The New Empire of the Rockies: A History of Northeast Colorado
BLM Cultural Resources Series (Colorado: No. 16)
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Chapter IV
The Rancher's Frontier

The gold rush of 1859 made northeastern Colorado desirable for settlement by Anglos. Some settlers were disgruntled miners who failed to strike it rich, while others arrived because the high country towns offered markets for produce of the plains. Those who settled the arid prairies also hoped to make their fortune from "nature's bounty". Among the first were cattlemen. They took the advice of Major Stephen F. Long and transformed the area into a huge pasture. The region's nineteenth century cowboy was America's first unique folk hero, with his peculiar garb and romantic free existence. The cattlemen's frontier in northeastern Colorado contained many elements of hardship and adventure normally associated with the "Wild and Wooly West" and made cowboy life the envy of many in the United States. [1]

After the Civil War western cattle industries were based on three elements. First were large, open tracts of land that became part of the public domain as native claims were extinguished by treaty. These plains were available for general use and were known to be good natural pastures. Furthermore, Federal land policy allowed cattlemen to build home ranches as bases of operation. Federal rules were embodied in the Preemption Act of 1842 under which 160 acres could be purchased for $1.25 an acre and the Homestead Act of 1862 that provided title to 160 acres after five years residence and payment of patent fees. Usually the stockmen located their homesteads around waterholes or along creeks and rivers to secure, and later monopolize, water supplies. Some who had riverfront property built rudimentary irrigation systems to parts of their ranches so larger numbers of cattle could be handled. [2] Water was the second (and often controlling) element of the cattle frontier. Livestock needed water to survive, but as hay became a common source of winter feed, by the 1890s, water was necessary to raise it. Because northeastern Colorado was not naturally well supplied man had to artificially water his fields by irrigation. Irrigated lands were found along most major waterways by the end of the nineteenth century. [3] The third basic component of the region's cattle frontier was grass; plentiful on the Great Plains. Prairie forage proved highly nutritious for livestock. Originally many early Europeans who crossed the plains felt the natural grama and buffalo grasses were unsuited for domestic animals because of their dry, brown appearance as compared to bright green turf found back in the Midwest. William Ashley and his party, during the winter of 1824-1825, found plains forage to be useful, but it was not until the 1840s that this fact was "re-discovered." The revelation came by accident as trekkers on their way to Oregon freed lame oxen on the plains. The settlers assumed the animals would die, but when next spring arrived, new voyagers were amazed to find the stock fat and healthy, having survived the winter by using natural forage. [4]

The final ingredient for success on the cattle frontier were stockmen. Without them the region's natural bounty would have gone unused. Initially, many cattlemen were miners who did not make a go of it in the high country. Since most had previous experience with livestock on the family farm in the Midwest or South, they decided to use those skills to make a living in Colorado. Furthermore, mining camps were good markets for whatever farmers could produce. Especially fresh meat, that brought premium prices because of its scarcity. Once these markets were established and news of the ease of open range ranching reached other parts of the United States others soon relocated to northeast Colorado with the intent of stock raising. After the Civil War ended and national conditions stabilized, cattle markets in cities such as Chicago and Kansas City demanded considerable beef which encouraged further ranching on the plains. [5]

The open range cattle industry boomed from the late 1860s into the late 1880s. It stimulated settlement of northern Colorado's arid regions. The success stories of the era portrayed cattlemen on the road to easy wealth. Popularizers of what became known as the "Beef Bonanza" based their boosterism on the use of "free" public domain to raise a calf to maturity. Immediately after the Civil War a cow from the over-stocked Texas plains could be purchased for $4 and after two or three years of free grazing, the animal was worth $40 to $50 at market. So long as demand for beef remained high and grass was available, there seemed to be no limit to the wealth for cattlemen. Dreams of riches were soon realized in northeastern Colorado. [6]

