January 13, 2009

Strong Women Behind the Cattle Barons

We hear a lot about the Cattle Barons, the men who made their fortune raising the beef that people back East and west in California loved. Behind many of the men were strong women who helped forge the economy right along with them. I'll introduce you to a few:

Aubony Stuart - Along with her husband Granville, they had an unlikely, but nearly-perfect marriage during the time when Indian-white hostility was at its peak. A full-blooded Shoshone, Aubony settled easily into her mixed marriage. She and Granville had nine children and later they adopted and raised two children of his dead brother James.

Eula Kendrick - She lived and dressed stylishly even on the frontier. A friend once commented that "her trim, erect figure sets off to perfection frocks which are always the last word in smartness and elegance." But she wasn't just a pretty face and fashion plate. She kept her husband's books before she shared his retirement at the Sheridan, Wyoming, home they called Trail's End.

Elizabeth Iliff - Sold Singer sewing machines when her husband John met her trudging along a country road. She was the perfect wife for a cattleman, handling every crisis as it arose. When he died at 48, her first thought was to telegraph his ranch foreman to double the guard on the herds before rustlers could move in.

Nellie Wibaux - had a flair that matched the one of her husband Pierre. Even though their first home was a log cabin with a sod roof, for Thanksgiving they prepared turkey, plum pudding, and mince pie. She hovered over the stove in an evening gown. He drank champagne with a flour sack over his stiff shirt and swallow-tailed coat.

Agusta Kohrs - ran the domestic half of her husband Conrad's domain in decisive Teutonic style. She started by firing the cook and taking over his duties. Later, with the staff trained to her satisfaction, she made tours to Europe and anhual visits to New York's Metropolitan Opera, which she attended the last time in 1942 (the year I was born) at the age of 93.

Mary Ann Goodnight - We know about the Goodnight cattle trail, but we don't often hear about his wife. She was as tough and patient as her husband. She waited until age 31 to marry, when Charlie had established his Colorado spread. Later she helped him get through his financial crash. Eventually, she presided over their Palo Dura spread, where she was the only white woman for hundreds of miles around.

I've taken this information from the Time-Life The Old West series, The Cowboys. Photographs of these women show many of them to be quite lovely.

The old West was hard on many women, but it also proved to be an avenue to wealth and a better way of life, even though it took a lot of work.

1 comment:

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Lena, I used to live in a suburb of Denver in Aurora. The main street in front of our apartment was Iliff named after John Iliff, which naturally made me interest in his history. BTW, I have a man's tie that I had given my brother one year with the Goodnight Loving Trail on it. Pretty cool.