Edwards, the most reliable of Abilene? Gross was an old man at the time of this letter and can be excused for taking more credit to himself than was his due when he says that he helped to stake out the trail to Abilene. As will be shown, he had nothing to do with it. He had already discovered that he was going to get little of the promised co-operation from the Kansas Pacific. They gave him a twenty-car siding, altogether inadequate. The summer was almost gone before he prevailed on the company to in crease it to a capacity of a hundred cars.
In its peak years Abilene had three miles of siding. Loading as many as three thousand head a day became a common place. At Leavenworth the company did nothing about in stalling the necessary transfer and feed yards until he had the plans made at his expense and hired and paid a man to superintend their construction. He was spending thousands of dollars, and the three- story hotel of a hundred twenty rooms he was building was taking a good share of it.
This was to be the famous Drovers' Cottage. He could have given it a name more to the liking of Texas men, but, being from Illinois, which in that day was considered "East," he continued to use the word. As he visualized it, it was to be the finest hotel on the plains, stocked with imported wines and liquor, the choicest Havana cigars, and food equal to the best to be found in St.
It was to be furnished in style, and managed by an experienced hotel man. It was a dream that was to be realized. In the meantime everything was going out and nothing coming in. He doesn't say so, but it could have been his need of money that took him on a quick trip back to Springfield. If so, he got it. Equally fortuitous for Kansas was his becoming acquainted with Theodore C. Henry, a young man of twenty-six Stuart Henry's elder brother, studying law in Springfield. Apparently a strong friendship sprang up between them at once.
Farm-raised, they had much in common. McCoy spoke glowingly of the oppor tunities he saw opening up in Kansas. Land was cheap. People were sure to follow the railroad into almost virgin country. Speculating in land values would net a snug fortune in a few years. Seeing that Henry was interested, he soon persuaded him to give up the law, gather up what money he could, and come west with him.
That fall, T. He had made a momentous decision. Ten years later he was being hailed as the " Wheat King of Kansas. He was further pleased to learn that word of the market opening there had seeped into North Texas and that other herds were driving north. With the flare of showmanship that he exhibited on numerous occasions, he arranged an excursion of stockmen, dealers, and buy ers from Springfield to celebrate the arrival of the first herd.
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The Drovers' Cottage wouldn't be available for months, but he had several large tents set up in which to entertain, wine, and dine his guests. Though it had been such a wet year that the grass had turned soft and rank and range cattle had not done well on it, the fifteen hundred head of Longhorns that reached Abilene were in fairly good condition.
Wheeler and his partners, Wilson and Hicks, Cali- fornians, and en route to the Pacific Coast, were within thirty miles of Abilene, where they were being held to recuperate. When the owners learned that they could dis pose of their cattle as profitably in Kansas as in Cali fornia, they drove into Abilene. McCoy says: "It was really the first herd that came up from Texas, and broke the trail, followed by the other herds. The rains had ruined the corn crop in the Midwest, making it unprofitable to fatten cattle.
In the East, the story that Texas cattle were diseased and not fit to eat was widely circulated by parties having a selfish interest in keeping them off the market. But the canard soon died ; the public soon learned that fat Texas beef was as good as any other and much cheaper.
When the season was over, thirty five thousand head of cattle had been shipped from Abilene. Of the con siderably more than a thousand cars that carried them away, all but seventeen went over the Hannibal and St.
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Joe ; the Missouri Pacific got the rest. With the success of the venture now an assured fact, an agent of the Missouri Pacific appeared in Abilene to solicit business. McCoy had not forgotten how he had been received by the president of the road that spring, in St. He no longer needed the Missouri Pacific, and he tells with glee how he informed the agent that "it just occurred to him that he had no cattle for his road, never had, and there was no evidence that he ever would have, and would he please say so to his President.
And it was only the beginning. Before he was through, he was to see upwards of a million head of Longhorns proddfed into the stock cars of the Kansas Pacific, Even in that abbreviated season of '67 half a million Yankee dollars changed hands in Abilene.
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A few months ago there had been nothing there but the empty prairie and a score of log huts. It made it all the more remarkable. Most of the money was carried back to Texas, where the news spread like wildfire in the greatest word-of-mouth advertising campaign a cattle market ever enjoyed. Only the cowboys were disgruntled. There was no fun in Abilene no girls, no dance halls, no games of chance, just third-rate whiskey.
But the tales sweeping Texas were heard in other quarters, in Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, and were of particular interest to the migratory underworld of thugs and sharpers, gamblers and prostitutes that was always ready to move in where the pickings promised to be rich.gertnajudcio.ga
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Almost unnoticed, Abilene was growing. It now had a population of a hundred adults. New buildings were going up. Henry began building a frame house, to have plastered walls, the first in town. He was doing well and it had become a familiar sight to see him driving prospective clients over the prairies.
Stores were built on what had the semblance of becoming a business street. It had no name, but it was soon to win one of horrendous reputation Texas Street.
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Into the tiny building housing the post office were crowded the courtroom and office of the register of deeds. McCoy pushed work on the Drovers' Cottage.
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It was finished and furnished that fall, but not opened until just before the season of began. Gore, the steward of the St. Nicholas Hotel in St. He met Gore and his wife, Louisa, early in '68 in the Mound City and they made so favorable an impression that he engaged them at once. After spending several days making a list of the thousand and one items, everything from basic flour and coffee to fancy canned Baltimore oysters and an assortment of fine French wines and brandies and the best Kentucky bourbon, the Gores went on a buying spree that lasted for a month.
Several carloads of supplies were shipped to the Cottage. There was no trained help there, so a staff had to be recruited in St. It took time, and it was early June before the Gores arrived in Abilene. Though McCoy made many mistakes in his business dealings, ending up with nothing, he made no mistake in hiring Lou Gore, for she, rather than her husband, became the guiding genius of the Drovers' Cottage, respected and admired by the whole fraternity of cattlemen and winning for the Cottage a reputation that went unrivaled until the last herd rumbled into Abilene.
In early April the town got its first warning of what '68 was to bring.
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Every train from the east brought little groups of hard-faced men, saloonkeepers and gamblers, pimps, brothel keepers, and assorted undesirables. Piles of building supplies were deposited beside the Kansas Pacific tracks. Cheek by jowl on the street where 'the Seely store and the post office were located, flimsy structures began to take shape.
Carpenters could command their own wages. Day and night, Sundays included, the sawing and hammering went on. Jake Karatof sky, the enterprising and peripatetic Rus sian Jew, put together his Great Western general store. The names that appeared on the saloons and shops had a strong Texan flavor.
Midway of the short half block the Alamo Saloon was erected. It could be called ornate, the time and place considered. In the compara tively short life of Abilene as a cow town, its elegance and glitter were never surpassed. Beyond the Alamo, to the south, and in back of the saloons, a number of ten-by-twelve cribs were knocked together, crude, unpainted shanties, in which the little army of harlots, converging on Abilene from as far away as New Orleans, were to ply their ancient trade. They soon outgrew their cramped quarters and the red-light district was moved north of town, where a number of one-story frame houses of twenty to twenty-five rooms were built.
This was uncomfortably near the McCoy residence.