KanColl Books


Rath's Freight Trains

     Mr. Frank E. Conrad, proprietor of the large Drovers Supply Store of Fort Griffin, Texas, Mr. Conrad of Griffin and Wright, Beverly & Co., of Dodge City, are making big preparations to accommodate the drovers who come up the trail this seasonarrangements have been made by the managements that where goods is purchased from Conrad could be paid for at Wright's and vice versa.

     By 1880, the stock yards at Dodge City were regarded as the most complete and best equipped on the Santa Fe system. The grass was good that year and lots of cattle were coming in from Texas. A. H. Polly wrote the Globe at Dodge City that several cattle herds were starting the northern trek to Kansas. He reported the grass was short but the herds were hitting the trail by thousands of head; horse herds also were coming to Kansas from Rio Grande, all animals in poor condition. There was an abundance of grass near Dodge City to support them and the merchants all along the line were anxious for the trade.

     As 1883 neared its end, Dodge City was considered the greatest shipping point for range cattle in the United States. [1] During the shipping season of 1883, 73,265 head were sent to market on which stockmen realized $2,564,205.

     All the merchants made a big play for the cattle trade, even vied with one another to draw their trade. Firms began advertising, running their advertisements continually. Rath & Dickson had a front page spread in big letters, starting May 9, 1880, telling the public they were dealers in general merchandise at Mobeetie, Texas; cattlemen's trade solicited and prices guaranteed to be satisfactory.

     By August 17, H. Hamburg & Co.'s advertisement carried the same information. If Charles Rath was not a member of this company at this time, he was by July for the Dodge City paper had a news item stating, Mr. Charles Rath, who is interested in the mercantile firm of Henry Hamburg & Co. at Mobeetie, wheeler County, Texas, departed south last week.

     Not to be outdone by these two out of town firms, Wright, Beverly & Co., dealers in General Merchandise in Dodge City, Kansas, declared they were manufacturer's agents for Ladd's celebrated sheep dip, the only certain cure for scab and its prevention. It destroys Vermin, and increases the growth of wool The cheapest and most safe and effective remedy known. Nonpoisonous. Orders promptly filled.

     Robert Wright had made a trip to Griffin, Texas, to confer with Frank Conrad and the two merchants came to an agreement. [2]

1. December 11. 1883, Ford County Globe.
2. March 16. 1880. Conrad's letter in Ford County Globe.


     This big cattle trade called for freighted-in supplies from Dodge City to other points along the Western Trail and all the freighters made bids for this freight. Charles Rath, Robert Wright, and Lee & Reynolds vied with each other for the big government contracts for hauling freight to the various forts. [3] Many notices through the years read, Rath has lately been to Leavenworth looking after government freight contracts, and Mr. Chas. Rath expects to start south on business in a few days. Later, Hon. R. M. Wright and Charles Rath have been at Leavenworth, Kansas, for the past week looking after government freight contracts.

     June 29, 1880, Charles Rath's ox train rolled into town Monday morning, loaded with 18,369 pounds of wool belonging to David Rope who lives about thirty miles south of Fort Elliott, Texas. His wool was in excellent condition and he planned to ship it

3. Ford County Globe, April 20-May 4 - March 20. 1880.


directly to Philadelphia. Settlers were beginning to engage the freighters for sending their goods to market, all of which was welcome for a freighter felt that he must have a load both ways to get the proper pay for keeping the bull trains moving.

     In summer the swollen streams that must be forded were a constant menace to the freighter and in winter the cold and snow delayed him. The Canadian was one of the worst streams because of the danger of being stuck in its ever changing quicksand. February 1, 1881, word came to the Ford County Globe that the buckboard conveyance carrying mail from Tascosa was lost in a snow storm and a dispatch from P. C. Reynolds at Fort Elliott confirmed it. All the trains came into Dodge City with a double header and the hunters were hard put to it to keep from freezing, all making an effort to reach town. The paper was glad to report the arrival of ox trains - January 2, 1883, Rath's ox trains rolled into the city Friday noon from Fort Elliott, Texas, being twenty days from said point to Dodge City. Pretty good time for an ox team at this season of the year. Again in February, Rath's ox train, notwithstanding the cold and stormy weather, keeps moving and came in Thursday from Mobeetie, Texas. And the editor reported on independent freighters, November 27, 1883, saying three ox or bull trains and four mule trains had pulled into town. October 21, 1881, Sawyers bull train started to Mobeetie with a load of lumber for Hamburg and Rath.