Stockmen used the natural resource of grass in much the same way fur trappers or miners exploited their respective resources. Unoccupied Federal lands were utilized throughout northeastern Colorado by ranchers. As previously mentioned, this started with the Pre-emption (1842) and Homestead (1862) Acts, but by the late 1870s Congress had adopted two more pieces of legislation that cattle growers put to use. The Timber Culture Act of 1873 allowed a filer to claim 160 acres, in addition to any other land he might hold, if he planted and maintained 40 acres of trees for ten years. Later the stipulations were relaxed by decreasing the acreage of trees required. The "theory" of the law was that the existence of wooded areas changed atmospheric balances and thereby increased rainfall. This was known as "pluviculture". While the "scientific" basis proved quite faulty, the Timber Culture Act did allow settlers to add to their holdings. Four years later Congress took another step to encourage settlement in the arid West when it passed the Desert Land Act. This legislation allowed a person to claim another 640 acres (one section) by paying fees of 25 cents an acre. Claimants then had three years to bring water to the land by irrigation. If they did so and found a witness to testify to that fact to the General Land Office, they could then purchase the property for an additional $1 an acre. These two laws were loosely written and were easily circumvented. [7]

Cattlemen on the plains were using (and abusing) the various statutes soon after they were passed. First arrived stockmen, attracted by alleged easy wealth and liberal Federal land policies, set about to "cash in" on the "Beef Bonanza." They were not concerned about bending the law if need or opportunity arose. After "pre-empting" or homesteading a ranch site, cattlemen informally took over adjacent range. As useable lands became filled, competition for remaining soil became intense. This led to stockmen filing claims under the Timber Culture and Desert Land Acts so they could better control the waterholes and prime range. This way a cattleman could dominate thousands of acres of surrounding public domain. To fulfill the requirements of the law area ranchers used various ruses. A popular trick was to construct an irrigation ditch by dragging a pointed stick or plow behind a horse and rider. Another trick was to dump a barrel of water on the ground and call it "irrigated" to satisfy Desert Land Act provisions. Federal authorities had knowledge of these problems but were powerless to stop them under the law. However, changes in the legislation were finally made during the 1890s. [8]

Beyond the land fraud some ranchers, determined to control the best range, simply fenced portions of the public lands. Barbed wire was introduced into Colorado by John W. Prowers and its use quickly spread around the northeast corner of the state. As herd size grew and range availability decreased the demand for fencing increased. These barriers occasionally led to violence between competing stockmen, with fence cuttings and night riding the usual outcome. By 1884 the problems became serious enough to spark a Congressional investigation. Further, Department of the Interior officials administering the public domain became alarmed by a rapid spread of illegal barbed wire fencing on Federal land. They voiced their concerns to President Grover Cleveland who, on August 7, 1885, ordered all fences on public domain removed. Even after the new rules were issued in 1885, Federal lands remained barricaded until the 1890s, because the General Land Office simply did not have enough manpower to enforce the orders. While abuses of the public domain continued, they decreased by the early twentieth century because of changes in land laws and increased agrarian settlement in the region. [9]

The late nineteenth century stockmen of northeastern Colorado were much like their counterparts throughout the West. They developed their own costume of boots with pointed toes and high heels, chaps, a revolver slung on the hip, a bright plaid shirt, bandana, and a wide-brimmed hat. The cowboys (hired hands) were usually young single men from diverse backgrounds. Some were sons of Midwestern farmers who came west to make it on their own, others were drifters needing jobs and a few were just looking for a new start. During the late 1860s many prospective cowboys were Civil War veterans who had nothing to return home to after the conflict. Over the years the perception of a "cowboy" has changed, with his image romanticized into a gallant adventurer. Actually a ranch hand's lifestyle was far from romantic. During wintertime endless hours were spent in the bunkhouse with nothing to do. Spring brought a round-up with days of hot sun, driving dust and little sleep. Summer was spent tending the herds, moving cattle from one range to another and doing general work around the ranch. Fall saw another round-up for marketing and then preparation for winter. Very rarely did anything as exciting as a gun fight with natives or cattle rustlers take place. Most of the cowboy's working life was little different from that of a farm hand. [10]

