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

Some Texas beef was downright unpalatable, if not inedible. The

Daily Missouri Republican


served on July 20, 1851, of a Texas drove that it was “not fit to eat; they will do to bait traps to

catch wolfs in.”

In 1855 the first major outbreak of Texas fever occurred in Missouri. Howard, Cooper, Henry,

Cedar, St. Clair and Benton counties were soon swept by it. Missouri farmers took the law into

their own hands and declared war on Texas cattle. Late that same year the Missouri legislature

passed a law which barred infected animals from the state. The law was not effective, and there

was a severe epidemic in 1858, which spread to Kansas. The cowmen ignored the law, and bloody

battles were brewing between cattlemen and farmers when the Civil War broke out and broke

off the Texas cattle trade. Drives to California from Texas also stopped, of course, and embattled

Missouri was apparently in no position to feed California during the Civil War. The Golden State

once again became its own producer-supplier of beef and by 1862 had 3,000,000 head roaming

the valleys and hills between San Diego and the Oregon line.

J. Evetts Haley rightly lamented the lack of historical studies of the cattle trade to Califor-

nia, stating, “of all the American trails followed by men who rode in the dust of cattle, no other

is so little-known.

If you run down all of the eighty-one references under the heading “California” in the major

bibliography of the cattle trade, Ramon Adams’

The Rampaging Herd

(University of Oklahoma,

1959), you will come up with little besides disappointment, if you seek material on drives to the

Coast. About the only bona fide account of such a trek is the aforementioned


of James G.

Bell. There are a few other works which supply information but the paucity of it is shocking.

In California itself, more is known about the minor business of driving California cattle out

of the state to other areas. This is especially true of the drive of 1837 to Oregon, thanks to the

Grabhorn Press publication of

The Diary of Philip Leget Edwards

in 1932. Ewing Young bought

eight hundred cattle at $3.00 a head from the San Francisco and San Jose missions, and he, Ed-

wards, and nine other Oregonians drove the herd north. By the time they reached the San Joa-

quin River they had lost eighty animals. Seventeen more drowned in the San Joaquin. It was a

tough drive, and Edwards in his diary lamented, “The last month, what it has been! Little sleep,

much fatigue, hardly time to eat, mosquitoes, cattle breaking like so many evil spirits, and scat-

tering to the four winds, men ill natured and quarrelling. Another month like the last God avert!

Who can describe it?”

But Young and Edwards and their drovers got the dwindling herd safely across the Sacra-

mento River near its source, through the Siskiyous and, in October 1837, to the Willamette River

settlements. Some six hundred and thirty-two cattle had survived the nine-month march from

Yerba Buena. They brought $7.67 each in Oregon. Edwards wrote, “Few of our party, perhaps

none, would have ventured on the enterprise could they have foreseen all its difficulties.”

The story of the great drives north out of Texas to Kansas railheads has often been told, ei-

ther in such solid works as Wayne Gard’s

The Chisholm Trail

or in western pulp magazines



The Chisholm Trail is now part and parcel of the complicated pattern of lore, history,

legend, and bunk which, when rolled up together, becomes our Western tradition. Californians

who have never set foot on Texas soil can rattle off like a litany the names of the entrepreneurs

of the cattle traffic of post-Civil War times– Jesse Chisholm, Charles Goodnight, Oliver Loving,

Joe McCoy, John Chisum,

ad infinitum.

However, in all probability, not a one can tell you a name, date, or incident of California trail

herding days. Asked to name one book on the subject, it is a shoo-in certainty that all will grasp

at Robert Glass Cleland’s fine survey with the poetic title,

The Cattle on aThousand Hills.

But the

late Robert Cleland would be the first to insist that his book has little or nothing to do with the

traffic in beef cattle to California. No, his work is really a study of only Southern California’s “cow

counties” during the two decades of 1850-1870. The major market for Texas steers of the immedi-

ate pre-Civil War period was not New Orleans or Sedalia, but California with its hordes of meat-

hungry miners. The long drives out of Texas had begun in 1842, when 1,000 head were trailed to

Missouri. In 1846, Edward Piper walked a herd of a thousand cattle to Ohio. But the really long

and dangerous drive was to California; from either Missouri or Texas, the trail crossed moun-