     September 7, 1880, according to the local paper, Mr. Thomas Nixon in charge of the freighting bull train of Charles Rath arrived in the city loaded to the guards with buffalo bones - the first. The forerunner of many loads to come to Dodge City for shipment.

     In the early 1880's the settlers poured into the plains country. The Santa Fe had old coaches, attached to freight trains, in which the emigrants rode, ate, and slept. [6] It was a slow way to travel but the fare was low and it suited the emigrants fine. They had come mostly in the "bone gathering days" which was a boon to the family man who had come to homestead with little capital but a willingness to work and get ahead.

     Buffalo bones were scattered all over the southwest, the last grim reminders of the countless numbers of buffalo that had once roamed the plains. There was a ready market for the bones in the East, at $20. a ton, where they were converted into fertilizer and the familiar bone button of that day.

     As many a homesteader claimed, to keep from starving, a man hooked his team to the wagon and the whole family set out across the prairie to pick up bones. As load after load rolled into the nearest shipping center, the piles at Rath's old hide yard began to rival the huge ricks of buffalo hides that once filled

4. Conquest of Southwest Kansas, Leola Blanchard.


the yards. In January Tom Nixon, an old time buffalo hunter, now turned freighter, managed Rath's bull trains, Sometimes making the trip from Mobeetie to Dodge City in record time of twenty days, which was a Very good record for winter trips. It was said the huge piles of bleached bones, the skulls with their ghoulish empty eyesockets, made a grewsome sight. But finally the bones, too, like the buffalo were no more but while they lasted, the cash they brought placed food on many a homesteader's table and into the merchants and freighters pockets. Charles Rath liked to be in town when his bull train rolled in and many of these trips were reported as news items in the Ford County Globe, August 3, 1880, Charles Rath came up from the Panhandle by Sunday's coach and the same issue carried this news, Mr. Charles Nixon, in charge of Rath's freight train, rolled into the city Monday evening. He reports having had several troublesome streams to cross on his trip, especially the Canadian, which was up and booming.

     Both Hamburg and Rath took trips east in the interests of their firm the spring of 1880. Hamburg went to New York and Philadelphia to purchase spring goods. Charles Rath's trip was reported, "came in from a business trip east," June 15th. Many reports from people over the country verify a statement from the family that he made many trips over the plains, horseback, and in his especially built buggy, and a surrey. A. J. (Andy) Meyers was thirteen years old in 1881, riding with his father for Preacher Newby and camped out in a wagon when two men came riding up. One jumped from his horse like he was a pretty tough guy. Dad said he was McKay. Other didn't get off his horse. Dad said he was Rath. He knew them both. Both carried themselves very nice in the saddle.

     In September, 1880, with his wife and two children away on a short visit to Osage, Kansas, and an extended one to Ohio, Charles Rath set about buying several small freighting outfits. He started them out west on the Santa Fe extension in charge of Fred Bond. Rath probably went as far as he could on the Santa Fe where he went to the location where his men were working on the work train. Seeing that all was going well carried on by the efficient workman he always hired, he had returned to Dodge City the last of October, reporting that he had quite a number of teams working on the Santa Fe extension.

     March 29, 1881, Charles Rath came back to Dodge City from New Mexico where he is "quite extensively engaged in a contract with the Santa Fe" and with him came his foreman Fred Bond who was to go on east and Joseph Minor who was to take charge of the bull train plying between Dodge City and the Panhandle. Rath had made the long trip to see how his bull trains were getting along with the freighting and he had taken the Sunday


coach around April 19th to see about his mercantile business in Mobeetie, Texas.5 August 2, 1881, an item in the Ford County Globe gave the news that was to start a chain of events in Dodge City and elsewhere almost as exciting as when Chief Spotted Tail came to town-Mr. Chas. Rath unloaded from the cars a road engine that he has had in Texas for some time. It was intended at first as the motive power to haul freight wagons but as it did not fully answer the purpose it will be taken to Mobeetie, Texas, and used to run a saw mill.

     On west Chestnut Street, now weSt wyatt Earp Boulevard, in front of the building in which John williamson's hardware store is now, four-year-old Robbie Rath stood open mouthed, half fearful and half wishing that he could be the big man, making the fearful iron thing move along, as the big Steam engine rattled along down the street. He remembers that an excited passerby paused long enough beside him to give the news that the big man Standing in the cab at the back was his Uncle Chris Rath. So great was the lad's excitement that he remembered the event through all the long years of his life, the pride he had that his father and Uncle Chris could own and manage the monstrous steam puffing, running whatever-it-was. In the light of an item copied from the Mobeetie Panhandle in the Globe older people than the four-year-old Robbie Rath were overly excited too; Billy Polk, the bookkeeper at RathHamburg's, was too.

