A Good Place to Get a Start

      IN THIS ARTICLE, COUNTY SEAT WAR, A YOUTH COMES TO THE West and engages in a different kind of work that takes him into Mexico and brings him back riding the Western Trail, driving a herd of horses. While the horse trade was not so well publicized as the cattle and buffalo trade, it was also a thriving business. William M. Heirgood, La Junta, Colorado, engineer for the Santa Fe, recuperating from a recent illness in the Santa Fe Hospital at La junta, recalls the times when he was a night horse-wrangler and a hired "rooter" for Hartland during the county seat fight, as told to Ida Ellen (Cox) Rath, and published by the Dodge City Globe, March 26, 1934.

At the time I was seventeen, I lived in Dayton, Ohio, but I wanted to come west. I had been reading about the western country and two boys came back east saying business was looking up, there was plenty of work, and they thought it was a good place to get a start.
I was a motherless boy and had lived in the city awhile and then on a farm. I tried to work on a farm and go to school, never getting there until ten. Working conditions were hard those days. Wages were as low as twelve dollars a month. This talk of shorter hours reminds me of the long hours a farm hand used to put in for a day. It was nothing for me to be up from midnight until nine o'clock at night. There was breakfast between four and five o'clock and lunch in the afternoon at three-thirty to tide us over until late supper. Farmers had lots of chores to do and the hired hand was required to help with them besides doing his day's work, all for the big sum of forty cents a day. Those were the days when a fellow surely earned his night's rest even though he was sometimes too tired to enjoy it.
I decided to come west and January 8, 1881, I stopped at Hutchinson, Kansas, and a few days later came on to Dodge City. Shortly after my arrival I went back to Hutchinson in an effort to locate an uncle whom I afterwards located in San Antonio, Texas, after a four year search. The trip to Hutchin-


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son though proved worthwhile for I got in town in the afternoon, met Charles Collins, and by night I was on my way to Old Mexico, a place I hadn't even thought of going.
Charles Collins was a cattle buyer and a government inspector for cattle purchased for food for the Indians. At this time he was going to buy horses to trail back through the states, selling them as opportunity presented itself. It proved to be a glamorous, gay trail ride for me, with plenty of work though, for I was a night horse-wrangler.
We bought unbroken horses of ranchmen for $4. a head and broke horses for $7. or perhaps I should say the buyer who had preceded us bought them. We started out with 300 head about sixty miles of Chihuahua, crossed the Rio Grande at El Paso, Texas, where we paid the United States a duty of $1. a head and headed north. As we went along, we sold horses, one here and several there, as we rode the Western Trail into Dodge City and at last we came to Lincoln, Nebraska, with fifty-six head still on our hands, but luck was with us for one man took them all. The horses sold for $45. to $65. a head and where we could match teams, we received as high as $75., and the horses were unbroken just as we had bought them. We had started out the sixth day of April with the herd and so sold out the last of the horses the 28th day of July.
We went right back to Chihuahua and came back with 190 head. These were a much better grade than the others and were well matched, the buyer having been notified that a better grade of horses was needed. For these he probably paid only $7. a head. I liked the work and the excitement. We had a chuck wagon and a Jap cook-food was plentiful and good. I got $25. a month. This time Collins traded some of the horses for land and sold the rest to a New York firm, the horses to be re-sold for dray and delivery work.
This drive ended my days in Kansas for about eight years. I worked for Collins through the next six years. His ranch house was in Texas and his range was in Old Mexico. When he sold out, I went to Mexico and later to Las Vegas where I worked for the Keckel (J. M.) Bros., cattlemen well known throughout the country. I received $35. a month with everything furnished, including a string of six or seven horses. A cowboy, however, always kept one horse of his own which he did not use on the range.

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I never took a claim but I bought a pre-emption four miles east of Garden City. I expected to make a home there but later sold out. Lakin, Hartland, and Chantilla, which was six miles north of Garden City and now a ghost town, were having a little fun at the time and some serious moments as well, about the matter of where the county seat should be. I hired out to a group to help them in this little enterprise, for the excitement and a money consideration I got my room and board and wages for a year. Of course I had other duties to perform so I was pretty busy most of the time. The group I worked for tried to keep clear of the law and the cowboys were used mostly for voting purposes.
Hartland was determined to get the county records which were then in Lakin. A man, named Pearce, at Chantilla, and his hired gang made things lively for us at times. Pearce had a lot of cattle and was well fixed. His house set near the stockyards at Lakin. Always Pearce rode with his men. The county seat fight broke the man but our gang didn't care for we got the county seat records to hold anything until the next election for in the meantime possession was nine points according to law.
Cap Leman was my boss. It was thrilling, backing up to the court house in Lakin, taking the books, galloping away to Hartland, and stopping at the Leland Hotel to turn the records over to the future custodians. The old Leland Hotel is still standing just south of the tracks in Hartland and is now known as the Diamond Hotel. Our gang consisted of Frank Lence, Warrace Pierce, Bill Smith, Bill Jay, and myself. The Lakin group were "I Bar" Johnson, Jack Tully, Jim Murphy, Frank McCallister, Ira Duckworth, and Joe Duckworth, sheriff. I wasn't so well acquainted with the Pearce men but I remember the names of two of them, Brad Biolan and Joe Boyd. Some men even came from as far as Syracuse, stayed thirty days, and voted, and finally Hartland got the county seat settled there by the greatest number of votes.
I started working for the Santa Fe in 1891. In the meantime, I had married while working for the Keckel Brothers. I was in the Indian Territory awhile, in the Cheyenne, Arapaho country, and later I worked in the ice plant in Garden City and also at the water works.
So I have had a varied life, excitement, travel, staid employment, and lastly pleasant work with Santa Fe. My run is

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engineer on Numbers 2 and 3 from La junta to Dodge City and back. In my time I have met a good many people; some were drifters like myself, some were out principally to make more money, and others were leading a fast life, but in the main most of the people seemed to be a pretty sensible lot.

      Henry Mueller, son of the early-day shoemaker, tells some of his experiences as he was growing up, to Ida Ellen and Robert M. Rath, when visiting in the Rath home, in September, 1946. Henry thinks the incident that follows happened in 1876, when he was barely past two years old.

"A calf was bawling for its mother, I got a lump of sugar from my mother, intending to give it to the calf to stop its bawling. The calf was staked behind the shoe and butcher shop. Instead of taking the sugar, the calf says, `bawll-ll' and jumped over me, winding the rope around me, throwing me to the ground, and leaving his hoof prints all over my chest. My mother came running, rolling and flirting her apron to scare the calf off me. Soon men came running and cut the rope. By that time my father came and was he mad? He rolled his great leather apron as he took it off and started for the butcher shop where Martin owned the calf, and he was swearing and crying out to him, `Get your calf out of my yard for he's about killed my kid, my little Henry.' "
Henry continued, "I was six years old and we still lived in the back of father's shoeshop which was on Front Street. I saw older boys place pins on the Santa Fe tracks, watch the trains run over them, then run to get the flattened pins. So when father wasn't looking, I got some old boot heels he had taken from boots he was repairing. I scooted across the street and placed them on the tracks, and sat down close by to watch the train run over them. But Father had caught me at the trick and he set out after Bat Masterson who was sheriff. He persuaded him to take after me and threaten to put me in jail. Well, I never forgot that lesson." Then he pointed toward Bob, saying you were maybe six or seven when this happened and I was probably nine. "You cycled up to our house on your red tricycle and brought the horn you got for Christmas along, saying you had heard I had a drum for Christmas and you wanted to see it. Then you wanted to play the drum but I was cautious as most young Germans were and said, `If you will let me toot your horn,

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I'll let you play my drum." You agreed and parked your tricycle. I'll never forget that time you marched ahead, with your little red jockey cap on your head, and played the drum with both sticks, and I followed after you tooting with all the breath I had on your horn. We marched round and around the block, until we tired out. You took your horn and got on your tricycle and started home. I took up my drum, and pounding with all the strength I had, started for our house when PANG -the drumstick went through the head of the drum. I was in a great rage, telling my parents I had just tried to play the drum like Bob did."

      Then Henry Mueller mentioned the Spotted Tail story, asking Bob, "Did you know why Spotted Tail came to Dodge?" Warily Robert and I exchanged glances, we had been wanting to hear what other people knew about the Sioux chief's coming. Henry went on, "Father said Spotted Tail came to warn your father about putting in a base for supplies at Adobe Walls. Did you know that?" Then Robert explained that we were glad to hear his version of the visit for that was the same reason his family gave for the Indian chief's coming.

