KanColl Books


End of the Trail

     The winter of 1885-1886 had not been bad excepting for the January cold spell when the snows levelled the draws in the Mobeetie countryside. But 1884-1885 was one the cattlemen complained about for cattle died by the thousands. Charles Rath probably lost oxen too for George Tousley says he had two brands. [1] He had a herd of horses and mules but these may have escaped the fate of cattle. People began to feel the pinch of not having cash to settle their bills. In the fall of 1886, promoters began to work the country, a sure sign of hard times.

     When Mobeetie was first settled the surrounding streams were narrow in places, just a step across, with water holes in places that were wide and deep, but all were lined with trees. The "city" as early day editors called frontier towns, had a population of 700 to 800 people in 1886, and was the leading one in a 50,000 square mile area and the only place where court was held for twenty-seven counties. At the time the Panhandle Santa Fe Railway Company came through (Canadian to Miami) November 2, 1886, many towns sprang up along the railroad track. [2] The railroad missed Mobeetie, so businesses from it and other towns began moving their merchandise to the nearest railroad town.

     The high land around Mobeetie was worthless. [3] Public land in Texas belonged to the state rather than the federal government. It could be purchased in large or small tracts but was not subject to homesteading. Presumably the land around Tascosa, on the Staked Plains was the same.

     There Charles Rath had invested $60,000, later losing it all because the hard times struck and he could not pay the balance. Carrie Rath often told her son and daughter that their father had paid five cents an acre on this land and she figured it was easily worth $5,000,000, being more than a million acres. Always she bemoaned its loss.

     One by one, his resources were slipping away. The buffalo trade was over. With the coming of railroads, the money made from long freight hauling was practically over. Towns located along the railroads could undersell the merchant who had hauled in his merchandise by wagon train. The cattlemen now had a

1. Conversation with Author. 2. Santa Fe. Marshall. page 410. 3. The Cowman's Southwest, O. M. Nelson.


shorter route to get the cattle to a Shipping point. In fact by this time, the frontier days were coming to an end; Charles Rath knew no other way to make big money.

     Mostly business men in those early days worked week days and Sundays too, oftentimes far into the night. In 1884, four merchants, among them Rath and Hamburg, were fined $20. each for keeping their stores open on Sunday and it was only a year later that merchants agreed to a Sunday closing. Both men had served as collectors of the tax and their records found correct, when the money was turned over. Always a booster for any place he resided, he put his hand to sign a surety bond which was the beginning of the end.

     Mobeetie needed a jailhouse, the people in the county were few and far between and were finding it difficult to pay their property taxes as evidenced by the many purchases Charles Rath made beginning in 1884. Other land and lots, he may have bought from the owner because he was going to lose them anyway, otherwise one wonders why some properties were bought as cheaply as they were. These Rath began selling off through the years, giving quit claim deeds and occasionally a warranty deed.

     Mostly, Charles Rath got a payment of cash but always there were promissory notes to take care of the balance. Some of these were paid off, according to record. He bought land for his brother Will Rath and his brother Will then asked that Charles be given power of attorney so he could buy and sell for him and look after his other interests. A half section of this land was purchased by Emma Rath, the consideration being listed as $1.00 for which she received a quit claim deed. Later, Emma quit-claim-deeded this to her husband Charles Rath for the sum of $375.00. Emma also sold town lots as well as her husband. Mr. Rath sold lots to Caroline Nesper, presumably a sister-in-law, for $200.00. Altogether there were thirty-eight transactions of land and lots, from 1882 to 1897.4 Also he had liens on sheep, and on a house for materials and carpenter work. The claim that he gave land during this time to his sisters was not substantiated by records. In spite of all these tax sales, Mobeetie Commissioners went ahead with plans for the jailhouse. Charles Rath and Thomas O'Loughlin, among others, submitted bids but later withdrew, the contract being awarded to J. H. Miller, the lowest bidder, $13,400 bid. This was in 1885, and the building was to be thirty feet west of the courthouse and face north.