Globe date line, October 4, 1881:
The "What Is It" heard from. Mr. Rath ran his first train into Mobeetie. He was chief engineer, with a corp of firemen and a host of brakemen, prominent among whom was Henry Hamburg, Esq. The train moved on at a breakneck speed and almost violated some of our city ordinances about fast time on the streets. But as this was the first steam navigation on our streets, all feel inclined to overlook shortcomings and no arrests will be made. Whistle at the crossings, hereafter, gentleman.

     September 27, Charles Rath had come up from Mobeetie, Texas, reporting an increase in business and could have told the editor about the sensation his steam engine had created in Mobeetie but rather he must have left it to the news-gatherers to find out for themselves. So they had carried the above item and another on October 10, Charlie Rath's steam engine which he took to Mobeetie was the nearest thing to a train that city had seen and it created a furore as it raced up the Street at five or six miles an hour.

     Many records are left telling of social events Carrie Rath attended like the New Year's eve Masque Ball at Dodge City, just before she had gone to Griffin to help with the packing, where she


had dressed as a "general housekeeper" in Beatty & Kelly's opera house; Mrs. G. M. Hoover wore full opera dress and R. M. Wright outdid himself being the Irish Gentlemen, Paddy from Cork. This one was found of a social event Rath attended, while his wife was away in the east -At the Chrystal wedding of Col. and Mrs. J. W. Straughn, Sept. 7, Chas. Rath gave a cake and pickle dish. Mrs. Rath had returned home the latter part of November.

     And just before Christmas, Charles Rath came in from the East where he had been in the interests of his firm in Mobeetie, H. Hamburg and Co., and spent the holidays with his family. Little Robbie had been four years old, October 16, 1881, and he remembered this as one of the happy times in his life, saying, Mamma had such a good dinner and I stuffed and stuffed on nuts and candy, then I put on the boots papa had brought me and hung the drum mamma gave me on my shoulder and I went out on the porch. I made my boots walk away in the deep snow.

     He went north to the Henry Mueller home which had been completed earlier in the fall, the stone for which had been quarried on the Sawlog.6 It stood on a promontory overlooking Military Avenue, in the extreme north part of town. The Muellers had given a big housewarming party and Beeson's orchestra furnished the music for dancing. Little Robbie Rath may have been at this party but quite likely he and his sister Bertie had been left at home in the care of their nursemaid Tina, whom they both liked very much. Anyway, he went straight to the Mueller home, where they had him play on his drum and admired his boots for the Muellers were shoemakers in the city. Mr. Mueller gave him two cookies with raisins on them, which he ate at once, and advised him to go home.

     Instead he went to the Streator home where they had big boys too, and everybody made over his boots and his drum playing, which delighted his little boy heart. Mrs. Streator wiped the snow from his boots and Mr. Streator said they must get him home. Henry Streator, the big boy, swung him on his back and, when they had come in view, they could hear his parents calling, "Robbie!" It was only one of the many times, he ran away and stayed away from home, he recalls.

     February 7, 1882, Charles Rath announced to the Globe Editor that he had severed his relations with the business house of H. Hamburg & Co. and now runs a large outfitting store in his own name. The last of February he returned to Dodge City, saying the work was progressing rapidly on the Atlantic and Pacific railway where he was working with the contractors, Kirkpatrick & Company.

     The brief time he was in Dodge City, Rath closed the deal on the A. B. Webster home on Railroad Avenue, now Central Avenue,

5. Ford County Globe, April 19. 1881. 6. Heinie Schmidt's father took over the house.


but he did not stay to help with the moving. Little Robbie helped though, by hauling his little sister, Bertie to the new home in his little red wagon, upsetting her and the wagon only once on the circuitous route he took from the home on the Montgomery Ward corner to the alley and on to the new home at the other end of the block. Mr. Rath had gone to Mobeetie to look after his business in his store, and his interest in the Rath & Dickson store, whose advertisement ran until up in July of that year; from Mobeetie he had gone to New Mexico where he was still interested in work for the Atlantic & Pacific Railway.

