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"This change," said the Barber County Index, of Medicine Lodge, on
April 10, 1885, "is necessary by reason of Commanche county being so
completely settled up that ranging cattle there will no longer be profit-
able. . . . The pool will, at the roundup this year, count out every-
thing, take a new start, and, we hope, enjoy the continued prosperity
that has heretofore attended them."

By the middle of June the pool had all its cattle in the territory and in
July the accountant, Maurice Royster, went to Medicine Lodge to prepare
for the final distribution of the pool's 11,000 acres of deeded land. This
final act was accomplished on October 7, 1886.

Though the Comanche pool continued to operate for a short time in
the Indian territory, it was gone forever in Kansas. It was the offspring
and subsequently the victim of its era. Born in a time when land
was plentiful and free for the taking, it could not exist when the horizons
closed in and the sod was plowed under.

QHORTLY after the Civil War, during a 19-year period, over five
O million cattle from Texas were trailed north to Kansas. 1 These
huge herds were sold in Abilene, Newton, Ellsworth, Wichita, Cald-
well, and Dodge City. Before being shipped, the cattle were fat-
tened on the rich grasses which grew in what is now northern
Oklahoma and southern Kansas.

At the time of these trail herds, Medicine Lodge was the only
town of any size in Barber and Comanche counties.

On February 6, 1880, Medicine Lodge's newspaper, the Cresset,
published the following news item which was to affect greatly the
handful of ranchers who were living in that area:

Jess Evans, of the firm of Evans, Hunter & Evans, predicts that the herds,
. . . ranging in Barbour and Commanche counties, will not be troubled
by the Texas drive the coming season. He has been informed that the Indian
authorities at the new post known as Sheridan's Roost, are unwilling to allow
the cattle to pass through on the old trail. As a consequence, it will be turned
either east or west so far that it will not endanger the herds ranging south of

Evans visualized the potentiality for fattening large herds of
local cattle on the grass that would be left idle by the nonexistent
Texas drives. Three other businessmen, Richard W. Phillips, Wylie
Payne, and Maj. Andrew Drumm also recognized the remarkable
ranching opportunity. They discussed a plan with the small ranchers
who were already drifting cattle in the vicinity.

The idea of banding together, as the best way to utilize the grass,
was decided upon. The outgrowth of this idea eventually became
the largest cattle ranch ever established in Kansas.

1. Joseph Nimmo, "Report on the Internal Commerce of the United States," House Bx.
Doc. No. 7, Pt. 3, 48th Cong., 2d Sess. (1884-1885), p. 122.


It was called the Comanche pool. Cattle under its control
reached the 80,000 mark. 2 Al Jennings, Oklahoma outlaw, and
Frank Eaton, author of Pistol Pete, were both on the payroll. The
story of the Comanche pool parallels the history of Kansas' last free
open range.

The idea of the pool was for members to go in together and to
range their cattle as one great common herd. The expenses incurred
and the profits received were in direct ratio to the number of a par-
ticular rancher's cattle to the total number of the whole herd. 3

The pool started business with 26,000 head. In the History of the
State of Kansas, published by A. T. Andreas, it is stated that: "The
increase of this monstrous herd is about 15,000 annually." 4

On January 6, 1881, an official roster bearing the charter names
of the Comanche pool appeared in the Barbour County Index. All
told there were 17 men: Jesse Evans, Robert Hunter, A. G. Evans,
R. Kirk, C. W. James, R. W. (Dick) Phillips, Fred Taintor, George
Cutrif, Wylie Payne, J. B. Doyle, John Wilson, J. A. McCarthy, W.
R. Colcord, Tom Doran, J. M. Rawlins, C. D. Nelson, and William
Blair. The paper went on to say: "This is certainly the biggest
thing ever attempted in southern Kansas.*'

The first board of directors was comprised of Evans, Phillips, and
Payne, with Payne acting as treasurer. 5

The region used by the Comanche pool included some of the best
grass to be found. From their winter horse camp near present Way-
noka, Okla., the pool's western boundary followed the Cimarron
river 30 miles upstream. Heading on north its territory in Kansas
took in the heads of Salt fork, Bluff creek, and Mule creek,
the three main streams of the area. Going east, the line ran along
the Medicine river within a few miles of Medicine Lodge, the east-
ern boundary, then veered back south towards Waynoka.

