Sam Konkel was the editor of one of the two Boston Colorado Newspapers, The Boston World (1886-1889) and later the Springfield Herald /Springfield Democrat Herald (1913-1930). It was in 1918 -1919 during this time in Springfield where he relived and wrote during the stories of his time in Boston, which we used as the foundation for our book “Old Boston”. When he wrote, he often signed the column with the moniker, “The Writer.”
We have used Konkel’s content in many ways the past few years, even adapting his salutatory address from when he purchased the Springfield Herald in 1913 to our Salutatory when we purchased the Herald in 2019.
In the years following Boston, Sam and his brother Joe moved on to Lyons, Kansas and ran the Lyons Democrat for a couple years. It was was after the Lyons years that
Konkel was a very prolific writer, but during the decade of the 1890s you do not find much of his work in the various newspaper databases. It was during this time he was back east, found his bride and for a time was teaching school.
However, when he moved back to Eagle Ranch in Southeast Colorado he began to write again. From about 1906 until 1913 when he bought the Springfield Herald, Sam Konkel wrote extensively about farming in the west.
There is an interesting reference to a December 1913 article Sam wrote for Farm & Fireside magazine. Farm & Fireside was a semi-monthly national farming magazine that was established in 1877 and was published until 1939. It was based in Springfield, Ohio. Again this is a reference to the article. I have searched eBay, Amazon and a few other sources for a copy of the original 1913 issue, but have not been able to obtain it thus far.
It was the original magazine for what eventually became the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company. From 1918 to 1923 several of the covers of this magazine were illustrated by Norman Rockwell.
In February 1930, it was renamed The Country Home in an attempt to compete with Better Homes and Gardens.
Much of Konkel’s writing 1906 – 1913 is dedicated to observing farming endeavors in Southeast Colorado, asking questions about growing certain types of plants/crops as well as tips and tricks for the farm. Much of the work was originally published in either the Kansas Farmer and Mail and Breeze or the Missouri Valley Farmer. It was then republished elsewhere, usually smaller papers in Kansas, however, some of the articles were printed far and wide across the country. There is even one instance where he was quoted in the Chicago Tribune.
Over time we have continued to collect Konkel’s work. His writing provides unique insight to the people, nature, climate, crops, and farming methods in early Baca County. It indeed tells the story of pre-county and early day Baca County. Some of our upcoming research and stories will utilize some of this content and will be presented in the pages of the print Herald and behind the paywall of the online PlainsmanHerald.com, while other pieces will be pushed out via Baca County History.com and our social media platforms.
To the right is an example of Konkel’s work during this time. There is much much more like this.
Since we are writing about Sam, we might as well use one of his closings… Right at this point we find we have “overdrawn” on our space account, so we will squirt some embalming fluid into the rest of the yarn to keep it from spoiling, and will give it to you the next time.
Prairie Cattle Company, Owners of the JJ Brand, Quits Business
The Prairie Cattle Company was established in December of 1880 with headquarters in Edinburgh Scotland. The initial investors noticed that the ranching business had assumed extensive proportions in the Western States and territories of America and had yielded very large profits, in spite of the fact that these activities were carried out by persons of limited means which were thus subject to many disadvantages. The Prairie Cattle Company intended to change that formula a bit. In 1915 the Prairie Cattle Company announced it would end its nearly 40 year existence in the American West. By 1917 “Mother of them All” had shut its doors.
Howard Glazbrook, the final manager of the Prairie Cattle Company, wrote a piece, which was published in many publications reflecting upon the history of the company which may have had as much influence as any over ranching in the American West, as well as the settlement of Southeast Colorado, Northeast New Mexico, the Neutral Strip and the northern Texas Panhandle. We have added a few artifacts enhance Glazbrooks work. Without further ado.
By Howard Glazbrook, Manager, Prairie Cattle Company 1916
A great deal has been written the past few years about the “Passing of the Range.” Thousands of settlers have been flocking to the West, there to build new homes and encroaching upon what was once the cattleman’s domain. Thus many of the large outfits have gone out of existence. Now comes the passing of another great herd of Texas and Colorado. Not primarily, however, for the reason quoted above, as the range of the Prairie Cattle company has been singularly fortunate in this respect; but the voluntary dissolution of the company means the passing of another great herd.
The passing of the JJ cattle! And where are not these cattle known! While maintaining its headquarters in Colorado, the company also operated extensively in Texas, New Mexico and what is now Oklahoma. The Prairie Cattle company is a foreign corporation (Scotch) organized under the laws of Great Britain in 1881, and all its general managers in America, with the exception of one, have been either Scotchmen or Englishmen.
Origin of the JJ Brand.
About 1880 when cattle reached a higher price than they had even attained since the war, the price that the Jones Brothers were offered for their herd by Underwood, Clark & Company of Kansas City, representing the Prairie Cattle company, was too tempting. No one knew how long these prices would continue. A bird in the hand seemed worth more than two in the bush, and so Jones Brothers disposed of all their holdings to the Prairie Cattle company. One of these brothers was named Jim—Jim Jones, and thus originated the JJ brand.
At the time of this purchase in that portion of Southern Colorado known as theJJ range, nearly all the small owners of cattle offered their herds at the same price paid for the Jones herd and they were taken by the same syndicate. About the same time, the Hall Brothers, owning the Crosselle ranch, whose cattle ranged in Northern New Mexico, and the then “Neutral strip,” now Oklahoma, disposed of their herd to the same company.
Immediately afterward Mr. Littlefield sold to the company his range with the cattle known as the LIT herd, located in the Northern part of Texas with head quarters at Tascosa, known at one time as the toughest town in Texas. It was here that many great drives of cattle from Texas crosses the Canadian river on their way to Fort Dodge, Kansas, then the terminal of the Santa Fe Railway. There was nothing between Tascosa and Dodge, a distance of about 250 miles. It was the last stretch of the great trail, and frequently large herds congregated at this point. Killings were innumerable at Tascosa, and the town, like Dodge, has its Boot Hill cemetery.
