KanColl Books


The Bull Fight

     Early in March, 1883, twenty-two year old Albert Linder came to Mobeetie from Cincinnati to clerk in Rath's store. He told of a number of happenings while he was there, incidents that seemed of prime importance to an eastern young man. [1] Late one afternoon several Indians came riding in on their ponies, with skins, blankets, furs and other things they had, to do some trading at the store. They would point at what they wanted, bright colored goods, guns, beads, and trinkets; then hold up a skin or a fur. If it wasn't enough Charles Rath would shake his head for No and they would add more. While his employer talked to the Indians young Linder held a gun under the counter.

     It got late and they weren't through trading, so they had to stay all night. Rath and his clerks had cots in the back of the store where they kept things and where they slept, but young Linder said he didn't do much sleeping. All of the Indians but one threw some skins on the floor, wrapped themselves in their blankets, and lay down on them and were soon fast asleep. That one padded back and forth the whole length of the store keeping watch.

     When he got tired, he nudged one of the sleeping Indians with his moccasin and in a second he was up taking his turn of walking and watching and the other lay down. Not a sound did they make all through the night getting up or down, excepting the muffled sound of the moccasins walking on the floor. In the morning they finished trading and rode away on their ponies.

     One day Sitting Bull came into the store, with a party of Indians, and after a while showed Rath and Linder a scar he had on his back under his shoulder blade where he had been hit by a bullet and had dug it out by himself with his hunting knife. He had been chased by the white men and shot in the shoulder, he said, and he had reached out with his hunting knife and slashed until he had the bullet out. Linder saw the scar and said it was an ugly one and he could see places where Sitting Bull had hacked himself getting the bullet out. One day Albert Linder told Mr. Rath he was going out for a ride on his pony. Rath told him to watch out for wolves and coyotes as they might overtake him and attack the pony and him. Also not to go out too far and not to lose sight of the store or he would get

1. Letter in author's possession written by his daughter. Odie Pierret.


lost as that was easy to do out there. He didn't stay the year out, going home early in the spring.

     Perhaps when Albert Linder left, Charles Rath had come up to Dodge City with him, for Carrie Rath was planning to have a new home built south of the old webster home they had bought and moved into. Spring that year was the start of a rainy summer. It was the year when another young lad, John Calahan, a preacher's son, came from the east and got in with a gang of horse thieves led by Dirty Ike and John Cole. H. B. Bell reasoned with him, "John, you had better get out of that bunch because some day you will get in bad." "They owe me money and I want to stay until I get what is coming to me," he said, to which Ham Bell had offered his kindly advice, "Sometimes it pays to lose one's wages."

     From the camp on the Sawlog, the two men rode out, taking John and another young lad along. A fight ensued on the trip and John's hand was cut badly. They came back with a bunch of horses, which Dirty Ike told John Calahan to hold together; he had to go. During the night, men came who swung John Cole and John Calahan from a limb on a cottonwood tree, but not before Calahan told them he had nothing to do with the stealing and made such a fine speech in behalf of the other lad that he was saved from swinging, a horse thief's fate if caught. Later, Mr. Bell, who had an undertaking establishment, was asked to take up John Calahan's body from beneath the tree and send it on to his parents.

     Horse thieves had a lucrative business, although it involved some risk. If caught, the riders lost no time arguing but promptly threw a rope over the nearest tree limb, yanked it tight and left the thief to swing.

     About this time, Dodge City, always noted for its lavish entertainments, dancing, horse and dog racing, now laid plans to outdo even themselves. The newly organized Fair Association had bought forty acres of land from A. J. Anthony, which they afterward lost, so they could hold a fair in the fall. Stock was issued and the members felt prosperous enough to offer some big attraction on July 4th. They would have a bull fight!

     Five bull fighters were imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and twelve Texas bulls were ordered. The choice of Texas bulls was determined by the remark of a cowboy, "By nature, a Texas Bull is all the time as mad as he can get."

     Wide publicity was given for the bull fight, the first and only one ever held in the United States. It brought forth a letter to the mayor from the United States attorney advising that such an exhibition would be against the laws of the nation. It was the night before the fight and Mayor A. B. Webster wired back, "Hell, Dodge City ain't in the United States."

     The fight was staged the 4th and 5th of July, 1884, before


4,000 spectators, about a third of whom were women and children. Cigarette smoking sporting ladies came, flaunting their painted lips and cheeks before the innocents as they tripped into the Long Branch and other saloons that lined Front Street. It was accounted a great success financially.

