G. McCoy (1837-1915) - Founder of the cattle trade in
originator of the
Abilene Cattle Trail, and cattle baron in his own right, McCoy was
born in Sangamon County,
December 21, 1837, the youngest of eleven children to David and Mary
(Kirkpatrick) McCoy, natives of Virginia and Kentucky, respectively.
He was educated in public schools and at Knox College. In 1861 he to
started in the cattle business and that same year married Sarah Epler
on October 22nd.
In 1867 he conceived the
idea of establishing a shipping depot for cattle at some point in the
west and knew that the railroad companies were interested in expanding
their freight operations. He soon selected
and opened the Abilene Trail through Indian Territory
Some people sneered at his ideas, but he demonstrated their
practicability. McCoy also built a hotel called the Drover’s Cottage,
a stockyard, office and bank in the little village along the Union
Pacific Railroad that would serve as the shipping point.
McCoy advertised extensively throughout
Texas to encourage cattle
owners to drive their cattle to market in Abilene.
By 1868, about
75,000 cattle were shipped from Abilene.
In 1870 thousands of Texas
longhorn cattle, which were ideal for cattle trails
due to their long legs and hard hoofs, were being driven to the shipping center
at Abilene. By
1871 the number had increased to 600,000 or more and as many as 5,000 cowboys
were being paid off during a single day. Abilene
soon became known as a rough town in the Old West.
McCoy lived in Abilene,
where he was elected mayor in April, 1871. Later that month, McCoy recommended
James B. "Wild Bill" Hickok
to become the marshal of Abilene. It would seem that this was a good choice to
tame the lawless town; however, Hickok spent most of his
time in the Alamo
Saloon, the center of the town's wild life, and was not
too friendly with the "upstanding” folks of Abilene. Instead,
more time at the gaming tables and with the ladies of the evening than he
did taking care of his sheriff duties.
By October, 1871, the citizens of Abilene had
enough of the rowdiness and lawlessness created by the cattle drives. The city fathers told the
Texans there could be no more cattle drives through their town and in
December, dismissed Hickok as city marshal. It was the last big year for Abilene, as more
than 40,000 head of cattle were shipped out by rail. New railheads were by
then built to Newton, Wichita and Ellsworth, becoming the favored shipping
points. During its four year reign, over 3
million head of cattle were driven up the Chisholm
Trail and shipped from Abilene. With the cowboys gone, the town quieted down into a peaceful,
In the meantime, McCoy's personal fortune had been exhausted by constant
promotion, a family to support, and the shifting winds of the volatile livestock
market. His time as an Abilene Cattle Baron had come to an end. He spent some
time traveling to some of the new cowtowns but by 1872 was living in Wichita
where he became a promotion agent for American and Texas Refrigerator Car, and
began to document his experiences in a book entitled Historic Sketches of the
Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, which was published in 1874. In 1880
he was commission as a livestock dealer livestock in Kansas City,
was employed by the U.S. Census Bureau to report on the livestock industry for
the eleventh census. Some years later, he was serving as an agent for the
Cherokee Nation and living in Oklahoma. By 1890, he had returned to Kansas and
ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the U.S. Congress.
Joseph McCoy died in Kansas City, Missouri on October 19, 1915. One story about the cattle baron alleges that McCoy
bragged before leaving
Chicago that he would bring 200,000 head in 10 years and
actually brought two million head in four years, which led to the phrase "It's
the Real McCoy."
of America, updated September, 2017.