Pleasant B. Butler, early traildriver, longhorn cattle go to the Kansas railroad

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Trail Driver, Cattleman, Gentleman

I was born in Scott County, Mississippi, in 1848, being the eleventh child of Burnell Butler, who was born in Kentucky in 1805, and Sarah Ann Ricks, born in North Carolina in 1811.

In 1849 my oldest brother, Woodward, then a youth of twenty years, left the home in Mississippi to seek out a new location for the family. He crossed the Mississippi River into Louisiana, where he remained long enough to make a crop and, selling out, journeyed on until he reached Karnes County, then a part of Goliad County, in 1850, where he stayed on a tract of land that is now the Pleasant Butler homestead, near the San Antonio River.

In September 1852, father sold out in Scott County, Mississippi and started to join my brother in Texas. I was at that time four years old, but remember distinctly the start for Texas, father and mother, twelve children, and seven negro slaves, traveling in covered wagons, each drawn by two yoke of oxen, mother driving a hack with a team of big horses and father riding a fine saddle horse.
I recall clearly a stop made near Jackson, Miss., to bid good-bye to my aunt, Mrs. Porter, and how my aunt drove down the road with us in a great carriage with a negro driver on a high seat in front - - a barouche of the real old South.

We crossed the Mississippi River at Natchez, where the high red banks, down which they drove to the ferry boats that carried us across the great river, made an impression on my childish mind that has never been effaced.

When the family reached the spot on the wild prairie lands where the town of Nordheim now stands, we camped under a great liveoak tree, the only tree in miles to break the prairie lands about us.  Father and mother drove ahead in the hack to find Woodward in his camp on the San Antonio River,
and to send him back to meet us as we came on with the wagons. He met us the next evening, December 24, 1852,on the banks of Ecleto Creek.

The new country, with its wide prairies, its wonderful grasses and abundance of game, became the home of the Butler family.

I recall that my brother could go out in the evening when the sun was a quarter of an hour high and bring in a deer by nightfall. Turkeys also were plentiful.

In the spring of 1853 father cleared fourteen acres of brush land, pushing the brush back to make a fence, and planted corn. He harvested 700 bushels of corn, or fifty bushels per acre. Also that spring he leased a part of the Stafford & Selmer tract of land and bought cattle. He gave a small heifer to me, from which, up to the year 1862, I raised eighteen head.

But in 1863 came a great drouth and my cattle diminished to one small steer.

In November 1863, Woodward, who had led the family into the new home and blazed the trail for their future prosperity, drove to Port Lavaca to bring the winter's supply of groceries. While there he contracted yellow fever and died.   
(There is an error in the 'Pleas Butler' article in the book "The Trail Drivers of Texas," pages 479-484 :    Woodward Butler died in November 1853 and not in November 1863.)

The years wore on and the great war between the North and the South shook even this remote corner of the country. I remember seeing great wagons, drawn by twelve steers, hauling cotton to Mexico, where it brought fifty cents a pound. Flour was not available at $26.00 per barrel, and corn in various ways became the staple diet.

In 1862 my brother, W. G. Butler, who had joined the army, was sent home to gather a bunch of cattle for the Arkansas Post. I was then a youth of fourteen and went along to the Hickok pens, near Oakville, where the cattlemen had assembled 500 head, which were headed at once for Arkansas. I helped to drive them as far as Pecan Springs, near the present town of San Marcos, where I bade my brother good-bye and returned home.

In 1863 came the great drouth. The Nueces and San Antonio Rivers became mere trickling threads of water with here and there a small pool. The grass was soon gone and no cattle survived except those that had previously drifted across the Nueces River on to a range that was not so severely affected by the drouth.

In 1864 came rains and plentiful grass, and a search for drifted cattle was organized. All the young able-bodied men were in the army, so a party of forty-five young boys and old men, headed by Uncle Billy Ricks of Oakville went to San Diego to the ranch of Benito Lopez, from which point they worked for a month rounding up cattle and cutting out those of their own brands. Every week a herd was taken across the river and headed for home, and in this way 500 head were put back on the ranges of Karnes County, where thousands had grazed before the drouth. My steer was luckily among the five hundred.
In 1868 W. G. Butler, home from the war, drove a herd to Abilene, Kansas, to market, and I went along as far as Gonzales. This fired in me an ambition to ride the whole trail, and in 1870 I made my first trip through to Abilene in the outfit of my brother.

The trail then followed lay along the line from Austin to Belton, Valley Mills, Cleburne to Fort Worth, which at that time boasted of a livery stable, a court house and a store operated by Daggett & Hatcher, supply merchants, on the public square, through which we swung our great herd of cattle.

At Fort Worth it was necessary to take on supplies for a month, there being no big stores between Fort Worth and Abilene, Kansas, so at Daggett & Hatcher's we purchased flour, coffee, bacon, beans and dried fruit, three-quarter pound of bacon and the same of flour being allotted to each man for each day.

From Fort Worth the trail ran on to Gainesville, crossed the Red River and from there our outfit went up Mud Creek to the house of Bob Love, a Choctaw Indian, from whom we had to obtain passports through the Indian Territory. I remember that Love demanded ten cents a head for the 500 head in the herd, and that after considerable business talk we compromised, Love accepting a $20 gold piece, and in return gave the necessary papers.

From Love's we traveled the Chisholm Trail, crossed the South Fork of the Arkansas, through the Osage country into Kansas.
Along the trail the Indians showed great interest in our party, particularly the chuck wagon. Hospitality had to be limited, and little grass grew under our feet through this part of the country.