The Prairie Cattle company had at one time a herd waiting at this point to cross the river, which was in flood. The foreman refused to attempt to cross the cattle and waited several days. His men knowing him to be a fearless, intrepid man, and believing the crossing could be made with comparative safety, could not understand his actions and taunted him for not making the attempt. He finally yielded against his better judgment and ordered the cattle across. The foreman lost his life in the river, and upon the recovery of his body, in the pocket of his coat was found a letter from his wife begging him,if the river was up, to take no chances, but to wait. It was this that had held him back.
Went Extensively Into Herefords.
The Jones Brothers were among the first to give consideration to the improvement of the grade of cattle then in Colorado. They imported Shorthorn bulls from the Eastern states, and their herd became one of the finest in the West. The Halls, at the Crosselie ranch, did much the same, but they a little later, went more extensively into Herefords. The Prairie Cattle company sold this ranch some years ago to Mr. G. A. Fowler of Colorado Springs Colorado. The Littlefield LIT herd was started with well selected Texas cows, but the improvement of that herd and the high standard it subsequently reached was due to the management of the Prairie Cattle Company.
The three herds of cattle were under one management. Underwood, Clark & Company of Kansas City, who were the promoters, appointed a Mr. Johnson to be general range manager. He was in this position for about a year when he was killed by lightning while riding on the range, and Willard R. Green succeeded him. Mr. Green was not much of a cattleman, but a very bright business man, and to him was due the credit of selecting and acquiring title to many of the water claims on the range. Mr. Green was suceeded by R. G. Head, who was with the company for about two years, being succeeded in 1885 by W. J. Tod, who remained in that capacity for three years.
Mr. Tod who is known throughout the West, now resides at Maple Hill, Kansas, and is one of the largest and most successful cattle feeders in that state.
After Mr. Tod resigned, Mr. Murdo MacKenzie was appointed manager, but later resigned to accept the managership of the Matador Land & Cattle Company. Mr. MacKenzie was succeeded by Mr. James C. Johnston in 1890, who continued as manager for sixteen years. He retired in 1906 and now resides in Edinburg. He was succeeded by Mr. Howard Glazbrook, the present manager. Mr. Glazbrook came from England to Texas in the late seventies and immediately engaged in the stock business, which occupation he has followed to the present time. The JJ herd branded at one time about 10,000 calves a year on the JJ division; the Crosselie division about the same number and the LIT division about 4,000 a year. The three herds were run as separate and distinct outfits under one general management. The cattle roamed freely without hindrance and in the spring when the general round-up took place the JJ cattle could often be found as far south as Northern Texas. The bulk of them however were north of the Cimarron river. Crosselles went as far south as the Canadian river.
In those days the round-up was a great event, and an army of cowboys and horses met at stated points down the Canadian to bring the cattle north. At that time there were many large Owners through out the country, and they were all represented at the different wagons and camps. At each main division a captain of the round-up was elected. He was commander in chief and in all matters of dispute his verdict was final.
Origin of the Word “Maverick.
The maverick question was one which often caused disputes. There were different ways of deciding who should get the mavericks, and different associations had different rules. In some cases the mavericks were put up at auction and purchased by one of the members, the money being turned into the association and divided among all. In other associations the captain of the round-up was supposed to decide to whom the maverick ought to belong, and the rule he went by was that the maverick should belong to the person who had the predominant interest in the section of the country where it was found. In the large open country where the work on the range was stopped in the fall or early winter, many calves were missed and before spring they had weaned themselves and were going on their own account.
The word maverick (an unbranded animal going without a mother) originated at the time of the war. Before the war a gentleman of the name of Maverick owned large herds in South Texas. He often did not brand his calves, while his neighbors branded theirs carefully. Cattle were cheap then and when an unbranded animal was seen everybody agreed that it probably belonged to Maverick. During the war the cattle business was neglected and calves were not branded up, and at the close of the war when the cattlemen returned and had time to attend to their business, thousands of yearlings and older cattle were found unbranded. Mr. Maverick then claimed that they all ought to belong to him. Of course the other cattlemen did not agree to this. Nevertheless, there being no proof of ownership, and through long custom anything unbranded was supposed to belong to Maverick, so thousands of cattle were branded for him. Judging from the vast Maverick estate still in the hands of the Maverick heirs, this generosity, or call it what you will, on the part of the cattlemen helped to build for him the fortune which he amassed. In Southwest Texas bordering on the Rio Grande, a county is named for him. Such is the origin of the term “maverick.” During the years 1887-1888 the Fort Worth and Denver Railroad was built from Fort Worth to Denver. .At that time there was a great influx of settlers to Eastern Colorado. Hundreds of claims were taken up and many towns were started. Each town had its newspaper booming the town and explaining that within a very short time a railroad would be running through it, and that they were right in the center of the wheat belt.
The settlers soon found, however, that the prospects of a railway coming some day did not bring rain, and as a newspaper could not keep a town alive, the settlers borrowed what they could on their land and pulled back to visit their wives, friends and relatives. The towns, with the exception of one small remnant, disappeared. There can be seen today on the JJ range in Colorado the remains of what were once booming towns, but now and for years entirely abandoned. In nearly all cases the houses were built of rock, abundance of that material being in the district. The walls of a great many of these houses, several of which are two story structures, still_stand, clearly defining the business street and residential portions.
Much of the land then proved up on was later sold for taxes and got into the hands of the stockmen again. For years the Prairie Cattle company made one of their largest round-ups upon one of these old townsites, just as they did before the advent of the settlers who expected to make wheat growing their business, and “damn the stockmen and stock business.”
They persistently refused to believe that the country they had come to was the finest stock country in the West, but only a stock country. This country, or at least a part of it, is again being taken up by settlers. Are they to experience a like fate? They assuredly will unless they make stock raising a part of their business and raise enough fodder to protect their stock during the winter. If they can acquire sufficient land, under these conditions, the Such has been the history of the West.
