Once Upon a Time

Livestock was lucrative business in late 19th century

This illustration of the Samuel Farlow home in rural Camp Point is in the Atlas of Adams County, Illinois, published in 1872. | Illustration courtesy of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County
Posted: Mar. 26, 2017 12:40 am Updated: Mar. 26, 2017 1:01 am

Herds of Texas cattle were driven to New Orleans, California and Missouri -- and occasionally to Quincy before the Civil War. The cattle drives from Texas to Quincy via the northern branch of the Shawnee Trail ended by 1860 when the Civil War began. The railroad going west ended at Sedalia, Mo., and even after it was finished to Kansas City a few years later, Sedalia was the closest rail connection for the Texas drives. Beginning in 1866, vast herds were driven there. The animals sometimes arrived dehydrated and hungry, and sometimes sick. In a wide area around Sedalia, at least as far as Marshall, 30 miles north, the cattle were watered, pastured, fed, examined, doctored and fattened, then shipped to stockyards in Chicago and Kansas City by rail.

No records indicate that any cattle drives came to Quincy after 1860, but the Quincy business of Farlow & Hedges was actively involved in buying and selling livestock into the 1880s, when the era of the great drives ended. Staggering amounts of money were involved.

Dozens of checks from the 1870s and 1880s that were drawn on a Farlow & Hedges account at Cordell & Dunnica Bank in Marshall, Mo., were for amounts between $2,000 and $7,000. One promissory note was for $10,000. A receipt dated May 10, 1883, from Conover, Hall & Co. Commission Dealers in Live Stock at the Union Stock Yards in Chicago, listed itemized purchases made by Farlow & Hedges for almost $30,000. Ten-thousand dollars then would be the equivalent of more than $261,000 today, so Farlow & Hedges' one-day Chicago livestock trading total was equivalent to more than $783,000 today.

The partners in Farlow & Hedges were Sam Farlow of rural Camp Point and John F. Hedges of Ellington Township, both sons of 1830s settlers in Adams County. According to a Sept. 3, 1883, note from the Cordell & Dunnica bankers, the men also were doing business as Hudson & Hedges and as the Farlow Hedges Co.

Each man also did business individually. Receipts indicate that as early as 1875, Hedges had conducted business with George B. Loving of Denison, Texas, and he may have partnered with Loving. In March 1876, Hedges and Loving were listed as defendants in a lawsuit brought by a Broadus Jordan regarding a debt of more than $3,000. In an attorney's letter related to the case, he mentioned Smith & Farlow, so Hedges and Farlow both had business connections in Texas.

Sam Farlow was a partner in the business named Smith & Farlow, Pork Packers. In 1878, Smith & Farlow stationery said they were located at 21 and 309 Market Square in Quincy, and they were "Commission Merchants, And Dealers in All Kinds of Staves and Heading." Staves and heading were parts of wooden barrels used for packing and transporting meat.

The extensive collection of personal papers left to Hedges' descendants gives clues to the men's business habits and practices. The main route of the Chicago & Alton Railroad served St. Louis and Kansas City, with connections to dozens of smaller cities like Quincy and Sedalia, Mo. The railroad sold reusable first-class tickets on which trips taken were indicated with "punch marks." Two first-class tickets in the Hedges collection each have eight punch marks, and several single-trip tickets were archived, as well. Apparently Hedges often traveled by train.

A receipt from Sept. 1, 1880, indicates that for 13 days, Hedges boarded a "pony … buggy & tram" at the W.D. Merrill Livery, Feed and Sale Stable in Marshall, Mo., the same town in which the Cordell & Dunnica bank his partnership used was located, and he often used the stationery of the Ming Hotel. It seems that Hedges either sometimes crossed Missouri by buggy or brought his own transportation on the train to use after he left the train.

Beginning in 1879, John Hedges wrote numerous letters to his sister, Lucinda Hedges Allison (also spelled Alison) and discussed his work. He addressed her as "Mrs. John Allison," or "Mrs. LueAlison," but always greeted her with "Dear Sister." The letters were written on the stationery of bankers Cordell & Dunnica and Ming's Hotel in Marshall; Occidental Hotel in Higginsville, Mo.; Hotel Coolidge and Emporia National Bank in Emporia, Kan.; Brevoort House (hotel), A.J. Gillespie & Co. Live Stock Commission Merchants, and Gregory & Stephens Live Stock Commission Merchant in Kansas City. He often shared details of his business and travels.

Farlow and Hedges not only bought the livestock, they had to keep it alive and healthy until shipping. On June 30, 1882, Sam Farlow sent his partner an urgent plea from Augusta, Ill., via American Express: "I just wired you in regard to the corn & roat George … to buy all he could at 30 to 40 cts. …I want you to get up & get & buy all the corn in that country rite a way before some one comes in & gets up the excitement." A few months later, on Ming's Hotel stationery from Marshall, John wrote Lucinda, "I can tell you it takes lots of work to feed cattle & Hogs and keep them in good Shape. …"

In that letter, Hedges also casually told his sister, "Have been up to See Frank James & Said the indictment against him was not worth the paper it was writen on and he knew what he was doing or he wouldn't have come in that he could have kept away have seen Him before Saw him at Denison Texas in 75 I knew his voice as soon as he Spoke he looks like a gambler but is very Smart…"

Frank James? Brother of Jesse James and part of his gang? Apparently Adams County livestock dealers' acquaintances included more interesting historical characters than one might expect.


Linda Riggs Mayfield is a researcher, writer and online consultant for doctoral scholars and authors. She retired from the associate faculty of Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing, and serves on the board of the Historical Society.



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Collins, William Herzog; Perry, Cicero F., Past and Present of the City of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois. S. J. Clarke Publishing, Chicago, 1905.


Hedges, John. Personal documents collection owned by Susan York, accessed March 14, 2017.


Inflation Calculator. Data acquired from Historical Statistics of the United States (USGPO, 1975) and Statistical Abstracts of the United States, accessed March 14, 2017.


Kansas Memory. 1888 Missouri Pacific Railway System Map, accessed March 14, 2017, http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/210181


Marshall, Mo. -- Marshall, Missouri Map & Directions--Mapquest, accessed March 14, 2017, https://www.mapquest.com/us/mo/marshall-282034010.


Trails' End: Sedalia, Mo. (website), accessed March 14, 2017, http://www.thetrailsend.org /sedalia.html.


U. S. Department of Agriculture. Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Animal Industry for the year 1886. Washington: Government Printing Office (1887), accessed March 14, 2017.



York, Susan. Interview with Linda Riggs Mayfield, author. Personal interview. Quincy, Il., March 8, 2017.



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