The American Civil War and Reconstruction Era Mid Nineteenth Century American History Reading and Study Group

Chapter 3: Birth of the Cattle Town  :: Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “the Southern drover and the Northern buyer would meet upon an equal footing, and both be undisturbed by mobs or swindling thieves.”
  • “It occurs to me that you haven’t any cattle to ship, and never did have any, and I, sir, have no evidence that you ever will have any, and I think you are talking about rates of freight for speculative purposes, therefore, you get out of this office, and let me not be troubled with any more of your style!”
  • “regard the opening of that cattle trail into and across western Kansas of as much value to the state as is the Missouri River,””
  • “In 1871, the year McCoy became mayor, he moved these houses to the edge of town, creating an area that came to be known as McCoy’s Addition or, more colorfully, the Devil’s Half-Acre.”
  • “The pay usually came in the form of five- or twenty-dollar gold pieces. His salary: $25 to $40 a month, but double that if the cowboy owned and used his own horses. Still, the pay was not impressive. A foreman, by contrast, might earn $125 per month. With money jangling in his pocket, the cowboy then rode into a newborn town built largely as a playground with him in mind, designed to deftly and swiftly separate him from those hard-earned wages. Given his age, his limited education, and his pent-up appetite for alcohol, pleasure, and recreation, that is precisely what would happen.”
  • “Several cattle trails leading to different cattle towns were soon established. The one running from Red River Station in Texas to the cattle yards of Abilene would be named after a man of Scottish- Cherokee heritage, Jesse Chisholm, who only a few years earlier had used a portion of the route to profitably trade with the Plains Indians. The Western Trail reached up to notorious Dodge City, and the Goodnight- Loving Trail stretched up to Cheyenne. The Shawnee Trail, the only great cattle trail that predated the Civil War, led to Kansas City and St. Louis.”

Thought Questions

  • Describe the evolution of the “open-range cattle era, from its earliest days to its violent end”
  • Compare and Contrast: The life of the farmer in the west and the life of those in the Cattle Kingdom
  • Explain and Expand: “Fortunately, the railroads were by now reaching farther into the Great Plains, adding as many as two to five miles of track each day. The cattlemen realized they could avoid conflict with the Jayhawkers by targeting railheads much farther west.”
  • What was the significance of “It occurs to me that you haven’t any cattle to ship, and never did have any, and I, sir, have no evidence that you ever will have any, and I think you are talking about rates of freight for speculative purposes, therefore, you get out of this office, and let me not be troubled with any more of your style!”
  • Describe a rise of Chicago as the cattle hub of the West
  • Explain and Expand: “The spot that McCoy picked for his depot, a Kansas hamlet and stage station named Abilene”
  • React and Respond: “regard the opening of that cattle trail into and across western Kansas of as much value to the state as is the Missouri River”
  • Explain and Expand: “Joseph G. McCoy had just created the first cattle town. Much like the iconic American cowboy, the cattle town, almost as soon it emerged, became a myth-spinner.”
  • Explain and Expand: “In 1871, the year McCoy became mayor, he moved these houses to the edge of town, creating an area that came to be known as McCoy’s Addition or, more colorfully, the Devil’s Half-Acre.”
  • Who was Samuel J. Crawford

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources