Tag: The West

Big Bluestem
The Sunflower State

Big Bluestem

Big BluestemBig bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) is one of the most iconic plants of the tallgrass prairie. Its sturdy, upright stems are usually covered with a blue, waxy coating, giving it its name. These stems grow in clumps and vary dramatically in height depending on the environment. Big bluestem can be a modest three feet tall, but it can also reach an amazing nine feet in height. The scale of the stems pale in comparison to the root system, however, which may probe as deep as 13 feet below the surface of the ground! Read More

El Cuartelejo: Rediscovery
The Sunflower State

El Cuartelejo: Rediscovery

El Cuartelejo: RediscoveryArchaeologists have determined that the ultimate cause of El Cuartelejo’s demise was fire, as testified by the remains of charred posts and corn seeds. The Comanches who later took up residence near the pueblo had a legend that the ruins were struck by lightning.

In any case, for the next hundred years, the walls slowly crumbled and vanished, leaving the pueblo to be buried in a grave of blowing soil. The location was eventually forgotten.

 

Enter the Steele Family

The Steele family arrived in 1888. They did not discover the fascinating history of their new homestead right away, but sometime in the 1890s the father of the family, Herbert L. Steele, ran across the irrigation ditches. These he quickly put to use watering his garden.

What Steele found next is still debated to this day. But when he discovered other artifacts up on the old hill, whether they were parched corn kernels unearthed by ground squirrels or a large collection of arrowheads and pieces of pottery, he quickly realized that he owned something unusual.

Accordingly, two archaeologists from the University of Kansas, S.W. Williston and H.T. Martin, paid the Steele homestead a visit in 1898. While probing the structure, they noted walls 18 to 24 inches thick, with no apparent openings for doors or windows. How would the inhabitants come and go from the building? There was one answer—through the roof!

The idea that this building might have been a pueblo was further confirmed by the discovery of charred post ends that might once have belonged to a ladder. The archaeologists also found broken pottery similar in style to that of the Southwest during the late 1600s and early 1700s, and they found pieces of obsidian, a volcanic stone common in the native lands of the Taos and the Picuris. Historians quickly realized the implications of the discovery—this might be El Cuartelejo!

While the Steele family made full use of their land, including the parts influenced by the Pueblo refugees, they were careful not to abuse it. They dreamed of someday creating a public park out of their homestead. Accordingly, in the 1920s they donated the pueblo site to the Daughters of the American Revolution, who in 1925 erected a granite marker on the ruins (literally; the marker was later moved). The D.A.R. still own the rights to the ruins. The rest of the Steele homestead went to the Kansas Forestry, Fish, and Game Commission in 1928. A dam for a recreational lake was built the next year.

 

El Cuartelejo: RediscoverySpeculation

Not all historians were willing to accept the theory that the ruins discovered by the Steele family were part of El Cuartelejo. Based on daily marching distances listed in the expedition diary of Juan de Ulibarrí, some hypothesized that El Cuartelejo was actually in eastern Colorado.

In 1939 and 1940, Smithsonian Institution archaeologist Waldo Wedel paid a visit to the site. He turned up additional artifacts that further confirmed the identity of the ruins. For example, he discovered pieces of pipes, decorated in a style similar to that of Southwestern work of the late 1600s and early 1700s.

However, Wedel found far more Apache artifacts than Pueblo artifacts on the site, including some otherwise distinctly Apache ware that was tempered with mica, similar to the custom of the Southwestern tribes. Therefore, he concluded, the pueblo did not belong to Pueblos, but to Apaches who had contact with Southwestern Indians and who mimicked their customs. If there were Pueblos at the site, either they must have adopted Apache tools or they had remained for a very short time.

However, no evidence for a pueblo in eastern Colorado could be found. Nor was there much evidence of French and Spanish activity in that area. While Spanish records did not pinpoint El Cuartelejo precisely at the location of the Scott County ruins, the Steele discovery fit far better with the maps and descriptions in existence than any other site that had been found or proposed. Furthermore, the Scott County location for El Cuartelejo corresponded with various well-traveled Native American trails that the Spaniards likely would have used.

Unfortunately, El Cuartelejo was still not preserved as the Steele family might have wished. Local artifact collectors did some amateur work on the ruins, but turned up little of value. Furthermore, these would-be archaeologists did considerable damage to the pueblo, digging through the floor and destroying more subtle features. The landmark also continued to deteriorate due to weather for several decades.