Mr. Sampson, a bookkeeper from St. Louis, Mo., was hired to set
up the books. He drew up balance sheets showing individual hold-
ings and presented them to members every six months. 6

The main ranch house and corrals were built 30 miles southwest
of Medicine Lodge. What started as headquarters for the Co-
manche pool soon grew to be a small town called Evansville. Here
a warehouse was provided to store wholesale goods sent out from

2. "Reminiscences of Charles F. Colcord," Chronicles of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, v.
12 (March, 1934), p. 7.

3. Coldwater Western Star, September 28, 1951, from the Barbour County Index, Janu-
ary 6, 1881; Medicine Lodge Cresset, November 24, 1881.

4. Page 1523.

5. Barbour County Index, April 14, 1881.

6. Ibid., December 23, 1880.


Kansas City by Maj. Andrew Drumm. Although Drumm's name
did not appear on the list of pool owners, he is often spoken of as
having a part in it. 7 Whenever he arrived at the ranch on an in-
spection tour, his surrey was always driven by a Negro valet.

In addition to the ranch headquarters at Evansville and the line
camps, three principal horse camps were maintained. One, called
Big Timber, which had a log cabin, was established at the pool's
southern point along the Cimarron river not far from Waynoka,
Okla. This was the wintering headquarters for most of the horses.
Frank Lockert, Coats, Kan., describes it as follows: "They fenced
in a strip M to / mile wide up and down the river. The horses
wouldn't cross the river because it was boggy. Grass stayed green
down by the river all winter and when spring came those horses
were generally fat."

"Wildcat" was another camp. It lay 25 miles north of Big Timber
near the Oklahoma-Kansas border. "Salt Fork" was located 20
miles west of Evansville along the Salt Fork creek.

The outer boundary of the ranch was constantly patrolled by cow-
boys who kept the cattle shoved back on their own range. This
was no small task, for the pool covered approximately 4,000 square
miles. These line camp riders lived on the prairie in dugouts or
"soddies," which were built a day's ride apart.

Drinking and card playing were strictly forbidden in pool terri-
tory. As one editor put it: "We are informed that on the Pool
range there is not a euchre deck to be found. Card playing and
drinking is prohibited and the cowboys do not disobey the order."
The directors had ruled thumbs down on the ground that it caused
trouble among the riders. 8

During the spring of 1881 about five hundred head of pure bred
young bulls were shipped in from the east, many of which were for
the improvement of the pool herd. They came by train to Harper,
68 miles from Evansville. 9

Jesse Evans owned one third of the pool in 1882. That summer
he sold his interest to A. G. Evans and Robert Hunter for $175,000.
The sale included, among other things, 27,000 head of cattle and the
Evansville Merchandise Store. 10

The pool's roundups were such large affairs that notices were
published in the papers. Small ranchers, "parties," could have their

7. Letter from E. E. Dale to author, September 22, 1955.

8. Barbour County Index, December 30, 1880.

9. Medicine Lodge Cresset, June 3, 1881.

10. Barbour County Index, July 21, 1882.


strays gathered by sending their brands to ranch headquarters.
Extra cowboys were hired during this time and the outfit was split
up into several crews. The territory was also divided and riders
worked the range in sections. A calf was branded according to
the brand carried by the mother cow. Tally records were kept as
each calf was marked. 11 After the roundup each member was
responsible for the disposition of his own beeves.

Jeff Long of Medicine Lodge said: "I knew some of the Pool
riders. I never worked for them myself, but I was on what the
outfits called a general roundup. Cowboys came from as far away
as the Colorado line. It looked like an army camped on the

One pool rider was to become better known than the rest of the
men. In a letter from Tarzana, Calif., where he spent the later years
of his life, he wrote: "I know the country well. I worked on the
Comanche Pool in the Cherokee Strip south of Coldwater in 1885."
The letter was signed Al Jennings. 12 He was an unsuccessful Okla-
homa train robber. Another pool rider, Frank Eaton, author of
Pistol Pete, wrote: 'While I was a trouble-shooter for them a long
time I asked no questions. A man lived longer if he kept his eyes
and ears open and his mouth shut." 13

Mrs. Frank Gordon, Lake City, Kan., recalls that pool cowboys
preferred to do their celebrating in Kiowa. "They were generally
good boys. I remember how they came riding into town one day
and bought all the paper flowers the stores had. They gave some to
every lady on the street."