     Charles Rath was up from Mobeetie for the occasion and took the whole family for both days' fights. In fact, it is said, the town itself was almost deserted while the fights were on. Almost every family in town bought pictures of the bull fighters, dressed in their handsome crimson satin attire and Mrs. Rath let her rent-rooms to several of them.

     After the excitement had died down, Mrs. Rath took the children and went east, returning in October. At this time advertisements of Mobeetie firms began appearing in both weekly papers of early Dodge City, Ford County Globe and the Globe Live Stock Journal. They were on the front pages, two columns wide, with the owners' names splashed clear across the top space, Henry Hamburg's not quite so large or black as that of Charles Rath. Besides being a dealer in general merchandise, Rath informs the public, "will also keep on hand for sale Native Pine Lumber, doors, windows, etc."

     His brothers Chris and will Rath were sending lumber to the store from the sawmill in Texas, using the big steam engine for motive power. Charles Rath not only looked after his freight lines and other business but took a hand in civic affairs as well.

     Fred Scott of Canyon, Texas, says when he was seventeen years old, on his way to Dodge City with a herd of cattle for Goodnight and Ada, he stopped off at Mobeetie to vote for Cleveland. Charley Rath who had charge of the election said, "You're pretty young to be voting, aren't you?" but he let me vote.

     October 22, 1956, a pithy, highly informative letter reached the author in answer to a query, from Muskogee, Oklahoma: "Dear Lady -Your request at hand must say, I held the stage station on the Canadian the winter of '84 and '85. Passers were apt to drop in, Charley Rath, middle age, weight about 170, drove a freight team one of 3 teams 2 wagons to each team, 3500 on first wagon 2500 on second, on wagon cover RATH & HAMBURG MOBEETIE. I met him several times, never traded with him but considered him a nice fellow. I am 95 and failing too fast, no rain here since May. Respectfully, O. M. Nelson"

     April 13, 1885, Charles Rath's advertisement, Henry Hamburg's, and D. W. Van Horn & Company, appeared, all listed as post traders at Fort Elliott, Texas. All the listed men worked for Charles Rath during the period mentioned as shown by charge accounts in Rath's name in the journal of wright, Beverly & Co., the amount of which he would deduct from their wages, a custom of those early days.


     In July, September, October, and November, 1885, -George Rainey wagon Boss, Crawford, westerman, Train, L. Hartland, Pointer, Lee Harlen. In December, 1885, and January, February, 1886 - westerman, J. W. Crawford, W. H. Alexander, Feenan, G. Rainey, Miller, T. A. Powell, F. Pointer, Tinan, Hall, Bilderback train for warren, Chas. Rainey, Johnson, Thos. Finan, Montgomery, Burt Merrill, J. R. Laurence, F. S. Phelps, Milligan, Darnell, Carnahan, Rainey train (which was Rath's and Rainey was boss).

     This charge account for the short period of time gives a fairly accurate picture of the many men Charles Rath employed at all times, probably more at this time than the account shows at this store. Items charged were men's clothing, pipes, Climax and Durham tobacco, comforts, axle grease, corn feed, beans, bacon, potatoes, and trace chains. The journal also listed names of men who later became famous-Bat Masterson, George Masterson, Wm. Tilghman Sr. and twenty-one cattle companies, ranging from Springer Ranch Co. to Hardesty Bros. and Prairie Cattle Company, as having charge accounts. Wm. Soule charged for the Trail City store in the amount of $1,143.10, listing showcases, etc. There was an account for Ford County Poor House, the Dodge House, freighters, doctors, A. J. Anthony for milkman, and for Hay Camps, while the proprietor of the store, R. M. Wright had both a ranch and house account. Mrs. Charles Rath ran a grocery account, a very frugal buyer, and in 1886 she bought a buggy for $112.50; also for Frank Ridenour, who may have been a part time employee. Some of these bills seemed staggering but men's word those days was accounted good.

     H. B. Bell was wont to say, "People didn't steal in those days." His elephant barn was the largest building in western Kansas. Mr. Bell had built the barn as headquarters for freighters and wagon caravans in 1885. As many as fifty men made their beds in the hay loft in a night. They were smoking and drinking men and it was a wonder the barn did not burn then (it did later).

