Passing of a Great Range Herd

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.

The Ordway New Era, Volume 13, Number 49, February 5, 1915
The Springfield Herald, Volume 30, Number 37, April 27, 1917
The Lamar Register, Volume 31, Number 45, April 11, 1917

Howard Glazbrook,
Manager, Prairie Cattle Company

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.

A brand listing for the Arkansas River division of the Prairie Cattle Company, the JJ, shown in a multitude of publications over the years the company operated in Southeast Colorado.

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.

The above picture of Prairie Cattle Company managers was taken in Trinidad in 1886. The man with the beard seated is Murdo McKenzie, was the manager in 1885. McKenzie hired the regulator Big Bill Thompson. To his right, holding his hat is W. J. Tod who succeeded him in 1886. To the far left is Mr. Hopkins. Standard behind McKenzie is Henry Johnstone of the office force in Trinidad, Colorado. According to McKenzie the picture was taken in the Trinidad office of the company in 1886.

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

“Ten Nights in a Bar Room” by the Boston Amateur Dramatic Troupe: Theatre in 1880s Southeast Colorado

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,” is based on an 1854 novel, “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” written by American author Timothy Shay Arthur

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. 

Finney County Democrat (Garden City, Kansas) 15 Dec 1888

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.

Illustration from an 1882 edition of  “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There” 

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 Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) 28 Jan 1888
The Democratic Principle (Syracuse, Kansas) · Wed, Dec 14, 1887

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 a Side Note…Forney Jennings aka Al Jennings later went on to star and  consult in many early silent westerns.  Check out the following blog post: Al Jennings 1908 silent western: “The Bank Robbery'”

To see a map of the 1880s boom towns mentioned in this post click here: Boom Town Maps

This post was originally published in the Plainsman Herald (Springfield, CO) Spring 2020

Cooling Troughs in SE Colorado: Includes A Video Tour by Steve Doner

EDITORS NOTE: We have included videos from our good friend Steve Doner’s Youtube Channel. If you like history Subscribe Now.

Cooling Trough made of a Single stone. Checkout the videos for more!

We live in an era where refrigeration allows us to have foods from all over the world.  Modern refrigerated trucks and ships bring us foods which are kept in the fridge or freezer for months, and at our convenience we get to enjoy treats like ice cream and cold soda pop any time of the year. 

In the old days keeping things cold was a luxury. In some places you could get ice and snow in the winter, and keep it for a while. A lot of places, however, don’t have that advantage, and shipping ice from the places that did was incredibly expensive. 

At one point in history there were steamships transporting  blocks of ice across the Atlantic, which sounds absolutely absurd. Drinks with ice, and ice creams, were luxuries outside of cold seasons.

If you don’t need to keep things frozen or cold. It’s very possible to keep things cool.  There are many natural ways to keep things cool. The biggest source of cool temperatures is the ground: dig down a few feet and you’ll find that the temperature generally hovers around 55 to 60°F (13 or 14°C).

Caves, if you have them, will save you the labor of digging. Beers, wines, and cheeses in ancient times would be aged in caves, keeping them at a cool temperature so that fermentation would proceed at a reasonable pace. Even today, storage facilities for wines and cheeses are called “caves”, even when they’re actually just walk-in refrigerators (or in the case of wines, room-temperature showrooms).

Streams, which often begin as underground streams, will be in the same temperature range as the ground temperature mentioned above , and the flowing water has the ability to cool things down faster.  On the farm not so long ago that cool water pull from the ground was a primary way milk, eggs and vegetables were kept cool.   

In June 1916  The University of Illinois Department of Agriculture  Published  “Cooling Cream on the farm.”  Their guide to using cool water to cool cream on the farm provide the following  summary:

  1. Quality is the fundamental factor that controls the condi­tion of the butter market and that determines the price at which butter sells. 

2. The quality of butter on the market depends more on the

quality of the cream from which it is made than on any other con­dition incident to production, manufacture and transportation of the butter. 

3. In order that the cream may arrive at the creamery in good condition it must be cooled promptly and be kept cool until it leaves the farm. 

4. Running springs and cold water wells serve as efficient natural facilities for cooling cream on the farm. 

5. In the absence of these natural facilities properly con­structed cream cooling tanks should be used. These may readily be constructed by the cream· producers or can be purchased ready­made and at low cost. 

6. By pumping all water used for watering the stock through the cream cooling tank, the use of the cooling tank involves ·prac­tically no extra labor. 