The first settler, as a rule, failed because he did not realize that the climatic conditions were so different from what he had left, and he did not know to what purpose the country to which he had come was best adapted.
At the time, and before the Prairie Cattle company began operations in Southern Colorado, there were few or no sheep in that district. While the range was free, the water rights were almost entirely owned by cattle men. The fine range, however, was too tempting to the sheep men, and they gradually began to drift up with large herds from New Mexico.
These sheepmen, the cattlemen claimed, paid little or no taxes, owned no water and consequently had no right to be there. In those early days so-called “range rights” had more or less respect. It was generally conceded by cattlemen that when one herd had been undisturbed in a certain locality it was bad form and unneighborly to further stock up that portion of the range. This was understood as a “range right,” although a small man with a few cows was never objected to.
During Mr. Green’s management the cattlemen found that the range was being very much hampered by large bands of sheep, and they had many private meetings and many consultations as how best to meet the difficulty. They thought that that country would always be an open range and that range rights would always be more or less respected. It was finally agreed that the cattlemen would join together and at all risks drive every sheep and sheep man out of that part of Colorado.
The raid was organized and in the hands of daring, trusty cowboys, armed to the
teeth, successfully carried through without the loss of a single man. Every flock was surrounded by a strong force, the herdsman disarmed, ordered to pack up their burros, and along with their sheep, were driven out of the state. Many of the sheep were killed, the different herds mixed and in the forced march many were lost.
In those days there were no telephones. The owners of sheep lived in cities, and the raid was so thoroughly organized that the whole trek was made and over before the owners knew anything about it. It was years before there were any sheep in that country again, but they gradually came back, the owners acquiring water and rights in the country. There were law suits in courts for years afterwards, but it was difficult to find out, in fact, it was never published, who were responsible and the actual instigators of the raid. There were of course damage suits in courts, principally leveled at the Prairie Cattle Company.
As soon as the range began to be fully taken up, range rights were no longer regarded. However up to about 1890 it was a risky thing and generally unprofitable, for a large owner to attempt to ride roughshod over the interests of those in any locality. In 1887 the Neederinghouse Brothers, St. Louis millionaires wanted to start in the cattle business in the West. Their plan was to turn large herds loose in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, hold them there for one year and drive them north to Montana. They found such strong opposition that they only remained one year and got their herds out the next spring as early as possible.
In 1904 the company discontinued breeding cattle upon the JJ range, since which time they have continued to use it exclusively for steers. About the same time they purchased another large ranch in the Panhandle of Texas, not far from the LIT and here carried on their breeding operations. The numbers bred here however were not nearly sufficient to keep a range like the JJ fully stocked, and each year they made heavy purchases of young steers in the Texas Panhandle. These were shipped to the JJ range and held until four years old, when while some of them would go into the hands of the packers, others to the distilleries, the great bulk were fed out in Kansas.
A company that has been engaged in the stock business for over a quarter of a century has of course been through all the vicissitudes of that business. The great losses or “die ups” that occasionally took place have, however, been eliminated in recent years. Old timers still delight to relate how in 1885 one could walk on carcasses without ever putting foot on the ground from the company head quarters in Las Animas, then the company’s shipping point, a distance of twenty-five miles. This must be taken with a grain of salt, but everyone remembers the enormous losses that did take place.
The company has now disposed of all its holdings in Texas and has discontinued its purchases. It has upon the JJ range only one class of steers, coming fours, which will be disposed of this year, and so will pass into history the last of this great herd.
For the past few years this company has been probably at the height of its prosperity. Exceedingly handsome dividends have been paid to the shareholders and their shares have enormously increased in value. If it is asked, why is a company under such conditions voluntarily liquidating its assets and going out of business, the answer is to be found, “for the same reason the Jones Brothers sold to the company in 1880.”—H. Glazbrook
Boston wasn’t quite the first in the east end as this part of Las Animas county as it was then called. Butte City was started in June 1886; we believe that less than half a dozen houses were built there when it was abandoned and the houses moved over to Minneapolis, started a few miles west of it in the summer of 1887. – Konkel, Sam. “Persons, Stories and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.” Springfield Herald January 11, 1918
The earliest news mention I have found of Butte City was this St. Louis Post-Dispatch hotel listing showing G. F. Neal of Butte City Colo in St. Louis February 1886.
Below are a couple of items of a name familiar to present day Baca County.
