Monday, June 15, 2015
The Real McCoy....Who was he?
Ever wondered where the phrase "The Real McCoy" came from? Joseph G. McCoy, cattle baron, cowboy and business man was the inspiration for that phrase-
Joseph Geiting McCoy-Cattle Baron
Born on a farm in Sangamon county, Illinois, on December 21, 1837. McCoy is often cited as the inspiration for the phrase "The Real McCoy" because of his reputation and reliability and because he referred to himself by that phrase. He was educated in local schools and spent a year in the academy of Knox College in Galesburg. After his marriage to Sarah Epler in 1861, he entered the mule and cattle raising business. At the close of the Civil War, McCoy expanded his enterprise by buying animals in large quantities and shipping them to major livestock centers. In 1867 he joined a firm that shipped as many as a thousand cattle a week.
McCoy viewed the livestock industry from a national perspective and recognized the need for better contacts between southwestern ranchers, midwestern feeders, and meat-packers. He resolved to build a stock depot west of farming sections on the Great Plains to which cowboys from Texas could drive Longhorn herds.
Joseph McCoy made good on his pledge to Texas ranchers that if they would drive their Longhorn cattle from Texas to Kansas that he would have them shipped by rail to other markets and that the ranchers would receive a good price for their stock.
In the 1860s, cattle ranchers in Texas faced difficulties getting their longhorn cattle to market. Kansas homesteaders objected to the cattle crossing their land because the cattle might carry ticks which could spread a disease called Texas Fever fatal to some types of cattle. The disease could make a Longhorn sick, but they were hardier stock than the northern cattle and Longhorns seldom died from the disease.
McCoy himself said of the disease:
"In 1868 a great number of cattle arrived in Kansas and the mid-west from Texas; appx. 40,000. With them came a tick born disease called “Spanish Fever”. The local shorthorn breeds were seriously affected and in some towns the loss of the cattle was almost 100%. The result was a great prejudice against Texas cattle in Eastern Kansas and Missouri."
McCoy expected that the railroads companies were interested in expanding their freight operations and he saw this as a good business opportunity. He succeeded in obtaining cooperation from the Kansas Pacific Railway provided he assumed all the financial risks. The cattle would be shipped from his proposed stockyards to Kansas City. He then made an agreement with the Hannibal and St. Joseph line, which provided a route to Quincy, Ill.; from there the cattle could be sent to Chicago.
McCoy purchased a 250-acre tract at the edge of a frontier village along the Union Pacific. There he built a pen to handle a thousand head of cattle, a hotel known as the Drover's Cottage, a bank, office, and livery stable This village became known as Abilene, Kansas - one of the first cow towns. McCoy's plan was for cattle to be driven to Abilene from Texas and taken from there by rail to bigger cities in The Midwest and The East.
Abilene sat near the end of the Chisholm Trail (named after Jesse Chisholm) established during the American Civil War for supplying the Confederate army. This trail ran to the west of the settled portion of Kansas, making it possible to use the trail without creating hostility from the Kansas homesteaders.
McCoy advertised extensively throughout Texas to encourage cattle owners to drive their cattle to market in Abilene. The first herds arrived in August 1867; an initial shipment to Chicago left Abilene in September. By the end of the year 35,000 head had been driven over the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, and in 1868 the number rose to 75,000 head; by 1870 the number doubled. By 1871 as many as 5,000 cowboys were being paid off during a single day, and Abilene became known as a rough town in the Old West. Due to their long legs and hard hoofs, Longhorns were ideal trail cattle, even gaining weight on their way to market. One story says that McCoy bragged before leaving Chicago that he would bring 200,000 head in 10 years and actually brought two million head in 4 years, leading to the phrase "It's the Real McCoy"
As Abilene's leading citizen, McCoy was elected mayor and served until 1873.
Rival railroad terminal towns, farther west and south, soon diverted trade from Abilene, and McCoy moved to the new cow towns. In 1872 he went to Wichita, Kans., where he became a promotion agent for American and Texas Refrigerator Car. By 1880 he was a commission dealer in livestock in Kansas City and had been employed by the U.S. Census Bureau to report on the livestock industry for the eleventh census. For a time he lived in Oklahoma and served as agent for the Cherokee Nation in collecting land revenues. In 1890 he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress.
Joseph G McCoy died in Kansas City, Missouri on Oct. 19, 1915.
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