7. The proper use of the cream cooling tank and keeping separate the warm cream from the cold cream retards the souring of the cream, checks undesirable fermentations, eliminates the animal heat from the cream and protects it from contamination with dust, foul odors, flies and other impurities. 

8. In order to secure the best results from the use of the cool­ing tank, all utensils, cans, separators, strainers, stirrers, dippers and the tank itself should be kept thoroughly clean. 

They continue, Dug wells with cold water may also serve as natural cooling and storing places for cream. The cans may readily be lowered into such wells by a windlass or on ropes with pulleys. Dry wells and pits, although cool, are usually not suitable for storing the cream. As previously stated the mere ·exposure of tqe cream to cool air does not cool the cream rapidly enough to prevent fermentations. Then again, such pits are usually damp and are prone to contain stale air and often foul odors and gases, which may be absorbed by the cream and which are favorable for contamination with, and growth of molds and other undesirable micro-organisms. Dry wells and pits are very similar in their effect on cream as cellars. Their chilly atmosphere is due to dampness rather than to low temperature and their standard of sanitation is at best questionable. Running springs and dug wells with cold water on the other hand, furnish ideal places for cooling and storing cream. These natural facilities are available on many farms but are often not utilized. If intelligently used, these facilities may serve the purpose at practically no ex­pense to the farmer, quite as effectively as especially constructed cooling tanks. 

The most amazing part of this post is the work of my friend and historian from Walsh, CO, Steve Doner. He has provided videos of Cooling Troughs in SE Colorado. If I were you I would subscribe to his Youtube Channel. You won’t be sorry.

A couple of notes on Steve’s video’s.  The Blanchat video shows some of the amazing stonework of Joseph Blanchat who also was a stone mason on the Springfield school built in 1889 shown below. Also Check out my blog “The Old Stone Schoolhouse in Springfield”

This post sponsored by Everett Beef.
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Offices of the Prairie Cattle Company

“The largest herd of cattle I ever saw was in the summer of 1888. It stretched north from the mouth of Leon Creek, 25 miles southwest of the present Clayton for 5 or 6 miles. It was accompanied by 2 crews of 12 men each. Cattle belonging in Southern Colorado and the Cimarron River country to the estimated number of 15,000 head made up this great mass of cows, fresh branded calves and steers — old and young — which were being moved to their home ranges. At night the stock was loose guarded. It was too bulky to close up. In this herd were cattle bearing brands of the Prairie Company, the Western Land and Cattle Company (101’s) and the Muscatine Cattle Company, all Scotch companies.” – A. W. Thompson, Editor Clayton (NM) Enterprise

For those not familiar with the story. The Prairie Cattle Company exerted great influence over the development of early SE Colorado and Baca County. They were sometimes called the “mother of British cattle companies” since it was the first foreign syndicate to take advantage of the southwestern “Beef Bonanza” of the early 1880s. It was established in 1880 by the Scottish American Mortgage Company, based in Edinburgh, and by the following year it had purchased the JJ spread in southeastern Colorado and the Hall brothers’ Cross L Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. The company’s first big investment in the Texas Panhandle occurred in July 1881, when it purchased George W. Littlefield’s LIT Ranch for $253,000. Included in the transfer were 14,000 head of cattle, 250 saddle horses, and the LIT headquarters east of Tascosa. Subsequently the company added several small holdings to these properties. By the end of 1882 the Prairie Cattle Company owned close to 100,000 cattle and range rights to an unbroken, 300-mile strip of land from the Canadian River to the Arkansas River. We’ll a little bit more on this a little later

I’ve spent  many glorious days at the Steven Hart Library in Denver over the past few years. Much of that time revolving around topics which relate to Southeast Colorado, Boston Colorado, and the Prairie Cattle Company.  According to many early sources all the Prairie Cattle Company records and documents burned which is a bit confusing as in the Steven Hart Museum there is still 7.5 miles of microfilm with records which include the Articles of Association and a record of much day to day business.  They existed from 1880 – 1916 so granted there are many missing years and there.are many pages with a note that said the mice got them but I am not so sure they all burned since there still is the 7.5 miles of microfilm. A fact I am thankful for.  

I noticed something the other day as I was organizing files.  The address of the Prairie Cattle Company in 1880 was different than the one we posted a couple years ago on the Baca County Facebook page.  Not that it really matters, as people and businesses move all the time. Always have, probably always will, but I thought it might be fun to compile some of social media posts and add some to it. When the Articles of Association were filed in Edinburgh Scotland on Dec 29, 1880, the office was listed at 62 Frederick Street Edinburgh.  

