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

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.

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

Butte City: 1886

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.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 20 Feb 1886.
The Syracuse Journal (Syracuse, Kansas) 21 May 1886.
Border Ruffian (Coolidge, Kansas) 19 Jun 1886.

Below are a couple of items of a name familiar to present day Baca County.

Pratt County Press (Luka, Kansas) 02 Sep 1886.
Garden City Daily Herald (Garden City, Kansas) 20 Aug 1886.
Crill & Bowdle Stage Line – coach is enroute from Butte City to Granada – Winter 1886-89. John Bowdle is driving. This was the first transportation company in Baca County. (Photo courtesy of James Crill)



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

“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

Life of Early Cowboy was Hard: JJ cowboy John Layton

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.

John Layton 1905

 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.  

The headstone below is Jim Hagan’s from the Higbee Cemetery south of La Junta. The wagon photo was in an envelope of JJ Ranch pics my Granddad had. The wagon (above)is Jim Hagan’s. The man squatted down by the fire is my Great Uncle John Layton. The Layton Ranch was just a bit across the Colorado line north of Kenton, Oklahoma.
Here is one of my questions. I have wondered if the Jim Higgins listed in the autobiography and Jim Haggans above are the same person. I have seen many JJ references to Jim Haggans but not to Jim Higgins.

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.

The Springfield Herald, Volume 29, Number 13, November 5, 1915

 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.

The Springfield Herald, Volume 26, Number 38, May 2, 1913

Other Prairie Cattle Company Blogs:

Prairie Cattle Company Incorporated 140 Years Ago Today

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.

Horse Thieves Paradise: John Jennings leads Colorado Vigilantes into No Man’s Land

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.


El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) · 05 Sep 1888, Wed · Page 1
Santa Fe Daily Herald (Santa Fe NM) · 6 Sep 1888, Sat ·  Page 1
Aspen Daily Times (Aspen CO) 6 Sep 1888 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. Colorado State Library.

Mulvane Record (Mulvane, Kansas) · 08 Sep 1888,
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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Preacher Evans: The Great Orator of Minneapolis, Colorado

Public speaking was an important part of life in 19th century America. Whether you wanted to win an election, win support for a reform movement, or become a successful minister, you needed to learn how to deliver crowd-pleasing speeches. Candidates for office debated one another. Evangelical ministers hoping to win people to their denominations could often use rousing sermons to attract large crowds to their revival meetings. In the same period, the local lyceums and other organizations provided an important source of education and entertainment for people of all classes by bringing national celebrities into cities and small towns across America.  (E Pluribus Unum Project)

They cite Gilman Ostrander who writes in his book, Republic of Letters: The American Intellectual Community, 1775-1865:

Oratory was a lawyerly skill that boasted a tradition as venerable as the law itself, extending from Demosthenes to Daniel Webster. From medieval universities to nineteenth-century liberal arts colleges, orations remained an essential part of higher education, and forensic eloquence remained the mark of a cultivated man. Patrick Henry rose to the head of the Virginia bar chiefly on the basis of his forensic ability, being admittedly unqualified for practice so far as his technical knowledge of the law was concerned. The Olympian prestige and appeal of oratory in the ages of Patrick Henry and Daniel Webster is hard to appreciate in our present age of mass media, but in mid-nineteenth century America, Emerson observed that “The highest bribes of society are all at the feet of the successful orator. . . . All other fame must hush before his. He is the true potentate.” (p. 104).

The ability to play an effective role in discussions of local importance (such as whether to build a town library) or to speak persuasively in debates over national issues (such as the dispute over slavery) could even contribute to the standing of a private citizen in his or her community. Along with print, oratory was an essential part of public life. It was how the business of public life got done.

A quick reminder of where the 1886 -1887 boomtowns were located.
Judge J.D.F. Jennings. Photo Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Click here to see more Jennings stories on this blog.

We have heard there were some great orators during the the Boomtown era in Southeast Colorado. It seems each town in the county seat fights leading up to the 1889 Colorado legislature had a lead orator who could make the case for their town to be the county seat. For Boston it was Judge J.D.F.Jennings, while in Minneapolis it was a preacher named Evans. In 1918 Sam Konkel told us,

“As a speaker the judge was without peer in the southwest, unless an exception be made in the case of preacher Evans, who lived somewhere in the neighborhood of present Konantz and whose sympathies by reason of his location were with Minneapolis – in the fight for the county seat. As an aside, as we shall not have occasion to again refer to Evans, it will suffice here to say that he was a speaker of the first water, and we believe a thoroughly upright man.

