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 Texas : Features : Columns : Somewhere in the West :

CAPT. J. D. REED
The Story of a Cowboy

By Linda Kirkpatrick
The cowboy is the most exciting person to ever enter the pages of history. His story is told throughout Texas, the west and, in fact, the entire world is knowledgeable about him. Children from across the seas recognize him. So, no, the cowboy ain’t dead yet and as long as people can read, watch movies and tell stories he will be alive and well.

This is the story of a particular cowboy that really left his mark on those history pages. James Duff Reed was born in 1830 in the newly formed state of Alabama. At some point in his young life, the family left Alabama for Yalobusha County Mississippi. Most of the folks in Mississippi, small time farmers and the wealthy plantation owners, settled in to farm after the Indian Removal Act. Though the small time farmer outnumbered the plantation owners, the plantation owners actually ruled the state. It was the time of steamboats, slavery and Mark Twain but life wasn’t romantic nor was it easy for this small time farmer. I think that the family of James D. Reed must have been in the small time farmer category because around 1845 they hung the sign like so many before them that simply said, “Gone to Texas.” For some reason that faraway land of Texas appealed to these people. Maybe the land that they could purchase for next to nothing enticed them or maybe the free ranging cattle there for those who could gather them brought them, but more than likely the itch to move west played a great part in spurring them on.
The Reed Family and a few others made that trek to Texas in wagons pulled by oxen. Young Jim Reed, now fifteen, began to take the responsibility of a man. Now at this point, imagine traveling from Mississippi to Texas in a wagon pulled by oxen. They traveled only a few miles per day on a good day! The Thomas B. Saunders family made the same trip along with the Reed’s. George W. Saunders, one of the youngest Saunders children, would later be instrumental in gathering the stories of the trail drivers for, the book, “Trail Drivers of Texas.”

The Reed family settled in Goliad County. It was here that Jim laid the ground work for his future land holdings and cattle. On July 25, 1851 at the age of 21, he married Cynthia McPeters of Arkansas. In 1867 he married Georgia Best. Reed was the father to five children. Two of his sons rode with him on the trail and later helped with the management of his ranches.

Jim Reed’s knowledge of cattle and their management grew. Did he know that one day he would end up as a respected cattle baron? Jim, like many of the other early day ranchers, utilized the vast lands that belonged to the state of Texas. In 1861, he took herds into Louisiana. He not only worked for himself but he helped many of the other folks with setting up their land and buying and selling cattle, but then--along came the Civil War and his dreams were put on hold. Life changed for everyone. Plans for a future were cast aside as fathers, sons and brothers enlisted to fight for the cause.

Young Jim Reed donned the butternut color of the Confederate soldier and enlisted in Captain Scott’s Company, Curtis Regiment. In the fall of 1862 First Lieutenant Reed’s company located at Arkansas Post on the Arkansas River. The company wintered securely in log cabins but dined on pitiful food of mainly sorghum and cornbread. The regiment’s main job of slowing traffic on the river highly agitated the Union forces. The mild winter and life seemed pretty good for them until January 11, 1863.

From a story in Harper’s Weekly we learn more about the life of James Reed while stationed at Arkansas Post. Land regiments under Union General John Alexander McClernand and a flotilla under Union Admiral David Dixon Porter proceeded to surround the fort on land and on river. Ironically, the Union suffered greatly but yet won the battle. After an entire day of constant Union bombardments, the seven thousand Confederates found themselves surrounded. With no other alternative, the men of the Confederate regiment simply surrendered. The Union lost six hundred men while the Confederates recorded only sixty-five killed and eighty-three wounded. Found among the wounded, our young cowboy from Texas, Jim Reed. Little did he know at the time that the minnie ball embedded in his arm probably saved his life.

The Confederate prisoners found themselves aboard boats and trains on their way to various Prisoner of War camps located in Missouri and Illinois. POW camps on both sides were deplorable. The temperature for the Confederate prisoners went from mild to frigid. In a Union camp hospital, doctors made the decision to remove Reed’s arm.

Hard to say, but the Confederate or Union soldier was probably more apt to survive an amputation over a shot to any other part of the body area. Doctors would lay the soldiers with these injuries aside to simply die and sadly just concentrated on the amputations. Those deadly minnie ball created an enormous wound. The soft lead would spread when it came in contact with bone. We can only assume that Jim Reed’s wound was the result of the minnie ball. Reed, more than likely, went several days maybe even weeks before receiving attention from a doctor. The soldiers in line for amputations, for the most part, did receive either or chloroform before their amputations, this is contrary to the many beliefs that they received no anesthesia at all.

Most of the camp hospitals had no form of disinfectant. Cold washes and salt solutions became the best substitute. The doctors generally moved from one patient to another rarely stopping to disinfect their tools. Time was of essence and stories tell that a good surgeon could amputate a limb in less than ten minutes.

If the soldier survived the amputation, many did not, the possibility of dying from camp conditions became the next danger. The camps were unclean and unhealthy, with the food and water worse. Lucky for Jim Reed he was among the soldiers exchanged. He headed home to Texas to recover from the amputation of his right arm and to begin his life as “One Armed Jim Reed.”

Texas after the war became the home of great opportunities for the cowboy willing to work. The wild longhorn herds roaming the Texas frontier proved to be the answer to many a cowboy’s prayer. One Arm Reed, one of these cowboys, seized the opportunity. He headed his herds towards the railheads in Abilene via the Chisholm Trail. He already knew the ins and outs of this job so he was ahead of the game.

