KanColl Books


Rath City Evacuated

     The last of March, 1879, Charles Rath left Fort Griffin for Fort worth. In April, all the accumulated nicks of buffalo hides at Rath City would move to Fort worth, via Fort Griffin. J. Wright Mooar claims to have had charge of them. Others, beside the Mooar Bros., who had loaded their wagons, were the Lewis Bros., freighters for Rath, and George Aiken, whose saloon business was now on the rocks and was boss of Rath's wagon train. His arrangements made for the shipment of the hides, Charles Rath went east to market them.

     Regardless of W. C. Lobenstein's agent who had instructions to buy on the range and ship to Fort worth and Mr. Hickey's assertion at Quinn's Ranch that he did not want Rath to get one hide south of Red River, Charles Rath had been compelled to hire freighters other than his own to keep the ever increasing hides moving to market. He had brought in freighters from Dennison and Fort worth and yet at the end of the buffalo hunting the accumulation was still considerable, necessitating the use of the above trains to haul the balance.

     The first great slaughter of buffalo in the south was in December 1877 and January, 1878. More than a million hides had been taken that fall and winter.' Come May of that year, hunters were leaving the range, never to return as buffalo hunters again. Many of them went eastward and into Kansas, taking up claims and Col. Jack Potter claims many prominent men that migrated to New Mexico were from the "Rath Buffalo Camp, in Texas' stake plains part." [2] He goes ahead to name some of them, Pat Garrett, famous New Mexico sheriff; John Poe; Hugh Leeper; Barney Mason; Jim Greathouse; Charley Goodrich, and others. But other hunters lingered on, cleaning up the remnant herds.

     Jack Potter wrote further, "All I knew about your relative (Charles Rath) is second hand information. They (hunters mentioned above) spoke highly of Mr. Rath and his pioneering. You see besides his buffalo hunting he was in an isolated country and besides killing buffalo he had to dish out law and order, the buffalo hunter was full of adventure, and much different from a cowboy."

     Camp Reynolds or Rath City as the hunters named the buffalo

1. Rath City. Naomi Kinkead.
2. Letter to Author. August 30. 1948, from Col. Jack Porter. Clayton. New Mexico.


camp and trading post, laid no claims to being anything else. Its sole purpose was to provide the hunters with supplies and furnish a market for their hides, for Charles Rath had promised the hunters that no matter where they made the kill, Rath wagons would pick them up.

     The buildings were crude and hurriedly put up, mostly of adobe blocks slung together with mud or cedar posts set together for walls and chinked with adobe plaster, all with roofs of poles, brush and earth, excepting Rath's store building. It had a lumber roof, covered with sod, for he could not risk getting his stock of merchandise wet. The corral was made of sod. In fact, everything about the camp was of make-shift construction, hunters often betting with an owner on the odds of his building holding up until the day of its usefulness was past. However, no hunter expected more. It was enough that Rath City was a place where they could meet for a sociable chat, a wetting of the lips; a place where they could sell their hides and replenish their supplies, a haven when the dire need for safety arose.

     When the buffalo were gone, so was the need for the trading outpost. Hunters packed their camp outfits and hooked their teams to the wagons, leaving in groups. As the hunters drove past Rath's store, they lifted a hand in a plainsman's salute, not only to Harvey west who stood in the doorway to see them depart, but to all the good buffalo hunting days they had seen, their knit friendships when the Indian menace had to be dealt with. West finished packing the goods in the store, against the day when George Aiken should return from Fort worth to move the merchandise to Camp Supply. Then Harvey weSt and Sing, the laundryman, waited.

     Marketing his hides in the east, perhaps Charles Rath thought about The Rath Trail and the end of the trail, Rath City. In fancy, he may have stood again on its hill and looked about him, visioning the Double Mountains off in the distance, the Llano Estacado, often referred to as the Staked Plains of Texas, its green grass thinning into the arid, almost unknown desert beyond. He may have noted nearby, tufts of tall sedge grass at the edge of the camp that had defied the trampling of horses and oxen. No doubt, if he had really been standing there, Charles Rath with the nonchalance of the western man, would have cast a glance behind him, then realizing an era was ended, would have looked hopefully ahead at whatever the future might have in store for him.

