Title: Pioneer Stories

Author: Gorden, D. R.

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PIONEER STORIES

I am a Civil War veteran, but if the war between the North and South had anything civil connected with it I have failed to discover it.

After my discharge from this service and return to my home in Pennsylvania, I thought I did not have room enough and decided I would come west. So I came out to Kansas, and all I found here was room. The country looked just as Mitchell’s geography said it was, a barren waste - - (Kansas was admitted as a state in 1861) - - no work of any kind in sight, but I was fortunate in being a telegraph operator and was given a job by the Rail Road but they had no money to pay any salary, but at the end of each month they furnished you with a piece of paper that would be cashed from three to six months after its issue.

A cattle market was established here by three brothers named McCoy, all from Springfield, Illinois, in the fall of 1867. About 35 thousand head of cattle were shipped from here to Chicago. They sold at a small profit to the owner. The second shipment was made a short time afterwards. Nine hundred head were shipped, and the Chicago men would not   make a bid on them, so they were reloaded and shipped to Buffalo, where they sold for three hundred less than the freight bill. This of course was very discouraging to those that were endeavoring to make this a cattle market. Cattle were still driven here and sold to dealers that fed them and forwarded them to the other markets.

As I have intimated, I was the telegraph operator here; and it was a very hard place to fill, as the Texans thought I could grant any favor they might request, and I had a hard time doing business with them. The town was composed of gamblers and drunkards, and they had many fights and murders among themselves. One day a man came running into my office and his question was, “Mr. Gorden, could we hire you to attend a funeral today? And we wish you to take your wife with you, as one of our boys was shot last night and we want to be able to tell his parents that one decent couple attended his funeral.” I told them I would do as they requested, at no cost to them. They were grateful to me for going. I came here to work for the Rail Road company June 15, 1869.

After the cattle trade left here, a citizen names T. C. Henry broke up a piece of ground and sowed it in wheat. The season was very favorable, and the following harvest he had 1300 bushels of wheat to sell. It was splendid wheat, and I bought it myself and shipped it to St. Louis and it graded No. 1. This wheat deal encouraged   others and people began to raise wheat and other farm grains, and the country proved itself to be a good place to live.

During the cattle days the town was hard to handle, and Bill Hickok was made marshal. History makes him out to be a very brave man. This is not correct. He would shoot at the drop of the hat and drop the hat himself, but if he met a man that he thought was as quick as he was, he was very careful. I remember once a gambler coming into the telegraph office while Bill and I were there. The gambler had a revolver strapped around him, and Bill had been ordered to make revolver men lay them aside when in Abilene, so Bill said to this gambler, “I want you to take off that revolver.” But the gambler’s reply was, “Bill, I am not going to take off this revolver, and you know damn well you cannot make me take it off.” They stood and looked at each other for a few minutes. Finally Bill said, “Well, just keep it hid so that I cannot see it.” Both men were standing, each holding a revolver with finger on trigger. Had either made a move, one or the other would have been killed on the spot, and Bill knew this.

After serving about three months, Wild Bill left; and a man named Tom Smith was appointed. After Bill left, the Texans took charge of the town, and one cowboy in particular would come riding down town shooting a revolver on each side of himself and calling out, “Where is the new marshal? I want to see him.” One day he came down as usual, and Smith   as new marshal was walking up the sidewalk. He stepped out in the street and walked up to the fellow and said to him, “I am the new marshal.” The Texan said, “Why, how do you do. I have been looking all over town for you.” Smith said, “You need not look any more. You get down off that horse, and I will take you to a place where you can always find the marshal.” I said to him, “Were you not afraid he would shoot you?” His answer to me was, “No, those drunken Texans will not do what they threaten to do.”

I think I know when ladies began to wear short skirts. Some emigrants were driving through Abilene, and three of their wagons were stopped at the side of the road near the Rail Road tracks. Five women wearing the fashionable long skirts of those days were walking down the Rail Road track when a car loaded with cattle ran off the track, and some of the cattle were thrown out a car and they were so scared they ran down the track following the women. The cattle were bawling, and the women looked back and saw the cattle coming. On seeing them, the women grabbed up the long skirts, threw them over their shoulders and ran ahead the cattle, and as the cattle kept bellowing the women kept increasing their speed, but the cattle finally overtook them but passed the women. I certainly had a laugh at those women running.

Title: Pioneer Stories

Source: University of Kansas Libraries, RH MS P45

Author: Gorden, D. R.

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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