening train for the east. Mrs. Rath will visit her mother's home in the vicinity of Cincinnati. Mr. Rath goes direct to Texas to take charge of his business at Fort Griffin.


     Their furniture left after the sale was sent on to the new home in Osage City, Kansas, where Mrs. Rath would come when her visit in the east was over. The arrangement seems not to have worked out very well, however, for shortly after her return, all but the bare necessities were sent on from Osage City to Fort Griffin, even the piano. And there, perhaps Carrie and her husband spent the happiest years of their married life. She had wanted to be near her husband.

     But the reason for this move will soon be seen. By November 24, 1877, Charles Rath was back in Dodge City. He and Robert Wright concluded their talk and agreeably decided it was time for a change. On this same day, the Times carried a legal notice:
The firm of Charles Rath & Company is dissolved by mutual consent and their accounts will be settled at Dodge City.
Signed Charles Rath, R. M. Wright

And another notice:
The business will be continued by the undersigned as Wright, Beverly and Co.
Signed R. M. Wright, H. M. Beverly, C. H. Lane

     December 8, 1877, the Times carried this item, Wright, Beverly and Co., the old familiar firm of Charles Rath and Company, has been dissolved by mutual consent. This firm consisted of R. M. Wright and Charles Rath and for years past has done an extensive business and has been the means of attracting a large and profitable trade to this city affording employment to many laborers.
The business of the firm of Charles Rath & Company will hereafter be carried on with the same enterprise and energy as in the past by Hon. R. M. Wright, Judge H. M. Beverly formerly of San Antonio, Texas, who has been with Rath & Co. for several years, and Mr. Charles H. Lane, our Co. Treas. elect, as Wright, Beverly & Co. The members of the new firm are men of known business ability and all have the confidence and esteem of the citizens of the community.
Mr. Charles Rath has gone to Texas where he will conduct the business heretofore carried on by the old firm.

     This business consisted of the store at Rath City, the stores on the Palo Duro ; the one at Sweetwater which even now was in the process of being moved to the new location nearer Fort Elliott; whatever interests the Dodge City firm had in Fort Elliott, and Camp Supply, in Indian Territory. The Charles Rath & Company store had never had an interest in the store at Fort GriffIn, where Rath was in business with Frank Conrad, under the firm name of Conrad and Rath ; nor the stacks of buffalo hides on Conrad and Rath's hide yard in old Hide Town.

     Now that the deal was closed with his partner in Dodge City, Charles Rath bought out Lee & Reynold's interest in the store at Reynolds, also whatever interests the firm had in Stonewall County, in Texas, and the store at Camp Supply in Indian Ter-


ritory. When the store supplies were moved from Stonewall County, Wright Mooar claims he moved them to Camp Supply. Charles Rath hired George Aiken, who had run a saloon and restaurant in Rath City, as boss of his ox train and in these freight wagons, Aiken hauled Rath's merchandise as well as his own equipment to Mobeetie, in wheeler County, Texas. [1]

     As early as 1874, hunters and freighters had camped on the site of Old Town or Hide Town as it was first called, probably because Rath had piled the buffalo hides he had purchased for both of the firms he was interested in on this site. By June 1875, the settlement was known as Sweetwater.

     Sweetwater was three miles below Fort Elliott, a wild and woolly place. By now the hide yard covered acres of ground and Rath and Wright had a large store. There was a barber shop, and saloons.

     By the last of 1877, the townspeople began moving their businesses up the creek to the section where Tom O'Loughlin had settled, much nearer to Fort Elliott. The soldier trade was always a big drawing card for any early day business man. By the middle of 1878, the new town was beginning to thrive.

     The first house was built in the early part of the year. October 15, 1878, The Dodge City Times reported, Rev. W. H. Weed of Sweetwater, Texas, is in the city and has purchased lumber for a new business house, just east of Fort Elliott reservation. The liquor business is good, he reports and says a new town is to be laid just east of the fort where he will hold forth hereafter, Mobeetie.

