PDF The Kansas-Colorado Line: Homesteading Tales of Several Families

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The frontier stores were cluttered and dirty, with cuspidors which never seemed quite large enough for the expectorator who lacked pride in his accomplishment. To the feminine customers with their voluminous sweeping garments, this condition created a problem in sanitation. They were ever on the watch for some movement, whether it be the stirring of the branches of a tree by a breeze, a fitful whirlwind, the running of a dog, the slamming of a door, or anything of like nature that would provide a new topic for discussion.

The arrival of a stage or the passing of an emigrant party down the trail brought out the whole populace to find out who was aboard, whence they came, and whither bound, eager for any bit of rehashed or revised news from some other point. Eastbound travelers brought news of some late Indian depredation, and those who were westbound brought word of some more or less recent happening of the war which was then in progress. The winters were largely open and agreeable, but there were frequent bleak winds and occasional blizzards.

The hunting expeditions after buffalo, antelope, wild turkey, and prairie chicken served the double purpose of providing a diversion and filling the family larder.

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The Kansas Pacific was extended west from Junction City early in the spring of McCoy bought a location east of the original townsite of Abilene for the location of his Drovers Cottage and the Great Western stockyards. An east-west street running parallel to the railroad and about a block south of it was named Texas street.

Around this intersection of Texas and Cedar streets was built the Texan Abilene that has been made the theme of many a Western "thriller. A short street extending east from Cedar street and facing the railroad was called "A" street. East was Shane and Henry's realestate office, [20] and Drovers Cottage. For two years the only semblance of a depot was a rough plank platform along the railroad right of way. In , after being given town property as compensation the railroad company constructed a station house twelve feet by fourteen feet,21 with a four-foot by six-foot passenger waiting room.

On the north side of the Kansas Pacific right of way opposite Drovers Cottage was the office of the Great Western stockyards. West of it were Ed Gaylord's Twin Livery stables. The only other buildings north of the railroad and east of the creek were a colony of about twenty rambling frame structures, each containing from ten to fifteen rooms, located about a mile north of the tracks.

These were the dance halls and the brothel houses where the "soiled dove" of the cattle trade catered to the lusts of the drovers, cowboys, gamblers, and gunmen who congregated during the summers at Abilene. Drovers Cottage was the largest of the first business houses built. It was a three-story frame structure with about rooms, a laundry, a dining room, and a broad veranda along the front. During the height of a season many former "Yanks" and "Johnny Rebs" formed new friendships and sealed many business deals with iced drinks.

The Alamo was the most elaborate of the saloons, and a description of it will give an idea of the plan of them all. It was housed in a long room with a forty-foot frontage on Cedar street, facing the west. There was an entrance at either end.


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At the west entrance were three double glass doors. Inside and along the front of the south side was the bar with its array of carefully polished brass fixtures and rails. From the back bar arose a large mirror, which reflected the brightly sealed bottles of liquor. At various places over the walls were huge paintings in cheaply done imitations of the nude masterpieces of the venetian Renaissance painters.

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Covering the entire floor space were gaming tables, at which practically any game of chance could be indulged. The Alamo boasted an orchestra, which played forenoons, afternoons, and nights. At night the noises that were emitted from them were a combination of badly rendered popular music, coarse voices, ribald laughter and Texan "whoops," punctuated at times by gun shots. McInerny's boot and saddle shop on Texas street employed as many as twelve or fifteen men at all times in the hand manufacture of saddles and boots, together with other articles of leather demanded by the cattle trade.

The city jail was the first stone building to be constructed in the city. At one time during its construction a band of cowboys rode in from their camps and demolished it. It was rebuilt under a guard. The people of Abilene were of several well-defined types. First, there were the residents who stayed the year round.

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These included the business men, small-scale cattle buyers with their families, unmarried young men who had come to Abilene with varying means, hoping to improve their fortunes by some legitimate stroke of luck or business. With few exceptions these were people of the highest type who protested the carnival of crime and immorality brought by the Texans and bad characters who followed them to Abilene. The larger part of the population in the summers was made up of the transient or seasonal type, consisting of speculators, commission men, cattle buyers, drovers, gamblers, prostitutes, and cowboys who came in the spring with the arrival of the first herds and dispersed in the fall to the larger cities and their homes in Texas.

There also was the occasional terminus outlaw who drifted in unannounced from some mysterious place and on an unknown errand, stayed awhile, and left "between suns" following a. The speculators, commission men and cattle buyers could be seen riding toward the prairies to inspect a newly arrived herd, at the yards looking over some cattle yarded and ready for shipment, on the veranda of the hotel, the platform of the railroad, or at the bar of a saloon, talking intently with some prospective vendor or customer.

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The Texan drovers themselves were of three classes. There were the aristocratic Southerners who had been or whose ancestors had been slave owners. They came north by river and rail ahead of their herds and lived a life of ease and conviviality at Drovers Cottage. As a class they were candid and outspoken but at the same time sensitive. In money matters they were flush and free-spending, but at the same time were cautious and suspicious, and drove hard bargains with cattle buyers.

They were boisterous and profane, but also courteous and accommodating. They proclaimed to the world that "my word is as good as my bond," and proceeded to follow this maxim rather closely in their business dealings. Another class of drovers to be found in Abilene during the summer was the class exemplified by the quiet, unassuming cattleman of smaller means who did not put on the display that his aristocratic compatriot did.

They were not so inclined to be talkative, were more cautious, but did their business in a fair manner. As a rule they did not take part in the excesses offered in the questionable enterprises of Texas street as did their peers, and quite often their wives met them in Abilene later in the summer, coming by railroad. A third type of drovers was those who had come to that station from various other callings. Some had been successful cowboys, legitimate and otherwise.

Some were drovers for a season only. Others divulged very little about their past, and nobody ventured to press the point. This was the unruly group. They were the "gun toters" who set examples and encouraged the common cowboys in their riots of lawlessness.

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The American cowboy has been dealt with from divergent angles. He has been the hero and the villain in both cheap and classic fiction, in song and in legend, in drama and in cinema. Too much glamour has been thrown about him. He was not the hero of the burlesque stage nor was he the drunken fighting terror of the dime novel.

He was nothing more nor less than the average Westerner who fitted himself to the traits his life and business demanded. The cowboy at the end of the northern drive was a distinct type, however. His routine on the range made an exacting demand on his powers of endurance. It meant that he might have to spend the larger part of a year without the comforts of a bed to rest from his labor or a roof over his head for protection from the elements. Much of his time was spent in the saddle, sometimes as much as two or three days at a time.

When the herd was loaded or sold and he had drawn his pay he was ready to "open up. This latter article alone sometimes cost as much as seventy-five dollars. He removed the grime of the trail, visited a barber shop, then donned his new accoutrements which included his guns, before the day of Tom Smith , and he was ready to begin his relaxation and vacation period. The institutions on Texas street catered to his worst passions. The saloons, gambling houses, dance halls, and houses of ill-fame flourished and thrived on his kind. He might become hilariously drunk, often becoming involved in a quarrel over money, a girl, or some matter deferred on the trip up the Chisholm trail '12 and it all too frequently ended in gunplay.


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In this condition the Texas cowboy was a dangerous character to meet. Edwards, a pioneer who lived in Abilene during the cattle trade, says:. His intoxicated condition made him easy prey for the purveyors of sin, and in many instances within a week his entire substance was gone, and he was ready to return to his work on the plains.