MORE THAN ONE CATTLE TOWN
We talked about Dodge City, but there were other cow towns almost ten years before the infamous Dodge City Kansas.
Cow towns were small frontier settlements whose existence depended heavily on the trade in free-range cattle. A typical cow town lay at the junction of the railroad and livestock trail.
It provided pens ready to receive the herds driven up from the south. The sale, and their transportation to urban meatpackers, to mid-western cattle feeders, or to the ranchers of the Central and Northern Plains was dependent on these cow towns.
While their principal commodity was cattle, horses destined for ranch use provided an important secondary commerce.
Ogallala, Nebraska, was also a noted cow town, the most famous were those of post–Civil War Kansas, each served by a trail from Texas.
The first cow town was Abilene, Kansas organized as a market for Texas stock in 1867. It flourished until farmers overran its outlying ranges, ending its access to the trail.
Ellsworth and Wichita, Kansas then assumed the roles as major cow towns. From 1872 through 1875 these two–urged on by rival railroads -competed for the trade.
Ultimately, rural settlement closed them both. Dodge City became a cattle town in 1876. A severe drought, temporarily retarding the advance of the agricultural frontier, extended its life as a Texas cattle market until 1885. Caldwell flourished from 1880 through 1885. Kansas finally closed its borders to direct importation of Texas cattle, ending the careers of both Dodge and Caldwell.