Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.2.2 – Early Cowtown Society - Cattle Drives

1865-1880s.   At the end of the Civil War when millions of (Spanish) longhorn cattle were left on the plains of Texas without a market, the Union Pacific was building west across Kansas. Joseph McCoy, an Illinois stockman, believed these cattle could be herded north for shipment by rail. He built yards at Abilene, Kansas and sent agents to notify the Texas cattlemen. In 1867 the first cattle drives came up the Chisholm Trail and during the next five years, more than a million head were received at McCoy’s Abilene rail head.

Settling near Dan Waggoner’s ranches on the North Texas open range was Samuel Burk Burnett, a 19-year old young man closer in age to Dan’s son William Thomas, than to Dan himself.  During the ensuing 25, or so years, the Waggoners and the Burnetts built their herds and their fortunes driving tens of thousands of cattle to market each spring.  Their cattle drives and those of many other open range ranchers caught the imagination of the generations to follow as being the last days of our western frontier and of the American cowboy.  Burnett’s ranches, located just west of Waggoner’s, grew in several parcels to total about 350,000 acres at their peak.

It would be the next generations of Waggoners and Burnetts, along with a number of other open-range ranchers who, as they aged and prospered from their cattle businesses, would move to early day Ft. Worth to build their spacious city homes during the waning days of the 19th century.  But before anyone in Ft. Worth could start dancing a minuet out on a lawn, a city would have to be built first.

The Chisolm Trail passed right through Fort Worth which offered transient cowboys a convenient waypoint while driving their South Texas herds through on their way to McCoy's Abilene, Kansas rail headFt. Worth provided them an opportunity  to reprovision, rest their stock, and blow off some steam.  The constant stream of cattle and cowboys contributed to at least two very early civic improvements toward the establishment of Fort Worth as a city of the future.  First, Van Zandt’s note of there not being a single saloon in the town was soon rectified and next, a permanent settlement of sorts began its existence on the south end of what would some day be downtown….Hell’s Half Acre (HHA).  Remnants of Hell's Half Acre were still standing in the southern part of downtown when we were kids....and the area is now largely covered by the Tarrant County Convention Center.

1876.  New York financier, Jay Gould, was the ramrod behind pushing the rail line south from Kansas into Texas.  First, the line came into Marshall, then Dallas by 1873, and after the bank panic of 1873 had passed…into Ft. Worth by 1876.  The arrival of the railroad was the first significant link to a larger world than Ft. Worth had ever seen.  Our population then was about 500-600 people.

Of course, all of us learned of the Golden Spike joining the very first Transcontinental railroad in 1869 at Promontory Point in Utah but, understanding the significance of the arrival of rail lines into the country’s hinterlands was probably lost on most of us.  Think of it this way, after the Civil War, New York City was the center of most United States commerce…it was like the stout tree stretching toward the sky, it’s root system hidden out of sight below the surface.  As the map below shows, the railroads acted very much like that tree’s root system by connecting the rest of the country and its products to the trunk…NYC ! 

And once we had more efficient transportation leading to the big city than horse-drawn stage coaches, the possibility of some of us learning the minuet was substantially improved but, we weren't there yet.

Next -  Quality Hill

1 comment:

Gus said...

Thanks for the heads up. I'll watch it for a few days to see if it sorts itself out as it usually does....it's typically a Google burp that they have to rectify; otherwise, I'll have to go in and try a reinstall which is a bit more work with uncertain results if they're in temporary cocked-up mode.

A very good alternative search method is to try an image search with Google, find the image that may be close to what you want and go in that way....I use this one myself for a quick and dirty way in.