Tuesday, February 18, 2014

COWBOYS IN CHICAGO


By Guest: Tracy Garrett
Anyone who has researched cowboys and cattle knows of the Chicago Union Stock Yards.
In 1848, when Chicago was only a hub for transporting livestock from the West to the rest of the country, small stockyards such as Lake Shore Yard and Cottage Grove Yard, were scattered throughout the city along various rail lines.
As the railroads expanded westward, Chicago evolved into a large railroad center. With the increase in the number of trainloads of livestock, the need for a centralized stock center became obvious.
In 1864, a consortium of nine railroad companies acquired three hundred and twenty acres of swampland south west of The Loop, and the Chicago Union Stock Yards was born.

By 1890 the yards were handling more than nine million cows, pigs and sheep a year. That’s a lot of hooves!

But I wanted to know who took care of all those critters.
Before the creation of the stock yards, tavern owners provided pastures and care for cattle herds waiting to be sold. Eventually they built 2300 livestock pens on the 375-acre site.
[They also built hotels, saloons, restaurants, and offices for merchants and brokers, but that’s another blog.]
My next question: who moved all those animals around? I had visions of cowboys working in downtown Chicago.

Now, I will admit that I stretched the truth a bit for the sake of my story, Her Christmas Wish, one of the eight short stories in the anthology WISHING FOR A COWBOY, the November 2013 release from Prairie Rose Publications. I needed Will (the hero) to see the possibility of a new livelihood out from under his father’s thumb. So I made up cowboys. (That’s why it’s called fiction.)

In truth, the cowboys only moved the doggies as far as Dodge City, Kansas City, or one of the other termini of the cattle drives. They didn’t drive them all the way to the windy city.
In the early days of the Stock Yard, drovers herded cattle, hogs, and sheep down two wide thoroughfares from the railroad cars to the pens. Then the railroad consortium built more rail lines, delivering the livestock right to the holding pens—and removing the need for the drovers.

It’s a shame really. A thousand head of longhorns mooing their way down Michigan Avenue ahead of a couple of heart-stopping cowboys would have been entertaining.
~~*~~Tracy will give away a copy of HEARTS AND SPURS to one visitor who comments. Thank you.

23 comments:

  1. What a fascinating look into the stockyards! I always just assumed cowboys did all that, not drovers. I would love to be entered to win a copy of this book. Thanks for the chance.

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

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  2. Martha, I was just as surprised. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Hi Tracy! Great article/blog. Now I know why Kansas City is known for steaks. :)

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  5. Yes, an interesting bit of history about the Chicago Stock Yards. My Dad was a rancher in Southern California in the 50's and early 60's and he/we went often to the big stock yards in Phoenix, Arizona, which also no longer exists. The restaurant at the stock yards was famous for many miles around and we always had a special steak dinner (I loved prime rib) there. I LOVE western history and cowboy stories. Thanks for asking! jdh2690@gmail.com

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  6. Tracy, I never knew this. So interesting! We have a well-known restaurant in the stockyards here in Oklahoma City--it's called "Cattlemen's Steakhouse"--very good! Growing up, even though we lived in Oklahoma, we never ate much steak--it was pricey, even then!

    I loved your stories in both the anthologies, Hearts and Spurs and Wishing for a Cowboy. I am glad you gave Will the job you did so he COULD get away. Your characters are always so realistic to me.

    Cheryl

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  7. I never gave much thought to what happened to the cows once the drovers dropped them off at the end of the trail. Thanks for enlightening me! This is fascinating information.

    It IS fun to imagine a herd of longhorns terrorizing downtown Chicago, isn't it? Even more fun? Imagining all the rambunctious Texas cowhands keeping the beeves in line. Can't you just see the scandalized Chicagoans? :-D

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  8. I really didn't think about what happened to those cattle except I thought they went to the stock yards in Omaha, Nebraska. Good thing I never wrote about it.
    A very informative blog, Tracy.

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  9. Just fascinating thank you. I hadn't thought about if before.

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  10. Hi, Sandy Blair! Yep, KC and Chicago and Denver. All big cattle stops on the trails and rails.

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  11. Hi, Janice, and thanks for stopping by. I didn't realize there was a stock terminus in Phoenix. Woohoo--research!

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  12. Thanks, Cheryl! *blushing at the praise*

    I imagine the Cattleman's Steakhouse started from the cattle drives. I'l have to look into that, too.

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  13. Kathleen, I was so disappointed to find out the cowboys didn't get to scandalize the city folk.

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  14. Sarah, there were lots of trails that ended in lots of places. Once the trains multiplied, there were more stopping points, but the early days were few. The trains carried the cattle to Chicago, then onto ships bound for the east coast.

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  15. Hi, Mary! I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. Thanks for dropping by.

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  16. I HAVE BEEN TO THE OMAHA STOCKYARDS AND TO THE FORT WORTH STOCK YARDS, BUT NEVER TO CHICAGO STOCKYARDS. VERY INTERESTING HISTORY AND I LOVE WESTERN HISTORY AND LOVE STORIES.

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  17. You do a marvelous job of writing your books. I see from this that a lot of research goes in prior to your writing.

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  18. Tracy - what a fantastic look back into history. I, too, can picture those cows being herded down Michigan Avenue! :-)

    Addison

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  19. Thanks, Carlene. It's a good thing I love history--there is a lot of research that goes into what I write.

    And hello, Addison! Glad you enjoyed it.

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  20. MARY PRESTON--you are the winner of an autographed copy of HEARTS AND SPURS! Contact me at tracygarrett@me.com and we'll work out the details.

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  21. Loved the two anthologies from Prairie Rose. Great to see you here, Tracy.

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  22. Very interesting, Tracy! I lived in Chicagoland for several years and knew it was famous for its stockyards, but never researched them. (I was too fascinated by the Chicago Fire, which plays a role in my early books.) Thanks for filling in this gap in my historical research.

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  23. Having grown up in Independence , MO I learned that there was NO BETTER place for a steak than Kansas City MO stockyards! It was a treat to have a date night out there for a steak! :) And yes, we had to bow to Chicago for being the "next best"! :) we were a little biased..LOL This post was a real treat to find. Very interesting!!

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