If there was one part of the cattle frontier in northeastern Colorado that approached the romantic view of the "Wild West" it was the long drive: the transfer of thousands of head of cattle to and from the area's rangelands. The region's early cattle industry was based on animals imported from Texas. To get the cows from the South to Colorado required an overland march of hundreds of miles because railroads were unavailable until the later nineteenth century. Four cattle trails reached the area from Texas. [11] The first route was the Goodnight or Goodnight Loving Trail. Charles Goodnight, for whom the trail was named, became one of Colorado's most famous trailmasters and a respected member of various cattlemen's organizations. Herds on the Goodnight Trail were assembled in west Texas and then proceeded north-northwest from that state's panhandle, crossing part of New Mexico and then into southeastern Colorado. From there the drovers moved to where the trail somewhat paralled the Smoky Hill River. A definite northern terminus was not established because sale contracts often called for herds to be delivered to a specific ranch. Goodnight made his first trip along this important pathway in 1864, however he was not the first to drive cattle into northeastern Colorado. [12]

John C. Dawson holds that honor because of his 1859 efforts to supply the new gold camps. He owned a cattle operation in Texas and when he heard of the commotion along the South Platte he decided to see if this place would not be a good market for cattle. Dawson's herd moved north-northwest from central Texas through Oklahoma toward Cherry Creek. The trip was successful, but before many more drovers could use Dawson's Trail, the nation was torn apart by civil war. This conflict halted trail drives from the Lone Star state until Goodnight's 1864 adventure. Once normal relations between North and South returned, herds followed both Dawson's and Goodnight's routes to the Rockies. [13] A third path used to move Longhorns from Texas to, and through, northeastern Colorado was the Ogallala Trail. The primary objective of this route was not Colorado but rather Ogallala, Nebraska, an eastbound shipping point on the Union Pacific Railroad after 1867. This route was also used to move cattle north as far as Montana. The Ogallala Trail approximately followed the Colorado-Kansas border into Nebraska. It saw heavy use from the late 1860s until the 1880s. [14]

By 1884 western stockgrowers petitioned Congress for Federal monies to maintain a "National Cattle Trail" from Texas to Montana. Part of this proposed route crossed northeastern Colorado very near the eastern border of this state, much as the Ogallala Trail did. Because of the availability of railroads from Texas to Midwestern markets like Chicago, Congress chose not to fund the "National" route. Yet herds continued to use it into the 1890s. [15]

Along any of these four routes drovers faced similar problems. First was how to feed and water their charges. Water was needed every three to six miles and grassy areas every fifteen miles or so; the length of a typical day's march. Because of the varying availability of vital needs, trails seldom had narrow boundaries. The cattle moved along at a reasonable pace but not so fast as to lose too much weight. Often a drive to northeastern Colorado lasted from early March until late June. Along the road, drovers had to stop stampedes as well as protect the herd from marauding natives or cattle rustlers. If possible, the cowboys were to protect the stock from trail hazards such as the wrong food, that could kill hundreds of animals. Also, once in Colorado they had to tend the herd during quarantine. These were forced upon drovers by local laws set up to protect Colorado stock from the spread of "Texas Fever," a deadly cattle illness. [16] Along major trails businessmen, founded cow towns to serve the needs of cowboys and as places for prospective buyers to view the animals and strike bargains. These towns had their share of gunfights, drunken brawls and gambling, as associated with towns like Dodge City, Kansas. Two of the most famous cow towns serving northeastern Colorado were Trail City and Bovina, in Prowers and Lincoln Counties respectively. Among buyers at these towns were all the major ranchers in the area. [17]