Note: We have transcribed the letter (left) to help the readability. The letter was published in Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois) 14 Sept 1886. Editor Telegraph: As I promised you a letter viewing the “promised land,” Butte City, Colorado,I have now the opportunity of fulfilling the promise. After skirmishing around awhile on Thursday last, at Grenada, we succeeded in finding a person to take us and two other parties who were on their way to Butte, so at 8 p. m. we started. The country from Grenada, on the Sante Fe rail-road, south to our objective point is a beautiful rolling prairie, here and there dotted with groves or timber on the streams not a single steep hill, the entire route gently rolling. The soil for the first half of the distance is a whitish looking soil, but after crossing Butte creek, seventeen miles out, it becomes much darker, the banks of Butte creek are lined with a very fair quality of stone of the limestone formation. We stopped on the banks of Butte creek to eat our lunch and quench our thirst with the finest spring water. When we were within about eight miles of our destination, we were halted by a party of movers, one of whom inquired how far it was to Butte City, said he was a brother of a Mr. Boorstor, who lives in the coming city of Southeastern Colorado, and wished us to inform his brother that he would be in in the morning. This was encouraging, to see people with their effects on the way to our new town. At about 8 o’clock In the morning sure enough here came our new settler. There is not a finer looking piece of country anywhere, perfectly free from rock excepting on the banks of the stream. This was an agreeable disappointment to me, as I anticipated seeing some rock almost any where in Colorado, but not so in this southeastern part of the State. The country, when settled up, will compare well with the best part of Kansas. There are now six houses, the seventh building. Timber claims are being located daily; perhaps some of your readers may not understand what a timber claim means. “Congress passed an Act to encourage the growth of timber on the western prairies bearing date June 14, 1878, providing that a person, either a natural born citizen of the United States, or a person who has taken out his papers, may, on filing his papers at the District Land Office, first signing and making affidavit as to qualification before mentioned, paying the fees, $14, and at the end of the first year having plowed five acres, and at the end of the second an additional five acres and at the and at the fourth year, having put out the ten acres in trees, he can, at the end of eight years, get a patent for the land, 160 acres, and it is not necessary to live on the land nor to do this yourself, but it can be done by anyone for you. Now here is a chance for some of your fellow citizens to obtain a quarter section of good land at a very small outlay, simply going to Grenada, Colo., making the necessary affidavit before a Notary, paying the $14 land office fees, and plowing five acres the first, and five acres more the second, and having the ten acres set out in trees by the end of the fourth year, and at the end of the eighth year paying the final proof fee of $10, when a patent for the land is issued. Come on, and we will see you fixed up. Will let you hear more from Butte City at no distant date. PHILLIPS
by Kathryn Ratliff Benes (A special thank you to Donitta Johnson for the photographs of the Welding Shop)
The notice in the weekly county newspaper informed the public that Cow County Welding had sold its inventory effective in January, 2000. Eugene and Marilyn appreciated the years of continued patronage. The welding shop had closed. An era that spanned nearly 50 years had passed.
As I read the notice, my mind was flooded with memories from my childhood. Growing up on a ranch in southern Colorado, 150 miles from the nearest large city, meant that a lot of livestock equipment had to be made from “scratch” rather than purchased ready-made. I remember, as a little girl, going with my dad the 20 miles into town so that he could discuss his latest engineering idea with Gene.
Gene owned the welding shop in Campo, a town of about 200, and people came from all around the county to have him repair farm implements or build equipment tailored to special needs of the farmers and ranchers. Gene was a genius with metal and I was convinced he could build anything. One time he even built a small motorized Ferris Wheel for the children that was used during our annual school carnival. It was a grand creation!
The welding shop was small with two large doors that opened to expose the north side of the building. The shop had bins and storage racks that held various sizes of sheet metal, rods, and piping. On the concrete floor was an array of scrap metal pieces that had been cut from larger projects. I remember being fascinated by those scrap pieces because each one by themselves looked useless. However, when those bits and pieces of useless metal were welded together, they were made into something that hadn’t existed a few hours earlier.T
he scenario was typically the same for my dad and me. After getting to the welding shop, my dad backed the pickup truck up so the tailgate could be opened and he would lift me up on the tailgate so I could watch (with the stern warning not to watch when Gene welded!). Dad and Gene would begin to talk. After a while, Gene would start walking around the shop, scanning the bins and racks for material to frame the project. When he had pulled the larger pieces of metal from the bins, he would start to search through the metal scraps on the floor for just the right pieces necessary to make my father’s idea become a reality. It seemed as if Gene knew the dimensions of each and every piece of metal on that floor. Moreover, without error he could mold and form them into much more than they could have been in and of themselves.
It’s been a long time since that little girl sat on the tailgate and watched her dad and the welder create dreams. Gene’s welding shop is no longer a hub of activity, but those long-ago experiences taught me lessons that continue to impact my life today. I learned from those hours on the tailgate that ideas and dreams can come true if you work collaboratively with the right people. I also learned that beautiful things can be created by the hands of a master artisan. Finally, I learned that often we are standing on and ignore the bits and pieces of seemingly useless material that, when placed in the hands of the master can result in a magnificent creation.
I believe God is The Master Welder. When we work collaboratively with Him, great things can happen. With our cooperation, God can form us into people who serve Him through our love and care for one another. God knows each “bit and piece” of humanity in His “welding shop” and none of them are useless. Through our own power, we often fall short of the dream He has in mind for us; however, by His mercy, He calls each of us by name and forms us to work in communion as the Mystical Body of Christ.We’re going through some tough times in this country. As I sit on the “tailgate” and watch, I can hardly believe what I’m seeing. It seems that we cannot pick up a newspaper, watch the news on television, or log onto the Internet without seeing only division and hatred. That is not who we are as proud Americans! The “framework” of our country, the Constitution, given to us by our founding fathers, entrusted to God, and preserved by the men and women who have laid down their lives so that we can live in freedom, must not be taken for granted. We cannot be divided into “bits and pieces” of humanity, so that we remain, as such, on the “floor” of the welding shop.
Tomorrow is election day; a privilege not enjoyed by many around the world. It will result in an outcome that I’m sure will be divided, regardless of who wins. But it seems to me that it would be a good idea for each of us to be in conversation with the Master Welder, praying that we may work together with Him, to honor those who have come before us and ensure that the United States of America is a country that reflects our love for God and for our neighbor.
NOTE: I had this ready to go in Nov 2020 and forgot to hit the publish button. Whoops.
The Boston Amateur Dramatic troupe reproduced “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” at the Murray hall last Friday night. The weather was intensely disagreeable, and the crowd correspondingly small. There were not more than 150 people present. The troupe made a marked improvement over their first effort. The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 13 Jan 1888
The play “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” was used to promote prohibition to large audiences. In the 1850s, sales of this book were second only to Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Ten Nights in a Bar-room was a financial success for Arthur so the novel transferred to play format. The play based on the novel continued to be popular even after prohibition in the United States, although it was often presented as a parody.
Ten Nights in a Bar Room was also a part of the history of Old Boston, Colorado. This footnote in the history of old Boston has gone mostly unnoticed and might seem a little odd given the sometimes excessive consumption of alcohol in some of these Wild West Towns such as Old Boston. Sitting in southeast Colorado fifteen miles from Kansas and fifteen miles from the neutral strip (now the Oklahoma Panhandle) Boston was a far bigger draw for riff raff and outlaws than for culture and civility.