     When he was again at Fort Griffin, from this extended business trip in the East, arrangements would be made for his wife to go East. Even now, Carrie Rath may not have known the big money made in the buffalo trade was now almost a thing of the past. Few men, even hunters themselves, could scarcely grasp that fact even yet.


     No one will ever really know how many buffalo hides and robes Charles Rath had bought and Sold, besides the ones he himself had obtained in his own hunts. His first Sales were at Leavenworth to Lobenstein, then the collected ones at Dodge City in the Charles Rath & Company hide yard which went to KanSaS City and other markets in the East as Rath found them. Hides from Fort Griffin and Rath City poured into Fort worth by train loads to be shipped eastward with Rath on hand to market them. No one could have the record of all these sales now.

     R. M. Wright, Rath's friend and one time partner, reported in his Cowboy Capital, "He bought and sold more than a million buffalo robes and hundreds of cars of buffalo meat, both dried and fresh, besides several car loads of buffalo tongues."

     Surely no one risked as much in capital and effort as Charles Rath did to get the buffalo trade. Generally, although he had many partners, he took care of the traveling end of the business, having made many good connections through the many years he had been going east. Through it all, he seems to have kept on good terms with his partners, business associates, the hunters, and customers in general. Though he travelled many lonely miles by himself through Indian Territory, he seems never to have met with bodily harm from the Indians, nor to have been in any shooting scrapes excepting the "Shooting Affair" near Larned. For the buffalo trade business, he had risked the happiness of his family, hoping the big money he earned would buy comfort and other pleasures, enough to compensate for the many long periods of time he needs must be away from home. Now the buffalo trade was over, never to return.

     No doubt, before this trip was undertaken, Charles Rath had spoken to his business associate and partner, Frank E. Conrad, about withdrawing from the firm. The disposal or sale of the great ricks of buffalo hides on hand would be one of the first things considered in dissolving partnership. Rath seems to have made all arrangements for moving the hides, with the Lewis Bros. who freighted for him. Rath left June 7th to be on hand when the hides arrived at Fort worth. The Echo reported later that the Lewis Bros. were on their way and would bring merchandise back from Fort worth, then go on to Fort Elliott and Camp Supply where they would start putting up hay to fill the contract Charles Rath had with the government.

     Editor Robson reported in the July 12th issue of the Echo that Frank Conrad was fast getting things put to rights in his store and by the first of the week would have everything in order.

     In July 19th issue, this report, "The Mooar Bros. had left Tuesday with the freight wagons loaded with the goods belonging to Mr. Charles Rath and Henry Hamburg which they are moving to"


     Sweetwater; Thursday Mr. Charles Rath took his final departure from Fort Griffin." In this move, Rath had his freight wagons, drawn by six five yoke ox teams and two six mule teams. [3]

     Editor Robson heralded Rath's departure with a good sendoff, "Mr. Rath has been a citizen of this place only three years, still his worth as a business man, his genial sociability, have endeared him to all. The best wishes of our community attend him in his new venture."

     The Ford County News told the news to Rath's former friends and fellow citizens at Dodge City, "we are informed that Charles Rath of the firm of Conrad and Rath of Fort Griffin, has withdrawn from the said firm and will establish himself in business at Sweetwater, Texas. Mr. Rath has the hay contracts for Forts Supply and Elliott." [4]

     Then followed an item concerning former partners of Rath's at Rath City, "Messrs. Lee & Reynolds have just received a lot of new freight wagons from Chicago, the wheels of which are six inches higher than the ordinary wagon, made especially for crossing the Arkansas River when the tide is up. This enables them to cross this turbulent stream during high water without wetting

3. The Great Buffalo Hunt, Wayne Gard; and family history, George Aiken had charge of Rath's freight wagons. The furniture was not moved until early in 1880.
4. July 29, 1879,

     Ford County Globe, October 14, 1879.


their merchandise, besides they save toll on the Dodge City bridge." [5] No doubt the editor of the paper must have smiled, knowingly as he prepared the following news item for his readers, "Mr. Charles Rath who was one of the first business men of this place and who stood at the head of one of the largest firms during his business career in this city, came up from Fort Elliott, Texas, and Fort Supply, at which places he has had the government hay contract and informs us that notwithstanding the opposition he has had to contend with, he has not only filled his contract but has the assurance from the U. S. officials that he has given them better hay and has put it up in better shape, than any that was ever put up at either of these posts. Charles never does anything by halves." [6]

     In the meantime, a notice in the Dodge City Times reported, "Mr. Charles Rath is in the City. Mr. Rath is well known in Dodge City and the west and his many friends are glad to welcome him once more."