And with a business partner like Abel H. (Shanghai) Pierce, Reed’s wealth grew. In 1877 he sold his ranch in Goliad and relocated to Ft. Worth. He named the ranch that he purchased in Stonewall County the Double Mountain Horseshoe T Cross. He later shortened the name to the Horseshoe Ranch. By 1880 Reed, with the help of his son Paul, ran cattle on three ranches.

One Arm Reed was well known and well received in the cowboy tribe. Andy Adams, a cowboy of the trail herding days spoke of Reed in his book, “Log of a Cowboy,” and his short story, “Justice in the Saddle.” In the book “Log of the Cowboy,” Andy tells of a perchance meeting in Ogallala with his brother who was riding up the trail with a herd belonging to One Arm Reed. The reunion was short lived as Reed’s herd was bedded down ten miles upriver and Zack Adams had night guard. They bid their farewells around a Monte table. Zack returned to the herd in time for night guard and Andy stayed for the game.

Again in “Justice in the Saddle”, Andy meets up with his brother but this meeting became more involved. They found themselves right in the middle of a war between cattle brokers from back east and Trail Boss Colonel Don Lovell. The event took place in Ogallala, the exact year is not known. Colonel Lovell had five herds bedded down in various spots along the river with a foreman at each camp. The camps of The Rebel and Dave Sponsilier were the herds that instigated this conflict. The Western Supply Company, made up of John c Fields, Oliver Radcliff and Honest John Grescom , filed charges against Col. Lovell for possession of the two herds. The WSC were cattle brokers who would purchase herds and then resale the herds upon their arrival to various agencies. The herds in question were headed for an Indian reservation. From the time that the herds left Texas until they made it to Ogallala the price per head increased. The herd was assigned to WSC but if the company could get control now then they could reassign the herds to themselves as individuals and just might make a little more money in a resale.

They hoped to scam the reservation for the price difference. To make a long story short, the judge called One Arm Jim Reed to the stand.

According to Andy Adams, when Reed was ask if he knew the plaintiffs, he replied, “Yes, I know that fat gentleman and I’m powerful glad to meet up with him again.” He was talking about old Honest John himself. Reed continued, “That man is so crooked that he can’t sleep in a bed and it’s one of the wonders of this country that he hasn’t stretched hemp before this. I made his acquaintance last fall. I delivered three thousand cows to him at the Washita Indian Agency. In the final settlement, he drew on three different banks and one draft of twenty-eight thousand came back as drawee unknown. I had other herds on the trail and it was a month before I found that the check was bogus. By then Honest John was in Europe. So I put judgment on him and lay for him. I’ve a grapevine twist on him now for no sooner did he buy a herd here last week than Mr. Sutton, my lawyer, transferred the judgment and these cattle will be attached this afternoon.”

The testimony of this one armed cowman impressed the judge and he refused to interfere with the two herds in question and ruled that the herds would remain in the possession of Lovell. But this is not the end of the story. The plaintiffs declared war. Reed and Lovell rode out gathering cowboys from the various camps knowing full well that a fight was eminent and that they had to protect the herds from these scammers.

Lovell and Reed led a large group of mounted, well armed cowboys across the North Platte River. They crossed and proceeded to met up against Archie Tolleston and the Federal Marshals, the Feds being in cahoots with the Western Supply Company. The Federal Marshal informed Lovell that he was there with papers giving him the authority to take possession of the two herds totaling seven thousand head. And of course Lovell’s reply was not in agreement with the marshal. Then Tolleston rode up with a remark that spurred the cowboys into action. Jim Reed began shouting orders trying his best to protect men on both sides and get the conflict under control. Matters quickly escalated with Reed and Lovell finally getting a halt on the cowboys but not before Tolleston’s horse spooked in the river, unseating Tolleston who sunk out of sight in the North Platte River.

Lovell and Reed got the cowboys back to their respective camps, including the respective camps of the two herds that were at the root of the entire issue. Lovell gathered his foremen around and said, “Now the understanding is that you start out in the morning.” And life moved on.

The Handbook of Texas On Line states that One Armed Jim Reed was the “best experienced and by far the wealthiest man about Ft. Worth.” In 1883 with the sale of the ranch in Stonewall County, Texas, he purchased land in Socorro County, New Mexico and formed the J. D. Reed Cattle Company. Many of his herds loaded out at the famed Magdalena Railheads. Reed may have logged more miles on the cattle trails than any other cowboy of this era.

James Duff Reed, the Cattle King of the West, died in 1891 in New Mexico.

Copyright Linda Kirkpatrick
Somewhere in the West
September 2, 2009 Column

More People | Cowboys, Cattle Drives & Ranching
Related Topics: Texas | TE Online Magazine | Texas Towns | Features | Columns |

Sources:
Interview with Dorothy Kranz, great granddaughter of James Duff Reed, Concan, Texas
“Trail Drivers of Texas,” Compiled and edited by J. Marvin Hunter
“Log of the Cowboy,” Andy Adams
“The Greatest Cowboy Stories Ever Told,” edited by Stephen Brennan

Internet Sources:

Handbook of Texas Online
Ancestry.com
www.huntermcguire.com “The Life of Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire,MD
www.civilwarhome.com “Civil War Medical Care, Battle Wounds and Disease
www.hcnews.com “Battle of Arkansas Post”
 
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