     Adventurous Carrie Rath decided to go there too, making arrangements for her husband to meet her at Albuquerque and take her on where he was working.? Little Robbie recalls getting off the train, looking up at it as he walked along the track. Then they all got into a work train. They slept on the work train that night and later, he remembers a hotel where they stayed, a big one with lots of rooms. The first of July, Charles Rath was back in Dodge City, saying he had completed the present grade work but had put in bids for other contracts on the A & P railway which if awarded would amount to $80,000 worth of work. Mrs. Rath had stayed on in New Mexico and would stay until the hot weather subsided somewhat. She returned to Dodge City in July much delighted with her trip to New Mexico. Her husband had departed again and came back to the city in October.

     While all this was going on, Dodge City had acquired a bank and the editor proudly announced, May 30, 1882, the first banking house has as president, George Hoover; Richard w. Evans Sr., cashier; Henry L. Sitler, director; also Herman J. Fringer and william H. Harris. The bank was located on Front Street, across from the old Santa Fe depot. This was ten years, lacking two months from the date of Dodge's first business when Charles Rath Merchantile Company and later York, Hadder & Draper Merchantile Co. had taken care of all banking up to this time, money accounts, they called them.

     If the bank had pleased the city fathers, the abandonment of Fort Dodge threw a pall of gloom into their hearts. It was abandoned in 1882. In 1889, largely through the efforts of "Ham" Bell, instead of being razed, the buildings were put to use as a soldier's home.

     In the early part of 1883, Charles Rath seemed to be spending more of his time than customary looking after his various businesses in Mobeetie, being in Dodge City occasionally for a week at a time. In May Mrs. Rath and the two children, Robbie and Bertie, went to Burlingame, Kansas, to stay a month or more visiting friends and relatives. The middle of August, her parents

7. Ford County Globe, June 6-July 4 and 27th. October 3. 1882.


came from Cincinnati to visit, and shortly Rath came up from Mobeetie, Texas. On an evening in early September, a news item noted, Mr. & Mrs. Charles Rath were at home last Friday evening to a party of their gentlemen and lady friends. The time was spent in social conversation and instrumental music and various amusements, after which refreshments were served. Presumably this party was given so her parents could meet their friends.

     Before Rath went back to Mobeetie, he went to the schoolhouse where his son Robbie was and the teacher let him go with his father. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon. They got in the buckboard. It was night when they reached Ashland so they stayed all night in an upstairs room looking out on a porch top. The next night they were at a river by Camp Supply. The river was up, bank full. Robbie told the rest,Father unhooked the team and left them. He swam across the river with me on his back. I wasn't afraid for I dug my heels into his middle. We went on to Mobeetie and stayed in the hotel. The hotel lady (Ellen O'Loughlin) took care of me. I liked her and I stayed a long time.

     It must have been a warm fall for the child played out of doors and recalled having a wonderful time, with the other boys, playing wagon train, with cigar boxes for the wagons and beer bottles for the oxen, all tied together with string.

     Shortly, his mother and sister had come. Mr. Rath got out the two seated buggy (surrey) and the family got in, along with a hired man, Mr. Rath driving across the Staked Plains where his men were scraping out water holes for cattle for the government. They got lost on the plains. They ran out of water and Rath watered the mules with bottles of beer. At last Charles Rath picked up a trail and arrived at the camp where his men, mostly Mexicans, were scraping water holes for cattle.

     The camp was a revelation for two little children. Robbie followed the scrapers when they were loaded with earth, then rode in the empty Scraper the oxen pulled to the bottom of the pond. At camp, at the cook shack, he saw his first condensed milk and was utterly fascinated with it. He asked the cook for a can, getting the top off, he knifed the contents out as he ate it. The wind blew his blonde curls into tangles, so he managed to get the two front ones cut close to his head before his mother stopped him.

     But if Robbie thought he was having a grand time, his sister wasn't so sure about how things were going with her. First she lost her beads and though she scratched in the sand and rough grass, she could not find them. Then her father came to the tent home near the surrey, and she heard him say to her mother, as he took hold of the little girl's hand

     Dress her up. The chief wants to see my daughter.


     I won't go, Bertie said stamping her foot.

     Carrie Rath put a light dress on her with a panel down the front with narrow tucks across it, and a wide sash. She put a ring on her finger and a golden chain around her neck. Her father took her in the surrey and once he tied the wheels as he drove down a rocky cliff. He stopped the mules by a tepee and helped her to the ground. Taking her hand, he led her as she hung back, lifted the flap of the tepee and brought her in. As she told it later, she swallowed hard as he dragged her past the squatting Indians who were circled around the tepee, until she stood before the chief. He lifted his hand and said, "How." She had expected momentarily to be scalped, but remembering her manners, she also lifted her hand and said, "how" as loud as she could. It brought a big laugh and the tension eased. Although she was just past four, she never forgot the standing Indian chief, with a great feather headdress and something that looked like chalk. After her father and the chief talked awhile, words she did not understand, he took her back to her mother.