     "I've seen freighters meet in Elephant Barn," Ham Bell said, "coming from different directions who had made the appointment for the meeting months previously. They came to town looking for my place. It was known all over the Southwest. The block across the street north was vacant then and freighters would come in with eight mule teams and stop their wagons. They would leave $80 guns, their saddles, and all their harness on the wagons on those lots and then the mules and horses in the corral. Three or four days or a week later, they would return catch the teams, hook them to the wagons and every strap was where they had left it." [2]

     Al Olive reported, "The boys I ran around with called Mr. Rath, Dad Rath, other men they called mister. Boys liked Mr. Rath, thought he was an awful good man and he was, he never mistreated

2. In conversation with the author.


anybody. He was always neat and clean, well other men were too, but Dad Rath had on better clothes, the like of that. With Dad Rath the boys felt free and easy with him, not like Some others that should a never lit in town. We liked to watch his six and eight mules lined up to haul out three and four wagons." [2]

     Charles Rath did like good clothes. He liked for those for whom he was responsible to be well clothed too. He wore tailor made suits and he ordered his shirts from New York, especially made. He liked rich brown suits, white gloves, and in his later days discarded expensive boots in favor of highly polished shoes.

     Judd Crawford, who had come to Dodge City as a lad in 1884, curiously watched the bull trains and the mule trains, and especially remembered the Rath trains. He became well acquainted with Charles Rath who rode around town on a regular saddle horse. By this time, Charles Rath was rather heavy set but Judd recalls that he still looked fine astride a horse.

     He said, "I can see Rath's trains yet, starting across the bridge, one way traffic. Sometimes they would be tied up for two hours at one end, then the other way round. Two wagons were hooked together and six and eight mules hitched to it, sometimes three wagons together and twelve and fourteen mules hitched to them. If he started out with a train, he would ride on ahead for he could not spend twenty days with a train."

     In the fall of 1885, he first missed Charles Rath in town, did not see him on the streets nor riding around town. Judd Crawford's comment bears out H. B. Bell's assertion that Rath came into town one day and rode out without coming in a minute to chat with him, one of the few times it happened.

     After several weeks, Carrie Rath came to Mr. Bell's office, asking him to intercede with Mr. Rath, saying he had said he was riding out, leaving her everything he had in town and he was never coming back. Mr. Bell thought to himself, how she was hard to get along with and tormented Charles a lot. [2]

     He tapped his finely chiseled fingers softly on the counter, as he always did when he was greatly moved, before he spoke, in his traditionally soft voice, "Knowing Charlie Rath as I do, I doubt that he will." His fingers tapped again, a bit faster, "Not after telling you he wasn't coming back." Then he looked Carrie Rath straight in the eye, as he explained, "You take a good man like Charlie, with all the patience in the world, when he does once kick the traces, he'll be hard to line up again."

     Mrs. Rath stood, while Mr. Bell shook his head slowly, "No, I can't help you there."

     "I always liked papa," eight-year-old Robbie thought at the time he reported later, "but mamma scolded him a lot because he didn't come home sooner. He would sit awhile and look around

2. see note on preceding page.


awhile like he didn't know what to do, then he would leave, going down town. When he came back, we knew he had been drinking. When mamma began scolding, he would push her around; `beat her up' she called it.'" [3]

     What happened the day Rath rode into town, nobody knows, but he mounted his horse and rode out of town, no doubt nursing his anger, which had been long smoldering, into a great heat. It did not die down for the 3rd day of July he sued for divorce in the courts at Mobeetie, Texas.

     July 28, 1885, the following notice appeared in the Dodge City paper: To whom it may concern, I hereby give notice that on the 3rd day of July, 1885, I filed suit in the district court of wheeler County, Texas, against my wife, Carrie R. Rath, for a divorce from the bonds of matrimony heretofore existing between us, and that, from and after said 3rd day of July, 1885, I shall not pay any debts or in any manner respect any contract made by said Carrie R. Rath, and any person dealing with her, will do so at their own peril. Mobeetie, Texas, July 16th, 1885. Charles Rath

     Along in August, a beautiful Philadelphia belle, Miss Emma Nesper, sister of Hank Nesper who was associated with Charles Rath, came into Dodge City on the train. She stayed about ten days with Carrie Rath, the whole family falling quite in love with her, which Mrs. Rath deeply regretted later. Mrs. Rath allowed Robbie to accompany her on the stage to Mobeetie for a visit with his father as he had requested.

     It was not long until he saw his father kiss Miss Emma Nesper, as she stood in a doorway, which was quite a shock to the lad. The young woman had promptly set her cap for Charles Rath, as Carrie Rath had done years ago and for precisely the same reason - believing he was wealthy. She let it be known about Mobeetie that she had rather marry a man with a live wife than a dead one. [4]

     Among relatives on both Carrie and Charles Rath's sides, it was common conjecture that Emma Nesper thought Charles Rath was as rich and glamorous as Carrie had once thought him to be. The difference was, at the time Carrie married him, his life was before him and frontier business was booming, while Miss Emma Nesper did not know that at this time, the still handsome man, with blue-black eyes, his great head of silken, jet-black hair now thinned and greying, though prosperous looking, was over the hill already, the frontier business on the wane.