      The two men talked about when Bob was janitor at the Presbyterian church when he was about 15 years of age. The church was to the north on the same lot it is now and the preacher's house was to the south of the lot. Mr. Rink at Ford preached and so did Harry Markley. Robert Rath said, "I went down and rang the bell at 9:15 in the morning and built the fire, then rushed home and changed clothes, and was back again to ring the bell at 10:45. I swept every Saturday afternoon. It took one hour and I got $1.00. After the Christmas program, it took all afternoon. I rang two bells for prayer meeting on Thursday. I was supposed to stick around and turn out the lights and shut up the building. One night, Harry Taylor and I were somewhere and didn't get in until midnight. We came past the church. As we came around the corner, Harry said, `My God, lit up like a horse.' And it was, nobody had snapped out the lights nor shut the door."

      After hearing the men mention an ice cream social which didn't turn out too well, I asked my husband, Robert M. Rath to tell about it.

"Our teacher probably suggested it," he said, "but how we boys did work. The main ones who did most of the work in the Sunday school class were Merritt Beeson,

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Jamie and George King, and I. Our teacher made it seem so important to give some money to send to missionaries that we felt it was really up to us to really do something. Always full of gab, Merritt and I as leaders and the King twins as helpers were quite some kids. Guess all of us were around eleven and twelve years old. The church was right where the Presbyterian church now stands but the ice cream social was to be held down there in the City Hall, where Cave's automobile agency is. Pettijohn and Jacoby, who belonged to the Presbyterian church, were in the United States Land Office building, on the upper floor, also Milliken, and they let us have the room for the social. It was announced in the church and in the paper. We bought ten gallons of ice cream from Gwinner's. They let us have it and we were to pay for it. Our mothers baked cakes and we gathered them up. We got there early and a few people came up and we sold them ice cream. Then it started raining at six and how it did rain. And there we stayed while the rain kept pouring down until it was too late for people to come to the social. How terribly disappointed we were. What a dejected bunch we were. Pretty darned bad blow for a bunch like us. All we could think about was that the social would have gone off in great style and we would have made a lot of money for our class if the old rain hadn't interfered."

      At any gathering, the men would tell about their troubles getting away from home when they were boys. Robert Rath's tale is typical. "Mother would say-You can't get out of the yard today--this on a Saturday and I'd have a ball game planned. I'd wait so long and bing I'd go over that back fence in time to get to the ball game. Maybe I'd get licked and maybe she'd forget it. I never told her we were having a ball game because I would have been sure then that she would have kept me in."

      Each year at the old settler's Reunion, old timers came back to Dodge City to relive the days of their youth. Henry Mueller was one and he always wanted to go to Beeson Museum for an evening of reminiscing, the author and her husband, Robert M. Rath accompanied them. What an evening of laughter and fun and tales retold, for fun-loving youngsters in those early days bade conscience "be still" as they played pranks which probably out-smarted the Front Street jokesters. All were stories worth re-telling but one stands out in the author's mind as one

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to be re-told for it has a moral. Several boys were hiding in the Rath woodshed, on the lot where the Lora Locke now stands. Peeking through a crack between boards, westward, they saw two colored men drive up in a wagon. After tying the team, they covered something in the back of the wagon very carefully with hay. The boys waited until the men were out of sight then darted out to see what they would find. It was a number of cases of pop. Well, they started lugging those bottles of pop to the woodshed. There they must hide them, so the boys moved the stacked sticks of wood from the wall and piled the pop behind them. Each day, the boys returned and drank hot pop, carefully placing the empty bottle behind the stacked wood. When the pop was all gone, the boys decided to sell the bottles. Waiting until Mrs. Rath and Bob's sister Bertha were away from home, they loaded the empty bottles into Bob's express wagon, building up the sides with boards. Then the trio set off down Military Avenue and finally wound around to the river where a man bought pop bottles and other junk. Sweaty and fully ready to pocket the money, they offered the bottles to the man. He carefully counted the bottles and stored them in his bin, then asked the boys where they got the bottles.

      "They had been drinking pop."

      "Not that much boy," the man said, "You've stolen these bottles. Now you take that wagon and get out of here before I call the sheriff."

Childhood Memories of Pioneer Days, by Ida Ellen Rath.

      I remember my father filed on a claim near Burrton. We lived in a dugout, edged into the side of a hill, its door in the west toward the setting sun, on ground level. The walls were laid-up sod, and the floor tramped clay. The roof supports and framework were cottonwood logs, finished with a layer of cane stalks, then a layer of sod, grass side up. Breast-high, around the one long room, was a wide earth shelf.

