The “Ill-Fated” Cattle Drive of 1880

Cattle drives were not uncommon in Central Oregon prior to the turn of the century when the areas major industry was stock raising. Generally The Dalles was the shipping point for the inland cattle and some big cattle drives were made to the rail lines there. But the historic cattle drive of 1880 had distant Cheyenne, Wyoming as its destination. It would go down in history as one of the longest of all drives of pioneer times.In 1880 there was a surplus of cattle in the Central Oregon area and markets were poor in the west. Joseph Teal and his brother-in-law Henry Coleman operated a large ranch in the Trout Creek area in what is now known as the Willowdale area. Teal decided on a big drive of cattle to distant Cheyenne and he talked John Y. Todd, operator of the Farewell Bend Ranch, into taking the lead on driving the cattle across the country. Teal and Todd each herded together 3,000 head of cattle that included their own and those of other pioneer ranchers.

Todd took the lead with his 1,500 cattle and Henry Coleman followed with the Teal herd. There is no written record of that long drive of nearly 1,200 miles or the route they traveled, but it is assumed they made as direct a route as possible to Cheyenne avoiding main mountain ranges. Diseases struck the moving herds and heavy losses of cattle resulted before the arrival at Cheyenne. Teal established a firm at the Cheyenne railhead entitled the John T. & Co. to market the cattle. After arrival at the rail head Todd turned his cattle over to Teal for marketing and returned to his Farewell Bend Ranch on the Deschutes.

Todd failed to get any money for his herd so he returned to Cheyenne the following spring to discover the final chapter of the ill-fated drive. He learned that the cattle had been sent to Kansas to fatten. Many of the cattle had broken through the ice of the Missouri River and were lost. Todd received no compensation from his 1,500 head of cattle nor did he receive any pay for the long overland drive. Teal and Coleman also suffered heavy losses. The catastrophic trail drive resulted in Todd selling his Farewell Bend Ranch and using much of the proceeds to pay back small ranchers that had placed their cattle in the trail herd. Teal and Coleman also left the livestock business at Trout Creek after the disastrous cattle drive resulted in bankruptcy.

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