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Catalogue Ten, Part Four, Vol. II, The Ranching Catalogue, D-G

fornia trade enjoyed a revival. Jim Hill and Tom Toland brought in a herd via the Colorado and

Gila Rivers in 1869. And in 1870, with the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads already

linked for a year, Captain Jack Cureton of Palo Pinto County, Texas, and his sons, John C., J.

W., and W. E. Cureton, drove 1,100 head of cattle to California. They took the Conchos River to

Horsehead Crossing of the Pecos, followed the Pecos River up to the Hondo and then crossed

New Mexico and Arizona to California. There the prices were not high enough to suit them

so they wintered their stock and then trailed them over the Sierra in the spring to Reno where

Henry Miller, the great cattle baron of California bought them. The Curetons had paid $10 a

head in Texas; they got $30 ahead from Miller in Nevada.

The Indian threats to such herds as Captain Jack Cureton’s or the 1,500-head herd that Joseph

S. Clark and thirteen other men led to California from Texas in 1870 (wintering en route on the

Mimbres River in New Mexico), caused the Government to dispatch troops of the 6th Cavalry

from Fort Richardson to provide escorts for trail herds. But the day of the long, overland cattle

drive was over–as far as California was concerned. The iron horses of the C. P. and U. P. Rail-

roads had seen to that. It remained profitable to drive cattle to California for shorter distances

for some time, and beeves were trail herded from Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah to Califor-

nia as late as the 1880s.

By 1880 the type of cattle in California had changed. The introduction of blooded bulls after

1852 improved the stock so that by the time of the 10th Census, native stock were uncommon

except in San Diego County at the extreme southern end of the state, adjoining Mexico. The ac-

tion of James Waters in November 1877 is, perhaps, typical. At that time he brought eighteen

thoroughbred shorthorns to Los Angeles by rail. All were herd book animals of the white-rose,

daisy, and multiflora families. But the improvement of California’s rangy longhorns had been

begun much earlier by the introduction of Durham stock. Surely one of the first invasions of this

better-grade stock was that of the Crow cattle drive of 1850 from Missouri, so well described by

Cyrus Loveland.

Durhams were soon in great demand. In 1870, five bulls were bought in Omaha and shipped

by train to Ogden, then driven north to Montana, to improve the breed in that territory. In 1871,

a prize Durham brought $1,885 at an auction in Helena. Texas ranchers also sought Durhams to

improve their range herds. Joseph McCoy wrote: “It is astonishing, as well as highly encourag-

ing, to note the marked improvement in color, form and weight arising from a cross of Texan

cows with Durham bulls, although the latter may be common grades, only.”

In the 1880s, of course, the white-faced Herefords, so familiar on western cattle ranches today,

began to displace the Durhams for breeding. But in their heyday, the Durhams were highly re-

garded. Joseph McCoy said of them: “The Durham, or shorthorned cattle, raised and fed so ex-

tensively and profitably throughout the Northwest and West, are in almost every respect more

valuable and profitable stock to breed and handle than any other throughout the entire West.

The Durham blood is sought by breeders, and of late years, shrewd, enterprising Texan ranch-

men have been sending young graded Durham bulls to their ranches for the purpose of improv-

ing their stocks in blood and quality. They plainly see that Texas must improve her cattle in blood

and quality if she would longer compete successfully and profitably in the beef markets of the

Union. It is beginning to dawn upon the understanding of the Lone Star ranchmen that his only

hope, as well as imperative duty toward himself, lies in improving the blood of his stock, even at

the expense of numbers. While it is a well-established fact that Texan cattle can be fatted upon

corn, yet it is not so easily or successfully done as with the Durham; although it is quite as well

established that Texan cattle will fatten better on grass than the native or short-horn. Now, inas-

much as cornfed and cornfatted beef invariably brings better prices than the grassfatted, it be-

comes a matter worthy of note to the producer to secure such grades of cattle as will make the

most valuable beef.”

The paucity of information on the northern cattle trail to California lends the Cyrus Loveland

diary in the California State Library great historical value. It is a unique (so far) account of this

colorful and once important trade, now forgotten. No writer of history in his right mind claims

“firsts.” (They belong in the province of salesmen and politicians.) But it is safe to say that the