Yesterday’s transcription, The Expense Account of Two 1830s Cattle Drovers, offered a fascinating glimpse into the partnership between my great to the third grandfather, John P. Minor, and Lot Lantz. As with my checkbook today, I reviewed the ledger’s figures with a scattered focus. Does all of this accounting add up? Meh! Close enough!
The real family dirt was in the places named: Bull Town; William Brown’s farm in Preston County, Virginia; Caremont Tavern. Where did these fellas travel? How did they get the cattle from point A to point B? Where was point A?
Both John P. Minor and Lot Lantz were residents of Greene County, in the far southwest corner of Pennsylvania; their names and place of residence appear in multiple federal censuses and several family papers housed in my Minor Satchel File. Bull Town is in what is now known as Braxton County, West Virginia and Preston County is just to the north and east of Braxton County. What connected southwest Pennsylvania and mid-state (West) Virginia in 1832?
Every map I have located for the first half of the nineteenth century includes the southwest corner of Pennsylvania in the map of Virginia. The water ways, rail roads and roads connected the western counties of Virginia to Pennsylvania forming strong economic and cultural ties for many decades.
The Monogehela River and its tributary, the Cheat River, may have been one means of traveling into Preston County. Or perhaps Minor and Lantz drove cattle down the one horse sulkey road from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania to Morgantown, (West) Virginia to Kingswood, Preston County, (West) Virginia.
At Kingswood the two drovers could have traveled on the Three Fork Road, the day’s interstate highway. That 2 horse stage coach road would take the men and their cattle through Bridgeport to Clarksburg, Harrison County, (West) Virginia. From that point smaller roads, just one horse sulkey wide, would connect the businessmen with markets in Bull Town.
Travel through the mountains of western Virginia must have been arduous. I am still trying to wrap my brain around the concept of driving 22 head of cattle or 145 head of cattle along roads shared with mail coaches, farmers and peddlers. Did they use dogs to help move their merchandise along? Where did they stop to water and feed their cattle? How long was the average drive?
Cattle drovers were often men of substance in their communities, helping farmers move their animals to distant markets. John P. Minor was just one of these businessmen, and I am grateful that his descendants have kept the details of his transactions.