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Sloan Rare Books

pany, and two others, unnamed, were waiting at Tucson for the rains. (The


reported these

cattle companies as Pyron and Edwards, Tully, Sweet & Co., and Maddison and Company.) They

were unable to proceed to California because of the lack of water. The paper stated that the five

companies had blazed a new route to Tucson, cutting off one hundred miles from the old trail.

But they had suffered greatly and had lost a large number of cattle. Just eleven days later, news

arrived from El Paso that Captain Smith had reached San Antonio with a herd of cattle he had

driven east from El Paso. He had made a record, twenty-one day trip over the route in spite of

the scarcity of both water and grass. Never before had both necessities been so scarce. He re-

ported that this situation “caused a great deal of suffering and loss among parties going through

with cattle to California.”

Fairchild and McClure reached El Paso after losing two hundred head from lack of water.

Dunlap’s herd was shrunken by the loss of seven hundred head thanks to the lack of water at

Eagle Springs, Van Horn’s Wells, and Deadman’s Hole. But Grayson’s Brazos herd had suffered

a loss of only twelve steers out of five hundred when he reached the Rio Grande, although the

trail he followed was literally “strewn with carcasses.” The same newspaper account reported

that Franklin and Dean at Wild Rose Canyon had not lost a steer nor had John James at Lim-

pia Springs, but McRae and Rankin, at Devil’s River, had already lost one hundred and twenty-

five head.

S. Kaufman, of the firm of H. Mayer & Company, engaged in the Santa Fe-Chihuahua trade,

told reporters from the Los Angeles


that Apaches on the San Pedro River had killed Whit-

ney, a partner in the cattle firm of Maddison & Company (sometimes identified as Matson &

Company) and his major domo, Edwards, and wounded one of his drovers. The three men were

bringing a herd of cattle on the Gila Trail. The herd kept on and escaped the Apaches, reaching

the safety of the Colorado River which it crossed via the new Pilot Knob Ferry.

On Christmas Day 1854 the


reprinted a report from the

State Journal

on the immigration

of cattle into California. The last herd of the year crossed the Sierra on October 8, 1854. Earlier in

the year the


had published a tally which it now repeated-via Noble’s Pass, 24,000 head of

cattle; by Beckwith’s Pass, 10,000; via the Gila Trail, 9,000. To these totals the

State Journal


an additional 17,000 head which had entered up to October 8 and came up with a grand total of

60,000 cattle trail-herded to California during the year.

On October 8, 1858, the


stated–that between 8,000 and 10,000 head of cattle were on

the road–”mostly of good quality, all doing well. The bulk of them will have crossed the desert in

about six weeks time.” Almost a year later, on September 9, 1859, the same paper reported a sin-

gle herd totaling 1,000 head (Keener’s train) crossing the Colorado River on one day.

Frederick Law Olmsted in 1856 saw herds of cattle being gathered near San Antonio for the

drive to California. He examined one herd closely and found it amounted to four hundred an-

imals escorted by twenty-five cowboys, mounted on mules. Each man was armed with a rifle

and a Colt revolver. These drovers knew how to use their weapons. When Indians on the Lim-

pia River in 1854 stole three oxen from Michael Erskine’s herd, ten of the cowmen attacked the

encampment of forty to fifty Indians, killed five of them, recovered their stock and captured the

Indians’ ponies.

Only a few of the drovers Olmsted saw were drawing wages. They were, in the main, men

who had been over the route before and who could act as guides. The others were all young fel-

lows intent on “seeing the Elephant.” They were working their way to California in return for

grub and amount. The herd was accompanied by two large wagons and a cart with food, cook-

ing utensils, bedding, and ammunition.

Olmsted wrote in his book,

A JourneyThrough Texas

: “The driving of cattle to California from

Texas, as long as the market prices permit, is likely to be of increasing importance as the hazard

of much loss is small and the profits often large. Four men for a hundred head, where the herd

is a large one, is considered a sufficient number.” The men might be four or six months on the

road and if the California market should be overstocked temporarily, the cattle could be held in

pasture to fatten and to improve their value as prices rose. During the high point of the boom

they cost $14 each around San Antonio and brought up to $100 in California. (But, of course, the