Living in the neighborhood of Minneapolis, he naturally cast his fortunes with that town, and had he lived no doubt would have wielded a strong influence in the fight for the county seat honors.

He was diplomatic and fearless in what he championed and in his public addresses along the lines of his convictions and the cause he championed.

On one occasion at Boston he bearded the lion in his den in a speech favoring Minneapolis for the county seat — that speech made all those Bostonians sit up and take notice.

We believe it was not more than a week or two after this that Evans was instantly killed by being hooked in the eye by a vicious cow.

When the news reached Boston of the fatality, it was Judge Jennings who said it was the best thing that could have happened to Boston which was a compliment in line with what the North said when Stonewall Jackson was accidentally killed by his own troops”

I believe the following news clipping I found this past week reports that visit to Boston by the Minneapolis contingent in August of 1888, when preacher Evans gave the speech that made the Bostonians pay attention to rival Minneapolis.

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) 18 Aug 1888

Let’s see what else we can learn about the Minneapolis orator, the Reverend William Evans.   

LeRoy Reporter (LeRoy, Kansas) · 3 Jul 1886

Cherryvale Globe and Torch (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 18 Mar 1887

Kansas People (Osage City, Kansas) · 10 Aug 1887

The short letter below provide another glimpse of the gifted orator of Minneapolis, Colorado.

The Western Baptist (Topeka, Kansas) · 27 Jun 1888

Colony Free Press (Colony, Kansas) · 30 Aug 1888.   NOTE:  This I believe is an error. Evans is reported to have lived in Stevenson, Colo. in all other references .  I believed the editor of this paper just assumed it was Stevens County Kansas.  

The Leader-Democrat (Richfield, Kansas) · 1 Sep 1888

Ingalls Union (Ingalls, Kansas) · 6 Sep 1888

The LeRoy Reporter (LeRoy, Kansas) · 22 Sep 1888.  Reprints the story as follows,

 Death of Rev. Wm- Evans -This entire community was startled on Saturday morning by news of the death of our pastor, which occurred at his home in Stevenson Thursday evening. He had recently bought a cow which proved to be vicious, and while tending her she attacked and gored him in the throat, severing the carotid artery. He had strength to run to the house, but bled to death almost instantly. He was in many respects a most remarkable man. In early life apprenticed to the trade of molder and machinist, he served his time, and continued in the business thirty-five years before he began preaching. Earnest, energetic, enterprising, he made his marks in the walks of life through which his way led him. He was an earnest christian and an able preacher, and was doing the Master’s work with all his will when called to serve him in a higher capacity. He leaves a wife, one daughter and four sons to mourn his loss. Minneapolis, (Colo.”) Republican.

The Richfield Republican has the following: The body of Rev. Wm. Evans was brought here on Sunday last from Stevenson, Colo., and buried in Grand View Cemetery. Mr. Evans’ death was sad one and somewhat tragical. He recently purchased some Texas cows which like the greater part of the Texas stock are wild and vicious. One of the cows had long sharp horns which it seems Mr. Evans feared might cause injury to somebody, and he attempted to draw the animal up to a wagon and tie her for the purpose of sawing off the horns. During the effort the animal plunged at and knocked him down and on his attempting to regain his feet made a second attack upon him and plunged the point of her horn into his neck severing the jugular vein. With the assistance of his two boys, who were with him, Mr. Evans started for and got into the house just in time to escape a third attack from the infuriated animal, which became exceedingly furious. He was cared for as well as could be but bled to death in a few minutes. Mr. Evans was a Baptist minister and preached alternately at Boston, Vilas and Minneapolis. He was postmaster at Stevenson, some eight or ten miles north of Plymouth, Colo. He came from eastern Kansas to this country. He was a member of the A. 0. U. W., a benevolent insurance association, from which his family will get $2,000. He left a wife and several children, some of them grown. He was about fifty years of age.
Wichita Star (Wichita Kansas) 4 Sep 1888
Garden City Sentinel (Garden City, Kansas) 6 Sep 1888
The Wichita Weekly Journal (Wichita, Kansas) · 6 Sep 1888