 

Preservation Efforts

El Cuartelejo was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1964, opening new doors for restoration possibilities.

Further excavation was carried out under the supervision of Tom Witty of the Kansas State Historical Society beginning in 1969. The entire floor was disinterred, revealing hearthstones and posts, not to mention more potsherds. Witty was more thorough than the archaeologists before him and revealed the complete outline of the pueblo, only partially found up to that time.

While examining artifacts, archaeologists also started work on an interpretive exhibit, putting El Cuartelejo into historical context. The walls were rebuilt and stabilized up to a height of one or two feet to clearly show the floor plan of the pueblo, consisting of seven rooms. Signs were put up to explain the site for park visitors.

But the previous restoration efforts have failed the test of time. The National Park Service listed El Cuartelejo as an “at risk” site in 2004. The walls continue to crumble in the unforgiving Kansas weather.

All agree that the ruins must be preserved. What the future will bring to El Cuartelejo is yet to be determined, however, as the Kansas State Historical Society, the Scott County Historical Society, and the present-day Picuris tribe continue to iron out a solution.

 

Helpful Resources

“Ambushed at Dawn: An Archaeological Analysis of the Catastrophic Defeat of the 1720 Villasur Expedition”
Chapter 4 of this thesis makes a solid case for the Scott County location of El Cuartelejo.

“Remains of the Indian pueblo ‘El Cuartelejo’ in Scott County, Kansas, USA”
How El Cuartelejo looks today.

El Cuartelejo: A Place of Refuge
The Sunflower State

El Cuartelejo: A Place of Refuge

El Cuartelejo: A Place of Refuge

A Taos pueblo in New Mexico

The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico found themselves in frequent conflict with the Spanish conquistadors. The conquerors imprisoned or killed the native religious leaders, compelled the people to accept the religion of Spain at the point of the sword, and put them to work in labor camps. Repeated uprisings brought them little except bloody reprisals. Some Indians felt that it simply was not worthwhile to risk their lives battling Spaniards and laid down their arms. Others did not.

Sometime around 1664, some Taos Pueblos decided on a bold move—they escaped New Mexico.

 

The Taos Years

The Pueblos journeyed northeast, traveling long and hard to avoid recapture. In fact, they went farther north than any of their tribe had ever journeyed before, north of the Arkansas River and right into present-day Kansas. Here they found sympathizers among the Plains Apaches. The Apaches allowed the Pueblos to settle among them and build new dwellings in peace, where they could resume their former lives away from the Spaniards.

The Pueblos promptly set to work building the adobe structure associated with their tribe, strengthened along the foundation with native stone from the nearby hills. The pueblo was located up on a hill, providing an excellent view of the valley below and offering a good way to look out for invaders. Down in the valley, the Pueblos planted crops and dug irrigation ditches just as they had in New Mexico, directing water from spring-fed Ladder Creek to their fields.

The arrangement was evidently quite satisfactory to the Apaches, as well. They continued to share the village, leaving regularly to hunt, but always returning to raise crops of their own and possibly to trade hides for Pueblo goods.

Unfortunately, the Taos Indians did not make good their escape. A few years later, Juan de Archuleta appeared on the scene and summarily marched the Pueblos back to New Mexico. The Spaniards named the village El Cuartelejo, or “the old barracks.”

 

The Picuris Years

El Cuartelejo: A Place of Refuge

A Picuris mission in New Mexico

The 1680s brought a Pueblo revolt to New Mexico. While the rebels were successful for a time, during the first half of the 1690s the Spaniards once again gained the upper hand. In 1696, a group of Picuris Pueblos repeated the attempt of the Taos people years before. They reclaimed the pueblos of El Cuartelejo.

For reasons that have been lost in time, the Picuris did not get along so well with their Apache neighbors. The Apaches enslaved the newcomers and evidently made their lives difficult enough that a Spanish labor camp seemed desirable in comparison. The Picuris asked the Apaches for permission to return to their homes in the Southwest, but were denied. After only a few years at El Cuartelejo, the Picuris chief, Don Lorenzo, sent a letter to Santa Fe pleading for rescue.

In 1706, Juan de Ulibarrí arrived on the scene. He collected all 62 of the Pueblos and escorted them back to New Mexico. Although he duly claimed the valley as a Spanish possession, he was careful not to needlessly offend the Apaches with violence. There was reason to believe that allies among the natives of the Great Plains would be necessary in the years to come.

