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Livestock Interests in Audrain County

The live stock business is to-day, and it has been since the first settlement, the safest and most lucrative and important industry that residents of Audrain County have engaged in; and to nearly every man who has followed it many years with a reasonable amount of well directed energy has come wealth and prosperity. When the pioneers first settled this county it was nearly all covered with a luxuriant growth of prairie grass, or "blue stem" as it was then called, that grew up annually from one to five feet high, and furnished the most inviting and nutritious grazing grounds that could be found anywhere in the West. The numerous small streams, fringed with skirts of timber, acted in the double capacity of supplying water and a protection for the herds from the green-head flies and the summer's sun during the heat of the day. The early settlers generally believed that this county would never be suitable for anything but grazing grounds for the vast herds of stock that were annually brought here from older and neighboring counties, and that the water supply would always be wholly dependent upon cisterns and surface drainage. These false ideas have long since been exploded, for as fast as the prairie or wild grass was trampled out, up sprang in its stead a spontaneous growth of blue grass that rivals the famous blue grass of Kentucky. Timothy, clover, red top, orchard grass, millet and Hungarian grasses all grow well in this county and furnish the stockmen many varieties for hay and grazing purposes. The soil also produces grain of most every variety in abundance, particularly corn and oats, the two most important and best known crops for rounding up and ripening live stock for the markets. Instead of depending upon artificial ponds, cisterns and the small streams for drinking and stock water, it has been clearly demonstrated that living water, as pure and inviting as flows from the mountain springs can be obtained anywhere in this part of Missouri by digging or drilling into the earth from fifteen to 200 feet, according to the locality, and many of the farmers and stockmen now use such wells for their water supply. Some counties may boast of their mines of coal, lead, iron and zinc, and others their waving and golden fields of corn and wheat, but residents of this county boast of the grass, and believe as did Mr. Ingalls when he penned this beautiful sentiment: "Next in importance to the divine profusion of water, light and air, those three physical facts which render existence possible, may be reckoned the universal beneficence of grass. Lying in the sunshine among the buttercups and dandelions of May, scarcely higher in intelligence than those minute tenants of that mimic wilderness, our earliest recollections are of grass; and when the fitful fever is ended, and the foolish wrangle of the market and the forum is closed, grass heals over the scar which our descent into the bosom of the earth has made, and the carpet of the infant becomes the blanket of the dead. Grass is the forgiveness of nature-her constant benediction. Fields trampled with battle, saturated with blood, torn with the ruts of cannon, grow green again with grass, and carnage is forgotten. Streets abandoned by traffic become grass-grown, like rural lanes, and are obliterated. Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal. Beleaguered by the sullen hosts of winter it withdraws into the impregnable fortress of its subterranean vitality and emerges upon the solicitations of spring. Sown by the winds, by wandering birds, propagated by the subtle horticulture of the elements, which are its ministers and servants, it softens the rude outlines of the world, it invades the solitudes of the deserts, climbs the inaccessible slopes and pinnacles of mountains, and modifies the history, character and destiny of nations. Unobtrustive and patient, it has immortal vigor and aggression. Banished from the thoroughfare and fields, it bides its time to return, and when vigilance is relaxed or the dynasty has perished, it silently resumes the throne from which it has been expelled but which it never abdicates. It bears no blazonry of bloom to charm the senses with fragrance or splendor, but its homely hue is more enchanting than the lily or the rose. It yields no fruit in earth or air, yet should its harvest fail for a single year, famine would depopulate the world." The settlers who were allured to Audrain County by smiling nature's charms were generally of a hardy, resolute character, and their mode of living strengthened their bodies and added independence to their lives. They were Americans by birth, and nine-tenths of them sprang from the first families of Virginia and Kentucky. At the date of these first settlements, the improvement of live stock, particularly horses and cattle, probably received more attention in the States of Kentucky and Virginia than in all the other States of the Union. In many instances when they, in their dry land schooner (drawn by ox power), hoisted sails for a Western home, they did not neglect to take with them a horse or two that could be traced back to one or both sides to the thoroughbred Turk, Barb or Arabian. Neither was the short-horn neglected, for the red, white and roans, with their straight broad backs and billowy hides, were among the early acquisitions