For by now the people of the town had tried to get a postoffice at Sweetwater and had then learned there was another town in Nolan County in Texas by the same name, so the town's name was changed to Mobeetie. However, it was in 1879 before they had the new postoffice, a shack made of wooden crates and covered with battened tin cans, but it had POST OFFICE above the door. Up to this time, Charles Rath had not considered this location as his home. Early in 1878, Carrie Rath had come from Osage City to live in Fort Griffin. In a way this seems strange as though it could have been the wife's idea, not the husband's. He had built her the finest residence in Osage City, according to the Dodge City Times, and he had moved the furniture from Dodge City, most surely with the intention that she would live there when she returned from her visit in the east. It could well have been that he built the home in Osage City so his wife would be near his relatives and her friends. However, the arrangement, Charles


Rath located a house on the hill where the mosquitoes were not as numerous as they were in the Flat.

     Only the bare necessities were left in the Osage City home, the rest had been shipped to Fort Griffin, even the piano. Most of her clothing Carrie had left hanging in the clothes closet and afterwards she had complained because the moths had ruined all the woolens. On the piano in the new home on the hill, Carrie Rath had displayed some pictures atop the piano, as was the custom in those early days.

     Perhaps there was the wedding picture of herself and Charles. Surely the one of little Jesse, the smiling winsome child who was buried in Ohio, and the photo she had had taken of the baby, Robbie, before she left Cincinnati. The likeness showed him to be quite chubby and entirely sober, his hair so blonde and fine that his head appeared to be bald. He was clothed in the traditional long white dress all infants wore at that time. They had set up housekeeping not far from the home of Frank Conrad and his wife, whose house was shortly to be fenced with the new barbed wire so recently put on the market that their fence created quite a stir in the community. [2]

     Perhaps Mrs. Conrad was the first woman to call on Mrs. Rath, although other women lived in and around Griffin. Ranches were springing up, and mostly the men and their wives were the equals of anyone anywhere, the Matthews and Reynolds families, the Campbells, the Bartholomews, as well as others. Many a gay party was held at some of these ranch homes. But Carrie Rath had arrived too late to figure in the goings on at Fort Griffin when more soldiers had been stationed there.

     Col. MacKenzie and others had taken care of the Indian menace, driving the Indians back to their reservations. Now only one troop of soldiers remained, colored ones, having nothing much to do, excepting stir up trouble down on the Flat. Most business men housed their families in the back of the building where they held forth at the foot of the hill. If Carrie Rath had felt Fort Griffin would be a permanent home, her husband certainly did not.

     Other towns would spring up, perhaps, with better advantages for growth. While the cattle trade was still growing strong, in fact increasing, the buffalo hunting was on the wane. Many hunters had left never to return as hunters. Those that remained went farther south and sometimes came back with more experience than meat as stated in the Times at Dodge City. By now, it was an accepted fact that the buffalo trade was slipping away.

     Conrad and Rath decided the need for a store on the hill was past, and laid the foundation for a building down in the Flats,

1. Memory Cups. Millie Porter; Port Griffin. Rister; The Border and the Buffalo, Cook; Dodge City Times, and family history.
2. "Conrad's barbed wire fence" was one of Harvey Herron's early recollections, in conversation with the author when he sent a piece of the barbed wire to Marietta Weaver. Mullinville, for her collection.


to the north on Main Street, facing east, a fair sized one, and moved some of the merchandise there.

     The rest they moved into a rambling, many-roomed wooden structure on the south end of Main street, fitting out and using a corner in the rear of the building for a postoffice, and the balance of the rooms for a storehouse. In them, it is said, he moved a stock of $40,000 worth of merchandise. Conrad and Rath had the bulk of the trade, although there was one other outfitting store. The ruins of the old store building still stand on the hill, a tree and bushes growing around it. [3]

     Rath's store in the Flats was a good sized building, the rock foundation still marking the measurement of the building. With little space in between, to the north stood the calaboose, 8 x 10, its rock foundation still standing. It had two small windows, on the north and south side, yet the building oftentimes held sixteen men, when times were roughest in the little town. Across the street from Rath's store, facing east was the Bee Hive Saloon.

