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The Winchester Quarantine (Panhandle Stockmen's Association)

Published August 11th, 2014 by Unknown


[From J. Marvin Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, June, 1948]

Much has been written and said about the cattle industry in Texas. When the Civil War ended there were thousands of cattle on the open ranges, and no market for them. But when the railroads penetrated Kansas, a shipping point was established at Abilene, and later other towns, which made it possible for cattle owners in Texas to send their animals to Kansas City, Chicago, and other northern centers, and thus an outlet was provided for the thousands of longhorns that were then of such little value to their owners. From 1865 to 1885 millions of cattle were driven out of Texas to find a ready market in the North. The cattle industry took on new life, and brought great wealth to the Lone Star State.

While the industry showed the greatest activity in South, Central and Southwest Texas at the beginning, in the middle 1870's that great unsettled scope of country known as the Panhandle began to beckon the cowmen. It was a vast region, an empire within itself, infested with wild Indians and buffalo, and it took courage and determination on the part of brave men to go out into limitless region and establish ranches far from the borderline of civilization. They had to live in dug-outs or sod houses, and risk their lives every day in the year. The first of these pioneer cattlemen in the Panhandle was Charles Goodnight, who started the first ranch there in the fall of 1876, coming down from Colorado. He was followed the next year by T. S. Bugbee, H. W. Cresswell, the Reynolds brothers and a few others, who located on the Canadian river. In 1878 and 1879 many more ranches were started, both large and small. While as a rule these ranches were owned by high class, honest men, there were some of the other sort, and cattle stealing and rustling became frequent and ultimately, unbearable. As a result the leading cowmen considered the advisability of organizing in self-protection, and in the spring of 1880, they called a meeting of the stockmen of the Panhandle at Mobeetie, then capital of the Panhandle, and organized the Panhandle Stockmen's Association for the purpose of mutual benefit, co operation and protection, especially for the small ranchmen. Charles Goodnight was chosen president, Hank Cresswell vice-president, and a man by the name of Rising, secretary of the new organization. Among the charter members of this organization were H. W. Cressfell, T. S. Bugbee, Robert Moody and J. F. Evans. Unfortunately, the records of the organization and of its subsequent meetings have been lost. The membership grew rapidly, and from 1881 to 1886 it represented more cattle than any similar organization in this or any other state, and the good resulting from its efforts was a great factor in the wonderful development of the great Panhandle of Texas.

It is impossible to recall the names of all the several hundred members at this late day, but the following were among them. Many of these men were great men in any position in Iife. All were men of nerve and desirable citizens. Practically all were honest and loyal to their associates. It took such men to pioneer and lay the foundation for the almost bloodless settlement of the Panhandle. The Panhandle was settled and developed with fewer killings than any like territory in the United States. In the northern part of the Panhandle were Tom S. Bugbee with Quarter Circle T brand; R. L. (Dick) McNulty with the Turkey Track; W. E. Anderson with the Scissors brand; H. W. (Hank) Cresswell with the Bar C C; Robert Moody with the P O; Tom Connell and D. Eubanks with the D; Joe Morgan, Mose Hays and Mell Wright, Bee Hopkins, Frank Biggers, George Anderson, F. B. York, Judge Paulley, Tuttle & Chapman, a Mr. Burdick, J. V. Anderson, Alex Young, William Kelly, Dick Bumgreaser, Brennan & Hill, Mr. Ewing, father of Judge Reece Ewing, Al Clay, Henry and Dick Barton, J. M. (Doc) Day, Tom Word, and many others.

In the Mobeetie-Ft. Elliott country were: G. W. Arrington, Cape Willingham, Perry LaForce, Colonel B. B. and Henry Groom, D. W. Van Horn, Henry Fleming, Harry McGahey, the Standard Cattle Company. Mr. Allen, manager of the 3 P brand: Smith, Reed & Evans, with S R E brand: Mr. Thurmond, manager: N. T. (Nick) Eaton, U U brand: Tobe Odom, T T brand; Mark Hussellby, Mrs. Schick, Judge Emanuel Dubbs, Frank Clampit, Frank Goodwin. Mr. Cantrill on White Deer, John H. Shelton, R. P. Masterson, John Powers, owner of the J Buckle brand: Maddox Brothers & Day, of Y-Cross; Bill Miller, Henry Fry, Rev. Alexander, father of R. T. Alexander: John Todd, manager of the Laurel Leaf brand on the Canadian river, and many others.

In the Clarendon vicinity and south thereof were: Adair & Goodnight of the JA and Lazy F brands; Gunter Q. Munson of the T Anchor; J. F. Evans of the Spade; Rowe Brothers of the R O; Morrison Brothers of the Doll Baby; Coleman & Dyer of the Shoe Bar, and Goodnight & Dyer of the Flying T B brands. The latter firm was composed of Mrs. A. Goodnight and her brother Walter Dyer, who in 1883 sold to Bugbee & Nelson; Finch, Lord & Nelson of the Bar 9 6 and Bar O H brands; L. H. Carhart of the Quarter Circle Heart brand; Brown & McClelland of the Bar M; Sam Dyer, Leigh Dyer, Rev. W. A. Allen, Matador Land and Cattle Co., H. M. Campbell. manager; Britain & Lomax of the Spur brand; Frank Houston on McClelland Creek; Archie Williams, Col. Edwin E. Wilson representing Underwood & Clark of Kansas City, who sold several large ranches to English and Scottish capitalists; J. M. Coburn of the Hansford County Land and Cattle Co., of the Turkey Track brand; Glidden & Sanford of the Frying Pan brand: Campbell & Austin of near Tascosa; J. P. Wiser, W. P. Herring and Pat Doyle of the Dominion Cattle Company, owners of the Box T; Charlie Rath, Henry Hamburg, Conkle & Lytle, with the Rocking Chair; Bill Koogle and many others.