     Shortly they had set out in the surrey again, leaving all the Mexicans and the hired hand to work on the water holes. They had barely settled again in the hotel at Mobeetie when Charles Rath got pleasantly surprised and Carrie Rath rather non-plussed, according to Rath's daughter Cheyenne Belle, on this second trip to visit her father.

     In 1880, Mike Belanti, an Austrian, and a soldier, was trading a string of ponies to Roadmaker for her daughter Shaking Herself (Mandy), ten years older than Cheyenne Belle. Right at this time, Cheyenne Belle had come to visit her mother. Mike Belanti took one look and said, That is the one I want. Roadmaker had consented; it was an honor to sell a daughter.

     Shortly her husband said he thought she should write to her father, which she did. A visit was arranged. When she had her first baby, Belle and Mike went to see her father, taking the baby. This grandchild and a second one, was all the grandchildren Charles Rath was ever to know. He must have been greatly pleased that his daughter came to see him. He gave her his especially built buggy, seats let down to make a bed, so she would be comfortable on her way home to Darlington. Then he sent out to have his horses driven in, so Belle could select the team she wanted but she graciously delegated that to her husband Mike, anyway forty-four of them to choose from. When the selection was made, Rath fitted them with harness from his store.

     All the while she had been there, Rath had the milliner and dressmaker busy making hats and dresses for his daughter. Then he gave her a going away present, her daughter thinks $250 and he also sent a present to Roadmaker.


     Now Belle had her second son and she came along with the baby, George Edward, satchel strapped on the back of the Stage. In it were the baby's clothes and her money. Two men sat in the back of the stage. They unstrapped the satchel and she saw the baby's clothes blowing away. She told the driver that the men had taken her money but he did nothing about it. And so she arrived, perhaps not knowing in advance that Carrie Rath and her children would be there.

     Rath had asked her both times to bring her mother along but both times Roadmaker had said, No, when he left me for the white woman that was a divorce; his white wife would not be happy about it, and she always wound up saying, Indians have their pride too. Just what occurred is not known but the gentle Belle never went to see her father again, saying she thought his wife did not like to have her come.

     Roadmaker lived in a tepee all her life. She had died before Hattie, a granddaughter, was born, July 28, 1892, probably of old age. [8] She was buried, quite likely in the elktooth dress, teeth the size of thumb nail, with two holes bored in them, and then strung on the buckskin dresses. Cheyenne Belle was ever a gentle soul, according to Ellen Fairchild, and went a lot to the doctor. Her hair and eyes were brown and she had a beautiful complection, fair skinned and rosy cheeks. She always lived along the river, between the North and South Canadian, ten or twelve miles apart. When Mike Belanti had walked out of her life, she married Andy Martin and she lived on land she owned west of Geary, Okla. Her allotment land was one-half mile north and one and one-half miles east of Calumet.

     She was a midwife and delivered many babies. She worked with Dr. Gilliam, the first doctor in Calumet. She was one of the best of bead women, having work on hand at her death. In the late 1880's, she was recognized as one of the most able Indian women in the Cheyenne tribe and was chosen by the Indians as one of their official interpreters, during the controversy between the Indians at Darlington, and the then agent D. B. Dyer, when General Sheridan came to the agency to quiet the Indians and get their difficulties straightend out.

     She did an excellent job of raising her six children, five boys and one girl. Her oldest son, william, attended the Indian boarding school at Halstead, Kansas, and learned to farm. Her second son and third son, Mike, who later was a well-known major class baseball player, both attended school at Carlisle, as well as her fourth son, John. The daughter, Hattie, married Gordon Crump of Calumet. Michael was nationally known as a former Carlisle football star and in baseball, popular short-stop with the Cincinnati Reds.

8. Record Department of the Interior, Concho, Okla.


     Belle died suddenly, Monday night, May 1, 1939, from a heart attack, while riding in an automobile with a relative.9 She was buried in the Geary cemetery.

     The first of December, Mrs. Rath and her children took the stage at Mobeetie back to her home in Dodge City. Most certainly Robbie had not been to school a day during his stay in Mobeetie. Now, he trudged his way up the hill to the school on Boot Hill.

9. Geary Times Journal.

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