The establishment of the Boston Amateur Dramatic Troupe is another attempt by the Boston town founders to build a civil and cultured existence in an environment that seemed to produce anything but civility. A play with a storyline of temperance, is not one you might expect from the rough and tumble characters assembled in the town of Old Boston. Their attempts at taming the “noted burying ground” as it was described in the following news clipping seems like a futile exercise as we look back with 20/20 hindsight.
The novel version of Ten Nights in a Bar Room is presented by an unnamed narrator who makes an annual visit to the fictional town of Cedarville. On his first visit, he stops at the new tavern, the Sickle and Sheaf. The proprietor, Simon Slade, is a former miller who gave up the trade for the more lucrative tavern. The business is a family affair, with Slade’s wife Ann, son Frank, and daughter Flora assisting him. The narrator also observes the town drunk, Joe Morgan. The father of a loving wife and family, he meets his moral downfall when introduced to alcohol. Morgan becomes an alcoholic and spends most of his time at a bar. One day, his daughter begs him to return to his family. He ignores her desires until she is hit in the head by a flying glass as she goes to retrieve her father. Slade had thrown the tumbler at Morgan so, to a degree, her death is on his hands. On her deathbed, the daughter begs Morgan to abandon alcohol, to which he agrees. The novel progresses through the ruinous fall of more characters all at the hands of hard drink and other vices (gambling becomes another major reform notion in the text). Shay spends some time discussing corruption in politics with the corrupt “rum party” candidate from Cedarville, Judge Lyman. The narrator notes how even the drinkers in the story call for “the Maine Law“ which will prohibit alcohol from being so temptingly available. The novel closes with the death of Simon Slade, already mutilated from an earlier riotous sequence of murders and mob mentality, at the hands of his son. The two had gotten into a drunken argument and Frank strikes his father in the head with a bottle. In the final scene the narrator sees the post with the once pristine and now gross and rotten Sickle and Sheaf totem chopped down after the town’s moral fiber showed itself in a series of resolutions that led to the destruction of all the alcohol on the premises.
Several news clippings discuss the theatrical production of Ten Nights in a bar room put on by the Boston, Colorado amateur dramatic troupe. Examples are shown below,
The Boston Amateur Dramatic Troupe played “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” at Vilas last Tuesday night. The proceeds were about $18. They will give the same play at Richfield next Thursday night. The troupe is making itself quite famous. –The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 18 Jan 1888
In the news clipping below, Boston Banner Newspaper Editor, George Daniels, plays the part of Simon Switzel, however as there was no character with the name Switzel, they are likely referencing the character, Simon Slade.
The most interesting reference to the play is in the January 4, 1888 edition of the Trinidad Citizen newspaper. Ten Nights in a Bar Room was the play the Boston Dramatic Troupe was putting on after the shooting of Henry Savoie, in the streets of Old Boston, by Prairie Cattle Company Regulator/ Deputy Sheriff Big Bill Thompson. The Citizen tells us,
“Excitement now about subsided since the burial of Savoie. William Thompson and Ben Darnell left here for Vilas this morning. They have softened public feeling to a considerable extent by their amicable conduct while here. Their statement and explanation were very different from Savoies’ They came in on Saturday evening and rough time was expected on account of several rumours which had gained credence since they left several days before for Trinidad. One of them was to the effect that the editor of the Boston Banner would be brought to terms for publishing Savoie’s ante mortem statement with comments. The play “Ten Nights in a Bar Room” was being acted when they arrived and about thirty well armed deputy marshals were placed in the hall to quell any riot which might arise. Word was repeatedly sent to the editor that he would be shot on the stage (he was playing the part of Swiehel.) Nothing happened, however, and at last the people are getting down to business again. – The Citizen (Trinidad Colorado) 4 Jan 1888. NOTE: Swiehel was likely to reference the Ten Nights in a Bar Room character Simon Slade.
Other towns in the boomtown era such as Wilde, Springfield, and Holmes City played on the wild nature of towns such as Boston, Minneapolis, Vilas, and Carrizo when recruiting homesteaders and investors. They included statements in their town advertisements such as the following:
“WILDE A PROHIBITION TOWN. While Colorado is not a prohibition State, there are a number of noted towns like Manitou Springs, Greeley, etc., which have adopted the method of inserting a clause in all deeds forever prohibiting the sale of intoxicants, and wherever this method has been adopted and adhered to on the part of the town projectors, it has proved eminently successful. Manitou Springs is noted as one of the most cultured, refined and moral cities in the United States, whether east or west; and it owes it to the one thing of prohibition, which has excluded the whiskey element, and attracted a class of people in favor of temperance, schools and churches. The three town companies of Wilde, Springfield and Holmes in joint meeting adopted the prohibition plan for all three towns, for which are facetiously called dry towns, cognomen* the projectors are only too willing to adopt.”
Boston did not appear to have such an inclination to limit alcohol consumption…or did they? The production of Ten Nights in a Bar Room, a prohibition play, is another event which seems contrary to the often wild events occurring in that town. The town’s documented efforts at civility and culture with a community theatrical troupe, a community baseball team and a community band led by Freeman Jess Newton and Jennings were admirable. However, it seems the town founders efforts at bringing civilized behavior to that place fell short. Maybe a couple different twists of fate and Boston, Colorado could have become the mecca of the plains the founders dreamed about.
As today, Dec 29, is the 140th anniversary of the incorporation of the Prairie Cattle Company I have compiled a couple of related items. The April 30, 1963 issue of the Guymon Daily Herald reprinted the autobiography written by my great uncle John Layton who was a JJ cowboy from 1901 to 1911ish. I have combined their intro with that piece written by Aunt Nora Layton and a few other tidbits and photos.