     The bond read: Know all men by these present that J. H. Miller as principal and Charles Rath, Mark Huselby, and C. L. Pendleton (wholesale and retail liquor dealer) as surety. It was witnessed by the above men, also W. J. Mason and George M. Smith. J. N. Browning was authorized and empowered to negotiate

4. Records at County Court House.


and sell all Wheeler County Jail bonds. They were authorized to be issued on the 10th day of August, 1885, and not to be otherwise disposed of than at their face or par value. Furthermore, the contract called for a $25. a day penalty for delay in finishing the jail by the date set, November 25, 1885.

     Of course it wasn't finished in that short length of time. Miller had sub-contracted some of the work -perhaps Charles Rath had teams and workmen on the job and most certainly Simon Neville, the stone mason, of whom there was none better, would lay the rock. It was accepted by the commissioners June 25, 1886. December 7, 1885, Charles Rath agreed to let the commissioners deduct from his pay for the jail all necessary expenses incurred by the county since the supposed finishing date of November 25th. The court agreed to grant him until May 1st, 1886, with but one dissenting vote.

     In the meantime, changes were made in the plans that were costly and by the time it was finished the rock jailhouse, which is still standing in all its grandeur, was to cost the taxpayers $25,000.00. Instead, according to old timers and family history, it broke the men who had gone on the bond instead. [5]

     It was an insurmountable expense the way trade conditions were, the first of a succession of financial worries to come. The old stone jailhouse stands on the high sandy ground, a few other buildings off a way and here the old timers gather year by year for a picnic each Labor Day, Old Mobeetie having moved one mile north of the old site. One wonders if Charles Rath's pride in the town's new rock jailhouse may have dimmed somewhat as one disaster after another kept striking at his finances, partly because of his going on its bond.

     A common practice in those days was for some influential man to go on another man's note, and Charles Rath may have endorsed any number of them. when Henry Hamburg sued Phil S. Dresser for money owing him, $850 and interest $127.00, and got judgment, all above what they could get out of Dresser, if any, Charles Rath, co-signer, was to pay.

     James Sands, a freighter, owed about everybody and had only his ox train for security, saying he would sell it and pay everybody but Rath, whom he did not intend to pay. Henry Hamburg had already sued Sands and now there was nothing left for Rath to do but sue also. However, in the meantime before either sued, James Sands had turned his ox train over to a creditor, so probably nothing was realized by either Hamburg or Rath.

     Rath-Hamburg sued S R E Cattle Company for $1058.82 and got judgment and, attaching thirty-three sections of land, fore

     5. Family history says that Charles Rath bore the brunt of the deficit; that Henry Hamburg also lost hut author could find no proof.


closed and sold it. Then they sued Branch Anderson and levied on forty-five head of cattle, running loose on the range.

     Then Rath-Hamburg in turn were sued by A. S. Richardson, administrator of an estate, along with others. Business was going from bad to worse and by the fall of 1888, Rath-Hamburg Mer cantile Company went into the hands of receivers, Harry McGahee being assignee. Shortly an advertisement appeared in the Dodge City Globe listing the firm as "Successors to Rath-Hamburg" from then on until a settlement was made.

     The same year, 1888, Charles and Emma Rath's son was born, and again it was the father who named him Morris for the very popular editor of the Panhandle News, G. W. Morris. Undoubtedly, he saw more of his father than any of the other Rath children for by now, Charles Rath was not taking the long, time-consuming trips to look after far outposts and take care of the buying and selling for his various stores.

     The old courthouse had been condemned and ordered torn down, so the commissioners rented the building from Charles Rath, formerly occupied by Rath-Hamburg Mercantile, for six months. This was 1889, so perhaps by now the old business was settled. It is believed that Henry Hamburg salvaged more from it than his partner because he had a beautiful home in Canadian, Texas, with servants, maid, cook, and coachman, and as late as 1890 he had 1,800 head of cattle. [6]

     In April, 1889, Charles Rath made the run in the Cherokee Strip opening, making news because he came to the run afoot, with a small mule or burro, just leading it. Did he hope to recoup his fortunes on another frontier?