     Of this visit with his father, the last he was to have in his boyhood days, Robbie Rath had a very vivid recollection of the great good time he had playing with the other boys at Mobeetie,

3. Robbie was Robert M. Rath, author's husband. who recalled his thoughts of those boyhood days.
4. Memory Cups and in conversation between Millie Porter and author.


very different games from the ones he played with his Dodge City playmates. The ground was Sandy and loose and in it the boys could easily make trails for their mules and wagon trains. Pop bottle lead mules had twine around their necks to pull them with and also to attach back to other teams of pop bottle mules. Six and eight teams were then attached to a big "100 cigar" box and behind it trailed at least two "50 cigar" boxes. Then came the call, "All out!" and the boys got the pop bottle mule train rolling along the rutted sand trail, each wagon loaded to the guards with the ever plentiful sand.

     The young men at Mobeetie played a game of riding horses past posts at breakneck speed, trying as they sped past to thrust a javelin through two inch metal rings swinging from an arm of the post. The point was to see how many rings a player could garner on his stick at a run. The boys took up the sport. Having no horses, they played horses themselves and rushed past their boy's sized posts with wooden sticks to stab at the swinging rings. Some became quite good, so much so, that the boys decided to hold a tournament.

     They dressed in all the bright clothes they could find, with fancy scarves around their middles and big hats on their heads and scarlet sashes and ribbons at their throats. They paraded through town, holding their lances and calling out about the match at two o'clock at the edge of town. Robert Rath, then Robbie, never could remember who won but he knows they all ran hard, playing they were both horses and men spearing rings, while the people cheered and shouted; that they had lots of fun and felt pretty good. He also remembers his father spoke about it as he snuggled close beside him that night.

     Then his mother and sister Bertie came from Dodge City to Mobeetie, with a lawyer, E. E. Hendricks. After telling about other men who had lost all, Millie Porter, wrote about Charles Rath. [5]

     "Charlie Rath went practically the same way, or as far as Charlie was individually concerned it was worse. He did not drink. Every one said Charlie was a good man. He seemed so to me when, as a girl, I knew him. - Carrie could not very well have followed Charlie everywhere but he got a divorce instead, with such a settlement that broke Charlie. She got the Dodge City home and furniture; $2,500 cash and $2,000 within two years at 10% interest. Bobbie their son was to receive $25.00 monthly until 12 years old. The daughter Bertie to have $30.00 a month until 12, $50.00 until fifteen and $75.00 thereafter; also medical bills. Carrie had to sue for the last $650.00 and judgment. H. Hamburg was on his note. This was in November, 1888, and that fall Harry McGahee was assignee for Rath-Hamburg.

5. Memory Cups and in conversation between Millie Porter and author; quoted because reader might think author was prejudiced because of relationship.


     "This would seem sorrow and disappointment enough for one lifetime but not all Chas. Rath knew. Hank Nesper came early to Mobeetie, married Minnie Frickey and established a home. His sister Emma, of Philadelphia came for a visit, met and married Charlie Rath, the seemingly wealthy merchant. I heard Emma say she had much rather have a husband with a living than a dead wife, because he could never throw the first wife's good qualities up to her. "They had one son, Morris, named for `Editor Morris.' Emma was beautiful, and while she lived with Rath she seemed to make him a good wife but after a few years when he did not capture another fortune, and grew bald, she left him about 1895."

     Morris C. Rath was born 1888 and in 1895 or 1896, Emma left her husband taking her son with her to Philadelphia where he grew to manhood. He helped earn his keep early in life selling news papers. He graduated from the old Central Manual Training School, where he played baseball and football. He also played quarterback for the Swarthmore College football team. In 1908 he joined the Wilmington, N. C., baseball team in the Eastern Carolina League, and in the following year he played for Reading, in the Tri-State League, and for the Athletics. In 1910, Connie Mack traded him to Cleveland. He played with the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. In the following seasons, he was on the teams of Kansas City, Toronto, and Salt Lake City. During the First world war, he enlisted in the Navy and captained the Philadelphia Navy Yard baseball team. In 1919, he was signed with Cincinnati and played in the world Series against the Chicago white Sox. At his death, November 18, 1945, he was running a sporting goods business in Upper Darby. From reports, his mother, Emma Rath, was as bitter as Carrie Rath was about a money settlement.