One cattleman who brought in a Texas herd and rapidly became leader of the industry was John Wesley Iliff. He came to Colorado in 1859, a young Midwesterner out to make his fortune. Finding little opportunity in mining, he soon turned to shop keeping as a way to make a living. Iliff felt, quite correctly, that supplying local miners could be as profitable as being one of them. From his store in Denver he sold goods, traded for a freight wagon outfit and also began running cattle. It was from that part of his business that Iliff got his start as a rancher. He would buy herds from Texas or Missouri, fatten them and then sell the stock to butcher shops in Colorado's mining camps. This proved so profitable that by 1865 he had given up his other businesses to devote full attention to ranching. [18] From the end of the Civil War to 1870 Iliff expanded his herds. He relocated the center of his operations to the South Platte Valley near present-day Iliff, Colorado. His successes were so impressive that he was labelled a "Cattle Baron" and was often used as an example by those popularizing open range ranching. By the mid-1870s Iliff's range extended from the South Platte north into Wyoming and from the eastern border of the state west to near Greeley. By controlling water supplies he successfully excluded others from the use of public domain within "his" range. He actually owned only a little over 15,000 acres. Once proven, his methods were copied by other cattlemen in northeastern Colorado during the 1870s and 1880s. [19] These included Jared L. Brush, Tilghman P. Hersperger and John Wesley Prowers. Each became prosperous stock grower. Brush shared the South Platte basin with Iliff, using rangelands on the south side of the river. Hersperger and Prowers headquartered their ranches in Lincoln and Cheyenne Counties respectively. Hersperger built Karval to serve as center of his operations. All of these men took advantage of Federal land laws and the availability of "free" grass. The apparent ease these men enjoyed in accumulating wealth made it seem as if Horatio Alger was alive and well; living in northeastern Colorado. [20]

To be successful the "Cattle Kings" had to operate their ranches efficiently. Initially stock growing was trial and error, but as time passed definite methods were established. This process took place between 1865 and 1870 and by the later years, set routines were worked out for daily and yearly ranch life. Use of the open range was the controlling factor underlying all these systems. [21] During winter and summer months herds drifted aimlessly across the plains searching for food and water. Pioneer ranchers saw no need to tend cattle, they simply assumed the beasts could find what they needed on the vast open tracts. Herd supervision was especially lacking during winter because cold weather and snow limited cowboy mobility. In spring and fall round-ups were held to gather in the wandering cows and move them from one range to another, as well as to separate those ready for market. Cattlemen organized these semi-annual events and pooled labor to accomplish the task. The spring roundup usually started in late March or early April and lasted as long as eight weeks, depending upon how dispersed the cattle were. It was held so winter losses could be discovered, calves branded, and herds moved to different pastures. This was an early version of range rotation. If the winter was harsh, herds from northeastern Colorado could drift as far away as Kearny, Nebraska or even into western Oklahoma. The fall round-up usually happened in September and its main purpose was to sort out those animals ready for shipment east and move others to winter ranges. [22] Between round-ups life on the ranches was quiet. Infirm cattle were tended at home ranches. Cowboys planted crops and gardens to feed themselves. Cow ponies were groomed while horses were broken and trained. Irrigation works were built or repaired and preparations were made for the next round-up. In addition, the earliest ranchers of northeastern Colorado had to protect themselves and their herds from Native American raiding parties. Most cattlemen sought to avoid conflict, if possible, by giving a few head of cattle to the natives to pacify them. Much of the time there was little to do and cowboys often found amusements for themselves. They would attend any event from spelling bees to a wedding to escape the isolation of the ranch. [23] The "Cattle Kings" had much to do during periods between round-up. Prospective buyers were sought. So too were herds purchased. Conflicts over identification of animals also had to be resolved. Possible investors were toured and cajoled. To lessen these tasks cattlemen formed local and territorial (later state) associations. [24]

In November, 1867 the first of these organizations was founded at Denver. It was called the Colorado Stock Growers Association. Northeastern Colorado ranchers were in the forefront of this movement, especially John W. Iliff. They saw the need for such an organization to handle services that could not be provided on an individual basis. The group served as a brand registry to sort out the confusion over ownership and identification. This organization published and distributed brand books so foraging herds could be returned to their proper owners. Further, the state association helped organize and conduct round-ups through local groups. Another problem cattlemen laid before the organization was predator control. Wolves and coyotes plagued herds and ranchers decided that offering bounties for wild animals would alleviate the situation. Initially this program was administered by the association, but at times both territorial and state government assisted cattlemen. Favorable legislation by means of lobbying, on matters like quarantines of trail herds was another function of the Colorado Stock Growers Association. They became a large enough political force during the late nineteenth century that cattlemen could control nearly any legislative action that affected their business. In addition to meeting these needs, the organization provided other services for its members. It opened lines of communication between the stockmen throughout the region and the state. News of improved techniques and methods was quickly spread to all members along with complaints about various obstacles to prosperity. At times the association helped fund experiments with new breeds and nutritional information. Because of the organization, ranchers had access to a large body of knowledge about their industry.