Prairie Cattle Company Articles of Association December 29, 1880
Excerpt from Articles of Association showing Prairie Cattle Company place of business being 62 Frederick Street Edinburgh

The only other info I could find on this address was from 1907-1908.  At that point the tenet at the address was occupied by a group of lawyers.  Not sure it’s relevant to our work other than the Prairie Company was still in operation and they don’t appear to be headquartered there any more. 

Here is a shot of  62 Frederick Street, Edinburgh, Scotland today.

The key piece of this which tells me they were loocated elsewhere later is the letterhead shown below.  This letter is one of a series of letters 1915-1917 which began the work dissolving the Scottish syndicate which so greatly influenced Southeast Colorado. Also note their “Telegraphic Address”.

Below is 2 York Place Edinburgh Scotland today. So at least in the later years of the company  this was the home office of the Prairie Cattle Company. (Red Door).

There is another Scottish address, 18 George Street Edinburgh, mentioned by A. W. Thompson in the excerpt below which may indicate a third address occupied by the Prairie Cattle Company. 

 Among the corporations launched in Scotland in 1881 was one known as the Prairie Cattle Company Limited. The corporation, had voted, raised, an appropriated for the purchase of land and cattle in America, no less than 650,000 pounds sterling, over $3,000,000 American dollars. (NOTE: the initial capital raised as shown in Articles of Association above was 200,000 pounds.  There were multiple stock issues after that which I think may have exceeded Thompson’s numbers above)  It was called the Prairie Cattle Company, Limited. Its American 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.

18 George Street Edinburgh, Scotland. Today the space looks to be office space in the same building occupied by the Hard Rock Cafe.

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 firm 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 of the general managers of the Prairie company, except one were natives of the the British Isles. The purchases of the 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.

Finally, the Trinidad location was the home of ranch managers which were Americans until 1885. After that they imported Scots to run it. The most prominent was Murdo Mackenzie. Interestingly even after Mackenzie became manager of the Matador he continued to live in Trinidad. I guess that was the first instance of telecommuting. Not sure what you would have called it in the 1880s.

In America there were management offices referenced in Kansas City and Trinidad.  I have no documentation on the Kansas City Location, but most references such as Thompson’s Above as well as the one below  list something about the management of Underwood, Clark, and Company of Kansas City. Mr. A. H. “Gus” Johnson became the 1st general range manager in 1881. He held the position for only a year before his untimely demise. Anything the Prairie Company was doing in 1881 was big news. The following account of his death was reported in The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) 11 Jul 1882.

The clipping below doesn’t mention the specific location address, but does indicate the photo was taken at the Prairie Office in Trinidad. 

Clipping courtesy of the Texas & Southwest Cattle Association

 In the 1909 Trinidad Business Directory lists the Prairie Cattle Company Office at 319 W Main, Which is still there. Couldn’t find them listed in any of the other Business directories available at the museum.  The current occupant is a Photo Gallery.

H. G. Glazbrook, the manager of the Prairie Cattle Company was technically “officed” in Trinidad, but I bet this letter from Springfield, CO Attorney, L.H. Alberti, addressed to him in La Junta, on the topic of  the killing of JJ Steers on Butte Creek in 1915 probably got to him.

The Division Headquarters

  So back to A. W Thompson. Albert W. Thompson (For Baca County folk, he was the 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 “A Early History of Baca County.” written in 1936. His early writings also record much of a different part of the Prairie Cattle Co history than we are used to hearing about in Baca County. However, it gives perspective of how large the Prairie outfit really was and provides some perspective on how conversations about the Prairie Cattle Company were and still are very regionalized.  The Prairie had 3 divisions. 

 In 1871 the hall Brothers William James and Nathan established the ranch known as the “Cross L” in northwestern New Mexico.  Their first experience in northwest New Mexico was in 1869 when they trailed a herd of red white and yellow cattle from Texas Across the plains where they wintered them on the Cimarron and the next spring they drove them 300 miles north to then struggling town of Denver Colorado where they were sold for a nice profit. In their drive from Texas, the Halls got across the plains and the Canadian river by the Middle Water then on to Buffalo Springs.  This was later the celebrated site and headquarters the syndicate company also known as the XIT Ranch. This is a location the Halls still claimed until 1882.

In 1873 Jim Hall trailed a bunch of stairs from the Cimarron to Nevada where they were sold. He took Goldust as payments and $38,000 which you brought back with him on a pack horse.  This was later invested in Texas Cattle. Albert W Thompson also tells the story of Bill Metcalf another pioneer of the dry Cimarron and builder miles of fence. Thompson says in 1873 he operated a toll road in a store on a leg of the Cimarron and it was he who furnished the Halls with provisions until they could make cattle sales. 

