BIOGRAPHY OF EUGENE BARTLETT MILLETT
CAPTAIN EUGENE BARTLETT MILLETT.
AMONG the first in importance of the great interests of the New West is the live stock trade, of which the subject of this sketch, Captain Eugene Bartlett Millett is a good representative. He was the eldest son of Samuel and Clementine (Bartlett) Millett, born in Washington county, Texas, April 25, 1838. His father, a native of Maine, was born at Brunswick, in 1800, of French and English parentage. He received a liberal education, and for several years engaged in teaching.
In the year 1829 he removed to Texas and settled near Houston, where he engaged in farming and stock raising. He was a man fond of adventure and possessed of great energy and nerve. In many encounters with the Indians he participated, and also in nearly all of the battles between the Texans and Mexicans, being at the Grass fight, the beginning of hostilities, and at the battle of San Jacinto, which ended in establishing the freedom of Texas and she became a republic. In 1849 he fitted out an expedition and made an overland journey to the new gold regions of California. He returned to Texas two years after, where he continued to live until his death in 1863.
The mother of our subject is still living, now sixty-three years of age, having a beautiful home in Austin, Texas, and with her a daughter, Laura, the youngest of her children and a lady of fine culture and taste. He [sic] other two sons, Alonzo and Hiram W. Millett, are interest with Eugene in his stock business, and are both gentlemen of marked intelligence, good business qualifications and exemplary habits. Both are unmarried, and make their home with their mother, when not required elsewhere by their extended business operations.
Eugene had good advantages for education in the schools of Seguin. When sixteen years of age his fearlessness and love of adventure was gratified by joining Callahan's expedition in pursuit of hostile Indians into Mexico, which was attended with much danger and loss of life, there being several engagements, which terminated in the defeat of the Indians, and for several years afterward they ceased their depredations upon the frontier settlements.
After this eventful history in his early life, he attended school for two years at Seguin, and the, at the age of eighteen, with a capital of three hundred and fifty dollars, commenced business for himself. He went about two hundred miles into the interior of Mexico and bought ponies, which he sold in Texas at a good profit. His father vainly attempted to dissuade him from this pursuit, because of the personal hazard attending it at that time, but perceiving the success of his first year's operations, withdrew his objections and increased his capital. Young Millett continued this trade until 1860, when he established a ranch on San Geramino [Geronimo] creek, six miles from Seguin, and commenced breeding horses. When the war began, in 1861, he engaged in the purchase of horses and mules for the Confederate government, and in the fall of that year delivered one thousand five hundred head of cattle at Prairie Marmou, Louisiana, filling the first contract with the Confederate government for their supply of fresh beef from Texas.
Thoroughly Southern in his education and sympathies, and realizing the magnitude of the impending struggle, he determined to participate and returning to Texas recruited Company B, Wood's regiment of cavalry, which, as captain, he commanded until the close of the war. He served chiefly in the Trans-Mississippi country and was in several important engagements including the Red River expedition against General Banks.
Returning to his ranch at the close of the war, he collected what depredations of various kinds had left of his stock, from which he realized eight hundred and fifty dollars, which was his entire capital as he commenced anew his operations in the stock business which have since been such a magnificent success.
In the spring of 1866 he took charge of a herd of five hundred cattle belonging to Ewing, Myers & Co., his own capital being invested. It was his intention to drive them to Westport, Missouri, but was unable to reach that point on account of the opposition of an armed mob of citizens in Missouri, who were alarmed about the Texas stock fever. He was compelled to turn at once and leave the state, directly on the route by which he had entered. But not to be beaten in this way, he succeeded by another route, after much opposition and delay, in driving these cattle through the entire state of Missouri, crossing the Mississippi river at St. Louis, into Illinois, and thence into the interior of that state, stopping near Springfield, where he purchased large quantities of feed. The people in that vicinity were soon alarmed and excited, and called a meeting to consider some means of getting them removed from the state. Captain Millett attended this meeting, and after hearing much talk of a threatening and excited character, he addressed the people and gave them a history of his experience with his Texas herd, frankly telling them of the alarm and opposition which had been manifested in Missouri, but that he had stopped where he was with the intention of staying, and that if it was necessary he should die in defending his rights, assuring them at the same time that there was no cause for alarm, and that he would be responsible for all damages. The result of this meeting was to create a general good feeling, and he remained without opposition until he had disposed of his herd, and also another nearly as large, which had been driven through for him to dispose of. He found a profitable market for both herds, and realized for his share twenty-six hundred dollars. Returning to Texas, the following year was spent in buying horses and taking them to Mississippi for a market, realizing only a fair pecuniary gain for his services.