THE LIFE of a plains cowboy-in the Panhandle’s “early days’” was described by John Layton before his death May 15 1960 in Baca County Colo. His widow now living in Boise City has released his autobiography written shortly before his death “Johnny typified the kind of cowman this country used to know.” Mrs Layton commented. “One who loved the outdoors and spent long hours in the saddle”
The autobiography follows
I WAS BORN in Kendall County Texas in 1881 I lived there until I was 13 years old coming to this country1895 with my family and an uncle and his family. There were four covered wagons in our train and we were six weeks on the road In the spring of 1890 I got my first job. It was driving a team of mules hitched to a scraper digging a ditch. For this work I got my board and 50 cents a day.
Later that year I got a job on a ranch on the Cimarron River. They paid me some wages and sent me to school.
It wasn’t until the spring of 1901 that I got my big job, one I stayed with for ten years It was with the Prairie Cattle Company better known as the JJ’s with headquarters at Higby Colo.
AT THAT TIME the ranch had two wagons One was run by Billy Wilson the other by Jack Hardy. I worked about five years with Mr Wilson’s wagon. I got my board and $25 per month having to furnish my own bed roll, saddle blanket and bridle. The ranch furnished plenty of horses and ropes.
I can remember the first mount that was cut out to me. The wagon boss said to me “Now if you can’t ride these horses there is someone else who can” and I knew he meant it and that I had to ride them or lose my job and there weren’t jobs everywhere at that time I had worked only a few months when my checks were raised to $30 per month (without asking for it) and later to $35 which was top wages for a rider.
What clothes we took with us had to be kept in our bed roll. Mr Wilsow finally was promoted to range boss and my uncle Jim Herrin was made boss of the wagon but, I was called an outside man. Being the outside man meant taking my mount of horses (nine or ten) my bed roll and riding with the wagons belonging to other outfits around the country and gathering any cattle having the JJ brand
SOME OF the outfits I rode with were: Circle Diamond that ranged west of LaJunta and the F.D.W’s. They ranged from the Cimarron breaks in Union County NM to west of Clayton.
I remember their wagon boss was Buck Miller whose daughter, Mrs Elnora Kuhns still lives in Clayton j I also rode with the Kreagh Brothers (Dick and Jack) wagon who ranged mostly south of Lamar Colo at that time on the Cimarron River in southeast Baca and others I was still with the same JJ wagon after Uncle Jim was promoted to another job and Jim Higgins took our wagon as boss.
As I remember my hardest job was while I was with the JJ’s when the wrangler took sick and Mr Wilson asked me to wrangle. I found that job included more work than just wrangling horses. I learned how to stake down the rope corral, also to keep plenty of fuel for the cook be it wood or cow chips
MY LAST job with the company was during the winter of 1910 or 1911. Billy Corbin and I stayed in the camp at the Tubs in the San Canyon near the old Regnier Post Office. We took care of and doctored a lot of mangey cattle that winter and in the spring of 1911 I went into partnership on a ranch with Bob Cotton. He and his family moved to Springfield and we were still in together when Bob died in 1917. In 1915 I was married to Miss Nora Looney. We had some mighty lean years here on the ranch but have had some real good ones too.
I have sold my calves for $4 a head and I have sold them for $40 per cwt too. I had a good life the 10 years I rode the range for the JJ and slept in my camp bed. It was not bad at that time ard looking back now it was fun. Still it is now to me a grand life having a warm house to live in and someone to look after me.
I STILL ride my horse at times and my jeep a lot and look after things. But my youngest son still lives here on the ranch and does most of the work.
I have outlived most of the boys who rode with on the range with me. I hope to live long enough to celebrate our Golden Wedding with our three sons and daughters – in – law and our eight grandchildren.
Some of the boys I rode with for the JJ’s that I have not mentioned were: Claude Whitlock, Bert Crews, Luther Dennison, Jack Stephens, Billy Dude and Jesse Corbin Jim Brazlin, Dave Wright, John May, Claude Ashcraft, John Dabney, Bob Hadden, John Bock, Jim Higgins, Billy Landon, Edd Warren, Albino Martinis, Charley Carson, Sant and Lew Shugart, Lon Case, Heavy Oldem and Juan Romates, wagon cook.
Today is a day in history that may only matter to those of us in southeast Colorado, northeast New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle and the Texas Panhandle. An event in in an office in Edinburg Scotland change the course of the afore mentioned areas, the American west and the American cattle industry.
You see, 140 years ago Dec 29 the Articles of Association for the Prairie Cattle Company Limited were signed.
Albert W. Thompson was the Sam Konkel (if you hang around this blog or the Plainsman Herald long you will hear the name Sam Konkel) of Clayton NM. He was editor and publisher of the Clayton Enterprise Newspaper. He wrote “The Early History of Clayton New Mexico” in 1933. That document is the equivalent of JR Austin’s 1936 “A Early History of Baca County.” His early writings also record much of a different part of the Prairie Cattle than we are used to hearing about in Baca County, but it gives perspective of how large the Prairie outfit really was. The Prairie had 3 divisions. Division No 1 was the headquarters at the JJ Ranch in Higbee Colorado. Division 2 at the Cross L in Clayton New Mexico and the 3rd at the Littlefield Ranch at Channing Texas. There is quite a bit written on the separate divisions of the Prairie, but not really a comprehensive review of the combined operation. The Brand Listing below also shows the brands of many ranches the Prairie Company began buying in the early 1880s
Among the corporations launched in Scotland in 1881 was one known as the Prairie Cattle Company Limited. The corporation had voted, raised, and appropriated for the purchase of land and cattle in America, no less than 650,000 pounds sterling, over $3,000,000 American dollars. It was called the Prairie Cattle Company, Limited. Its American headquarter office was located in Kansas City Missouri, its registered office and principal place of business, in Edinburgh, Scotland. If indeed in 1881 you had cared to look up the gentlemanly directors of The Prairie Cattle Company Limited, some of whom had been knighted, you would have found them dressed in loose-fitting Scotch tweeds within Dowell’s Rooms, 18 George Street Edinburgh.