In 1882 the Cross L was purchased by the Prairie Cattle Company Limited and Division 1 or the Cimarron River Division was created.   It was the first purchase of an American Ranch by the Prairie Cattle Company.  This was the beginning of the great movement to incorporate cattle companies in the American West in an attempt to provide capital and bring ranching in the American west to scale.   Many foreign cattle syndicates came and went but the largest and most profitable of them was the Prairie Cattle Company. In addition to a Scottish headquarters, a Kansas City Office and a Trinidad office they established three Ranch headquarters under distinct and different brands with the Cross L being the first.

The Arkansas River Division was the most northern of the Prairie companies divisions, some 20 miles south of La Junta Colorado (Higbee).  In SE Colorado the stories you hear about the Prairie Cattle Company are about the JJ.  The picture below, with my great uncle John Layton squatted down at the fire is a picture which I found in my mothers basement is an example of conversation about the different divisions of the Prairie Cattle Company.  There never really was discussion of the Prairie Cattle Company. It was always about the JJ. In fact the envelope in which I found this photo is labeled “J J Pictures” no mention of the Prairie Cattle Company.

  Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but the JJ was a Division of the Prairie Cattle Company.   Frances Bollacker Keck’s book The J J Ranch on the Purgatory River in Colorado focuses on the Jones family, and the JJ Ranch but barely mentions the other divisions of the  Prairie Cattle Company.    The shortened version of this story is that the JJ was a brand was the namesake of the Jones Brother.   About 1881 cattle reached a higher price than they had even a chain since the war, the price that the Jones Brothers were offered for the 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 is worth more than two in the bush, and so Jones Brothers Disposed of all their Holdings to the Prairie Cattle Company. One of these brother’s name Jim– Jim Jones, and dust originated the JJ brand. At the time of this purchase in the portion of Southern Colorado known as the JJ range, nearly all the small owners of the cattle offered Their herds at the same price paid for the Jones heard and they were taken by the same syndicate. 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 3rd Division or the Canadian River Division was an outfit known as the LIT some four or five miles from Tascosa Texas on the Canadian river .  The Texas Historical society records the LIT story but misses the story of the other divisions. Again the story of these three divisions of this gigantic company is hardly mentioned as a whole.   Beyond these three cores ranches which made up the identity of the three divisions of the Prairie Cattle Company were many smaller ranches. Although numerous smaller operations were also purchased it was under the brands of these three ranches, Cross L, JJ, and LIT that the Prairie operated and it was these three in conjunction with the numerous smaller purchases that created the 300 mile north south expanse the Prairie Company controlled.

Clipping courtesy of the Texas & Southwest Cattle Association

By 1886 they were even bigger and the biggest of that time with 124, 212 head of  cows. That is a lot of beef.. Here you also see the influence of other Scottish syndicates such as the Swann and Powder River companies.   

 In the Cimmaron River area of the Prairie Cattle Company Holdings in an area known as the public strip the neutral strip or no man’s land, many other cattle companies foreign as well as American begin establishing a foothold. Below the Cross L and just over the line of no man’s land which is the Oklahoma Panhandle today was established the Western Land & Cattle Company another Scottish company.  They branded with the 101 brand. Downstream 10 miles was the headquarter of the Tower brothers and still further down 15 miles the Muscatine. There were still more but this very interesting 1884 New York Times clipping (below) shows even more of their ambition…they wanted to buy the Panhandle, the neutral strip. Yep,the whole neutral strip.

As I look at these old but well kept buildings, I can’t help but wonder if the current occupants know how much prior tenants influenced the settlement of the American West, Southeast Colorado, Northwest NM and the Oklahoma Panhandle.  Or what about the neutral strip? If they had succeeded in buying it would they have setup another headquarters and how might that have change the development of that area? That’s all for tonight…

Growing Up in Baca County Episode 6, Part 1 by John Havens

Note this episode references Fred Holister. More on Fred Click Here: Fred Holister: A Cowboy’s Story

Many older people of the Vilas Community made an impression on my life. Some were school teachers, some were business men, others were preachers, farmers, and retired folks.

   But one I would like to mention especially was Uncle Fred. Fred was an old Cowboy. He and his wife Fannie lived on a small “ranch” about 5 miles Southeast of Vilas. As Uncle Fred go older, and was no longer able to work, he would often drive into Vilas in his Model A Ford, park it half-way out in the main street, then get out and amble over to our service station to spend the afternoon spinning yarns.

