Texas Cattle Trade in Omaha

Soon after the end of the Civil War, Texas cattle began making their way north to Omaha. At first, the herds were 500 strong but by 1875 a herd of 4000 was fairly common.

1967 Postcard advertising longhorns in Nebraska (RG5730.PH0-000116)

“The Texas cattle trade has increased wonderfully in Nebraska within the past three or four years,” said the August 7, 1875, Omaha Daily Bee, “and this morning a reporter of the Bee took occasion to interview Captain [Eugene] Millet and D. R. Fant-two well-known Texas cattle men, who make their headquarters in Omaha-with a view of obtaining some facts which would prove of general interest to a large number of our readers.”

The Bee went on to summarize the history of the Texas cattle trade:

The business of buying cattle in Texas and bringing them north began in ’66, soon after the close of the war. The cattle are usually contracted for in the month of August, and are continued to be bought up and selected all through the winter. The herds are started north in February and March, the trip to Nebraska taking about three months. The route begins at San Antonio, Texas, and runs in a northwesterly direction, crossing the Red River, passing along the Texas frontier, thence to Fort Sill through the Indian Territory. Fort Larned, on the Arkansas river, is the next objective point, thence to Buffalo Station on the Kansas Pacific, and thence to the Union Pacific railroad, which is reached in nine days from Buffalo station. . . .

When this cattle-driving business first began, 500 was thought to constitute an immense herd, but now 2,500 to 4,000 are brought up at a time. For a herd of 2,500 cattle, about eleven men-one of whom is the ‘boss,’ and another a cook, and the remainder drivers-are employed. There are two day reliefs and three night reliefs, and watchers keep a sharp lookout on the cattle all the time till they are sold. No dogs are employed, as it takes them too long to become accustomed to the cattle.

Five grades of cattle-one, two and three year-olds, and cow and steers-are purchased, at an average cost of $6.00 per head, and they are sold at an average $12.50 apiece, making a very handsome profit. The main object is to curtail expenses and to make quick sales. This year has been an excellent one for the cattle-men. They have made considerable money, and they have come to regard the business as safe and profitable.

The Bee concluded: “The leading cattle men think that Omaha ought to have enterprise enough to put up stock yards here, and will build up a cattle business. They are of the opinion that Omaha could thus in a short time secure a trade equal to that of Kansas City, which, by the way is falling off considerably. . . . The dealers now make Omaha their headquarters, and are in hopes that some one will take hold and give them stock yard accommodations, which would greatly benefit them and the city.”

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