Cattlemen helped each other another way; through cooperative marketing. The association researched price trends and demand, then advised members about the best times to sell and which buyers were paying the most. They also encouraged prospective buyers to visit Colorado and examine the herds. [24] Because of these activities, and once railroads reached Denver in 1870, that city quickly became one of the leading cattle brokerage cities in the Rocky Mountain West. This was furthered when representatives of major eastern packing companies opened offices in Denver. All this helped the city develop a reputation as a "Cow Capitol" by 1890. The Colorado Stock Growers Association played a major role in these efforts and developed ranching into a major industry in northeastern Colorado by the 1880s. [25]

The attraction of outside investors to area cattle operations was another major factor in the industry's rapid growth. By the early 1870s, with native removal, and Iliff as an example, capitalists from both the East and overseas considered cattle as a way to make quick, large returns on their investments. Their goals were encouraged by J.S. Brisbin's book, The Beef Bonanza, that explained the workings of the open range cattle industry and assured investors huge profits. At first capitalists sought out established operations like Iliff and Brush, offering to invest in their ranches. [26] Later, emboldened by early successes, some set out on their own to form new companies to raise cows. One of these outfits was the Pawnee Cattle Company, that operated along the South Platte River, buying parts of Iliff's ranch after he died in 1878. Other land and cattle companies were established in northeastern Colorado by the mid-1880s. Some were backed by money from the Northeast while others received their capital from Great Britain and Europe. English industrialists had funds to lend and looked for large returns on their investments. The "Beef Bonanza" of the American West caught their attention. [27] Because these people knew little of day to day ranching methods and most never actually saw their property, they hired professional managers to operate the ranches. Distances between the owners and their employees, in addition to the intricacies of the business, led to conflicts and accusations of dishonesty or inefficiency. Investors were especially upset when prices fell and returns were not to their expectations. Also, loose bookkeeping systems many managers used led to disputes. This was exacerbated by the physical impossibility of counting each cow wandering over hundreds of square miles. [28] In an attempt to facilitate business and close the gap between owners and managers, area banks like the Koutze brothers' Colorado National Bank in Denver, set up special services for the cattle companies. [29] Another change large corporations brought to northeast Colorado ranches was the introduction of blooded stock to improve herds. While Texas longhorns were well suited to life on the plains, they produced meat that was low quality. As consumers demanded better beef, stockmen, especially the company operations, tried to fill this need. The use of barbed wire fences facilitated the segregation of inferior stock and protected herd quality. These efforts were halted, temporarily, in the late 1880s when the beef market collapsed. [30]

Even before the "Beef Bonanza" bubble burst ominous indicators of the future were there for the observant. In 1879 Great Britain began restricting beef importations from the United States, primarily for health reasons, Next, the winter of 1880-1881 was unusually harsh and many cattle died from exposure or starvation. These omens little diminished enthusiasm for open range ranching in northeastern Colorado. Four years after the terrible blizzards, market prices in Chicago started a decline and continued to fall for five years. This was due to glut thanks to rapid herd expansion as more and more attempted to take advantage of the bonanza. [31] Increases in numbers of cattle led to another problem for ranchers—over grazing. By 1885 use of the plains was so intense that native grama and buffalo grasses disappeared only to be replaced by weeds and sagebrush. This lack of forage would have eventually ended open range ranching as it was practiced but during the late 1880s nature helped speed the process. The winter of 1885-1886 was a repetition of 1881, with cattle moving from northeastern Colorado's ranges to as far south as across the Arkansas River. Many cows died during that winter. Much of the summer of 1886 cattlemen spent erecting barbed wire fences to prevent stock from wandering off in winter, however no preparation for winter feeding was made. [32] The snows started early in the fall of 1886. With only occasional breaks, winds blew ice storms and blizzards from the northern Rockies into the region from October until April. The ground was covered with a thick layer of ice that cattle could not break to reach what little food was there. As they attempted to find nourishment the new fences stopped them. Layer by layer they were trapped by wire and died. Other cattle sought shelter in ravines and draws, thus starving to death. When spring arrived and cowboys could again move out onto the range, they found that the losses were as heavy as many had feared. While no exact statistics were kept, the best available estimates are that only one of ten cows survived the winter. The only method many ranchers had of salvaging anything was to sell the dead animals' hides to skinners and to try and rebuild herds from survivors. The next winter was nearly as severe, but losses were fewer because much of the range was not restocked. Low prices and the winter catastrophes of the late 1880s ended the "Beef Bonanza" and just about destroyed open range ranching in the region after 1890. [33]