   He love to tell of his days as a Cowboy when he rode the range from central Texas to Montana. He had worked on a number of big ranches, participated in cattle drives, and took part in roundups.

   But one of the stories I remember him telling had to do with the time in Baca County when the citizens voted to make Springfield the County Seat. But rather than build a court house, a building that would serve that purpose was purchased from the town of Boston. Now Boston was a town some 12 miles Southeast of Vilas, and at one time was a thriving community long before I was born. Today there is not a sign of a town ever having been there. Only the Boston Cemetery gives evidence of its existence.

   Anyway, according to Uncle Fred, the building was being moved across country to Springfield. They got as far as the Sand-Arroya, where they camped for the night, but in the middle of the night, members of the opposition party came riding in on their horses, set fire to the building, burning it to the ground.

   I remember Uncle Fred telling that story many times and I also remember that several who heard that story wondered if Uncle Fred might have been in the party that set the fire. I guess we will never know.

   But my story about Uncle Fred doesn’t end there. He and his wife moved into an apartment in Vilas in their last years, but when he was able he still came to our station.

   I graduated from high school, spent two years in the Army, came back to Vilas, married, and went away to Bible College to prepare for the ministry.

   During the summer, after two years of college, we returned to Vilas. During that summer Uncle Fred died, and the family requested that I have his funeral, and not only have the service, but also sing that old Western song, “I’m Headin’ For the Last Roundup,” which was a very appropriate song. However, since this was only my second funeral and I was not yet into full-time ministry, I asked if I might get someone to assist me. The family told me to handle it however I wanted, so the next day I drove out into a wheat field Northwest of Walsh and got Clarence Kearns, a Friends minister, who was in the area helping with the harvest, off of the combine and asked him to assist me. He had met Uncle Fred a few times, so he was not a stranger to him.

   Clarence and I had the funeral and I sang the song they requested, and Uncle Fred was laid to rest in the Boston Cemetery.

Note this episode references Fred Holister. More on Fred Click Here: Fred Holister: A Cowboy’s Story

An Al Jennings 1908 Silent Western, “The Bank Robbery”

I have mentioned several times the influence Old Boston, Colorado likely had on the early development of the western movie genre because of the time Al Jennings and the Jennings clan spent there. He doesn’t mention Boston much after their time there, but like everyone else who past through the town, the Jennings left there penniless. The Jennings time in Southeast Colorado is outlined in my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come”

Here is a sample of Jennings in a 1908 work which included several notable personalities.

“This is one of the few instances where actors playing the lawmen and the robbers actually were the lawmen and the robbers: William Tilghman was a famous and respected U.S. marshal on the Oklahoma frontier; Al J. Jennings was a convicted train robber who took up acting after having been released from prison; Frank Canton was a widely feared gunfighter; Heck Thomas was a legendary sheriff; Quanah Parker was the son of an Indian father and a white mother who led several Indian revolts.”

-Klaus Kreimeier

The Noted Burying Ground: Boston, Colorado

The “Noted Burying Ground” or Boston, Colorado Cemetery shown in the Dec 2018 photo below is all that is left of what was Boston, Colorado of the Southeast Colorado plains.  There are two issues that must be clarified as we give you a bit of this story.

  1. The Southeast  plains reference is important as there was an 1880s mining town in Colorado also called Boston and if you search for “Boston, Colorado” that is what you are likely to find.
  2. The sign in the image below shows “1885” but the town was not platted and staked out until November of 1886.  
Boston Cemetery Dec, 2018

Old west stories often focus on brothels, lynchings, and gunslingers. The 1880s boom town Boston, Colorado, had all of those in excess from 1886-1889.  The town founders were counting on becoming the county seat of new Southeast Colorado County and hoped to catch the railroad. A country seat fight ensue and neither of those happened.  After a tumultuous 2 1/2 years and a classic old west gun battle in April 1889 the town was destroyed and subsequently abandoned. Though short-lived, Boston was home to a wide range of personalities in addition to the cowboys and outlaws.  The leadership of the town included the Jennings Gang before they went to Oklahoma and began robbing trains.

1889 Map incorrectly showing Boston as the County Seat of Baca County Colorado. Springfield won that County seat fight in 1889.