     Charles Rath had not kept up his monthly payment to either wife, nor could either wife seem to grasp the fact that a man who once had plenty of money was, on account of conditions that affected the whole country, practically broke. For three or four weeks, Emma Rath had received $3.00 a week for the upkeep of their son, after that nothing. Carrie Rath received the money settlement but only two or three monthly payments for the children. She built up in her son's mind that his father had not paid for his keep therefore he could not have him when he was twelve as had been agreed when the divorce was granted.

     The Dodge City paper had the news of Charles Rath's wedding in their issue, March 30, 1886, "Mr. Charles Rath of the merchantile firm of Rath-Hamburg & Co. of Mobeetie, Texas, was in the city last week on his return home from his wedding tour through the east, having been married east to Miss Emma Nesper, a beautiful and accomplished young lady of Philadelphia, Pa., which occurred at that ancient city on the 4th day of March. While here he received the hearty congratulations and well wishes of his host of friends at this place, where he formerly resided and did business and is so well known."

     When the divorce was over, Carrie Rath had taken her children and caught the stage back to her home in Dodge City, feeling that Mr. Rath's lawyers had bought off her own. [6] She was so much disgruntled with the divorce settlement, talking to anyone who would listen, she poured out her grievances but never so far as the record goes did she ever tell what caused the separation on that day in early summer when Mr. Rath rode into town and rode right out again. She worried until her hair turned grey and she grew old, and, as the son said, it was all she talked about.

     No one ever speaks of Charles Rath ever mentioning any hard times he had but surely he had hardships; perhaps one of the bitterest ones that he had was being deprived of his children for each of the three wives had taken the children. Probably Emma, the third wife saw more of him than either of the other two wives, for after this marriage he seems to have stayed more in Mobeetie where they made their home.

     In the early days, Carrie Rath had lived between Rath's store and the Long Branch saloon, where sounds of hilarious laughter and rowdyism were sometimes hard to shut out. She told of seeing dead men lying in the street for two days with pigs pulling at their boot straps, of looking with curiosity and disgust as the "painted" ladies went by. The bright spots of her life were the shopping trips to Topeka and Kansas City, her trips to Ohio. She attended the inaugural balls at Topeka, the officers' parties at Fort Dodge, the parties among the pioneer families.

     She sang with her friends at charity concerts and church benefits, and helped to organize and build the first Union church in Dodge City. In later years, she helped organize the First Christian church in the city. She was an expert horsewoman and one of her side saddles is at Beeson's Museum.

     Then it was New Year's eve of 1886, a glad gay time for everyone in town it seemed, excepting in the home of Carrie Rath and her family. It had been a lovely evening and later spits of snow had slashed through the air, it and the cloudy sky and tearing wind had ushered in the worst blizzard that had struck the country in years.

     The Hutchinson Herald gave a day by day record of the storm, through January and into February when the temperatures fell below zero and railways were snowbound. Old settlers said it was the worst ever known in the state, with snow leveling the draws and piling up into depths of six feet and more. Only one train, the plug got through from Nickerson. Fourteen persons froze to death

6. According to her son. Robert.


near Dodge City; two men frozen to death, found nine miles from Dodge City clasped in each others arms; one entire family, father, mother, and three children frozen.

     Wires were down. Cars switched through tunnels of snow. Temperatures four below; three coal dealers out of coal. Reported thirty-five people frozen near Garden City, including whole family of seven. Not confirmed for no wires in operation west of Larned. Six hundred telegraph wires down between Larned and Dodge City mostly. Tuesday, January 12th, the first regular train arrived at Hutchinson, from the west. Santa Fe officials report they have been feeding 1200 marooned passengers and some found along the road; one pullman at Halstead had 15 passengers for four days. Ice on the mill race eight inches thick. And so the record continued, little being said at the time about the cattle and livestock. They had drifted with the storm, piled up along fences and in draws and there they lay piled above others, frozen, when the sun finally melted enough snow to show the owners where they lay.

     It is said, cattlemen took a look and, unashamed tears trickled down their cheeks; their fortunes had been wiped away in a night. Without the cattle, a cattleman could not pay taxes on his vast acres of land; he could not pay the money that ran into thousands owing to the merchant. And of what use for the merchant to sue, he lost with the cattlemen. Not only were the cattlemen and merchants affected by the blizzard catastrophe but everyone in the west began to feel the pinch of the hard times, and eventually in the east.

     In the fall of 1888, Harry McGahee was assignee for Rath-Hamburg.

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