      On this shelf lay bed springs and mattresses, one might say, under the eaves of the house. There I must have slept peacefully, for I do not remember otherwise. Thinking back, I wonder how I could have. Daytimes, looking up at the ceiling, it was not uncommon to see a snake gliding among the stalks of cane. Sometimes a black tongue darted out in defiance at being thus closely inspected. All too often for our well-being,

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the startling buzz of a rattler sounded at the ground level of the sloping roof. Once one dropped from the ceiling hitting the raised lid of a trunk, my mother's head below it. Then happened quickly the thrill of a lifetime--our dog Shep streaked in, grabbing the rattler and shaking the living daylights out of it. There were other things too in our dugout home that could have frightened a child.

      Long, slim milk-snakes clung to the walls, supposedly keeping down mice and spiders. Toads squatted here and there on the earthen shelves, flicking tongues out at passing flies. Mosquitoes buzzed in and out at their pleasure. When the rains came, puppy-dogs crawled up the rain-wet window panes. The chickens and the pigs we drove from our door. We lived with all these threats and yet we were happy and thought everything was wonderful.

      Mother did little complaining but the day a bird flew in the door and fluttered around near the ceiling, she broke down and cried, covering her eyes with her apron. My sister and I promptly chased the bird right out again with a broom and a cottonwood switch. By that time mother was herself and explained an old saying--a bird in the house, a death in the family had caused her fright. Never will I forget my childish delight knowing there were 160 acres of land! We watched-out for snakes, especially the rattlers. We killed the fat sand snakes, longer than we were tall, with a hoe and were scolded later by papa who said snakes earned their living by killing varmints which destroyed the crops and vegetables. Lizards, sand swifts, huge spiders, buzzards, coyotes-we accepted all these could-be scare things with the nonchalance of a child, the secret delight when fear chills crept up our backs. Every acre of this claim was wonderful. But the West Forty where the sweet potatoes and peanuts grew and the East Forty where the watermelons and the muskmelons attained great sizes and wondrous sweetness, were a child's delight. We followed the trails that led around the sandhills and clay-bottomed ponds to reach these fields. Shep bounded ahead, startling the bonny cotton-tails and big jackrabbits. We found eggs the water snakes laid by the side of the pond and once we saw newly born rattle snakes. We found birds' nests in the willows and quails in the grass and watched

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for mud-hens, wild ducks and geese. We gloried in the Eagle of old Bald Knob our highest sand hill, who soared majestically above us and sometimes alighted in a cottonwood tree in the clump on the hill.

      The sandhills were covered with wild plum bushes, snowy white with bloom in the spring, green leaves, green plums, and later tangy red-ripe plums. We picked them by the bushel and papa sold them by the wagon load, hauling them to all the nearby towns. He also sold watermelons, muskmelons, tomatoes, and peanuts. Peanut vines were gathered and stacked like haystacks in the fall. Cold winter nights, papa brought in the vines and all of us picked peanuts off the vines. The vines furnished bedding and hay for the stock. Later we shelled peanuts for seed. We sorted out small sweet-potatoes to bed out in the spring for plants. It was work but mama sat nearby rocking the baby and papa always had good stories to tell and sometimes we sang songs or one of us read from Home Comfort magazine or the Bible. It was real family life; its closeness, one never forgets.

      There were ponds everywhere for wading and one we stocked with catfish. Shifting sand dunes were covered with star shaped white flowers and craggy knolls bristled with the stately yucca, weeds to us, with its waxen, bell-like blooms on a long stalk. And on this claim, every cow, every calf, the mules and horses, the pigs, dogs, cats, the eagle and the chickens, each and every one, had a name. I remember them all with a clarity and real personal feeling as I never have animals at other places. They were definitely a part of this early day experience.

      So was the weather. The winds blew and the sun beat down on our heads and the hot sands burned our bare feet. The snows of winter were deep and the weather was bitterly cold, more so than our winters are now. However, no matter what came our way, we accepted it all for we were a family; it was our claim and Kansas was our state.

      These experiences were typical of any homesteading community. No family ever had enough chairs for the family and guests. The bed held the wraps and its edge seated the extras. The cellar was the space under the bed, concealed by the big bedspread, which was raised like a cellar door when one wanted to stash something under the bed. Sundays when any

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number of families might accompany the family home from church, especially if it was summer, the farmer would obligingly take the spring seat from his wagon and place it on the ground near the house to be used for a seat. No woman of the house ever seemed to be embarrassed. Wasn't everybody in the same boat?

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Dodge City History