Monday, February 16, 2015

Dust, manure and flies...Ellsworth, Kansas in 1873, by Linda Hubalek

My latest book, HILDA HOGTIES A HORSEMAN, the third book in the Brides with Grit series, debuted this week. The setting of Ellsworth, Kansas in 1873, was easy to work with because it was a major cattle shipping town between 1872 to 1875. 

Abilene, Kansas was famous, being the first place to ship cattle by railroad to eastern towns in 1867, but that ended in 1871 when businesses and farmers got tired of the damage and disease the herds caused in the area.

Ellsworth, Kansas, 60 miles west of Abilene, became the new town to ship out of between 1872 to 1875. (The photo above is Ellsworth in 1873.)

One can find a vast amount of information on the internet about the cattle drives which went through Kansas in the 1870's. Here's some interesting tidbits, written by F. B Streeter in 1935, for an article in the Kansas Historical Quarterly.

As a means of advertising the new trail and the shipping points on the line, the Kansas Pacific issued a pamphlet and map entitled, Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail From Red River Crossing to the Old Reliable Kansas Pacific Railway. The writer has located only two editions of this pamphlet: one issued in 1872, the other in 1875. To quote from the 1875 edition:

Drovers are recommended to make Ellis, Russell, Wilson's, Ellsworth and Brookville the principal points for their cattle for the following reasons: Freedom from petty annoyances of settlers, arising from the cattle trespassing upon cultivated fields, because there is wider range, an abundance of grass and water, increased shipping facilities and extensive yard accommodations. Large and commodious hotels may be found in all these places, and at Ellsworth, especially, the old "Drovers' cottage," so popular with the trade for years, will be found renovated and enlarged. The banking house of D. W. Powers & Co., established at Ellsworth in 1873, in the interest of the cattle business, will remain at this point and continue their liberal dealings as in the past.

As stated above, Ellsworth became the principal shipping point for Texas cattle on the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1872. The first three droves of longhorns that season arrived in Ellsworth early in June. These droves numbered 1,000 head each. Two weeks later a total of twenty-eight herds, numbering from 1,000 to 6,000 head each, had arrived and many more were on the way. The fresh arrivals contained a total of 58,850 head of longhorns. These, together with over 40,000 head which had wintered in the county, made a total of more than 100,000 head of Texas cattle in Ellsworth county. 

That season 40,161 head were transported from Ellsworth, or one fourth of the total number marketed over the Kansas Pacific...Besides those shipped by rail from Ellsworth, about 50,000 head were driven to California and the territories from that place. In the months of June and July more than 100,000 head of beef and stock cattle changed hands at Ellsworth. Drovers found buyers on their arrival, enabling them to close out at a good price and return to their homes.

The prices paid for cattle that season were as follows: $19 to $22 for beeves; $15 to $18 for three-year-olds; $9 to $10 for two-year olds; $12 for cows; and $6 for yearlings. 

My first thought on reading this? Wow! That's a lot of cattle to surround the town! 

My second? Dust, manure and flies...and a good setting for a western romance...

Here's the description for HILDA HOGTIES A HORSEMAN. Enjoy this new historical romance!

Ranch woman Hilda Hamner spent her youth traveling with her Swedish immigrant family as they drove cattle from Texas up to Kansas cow towns in the 1870s. Hilda decided to get off the cattle trail and bought an abandoned homestead in Kansas with her horse race winnings. She plans on raising horses—and finding a husband that doesn’t mind her tall, lanky body that’s usually dressed in men’s clothing. 

Noah Wilerson planned to bring his intended bride from Illinois back to the Kansas homestead he started for them, but found out his fiancée had already married someone else when arriving at her father’s doorstep. After traveling back home, Noah finds a woman has taken over his claim, leaving him homeless and jobless. 

Hilda realizes she needs help to make her horse ranch successful, and decides that Noah is the right man—to promote from horseman to husband on her ranch—if he’ll treat her as a special woman, and not just a ranching partner. 

Noah wants his homestead back, and the woman who has transformed the simple soddie into a family home. Between family dramas, outlaw danger, and butting heads, which one will hogtie the other to get to the church altar first?

Here’s the link to HILDA HOGTIES A HORSEMAN book on Amazon.  Enjoy!

Linda Hubalek


  1. Railroads were such an integral part of US history. Seems to me we should refurbish our rail system and get back to it. Maybe we could decrease the use of fossil fuel and frequent accidents on our highways from the huge trucks we presently use for transport.
    You certainly brought back the heyday of cattle shipping, Linda. I can just imagine what an exciting place Ellsworth must have been. I liked the mention of how it decreased the "petty annoyances" to the local farmers. An excellent blog. I love trains.
    I wish you every success with your new release, Hilda Hogties A Horseman. I'd like to see how Noah overcomes all his setbacks--could he find happiness with Hilda who took over his homestead? :-)

  2. So glad I don't live near a feed lot such as must have existed in Ellsworth! Do you suppose residents became used to the smell?

  3. I like the plot, and the statement that he found that she'd transformed the simple soddie into a family home, sort of made me chuckle. If it were a dugout...not so good. But I've seen vintage photos of two story houses built using sod for bricks--I believe they were in Kansas. Some still stand--a little wobbly, but still up. Amazing.
    Railroads. I wrote Texas Dreamer and set it in 1910. My intended place for the story was the South Plains of Texas, just below the Panhandle, close to New Mexico. But I thought I should check out railroads in that area.
    There were none even in that year. So, I had to move my story back to just West of Fort Worth.
    And Fort Worth--a town famous for cattle yards. I can imagine the smell during August in Texas.
    I enjoyed your post. Best wishes for your novel.

  4. Hi Sarah, the railroad changed Kansas forever when it came through the state.
    Thanks for your well wishes on my new release. And of course- Noah came to terms with Hilda owning his land...:)

  5. HI Caroline, I'm sure the cattle around Ellsworth were spread over several sections as they had to be around water, which would have been the Smoky Hill River south of Ellsworth, plus creeks in the area.
    If you want feedlot smell, the Dodge City is the area to visit now. It's constant, but you do get used to it...if you grew up with cattle like I did anyway. And sometimes the wind shifts and you get a break.

  6. Thanks for the comment Celia. Research on railroads is very important. The train was built west to Ellsworth in 1868. The family, Carl and Kajsa Swenson, who homesteaded the farm where I grew up, missed getting off the train in Salina and had to get off at Ellsworth because that was the end of the line when they arrived in 1868. Unfortunately, Carl got sick and they had to stay there a few weeks until he got well enough to travel back to Salina. Kajsa worked in the hotel to pay for their stay. (Their homestead stories were written up in my book, Butter in the Well.)

  7. Linda, isn't Kansas a great state in which to find an interesting setting to put a novel? After all, we have most of the wild cow towns that graced the old west. It would be wonderful to have newspaper archives of all those towns to go through and find things to use in our writing. Good luck with the book!

  8. Hi JD, yes Kansas has quite a wild frontier past, so I'll never run out of settings for books!

  9. Best wishes on the new release, Linda! I have long-ago Kansas roots and am sure Ellsworth is in the mix. Great post today.

  10. Thanks, Tanya. Maybe our ancestors knew each other back in their wild west Kansas days!


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