 

Frontier Outpost

The Spaniards had previously claimed the Great Plains as their own, but did little to enforce that claim. French explorers and traders had taken an interest in the region, probably feeling it would be easy to take over an area that was so poorly guarded. Frenchmen began making friendly overtures to the Apaches at El Cuartelejo in hopes of winning their trade.

Rumors of French encroachment had reached Spanish ears, and this was one of the reasons that Juan de Ulibarrí had been sent to El Cuartelejo. While working to secure the release of the Picuris slaves, Ulibarrí had been careful to ask the Apaches about other white men in the area. The Apaches showed him a musket and reported that the French had been supplying their Pawnee enemies with such weapons.

In 1720, Don Pedro de Villasur set off for the Great Plains to discover the limits of French involvement. He spent several days at El Cuartelejo, then continued northward with some Apache allies to find out the limits of French involvement. He learned the hard way. His trek brought him all the way north to present-day Nebraska on the Platte River, where the French incited the Pawnee tribe to ambush and massacre his party.

For a time, there was talk among the Spaniards of building a permanent fort at El Cuartelejo, but the dangers of the location were great. Any small outpost constructed there would be isolated from reinforcements and liable to be overwhelmed by the Indian allies of the French.

During the 1730s, the pueblos were abandoned by the Apaches. Comanches and other stronger tribes had all but annihilated the little village, and the Cuartelejo Apaches fled to Texas to take refuge with another Apache band. El Cuartelejo became a camping spot and outpost for both the French and the Comanches.

In 1762, the French ceded the region known as “Louisiana,” including the Great Plains, to Spain by secret treaty. The French retreated from the area, leaving El Cuartelejo to crumble into ruins.

 

Next week: Rediscovery

Why Cowboys Sang
The Skills

Why Cowboys Sang

Why Cowboys SangThe singing cowboy is by no means a Hollywood invention. History records the fact that cowboys always sang, starting back when cattle trails began.

At first, there were no true “cowboy songs.” Most cowboys just sang the good old folk songs that they had grown up with, ranging from mountain fiddle tunes like “Old Dan Tucker” to hymns and spirituals that are still familiar today. Over time, creative cowpokes composed their own folk music.

So why did cowboys sing? There were two main reasons:

  • To keep the cattle quiet. Cowboys who kept journals frequently commented on the wildness and spookiness of the feral longhorns that they were dealing with. They also noted that talking, humming, or singing to the herd was the best way to keep it calm and under control.
  • To stay in touch with a partner. If two cowboys were watching the herd at night, each would take a turn singing a verse of a song. As the song went back and forth, both cowboys would be reassured that everything was in good order.

Doubtless there were other advantages of singing while at work. It would help to pass the long hours of the night, and it would have been soothing to man as well as beast. It was also an entertaining way to preserve cowboy legends and tall tales, or just to express thoughts and feelings on the trail and life in general.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2
The Sunflower State

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2Adjusting Livestock Production

In an effort to reduce hog numbers, payments were also distributed to farmers who would destroy their piglets and pregnant sows. About 6 million piglets were slaughtered under the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA).

A cattle-purchasing program was similarly implemented under the Drought Relief Service in areas where the Dust Bowl had hit the hardest. The federal government purchased approximately 7 million cattle, most which had been in imminent danger of starvation.

At first, surplus livestock was typically shot and buried. However, a tremendous public outcry arose over the waste at a time when many people were starving. In October 1933, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation was established to placate Americans and put the livestock to better use. From then on, most salvageable meat was purchased by the government and distributed through various relief programs. Because many slaughterhouses were not equipped to process the massive numbers of small pigs sent through their doors, however, they often took the easier route of processing young pigs for grease and fertilizer. Meanwhile, enough cattle hides entered the market that newspapers reported a price crisis among tanners.

 

The Economic Results

Many Great Plains farmers welcomed the subsidies. In some areas, as many as 90% of the local farmers came to rely on the AAA. By the end of 1935, the AAA had shelled out about $1.1 billion, about half of which went to farmers in the Great Plains. According to the USDA, farm income increased by 50% between 1932 and 1935, 25% of the increase coming from federal payments.

Commodity prices did indeed rise between 1932 and 1935. In fact, the prices for corn, wheat, and cotton doubled. However, prices remained well below 1929 levels and the parity goal set by the New Deal. Of course, higher prices only benefited farmers who had crops to harvest in spite of the drought.

