McCoy's approach to marketing cattle on the Kansas
plains in Abilene, as opposed to marketing in the
urban center of St. Louis,
transformed a fragmented cattle business into the national industry that it is
Joseph G. McCoy, 1867. Photo courtesy Dickinson County Historical Society
Joseph McCoy arrived on the Kansas
prairie looking for a suitable location to build stockyards. After being turned
down in Junction City, Solomon and Salina he turned his attention to the small community of Abilene. His first
impression of Abilene
was that it was a very small dead place, consisting of about a dozen log
huts. Within a few years, McCoy transformed Abilene into a thriving community.
War Texas was
nearly bankrupt. However, there were millions of head of beef roaming the
plains of Texas.
McCoy developed a plan to get the Texas
cattle to the northern markets.
months McCoy negotiated with the railroad to construct a 100-car sidetrack for
loading cattle at Abilene.
He had lumber shipped in to construct the Great Western Stockyards and the
Drovers Cottage Hotel. Because of a quarantine against Texas cattle he negotiated an agreement with
Governor Samuel Crawford to allow the cattle within the boundaries of the
riders into the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to
spread the word that a new market was open for the Texas cattle. The route from present day Wichita to Abilene had to be
surveyed and marked.By late August
everything was in place as the first cattle herds came to Abilene.
Abilene, Kansas "in its glory" as it is depicted in this lithograph. Photo courtesy Dickinson County Historical Society.
In 1867, 35,000 head of cattle were driven to Abilene. The drovers were so impressed with
the new market that the word spread across Texas, bringing more herds up the trail.
During the next four years over 1.3 million head of cattle were driven up the
cattle trail that became known as the Chisholm Trail. The results of the cattle trail era
were many. Texas
sold nearly $150,000,000 of beef to the nation. The beef industry became a
national business. The nation was able to get good beef at a fair price. Many
towns in Kansas
benefited from the cattle drives. The six major towns were Abilene,
Ellsworth, Newton, Wichita,
Caldwell and Dodge City. Virtually every town with a
railroad shipped varying numbers of cattle.
industry spread to Wyoming and Montana. Cattle driven
up the Chisholm Trail and the Western Trail to
the northwest included breeding stock for ranches in the new territories. The
Kansas City Stockyards and the packing industry began as a result of the cattle
drives to Kansas.
The Great Western Stockyards, Abilene,1867. Photo courtesy of the
Dickinson County Historical Society.
American icon, the American Cowboy was born from the cattle drive era.
The image of a man wearing a ten gallon hat, a six-shooter, chaps, cowboy boots
and spurs came from this era. Joseph McCoy and his cattle market at Abilene put Kansas
on the national and international maps.
McCoy's idea shaped the beef industry of a nation. Joseph McCoy also wrote a book, Historic
Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, published in
1874.It is probably the most important
reference on the cattle business of the time. It is the foundation for anything
written about the cattle drive era.
Source:Jeff Sheets' nomination and Jim Gray.
INTEREST ABOUT JOSEPH McCOY IN KANSAS
HeritageCenter of DickinsonCounty,
412 S. Campbell. 785.263.2681.
Open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m. Find a small display about McCoy at
present. A new one will soon be
McCoy is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery, 1000 N. Hillside. 316.682.4821.