The Cattle Industry on the Great Plains Click here to find out about the development of the Cattle Industry
The Cattle Industry on the Great Plains The Civil War The US Army The Railroads The Plains Indians Demand in the East Goodnight & Loving The Open Range Cow Towns The Cowboys
Between 1861 and 1866 the USA was split by a Civil War between the Northern • and Southern States • Texas was on the losing side • During the war the Ranchers of Texas were cut off from their markets in • the North and East • Charles Goodnight (rancher), was away from Texas and had no contact with his • herd of cattle. Yet in this time it increased from around 180 to 8 000 head • By 1866 there were an estimated 5 000 000 cattle in Texas! • There was money to made for the cattlemen as demand for meat grew Click here to go back to the factors slide.
The 1860s were a decade of Plains wars between the Indians and the white • settlers backed by the US Army • The army built camps and forts on the Plains to maintain its control, • protect its soldiers and settlers, e.g. Fort Laramie • The soldiers in these forts needed feeding with fresh meat, and contracts • were available to those who could supply the demands of the army • The US Army also had the job of ensuring the supply of food to the Indians • on the reservations Click here to go back to the factors slide.
One big problem of moving the cattle from Texas to the cities of the East • was transport. The building of the Trans-Continental Railroad by 1868 solved this • problem • It was now possible to drive the cattle to a rail depot, sell them to a dealer, who could • then transport them in refrigerated wagons to the growing cities of the East such as • New York and Chicago • Cow towns such as Abilene were built at railheads for the transport of cattle to the East Click here to go back to the factors slide.
In the 1860s the Indians were forced to live on reservations • They had been defeated by the US Army and were now trapped on reservations • controlled by the army and government agents • The reservations were usually in the worst areas of land and the Indians found it • impossible to support themselves through farming • Contracts were available to those who could supply the cattle needed • By 1870 the US Army was buying between 60 and 70 000 cattle a year to • feed the Indians and its own soldiers Click here to go back to the factors slide.
In the mid 19th century the USA had an INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION • This meant that cities grew as people moved there to work. They needed feeding! • The railroads of the 1860s and 1870s offered the required transport to bring the beef to • the marketplace Click here to go back to the factors slide.
The cattle industry in Colorado owed much to Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving • With few chances for selling beef in Texas, they looked to the mining towns around • Denver in Colorado • In 1866 the two men drove the herd towards Colorado. The Goodnight-Loving Trail • swung west into New Mexico • By chance, they discovered another market in 1866, Indian Reservations • Their success and profits of 1866 led to many other ranchers following • them into the trail driving business and the cattle trade of the 1860s was born Click here to go back to the factors slide.
The 1860s were full of profit in the beef industry. This was the era of the Open Range • and the Cattle Barons • The first Cattle Baron John Illif. He set up a ranch in the new territory of Wyoming in • 1867. Illif won a contract to supply beef to the Union Pacific Railroad and its • Construction crews • He bought $45 000 worth of steers from Charles Goodnight and sold them for a huge • profit • The profits of men such as Illif attracted many more to try their hand at ranching on the • Great Plains • Land for ranching was cheap... Cattle ranching took place on the open range – acre • after acre of UNFENCED land… but it did not last long! Click here to go back to the factors slide.
In 1867, 35 000 cattle arrived at Abilene. By 1871 600 000 steers a year were moving up • The Chisholm Trail • The railroad shipped them north from Abilene, mainly to Chicago, which was a meat • packing centre • Joseph McCoy eventually went bankrupt, and other cattle towns, such as Elsworth, • Hays and Dodge City, began to compete for the cattle business • The traffic on the Chisholm Trail later shifted to the Western Trail • This took Texan cattle to Dodge City, which became the main Kansas cattle centre from • 1875 Click here to go back to the factors slide.
Cattle could not drive themselves northwards to the markets! • They needed the cowboys to guide them. 1860 - 1880 was the high point of the cowboy • era • Young men from many different backgrounds, white, black and Spanish became • cowboys • Their job was to escort the herds from Texas to the markets along the set Trails. It was • a very hard life, with low pay and cowboys were always short of sleep when on the • Long Drive • Cowboys continued to be important in the cattle industry during the time of the Open • Range on the Plains. They did the job of patrolling the edges of the vast ranches, • protecting the cattle and rounding them up when it was time for the herd to go • to market Click here to go back to the factors slide.