The Juvenal Cattle Drive of 1870

William L. Urban

    The Juvenal brothers of Williamson county, Texas, were familiar figures in the cattle business for 20 years following the end of the Civil War. James, Josiah, Ben, and William took herd after herd north individually and together. In a letter dated June 2, 1867, James told of his situation at that time:

Boggy Depot, Chocktaw Nation,

June 2d, 1867

Editors Georgetown Watchman,-


    When I left your County little did I expect to be at this point with my cattle; but circumstances alter cases. The route which is specified by the Live Stock Company of Kansas, leaves this road at Red River, and some droves have gone that way; but not hearing anything definite from the Co. I learn from reliable sources that they are making their way back to the old route at Fort Gibson: the upper route not having any military protection, is said to be dangerous, and unless it is garrisoned all te way through it will not be safe to drive cattle on that route this year. The Indians are reported to be on the point of starvation, and will stampede cattle at night in order to secure to themselves a portion of the herd before morning. Mr. Brown, from San Antonio, with about two thousand head of cattle, was overhauled by the Indians, about forty miles west of this on the Boggys, who took from him about three hundred head of beeves. I learn from a man that was with Mr. Brown that he is now making for Fort Gibson, on the Arkansas river.

    The only market that Texans can rely on at present for their stock is Backster [sic] Springs, Kansas, unless there can be a route opened from Fort Gibson to the 6th principal meridian as designated by the circular from Kansas L.S. Company, thence north to some point on the Pacific R.R. This, I fear, will not be a success this year. I shall make Backster Springs a point myself, and as there are but few cattle in advance of me I think I will have but little trouble in finding sale for my stock; though a few hundred head will glut that market.

    I fear there are many like myself who have listened too much to the flattering reports of Kansas sharpers, whose whole soul and principle is constructed of greenbacks, and are prompted by no other motives.

    We have had rain in abundance for the past ten days, but the prospect for fair weather is now good. The streams are all full, and I am waiting patiently for them to fall. My cattle are doing well, and the range is fine. You will hear from me again.

Yours Truly,       

J. C. Juvenall.(1)

    But 1870 was the last year that all four brothers were on the trail. Afterwards each began to go increasingly separate ways.

    James Calvin (known as J.C. or "Cull") was head of the family. He was 33 and had been a trail boss for several years.(2) Josiah was 29, and a veteran of both the Confederate and Union armies.(3) Ben was 27, a former trooper in the Seventh Texas cavalry who had seen four years hard duty in New Mexico and Oklahoma.(4) William, the oldest at 36, was an experienced teamster. He had taken a wagon train to Monterrey once, and had taken supplies to El Paso during the war, but he was thinking of returning to farming the family land along Brushy creek.(5)

    The 1869 drive had not gone well. J.C. had formed a partnership with a neighbor and taken a herd to Abilene, where they sold it to the McCoy brothers. The bank drafts they accepted turned out to be worthless, and J.C. lost $7,000 and a friend. He was plagued by lawsuits over the drafts for a decade afterward.(6) Nevertheless he planned to take another herd north early in 1870.

    This drive began badly also. J.C. and Josiah were arrested on April 14 for taking cattle out of Williamson county without depositing with the county clerk a bill of sale and a complete list of numbers, marks, brands, and the kind of steers, together with an affidavit as to their place of origin. Seven cowboys, probably the entire crew, were summoned to appear in court with them.(7) It was a bothersome matter-only 16 steers were involved-but the law was the law. And J.C. was still fighting a suit over one steer in the 1868 drive (and it would be almost a decade before he would be found innocent of stealing it).(8)

    Driving probably 3,000 head (the common-size herd for later Juvenal drives), J.C. and Josiah made good time north. Most likely they crossed the Arkansas at Fort Gibson and followed the Neosho river northeast to Baxter Springs, where Josiah made his home since 1867.(9) Thence J.C. made a quick trip to Williamsport, Indiana, where he had resided for three years when not on the trail, and where a young son he had never seen awaited him. How they disposed of the cattle is not known, but perhaps brother-in-law Bart Asher brought them on to Abilene. At least he met J.C. there June 15th.(10)