     As if all that had happened were not enough, Emma, his wife, left for Philadelphia, 1896, taking the eight-year-old Morris with her, having an agreement from Charles Rath that he would send her $3.00 a week for the son's support. Even that small amount reached Emma Rath for three or four weeks only. Late in May, 1886, the government reservation at Fort Dodge was thrown open for settlement and there was a grand rush to stake claims. Hearing the news, Carrie Rath had told Robert to harness the horse quickly and put it to the buggy; then the three of them, Carrie, Robert, and Bertha, all piled in and they laid the whip to the horse and ran him all the way until they staked a claim a mile north of Fort Dodge.

     Mrs. Rath had a one-room sod house put up on the land, with a fence around it, just inside the plowed strip for a fire guard, the sod being used for the house. The family drove out every week or so, often finding a snake in the house. Robert picketed the horse outside on the prairie and they stayed all day, bringing

6. Memory Cups. Millie Porter.


the horse inside the fence at night, and the following day, they hitched up again and drove back to Dodge City in the evening. There was little to do while they stayed at the claim, So they watched the trains in the distance. On hot days, the smoke wobbled and seemed crazy and hazy. In the spring, they planted trees and when Mrs. Rath finally proved up, she sold the claim for $150.00. [7]

     The pressure of business and the long trips it had entailed, now a thing of the past, although a money worry remained, Charles Rath now turned to working out some inventions. He may have thought about each of them but had never found time to give them a try. February 11, 1890, he patented a scraper; August 30, 1901, a Wheeled Scraper; September 13, 1902, a Wheeled Scraper; June 29, 1897, a Folding Egg Crate; and February 14, 1899, Composition of Matter.8 Through all the years, more or less, Rath had had men working with scrapers, hence the new ideas for them. One wonders what the Composition of Matter was and how many other inventions he had worked on that were not patented.

     He sold his last lot and buildings May 16, 1897 for $100.00, probably a hurried sale to have brought the small amount of money, which he may have needed desperately. He must have gone at once to Osage, Kansas, where he had relatives. All of his brothers and sisters had received money and lands from him in former years and they now rallied to his side. Their mother Philomene had died February 9, 1883, and their father came to Kansas the following year. He lived around with the children, mostly with Chris on the farm near Antelope where he died in 1888. But for sometime he had lived with his two daughters who lived on the section near Osage which Charles had bought for his father, Carry Morrison on the west side and Louisa (Aunt Lu) on the east side. Shortly, his brother Will had set him up in a coal yard in Emporia, Kansas. when Charles Rath told Osborn Markley that he had given the coal lands to his brothers and sisters, Markley asked, "Why Would you do that ?" [9] Charles Rath had countered, "What would I want with them?"

     Early in June, 1897, Carrie Path had come to Lawrence to come home with her son at the end of the college year. Stopping off at Osage, she learned that her former husband was in Emporia, so she sent Robert and Bertha on a day ahead to Emporia so they could have a visit with their father. Again in the spring of 1898, Mrs. Rath again made the trip to Lawrence and on their way back, she stopped off at Topeka to visit, giving her son and daughter a chance to visit with their father in Emporia.

7. Carrie, if she had spent money freely once, now became very frugal.
8. Records of patents from U. S. Commissioner of Patents. Washington. D. C.
9. Will Markley, son of Osborn, in conversation with author's husband.


     At home in Dodge City, Mrs. Rath had word from Charles Rath that he would be through on his way to Los Angeles and Carrie saw that Robert and Bertha were at the train to see him during the time the train stopped. He had not been able to make a go of the coal business and was on his way to his sister Louisa's home in Los Angeles.

     Shortly after that the two again saw their father and visited with him a week, in Los Angeles. Carrie Rath had married a Santa Fe engineer, Thomas Bainbridge, March 30, 1890, whom the son and daughter dearly loved. Their son, Roy T. Bainbridge was born January 26, 1891. Mr. Bainbridge met death on his run between Dodge City and La Junta, Colorado, near Holly, February 3, 1899, when he put his head out of the cab window and was struck by a mail crane. It was said Carrie drove a hard bargain with the Santa Fe and by its terms Robert was to have transportation back and forth to college until his graduation in 1901 and the whole family a trip through California. [10]

     While their mother visited with relatives in Fresno, California, Robert and Bertha went to Los Angeles to visit with their father. His sister's husband, Fred Pratt, ran a dairy and the family had upstairs rooms in the downtown district rented so when they were in town, they could use them. Here Robert and Bertha stayed and in the afternoon when Charles Rath was through with his work helping in the dairy he came to visit with them. He was highly pleased because his daughter was beautiful, and often spoke of it. Several times he tried to tell them how their mother had been a perfect scold but Bertha would have none of the talk. Later, Robert often said you would have to hand mother credit, for while she tried in her bitterness to turn us away from father, she took the initiative in seeing that no opportunity of seeing him was passed up, but she herself would not go near him.