It was on the eve of November 15, 1886, several men stopped on the Southeast Colorado plains to stay overnight at the home of the Semion Konkel.  In this company, there was a Mr. Albert Hughes, Judge Jennings and his two sons Al and Ed. The next day the men traveled two miles south and eight west to a townsite which they surveyed and staked out, thus establishing the town of Boston Colorado.  Frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel joined the Hughes and Jennings to start and promote Boston. The town founders never intended for Boston to be a trail town or cow town. The town founders foresaw a grand and glorious hub which would catch the railroad and support commerce and agriculture in southeast Colorado.  Boston was home to mysterious murders and frequent shootings as well as homesteaders seeking free government land. Konkel’s motto “Land for the Landless and Homes for Homelss” was placed at the top of each issue of his newspaper as shown below,

Although their intentions might have been more civil,  the town descended into a place known for violence. The following story, told in more detail in my book Old Boston: As Wild As They Come, is a sample of what occurred in that place.  Another incident in September 1887 shows the dangers that lurked in this place.

“A saloon keeper of Boston, Colorado, was shot and instantly killed by an unknown man, on the morning of the 23rd.”.

This Garden City, Kansas newspaper report below indicates it had became known as the “Noted Burying Ground” Not a reputation a town wanting to entice settlers would want.  

In addition to those shot or lynched at Boston there is a record of wife of Ed Jennings, dying of typhoid fever.  It is not known for sure if she was buried in the Boston Cemetery. Ed was later shot and killed in Woodward OK, by Temple Houston, the youngest son of General Sam Houston.

Of those who were known to be part of the Boston story only two are part of the official record of those buried in the Boston Cemetery.  Barney Wright was shot in Vilas and died a few weeks later. Dr. Thomas Milligan stayed beyond the end of the town and ranched southeast of where the town was located.  For many years he was the only Physician in the county.

The demise of the town is shown as complete in the following report from April of 1889.  The Bill Thompson mentioned below was a regulator for the Prairie Cattle Company and is the subject of my current research and an upcoming book.

My cousin who still farms in the area tells the story about moving equipment from a field southeast of the townsite location.  To get to or from the noted field the most direct path was through said townsite location. When you were moving equipment home after working in the field if you got home and had a flat tire with a square nail in it you knew you had been through the Boston townsite.   Other than those nails the only remnant of the town is a building (below) which was likely a saloon. It was move to Vilas, Colorado after the depopulation, served as a store for a prominent local merchant, C. F. Wheeler, and now serves as that town’s museum.

The town site location at the intersection of County Roads T and 39 is shown in the image below with my cousin and I standing at what was the center of the town. On a rise to the northwest along County Road V sits the Boston Cemetery as a reminder of its violent past.

One of the cool things about writing a book is the cool notes you get from readers…

Learn more about Old Boston, Colorado in my books shown below, available at

An 1887 Letter from Judge Jennings

Many of you are familiar with Judge JDF Jennings who was Vice President of the Boston or Atlantis (Colorado) Town Company from my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come.”    The Judge aka Judge Jennings aka John D.F. Jennings was a former plantation owner, an attorney, and a physician.  He served the Confederacy during the civil war as a surgeon. He is also often noted as the great “Orator” He was the father of Al, Ed, John and Frank Jennings. The following letter from the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen will provide a few more details about the Judge and daily life in Old Boston.

Header from letter written by Judge Jennings in the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen
Judge JDF Jennings

In the great rush of events time passes more rapidly than any of us imagine. It is nearly a month since I had the pleasure of listening to your goodly counsels, and yet it seems as only yesterday.

While i am writing the old winter King is on quite a tear. For the past few days the driving blizzard has howeled around our cottage homes, and our valleys and plains are enshrouded in a vast winding sheet of snow. Cold and blustering as it is, there is something in the falling snow and the hazy atmosphere around us that that reminds one of the winter among the grand old mountains, where you and I were born, and where we used to chase the fox and the swift footed deer.  Those were happy days brother.— free from care, free from  fear and with many bright visions floating before our youthful minds.  Have you any ideas that you and I will ever be as happy again?

Well Boston—the peerless—the beautiful—the law abiding, peaceful and quiet town that it is, is still growing, spreading and booming.  On the 24th ult. We celebrated our first anniversary, and a grad success it was. Just as daylight was peeping, something like the thunders of an earthquake shook the earth beneath us and caused us to spring from our beds in alarm.  We soon ascertained that the boys were on the rampage with dynamite bombs, which they exploded throughout the day and far into the night. I could not help thinking that those explosives were but the harbingers of Boston’s future; and that they would go thundering down the corridors of time until she shall become the great rival of our much loved sister — Trinidad.