The AAA payments were rarely enough to help small-scale farmers subsist. Families with small acreages generally failed, abandoned their farms, and left agricultural to the major players. An estimated 2.5 million people had evacuated the Great Plains by 1940. A large number of these former farmers moved to California to seek jobs picking seasonal produce for low wages.

The situation was particularly bad for tenant farmers. While tenant farmers were not as conspicuous in the Great Plains as in the South, they did exist, and they, too, suffered. Under the initial provisions of the AAA, the landowner was to share the money with any tenant farmers he had working for him. Unfortunately, this part of the contract was poorly enforced, and some landlords resorted to fraud to keep the money for themselves. More honest landlords often used their rightful share of the subsidy to purchase modern machinery to reduce their labor needs, setting their tenant farmers adrift. In Oklahoma alone, the number of tenant farmers was nearly cut in half between 1935 and 1945.

The end result was a decided trend toward the consolidation of agriculture. Farm numbers declined in droughty areas, while farm sizes increased. In southwestern Kansas, for instance, the average farm had more than doubled in acreage by 1950.

 

A New Act

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

Former Oklahoma farm family in California to pick lettuce

In the 1936 case United States v. Butler, the Supreme Court declared the Agricultural Adjustment Act to be unconstitutional:

The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government.…

From the accepted doctrine that the United States is a government of delegated powers, it follows that those not expressly granted, or reasonably to be implied from such as are conferred, are reserved to the states, or to the people. To forestall any suggestion to the contrary, the Tenth Amendment was adopted. The same proposition, otherwise stated, is that powers not granted are prohibited. None to regulate agricultural production is given, and therefore legislation by Congress for that purpose is forbidden.…

The Congress cannot invade state jurisdiction to compel individual action; no more can it purchase such action.

However, the AAA was replaced by a new farm relief act. This act did not overtly pay farmers to reduce agricultural production, but instead set up a soil conservation program. Landowners were now paid to implement cover-cropping and similar practices. The money came out of the federal treasury, instead of the tax on food processing. The new program was popular while the drought continued, but most farmers resumed their former cropping practices as soon as the rainfall returned.

But the original AAA had left a lasting legacy. By 1940, 6 million farmers were receiving subsidies. Farm commodities have been subsidized ever since.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1
The Sunflower State

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1Between 1929 and 1932, the net income of the average farm operator fell 69%.

Prices for agricultural products were at their lowest since the 1890s. Wheat sold for only 25 cents per bushel.

Much of this drop in prices was due to an agricultural surplus. Harvests had been bountiful before the drought hit, and a considerable amount of grassland had been converted to cropland to meet the demands of World War I. No sooner had the war ended than the prices for crops had dropped sharply. To cope with their reduced incomes, farmers scrambled to plant more acres and sell more bushels, driving the prices down still further. By the time the Great Depression and the beginnings of drought hit the Great Plains, the farm economy was already in a state of crisis.

But Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, promising Americans from all walks of life a New Deal. Regulation and government support could bring stability to the economy, FDR claimed.

Agriculture promised an excellent way to test this fundamental principle of the New Deal.

 

The Goal

FDR’s stated purpose was to return prosperity to the farm by bringing the farmer better prices for his products. The theory was simple. When the supply of a commodity falls short of the demand, the prices rise as purchasers compete to obtain the scarce commodity. Thus, if consumers had to compete a little harder to obtain commodities, farmers would receive more income for those commodities.

How much of an improvement was sought? Nothing short of parity. In this case, parity meant that any given commodity would have the same purchasing power that it did prior to World War I.

Accordingly, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed in May 1933 during FDR’s first 100 days. This act created the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) with the responsibility of planning the farm economy. The ultimate plan, as stated by FDR’s secretary of agriculture, Henry Wallace, was the “ever-normal granary.”

The AAA established a system of “domestic allotments,” which in practice meant that the AAA set the amounts of commodities that the country would produce annually. Initially, seven commodities were targeted:

  • Corn.
  • Wheat.
  • Cotton.
  • Tobacco.
  • Rice.
  • Dairy products.
  • Hogs.

Additional commodities were added to the list in 1934 and 1935:

  • Grain sorghum.
  • Rye.
  • Barley.
  • Flax.
  • Peanuts.
  • Potatoes.
  • Sugar beets.
  • Sugar cane.
  • Cattle.