    Abilene at that time was a wild cow town, and J.C. had a ranch about seven miles northwest, which he had established in 1867, the first year cattle were shipped out of that center. The ranch was run by Harvey Benson, an Indianan who had been his manager there since the beginning. Mrs. Benson had recently come out from Williamsport for the summer and was helping with the cooking for $20 a month.(11) This was J.C.'s practice. He either hired Indiana help or brought in relatives from Illinois to work his ranches.(12)

    William meanwhile had brought up a separate herd from Texas, probably again following the Neosho river to near Baxter Springs and further on toward Abilene-that was apparently the favorite Juvenal route, perhaps adopted in the early days of the drive and followed by habit or because of the water. On the last day of June William was at Cottonwood creek about 30 miles south of that place. With him was T.H. Lea of Williamson county who had come upon that route with another small herd a short distance behind. They had combined their herds, so that William could leave Lea in charge of the herds in a cattle camp, and ride on to Abilene to meet J.C. and discuss sale of the animals. Prices were down, so J.C. told him to drive them on to Abilene, that he would purchase them himself. Then they separated. J.C. returned to his ranch and William to his herd.

    The next morning J.C. told Mr. and Mrs. Benson where he was going, and went off to Cottonwood creek, where he concluded the deal with Lea. Two days later the cattle were pastured a mile north of Abilene.(13)

    In 1869 J.C. had sold to the McCoy brothers(14) -the biggest buyers in Abilene--but this year he had something different in mind. Following the advice of expert cattle dealers, he had decided to keep the cows and grass feed them over the winter. It was well known that fat cattle sold for more than skinny trail animals. So he sent for Benson to come for the herd with two hands. Harvey braved a terrible rain storm to fetch the cattle away from Mud creek and take them to the ranch.(15) Thence J.C. drove them to Russell county. Years later he reminisced:


In the Spring of 1870 I came to Russell Co., stopped during the summer on Wolf Creek with a herd of Texas cattle, at which place I sold enough to pay first cost on my entire herd, and had 204 cows left. The same year I purchased seven grade bulls, at a cost of $350. Cows at that time were worth $10 per head (Texas cows).(16)That must have been immediately after July 4th, because he entertained his guests and all the neighbors that holiday at his ranch, as was his custom always. William returned home via Baxter Springs, where he spent a week till July 16 or 17, after which he continued south in the company of his brother-in-law, Bart Asher.(17) J.C. arrived in Baxter Springs August 10, where he met his wife at Josiah's home. Also he had an unwelcome confrontation with his angry partner of the previous year. The interview ended with J.C. paying out $900 of his hard-gathered cash to settle the debts between them- and, as mentioned earlier, his partner later sued for more.(18) Subsequently J.C. probably returned to Williamsport, Ind., where he may have been corn-feeding stock for spring sale.(19) The cattle in Russell county were probably left under Ben's care.(20)

    A few things can be determined from this drive. J.C. started a herd from Williamson county in late April, arriving in Baxter Springs only a few weeks later. The only dry drive was in Texas and southern Oklahoma. From Fort Gibson they followed the Neosho river to Baxter Springs, and perhaps on to the vicinity of Abilene. William followed that route with a separate herd about a month later. That is a well watered route all the way. In May or June J.C. visited Indiana and-he says-Russell county. There was a close contact between the two regions for many years because of the Juvenal practice of bringing hands out West every spring and sending them back each fall. By July 1 both brothers were in Abilene. Prices being low, William could not make a good sale. Nor was there sufficient grazing land on the Abilene ranch for so many cattle. So J.C. purchased the herd, sold the steers further west and sent the cows on the Russell county for winter grazing. The drive over, everyone returned home. It is striking how the family members lived widely scattered, every member so located as to assist in the drive. Come winter J.C. was in Indiana, William in Texas, and Josiah and Ben in different parts of Kansas.

    The year had not been a success, but it was an important year for the Juvenal family. Each chose his future path that winter. William never took another herd north, but put his money into land. While he continued to work cattle in Texas, he eventually became wealthy from farming and leasing lad to tenants.(21) J.C. expanded his operations in cattle. As he said, "I was speculating some in Texas cattle. . . but [in] the year 1873, we all well remember, the panic completely wiped out the profits on all former speculations, leaving me alone with the ranch and herd referred to."(22)

    He concentrated on his spread along the Saline river, retired in 1886, was lured back into speculation, and died with as many debts as acres.(23) Josiah moved about from town to town and state to state, eventually subsisting on his war pension in California.(24) Ben continued to drive cattle for J.C. and ended up with little more than wages.(25) Cattle were no longer a way of wealth even in 1870, but few realized that the slump was not temporary.

