Americans moved West by
on the backs of mules
there were many treasures in early America such as gold and silver, for a period
of years from 1823 to 1850, another treasure generated huge profits for those
involved. The treasure? Mules!
Hard-headed, stubborn, unpredictable, ornery and ugly, the critters were sorely
needed to pull the plows and wagons of the settlers and carry supplies to the
miners and armies. |
Originally started by Mexican traders from Mexico
when they drove herds of Jacks, Jennets and mules to Missouri to trade to the
power-hungry settlers needing mule-power for many reasons. The trade grew year
by year with ever-increasing demand.
In 1823, historical records show that
four-hundred of the hard-headed livestock arrived. In 1824 six-hundred came, in
1827 eight-hundred appeared and in 1832 thirteen-hundred were offered for sale.
Missouri originally was kept as a trading center only. Stock purchased in Mexico
for $7 to $10 a head sold in Missouri for $60 a head. In 1839, prices broke severely
but after the war with Mexico ended the army raised the prices to $75 per head.
Early on, little mule
breeding was conducted in Missouri. With the importing of stock from Cuba, Mexico
and by Mountain Men bringing herds from the Missions of California, there was
little need for the efforts of local breeding.
Sometime in the late 1830s,
the Missouri Mule made its presence known. Using excellent Jacks from Cuba
and Mexico, big work mares from America, and with huge American studs bred to
selected Jennets, the massive Missouri Mule was created. Larger, taller, more
agile and able to work long hours pulling, living on the same feed and forage
of lesser stock, the improved critter became the preferred work stock of all the
plantations of the South.
All was not lost for the smaller mules.
The smaller Mexican mule, tougher and more secure along mountain trails
was used to ferry mining equipment high among the peaks of the Rockies. His cousin
the pack burro, became a favorite of the prospectors prowling the dry deserts
of the West.
mule in San
Antonio U.S. Army Post|
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
those creating demand for mules
were the Army and U.S. Cavalry. Their scattered troops and forts demanded supplies
by the tons and there were few roads anywhere. The pack mule, branded with
the US brand, following a belled mare, and carrying packs of supplies, came in
all sizes and found steady work all across the new nation.
mule economy expanded again as the emigrant wagon trains headed west. The mule,
if he could be afforded, was the power of choice for these trains. A second economy
arose along the way west as heavily-loaded wagons, lack of experience of owners
provided many a worn-out mule to be traded or abandoned along the trails. Old
trappers and scouts seized the opportunity to trade or find these tired creatures,
rest and feed them back to health and sell or trade for more tired stock.
spite of the recognized worth of gold and silver, the greater treasure could have
been the lowly mule,
especially if you were stranded on the prairie and needed him to continue on to
© Delbert Trew
All Trew" July
7, 2009 Column
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