Beginning in the fall of 1934, the AAA also started buying up poor cropland. This acreage, ruined by the Dust Bowl, was to be converted into demonstration farms to illustrate how to conserve soil by planting drought-resistant grasses. After the damage to the land had been fully repaired, these areas would be leased as pasture.

 

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1Adjusting Crop Production

To reduce agricultural production to the AAA-desired levels, a new tax was placed on food processing. The money obtained from this tax was used to pay subsidies to landowners who would leave farmland idle. Lawrence Svobida noted in his memoir Farming the Dust Bowl (read our full review) that he had to agree to remove 15% of his total average acreage from production. The total average acreage was determined by averaging the number of acres that he had planted the last three growing seasons. (Thus, farmers who had previously let land lie fallow received considerably less money than their continuous-cropping peers.) Payments were calculated based on the county average yield per acre.

Of course, there were abuses of this system. Some farmers attempted to cheat the AAA and overestimate their total average acreage to receive more subsidies. To prevent this scenario, the averages reported by farmers were published in local newspapers to give others an opportunity to report fraud. In the words of Svobida:

This provided a unique opportunity to the spiteful, the revengeful, the envious, and the righteous, and most of the culprits were exposed in their trickery, and were compelled to correct their figures.

Unfortunately, by the time the AAA came into being in May 1933, the growing season was well under way. Farmers receiving AAA money could not harvest their grain, so perfectly good crops were destroyed or left to rot. This included 10 million acres of cotton, some of it grown in Plains states such as Oklahoma. Over 87,000 farmers in that state alone plowed under their cotton in exchange for over $15 million.

Even in subsequent years there were difficulties. Svobida cited the story of a neighbor who was able to raise a good wheat crop in 1934, only to discover that he had made an error in his arithmetic and had planted 80 acres more than was allowed under the provisions of the AAA:

This farmer had been honest in his intentions, so he was embarrassed as well as amazed; but, now that the mistake had been made, he wanted to go ahead and harvest the excess eighty and turn the wheat crop over to the county commissioners, to be distributed to the needy.

You will be able to guess what happened, if you have had any experience of small men elevated to petty office. The local allotment committee was made up of men who found great satisfaction in administering their office, and they were the ruling power in such matters, from whose decision there was no appeal. They would not consider the farmer’s sane and philanthropic suggestion for the disposal of his surplus wheat. He was ordered to destroy it.

The effect of fallow land on the Dust Bowl is still debated by historians and climate experts. It is certain that a state of drought existed prior to the AAA. The first dust storms hit in 1932. However, the years 1935 to 1938 were among the worst in the history of the Dust Bowl. By this time, millions of acres were lying fallow due to the influence of the AAA.

Ironically, some Dust Bowl farmers did not use their AAA money as anticipated. According to agricultural and Western historian R. Douglas Hurt, some subsidy recipients left their poorer, dust-destroyed lands fallow and used the federal aid to buy or rent new cropland to plant. This way, if the drought ended, they would still be in a position to bring in a crop despite their participation in the AAA program.

Meanwhile, the cropland-purchasing program met with mixed results. AAA employees did manage to restore some poor land, either to native range or to drought-resistant plants such as sudan grass. The program could be rather exasperating to landowners trying to sell out, however, as they received low prices for their land and the checks were inevitably slow in coming. Nevertheless, some grasslands established under the AAA remain to this day, such as Cimarron National Grassland in southwestern Kansas.

 

Next week: Part 2

 

Helpful Resource

Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933
Full text of the original act.

Brave the Wild Trail
The Farm

Brave the Wild Trail

Brave the Wild TrailThere is nothing Josh Bramlett wants more than a dog. And his father Eben has just the plan to make this dream come true!

Scrub cattle run wild across Florida, just waiting to be rounded up and driven to market—a market hungry for beef in the days just after the Civil War.

If you love inspiring your children with books based on real history, give Brave the Wild Trail by Milly Howard a try. They will get a great introduction to Florida Cracker cattle, Marsh Tacky horses, and even catch dogs. They will learn about the perils of cattle driving, ranging from a ludicrous attempt to milk a wild cow to the deadly danger of robbers.

But there is much more than history and adventure to make this story worth reading. This is also a tale of changed hearts and true friendship.

Great story for younger readers!

 

Helpful Resource

The Roots of Cattle Driving
Learn more about the background of the events in this book.

