To Texas cattlemen Dodge City, Abilene, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays and Newton were all spelled with dollar signs.

They were the end of the trail for cattle drives.  In reality, were it not for cattle and the cowboys, they would Cattle Driveprobably have never grown beyond a few shacks and a dusty road.

But, on March 7, 1885, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that prohibited Texas cowboys and their cattle from coming into Kansas between March and December.  What’s going on here?

Actually, four things…first, the future of Kansas’ “Cow Town” industry was very shaky at best.  Railroads were being built directly to Texas, and soon Kansas railheads would no longer be needed.  Second, it had been discovered that the plains of Kansas were good for more than just providing feed for passing cattle.  Farmers were turning over the sod and planting crops.  Although the cattlemen attempted to respect the farms, strays inevitably created havoc with crops.  For some drives, conflict with farmers was a daily event.

The third, and probably most important reason was that Texas cattle were carriers of a tick fever.  Over the years Texas cattle had become immune to the disease, and since it didn’t affect humans, there was no big concern.  But, as the cattle passed through Kansas, ticks would leave the Texas cattle and infect the local dairy cows.

And then there was the preverbal straw that broke the camel’s back.  The residents of these famous “Cow Towns” were getting fed up with the rowdy cowboys and the messy cattle.

So, the bottom line was that, as least this time, most of Kansas was behind this seemingly radical move by the legislature.

Filed under: Old West History

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