Buffalo were very plentiful, so numerous in fact that it was necessary to ride ahead of the cattle to prevent them from cutting into the herd. I killed four buffalo on this trip, using only my six-shooter. I had little use for the sights on a gun, and shot just as true when on horseback and on the dead run as when on foot.
In 1871 I started for Abilene in charge of an outfit of my own and was joined at Gainesville by several other herds, one belonging to Columbus Carroll of Gonzales, in charge of Jim Cox; one of Murphy of Victoria, in charge of Captain Lynn; and one of Clark & Woodward, in charge of Judge Clark. This time we were to travel a new trail, through a more open country, but where there had been no previous travel.

We crossed the river at Red River Station, seventy-five miles above Gainesville, where an Indian named Red Blanket waited to pilot us through the new country. The herds traveled ahead in turn, a day at the time, the first herd breaking the trail for those following. For some time the trail ran along Line Creek, which lay between the Osage and Comanche nations. Red Blanket warned us that if we got above the creek the Comanches would surely kill us. After this there was little discussion of which side of the creek made the best trail.

Reaching Kansas in May, our outfit made camp on the Smoky River, twenty miles from Abilene, where the cattle grazed until September, when they were ready for market.

I made four trips over the trail to market my steers, and saw many miles of splendid country, but nowhere could I see the prosperity and the future that lay in my own part of Texas. So in 1874, when Capt. Tom Dennis bought the 7,000-acre Jim King ranch, now known as the Wilson ranch, I bought from him the north half of the ranch and paid 10 % interest on the debt until it was paid.
The next year I bought one-half interest in the Burris cattle and worked them on the range.

During the years 1874, 1875 and 1876, W. G. Butler and I operated on the range together. During this time we sold 600 head to John Belcher, and delivered them at Fort Worth.

In the fall of 1876 I sold my interest in the Wilson ranch to Coleman and Stokely, also all my cattle I had on the range at that time, range delivery.
In the year 1877 Coleman and Stokely delivered to me 2,200 head of steers, yearlings and two's, for payment of the cattle I sold them on the range. These cattle I rounded up and started up the trail, but on my arrival at Fort Worth I found a buyer and sold out to him.

In 1878 I finished receiving cattle from Coleman & Stokely and bought more from Sullivan & Skidmore to make out a herd of 3,500 head, and again started up the trail to Dodge City, Kansas, going through several storms and enduring lots of hardships, and then, last but not least, could not find a market for the cattle at Dodge City, so I was compelled to make the drive to Ogallala, Nebraska, where I sold out.

Arriving home in September 1878, I began laying my plans for another drive up the trail. In February the following year, 1879, I began receiving 3,500 from Jim Upton and others, getting everything in readiness for the drive.

I started back to the prairies of Nebraska in March, and it took me three months to make the drive. I kept my cattle under herd, between the North and South Platte Rivers, until some time in August, when I sold out.

I then started my camp outfit towards good old Karnes County, Texas, arriving home in September.

I was married to Miss Sarah Elizabeth Ammons on the 14th day of February, 1871. She was the eldest daughter of H. R. Ammons, who immigrated from Northern Mississippi to Karnes County during the dark days of 1850, settling on the beautiful San Antonio River, near the town of Helena.

To this happy union one son and four daughters were born, all of whom are living except my son Burnell Butler, who died in 1895. My daughters all reside in Kenedy and are Mrs. J. W. Russell, Mrs. Van S. Ingram, Mrs. George H. Tips and Mrs. G. C. Ruhmann. I also have twelve grandchildren.

The above article is from "The Trail Drivers of Texas," a book originally compiled and edited by J. Marvin Hunter and published under the direction of George W. Saunders, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, copyright 1924, 1925, 1985, second printing 1986. Pages 479 - 484.

                  Other anecdotes noted in this book, quoted from other persons:
   In 1862, Jim Borroum and Monroe Choate and their cowboys drove 800 cattle to Mississippi, during the Civil War.
   In 1866, these two and their cowboys drove a herd to Iowa.
   In 1867, Bill Butler drove a herd to Abilene, Kansas, crossing the Red River at Colbert's Ferry.
   In 1868, his herd crossed further west at Gainesville, Texas.
   In 1869 and 1870, his herds crossed the Red River still further west at Red River Station, near the present town of Nocona, east of Ft. Sill but west of the Indians.   The trail was moving west because of the encroachment of settlers.
   In 1871 and 1874, Choate and Bennett drove herds to Kansas.

              Notes from Archie:
   Barbed wire and fenced pastures began to be seen about 1874, so that the crossings on the Red River had to be moved further west.
   The citizens of Kansas were getting tired of Texas cowboys and their wild Longhorns.    Texas Longhorns were immune to earthly disease, but carried a tick that brought the Texas Tick Fever, which killed the Kansas dairy cattle and stock cattle.
   Zones of quarantine were established around several specified towns.    Texans and their cattle could not enter into these zones.
   These teenagers and young men were paid off when the cattle were sold.   Having slept on the ground for 85 to 90 days with only one wet blanket, and now having money in their pockets, these cowboys shot up the town, got drunk in the saloon, went upstairs to those rooms above the saloon, and generally went wild in Kansas.
   Those who were making money, the railroad men and cattle buyers, simply built other spur railroad lines further south and west to receive the cattle.   Fifteen new towns were built as cattle-and-railroad towns.    Dodge City was the furthest west of these towns, and Caldwell on the Oklahoma line was the furthest south.
   In 1885, the Kansas State Legislature banned all Texas cattle from the entire state of Kansas.
   There are those who say that the 19 years of storied action on the Chisholm Trail spawned a whole new industry in the next century.    The cowboy picture show.    The "horse opera."   The western movie.   William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood.   
Does anyone out there remember the handsome Ken Maynard ? ?

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Saturday, 08-Sep-2018 19:16:01 MDT