Limiting ourselves to the American West and to the 1800s, what was the longest distance a herd was moved?

Mike Franklin

Poteet, Texas

The longest drives prior to the Civil War were the ones that originated in south Texas during the gold rush days of 1849, when a $2 steer would bring $50 in the gold camps of California. The cows were driven across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and up to the goldfields of the Mother Lode—a distance of nearly 2,000 miles. The drives were subject to Comanche, Kiowa and Apache raids, but if the herders got to their destination with part of the herd, they could still turn a nice profit.

One interesting drive took place in 1853, when Tom Candy Ponting and Washington Malone took some 700 head from Texas and trailed them to Illinois, crossing the Mississippi by ferry in the winter. The following spring, 150 head were driven on to Muncie, Indiana, shipped by rail to New York City and sold at Fourth Avenue and 44th Street. By 1855, the rest of the longhorn beeves reached the Big Apple. One of the herds decided to stampede. It would have rated as a mild run in Texas, but those horns must have looked 10 feet long to New Yorkers. New York newspaper reporters took a dim view of the Texas steers, commenting sourly that they were “barely able to cast a shadow” and “would not weigh anything were it not for their horns.”

Related Articles

  • afro-amer-west

    Fewer Blacks settled in the West than other groups, but they had a distinct and…

  • beststories

    The 20 short stories in this first volume vary from a 1953 Elmore Leonard reprint…

  • hidden-treasures

    The chronicles of Oklahoma’s history are more complete because of these three women: Muriel Wright…