Charles Goodnight was re-elected president of the association in the spring of 1881, and in the spring of 1882 he declined to serve longer, and O. H. Nelson was chosen as his successor, and re-elected in 1883 and 1884. During all these years the executive committee was Charlie Goodnight, Hank Cresswell, Nick Eaton and Bob Moody. During the years 1882, 1883 and 1884 the association's troubles were many and grave. Rustlers both large and small were active in the spring of 1882. Several brand inspectors were employed by the association which sent one each to Kansas City, St. Louis, Dodge City, Caldwell, Kansas and some to other places. The number of cattle recovered that were being wrongfully shipped was simply astounding. At Caldwell and Hunniwell, Kansas, it was not uncommon to cut one-fourth of a herd as strays belonging to members of the association. The rows and troubles that the inspectors had in cutting and claiming these cattle, if told, would fill volumes and be both humorous and serious. At St. Louis, one inspector, a Mr. Plummer, an elderly, quiet gentleman, on one occasion cut 25 per cent out of a sixteen-car shipment made from the Cherokee Strip by a man of large and fine physique. Naturally the shipper made a strenuous kick, but Plummer held the cattle and the rightful owner got the proceeds of sale. The shipper on meeting Plummer later proceeded to beat him up, injuring him so seriously that he had to retire for several months. Tom Martin, later county clerk of Donley county, was sent to succeed him. Martin went there with instructions to go armed and to shoot to kill if attacked. The association prosecuted the shipper for the theft, in the Illinois Court at East St. Louis, but could not convict him. He paid a small fine for assault, getting off easily, but the resulting publicity received by the association was of inestimable value.

During the winter of 1882-83, cattle rustling became so prevalent that a strong majority of the association was in favor of organizing a vigilance committee to deal summarily with the well-known leading rustlers. Indictments were returned against them time and again, but when they were brought to trial a hung jury would result, although the evidence was incontrovertible. This raised quite a strong sentiment in favor of the cattlemen taking the law into their own hands and hanging or shooting a few of them. However, the majority of the members of the association were bitterly opposed to this action. One of the association's by-laws provided as cause for expulsion from the association the employment of a known cow thief or rustler. One of the members had as his ranch foreman one of the best cow hands in the country, a good foreman and a very likeable chap, but he was also a shrewd rustler. Many people knew this, but his employer would not believe it possible that this foreman was guilty, and refused to discharge said foreman. In August, 1884, a special executive session of the association was held in Mobeetie, not permitting anyone not a member to be present, for the purpose of having this member show cause why he should not be expelled. After due deliberation this gentleman was given thirty days to further consider the matter. He was perfectly willing to fire his foreman when convinced of his guilt. That afternoon, in secret session, it became rumored that the long talked about vigilance committee was being organized. Within less than thirty-six hours, twenty-four well known rustlers had quit the country, never to return; among them the foreman above mentioned and another foreman of one of the biggest ranches in the country. In addition to the brand inspectors every member of the association was a detective and brand inspector, and they had paid detectives on all the larger ranches and elsewhere, so a close check was kept on what was going on all over the country.

The association assessed its members to pay the sheriffs and county fudges of Wheeler and Donley counties and the district attorney of the Panhandle district a salary upon which they could live.

Another of the accomplishments of the Panhandle Stockmen's Association was the maintenance o f the Winchester quarantine against Texas fever. It had long been known that when cattle in the Panhandle came in contact with southern Texas cattle, or a trail over which they had traveled, they gave the Penhandle cattle the so-called Texas fever. No one knew the cause of this and it was a great mystery inasmuch as the cattle communicate the disease. However, the disease was fearfully fatal. One cowman and his partners lost in 1882-83-84 over $200,000 worth of cattle with Texas fever, and this was only one outfit out of many sufferers. So it became necessary that southern cattle should be prevented from passing through the Panhandle. At that time there were not laws to prevent them from so doing. The southern cowmen did not believe there was any such disease and honestly thought the Panhandle cowmen were simply agitating the question in order to keep them from encroaching on their good ranges. In the early part of 1882 there was called a trail meeting of all parties interested, at Dallas, and a stormy session it was, but after three days' conference, trails to the east and west of the Panhandle were agreed upon, one crossing Red river at Doan's Store, thence on to Dodge City, and another south and west. A large tank was built on the Running Water in Hale county, where herds crossing the Plains could get water without an excessive drive, and a furrow was plowed as a guide from the Caprock to the New Mexico line, all though an unoccupied country. A large majority of the trail drivers confined their drives to these trails, but there were some who would not. These gave much trouble and necessitated the establishment of a patrol to the south to head off such herds as were going to try to pass through. The association kept from four to six reliable, level-headed men, at all times well armed, on this patrol for several years at a cost of from $150 to $200 per month per man to turn back such trespassing herds. Their instructions were to use moral suasion first, bluff second, and if both failed to send for help from the nearest ranches to check them until injunction could be secured and served on the herd boss, which usually took several days, but was always effective. This soon was termed the "Winchester Quarantine." A full history of it would fill a volume of mighty interesting reading.

At the spring meeting of the Association in 1885, Robert Moody was chosen president and W. L. R. Dickson was elected secretary for the third time. In 1886 the association, having accomplished the objects for which it was formed, concluded to discontinue the organization and consolidate with the Northwest Texas Cattle Raisers Association, now the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, realizing that in numbers there was strength, as well as economy.

All meetings in the early days were held in Mobeetie, and although being 200 miles from a railroad, these meetings were attended by hundreds.

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