From all points of the compass we are receiving cheering news of an enormous influx of home-seekers in early spring.  To day 128 lots changed hands, and some most excellent men from Kentucky have settled in Boston. They are all “A No. 1 Democrats.”

Judge Jennings Far Right

The surveying corps of the B.T. & G. W. railroad was driven by the cold snap, but will resume their survey as soon as the weather settles. They have completed their survey within 25 miles of Trinidad, and report that they have found the finest grade in Colorado; and 17 miles the shortest route ever yet made from the Kansas line westward.

W.O.P. McWorter, from Albany, Clinton county, Ky., purchased 14 lots in Boston to-day, and two shares in the Town Company.  His acquaintance say that he is worth a half million dollars. We are pleased to have such a man among us.

Our people are all standing the winter well, and are very hopeful of the future.

Our farmers are getting good ready for large crops the coming season.  If you will pay us a visit next fall you will find us all as happy as clams, and as game as fighting cocks.

I thank you kindly for the home thrust you gave those canting hypocrites who forced Dr. Kelley to recant his defense of Emma Abbot.  Kelley was right in the first instance, but showed himself a coward in the end.

All our people esteem the CITIZEN very highly, and if you will appoint Capt J. B. Parrot your agent in Boston, I have no doubt he will send you many subscribers.

A.Hughes and Mr. Houser started to Mexico to-day, with the foul intent of killing deer and buffalo meat, but we now have an abundance of venison.

There is no new town in eastern Colorado that esteems the people of Trinidad more highly than do the people of Boston.

With many good wishes for your future, I remain your friend.



Photo’s Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Trinidad Daily Citizen, (Trinidad, Colorado) December 9, 1887

Sam Konkel’s Map of Southeast Colorado Stagecoach Routes 1887-1889

A couple years ago I found a copy of Sam Konkel’s Southeast Colorado Stagecoach map in terrible condition.  The quality was so poor it was basically useless and it led me to the development of the 1886-1889 Boom Town map located here in a previous blog post. However,  in my last visit to Baca County, I stumbled upon the best copy of the map I have seen.   I will post here a few pieces of the stage line puzzle I have pulled together and the map (below).

March 5 1887 Bent County Register

There were at least two stage lines between Lamar and Springfield in the 1887-1889 time frame, the W. H. Harris Stage and the Cal Ferguson Stage.  Cal Ferguson was part of the Windsor Town Company that started Springfield and represented Springfield in the Colorado legislature during the fight for the county seat of Baca County.

There was also a stage coming from Syracuse, KS headed southwest into Baca County ( click here to read the story of how they built a plank road to get the stage out of the sand in the Arkansas River basin to the flat solid prairie).  There was also a Stage Line from Richfield, KS. to Boston, CO.  We have the following artifacts:

“Stage Line. W. H. Harris stage leaves Lamar Tuesdays and Fridays, at eight o’clock in the morning, for Farmington, Springfield and Boston.  He will run a daily line in a short time.  32tf.”
Bent County Register (Lamar Colorado) Jan 29 1887 Library of Congress

“Daily stages are how running from Lamar and Granada (to Boston)”
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 26 Feb 1887, Sat · Page 3

“C.S. Reed has purchased the Boston and Richfield stage line and is now running hacks regulary, tri-weekly.”
The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 05 Mar 1887, Sat · Page 3

“Arrangements have been completed for a stage line from West Plains, Meade county via., Richfield to Boston Colorado.”
Ashland Clipper (Ashland, Kansas) · 12 Apr 1888, Thu · Page 1

“News reached here this evening by the driver of the Ferguson Stage Line that Boston, a new town of 500 inhabitants, 100 miles south of here and 85 miles of the railroad and telegraph line, had been taken possession of by a gang of outlaws.” (YES, IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE YOU HAVE TO BUY MY BOOK)
Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · 18 Apr 1889, Thu · Page 2

“Ed. Allen came in from the East Monday and loading his sample cases on eastbound stage flew out on Wednesday. On this trip, he will go to the end of the road and then follow the furrom for 50 or 100 miles until he arrives at the new town of Corriso in Colorado.  Ed has an interest in the new town and will help boom it.”
Medicine Lodge Cresset (Medicine Lodge, Kansas) · Thu, Mar 17, 1887 · Page 3

So with all of that as the lead…here is Sam Konkel’s Stagecoach map of early Southeast Colorado (1887-1889) from the January 8, 1915, Springfield Democrat-Herald.  Enjoy!