One of the biggest undertakings of the pool was the fencing of
their range. Fencing did not mean one continuous, unbroken line.
The south and western range was marked by the natural barrier of
the sandy bars along the Cimarron, and to the north and west drift
fences were built along the high ridges. The Medicine Lodge Cres-
set reported:

The chief topic of interest among the members of the Pool is the range fence,
which has been determined upon. This thing of building a fence one hundred
and eighty miles in length, which will require nearly 60,000 posts, and 240,000
pounds of wire, is an undertaking which would tend to astonish a man.
After the fence is built, a rider will be appointed for about every thirty miles
of fence. The cost . . . will be in the neighborhood of $30,000. 14

Part of that wire is still used today. It can be found on ranches

11. Medicine Lodge Cresset, November 24, 1881.

12. Ruby Basye, "Outlaw Proved to Settlers He Was Man of His Word," Wichita
Sunday Eagle Magazine, November 20, 1955, p. 2.

13. Letter to author, October 13, 1955.

14. May 25, 1882.

Crew of cowboys, Comanche cattle pool, 1884.

Cowboys employed by the pool, at Medicine Lodge, 1884. From left to

right: Joe Bowers, Bud Snow, Frank King, Mike Cavanaugh, and Barney

Armstrong. The sixth (at the right) has not been identified.

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located in the vicinity, and is easily identified by its coarse thickness
and many-sided prongs.

When the total expenses for the pool were figured by Sampson, it
was learned that it took $1.00 per year or nine cents a month to keep
each head of stock. Short items concerning their expenses were:
an advertisement by the treasurer, E. W. Payne, for 5,000 bushels
of corn at highest market prices, 15 and "D. W. Phye came in from
Harper last Sunday with two car loads of horses for the Comanche
pool/' 16

Operations had been going for two years when the newspapers be-
gan to paint the outline of a wealthy picture. In April, 1882: "It is
estimated that 20,000 beeves will be shipped from the Comanche
County Pool this year." 17 In October: "The Comanche County
Pool will brand in the neighborhood of twelve thousand calves this
year." 18 The following year: "This range [Comanche pool] sup-
ports something over 50,000 cattle from a thoroughbred Texan to
the thoroughbred Durham, Hereford, Polled Angus and Galloway.
. . . The shipments . . . this season have been 9,800 head
of three-year-old and over. . . ." 19

Since the pool covered such a large territory many drovers crossed
its range on the way to the market at Dodge City, 70 miles north-
west. Disputes developed when the pool claimed drovers got off
the trails, moved too slowly, and used up the grass. The Kansas
Cowboy, the cattleman's paper of Dodge City, reported:

Colonel Benedict, Indian inspector has been stopping at the Southwestern
since Monday. He has been looking over the cattle trails across the Indian
territory with a view to investigating the troubles of the drovers in getting
through that country. He has examined the Chisholm and the Western trails,
and will report them all right and amply sufficient for the needs of the drive on
those trails. 20

In 1884 and 1885 the town of Coldwater sprang up at the north-
west corner of the pool. One of the first acts of the commissioners
of newly organized Comanche county was to declare the herd law in
force in the county. After June 1, 1885, it was unlawful for anyone
to permit cattle, horses, mules, asses, swine, sheep, or goats to run
loose in the county under penalties prescribed by the laws of the
state of Kansas. 21 But in Barber county, where some of the pool

15. Barbour County Index, November 24, 1882.

16. Ibid., April 20, 1883.

17. Medicine Lodge Cresset, April 27, 1882.

18. Ibid., October 12, 1882.

19. Barbour County Index, November 30, 1883.

20. Caldwell Journal, reprinted in the Kansas Cowboy, Dodge City, July 19, 1884.

21. Barber County Index, May 8, 29, 1885.



range was also located, the herd law was not accepted without op-
position. The editor of the Medicine Lodge Index spoke out bit-
terly against it: ". . . there are indications of a herd law fight
brewing in this country; ... we want to [be] put on record
as opposing the adoption of a herd law. It will be to the disadvan-
tage of every citizen." 22

The steady influx of homesteaders, filing on what had been open
range, created pressure on the pool. The cowmen were unjustly
accused of starting Indian scares in hopes of driving settlers away;
although some did add fuel to the fire by passing the rumors on.
But contrary to popular belief, the first few settlers were welcomed
by the cattlemen. They helped stop prairie fires, killed wolves and
coyotes, and their small scattered homes made the plains a little less

