Literary Links

January/February 1998


Good News and Announcements

February 14, 1998--The three local Chicago RWA groups--Chicago-North, Windy City and Love Designers--are sponsoring a used book sale on February 14, 1998 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Arlington Heights Library. The theme for the day is "All For Love." Authors will be speaking every hour, and new books will be available for autographing, also. Proceeds will be donated to a charity to the American Heart Association. Contact me for more information.

February 21, 1998--Nomination deadline for several RWA National Awards--Lifetime Achievement, Emma Merritt and RWA Service, Industry, Librarian of the Year, Veritas, and Bookseller of the Year. Visit RWA National for more information regarding qualifications and submissions.


New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.



A Diary From Dixie by Mary Chestnut
Language of Flowers
by Kate Greenaway
The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days
by Andy Adams
Saloons of the Old West by Richard Erdoes
A Victorian Grimoire by Patricia Telesco


Various titles by George Eliot

RWA Chapters On-line

Heart of Denver Romance Writers
Orange County Chapter (OCCRWA) 

Researching the Romance

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Chestnut, New York: Random House Value Publications, 1997.
The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days by Andy Adams, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.
Saloons of the Old West by Richard Erdoes, New York: Random House Value Publications, 1997.

Writers' Resources

Jim Janke's OLD WEST--A list of links to other Internet sites covering all areas of the Old West, including cowboys, trails and Native Americans
The Wild Wild West--A small but fun site with some biographies on Outlaws/Marshals and a page of links to other Wild West Internet sites


Feature Article

British Gentlemen in the Old West by Michelle J. Hoppe

When one thinks of the Old West, images of cowboys, saloons and rustlers come to mind. But the British aristocracy? When was the last time you envisioned an earl or baron working side-by-side with cowpokes and range cooks? Believe it or not, they were indeed, in Wyoming with the cattle. And although their visit was brief, from about 1867 through 1887, they came, made their mark, and departed. This article will explore events leading up to their arrival, their lives in cattle country, and circumstances that forced them to leave.

The Beginning

As of the middle of the 19th century, the western states still weren't formed and were merely barren territories. Travelers passed through to get to the opposite coast, but they didn't settle on the exposed plains where Indians were a problem. Developments in technology and transportation changed all this, however.

In 1861, a telegraph line was completed that stretched from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA. Later, railroads appeared. The Union Pacific had growing pains during the Civil War, reaching only as far as Fremont, NE by 1865, but once the war was over, construction continued. By 1866 the Union Pacific reached North Platte, and by mid-1867, the new city of Cheyenne was laid out near the railroad at the crossing of Crow Creek. On May 10, 1869, the Union Pacific Railroad met the Central Pacific in Promontory, Utah, connecting the east and west coasts of the United States.

The railroad crews wintered in Cheyenne, and of course, they had to be fed. Suppliers soon discovered that the winter grasses were excellent for their cattle. So what grew out of necessity was discovery. Cattle ranching could be successful in that area. Also, the railroad could now take the cattle east to markets. The seed for cattle ranching in Wyoming was thus planted.

Another factor contributing to the rise of the cattle industry was The Homestead Act of 1862. It lured settlers west with the promise of land if one lived on it and made improvements. This worked well in fertile, moist areas, but not in arid land like Wyoming territory. Cattle ranching helped to bring American settlers there. So many came, that by the 1880s public-land frauds were at an all-time high. Ranch owners paid their cowboys to file claims, but later had them assign title to the company. Employees made the necessary filings, then turned the land over when it was "proved up on."

Subterfuge was sometimes used to verify that land had been improved. Dimensions of the 'dwelling' might be listed as "12 by 14," but were not specific as to inches or feet. The water that had to be conveyed to the land might merely be barrels at each corner of the property.

Another stipulation of the Homestead Act was that a grantee had to be a citizen of the U.S. or 'intend to become one.' Companies that were more than 10 percent foreign-controlled were not allowed to own land, either. Railroads were excepted from this rule, as investments were necessary for financing the project. To bypass alien restrictions, the title was taken in the name of a domestic entity, with the benefits flowing to the foreign beneficiary. And some non-citizens conveniently claimed they had merely forgotten to apply for citizenship.

Then in 1880, the first meat cargo was sent overseas to England on the steamer Strathleven using mechanical refrigeration. This opened the Brits' eyes to the concept of ranching. While there were a few Englishmen ranching already, once the beef reached England, this provided an incentive to invest in American business. After all, in the ten-year period up to 1881, capital invested in the American cattle industry had earned over 33 percent annually.

Investing in the United States wasn't new to Scotland and England. Since the advent of railways in the 1840s, railroad securities had been traded in London.

