Frontier trader, merchant, and
buffalo-hide buyer, Rath was born in 1836 near Stuttgart, Wurttemberg,
Germany. When he was 11 years-old he immigrated with his family to
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A short time later, the family moved to a farm
near Sweetwine, Ohio.
In about 1853, Rath made his way west and joined
William Bent's trading empire in Colorado, where he worked as an
independent freighter hauling supplies and trade goods across
1854, his older brother Chris joined him and four years later, they built
a gristmill on Mill Creek near present-day Alma,
Kansas. However, no
sooner was it built than the creek flooded and washed away the mill.
Persevering, the Rath brothers
continued trading and freighting, and established a ranch and stage
station on the military road between
Fort Hays and