     At one time Griffin had ten thousand people, and seventeen saloons. Henry N. (Red) Herron, who lived on the river, north on the brakes, was the town's policeman. Hunters' outfits lined the one thoroughfare, getting supplies from Rath's store and Conrad's, and freighters hauled out the hides and brought in supplies. The thriving town had its share of fancy ladies, card sharps, know-it-ails, and cow hands in from the trail lingered to make things hot in the town. But over and above the riff-raff of the town, there were men of good standing which any community would be proud to claim. It was said Frank Conrad was a prince of a man, well liked by the hunters and cowboys; Conrad and Charles Rath were both well liked merchants and, if either had any great fault, it was their policy of being obliging merchants, which of course often led to great amounts owing the firm. Of course, in the early days, it was often said that a man was as good as his word.

     December 1, 1878, "Captain" G. W. Robson, a dried up, fiesty little man, with a walrus mustache, who had been running a paper in Jacksboro for three years, the Frontier Echo, now moved to the boom town of Griffin, coming in a short time after Rath was fairly settled in the store. He stayed three years before he moved on to the up and coming town of Albany.

     Editor Robson was a live reporter. He positively would not report, however, when the business was going downhill in the Flats until each and every merchant had reported a slowing down of trade. [4] He played up the move early in 1879, when Conrad moved from the hill to the new store at the foot of the hill. Charles Rath was probably shrewd enough to see the hand-

3. Ruins there today.
4. Fort Griffin, Rister. Conrad and Rath first had a hide yard at Old Town.


writing on the wall, the eventual fate of Griffin. Once he had thought Griffin had drawing cards - in the Spring of 1877, James W. Stell drove a stage from Griffin to Rath City; twice a week mail left Griffin for Rath City, fifty miles away, by cowboys riding in relays from Griffin to Caprock. But now in the new year of 1879, he began thinking of getting out of Griffin, although Robson was trying to paint the prospects of the town in glowing colors.

     The editor reported, One noticeable feature about Fort Griffin is: although a small place yet the merchants are carrying the largest stocks to be found in the western Country.
Messrs. Conrad and Rath, during the past month have been receiving goods constantly until the new store is completely filled with everything that commands a sale in the market. The stock of clothing alone will invoice at $13,000. They have refitted the Southern Hotel building and intend making a warehouse and postoffice. The postoffice will be moved down from the hill very soon and Mr. Palm will superintend the mail delivery.

     Then he went on to list the business men-Jack Swartz, dispenses hospitality to all transients; Stribling and Spears, real estate; B. Marks, merchandise; w. C. Burton, entertainer at Casino Hall; Gus Hubers and Hervey's, clinking of glasses; Miller & Co., blacksmiths; B. F. Clappitt, Old Rawhide livery stable; Pete Haverty, livery stable, will swap or run horses with any man; Uncle Billy wilson, restaurant and puts up ice; Louis wolfrom, restaurant and wagon yard; Wm. Palmer, tonsorial artist, his wife runs the new restaurant; wing & Co., grist mill; J. S. Steel, justice of the peace; Jim Browning, cowboy lawyer; Charley Meyer, will open a saloon next week.

     The Fort Griffin Echo, January 4, 1879, informed the people that the post office will be moved today and on Monday Mr. Palmer will be ready to do business in the new quarters under the hill. Frank Conrad had bought the Southern Hotel and remodeled the house and used the front portion as a warehouse. The Postoffice was set up in the back room, entrance on the south side. On the upper floor were offices occupied by Messrs. Stribling and Spears and J. N. Browning, attorney. [5]

     The Christmas eve party was held at the residence of T. E. Jackson. Charles Rath was not among the merrymakers. In January 4th issue Henry Hamburg ran an advertisement: I will not be undersold by anyone. He had a stock of men's and hunter's merchandise at Tepee Creek, one hundred twenty-five miles northwest of Griffin. Later, Henry Hamburg and Charles Rath were partners at Mobeetie in a general merchandise store.

     The January 11th issue gave the schedule for the mail, turned in by F. E. Conrad, P. M. - Mails for the east, north, and south leave daily, except Sunday, at 8 a.m. ; arrive daily, except Sunday,

5. Fort GrIffin Echo, January 4, 1879.


at 6 p.m. and mail from Albany leaves Monday at 8 a.m. and returns Same day at 6 p.m. Editor Robson then got in his lick at the people who had complained about climbing the hill for the mail.

