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Stock Raising On The Plains, 1870-1871

Silas Reed, the first Surveyor General for the Territory of Wyoming, included in his 1871 annual report to the U. S. Commissioner of the General Land Office, some interesting remarks and statistics on the early day cattle and sheep industries in Wyoming. It is with a great deal of interest we are including the bulk of his report on cattle and sheep in this number of the Annals. M. H. E.

So much has been written by Dr. Latham and other gentlemen of experience, in regard to the advantages and facilities for raising stock on these plains, and the remarkable fact, proven by many years of past experience, that it will subsist through the winter upon the summer-cured grasses as they stand on the ground without shelter or other care than for the herdsmen to guard them from separating and wandering off, that I need not recapitulate.

Below I give the list of stock, so far as I have been able to obtain reliable data, which has been pastured this season in the localities named, along the Union Pacific Railroad, between the waters of the North Platte and the Laramie plains. It has been introduced here within the last two or three years, and very largely within the present year. There is abundance of room for many times as much more:

Owner Residence Where Herded Kind No
E. Creighton & Co.   Laramie Plains Stock Cattle 15,000
E. Creighton & Co.   Laramie Plains Calves 1,800
E. Creighton & Co.   Laramie Plains Mares 1,000
Dr. Latham & Captain Coates Laramie Laramie Plains Stock & Claves 4,000
L. Fillmore Laramie   Stock 300
L. Fillmore   Laramie Plains Dairy Cows 100
Ora Haley   Laramie Plains   700
______ Bennett   Elk Mountain Stock 400
______ Carmichael   Laramie Plains American 300
Clarence King & N.R. Davis California Lone Tree Creek   500
Thomas & Hay Cheyenne Lone Tree Creek   150
J. W. Hiff Cheyenne Crow Creek & Platte   12,000
D. & J. Snyder Cheyenne   Beef & Stock 5,000
M. V. Boughton Cheyenne Horse Creek   600
J. H. Durbin & Bro. Cheyenne Horse Creek   600
F. Landan Cheyenne Pole Creek   200
Tracy & Hutchinson Cheyenne Pole Creek   700
J. M. Carey & Bro. Cheyenne Crow Creek   700
Nuckolls & Gallagher Cheyenne Platte   3,000
Frank Ketchum Cheyenne   Milch Cows 150
W. D. Pennock Cheyenne   Milch Cows 40
James A. Moore   Pole Creek   1,300
W. G. Bullock Fort Laramie Horse Creek   4,000
Ed. Creighton Omaha Horse Creek   3,500
Texas Owner   Horse Creek   1,500
Milner & Davis   Horse Creek   200
______ Farrel   Laramie River   300
______ Tracy   Muddy Creek   500
______ Whitcomb   Box Elder Beef Cattle 1,000
J. S. Maynard   Lone Tree   200
Gens. Duncan, Perry & Short   Horse Creek   2,400
Keith & Barton   North Platte Yearkings 3,000
______ Brown   North Platte Stock 1,300
Major Walker   North Platte Stock 500
Coe & Carter   North Platte Stock 9,000
E. Creighton   North Platte Stock 800
Taylor, Galylord & Co.   Cache la Poudre Stock 5,000
D. C. Tracy Pine Bluffs Pine Bluffs Stock 700
Ecoflfey & Co.   Sabylle Creek Stock 350
______ Powell   North Fork Laramie Stock 1,500
Benjamin Mills   Chugwater Stock 400
K. Whalen   Chugwater Stock 250
John Phillips   Chugwater Stock 250
______ Simpson   Chugwater Stock 100
H. B. Kelley   Chugwater Stock 750
John Hinton   Chugwater Stock 125
W. G. Bullock   Chugwater Stock 125
F. M. Phillips   Chugwater Stock 2,100
Adolph Cuny   North Platte Stock 1,000
Dickey & Sloan   Muddy Creek American 80

The editor of the Western World has published in his New York paper the following observations in regard to stock and grazing on these plains, being the result of what he saw and learned while on a recent tour through here to California. In his estimate he includes the large herds in the neighborhood of the junction of the two Platte Rivers, and in the Humboldt Valley, and is therefore larger than the list of herds principally in Wyoming. I have introduced these remarks from the Western World in order that stock-growers in the States may see what impartial non-residents say of this great industrial interest on the late "American Desert'":

"On a recent visit to the Pacific coast over the Union and Central Pacific Railroads, I took some pains to ascertain the amount of cattle now being pastured along those roads. I have more than once insisted that the belt of country on the Laramie Plains, and just east of the Rocky Mountains, and a portion of the Humboldt Valley adjacent to the Pacific road, embraced some of the finest grazing lands on the continent, and had heard a good deal recently about the large herds which have been driven from Texas and the Indian Nation during the past year, to be fattened on the nutritious grasses of the Platte River and Laramie Plains, preparatory to shipment over the railroad to the markets of the East. I knew that the business had become a large one, but had no idea of the extent to which it has attained a business, be it remembered, which is but just commenced, as two years ago there was not a hoof in the whole country, except draught cattle belonging to trains, and a few ranchero's cows, where today there are not less than 140,000 head of cattle, 5,000 horses, and over 75,000 sheep, on the Union Pacific west of Fort Kearney.

"On the Laramie Plains, and east of Laramie Mountain, Wyoming, are a great many small herds of from 100 to 500 beef and stock cattle, and large flocks of sheep, of which we were unable to learn the names of the owners, and which many good judges estimate would swell the figures far above the aggregate which l have just ventured to state. The greater portion of these cattle were driven hither from the southern part of Texas. It is estimated that more than 400,000 head have been driven out of Texas during the past year alone."

"There is no doubt in my mind that the tendency which has attained the above startling proportions in a single year is a permanent one, and will grow with every season. For a space fully seven hundred miles long and two hundred broad, along the base of the Rocky Mountains, there is one of the finest and cheapest grazing countries in the world. The valleys, bluffs, and low hills, are covered with a luxuriant growth of grama or 'bunch' grass, one of the most nutritious grasses that grows. It grows from 6 to 12 inches high, and is always green near the roots, summer and winter. During the summer the dry atmosphere cures the standing grass as effectually as though cut and prepared for hay. The nutritive qualities of the grass remain uninjured, and stock thrive equally well on the dry feed. In the winter what snow falls is Very dry, unlike that which falls in more humid climates. It may cover the grass to the depth of a few inches, but the cattle readily remove it, reaching the grass without trouble.

"Again, the snow does not stick to the sides of the cattle and melt there, chilling them through, but its dryness causes it to roll from their backs, leaving their hair dry. There is no stabling required; stock 'run out the year round,' and the cost of keeping is just what it will cost to employ herders, no more and with the great Pacific road traversing it from east to west, it is always within a few days of the eastern markets. The advantages are great, and a new and vast industry is springing up."

Source: Report by Dr. Silas Reed, First Surveyor General of Wyoming Territory

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