Monday, January 17, 2011

Changes Brought about by the Chisholm Trail

Last week I wrote about Joseph McCoy and his work in the cattle trade.  This week, I thought it might be nice to share some other information about what happened because of the cattle trade on a small and large level.

In addition to McCoy’s businesses opening in Abilene, several other businesses began to be seen throughout Abilene’s cattle town era.  Before McCoy’s arrival, the town had only small log and sod homes, a small hotel, and a saloon operating out of a small dugout.  By 1870 the community had ten boarding houses, eleven saloons, five general stores, and four hotels. The community had grown to accommodate over seventy-five businesses and over three thousand residents.  Most of these businesses found their income from cowboys and cattle traders.  As many as one thousand cowboys were being paid off in a single day during the cattle drive season, and they spent their money quickly in the many businesses that Abilene had to offer.
A view outside Abilene in 1867.  McCoy's hotel, the Drover's Cottage, is the building pictured in the background.  Image courtesy of the Dickinson County Historical Society.
McCoy’s Impact Outside of Abilene

The cattle trail era of Kansas had many positive effects outside of Abilene.  Prior to McCoy starting the cattle trade in Abilene; Texas, as most southern states after the Civil War, was close to bankruptcy.  By the end of the era, Texas sold nearly $150 million in beef throughout the nation.  For the first time ever, the beef industry was a national business.

Several towns in Kansas benefited from the cattle drives as well.  The six major cattle towns of the era were Abilene, Ellsworth, Newton, Wichita, Caldwell, and Dodge City.  Many other Kansas towns shipped cattle as well though.

Also, due to the Kansas cattle drives, the Kansas City Stockyards were established in 1868.  After the establishment of these stockyards, the packing industry moved to Kansas City.  After the development of refrigerated cars, the entire nation was able to have beef shipped to them.

Probably the biggest impact of the cattle drives to Kansas is the image of the cowboy.  After the success of the Kansas cattle drives, the cowboy became part of the American cultural lexicon.  The image of a man riding a horse, with a large hat, boots, and a six-shooter by his side is something that everyone thinks of when they hear the word "cowboy."  If it was not for the Kansas cattle drives that McCoy started, there is a chance that this image would not be as tremendous as it is in our American heritage.

No comments:

Post a Comment