     Henry Hamburg, listed as one of the principal merchants of Sweetwater City, had returned from his eastern tour and stopped off in Dodge City for a few days before he left by coach for Sweetwater. [7] Charles Rath was gone from Sweetwater before Hamburg returned.

     He had rushed to Kansas City to meet his wife and two children. His wife had gone to her people in Cincinnati for her daughter's birth. She was born August 14, 1879, named Bertha Katharine for her two grandmothers. At six weeks, Carrie Rath had taken her daughter to a Cincinnati studio to get a photo taken. Shortly she had left Ohio to meet her husband in Kansas City.

     November 11, 1879, The Globe had this 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. & 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."

     By the middle of December he had taken the Supply coach on his way to Fort Griffin, Texas, to be gone for two or three months. [8] Laura V. Hamner said in her radio talk about Charles Rath, "I can't understand why Rath went back to Fort Griffin but Fort Griffin Echo in the Society column said; `February 21, 1880Mr. Charles Rath, one of the oldest and most respected citizens, later of the firm of Conrad and Rath, left here wednesday night

5. The bridge Charles Rath had helped to engineer and Andy Johnson had labored
on. 6. Ford County Globe, October 14. 1879. Rath's sly dig at a former partner, who if he failed to get the government hay contracts. tried to burn the grass lands to keep his competitor from filling the contract.
7. Author found no record to prove Rath and Hamburg were in business together at this time.
8. Ford County Globe, December 16, 1879.


for his new home in Dodge City, Kansas."' The explanation - Rath had come for his furniture which had been left in the house on the hill, and Mrs. Rath also after New Year's Masque Ball, getting back home on the stage coach March 9, 1880. with a fastidious wife, Charles Rath would see that the belongings were properly packed. Perhaps he even had the huge piano crated. Quite likely, he had waited for his freight wagons to arrive, to see the furniture properly loaded. The family says, he accompanied the train all the long way to the Canadian River where the wagons mired in the sand, with freighters shaking their heads, maybe thinking it was the heavy piano that did it. By the time the load was out of the river bed the piano had been flooded with the sandy water.

     By the time the piano reached Dodge City, the water had drained away, leaving the sand behind. Strangely, the fine piano was not too badly damaged. While Charles Rath had the furni ture moved into the house where the Montgomery ward business now is on First Avenue and Gunsmoke, Carrie Rath had found a man to clean the sand out of the piano. When the children were older, Carrie Rath would tell of the incident as she played the piano softly, tell it so convincingly, that the son Robert always wondered how the fine instrument could be played at all. The hardy old piano was sold when the children were almost grown.

     A year after Mr. and Mrs. Rath had left Fort Griffin, Editor Robson moved to Albany with his printing press. Frank Conrad began moving his stock of goods to the same place, taking with him the trail driver's trade. After these two moves, Fort Griffin's downfall was rapid. It could not compete with Albany. Finally only one general store and postoffice was left, housed in the old Conrad warehouse, and owned and managed by Henry N. (Red) Herron, who had once been a policeman in the Flats.

     Through the years, he made enough out of the store and postoffice to buy up the land the government gave to the negro soldiers. Today, the building still stands, the old mail cubby-holed frame there in storage, the sign still there on the building-Fort Griffin General Merchandise.

     Some buffalo hunters' camps, a hide yard in 1875 became Old Town or Hide Town in 1876, and shortly became known as Sweetwater, a town three miles below Fort Elliott, in Texas. [9] It was there now that Rath had freighted his merchandise from Fort Griffin. Already there were three saloons, owned by Henry Fleming, Joe Mason, and W. H. Weed. Bill Thompson had a dance hall. Sing had set up his laundry. Tom and Ellen O'Loughlin had a restaurant. There was a barber shop and the big store of Rath and wright. George Aiken soon had his saloon and restaurant

9. Miles O'Loughlin interview by Rex Deweese, Pampa News, June 11, 1939.


going. He had come when Rath City was evacuated. And here Charles Rath had come and was to spend many years.

