Texas Longhorns Come to Newton

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

146 years ago . . .

In May 1871, a cow boy traveling through the area took note of the new town on the prairie.

“We crossed Bluff Creek into Kansas and passed Newton during the latter part of May.  A blacksmith shop, a store, and a dozen dwelling places made up this town at that time, but when we came back through the place on our return home thirty days later, it had grown to be quite a large town due to the building of the railroad.  It did not seem possible that a town could make such a quick growth in such a short time, but Newton, Kansas sprang up almost over night.”

Newton, Ks summer 1871. HCHM Photo Collection.

The Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad reached Newton in July. The first passenger train went through on July 17, 1871. Newton’s summer as a cow town began.

The stockyards were located a mile and half west of the town. Built under the supervision of Joseph McCoy, the Newton yards measured 300 x 400 feet, with the capacity to hold up to 4000 head. During that summer, 40,000 head were shipped to markets in the east from Newton, Ks.

Reporters from around the region were at the new cow town throughout the summer of 1871. They describe for their readers in the east the sights and sounds of a rowdy cow town.

A correspondent for the Topeka Commonwealth in Newton wrote on May 30, 1871.

Several thousand head of Texas cattle are now grazing in this vicinity waiting the completion of the road for shipment, and thousands more are coming in everyday: even this minute looking out my west door I can see two large herds entering the town, all waiting to ship from this point.”

A correspondent for the Saline County Journal described the scene on the prairie on July 20, 1871

“The entire country east, west, and south of Salina and down to the Arkansas River is filled with Texas cattle . . . The bottoms are overflowing with them, and the water courses with this great article of traffic . . .  And the cry is, “still, they come!”

A reporter for the Dallas Herald noted on July 22, that

“The stream of cattle still pours in.  Its line is now continuous from the Rio Grande.  If the flow continues, the prairies will be inundated with Texas Longhorns before the close of the season.”

The local homesteaders were less enthusiastic with the influx of Texas longhorns.

Mary Hildreth (Mrs. C. B.)

Mary Hildreth (Mrs. C.B.) lived on a hill over looking the cattle crossing of Sand Creek. She later shared a story of a day she caused a stampede.

Throughout the summer, she had difficulty with roving cattle that would devour her garden.  In frustration, one day she went out on her porch and yelled as loud as she could waving a red table cloth —her actions caused the whole herd to stampede . . . all the way to Abilene.

Cornie R. Reese

Cornie R. Royston Reese (Mrs. John C.) also later shared her memory of those early years.

“The cow boys used to drive the cattle to Newton and let them browse along Sand Creek. They would go to the gambling houses and the saloons”  in Newton.

F. A. Prouty arrived in Harvey County in late August 1871 at the close of the cattle drive season. The homesteaders worked quickly in preparation for the next summer.

“We worked as fast as possible, stopping our building long enough to put up hay to carry us through the winter, which did not  take a large amount as we lost all our cattle with  Texas fever shortly after our arrival here.  In the spring of 1872, we bought quite a number of wild steers out of a Texas herd.  The cow boys would rope the steers and neck them together in pairs, a few days later we would have a yoke on them and have them with our broke cattle helping pull a plow.  The sight of a snake or unusual noise would often excite them and they would make an effort to stampeded.”

By 1873, the cattle trade had moved to Wichita and with it many of the problems associated with a cow town.

Test Your Skill & Win! Carnival Prizes

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In recent months, several interesting objects have been added to HCHM’s collection.  A soldier’s trunk from World War II that belonged to Leonard Hoffer was featured in our last post.

The objects featured in this post are a bit more lighthearted.

Harvey County Fair Carnival, 1950s.

For many people trying to test their skill and luck against the carnival games is a highlight. At the Old Settler’s Carnival in 1963-64,  Dennis Rodgers tested his skill and won three large stuffed animals.

He recalled that the game operator asked his mother to keep him away from the games.  He was winning too much.

Dorothy Talbert kept the prized pups,  and her children recently donated them to HCHM. A fun reminder of carnivals and fairs in Harvey County.

What is your favorite prize won at a carnival?

New at HCHM: A Soldier’s Trunk

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Recently a gray-green metal metal trunk was donated to HCHM by the Hoffer family.

Soldier’s Trunk, ca, 1940. Belonged to Leonard Hoffer, 1941-1945. HCHM# 2017.9.1

On the top, in yellow paint the owner of the trunk was identified.

Leonard was born 31 March 1920.  Inducted into the U.S. Army in December 1941, only days before the Pearl Harbor attack.

“Notice of Selection” 7 November 1941. Document Courtesy Leonard Hoffer Family.

He went to basic training in Louisiana and received further training in the Mojave Desert in California. The trunk stored everything he needed while in the army.

Leonard Hoffer, ca. 1941. Photo Courtesy Leonard Hoffer Family

For a time he was a cook for the 143rd Signal Company.  His unit shipped overseas to southern England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.  However, they did not land in France until about ten days after D-Day.

His unit was involved in various battles in France. He was part of the first American outfit to cross the border into Germany. Pushed back into Belgium, the unit was involved in the “Battle of the Bulge” in December 1944.  Leonard’s unit continued to be involved in various battles in Europe until the end of the war.

He was discharged from the Army in September 1945.

Leonard Hoffer, ca. 1941 Photo Courtesy Leonard Hoffer Family.

He died  20 March 1997.


  • Document describing Leonard Hoffer’s time in the army provided by Gary Hoffer and Carol Hoffer, HCHM Artifact Files.