1. From the Georgetown (Tex) Watchman as reprinted in the San Antonio (Tex) Daily Herald, June 28, 1867.

2. J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas, (New York, 1963), v. 1, p. 27.

3. Muster rolls and pension records from National Archives and Records Service; William Urban, "A Confederate Yankee," The Heritage of Vermilion County, (Fall 1971), 15.

4. Muster rolls from National Archives and Records Service.

5. History of Texas Together With a Biographical History of Milan, Williamson, Bishop, Travis, Lee and Burleson Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1893), 505.

6. J.C.'s partner in the 1869 drive sued him for ownership of several bank drafts which had been believed worthless. The issue hung on whether or not J.C. could have given him a receipt on July 1, 1870. Hence the detailed story of his travels that summer which are the basis of this article.-Civil files Nos. 1461, 1486, 1869 in the district court of Williamson county, Texas.

7. Criminal files Nos. 591, 640, in the district court of Williamson county, Texas.

8. Criminal file No. 530. -Ibid.

9. He had followed this route in 1867, as well as in 1869.- San Antonio Daily Herald,June 28, 1867; Civil file No. 1461.

10. Civil file No. 1486; the son was Edgar T., who died in Echo, Ore., between 1935 and 1937; file No. 1869.

11. Deposition of Lydia Benson on January 12, 1880, in Civil file No. 1869.

12. The Bensons were with him many years, and Texans sometimes called his Indiana boys "shorthorns." But it remained a family business. Cousins John Wesley Juvinall and Henry Harrison Juvinall settled on the ranch near Russell, together with brothers Ben and John, and several relatives by marriage such as Robert Snowden and Joseph Weldon. All the cousins came directly from Danville, Ill.

13. Civil file No. 1869.

14. In August his partner of the previous year proposed to him that he buy the drafts, and J.C. replied: "The McCoys were insolvent and much worse than nothing." -Civil file No. 1461.

15. Civil file No. 1869.

16. Russell Record, February 10, 1887.

17. Civil file No. 1869.

18. Civil file No. 1461.

19. Every fall J.C. took a bunch of cowboys out of Indiana, which he need not have done except to handle cattle. Their presence became important when bastardy proceedings were entered against J.C. Juvenal in 1879. The ability of cowboys to climb in and out of windows, and their willingness to testify to such exploits won J.C. an acquittal.-Case No. 180 in district court of Russell county; several Illinois relatives were also involved in the cattle business.-The Past and Present of Vermilion County, Illinois (Chicago, S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1903), pp. 1074-1076, 1131-1132.

20. Ben usually remained in Kansas for the winter, and went to Texas in the spring to bring up the herds that William had collected. As the Russell Record said July 27, 1876, "The Juvenal Bros. shipped yesterday three car loads of the best beeves ever sent from this town. Ben knows how to fatten them."

21. History of Texas, p. 505; his land, 320 acres, was valued at $4,000 in 1880, but only 70 acres were tilled. Most remained in pasture, and only three bales of cotton were produced. He still had 109 head of cattle and had lost 65 the previous year.- "Agricultural Census of 1880." Williamson county, Texas, Precinct 8, p. 14. He purchased more land in 1883 and 1887.

22. Russell Record, February 10, 1887.

23. He sold to the Sutton brothers, who owned the ranch until a few years ago. "The Juvenal sale consists of 5,700 acres of land, 450 head of cattle, farm implements, etc. and the consideration was between $55,000 and $60,000." - Russell Record, February 4, 1886. Much of this was used to pay mortgages, however, and at the time of his death in 1890 he had little cash to cover his many debts.- Probate records in Osborne county courthouse, Osborne.

24. Pension records.

25. See article on his 1874 drive, "Lure of the Old Chisholm Trail," Dallas (Tex.) Morning News, July 20, 1941, part of the same story is reprinted in the Wichita Falls (Tex.) Times-Feature Magazine, January 9, 1966.