In the winter of 1868 he commenced buying cattle in Texas and delivering them in large herds to shipping points on the Kansas Pacific, Union Pacific and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé railroads, in Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and Nevada. In the spring of 1868 he delivered five hundred beef cattle at Abilene, Kansas, being among the first drovers there after a shipping point was established, and realized a profit of three thousand five hundred dollars in gold. The next year he delivered a herd of a thousand head, after a drive of eight months, to Argenta station, on the Central Pacific Railroad in Nevada, on which he realized a profit of six thousand dollars. In the year of 1870 he drove two herds, one of twelve hundred beeves, which he sold at Abilene, and the other of mixed cattle, he refitted at that point and drove to Utah. His profits this year were twelve thousand dollars. In 1871 he drove another large herd, but finding the market much depreciated, he secured a contract to supply the Sioux Indians with beef, and thus desposed [sic] of them.
In the fall of 1871 he entered into partnership with major Seth Mabry, a well known stock dealer, for the purpose of more extensive operations. They first located a ranch with over four thousand head of young cattle in Idaho territory, the results of which, not being satisfactory, they established another in Nebraska. In the fall of 1874 Captain Millett and his partner conceived the idea of controlling the Texas cattle trade. To this end they united their interests with Dewees & Ellison, and bought for the trade fifty-six thousand cattle and nine hundred saddle ponies. Major Mabry went to New York City and secured the contract for supplying beef to the Sioux Indians, which contract, together with twenty-six thousand head of cattle, they afterward sold to J. W. Bosler, a former contractor. The remainder of the herd was sold to feeders and grazers in Nebraska and Colorado. Messrs. Mabry & Millett held a controlling interest in the business, and realized as the profits of the year, over one hundred thousand dollars. He then established the Millett cattle ranch.
This ranch Mr. Millett located in Baylor county, Northern Texas, in 1875, at that time a dangerous frontier, being one hundred and sixty miles west of Fort Worth and contiguous to the noted Blanco Cañon, the pass for Indians to and from New Mexico to the Indian Territory and also for the Mexican Raiders. From 1867 to 1873 the stock ranches of that country were almost depleted by Indians stealing cattle in bodies and transferring them to Mexicans, who would sell them to Santa Fé traders. In 1873 there was an expedition fitted up in Colorado of Texans, John Hitson at the head, which re-captured about four thousand head of cattle, scattered the dealers in all directions and having the effect to break up that kind of traffic.
But another obstacle perhaps as much to be reared in establishing this ranch was the indolence and carelessness of the buffalo hunters in neglecting their camp fires, which required great vigilance in watching, and frequently caused days and nights of labor by a large force of men in fighting prairie fires to protect the ranges for the cattle.
These hunters had followed the trail of large herds from Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas, down into the Pan-Handle country near this ranch. At first these buffaloes were to be seen in countless herds, but the daily slaughter for their hides, in which one man killed enough to employ five skinners, and has been know [sic] to kill seventy at one stand, has caused them gradually to disappear even in Texas, although an immense throng is still to be seen one hundred miles west of this ranch.