Buffalo Jones
The Sunflower State

Buffalo Jones

Buffalo Jones

From left to right: Pawnee Bill, Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Jones

There are many reasons why Charles Jesse Jones could be an interesting person to read about. He grew up on the Illinois frontier when Abraham Lincoln was still a backwoods lawyer. He became a pioneer, a cowboy, and a rancher, but still lived a remarkably clean life, never touching caffeine, let alone spirits. He was a founding member of Garden City, Kansas. He rubbed elbows with Teddy Roosevelt, who eventually appointed him Park Warden at Yellowstone. He even spent a while capturing big game in Africa—with a lasso!

But none of these things gave Charles Jones his claim to fame. His nickname, “Buffalo” Jones, says it all. He has the distinction as being one of the first and most dedicated to save the bison from extinction.

 

The Inspiration

Incidentally, Buffalo Jones, the rescuer of the bison, started out as a buffalo hunter himself.

Jones had been studying at Illinois Wesleyan University for two years when a bout with typhoid fever changed the course of his life. His poor health convinced him to give up his studies and move west to Kansas. In 1866, he moved to the town of Troy in the northeastern corner of the state, where he married, started a tree nursery, and taught a Sunday school class. Jones was evidently cut out for adventure, however, so while in Troy he decided to try his hand at hunting buffalo.

Selling buffalo hides was a profitable pursuit at the time, so Jones moved his family and his nursery business to Osborne County, arriving on New Year’s Day, 1872. Here he could be close to the great herds of bison. Besides hunting buffalo, Jones earned extra cash by capturing mustangs and taming bison calves to sell at county fairs.

In 1878, Jones moved still further west to help lay out Garden City, and was subsequently elected as the new town’s first mayor. In addition to his duties as mayor, Jones became involved in architecture, real estate, irrigation, and railroads. One would think that these diverse projects would leave little time for thinking about bison, but even then Jones enjoyed training buffalo calves to pull his wagon through the streets of Garden City.

Terrible blizzards hit Jones’s part of Kansas in 1886, killing cattle by the thousands. The catastrophe proved to be an epiphany for Jones. He suddenly realized that bison would never have perished in the cold. At that moment, he also recognized what the West was losing. He appreciated the historical significance and iconic symbolism of the bison. By 1886, Jones was sorry that he had ever become a buffalo hunter.

 

The Market

Buffalo Jones

Buffalo Jones donning his buffalo fur coat

Jones’s friends regarded him as a visionary, and indeed he was. But he was also a man of action. Buffalo Jones did not waste time lamenting the fate of the bison—he set about to reverse that fate.

Jones recognized early on that if ranchers were going to be interested in saving the bison, the bison was going to have to make himself useful in return. So Buffalo Jones worked diligently to identify potential markets for buffalo.

One potential produce that bison could provide was fur. Fur could be collected without killing the buffalo, and it had many uses, ranging from socks to blankets.

Another possibility was breeding buffalo to cattle. Jones hoped that a buffalo/cattle hybrid would provide a profitable beef animal with superior hardiness to range conditions. He also hoped that the “cattalo,” as he called them, would retain the docile temperament of their domesticated parent.

 

The Rescue

After scouring the area around Garden City for buffalo, Jones was alarmed to realize just how few bison were left. Clearly, there was no time to be lost.

Starting in 1886, Jones began making trips to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles to capture bison calves. After four trips, he had collected 57 buffalo. These calves were released on his ranch in Garden City. In 1889, Jones added to this herd by purchasing 83 head from Manitoba—nearly all of the bison that were left in Canada at that time!

Jones subsequently collected another large herd at a ranch in McCook, Nebraska. This ranch lasted from 1890 to 1892 and was home to as many as 100 buffalo.

Jones used both herds to supply all who shared his vision of preserving the bison. Some buffalo went to zoos, while others formed herds on private ranches. Ten of Jones’s bison were even shipped to England.

Meanwhile, Jones also worked on breeding cattalo at his Garden City ranch. Here he met with limited success. For one thing, the cattalo were usually sterile. For another thing, they seemed to partake strongly of the wild nature of the bison.

Unfortunately, Jones did not have the means to continue his great rescue. The McCook ranch proved to be a financial failure by 1892. The rest of Jones’s money was lost in the Panic of 1893, so he took part in an Oklahoma land rush that same year, hoping to restore his fallen fortunes. However, in 1895, Jones was forced to sell off his Garden City bison to ranchers further west. Jones next spent some time as a legislator, a railroad promoter, a prospector in the Yukon, the author of an autobiography, and a game warden at Yellowstone National Park.