The pool was also faced with another problem: that of taxes.
Records in Medicine Lodge show: "The Comanche County Pool
still object to giving in their property for taxation. The commis-
sioners, on the other hand, have ordered the levy made. The matter,
of course, can only be settled in court." 23

An old abstract unceremoniously acknowledges the pool's death.
The members dissolved partnership with each one receiving a desig-
nated part of the pool range. For instance, the amount of land given
to Dick Phillips was determined by the fact he owned an 8,766/
50,327th interest in the pool. In 1886 the 12 Comanche pool own-
ers signed over their undivided interests to William Blair, including
50,527 head of cattle. The Comanche Land & Cattle Company was
the largest single owner at that time with 29,986 head. According
to the abstract, each owner, through Blair, received title to certain
tracts in fee simple, determined by each one's ratio to the whole. 24
A Comanche county map, created by Register of Deeds Mrs. Wilma
Lewis, shades the land taken over by pool owners. Sections along
the creeks obviously were the most popular.

Many of the cattle died during the hard winter of 1885 and the
still harder winter of 1886. Although Evans and Hunter continued
to hold some pool cattle on leased Indian land in the strip, even
these were taken out, with Frank King as foreman, when "Old Okla-
homa" was opened for settlement.

The era of the pool is gone but the old-time cowman's stamina
and courage is not easily forgotten.

22. Ibid., reprinted in the Kansas Cowboy, July 5, 1884.

23. Medicine Lodge Cresset, August 2, 1883.

24. Abstract of title of the R. W. Phillips ranch now in possession of Dillman Shaw,
Medicine Lodge.

Business and Agricultural Conditions in Kansas,



DURING the 1880's, Kansas, along with the rest of the Western
frontier, underwent a boom in agricultural lands, town lots, and
railroad building and manufacturing. The first two were financed
principally by real estate mortgages, the third to a great extent
by the issue of municipal bonds. It was these mortgages and bonds
that facilitated the movement of money from the East (and from
Europe) to the capital-deficient West. This was done through
the establishment of a great number of land mortgage companies.
Of these, there were several types: individual brokers, private
mortgage companies, and corporations issuing debentures backed
by land mortgage security.

One such mortgage broker who did a considerable business in
Kansas was Charles M. Hawkes of Portland, Maine, and New
Haven, Conn. The business and some personal letters written
by Hawkes from December 11, 1871, to January 20, 1888, are con-
tained in 14 letter-press books preserved by the Kansas State His-
torical Society. Hawkes spent the years 1854-1858 working in the
West, in Chicago, and in Davenport, Iowa. After several years
as a partner in a New England import-export firm he entered the
Western bond and mortgage brokerage business in late 1871. He
concentrated on Missouri municipal bonds for a few years, but by
1875 had shifted his major interest to Kansas urban and rural land
mortgages. At the Kansas end, Hawkes operated through corre-
spondents who examined the property of potential borrowers and
forwarded applications to him. His major sources of funds in the
East were (1) personal acquaintances, generally from the middle
classes (often in the professions or retired), and (2) several colonies
of the "United Society called Shakers" in New York and New Eng-
land. These societies were Hawkes' most important sources of
loanable funds, his business acquaintance with one group dating
back to 1859. 1

GLENN H. MILLER, JR., native of Chapman, attended the University of Kansas and is
a candidate for a Ph. D. degree in economics at Harvard University. He is currently assistant
director of the Center for Research in Business at the University of Kansas.

1. Further discussion of Hawkes' lending operations may be found in my unpublished
master of arts thesis, University of Kansas, 1954, entitled "Financing the Boom in Kansas,
1879 to 1888, With Special Reference to Municipal Indebtedness and to Real Estate Mort-
gages," and in an article published in the Business History Review, Cambridge, Mass.,
Autumn, 1958, pp. 293-310.



Hawkes expected to visit the West at least once each year,
usually in the fall, spending from six weeks to three months (prin-
cipally in Kansas). These trips were made primarily to "keep
familiar with the values of farms there and visit large numbers of
my loans each trip." 2 Further time was spent "in looking over
the country and talking over and arranging with competent men
whom I deem entirely trustworthy to examine the property upon
which borrowers apply for loans, and make their reports to me
thereon thus aiming to secure reliable knowledge of the property
offered as security. . . ." 8

Hawkes had barely launched his Western bond and loan business
when the panic and depression of 1873 overtook the country.
Writing from Portland in September, 1872, he explained to a Kan-
sas City firm why it was that bonds were selling slowly.