of this county, and they have never yet been dethroned from the high position they then occupied in the estimation of the people. Although the Herefords, Polled Angus and Galloways have fought battles royal during the last fifteen years for first favor as beef breeds, and at times have scored victories, yet the foundation blood of nearly all the vast herds in this part of Missouri is from the short-horn breed. The horse industry in this part of the State, though possibly second in extent to the cattle, has always been very important. And on account of the interest taken in building up this industry and in the improvement of the horse, the little city, Mexico, has often been dubbed the Lexington of Missouri. It is almost impossible to secure an accurate account of the breeding of this stock in this State at an early date, or even in the United States, except as to the thoroughbred, for prior to 1871, when the American Trotting Register was established, and later on in 1891, when the American Saddle Horse Association was organized, there were no official records kept of the American horse; and the horse breeding industry, save that of the thoroughbred, was entirely at sea, without a compass or a rudder. But from what we can gather from tradition and otherwise, we have every reason to believe that a large per cent of the blood which constitutes the foundation of our horse stock came from the loins of the Oriental breed. The character and the nativity of the early settlers, coupled with their well known love for the "chase" and the "horse race," supported by the historical fact that their horses were generally of the thoroughbred type, is sufficient to warrant this statement. It is a well established fact that the thoroughbred foundation is the only safe one for horsemen to build upon, and to that alone may be accredited a large proportion of the success achieved and reputation enjoyed by citizens of Audrain County in the horsebreeding industry. Between the years 1880 and 1894 was what has been termed the "golden age" in the horse industry, not only of this county, but of the United States. Many farmers lost sight of all other stock interests and commenced the breeding and development of the horse to such an extent that it would be safe to state that more money was expended during those years for improved horse stock, within twenty miles of Mexico, than there has been expended before or since that time in the history of the State. All kinds and classes of horses then sold for fabulous prices, and the horse-breeding industry was believed by many to be the sure and certain road to wealth. During the years named no other community expended as much money for the improvement of the gaited saddle horse as did this. Since that date the county has developed some of the best saddle animals ever ridden into a show ring. It can be said that the money expended by citizens of Audrain for the purpose of building up the gaited saddle horse has been well spent and that their efforts have been wisely directed, for it will take any other community in the State at least twenty years to reach the prominence which this county now occupies. The harness horse has not been made quite so prominent in this part of the State as the saddle horse, yet he has been well sustained, and many of the highest class have been owned and kept in and around Mexico. The draft horse in this county has received considerable attention, and quite a number of worthy representatives of the Clydesdale, Norman, Belgian and Percheron families have been imported, but at this date (1900) they are greatly neglected, and but few pure bred animals representing either of the above breeds can be found in this part of Missouri. The coach horse has had some attention in this community, but instead of increasing in favor and popularity they have for a number of years been dropping back. The thoroughbred is not in much favor here at this time, and Warfellow, a son of Longfellow, and Warover, by War Dance, owned by C. F. Clark, is probably the most worthy representative of that breed. The saddle and harness horses are the favorites. The cattle industry of Missouri, and particularly of this county, has always been the most important of stock interests, and as early as 1839, shortly after the organization of our county, and before it had received much notice from the "Western Wanderer," the late N. Leonard founded his noted Ravenwood herd in Cooper County. From the herd books can be seen that there were more than twenty breeders of pure bred short-horn cattle in this State prior to and during the first years of the Civil War, but the stock business, like all others, was badly disturbed during that period, and was never resumed with any degree of energy until after the restoration of peace. Honorable Henry Larimore, a native of Madison County, Kentucky, moved to this State about the year 1835 and was the pioneer in the short-horn industry; although he was a resident of Callaway County, and was their Representative in the State Legislature at the time of his death, 1879, his landed interests were largely in Audrain County, and a considerable portion of his time and energy were expended there. Mr. Larimore was a man who had original ideas and strong convictions of his own, which was demonstrated more by the policy he adopted in his breeding of cattle than in any other way, and to his credit all fair-minded