These events did much to force cattlemen to accept a new role and style in their methods. During the 1870s and 1880s ranchers enjoyed prosperity but at the same time faced competition for land. It came from both dirt farmers, referred to as "sodbusters", and sheep growers. Both these groups were attracted by the potential wealth that northeastern Colorado offered. Ranchers opposed them because it was feared the range would be ruined for use by cattle. Sheep were particularly repugnant to stockmen because it was believed that the woolies fouled waterholes and ate the grass too close to the ground so that it would not grow again. Farmers fenced off land, used precious water and were a nuisance because they occasionally shot cattle trampling fields or if they needed meat. [34] Ranchers responded to these threats in a variety of ways. On more than one occasion shepherds (and their flocks) were killed or driven off. However, northeastern Colorado never was the scene of range wars like those on the western slope. Cattlemen, nevertheless, did support laws to restrict sheep grazing and they did try to enforce rules about usage of certain ranges. In dealing with farmers the situation was somewhat different because agrarians tended to settle along river bottoms and near areas where water could easily be obtained. Nevertheless there were numerous instances of fence cutting and threats by masked riders to discourage farmers. Possibly one reason violent acts were limited in the region was that many of the cattlemen shared some common interests with the opposition. Some such as Hersperger ran herds of cattle and flocks of sheep on different ranges. Other ranchers took up farming on part of their land and some began to depend on farm commodities such as vegetables and hay. By the late eighties some sodbusters had even started their own cattle operations. This partial community of interest did much to ease a potentially volatile situation. Furthermore, at about the same time that pressures from sheepmen and farmers intensified, ranchers' attention was diverted to other problems: the beef market collapsed. [35]

Aside from, and because of, dramatic changes that took place in the beef industry of northeastern Colorado during the 1880s ranchers modified other practices as well. When herd size was so quickly decreased by weather, cattlemen were forced to change many of their old methods. After the winter of 1886-1887 fencing of ranges continued but this was coupled with a new system of winter feeding. Growing forage received priority and numerous cowboys and cattlemen became farmers. This shift in occupational emphasis was furthered because cattle prices remained low until 1890 and some ranchers were forced to sell out in order to meet financial obligations. For those who remained in the cattle business the process of herd upgrading with blooded stock like herefords and shorthorns accelerated. These changes led to smaller herds that could more easily be protected and managed, with a resulting decrease in the use of open range. [36] For four years, beginning in 1890, beef prices enjoyed a brief resurgence. This slowed moves away from traditional methods and in 1891 ranchers were speaking of a return to the situation before 1885. However, conditions both within and outside northeastern Colorado prevented this. The consumer, once introduced to finer grades of beef was unwilling to accept Longhorn meat. Farmers plowed up many better ranges and they could not be stopped. Also, railroads covered much of the West by 1890 making the long drive unnecessary as well as unprofitable. While there no doubt was a fond remembrance of the way things were, most area ranchers realized that a return to the past was impossible. As if to act as punctuation for this point, the Panic of 1893 occurred and during the following depression, cattle prices tumbled. The last vestiges of the open range beef bonanza were swept away. [37]

