Archive for July, 2013

SUPPLIES ON THE MOVE

July 25, 2013

The increase in western population in the late 1800’s presented a problem. As towns grew from a muddy street/path to hard packed dirt and gravel less of the residents were able to hunt wild game or bison for food. Meat was scarce and located further from the population. In addition, staples like flour, sugar, tea, and coffee had to be shipped from eastern centers to the western towns. Enter the freighters, a hearty group who brought staples from the shipping hub of Fort Riley, Kansas over the 687 miles to the emerging towns of the plains—in this case—Denver.

Over 100 million pounds of freight traveled in “doubles” in the span from 1859 when gold was discovered in Colorado to the appearance of the railroad in the 1880’s. “Doubles” was the term used by freighters for two wagons joined together by securing the tongue of the rear wagon under the front wagon with the whole set-up being pulled by a six or eight hitch oxen team. A slow, dusty trip to be sure, but financially rewarding at the end.

By the time, my grandfather and great-grandfather began freighting in 1878 and 1879, most of the activity was confined to moving supplies to Colorado mountain towns. Gold, silver, and lead miners were busy pulling precious ores from the ground and lacked the inclination to cease their activities long enough to supply themselves with meat. Everitt and Sons established a meat market along Larimer Street and supplied the mountain towns via wagons. To keep the meat from spoiling, the men used blocks of ice cut from frozen lakes topped with wheat straw to pack around the beef sides. Coupled with the cooler mountain climate, they were able to freight fresh meat to mining towns throughout the summer months. With the arrival of spring, fresh fruits and vegetables from local gardens were added to the meat supplies transported to hungry miners.

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