This wasn't the first time the British visited the west, either. The British gentleman was passionately devoted to the hunt. This devotion had brought him to the U.S. in earlier years. Some gentlemen were attracted by the lucrative cattle business even then, but didn't always stay in the states. They invested in a cattle business and organized their companies, then hired ranchers to run the business in the U.S. while they went back to England. Back in England, the boards of directors of these cattle companies included the aristocracy--dukes, earls, barons, etc.

Life On The Range

Of the Brits who stayed in America, they soon realized ranching was hard work. Horses needed to be cared for, wagon axles had to be greased and cattle had to be branded whether servants were present or not. And because the West was not very settled yet, ranch headquarters were sometimes 200 miles from the nearest major transportation. In summer, rains flooded the roads, and in winter the weather was unpredictable. So many gentlemen visited their home countries during that time.

Not all Englishmen came to America for the sole purpose of ranching, though. Some came for health reasons--to escape the cold, damp climate of the British Isles. Others, like Oliver Henry Wallop, younger son of an earl, realized the need for horses when the Boer War broke out. So he went into partnership with a Scot, Malcolm Moncrieffe, son of a Scottish baronet. They ran a 2700-acre ranch in Wyoming and brought the first thoroughbreds to that part of the country. In Colorado, a British earl ran a ranch and resort near Estes Park.

And not all ranchers lived on the range like nomads. Some of the wealthier ranchers had decent living quarters. Moreton Frewen, who married Clara Jerome, elder sister of Jennie Jerome (Winston Churchill's mother), built a large house for his new bride, including papered walls, English woodwork, a piano from Chicago and telephone lines. The isolation and a miscarriage were too much for Clara, however, who returned to New York within a year.

The British also owned ranches farther south in Texas. The Scots mainly went to Texas. There, unlike their English counterparts to the north, they went through the expense of fencing their land. It was prohibitively expensive to fence in one's property, especially on that grand a scale. But by fencing in one's property, they had restricted use of watercourses and feed. Ranchers in Wyoming bought only what was necessary to operate their business, then used public lands for their cattle to graze. They only fenced in exceptional pasture and enclosures for breeding. Ranchers moved on when lands became overcrowded. Eventually the land became overgrazed and the entire system collapsed.

The End

The end was brought about by the problems of the industry itself. The English based their business solely on the availability of free grass, promising a high return if it succeeded, carrying a high risk if it failed. This resulted in overcrowding and scarcity of food. Some ranchers moved their herds to Canada while that was still legally possible. Others bought more land outside of Wyoming Territory. But a lower profit margin meant a reduced scale of wages for the cowhands, as well as other cost-cutters. Free boarding and meals had come to an end. Suddenly, men were looking elsewhere for work.

Problems in Texas began as early as 1883-1884 where forest fires raged for six days and nights. Ranges were ruined and ranchers were forced to cut their fences down to let the cattle drift to food. This was followed by a severe winter.

Then, in 1885, President Grover Cleveland gave ranchers only 40 days to remove their herds from Indian Territory. Thus, many southern herds were introduced into the already crowded north. Cattle prices were low in 1885, and even lower in 1886. On top of that, Montana had a plague of grasshoppers, and rain came late so there were range fires. Then winter came early and was severe in 1886-1887. January's storms produced temperatures of - 47 degrees in Montana.

Fat young steers froze to death. Healthy herds estimated their losses at 50%-75%. But when the actual counts came in, they realized even more severe losses. During that harsh winter, 300 people died and the toll on unprotected livestock was colossal. In one herd of 5500 head, only about 100 were found. In another herd of 35,000, there were only 300 cattle left. Many smaller firms were destroyed, while the bigger firms were badly hurt. Most of the men from the Eastern U.S. and Britain merely packed up and left. The ensuing summer was dry, and the few survivors had to ship to a market fed by continuing liquidation sales.

What Legacy Remained?

This brief era was a time when Englishmen confronted the savage country and tried to wrest financial reward from it. They carried out their work with little thought of compromise or adaptation. They were described as profligate and arrogant by their critics, and their management style was flawed. But much of this was because of the long-distance communication problems with the boards of directors. Yet the technology and science of animal husbandry they introduced had a lasting effect on the development of the West. And because they bred their cattle carefully, the pedigrees were improved upon.

Scotsmen, however, were in the real-estate business from the beginning--owning and fencing in the land they ranched. They wanted to guarantee their land tenure as they did back home. And while the return was lower, in the long run they made more money by selling off that land when the Scottish parent companies liquidated.

The English had built their business on the public domain. They had been schooled for leadership and great enterprises, so they aimed high. The risk was greater, the annual rewards higher. But they suffered more in the end, often having nothing left but their title. They also faced the end differently. The Scots cut costs, adjusted to new environment, and turned their cattle companies into land companies. The English were no longer interested. The game was up. They packed up and left, falling back on their training as leaders. They began military and parliamentary careers. Not even much of a paper trail remained behind, as many companies did not even register to do business in the territories.