The Burlington Democrat (Burlington, Kansas) · 28 Sep 1888

Cherryvale Champion (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 8 Sep 1888

Rev. Wm. Evans, was gored to death by a vicious cow 011 Thursday of last week at his home in Stevenson. He was gored in the throat the horn severing the carotid artery. Rev. Evans for years was an employee in the Missouri Pacific foundry, but since leaving here has been devoting his time to the ministry. – The Parsons Weekly Eclipse (Parsons, Kansas) · 4 Oct 1888

Mrs. Evans, widow of the late Rev. Wm. Evans well known in this city, came in from Colorado Saturday last and was the guest of the Rev. P. C. Brown and family over Sunday. She took the Gulf train Monday morning for Persons (Parsons?) where she will visit her son and collect the amount of $2,000 due her on a life insurance policy left her. Cherryvale Bulletin (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 3 Nov 1888

Mrs. Evans, widow of the late Rev. Wm Evans, of Colorado, Sundayed with Rev, P. C. Bowen and family, and on Monday went over to visit her son at Parson.  – The Weekly Clarion (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 8 Nov 1888
Cherryvale Champion (Cherryvale, Kansas) · 3 Nov 1888

Colony Free Press (Colony, Kansas) · 18 Oct 1888

Could Evans have made a difference for Minneapolis in the County Seat Fights? We’ll never know! Stay Tuned for more.

We would like give a special thank you for sponsoring this blog to Vilas Options program for Homeschool Students. Click this link or the image below for more information. Interested in sponsoring a blog a BacaCountyHistory.com ? Email us at editor@plainsmanherald.com

Theatre in 1880s Southeast Colorado: Ten Nights in a Bar Room

A part of the history of Old Boston, Colorado  which might go unnoticed is the attempt by the town founders to build a civil and cultured existence in an environment that seemed to produce anything but civility. 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.

Still, some of their efforts with a community theatrical troupe and a community band led by Freeman Jess Newton and the Jennings were admirable. The storyline of the play discussed in this narrative is of temperance, which you might not expect from the characters assembled in the town of Old Boston.  

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.”

Other towns such as Boston didn’t seem to have such concerns about alcohol use, but they at the same time entertained with a play whose primary theme was prohibition.

Several news clippings discuss a theatrical production produced by the Boston Colorado amateur dramatic troupe. 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. In the 1850s, sales of the 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 and the novel transferred to play format, so it was used to promote prohibition to large audiences. 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.

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

We see the play mentioned several times in Boston related articles, such as this excerpt from The Democratic Principle (Syracuse, Kansas) · Wed, Dec 14, 1887, 

The novel 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.

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 Big Bill Thompson.  The January 4, 1888 edition of the Trinidad newspaper, 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 conducted 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 marshalls 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 character Simon Slade. 

In the above news clipping, Boston Banner 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.

Old Boston was as Wild as They Come, but some of the related stories almost humanize the characters who attempted to create this town on the Southeast Colorado plains. Stay Tuned for more….

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.
Want to know where your food comes from?
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Crop Prospects for Southeast Colorado in 1888

PERSONS Stories and Incidents of the Early Day East Enders

Before Baca County became a county in the spring of 1889 it was the eastern end of Las Animas county. As spring is upon us, I thought it might be good to look back at the crop prospects in Southeast Colorado in 1888.  The following  report comes from the The Daily Sentinel (Garden City, Kansas) · 28 Feb 1888.  I have included the towns from  what is present day Baca County and the areas surrounding Baca County including Old Bent County.  If you want to see where many of these towns were located, check out Boomtown Maps. There were many more Kansas listings, but we have chosen those most relevant to the history of Baca County.  If space allows we may present Kansas locations in the future.

Springfield and Vilas were in Old Las Animas County when this was printed.

Brookfield was in the Northwestern part of what is present day Baca County

Troy and Indianapolis were near present day Kim, Colorado. I am still unsure of the location of Alfalfa. If anyone has any clues, let me know.

The following are from Old Bent County which was broken up in the 1889 legislature.

Wilde was just west of Two Buttes mountain in present day Prowers Count. For more on Wilde check out my blog Wilde, Colorado: Colonel York, The Bloody Benders and West Point