"For the future in the distance": Cattle trailing, social conflict, and the development of Ellsworth, Kansas

Joshua Albert Specht

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In 1872, more than 200,000 cattle passed through Ellsworth, Kansas. The town only had a thousand residents, but boosters and merchants were already speaking of Ellsworth as the next great western metropolis. Yet the town was never unified on the cattle trade's desirability. Ellsworth's farmers saw the cattle trade as a nuisance, and doubted the loyalty of its promoters to the community's long term interests. Their suspicions were confirmed when the cattle trade declined, and many of the town's boosters left in search of the next Ellsworth. In response, the town's remaining residents developed an ideology that emphasized the honesty, hard-work, and the respectability of humble farmers. Using the lens of the town's newspaper, the Ellsworth Reporter, Specht argues that the highly-mobile community of merchants and boosters circulating around towns such as Ellsworth were crucial to the economic development of the American West, but were also the drivers of social conflict that would ultimately be productive of an inward-looking ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-119
Number of pages16
JournalKansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

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