The present stringency in the money market affects this city more than usual
and my customers get disappointed in collecting and Banks are pressed very
hard. I have trades already made but hanging solely in consequence of the
temporary stringency at the Banks preventing the parties from realizing their
funds, which would put me in funds, for this as I have the Bonds laid aside for
delivery soon as they can raise the money. 4

Money continued tight through December and into 1873, and cus-
tomers remained slow in taking bonds off Hawkes' hands. In Febru-
ary he reported that "investors appear scarce hereabout, and I
have still $6,000 of the Sedalias on hand. . . ." 5

By October, when he was predicting that money would remain
scarce for some time, Hawkes was beginning to feel the pressure

. . . It is impossible to raise money these times on any kind of security
without sacrifice. . . . The only thing at my command that could be forced
off in the present state of the market . . . is the $1,000 Govt Bond now
about 9 pr. ct. lower than when it was bought, owing to the changed condi-
tion of the money market. This I may be compelled to sell to take care of
some payments I have to make. . . ." 6

General financial conditions had become noticeably better in De-
cember, 1873 (although not in the lending business), when Hawkes
wrote: "Business here in investments is dull but our business com-
munity find money accessible for their needs/' 7 and by the next
February he commented that "money is gradually easing up with

2. C. M. Hawkes to Elder Simon Atherton, Ayer, Mass., January 8, 1881.

3. Hawkes to W. F. Foster, Norway, Maine, February 18, 1882.

4. Hawkes to J. G. Watkins and Co., Kansas City, Mo., September 23, 1872.

5. Hawkes to Col. A. D. Jaynes, Sedalia, Mo., February 28, 1873.

6. Letter of October 20, 1873, addressee not known.

7. Hawkes to Bartholomew Lewis and Co., St. Louis, Mo., December 19, 1873.


Hawkes' business was fully recovered by 1877, when he made
one of his regular autumn visits to Kansas, reporting back to Elder
Vance, trustee of the Alfred Shaker Society, that "Kansas corn beats
all that I have seen so far. There is a remarkably heavy emigra-
tion into this state largely to Edwards Co. on the A. T. & S. F. R. R.
. . ." 8 Upon returning to the East Hawkes wrote to another
investor as follows:

I reached home yesterday after an absence of five weeks in Kan. where I
found the people cheery under return of prosperity. Business there seems to
have recovered mostly and I think the east is feeling the good results of it.
Loan business in Kan however is dull as there is comparatively little money
wanted. On the other hand the supply has steadily increased and now money
is offering to the fanners below 10% and in some cases as low as 8% but with
restrictions in the latter case to suit the whims of the strange investor such as
near proximity to the Capital, etc. Crops abundant and the wheat prospect
very fine throughout the west especially in Kansas. 9

By May, 1880, money was offering "so freely to Kansas that Ap-
plications come in very slowly/* When Hawkes reached Kansas
the following autumn he discovered that the year had not been a
good one for the state.

I prolonged my stay in Kan a few days visiting the western part of the
state which has suffered considerably this season from the drought so preva-
lent all over the north and west. Those relying upon sod crops and some
others lost their crops & the former many of them new settlers were used up.
Many however got fair to good crops of corn. In some locations the drought
& chinch bugs which are so apt to accompany a drought swept nearly all the
wheat. On the other hand many found their wheat threshed out much better
than the short stalks promised & on the whole Kan is in good condition with
money in most parts (especially the east half of the state) plenty and new
settlers taking lands in more easterly counties instead of the great tide to the
western counties which are some of them losing population this fall. . . , 10

But Hawkes' confidence in Kansas was not shaken.
. . . another year will see their places occupied either by themselves or
others for Kansas is too promising to be retrograde. Prices of both farm &
town property in the eastern half & much of the western advance steadily,
and money is generally plenty there and the state developing wonderfully. 11

The year 1881 was better, Kansas faring "rather better than the
average state west from N. Y. state I think but many have poor
crops/' 12 especially on the uplands which "felt the drought in most
places severely, but the corn on the bottom lands will turn out

8. Hawkes to J. P. Vance, Alfred, Maine, October 9, 1877.

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 8 of 59)