     Thomas O'Loughlin, a government teamster, had first been stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. [10] Later he had married and moved to Pierce Siding, now Pierceville, west of Dodge City, on the Santa Fe, and in 1874, started a small dugout store. Marauding Cheyenne Indians, fleeing north from the Adobe wall Fight, had soon found the store and O'Loughlin home in their path, destroying all their possessions and burning the buildings. The O'Loughlin family fled to the safety of Dodge City, where they stayed during the winter of 1874-1875.

     In March, 1875, when a company of relief Soldiers were sent into the Indian Territory, teamster O'Loughlin, his wife, and two children accompanied them, camping on Cantonment Creek in the Texas Panhandle. After Fort Elliott was built, they moved there in June. While they were quartering with the soldiers, the town of Sweetwater was born.

     In late 1877, Tom O'Loughlin moved on up the creek and squatted on the section joining Fort Elliott, thereby being closer to the soldier trade and giving Sweetwater the chance to follow." The first house in the permanent settlement was built in 1878, and the town in the new location began to thrive immediately. The first postoffice was made of crating lumber and flattened tin cans which shone in the sun, in 1879.

     The mail came from Fort Supply, twice a week. Later there was a daily mail out of Dodge City, with P. G. Reynolds holding the government contract to transport it. Stage coach travel was ten cents a mile with a charge of $4.00 a hundred for baggage. The town was supplied by freighters, most merchants having their own. George Aiken and Ace Harmon freighted for Rath, or rather operated his freight wagons, mostly oxen in the yoke. The business reached enormous proportions, with Dodge City the freighting center.

     Later John Seger ran a stage line through Pond Creek to wichita. Reportedly, Mr. Seger was quite a character and was well liked by the Indians. He hired some handsomely dressed Indian braves to carry mail sacks horseback and also a good looking lad with long blonde curls and cowboy regalia, named Charlie Cole. There was plenty of money and it flowed like water. When the boys came to town they really had a time for they didn't come very often and they let no grass grow under their feet while footloose. There were shooting scrapes, drunken brawls, and fights over gambling games and any other fool idea that came into a drunken man's head. It wasn't much of a place for a woman.

10. Tom was a brother of John O'Loughlin, merchant. the "Father of Lakin," Kansas.
11. This fits with Lena Boylan Tate's statement that his brother John gave him half the merchandise in his store at Lakin to help him start in business again in Texas.


     Nor did Carrie Rath come here until later, although She may have stopped over with Ellen O'Loughlin while on her way back to Dodge City from Fort Griffin after seeing that her furniture and everything was cleared from the house on the hill where she had lived for almost three years.

     Quite likely Carrie had gone into Fort Elliott with her husband to see the handsome government post. Mrs. Rath may have known some of the scouts stationed there and her husband knew them all - Amos Chapman, Ben Jackson, Bill Combs, Levi Ritchison, Edd Cooley, and George W. Brown-and enjoyed talking with them to see how things were going over the country. Also there were about thirty Cheyenne scouts and their wives at the fort. A Cheyenne sargeant had charge of all the others and his wife was familiarly called Cheyenne Fanny.

     How well Charles Rath knew about scouting. It was dangerous work. A man sometimes went into Indian country, go sometimes one hundred miles alone, when conditions were such that he traveled at night and holed up in the daytime. A scout was chosen for his proven ability to guide soldiers from one camp to another and their knowledge of the prairies. The task was theirs to find good camping places and water; to carry dispatches from the different camps to the fort. The scouts were a close-mouthed group but to a man like Charles Rath, they would give information a man liked to know in those early days.

     Charles Rath had probably waited for the freight wagons to arrive from Fort Griffin, seeing how things were going at his store, getting lists of needed supplies. But he had sent his wife and the children, if she had them with her, which was quite likely, on the stage for Dodge City, her future home, where she arrived the first of March, 1880.

     Seeing the freight well on its way from Sweetwater, he had been at the Canadian crossing when the piano got its wetting as the wagons mired in the sand. After that he must have ridden on to Dodge City to see they had a house to put the furniture in and then hied on to Fort Leavenworth. The Dodge City paper reported that he was back from there by April 20, where he had been looking after government freight contracts. He didn't tarry long, however, for the paper carried the news, May 4, 1880, that he would go south again in a few days.

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