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The Queen of the Cowtowns-“As One Who Was There Saw It”

36. EDWARDS, J[ohn] B[each]. Early Days in Abilene ...Edited and Published by C. W. Wheeler, Printed in the “ Abilene Chronicle” 1896, Reprinted in the “ Abilene Daily Chronicle” 1938 with Added Material from the Papers of J. B. Edwards [caption title on first page]. N.p., n.d. [1938]. 16 pp. (printed in three columns), text illustrations (mostly photographic, including vintage prints of cattle trade). Folio, original tan decorated wrappers, stapled (as issued). Very fine.

First separate printing of material that originally appeared in the Abilene Chronicle in 1896. Adams , Guns 662. Adams, Herd 746: “Scarce.” Adams, One-Fifty 50. Campbell , p. 121. CBC 4257 (apparently cited in error for Abilene , Texas ). Edwards goes into considerable detail on the early days of the cattle trade in Abilene, Kansas, drawing the connection between the railroad and the blooming of the livestock trade. “As a matter of course Abilene became famous as a cattle market. Every school boy in the far eastern states, when seeing the long trains of long horned cattle going through the country on the railroads, knew they were shipped from Abilene” (p. 2). Edwards includes material on Joseph G. McCoy (founder of the Abilene cattle trade), Drovers’ Cottage, Wild Bill Hickok’s reign as Marshall (Edwards reputedly persuaded Hickok to take the job of sheriff), “Cost of Moving Cattle from Texas ” by Ike T. Pryor, and more.

Author Edwards (1844-1950) certainly was in a position to know the history of his adopted town. Born in Pennsylvania in 1844, Edwards worked there in the oil fields in the 1860s, and arrived in Abilene in 1870, where he remained eighty years except for a brief stint at Dodge City and southwest Kansas selling buffalo hides and operating a general store. In Abilene, Edwards was involved in the businesses of lumber, grocery, cattle, and construction; when the Kansas Legislature was in session, he served as sergeant-at-arms and then engrossing clerk for almost forty years. Unlike others, Edwards gives a balanced view of the shadows and lights of early Abilene history, refusing to dwell only upon the pulp-writer stereotype of Abilene as "the Wickedest Little City in America ." His recollections are significant as a first-person, truthful account of the cattle-trade era in Abilene at the time the town was established and during its hey-day as terminus for the Texas cattle trade. ($150-300)

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