David Shirk’s Cattle Drives from Texas to the Northwest

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

523. SHIRK, David [Lawson]. The Cattle Drives of David Shirk from Texas to the Idaho Mines, 1871 and 1873 Reminiscences of David L. Shirk, wherein Are Described His Two Successful Cattle Drives from Texas, in Company with George T. Miller. His Later Experiences as a Cattleman in Eastern Oregon during the Terrible Depredations of Hostile Indians, and the Range Warfare with Pete French, from the Original Manuscript and Related Papers...Edited by Martin F. Schmidt. [Portland, Oregon: Lawton Kennedy for] Champoeg Press, 1956. [6], ix [1], [1]-148 pp., frontispiece illustration by Remington (“An Episode in the Opening up of the Cattle Country”), tipped-in facsimile portrait of Shirk made in San Francisco by Carleton E. Watkins Studio (follows p. 2). 8vo (23 x 17 cm), original beige pictorial cloth. Exceptionally fine in the original fragile glassine d.j. with very minor edge wear at top. Handsome imprint from Lawton Kennedy.

     First edition, limited edition (750 copies) Herd 2023. Smith S638. Shirk (1844-1928) was one of two junior partners with prominent Idaho cattleman George T. Miller. The three of them had purchased 1,500 longhorns in Bell County, Texas, and driven them into Idaho. Born in Indiana, David Shirk grew up on farms there and later in Illinois. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, he headed west, drawing wages for driving a freight wagon to Denver. From there, he traveled to Silver City, arriving in August 1866. He started off well, but then almost died from “mountain fever” and was left in debt. Determined to be debt-free, Shirk labored steadily for a farm-ranch operation and righted his pecuniary situation with some small cattle investments. Fifteen months later he found himself ahead by $1,150 and spent another year herding cattle for a Silver City merchant, who later hired him to drive a flock of sheep to the gold camps in Nevada. Despite little experience, the drive was very successful. By 1871, Shirk had accumulated the capital to combine with Miller and the other partner. They bought horses and other equipment in Texas, and then bargained for cattle. The drive finally headed north in mid-April. Their trek was fairly typical—months of punishing work and constant danger from rustlers, Indian raiders, and the elements. About a week out of Fort Worth, a severe nighttime storm stampeded the herd and Shirk rode off an embankment into a swollen stream and almost died. Shirk drove the herd to the rugged plains of southern Idaho and the Snake River and eventually sold the animals for a net return of over $2,000. Considering that outcome, Shirk laconically observes: “When one considers the risk, dangers of the drive, and the risk of losing every dollar you had in the world, not to mention life itself, the profits were not unreasonable.” Another successful drive from Texas in 1873 followed and eventually Shirk established his own ranch in Oregon. He retired to Berkeley. The David L. Shirk Ranch historic district, located in southeast Lake County in Guano Valley, Oregon, includes nineteen structures within three areas. Included are a residence, outbuildings, gravesite, irrigation and fence systems, and an historic dump. The site was first settled in 1881 and was a fully developed ranch in 1914.


Sold. Hammer: $50.00; Price Realized: $61.25.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: