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1883 Slaughtered for a Pastime

” Slaughtered for a Pastime”
” Shall the Buffalo Go? Reminiscences of an Old Buffalo Hunter”
Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Vol. XV, May 1883, New York,
Original vintage wood engraving, 1883
On loan from Historic Photographs by Imagi Gallery


Jamestown Weekly Alert
Jamestown, North Dakota  Jan 12 1883

Bismarck Tribune: Two compositors on the Jamestown Alert went out New Year’s Day to slay a buffalo. They had crawled a quarter of a mile through the snow to get a shot at  a lot of cows which they mistook for bison, when a bulldog appeared suddenly and they broke for home, one of them getting a cold bath in James river in consequence of stepping into an airhole. The only fatality of the trip occurred to the bulldog, which was frightened to death by the typos’ startled exclamation of surprise. The Alert will furnish affidavits as to the manner of the dogs demise, and also as to there being water in the James river.

One of them has recovered, but Terry who measured the depth of the James river is still trying to get Ahren’s ears into shape, which were badly frozen in his endeavors to get back to town against the wind.


Fort Worth Daily Gazette
Fort Worth, Texas Jan 18 1883


Unquestionably the largest buffalo head ever brought to Fort Worth was that received by Lew Stein from the west yesterday. It measured four feet in height, and belonged at one time to a splendid animal. A smaller head was also received. Mr. Stein sent the heads to Chicago last night, to be properly prepared by a taxidermist, when the larger will be returned, the other having been given to one of Mr. Stein’s Chicago friends.


The Las Vegas Gazette
Las Vegas, New Mexico  Jan 30 1883

Four thousand pounds of buffalo meat arrived at the Exchange corral yesterday. This is a good chance to obtain bison meat.


The Topeka Daily Capital
Topeka, Kansas Feb 11 1883


Kansas State Seal

The design is submitted to the committee by Mr. Ingalls consisted “of a blue shield at the base of a cloud out of which was emerging one silver star to join the constellation in the firmamentKansas State Seal comprising the thirty-four then in the Union, with the motto ‘ad astra per aspera’ The cloud symbolized the struggles through which we had passed, the star the State, the constellation the Union. The motto was both descriptive and suggestive and the entire design simple, unique and satisfactory.” It was so satisfactory to the committee that they adopted it entire. But after that, some of the “wild heralds of the frontier” altered it by mixing a steamboat and plowing, with buffalo hunting, etc., till really nothing but the motto is Mr. Ingalls’, and the landscape is probably substantial the ones submitted by Mr. McDowell. The historic part of the seal is the motto, the date, and the bison hunt and the log cabin. But the motto is not only historic, but suggestive of a fact that will be true for ever, that the conquest of difficulties is the way to more I’ll as well as political success.


Shelbina Democrat
Shelbina, Missouri Feb 14 1883

If it’s people generally cannot yet regard the West as anything but a howling wilderness, where the Indian and the wild bison roam at will, instead of a land possessing the refinements of enlightened civilization, why then it is their misfortune and not their fault.


Newton Kansas Mar 29 1883
Stonewall Jackson’s Death-bed.
(Atlanta Constitution)  Also pub. in Sept.1882 S.J. died May 10, 1863

“Yes,“ said a well-to-do businessman of Atlanta to a Constitution, representative yesterday, “that buffalo robe is old, worn, faded, ugly and worm eaten, but I wouldn’t take $5,000 for it.“

“Then are not as sensible as I thought you were,” replied the reporter as he eyed the buffalo robe spread out on the floor.

“Sensible or not, I mean it. I have been offered one and two hundred dollars repeatedly, and once had an offer of five hundred. See,” continued the speaker, pointing to the faded hieroglyphic on the inside of the robe, “that was painted by a Sioux Indian artists seventy years ago, and for many winters kept warm the body of one of the greatest chiefs that tribe ever produced. That robe was his treasure, and for it he fought and many of his best braids died.”

“That’s a good speech and well delivered, but it sounds like a snake story,” remarked this cedar shover, as the gentleman paused out of breath.

“No, it is no snake story and I will show you why I value that robe so much. My father was a Georgian and when Georgia sent her soldiers to the Mexican war he shouldered his gun and went along. From the time he left home till the treaty of peace was signed he staid with his regiment, and when at last he came home that robe was all he brought with him. He put great story by it, and always kept it in his room. To his family he told how got it. One day he was scouting with a detachment of his regiment and came upon a band of Indians. A fight was the result and after a few volleys the Indians retreated, or rather who could did so. Among the wounded was an old chief and when the soldiers came up to where he lay on the battlefield there was some talk of killing him, for he was recognized as the most heartless, cruel and fearless Indian on the plains, but my father interfered, and from his own canteen the water before the wounded chiefs parched lips. But his wounds were mortal, and soon all new that the cruel, heartless chief was dying. Just before death he beckoned my father to his side and by signs gave him that robe. That is how it came into the family.”

“And that is why would not take $5,000 for it?”

“No, not exactly. When the late war came on I enlisted, and when my old father sent my tricks to the camp, he sent that robe. I did not want to take it because it was so cumbersome, but when he insisted I yielded. Well, I went to Virginia, and while trotting around after Stonewall Jackson, I lost the robe. I was greatly worried over my loss and used every exertion to recover the old robe. Every body in my regiment knew of the robe, it’s history, and its loss, and every one kept an I opened for it. Well, about the time of the Cross Keys and Fort Republic fights I learned one day that my robe was in Stonewall Jackson’s tent. I went to see and sure enough it was there. When I looked into the tent old Stonewall was lying on the robe. Finally I mustered courage to tell him of my loss. He heard my story with patients and said that the robe had been brought to him about a week before by an Alabama soldier. He offered to surrender it but I couldn’t take it and told him to keep it – at the same time giving him its history – and I would get it after the war, if he did not lose it. Well, he kept it. At the battle of Chancellorsville he received his death wound, and he died on that robe, and I believe some of that red which looks like paint is some of the heroes blood. After his death I claimed the robe – then doubly dear to me – and sent it home. Now would you take $5,000 for it? I can prove every word of my story true.”



Reading Times
Reading Pennsylvania May 11 1883

The Brooklyn bridge builders having placed a lion’s head on the bridge as a ornamentation,

The Fenians of New York and Brooklyn threatened to blow up the structure if this British symbol is not removed before the opening. The Native Americans asked the American Eagle be substituted for the lion. It certainly was in bad taste to put a lion’s head on the bridge. The head of an American bison, which is at once grand and noble, would have been a much more appropriate. The buffalo is the representative beast of the vast territory embraced within the limits of the great Republic.


The Butte Miner, Butte Montana July 13 1883
Mrs. Geo. Myers, of Glendive, is entitled to the badge as Montana’s first successful female buffalo hunter. While visiting at Terry the other day she shot and killed a whole buffalo all by herself.



Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California Aug 4 1883


The “Great American Desert” used to figure in portentous letters on the maps of the geographies of our childhood. It covered an area of about a million and a quarter square miles west of the Missouri River, between the 100th meridian of longitude and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It extended from Canada to Mexico and 1,000 to 1,200 miles west of the 100th meridian. It was an unfathomable wilderness, inhabited only by savage men, and buffaloes and bears, and was looked upon as the Sahara of our continent. Some of the foreign geographies still maintain that it exists; on the same principle, we suppose, that one of the most famous globe-makers of London still puts Fort Dearborn at the head of Lake Michigan, and knows no other division of the Great West than the Northwestern Territory.

But the desert has gone, and gone forever. It is now known that the antelope and the bison were the precursors of a population that will, before the close of this century, overspread all this vast tract with grazing herds and flocks. The mystery of the trackless waste that once seemed so formidable has disappeared before the intrusion of the locomotive. Whenever streams are found and water can be applied to the soil of this desert it can be made to blossom like the garden of the Mormons at Salt Lake City. Everywhere, whether irrigable or not, it is covered with a nutritious grass on which the gazelle and buffalo grow fat, and on which their successors, the sheep and the steer, will thrive equally well.

The capabilities of this region had been appreciated very, very slowly. 10 years ago the movement to put beef cattle and sheep on the “plains” was in its infancy. Five years ago the interest in this vast opening for capital and labor first began to be keen, and now it is intense from Texas to Montana. Great joint stock companies are being formed all over this country and in Europe to secure good ranges and engage on and Abrahamic scale in the patriarchal business of furnishing America and Britain with beef. Barb wire fences hundreds of miles long are being put around the choice grazing grounds, and in but a few years any one who wants a place to raise cattle on a large scale will have to divide the possessions of some one who has preceded him.

All through this territory, so admirably adapted to the manufacturer of beefsteaks and mutton-chops, there are valleys with water-courses that will permit of an irrigation that will support an agriculture that will easily be the whole population engaged in the pursuits of the miner, the cow-boy and the herder. Colorado races the very finest quality of wheat in limited quantities, and there are many places where the experiment of the Latter Day Saints will be successfully repeated. Every pound of meat, and every pound of offal, and every hide or pelt produced by this territory has a cash value in the markets. The modern improvements of refrigerator-cars and quick transit will steadily push backward the line of packing-houses and slaughter-houses that are already beginning to move towards Kansas City and Montana, and with them will grow up rendering establishments and glue manufacturers and the coarser kinds of tanning. The great American Desert will quickly assume the aspects of prosperity that herds and flocks always bring with them, and will support a numerous population in good average American style.

If it be true, as Edmund Burke said, that nations breed at the mouth, there are millions of Europeans as well as Americans who will owe their existence to the expansion given by the Great Desert to the means of human subsistence.

The capacity of the Great American Desert to grow beef is estimated at the low average of twenty steers per square mile of area, will exceed twenty millions of cattle, which would furnish four or five millions a year for the market. Think of what a food-supply and what a commerce these figures comprise! The plains are the great pasture-fields of the American Nation for all time to come. -Chicago Tribune.


The Chicago Tribune
Chicago Illinois, Aug 25 1883


Northwest of the ‘Blue Ridge” buffaloes grazed in countless herds. During the heat of the midsummer months they used to retreat to the highlands, and followed the ridges in their southward migration, as the approach of winter gradually crowned the hights with snow. Along the backbones of all the main chains of the sunken Alleghenies these trails can still be distinctly traced for hundreds of miles. “Buffalo Springs,“ “Buffalo Gap,” and scores of similar names still attest the former presence if the American bison in localities that are now fully 2,000 miles from the next buffalo range. The centre of our buffalo population is moving northwest at an alarming rate. Herds, in the old time sense of the word, can now be found only in British North America, and here and there along the frontier of our Northwestern Territories. In cold winter small groups of fifteen or twenty are occasionally seen in Texas “panhandle,” in Western Utah, and in the Valley of the Upper Arkansas, but nowhere on this side of the Mississippi. Their days are numbered. They cannot hide, and their defensive weapons are useless against mounted riflemen. Pot-hunters follow them to their far Northern retreats; the International Railroad will soon carry a swarm of sportsmen to their West Mexican preservations, and in fifty years from now their happy pasture=grounds will probably be reduced to the inclosed grass plots of a few zoological gardens.


Fergus County Argus
Lewistown, Montana   Sep 20 1883

The buffalo in eastern Montana are not all dead yet, it seems. A party of eight, from Fort Keogh, last week, killed twenty bison on Sunday Creek, Custer county. – Enterprise


Detroit Free Press
Detroit, Michigan Nov 4 1883

 In 1786 statistics show that over 705,000 skins were exported from Québec alone, valued at over £203,000. Muskrat, 202,719; deer, 133,271; beaver, 116,623; raccoon, 108,521; marten, 48,463; otter, 23,684; bear, 19,362 (what a chance for the Zoological Garden!) : wolf, 12,923; elk, 7,555, with numerous others, the particular designation of which are now unknown. This was a single years business from one port, and at that date the traffic had fallen off largely, as the country was beginning to get drained of the supply. What a paradise must Detroit have been for the hunter! Indeed, much of the real zest of sport must have been lost when all the cook had to do was to step to the door of her cabin and with her unerring gun or arrow bring down from the encircling line of forest whatever description of game happened to suit her fancy.

The trade in bison skins had hardly commenced when Cadillac came, and during the lifetime of many readers hereof the race of animals furnishing this valuable item of merchandise will probably become extinct. History or tradition affords some light respecting the immense fortunes that were realized from this trade. Jacques Le Ber, of Montréal, was the Vanderbilt of that day, and it is well known that the great fortune of John Jacob Astor, with whom the last of our old traders had large accounts, was largely derived from this source.


Interior Journal
Stanford, Kentucky – Dec 21 1883


That the American bison, or buffalo, as it is more familiarly termed, is doomed to extinction in time is evident; but that this result will be “a necessary evil” is generally acknowledged among settlers in the far West. The vast herds of bison that only a few years since roamed over the Western plains afforded wild sport and a large income to the hide-hunters; but as an offset to this it should be remembered that the buffalo is one of the chief sinews of war with the Indian tribes. Deprive the red man of buffalo, and he cannot, during midwinter especially, carry on a successful raid. From the bison he obtains his provision, robes and covering. Nothing so harassed and weekened Sitting Bull and his band, when driven over the Canada border, as the absence of buffalo in that region. When the last herds become finally annihilated, nothing remains for the Indians but a semi-civilized and agricultural life. Holding this in view, the extinction of this huge nomad of the plains may be looked forward to, if not with satisfaction, at least with resignation by the sportsman of the land, and especially by the frontiersman who have suffered so much at the hands of the Sioux and other warlike tribes. At best the bison, as a game animal, possesses merely the qualities of endurance, size and stubbornness – bearing no more comparison to the elk and moose than does the mule to the thoroughbred. – Turf, Field and Farm.