I have added lines to emphasize the stage routes.

The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 05 Nov 1887, Sat · Page 1

If you want to support this project so that we can keep more books coming, check out our website for information on ordering signed copies of my books. The books are also available at Thanks for Reading.

Reading Old Time Newspapers: A Primer

It feels great to find interesting tidbits in old newspapers—for me it has been part of researching my book, for others, it may be finding an obituary, marriage announcement, or other types of notice. But sometimes historical newspapers used abbreviations and terms that are no longer common, leaving some of us scratching our heads.  

Let’s say you are looking through an old 1887 issue of the Ashland Kansas newspaper and It says that Boston, Colorado celebrated her first anniversary on the 24th inst.  


Inst. = Instant = Current Month.  Inst. is an abbreviation for instance, which refers to the “present or current month, The phrase, “Boston celebrated her first anniversary on the 24th inst.” alone doesn’t give us enough information to know which month it refers to. We need to know when this report was published.  Since it appeared in the November 26,1887 issue and since “inst.” refers to the present or current month.

Ult. = Ultimo = Previous Month Ult. is short for ultimo, meaning “of or occurring in the month preceding the present.” Like inst., we can’t know which month it’s referring to unless we know what the “present” month is.

Communicated is another term you might see as shown in this October 1887 edition of the Trinidad Citizen. 

You may see either the word communicated or its abbreviation, com. It can occur at the beginning of an article as shown above, but often will be abbreviated and placed at the end of an article as,


The term indicates that the item was written by someone other than a staff writer, and “communicated” to the newspaper for publication. A notice at the beginning of the newspaper article will often look like the sample above. 

Whenever you see the term communicated or its abbreviation com., look for more articles in other newspapers. The first article you find may or may not be complete—often it has been edited from the original, and various sources indicate if you find that original article it may contain more history than the edited version of the article you found.

Terms such as those above are spread throughout historical newspapers.  Here are more of the most common abbreviations and terms:

    1. Proximo (Prox.) – Essentially meaning “next,” this is used in newspapers to indicate the upcoming month. So “12th prox.” in a December newspaper would mean January 12th.  In my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come” you will see this term more than once.  Here is a sample,
      “It has been a year the first prox. since these old time write-ups started, and it will probably be another year before they are brought to a final wind-up and maybe then some.”
    1. Relict – This term is used to describe a surviving spouse, often a widow. It comes from the Latin term “relictus,” meaning “relinquished” or “left behind.”   A sample is below:

      Smith County Pioneer(Smith Centre, Kansas) · 01 Jan 1891, Thu · Page 3
    1. Née – This term is French and means “born.” It is used to indicate a woman’s maiden name.
    1. Ultimo (Ult.) – This refers to the previous month. A December newspaper that says “12th ult.” is referring to November 12th.
    1. Twp. – Township
    1. Messrs. – used as a title to refer formally to more than one man simultaneously
  1. Name abbreviations – Name abbreviations are common in old newspapers. Some abbreviations are merely the first few letters of the name followed by a period, while others are contractions (the first part of the name plus the final letter). Some abbreviations are derived from the name’s Latin equivalent, which makes them a bit trickier to decipher.  Below are some common name abbreviations:

Wm. – William

Chas. – Charles

Geo. – George

Jno. – John

Jas. – James

Thos. – Thomas

Ches. — Chester

Free. — Freeman

Newt. — Newton

Slang and alternate spellings

There are also many alternate spellings and slang terms in old terms in old newspapers that may or may not have meaning.  Many times in my book you see the term “Billyard” instead of “Billiard” In the write-ups about Boston, Colorado, frontier newspaperman Sam Konkel uses the alternate, “billyard” spelling.  Maybe the answer is as simple as he ran out of letters on his printing press. Because advertisements in his papers for saloon and billiard parlor is spelled “Billiard.”  Slang terms of the day such as “mummixed”  are common. 

Old Fashioned Typos

There are many typos in old and new newspapers.  The grammar Nazi’s amongst us get exceeding amounts of joy from pointing out these, so I guess we’ll just roll with it and let them have their fun.  In some cases, while reviewing old newspapers, I haven’t been sure whether it is a typo or different use of a word from the old days. On page 19 of my book, the phrase “smell a mice”(shown below) doesn’t smell right to me, but as shown in the original below that is what was stated.  Is it a typo or a phrase from the era? I am not sure.

From the book   

From the original article

Hopefully, this conversation about some of the terms and abbreviations is useful to you! 

If your interested in old west history, check out my book, “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come” on Amazon