To further break it down, a deed on record in Colfax County New Mexico, gives insight into the organization of The Prairie Cattle Company. The deed recites in part that John Guthrie Smith and James Duncan Smith solicitors before the Supreme Court, Scotland and William A. Clark, Muscatine, Iowa were trustees of the Prairie Cattle Company, Limited.
Clark and a Mr. Underwood of Kansas City were bankers and established the firms based in Kansas City that operated under the name of Underwood, Clark and Company. This firm during its early years was delegated almost unlimited power in the purchase of lands and cattle. Their acts were approved by a board of directors in Edinburgh. All of the general managers of the Prairie company, except one were natives of the British Isles. The purchases of all the ranches in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, however, was left to the discretion of the American’s, either Underwood Clark & Co., or their lieutenants.
That’s all for today. Here’s wishing you a great 2021.
Other Baca County History blogs connected to the Prairie Cattle Company.
The term ground zero is usually associated with an explosion and describes the location closest to a detonation. In the case of an explosion above the ground, ground zero refers to the point on the ground directly below the detonation. In recent American culture it often refers to the location nearest 911 terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Centers in 2001. The term is also often used in describing the worst hit areas near earthquakes, tornados and other disasters or to describe other disasters with a geographic reference or conceptual epicenter.
Rarely is Colorado mentioned when conversations arise about the Dust Bowl. However those of who grew up in southeast Colorado’s Baca County are fully aware that ground zero of the 1930’s dust bowl included Southeast Colorado along with Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, the upper Texas Panhandle and Northeast New Mexico. For Baca Countians, the Dust Bowl ground zero was their backyard.
This past week the present reminded us of the past. Although we usually think of the 1930s the dirt blowing past of Southeastern Colorado may have first been documented in the Lamar, Colorado newspaper in 1887.
Hard-hitting winds, with reported 60mph gusts, whipped across the Great Plains this past Sunday October 11th, reducing visibility, extreme temperature drops brought back memories of the Dust Bowl. Many people are familiar with the dust bowl because authors such as Tim Eagan and producers such as Ken Burns have spent significant time trying to capture the essence of that era.
Many reports from the 1930s talk about the blue sky suddenly turning dark when a storm blew through. However, when you look at the old grainy black and white photos it looks like dust is everywhere. Maybe the black and white photos our parents and grandparents took don’t provide the contrast or maybe shock that we see in the photos from the storm blowing through Baca County Sunday October 11, 2020. There is an amazing and distinct line between the blue sky and the ‘roller’ coming through Baca County this past week.
Baca County Colorado, is the most southeast county in the state of Colorado and is where I grew up, was included in the epicenter or ground zero, as shown in the maps below. This area, in the 1930’s became known as the Dustbowl. In other words, Ground Zero for the 1930’s dustbowl. Memories of that time have passed down to the present generation. Those memories came to life this past Sunday, October 11, 2020.
The winds were scary in their intensity, and, for a time Sunday, the people of Baca County could sense what our parents & grandparents went through — for weeks on end — during the Dirty ‘30s.
So this happened today in Springfield, Colorado … Social media used many terms of description such as amazing, frightening, scary, and eerie as well. When dirt was whirling at its worst, the skies were dusky and dreary, making it hard to see trees and buildings only a short distance away. In western Baca County it was reported, “It was creepy when it hit the canyon, daylight just disappeared.”
As is the case in Baca County the dust storm is a reminder that drought and the wind driven dirt is always on the mind of of area residents.
In the 1880s Americans were moving in droves to the Western frontier. Waves of migrants were inspired by the promises of cheap land and riches, Following the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the journey west became considerably easier. Many entrepreneurs and private town companies began heavily advertising real estate, investment and tourism opportunities in the West. Indianapolis, Colorado was one of those places.
Sam Konkel, editor of the Boston World 1887-1889 and the Springfield Herald 1913-1930 mentions Indianapolis, Colorado several times in his 1918 -1919 Springfield Herald articles. It appears from his writings there was a fairly close connection to the Boston Town Company, of which Konkel was a part. What do we know about Indianapolis? Most of the town residents were from Meade, Kansas. Three town blocks were reserved for churches and two for public schools.
It had a newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal which Konkel mentions.
It had one citizen, Catherine Colver Williams who was a proponent of Women’s Suffrage.
It had some troubles, as was common in those old towns.
Most references to Indianapolis, such as the one below are from Meade, Kansas.
What I really didn’t notice until now that Indianapolis was another town the Boston Town Company was hoping to become a county seat along with Boston, Carrizo, Albany and Brookfeld. The town is usually mentioned in listing of new towns starting up in 1887 similar to the one Konkel shares with us in the paragraphs below which are extracted from.
“Persons, Stories and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.” Springfield Herald, July 5, 1918.
The Town Building Fever -It is a cold day when some new town doesn’t start up in south-eastern Colorado. In the short space of four months, there have been seventeen towns laid out south of the railroad and east of Trinidad. They are in the order of their ages –Boston, Albany, Vilas, Carrizo, Springfield, Minneapolis, Humbar, York, Farmington, Wilde, Holmes, Indianapolis, Athens, Bloomington, Brookfield, Plymouth, and Randal — Western World, April 21, 1887. Konkel also provided the following: Mr. Konkel editor and proprietor of the Western World published at Boston Colorado, visited Indianapolis last week. We were very much pleased to meet Mr. Konkel who is a gentleman of culture, education and experience, and a valuable man for Boston. While here he was a guest at the Aultman hotel of which he spoke of in the highest terms, he further said Indianapolis was the best town for its age he had saw in the west –Clipping from the Indianapolis Journal in Western World, October 1887.
The item is a little shy on grammar, but, laying modesty aside, the facts as we remember them now were about as stated.