     The post office has been moved into the back room of the once Southern Hotel, now Conrad and Rath's wareroom. Now Gentlemen we don't want to hear any cussin' from you because you are relieved of the daily walk up and down hill after the mail. You are at liberty to walk it as many times a day as you deem conducive to your health. In this same issue Conrad ran a list of uncalled for mail.

     Johnny Rogers had painted Conrad and Rath's wareroom, while the firm was still moving their merchandise down the hill to the new warehouse, the last of January, and putting it in place. They had just received a 20,000 pound shipment of goods also. All large orders were filled from the warehouse, after the hunters had listed them at the store. The fact that the Echo saw fit to list incoming buffalo hides highlighted the waning trade. January 25, the editor reported, On Monday two hunters came in from Hamburg's store on Tepee Creek bringing a few buffalo hides and 2,000 pounds of meat."Conrad & Rath and F. B. York & Co. each shipped several wagon loads of buffalo hides last week.

     Sometime in the past Conrad & Rath's and Henry Hamburg's stores had been robbed and no one had been brought in for the offense. Mr. W. L. Browning, a brother of the Griffin county at torney, came in from Duck Creek, where he had a ranch, and said the people residing in that section were of the opinion that the gang of men who committed the robberies at Conrad & Rath's and Hamburg's stores were fortified in one of the Yellow Houses, where they have the only water in forty miles and are so situated that a few men could successfully defend themselves against large odds. No record was found to say if they were brought to trial.

     The middle of February, Charlie Rath, who had been gone from Griffin before the Christmas holidays, came in from Dodge City, Kansas. His time in the Flats was short, however, for by the last of March, he started for Fort worth, planning to go on east on business. Feeling perhaps that she had been left alone too long, Carrie Rath and Little Robbie accompanied him as far as Fort worth.

     While there, probably both Charles Rath and his wife went together upstairs to Moelk Studio No. 5 Houston Street, to have the baby's "picture taken." Little Robbie was now aged almost two and a half years old. The photo depicts what the balmy southern breeze had done to his fair complexion for freckles were generously sprinkled across his nose and along his cheeks. By now, he had enough hair to make a curl on top of his head, although a scanty one.


He wore a heavily embroidered white dress, with a wide dark sash, and a circular collar whose scallops reached his ears. He was still a sober little one, peering with great earnestness at the photographer.

     Mrs. Rath then returned to her home in Fort Griffin while her husband went on east, probably on another buying trip and a marketing one as well. The early part of May, on a Thursday, he was home from the trip which Editor Robson labeled, "an extended business trip in the eastern states."

     The trips may have seemed too extended for Carrie Rath for she was now expecting her third child in the late summer. She had decided she would go to her mother in Ohio for its birth. The plan probably pleased Charles Rath for he must have had twinges of conscience at leaving his wife alone for long periods of time, especially when he learned he must again make a trip early in June to Fort worth. Another reason, he may have been glad to see her go, was the tightening of trade in and around Fort Griffin, which might mean a change in the business firm. But of this, evidently, he said nothing for the furniture was left in the house and he used it for living quarters when he was in town.

     The editor reported her departure in the Saturday, May 24, 1879, issue, Mrs. Charles Rath started Tuesday for a visit to her old home near Cincinnati, Ohio. There she will enjoy a visit among old associates and luxuriate on strawberries and peaches and cream.

     Although Carrie Rath did not know at the time of leaving, maybe not her husband either, she was never to return to Fort Griffin again except to pack her belongings. Her daughter, Bertha Katharine, was born August 14, 1879. And again Charles Rath had a hand in naming his child, saying she should have the name of both her grandmothers. The Ford County Globe, November 11, 1879, had this news item, Mr. Charles Rath came up from Kansas City last Friday, accompanied by Mrs. Rath and their two children, who are stopping with Mrs. R. M. Wright. We understand that Mr. and Mrs. Rath will make Dodge City their home for a time at least, which will be agreeable news to their many old friends. Mr. Rath's business brings him nearer Dodge City than any other railroad point.

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