Hat Creek Dateline: 1880/06/15
Cattle ranches become numerous, established, big business
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
With the thousands of cattle that have been trailed into the high plains in the last few years and numerous large ranches becoming established, open range ranching has become "big business."
Reports have been circulating in Europe of the fabulous profits to be made in the open range cattle business in the plains states of America. In response to these reports, the British government had sent a parliamentary commission to the United States to investigate the range cattle industry, earlier this year.
This commission was headed by Albert Pell and Clare Read. They sent back glowing reports stating that profits of a minimum 33 percent could be anticipated on cattle- ranching ventures in the high plains states in America. After this report was released in England and Scotland, money in almost any quantity has become available for investment in new cattle ventures. It was also available for the purpose of expanding existing companies.
There have been some Scottish financed ranches south of here for nearly 10 years. The Scottish American Investment Company was founded, financing among other outfits, the Wyoming Cattle Ranch Company and Western Ranches, Inc.
Another Scottish syndicate has recently been formed, known as the Scottish American Mortgage Company. It will finance the Prairie Cattle Company, planning to be one of the largest British-owned cattle operations.
In addition to the British-owned and financed companies, there are perhaps an equal number of large, open range cattle operations financed by companies in several of the eastern cities of the United States. They too have been attracted by the overstated profit possibilities of the high-risk, open-range cattle business in the high plains country.
The investors in these enterprises are usually far more interested in increasing the size of the operation than in taking out the "book" profits. The abundance of capital is creating a boom in the cattle business as new companies and individuals join the rush to stock the high plains.
Money was not always this easy to find for such ranching operations. When C. L.Briggs, who ranches on the Laramie Plains, attempted to get a loan on his cattle from a Boston banker, here is what happened:
He told the banker how his cattle ranged over miles and miles of territory with no fences to interfere, and lived the year round on Uncle Sam's free grass. He continued telling that they were rounded up once a year to select the fat ones for market, and so on.
The banker had given him the floor and plenty of rope and he used both. As he paused to catch his breath, thinking he was making a good impression, the banker responded, "Well, sir, I'd as quick make a loan on a school of mackerel off Cape Cod as to you on your cattle in Wyoming".
(Information source: "Longhorns North of the Arkansas," by Ralph E. Jones; "Wyoming Cowboy Days" by Charles A. Guernsey.)