Indianapolis was located about thirty miles west of Carrizo, something like ten to fifteen miles west and south of the present Kim, having the Black Mesa frowning at it from the east and Mesa De Mayo looking down at it from the rear.
Do you know, we’ve been out in that country several times in the last few years and looked for that old town site and couldn’t find it, nor could we find anybody out there that ever heard of it.
We would say there were about two or three dozen houses at Indianapolis when we were there. The hotel was two story. For the reason that Boston fathered the town we have a special interest in it.
The object of Boston was to make counties about the size of those in Kansas — about thirty miles square, hence Boston, Carrizo and Indianapolis were to be county seats of three counties carved out of Las Animas, and Albany and Brookfield of two counties carved out of Las Animas, Prowers and Bent counties.
All of these towns were promoted by the Boston Town Co.
As there was no settlement of any kind left in that country, we are presuming the houses were pulled down to the Cimarron, though some of them may have followed the example of Elijah and have gone straight up along with their newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal.
The ad below is from the Meade Globe (Meade, Kansas) 9 Apr 1887. NOTE they reference the San Luis Valley as the location. We have transcribed the text in the box following the ad.
—Ho for Indianapolis. Is everybody going? It looks that was as quite a number of our citizens have been to see and say that the that the San Louis valley, in which Indianapolis is located, is the finest they ever saw, and hun-dreds more are going even from this our lovely locality, to get homes and and make money. Indianapolis was located about the 13th of March, 1887, by a company of gentlemen from Meade and Seward counties in what is known as the San Luis Valley, 31 miles east from Trinidad, Colorado, where coal is worth from 80 cents to one dollar a ton, flour $2 per hundred, lumber $5 to $16 a thousand and every thing in proportion, and where you are in plain view of the snow caped Rocky Mountains, plenty of timber, water and building stone. The valleys are surrounded by skirts of timber and abound in running streams, where the finest soil for farming purposes was ever under the sun. The Company is composed of gentlemen of the first class under whose management Indianapolis can’t help but prosper and grow fat. The capital stock of the company is limited to fourteen thousand dollars, by its incorporation, divided into 280 shares of $50 each. The stock being worth its face value, and no doubt every share could be so disposed in Meade Center, but that the company refuses to dispose of it as they are quite jealous of their new enterprise. Never before in the history of the west has emigration reached the proportions it is at present assuming.
The (mostly unreadable) town ad (below) for Indianapolis was in the Boston World (Boston, Colorado) Thurs March 8, 1888.
Here are a few clippings about the citizens “of half a dozen Colorado villages, Boston, Springfield, Vilas, Minneapolis, and Carriso and also Richfield in Kansas, are uniting to make an expedition against its horse thieves into No Man’s Land.”
It appears this trip was led by none other than John Jennings who at the time was living in “Old Boston, Colorado.” You must remember for geographical context Boston was 15 miles from No Man’s Land and 15 miles from Kansas in extreme SE Colorado.
This is pretty rough, but this research from my Boston, Colorado book project is pretty interesting. The first reports were in early September and by late September this had made the New York papers.
NO MAN’S LAND. From the accounts which occasionally come from that quarter it would appear that the tract known as the Public Land Strip, but more expressively styled No Man’s Land, is becoming a sort of thieves’ paradise. This is not the fault of the honest and industrious pioneers who have gone thither in anticipation of the action of Congress opening the lands to settlement and placing them under the protection of the law. But in the nature of the case a region thus left outside of the pale of the statutes is fastened upon also by evil-doers a a sort of refuge. Murders and lynchings have been reported from that quarter of late. And now it is announced that the people of half a dozen Colorado villages, Boston, Springfield, Vilas, Minneapolis, and Carriso and also Richfield in Kansas, are uniting to make an expedition against its horse thieves. The “Seven against Thebes” may be rivaled by these later seven against Squaw Canon. This latter place, a special retreat of the outlaws, is spoken of as “a natural fortress,” so that the 200 troopers who are to go there in search of stolen horses and to hunt out the thieves may find no easy task. There is urgent need of putting an end to this anomalous condition of the Public Land Strip. Last December a Mr. O. G. Chase presented himself at Washington and asked recognition in the House as a delegate for this tract, which he called the Territory of Cimarron. That of course was out of the question; but the fact that he was chosen by settlers as their representative showed the necessity of doing something for them. It was a. tract containing more than 3,600.000 Acres, extending 167 miles east And west And 34 north and south, with good water and soil, having, it was said, several thousand people living on it yet without courts, without law, without real ownership of land, since the Lands had never been thrown open for sale. Kansas and Colorado are north of it and Texas on the south, while New-Mexico furnishes the western boundary and the Cherokee Strip the eastern. The Cherokee have claimed this as an extension of their land strip, but there is very little expectation that this claim will be substantiated. The cattle companies were not long in discovering that thee Public Strip land could be put to use. Some of them recognized thee claims of thee Cherokees by taking a lease from them. A few years ago settlers began to go upon the tract running their risk of being eventually allowed to buy the lands they occupied. They, built not only houses, but some churches, with intent to form permanent communities, and waited for Congress to furnish them with courts, laws, land titles, and a Territorial organisation. Whatever regulations the people had for living together in peace and order were necessarily those only of common agreement, often pursuant to votes in their organized meetings. But of 1st the Ability to misuse this state of things has evidently attracted favor Among horse thieves, who have sometimes both robbed the people there and carried their booty to Kansas or Colorado, And stolen horses in these States end carried them across the border to their haunts in No Man’s Land. A possible Arrangement would be to unite No Man’s Land with the western portion of the Indian Territory and constitute a new Territory out of it. It would be necessary in that case to obtain the consent of the tribes now in that western portion and, provide them with equally good lands in the eastern portion. The Government how-ever, has unoccupied lands which it could use for the purpose, and this plan might also allow the carrying out of the sevaralty law among those Indians. At all events, something should be done to put an end to the present status of No Man’s Land. –The New York Times (New York, New York) · Thu, Sep 20, 1888.
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