 

The Result

In 1906, Jones once again owned a ranch, this time on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here he resumed his experiment of crossing bison with Galloway cattle, with about the same success he had experienced in Garden City. Cattalo never became very popular among ranchers.

But Jones’s broader purpose—saving the bison from extinction—was a resounding success thanks to the breeding stock that he sold around the country. His bison provided the genetic foundation for most of the buffalo alive in the United States today.

 

Helpful Resource

Charles Jesse Jones
An old photo of Buffalo Jones himself driving a team of buffalo—“Conquered at Last.”

Top 10 Marguerite Henry Books
The Lifestyle

Top 10 Marguerite Henry Books

Top 10 Marguerite Henry BooksWhat horse-loving child hasn’t devoured one of Marguerite Henry’s books? Henry wrote with enthusiasm and feeling, making her stories timeless masterpieces that are sure to touch the heart.

While she has written many books that we could heartily recommend for readers of all ages, we have whittled down the list to ten of our absolute favorites. Looking for some summer reading? Try these.

 

Justin Morgan Had a Horse10. Justin Morgan Had a Horse

A schoolmaster accepts a fine colt in payment of a debt, only to end up with the colt’s runty little brother. Little does Justin Morgan know that the runt will someday more than prove his worth! This book tells the story of the Morgan breed, embellished enough to capture a child’s imagination, but still close enough to fact to be of interest to the adult horse lover.

 

9. Misty’s Twilight

Even grownups can dream! At long last, Dr. Sandy Price gets to visit Chincoteague on Pony Penning Day, and she brings back some ponies of her own. One of the ponies has a filly, Twilight. Dr. Price knows that Twilight has what it takes to make a great performance horse—but will horse trainers take the splashy pinto pony seriously?

 

8. Cinnabar the One O’Clock Fox

One might think that a fox would be terrified by a fox hunt, but not Cinnabar. Cinnabar has a reputation for punctuality that he is bound and determined to maintain. But can he outwit George Washington himself?

 

White Stallion of Lipizza7. White Stallion of Lipizza

Hans is captivated by the famous and beautiful Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School at Vienna. However, actually attending the riding school seems like an unattainable goal for a poor baker’s son. Young readers will not only root for Hans as he learns the discipline he needs to live his dream, but will learn quite a bit about Lipizzaners and the amazing feats they perform.

 

6. Black Gold

The true story of how two dreams converged when a boy who longed to be a jockey laid eyes on an underestimated horse with spirit. Henry retells the bittersweet tale of Black Gold with sympathy and compassion.

 

5. Stormy, Misty’s Foal

Paul and Maureen Beebe are anxiously awaiting the birth of Misty’s foal, but it seems to be arriving rather late. When a devastating storm hits, the Beebes must evacuate, leaving Misty to her own resources…in the family kitchen. Stormy is based on the true story of the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962. While some of the details have been altered to make a cohesive Misty series centered around Paul and Maureen, Misty really did weather the storm in a kitchen.

 

Album of Horses4. Album of Horses

The perfect first book on horse breeds for a young reader! The Album of Horses offers an engaging presentation of 24 of America’s favorite horse breeds, from the Clydesdale to the Shetland to the mule. The descriptions are written in story form and beautifully illustrated by Wesley Dennis. Read our full review.

 

3. Brighty of the Grand Canyon

Brighty lives a peaceful life in the Grand Canyon with his prospector friend—until one day the prospector is murdered, leaving the brave burro with a mystery to solve. Suspense and narrow escapes are around every corner, right up to a thrilling climax in a snowbound cabin.

 

Misty of Chincoteague2. Misty of Chincoteague

The classic story of the most famous Chincoteague pony of all! Paul Beebe joins in on Pony Penning Day to capture the elusive Phantom and unexpectedly discovers the foal at her side. A must-read for every horse lover. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tends to dismiss Henry’s story of the wrecked Spanish ship, but there is interesting historical and genetic evidence to support it.

 

1. Dear Readers and Riders

A great read for every child who has questions about Henry’s books. Learn more about favorite characters and the true stories behind the stories. Along the way, you will find out more about Marguerite Henry, her approach to writing, and her thoughts on horses and horsekeeping. Read our full review.