Following the Civil War, the cattle industry in this country was pretty well decimated. What few cattle there were available for market were infected with tick fever, which left it inedible.
The only cattle herds of any size anywhere in the country were the Texas Longhorn steers in the Great Southwest. Somehow they had to get those cattle back east where the markets were. Thus began the long cattle drives that cowboy folklore was built around. The cowboys drove those cattle in huge herds out of New Mexico and Texas, up through Oklahoma and Kansas to the nearest railhead, which at the time was Abilene, Kansas. The cattle buyers would load them on train cars and head them east toward Kansas City.
As railroads began building westward from the East Coast and out of Chicago they found the Missouri River to be a major obstacle for crossing. Bridging the river was an expensive undertaking, even for the railroad builders. Some foresighted early promoters and politicians in Kansas City managed to build the first railroad bridge across the wide Missouri, the Hannibal Bridge. Immediately all the railroads headed for Kansas City to cross that bridge. Kansas City as a result became the second largest rail center in the United States, second only to Chicago.
So as the cattle from the Southwest were shipped from Abilene into Kansas City they were able to transfer to other rails heading out in every direction back east for markets. Holding pens had to be constructed to transfer the cattle, thus creating the Kansas City Stockyards, again to eventually become the second largest stockyards in the country, second only to Chicago. The Kansas City Stockyards were the first million-dollar industry in Jackson County and soon generated a million dollars a day.
It was the railroads and the cattle industry that transformed the small "Town of Kansas" into metropolitan Kansas City, thus earning it the proud title of "Cow Town U.S.A."
The only problem with the Texas Longhorn was those skinny hindquarters. It made for tough meat and hard to chew steaks. It wasn't long before the beefeaters were demanding a better steak to chew on.
Eastern Jackson County farmers jumped on the bandwagon and began trying to breed a better bull. With all the money being generated in the county by the new cattle industry, the bankers and corporate heads began building elaborate farm estates out across Eastern and Southern Jackson County in an attempt to be the first to develop a new breed of beef cattle.
Cattle were imported from Europe and crossed with the Texas Longhorn and other cows as the breeders searched for perfection. Jackson County soon became the Cattle Capital of the country.
It was an outfit in Independence that finally made the right connection with a bull obtained in England named Anxiety IV. The majority of the table beef we buy in the grocery today is the American Polled Hereford, the product of the perfect been sired by Simpson and Gudgell on their Noland Road ranch just south of 23rd Street.
Not only was the perfect table beef discovered in the process, but also better milk producers were developed. By 1926 Jackson County boasted 3,345 farms, 200 of those were breeding stock farms, shipping cattle to all parts of the country. Another 500 were dairy farms and with the fertile soil and excellent conditions, 300 truck farms were growing produce for the American table. The largest farm was Highland Farm near Lee's Summit, 7,600 acres and the country's largest Hereford breeding estate. The most famous farms were Longview, Sni-A-Bar, Columbian and Unity. Longview and Unity were the most beautiful anywhere in America.
Ref: Jackson County, Mo. - Its Opportunities and Resources, M.E. Ballou and other sources.
-- To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send email to Ted&blueandgrey.com or call him at 819-896-3592.