The economy did not collapse after these hard times, despite what the industry suffered. While foreign investment was substantial, it only accounted for less than 10 percent of the ranches. By the 1890s, settlers finally came west, as did new cattlemen, though not on such a grand scale. In 1889, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington were granted statehood. Idaho and Wyoming followed in 1890.

And the British Gentlemen were merely memories of an era passed.

(Note: For more information on this topic, see British Gentlemen in the Old West by Lawrence M. Woods. This book is available through our on-line Bookstore in the Non-Fiction section. See also Researching the Romance for a more detailed research bibliography on this and other topics.)


Editor's Note

If you've read the newsletter this far, you may have noticed a pattern in the newest additions to the site. This month's newsletter is dedicated to a small, but integral part of British Victorian history--America's Wild West. While not the norm, many British subjects did travel to America's West to hunt or to start a lucrative cattle ranching business. Whether they were driven by greed, need or disgruntled parents, they came--both Scotsmen and Englishmen--and abandoned the comforts and amenities of large manor houses for wooden shacks and harsh winters. This is their story. I hope you enjoy it.

On another note: I have been having problems with my server routing mail to me. If you have sent me mail either via the contact page or e-mail since the beginning of December, I haven't received it. So please re-submit your comments/questions. Also, I don't think the links for the last Feature Article, American Money Meets British Peerage, were working properly. They are now. I apologize for any inconvenience.


FAQ Column

Q: Are you planning a printed/paper version of your newsletter that would come by regular U.S. postal service?

A: Yes, I have been considering publishing a newsletter to mail to subscribers on alternate months that the electronic newsletter goes out. However, because of time and financial commitments, I would have to: a) charge for a subscription to a printed newsletter, and b) know that the venture would be well enough received for me to put in the effort required for such a project. How can you help? Let me know if you would be willing to pay for a subscription to an extended and printed version of this newsletter. At present, I would estimate the annual subscription rate to be about $15-$20 depending upon length of the newsletter. If this idea sounds feasible to you, please contact me. (Use 'Newsletter' in the subject heading.) I'd like your input on what to include in that newsletter, also. Thank you.


Historical Calendar of Events


Edward, eldest son of Queen Victoria, and future King Edward VII, born.

Britain's sovereignty is proclaimed over Hong Kong.

William Henry Harrison, ninth U.S. President, dies one month after his inauguration.

John Tyler, vice president, succeeds William H. Harrison to become tenth president of the U.S.

John Tyler's cabinet resigns, but Daniel Webster remains as Secretary of State.

August 23--Lord Melbourne (Whig) resigns as British Prime Minister, and is succeeded by Sir Robert Peel (Tory).

Britain's new Peel ministry introduces the first peacetime British income tax.

New Zealand becomes a British colony.

The U.S.S. Creole, carrying slaves from Virginia to Louisiana, is seized by the slaves and sails to Nassau where they become free.

Robert Browning publishes Pippa Passes, a play in verse.

James Fenimore Cooper publishes The Deerslayer, first of the Leather-Stocking tales.

Charles Dickens publishes The Old Curiosity Shop, which becomes a bestseller.

Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the world's first detective story, appears in the April issue of Graham's Magazine. Poe's A Descent Into the Maelstrom then appears in the May issue.

July 17--The London humorous periodical Punch begins to appear.

Adolphe Sax, Belgian instrument maker, invents the Saxophone (patented in 1846).

Scottish surgeon, James Braid, discovers hypnosis.

German chemist C.J. Fritzsche shows that by treating indigo with potassium hydroxide it yields an oil (aniline) which led to the creation of aniline dyes in clothing.

Barnum opens the "American Museum," an exhibition of freaks and curios, in New York.

The first issue of George Bradshaw's Railway Guide is published.

English travel agent, Thomas Cook, arranges his first excursion--to a temperance meeting in Leicestershire.

The following publications begin to appear: The New York Tribune, published by Horace Greeley, the Brooklyn Eagle, the Advertiser (which would become the Cleveland Plain Dealer), and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The first university degrees are granted to women in America.

Irish-American trapper Thomas Fitzpatrick guides the first emigrant train (with 130 settlers) through northwestern Montana Territory. The covered wagons arrive at Walla Walla in Oregon Territory in November after a 2,000-mile journey through hostile Indian territory.

Dallas has its beginnings in the independent Republic of Texas as Tennessee trader John Neely Bryan builds a house on the Trinity River to start a settlement that he will name after his friend George Mifflin Dallas.

March 9--A court at Washington, D.C. rules that Cinque and his fellow mutineers aboard the Spanish slave ship Amistad last year are not guilty and orders their release. Madrid protests.

London is a city of 2.24 million, Paris 935,000, Vienna 357,000, and Berlin 300,000.

The U.S. population reaches 17 million, with 12.5 percent of it in cities of over 8,000.

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