Among other things to all but disappear from the region during the 1890s were gun carrying, fast shooting bandits and rustlers, popularly called "badmen". From 1860 to 1900 northeastern Colorado had its share of minor criminals, highwaymen and murderers. Their appearance was almost inevitable given a boom atmosphere during the late nineteenth century. Outlaws came into the region with the Fifty-niners. The first, and in many ways most notorious, highwayman to make his home in northeastern Colorado was Jack Slade. When the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company (COCPP) began service to Denver in 1859 Slade was a company superintendant, based at Old Julesburg. Before leaving this job he brutally murdered Jules Beni and took to robbing stage coaches on the road between Camp Collins and Virginia Dale. Slade later moved to Montana and continued his outlaw career until vigilantes in Virginia City hanged him. [38] While few criminals in northeastern Colorado ever gained the reputation of Jack Slade, their presence made life dangerous for other residents. In addition to occasional murder (and subsequent lynchings) the most common crime in the region during the late nineteenth century was theft, particularly of livestock. In the 1860s and 1870s rustling was not a major problem because of a limited number of ways to dispose of cattle. However, as time progressed and a marketing network developed thanks to new railroads, livestock thefts increased. During the 1880s a gang of rustlers operated with impunity throughout Yuma and Kit Carson counties. They found it easy to change cattle brands on the open range. Elsewhere the problem grew as ranching developed. While horse stealing was considered a more serious crime, rustling cattle cost the cattlemen more. [39] Many solutions were used to stop theft but it was not until the cattlemen's association became involved that the problem was controlled. The organization hired Dave Cook, founder of the Rocky Mountain Detective Association, to lead investigations. Cook not only tracked criminals, but he also started a central information exchange to aid other "private eyes" working on rustling cases. Cook convinced the Colorado Stockgrowers Association that the best way to solve the problem was to make it difficult for the rustlers to dispose of animals. To do this a system of market and stockyard observers was created at all major shipping points to check brands and registrations. Cook's solution worked well and by the 1890s rustling throughout Colorado was newly eliminated. [40]

Robbers' Roost near Virginia Dale, Colorado was the hangout of numerous notorious outlaws, like Jack Slade. W. H. Jackson Photo Courtesy USGS.

At this time open range ranching all but disappeared in northeastern Colorado. It had a short but colorful history, leading to tales of the "Old West". Like mining, stock raising was a high risk business with large potential profits for those who succeeded. The industry found another way to exploit this land's natural bounty. Cattlemen used parts of the region that might otherwise not have developed. Ranchers caused millions of dollars to be invested in Colorado by outsiders. Several factors led to the rapid decline of open range ranching. Among these were over-grazing, market collapse, harsh winters and the division of range caused by the spread of farmer's settlement onto the region's more fertile lands.

Chapter IV: Notes

1See: Richard Goff and Robert H. McCaffree. Century in the Saddle, (Denver: Colorado Cattlemen's Centennial Commission, 1967), hereafter cited: Goff and McCaffree, Century, and Ora Brooks Peake, The Colorado Range Cattle Industry, (Glendale, CA.: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1937), hereafter cited: Peake, Range.

2Roy Robbins, Our Landed Heritage, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1976), pp. 218-219, and Fred D. Johnson interview, Civilian Works Administration, Colorado State Historical Society, volume 352, hereafter cited: CWA, CSHS.

3David Allen Henderson, "The Beef Industry of Colorado," (M.A. Thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder 1951), p. 10, hereafter cited: Henderson, "Beef", and Peake, Range, p. 15.

4Nell Brown Propst, Forgotten People, A History of the South Platte Trail, (Boulder: Pruett Publishing Co., 1979), p. 166, hereafter cited: Propst, Forgotten, and Henderson, "Beef," pp. 7-10.

5Jonathan L. Lengel interview, volume 350, CWA, CSHS, and Winfield Morris interview, volume 341, CWA, CSHS, and Peake, Range, pp. 8-14.

6Peake, Range pp. 10-16.

7Lengel, CWA, CSHS, Morris, CWA, CSHS, Fred D. Johnson interview, volume 352, CWA, CSHS, and Kizzie Gordon Buchanan interview, volume 341, CWA, CSHS.

8KG Buchanan, CWA, CSHS, Goff and McCaffree, Century, pp. 118-126.

9Goff and McCaffree, Century, p. 120, and Propst, Forgotten, pp. 165-166, and Peake, Range, p. 75.

10Propst Forgotten, pp. 148-152; Goff and McCaffree, Century, pp. 92-98, and S. A. Munson interview, volume 351, CWA, CSHS.

11Henderson, "Beef," pp. 7-10.