Amidst the difficulties and dangers above mentioned Captain Millett bought and located in the fall and early winter of 1875 fifteen thousand cattle, with his brothers in charge. By transferring these from Southern Texas to a more northern latitude, parallel thirty-two and one-half, it seemed to eradicate their inter-breeding, and in one year's time the improvement was so great that the class as southern cattle had to a great extent lost their identity. In the spring of 1876 he purchased forty-four head of good graded Durham bulls of Mr. Curtright, a gentleman of intelligence and enterprise, who had made great efforts in Texas to introduce the Short Horns. Thirty head of this stock afterward died, as the effect of of [sic] too sudden a change of condition, but the result of the enterprise the following year was eight hundred and fifty half-breed calves, some of which sold when yearlings for twenty-five dollars each. In the spring of 1877 he bought thirty head of thoroughbreds, half males and half females, of Kentucky Stock, paying first-class prices. In the fall of 1877 he expended $14,000 in grades and thoroughbreds. He now as a herd of Short Horns numbering over three hundred, many of which as individual specimens are not excelled for color, weight and beauty-pedigrees perfect, the increase of which he intends to utilize himself. This season over one hundred of his males of high grade and thoroughbred are with thirty-five hundred of his best Texas cows, which are placed to herd in two respective lots, and penned during the breeding season. His main herd is guarded by one hundred and fifty half-breed yearling males and some select specimens of his Texas stock.
Captain Millett has devised a system of organization and management of his ranch, equal to a well-drilled military company. The line of circumference around the ranges of his main herd are fully sixty miles. On this line camps are established from six to eight miles apart, where two herders are stationed, who meet each day, riding along this line watching and turning in stock. If perchance there should be a trail showing that some had wandered outside these limits, one herder is dispatched to headquarters, and a “boss-man” with five or six others, a wagon and twenty or thirty extra horses sent in pursuit. On this ranch last year there were turned loose thirty-three thousand cattle, and the entire drift did not exceed five thousand. He has bought and located there about eleven thousand head of cattle this year (1878), nine thousand steers and two thousand cows. Aside from ranch matters, he has supplied for two years ten thousand head each year in filling an Indian contract for beef. On this ranch two “round-ups” are had each year, for the benefit of other cattle neighbors, whose stock may have strayed into their midst. On these occasions a notification to the herders is given the day before, when they all gradually commence driving in their lines. The next morning from one-half to two-thirds of the entire number will be found quietly submitting to the “round-up,” to be selected and driven out as needed for any purpose. From this ranch about eighteen days drive over good grasses brings them to Fort Dodge, on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé Railroad, ten days to the terminus of the Texas Pacific, and twelve days to Denison, on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad.
Captain Millett claims that where he is located he can produce as good a quality of cattle for feeding purposes, cheaper and more accessible to the corn-producing sections of Missouri, Kansas and Illinois, than elsewhere. The grasses, of which there are various kinds, are of the finest quality, together with an immense crop of Mesquit [sic] beans every dry year, about six inches in length, full of seed and saccharine matter, and very nutritious to all kinds of stock and four-footed game. Old, worn out and broken down horses will put on a new and sleek coat in twenty or thirty days, more glossy than the groomed steeds of the crowded cities.
For his Durhams, Captain Millett has established a separate ranch about six miles distant from that of his main herd, with which they are never allowed to mix. They are under the control and direction of a competent man, who keeps a record of everything concerning them. He is making many improvements upon this ranch, which is already becoming celebrated, and his short horn herd will undoubtedly soon be the largest of any in the West.
In this connection it is proper to say that much is due to the untiring energy and devotion of his two brothers-Alonzo and Hiram-to this great stock enterprise, in which they are now quite largely interested. The entire interests of the three include a herd next to the largest in the United States, and in quality by none excelled.
This is but a meager outline of the history and operations of one who by his own enterprise and square dealing has already accumulated a fortune, and whose stock trade now reaches over five hundred thousand dollars annually. His efforts and experiments in introducing the short horns, and improving the grades of Texas stock, is a matter of great interest to stockmen throughout the West, and bids fair to be a grand success.
Captain Millett is a man of good personal appearance, of medium height, stoutly built, weighing about one hundred and sixty pounds. He is chivalrous, whole-souled and generous in disposition, and good judgment and business tact he certainly evinces in so successfully conducting his extensive operations.
On the 6th day of September, 1876, at Quincy, Illinois, he married Miss Ida, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Judge Burtner. He has recently purchased and now occupies the elegant residence on the bluff between Sixth and Seventh streets, one of the finest and probably the most expensive in construction in Kansas City.
1. The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men—Missouri Volume (New York, N.Y.: United States Biographical Pub. Co., 1878), pp. 800-803.