men must now concede the correctness of his views. Mr. Larimore entered the cattle breeding industry with the determination to produce an animal that could be ripened for the market at an early age, and with his keen foresight was able to see that the man who succeeded best in that direction did most for the cattle industry. When the grazing grounds of this county were free to all, and it cost but little to feed cattle through the winter or graze them through the summer, early maturity was not as important, but to-day, with high priced lands and high priced feed for both summer and winter, early maturity or "baby beef" is the cry. Mr. Jeff. Bridgeford, J. H. Kissinger and L. Palmer were the next parties who entered the arena as prominent breeders of short-horn cattle in this part of the State, and they followed in the order named. These men, including Mr. Larimore, all made national reputations for themselves, but Mr. Kissinger's and Mr. Palmer's careers as short-horn breeders were not of long duration, though brilliant while they lasted. The sales made by them were among the best ever made in the West, and at their dispersement sales they had no peers in the State in that industry. Mr. C. T. Quisenberry was the next man who took up the short-horn industry to any extent in this community, and he built up quite a large herd, but it was at the time of the greatest depression in the business, and did not prove to him a financial success, although to the county it was of great value in improving its stock interests. About 1880 S. P. Emmons started his noted Longbranch herd; J. S. and C. I-I. Brown and J. J. Littrell also started herds of shorthorn cattle. Later on, in about the order named, M. B. Guthrie, T. A. McIntyre, W. W. Pollock, T. C. Botts, E. S. Stuart, Dr. Keith, A. H. Williams, J. T. Johnson, Rob. Johnson, R. P. Moore, Robertson Bros. and Chas. F. Clark established important herds. Mr. Emmons is the leading breeder of the short-horn cattle' in this part of the State at this time, and has given to the industry twenty of the best years of his life, directed by careful thought and energy, and from which he is now gathering his reward. The Longbranch herd is now the largest herd of pure bred cattle in the county, and numbers something over 100, but at times is increased to 150 or more. Mr. Emmons, in connection with other enterprising breeders of shorthorn cattle, holds annual sales which have proven to be very popular, and hundreds of pure bred animals are in this way distributed over many States. Mr. J. J. Littrell's herd stands second in importance now in this county, and is being improved annually by new and choice infusions of blood. Mr. Littrell has studied his business thoroughly for a number of years and is making a success of it. M. B. Guthrie, the proprietor of the Ortiz Fruit Farm, is a new acquisition to the short-horn cattle breeding industry, and his herd now numbers about forty head of the choicest animals obtainable in this and other States. J. S. Brown owns a valuable herd and is deserving of special mention. The beef breeds of cattle stand in importance here in the following order: Short-horn, Hereford, Gallaway and Poll Angus. The three last named breeds were introduced into this county about fifteen or twenty years ago, and the Herefords have forged to the front very rapidly. The late Judge J. E. Ross and Dr. Fal Black were the pioneers in this industry, and both were very successful in their efforts. Later on J. H. Cannada, Col. Green Clay, B. Downing, John K. Brown, John Adair and others became prominent breeders, and all their surplus product, whether grades or of pure blood, find ready sale at remunerative prices. both from home and foreign demand. The Gallaway and Poll Angus are beef breeds of considerable merit, and, like the Hereford, cross well with the short-horn and produce excellent feed-lot cattle. The writer knows of but one herd of pure blood Gallaway cattle in this county, and that belongs to Mrs. Little, near Mexico. The herd is well kept and possesses merit. There is not much importance attached in this county to any but the beef breed of cattle, although there are some worthy representatives of the Holstein Friesians and the Jerseys. Mr. Geo. Morris, Sr., and a few others in the county, have small herds of pure bred Jerseys, and Lee & Sons, enterprising dairymen, use the Holstein Friesians with marked success. Hogs are a great source of wealth and are principally. thoroughbred or high grades, such as demand the top prices in the best markets. The Poland China and the Berkshires are the most popular. A large number of farmers think it profitable to keep and breed sheep. Nearly all who have small flocks breed the Shropshires or Cotswolds, but when kept for breeding purposes in large flocks the Merinos do the best. Another class of farmers consider it more profitable to buy Western sheep and lambs in the fall or winter and prepare them for the market, than to breed and raise them, and annually many thousand sheep are shipped to this county and handled in that way with profit. The advent of the new century has brought with it magnificent prices for all classes of stock and farm products, and the farmers and stockmen in this vicinity are taking up their burdens of life with a renewed energy and a determination to forge to the front in their respective callings, or at least to keep pace with "Father Time."