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Sloan Rare Books

tains, deserts and hostile Indian country. Texas tradition has it that T. J. Trimmier of Washing-

ton County in the Lone Star State led the way in the California trade by taking a herd of five hun-

dred cattle to the new state-to-be in 1848 to sell them at $100 a head. By the time he was headed

back to Texas, he found herd after herd following his trail westward.

It is known for sure that a very large concentration of cattle, horses and mules left Freder-

icksburg, Texas, in the spring of 1849. The McInerny brothers are reputed to have spent six full

months trail herding steers to California’s gold mines in ’49. In August 10, 1853, the

Daily Alta


received communications from the Los Angeles


to the effect that a company

of thirty-five families from the Red River country of Texas, driving 1,000 cattle to California,

were passed by the muleback party of Captains O’Brien and Bennett. According to the captains,

there was talk in the cattle train of trading their steers for mules since it was feared that there

would not be enough feed along the road for that many cattle. In the same year of 1853 the no-

torious ex-sea captain turned rancher, Robert H. (Bully) Waterman of Solano County, Califor-

nia, bought a Texas herd which had been trailed to the

contra costa

of San Francisco Bay. James

Campbell of San Antonio took a herd from Eagle Pass to Warner’s Ranch in Southern Califor-

nia that same year.

The San Diego


in late October 1853 reported, on the authority of a traveler named Ca-

ruthers, that 1,200 head of Texas cattle were then on the road between the Colorado River and

San Diego, some of them already at Warner’s Ranch. Judge Hays informed the paper that twelve

Texan immigrants were killed and mutilated by Apaches in the Guadalupe Mountains when

they tried to recover cattle stolen from them by the Indians.

But 1854 saw the high point of the trade. James Campbell made another drive to the coast

that year. On his heels came more than half a dozen really big droves belonging to Major Mi-

chael Erskine of Seguin, the Fairchilds, Buck and Bryant, Franklin, Dunlap and Houston, and

John James of San Antonio. James G. Bell was a cowboy, or drover, as the cowmen were more

commonly called in this earlier period of trail herding, for John James. His log, as edited by J.

Evetts Haley, is our best source on the Texas-to-California drives. Besides Indians, lack of water

and forage, bad (alkali) water and unbridged rivers on the trail, we learn from Bell that another

threat to the herds were the poisonous weeds found along the west end of the long route of

march. These poisonous plants killed more of James’s stock than did any of the many other haz-

ards of the trail. The Apaches did not bother James, though they hit the herd just ahead of his,

killed a drover and stole twenty steers.

Although the Bell account tells the story of the Texas-to-California trail herds well, and the

recent volume of the Champoeg Press by David Shirks fills us in on the minor drives from Texas

to Idaho (of the 1870s), we have had, unfortunately, no comparable Missouri-to-California jour-

nal in print to document the more northerly trail of the cattle herds to California, until the pub-

lication of this diary of Cyrus Loveland.

It is strange, indeed, that there should be so little information on this California-bound

commerce which, briefly, assumed the proportions of big business, despite deserts and Indians

which in some cases (like that of the Fairchilds) combined to wipe out entire droves. The


rado Tribune

(of Texas) on July 21, 1854, reported: “The speculation of driving beef cattle from

our state to California still continues and doubtless a regular trade will be made of it for some

years to come.”


Western Texan

on the 12th of February 1854 stated that five parties in San Antonio were

making up herds to drive west to California via El Paso. In March, on the Los Angeles cattle

market, American oxen brought $140 to $175; American cows and calves $30 to $100; California

cows (“gentle”) $40, and rodeo cattle $28 to $30. Small wonder the Texans were eager to eat dust

for four or five months behind a thousand recalcitrant longhorns.

Cattle began to come from old Mexico as well as Texas. John Raines in 1854 drove five hun-

dred head from Sonora toWarner’s Rancho. The California demand soon inflated prices inMex-

ico. Cattle cost $15-$16 in Mexico in 1854, a rise in price of a full 100%.

From Arkansas came herds, too. The Van Buren, Arkansas,


reported on May 8,

1854: “Large parties of California cattle drovers have been leaving our vicinity during the past