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Cook's Cattle Drive North, 1876

Cattleman James H. Cook first came to Nebraska in 1876 when he helped drive a herd of cattle from Texas. In 1911 he recalled this event: "In the year 1876 I helped to drive a herd of Texas steers, numbering about two thousand five hundred head, from a point on the Nueces River in Texas, to what was then known as the 'Whetstone Bottom' on the Missouri River in South Dakota.

"These cattle had been purchased by men who had contracted with the United States Interior Department to supply a number of our Indian Agencies with beef. The herd, composed entirely of strong cattle, made good time and led the drive made that season from Southern Texas, and was the first great herd of cattle to be driven through Western Nebraska into Dakota.

"Our experience in getting as far as the North Platte River in Western Nebraska was the one common to those who 'drove the trail' in those days--high water, stormy weather, stampedes of both cattle and saddle horses, hunger at times and great thirst, as well as a few other discomforts which aided the cowboy in rounding out his full measure of whatever he might choose to call it--misery or joy.

"We crossed the South Platte and North Platte Rivers a few miles east of the town of Ogallala. From there we drove over to Birdwood Creek, then to the head waters of the Dismal and Loup rivers and on north through the great chain of shifting sand hills that are now so well known.

"There were ten of us, including our Trail Boss, Mr. Mack Stewart, and the cook, with the cattle and a band of saddle horses. In addition to our regular crew we had a guide by the name of Aaron Barker, who had been employed at North Platte city. This guide probably knew Western Nebraska as well as any man living in those days, having been associated with the Sioux Indians in that part of the country for years."

Cook then described the group's misadventures while crossing Nebraska: cattle becoming mired in a Sand Hills Lake, a stampede, and several encounters with the Sioux. In 1887 Cook returned to Nebraska and settled on a ranch in Sioux County.

(September 2001)

 

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