     On the trip to Los Angeles, his ticket had taken Charles Rath as far as Trinidad, Colorado, where he may have expected to collect some money to take him on. But time passed and what money he had played out. In desperation, he had wired his sister Louisa for transportation fare; while he waited, he ground out music on a downtown street on a borrowed hand-organ to get money for food. [10]

     Charles Rath had never seemed to be ill, no record of it in spite of all the hardships he had gone through on the plains, excepting the time he was shot by the robber near Larned. But shortly he developed an asthmatic condition that worried his sister Louisa. He died July 30, 1902, at the age of 66 years, of mitral insufficience, according to the death report. He was buried

10. H. B. Bell in conversation with author.


in Section C, Lot 112, portion 3 NW in Rosedale Cemetery, on July 31, 1902, in Los Angeles.

     Jennie Bell, Donna, Texas, daughter of Caroline Morrison, wrote, Uncle Charles visited us often at Osage City and we all loved him. My brother and I never tired of hearing Uncle Charles' stories. He often brought buffalo meat or a buffalo robe. We all loved him and Grandpa Rath.

     Clara Kent, Jennie's sister, wrote, Uncle Charlie would come, driving a fine team hitched to a buggy or surrey, just like a fairy prince, and he would have bags of candy for all of us. We all loved Uncle Charlie.

     Lucy Charvoz, Osage City, daughter of Will Rath, said, He brought us news from everywhere and we loved to have him come. He told us stories of his narrow escapes from the Indians. We were all sorry when we heard of his death at Aunt Lu's. Ida and Anna Prickett, daughters of Lewis Rath, said, He sent us buffalo robes and when he came Uncle Charlie told us about the times he was in danger from the Indians. We loved him and his stories.

     Leland Pratt, son of Louisa and Fred Pratt, had his wife write,

     Lee remembers about Mr. Rath's death and has often told me about it. It seems that Mother Pratt had brought him, sending him traveling expenses, to their home. Leland says he knows that the four children were happy to have Uncle Charley there and that his mother and father showed nothing but contentment about sharing their home with him.
Leland remembers that his uncle spoke several Indian dialects. He also remembers, as I do, of mother telling of visiting Uncle Charley when he had a trading post in Texas, near Fort Worth (Fort Griffin). He had a letter from a professor of the University of Texas doing a book about early day pioneers, asking about the life and activities of Charles Rath and we asked to be informed when the book came out but never heard.
Uncle Charley had taken his daily walk and returned to his rooms. That day he came in, sat down in his big rocking chair and only minutes later toppled face forward in instant death. The folks bought a burial lot in Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. I always put flowers on his grave when I visited the cemetery and have always been able to locate it readily. His grave is not far from that of Clementina's, Leland's older sister's burial place. I have his birthdate.

     Maude Pierce, daughter of Louisa Pratt, wrote, I'm so glad to know that our relatives are receiving good news about our dear Uncle Charley Rath, now dead so many years but not for gotten. Uncle Charley was a very dear brother to my mother who was very fond of her relatives. I was too young to remember much of the conversations. To me he was very interesting and


entertained with Indian talk I thought was great. I was five years old when he came to live with us. He was always busy either driving a truck or busy with an invention. I always liked to help.
His sickness was asthma and finally his heart. Mother knew what might happen. The doctor told her so she stayed near him, even brought her peeling work where he was that day. When it happened, I ran to the neighbors and they all came, leaving their noon dinner to come.
Baptist neighbors took charge of the funeral at our home. The undertaker said 'What a well preserved man at his age.' He was always good looking. Mother was too upset at the time to help with the funeral arrangements. But she said he should have had a nicer location and some day she hoped to move him from there.

     But Charles Rath had followed the trail, reached the border and crossed over into a New Frontier.

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