12Propst Forgotten, pp. 49-51, and Peake, Range, pp. 22-24.

13Peake, Range, pp. 21-24.

14Ibid., and Munson, CWA, CSHS.

15Margaret Long, The Smoky Hill Trail, (Denver: W. H. Kistler Stationery Co., 1943). p. vii, hereafter cited: Long, Smoky, and Peake, Range, pp. 30-32.

16Goff and McCaffree, Century, pp. 38-39, and Peake, Range, pp. 31-37.

17Mary Liz Owen and Dale Cooley, eds., Where them Wagons Rolled The History of Lincoln County and the People Who Came Before 1925, (n.l.: Lincoln County Historical Society, 1976), pp. 9-10, hereafter cited: Owen; Cooley, Lincoln, and Peake, Range, p. 25.

18See: Agnes Wright Spring, "John W. Iliff—Cattleman," in: A Colorado Reader, edited by Carl Ubbelohde, (Boulder: Pruett Press, 1962), and Eugene Williams interview, volume 341, CWA, CSHS.

19Propst, Forgotten, pp. 105-111, and Joseph P. Dillon interview, volume 341, CWA, CSHS.

20Owen and Cooley, Lincoln, pp. 40-43; and Peake, Range, pp. 15 and 271; Goff and McCaffree, Century, p. 53; Kossuth Buchanan interview, volume 341, CWA, CSHS, and Williams, CWA, CSHS, Morris, CWA, CSHS.

21Goff, and McCaffree, Century, pp. 40-43, and Williams, CWA, CSHS.

22FA Neville interview, volume 343, CWA, CSHS, Frank Tanberg interview, volume 341, CWA, CSHS, Williams, CWA, CSHS, and K. Buchanan, CWA, CSHS.

23Propst, Forgotten, pp. 148-152, and Tanberg, CWA, CSHS; Neville, CWA, CSHS.

24Goff and McCaffree, Century, pp. 68-72.

25Ibid., pp. 110-119.

26Ibid., pp. 103-108.

27Ibid., pp. 104-110; Propst, Forgotten, pp. 160-163, and Tanberg, CWA, CSHS.

28Goff and McCaffree, Century, pp. 80-84, and V.V. Hargrave interview, volume 351, CWA, CSHS.

29See: Gene M. Gressley, Bankers and Cattlemen, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972).

30A.F. Sanford interview, volume 343, CWA, CSHS; Lengel, CWA, CSHS, Propst, Forgotten, pp. 150-151.

31Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Neuman interview, volume 351, CWA, CSHS, Goff and McCaffree, Century, p. 109, and Propst, Forgotten, pp. 151 and 165.

32Glen Bolander interview, volume 352, CWA, CSHS; W.H. Delbridge interview, volume 343, CWA, CSHS; Goff and McCaffree, Century, pp. 76-77, and Propst, Forgotten, p. 166.

33Henderson, "Beef," pp. 7-9, Bolander, CWA, CSHS; Hargrave, CWA, CSHS; H. Wells, CWA, CSHS.

34George E. McConley interview, volume 341, CWA, CSHS; E. Williams, CWA, CSHS.

35Hargrave, CWA, CSHS; Lengel, CWA, CSHS; McConley, CWA, CSHS, and H. Wells, CWA, CSHS.

36Albert M. Bair interview, volume 358, CWA, CSHS; Helen Slater interview, volume 352, CWA, CSHS; F. Johnson, CWA, CSHS, and Peake, Range, pp. 272-276.

37William H. Turner interview, volume 343, CWA, CSHS; Tanberg, CWA, CSHS; Henderson, "Beef," pp. 12-15, and Peake, Range, pp. 275-278.

38Guy Peterson, Fort Collins: The Post, The Town, (Ft. Collins: The Old Army Press, 1972), p. 34, and Propst, Forgotten, p. 41.

39Titus H. Abbott interview, volume 353, CWA, CSHS; H. Wells, CWA, CSHS; E. Williams, CWA, CSHS, and Owen and Cooley, Lincoln, p. 17.

40H. Wells, CWA, CSHS, and Goff and McCaffree, Century, pp. 26-34.

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Last Updated: 20-Nov-2008