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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Meat Brought To Market On The Hoof In Early Days

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 13 August 2004
Source:
original article by Dallas Bogan
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What is a drover? Webster's Dictionary describes a drover as a person who takes a drove of animals to market, a drove being a number of cattle, sheep, hogs, etc.
Until the middle of the 19th century it was customary to take livestock to market on foot. Livestock taken through Warren County to the Cincinnati market was by way of the main roads such as the Montgomery Pike or the routes through Lebanon.
Cattle and hogs were surprisingly driven from Southern Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois to Philadelphia and New York. The distance and time in these drives were astounding compared to the transportation era of today.
Sometimes a distance of one thousand miles and a time period of 10 to 12 weeks was needed for this enormous task. Drives from Iowa and Texas to the eastern cities were not uncommon.
A description of one of the first shipments of cattle to New York by steam cars and steamboats is very interesting. The shipment was made in 1852. It was met with many delays. One week was spent in driving the cattle, 100 in number, from the area of Lexington, Ky., to Cincinnati. They were then loaded into boxcars and shipped by rail to Cleveland. At this point they were taken from the cars and put on board a steamboat and taken to Buffalo. After a delay of several days in Buffalo, the herd was driven 90 miles to Canandaigua, N.Y., where they were put in immigrant cars, hauled to Albany and unloaded in the freight house. A period of two days was spent in a feed yard at Albany, where the stock were again put in boats and taken down the Hudson River to New York City.
The freight on this shipment of cattle from Cincinnati to Buffalo was at the rate of $120 per car. The total expense from Kentucky to New York was $14 per head.
The route taken in this excursion was very costly. The continuous building of the railroads allowed the drovers to ship faster and in less time. An increase in cattle being shipped by rail eastward was beneficial for the drovers and the railroad companies.
Hogs were the first animals driven from the Ohio Valley to the eastern markets. Allen Trimble, later to become the seventh Governor of Ohio, when only a young man of twenty, acted as a middleman for his father. He purchased from his neighbors, near Lexington, Ky., about four hundred head of hogs. The animals were to be driven eastward into central Virginia, a total of six hundred miles over the rugged Alleghenies.
The journey over the unbroken wilderness was a tedious effort on the part of young Trimble. The herd could only make fifteen or twenty miles in a day, it surviving on roots and nuts that could be picked up along the way.
A long and successful trip was accomplished. It was the first speculation of its kind to be conducted in Kentucky and proved to be very profitable. The original cost of the hogs was two dollars each or $800 for the herd. They were sold in Virginia for nine dollars per head for a grand total of $3600. A profit of over $2000 was made.
The cost of driving the herd was minimal since no food for the animals was secured and pay for extra drovers was based on a few dollars per month.
During the War of 1812, cattle were often driven along with the armies to supply fresh meat to the soldiers.
Governor Trimble was an officer in that war and claimed that hogs were better than cattle for supplying troops with meat, one reason being that hogs could live more easily off the land than cattle.
Ross County in Ohio has the prestigious title of driving the first herd of cattle from the State to the eastern markets. The route was a treacherous 350 miles to Baltimore and was made by George Renick in 1804.
The venture proved to be a financial success and the driving of cattle was soon extended to Philadelphia and New York.
The cattle of the Scioto Valley were not sheltered but were kept in lots of eight or ten acres and fed twice a day with unhusked corn and fodder, the waste being picked up by the hogs.
The cattle and hog drovers of the Scioto Valley made great fortunes. The business quickly stretched into Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.


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This page created 13 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
© 2004 Arne H Trelvik  All rights reserved