Madison County History and Genealogy

History and Genealogy



History of Madison County


Darby Township Early Stock Speculators

From History of Madison County, W. H. Beers & Co, Chicago, 1883

In the early history of the township, as well as that of the county, there were but few of this class of men, and those few supplied a want very much needed and appreciated by the first settlers. To raise cattle and hogs was not very difficult or expensive; but the difficulty consisted in getting them to market. There were but few marketable points within reach of the settlements, and the demands at these were in limited numbers only. The Government Agencies at Sandusky and Detroit were ready purchasers for a small amount of this class of farm products. Subsequently, however, in the latter place, Canadian speculators purchased largely of cattle and hogs that were packed for the English markets. In addition to these places, Cincinnati, Chillicothe and Cleveland did a small amount of this kind of business. Here, then, were the points of trade; but to reach them was a difficult task. All this stock must necessarily be driven on foot a distance of from 100 to 200 miles, with such surroundings as are peculiar to a new country like this.

Butler Comstock, of Worthington, was among the first extensive cattle speculators in this township. His purchases were usually made in the spring, comprising one hundred or more four-year-old steers, for which he paid from $4 to $7 per head. These cattle were herded and grazed upon the prairies until early autumn, and then driven to some of the above markets – Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Mr. Comstock continued this business for several years, with profit to himself and those of whom he purchased.

In the year 1818, a young man by the name of James Guy came from Canada to this township. Others of the family came at about the same time. James possessed fine business qualifications, and at once entered into the cattle trade limited, however, at first; but, as his means increased, his purchases were correspondingly greater. The points of trade sought by him were in keeping with the kind and condition of his stock. His fat cattle, in the infancy of his speculations, were driven to Sandusky or Detroit, but his stock cattle were taken to the neighborhood of Chillicothe and sold to feeders along the Scioto bottoms. This method of doing business was too circumscribed to meet his enlarged views and speculative usefulness. This increased trade upon his part was in keeping with the increased supply, for, by this time, the people had learned that stock-raising was the most profitable, if not the only industry that brought the ready cash. From 1830 to 1840, the price current for a four-year-old steer was from $7 to $10 per head. Mr. Guy in his traffic was not confined to this township or county; he therefore purchased large droves of cattle that were driven on foot over the Alleghany Mountains to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Sometimes his droves assumed mammoth proportions, numbering from 300 to 500 head. He followed this business for nearly twenty years. At one time he was the owner of 1,500 acres of the finest grazing lands on the plains. In 1846, his speculative mind was turned to a new field of action. He, in company with David Mitchell, son of Judge Mitchell, entered largely into the pork-packing business at Columbus. Many thousand head were slaughtered, for which they paid from $5 to $6 per hundred; but before this great bulk of pork was put upon the market, there came the great financial crash of 1847. like a sweeping tornado, carrying with it some of the best business firms and men of the county. Mr. Guy was therefore wrecked upon the sand-bar of finance, and to him, like others with such extensive ideas of speculations, disaster was an almost natural result. He lost all, and made an assignment to his creditors; but he was not the man to sit down and brood over the disasters of the past, for, when the California gold fever swept over this continent, he went with an overland emigrant train to "Ophir," to gather the precious metal of that land. Here he remained four years, and came back with $5,000 of the shining dust, with which he purchased a farm, partly in this and Union Counties, where he lived until his death, in 1882.

James Boyd came to Canaan Township in 1829, and purchased a farm on the plains, where he lived until his death, in 1831. There were three sons, the oldest a resident of London, this county; James Boyd, Jr., is a resident of this township, and the owner of a fine farm near Plain City. His occupation is farming of a mixed character, but devoting special attention to fine cattle and hogs. His life has been identified in the agricultural pursuits, and his surroundings are indicative of thrift and prosperity. As the lines of railroads extended westward, many of the old stock speculators and drovers retired from business, and new ones stepped to the front. Daniel Boyd, of this township, was the first to engage in this new mode of transportation. His early business training was among the cattle herds of Darby. Accordingly, in 1855, his first shipments were made to the Eastern markets. Being young and inexperienced, there were many things to be learned that were important and essential to success. In a few years of experience, he abandoned in part the shipment of cattle; but for the last fifteen or twenty years, his shipments have been confined to hogs, sheep and wool. He has been engaged in this business for twenty-seven successive years, and in this particular is the oldest shipper in the county. During this period, the value of his shipments have been from $150,000 to $300,000 per year. He lives in a finely located suburban residence of Plain City.

From History of Madison County, Ohio, Chester E. Bryan, Supervising Editor, B.F. Bowen & Co., Indianapolis (1915)

The chief draw-back to stock raising in pioneer times was the great difficulty of marketing the animals. It was neither expensive nor difficult to raise the cattle and hogs, but they must be driven to distant market places. Moreover, there were just a few marketable points within the reach of the settlements, and the demand at these markets was limited. At Sandusky and Detroit the government agencies were ready purchasers of small amounts of this kind of produce. In addition to these places, Cincinnati, Chillicothe and Cleveland did a small amount of this kind of business. Here, then, were the points of marketing, but the serious problem was that of transportation. The only method possible at that time was by driving. But the driving on foot of a great amount of stock a distance of from one to two hundred miles, with such surroundings as were peculiar to a new country such as this was, was a great task, beset with many difficulties and dangers.

Perhaps Butler Comstock, of Worthington, was the first of the extensive cattle buyers and speculators who operated in Darby township. His purchases were usually made in the spring and comprised one hundred or more head of four-year-old steers, for which he paid, on the average, between four and seven dollars a head. These cattle were herded and grazed on the prairie until early autumn, and then driven to one of the above mentioned markets or to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.

In 1818 a young Canadian by the name of James Guy came to this township. He possessed fine business qualifications and at once began buying cattle—in limited quantitles at first, however, but increasing as his means increased. The points of trade sought by him were in keeping with the kind and condition of his stock. His fat cattle were driven to Sandusky or Detroit, but his stock cattle were taken to the neighborhood of Chillicothe and sold to the feeders of the Sciotio bottoms. This method of doing business was too circumscribed to meet his enlarged views and speculative usefulness. This increased trade upon his part was in keeping with the increased supply, for, by this time, the people had learned that stock-raising was the most profitable, if not the only, industry that brought the ready cash. The current price for a four-year-old steer during the years from 1830 to 1840 was from seven to ten dollars per head. In his trafiic in cattle, Mr. Guy did not limit himself to this township or county, but purchased large droves of cattle that were driven on foot over the Alleghany mountains to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Sometimes his herds assumed mammoth proportions, numbering from three to five hundred head. He followed this business for nearly twenty years. At one time he was the owner of fifteen hundred acres of the finest grazing land on the plains. In 1846 he, in company with David Mitchell, son of Judge Mitchell, entered on an extensive scale into the pork-packing business in Columbus. Many thousand head were slaughtered, for which they paid from five to six dollars per hundred pounds; but before this great bulk of packed meat could be put on the market, there came that great financial crash of 1847, wrecking them upon the sand-bar of finance. He lost all and made an assignment to his creditors. However, he was not the kind to sit idle and brood over his reverses of the past and, when the California gold fever swept the country, he joined that procession of "Forty-niners" to "Ophir" to gather the precious dust. He remained there for four years and came back with five thousand dollars in nuggets, with which he purchased a farm, partly in this and partly in Union counties, where he lived until his death in 1882.

A stockman of great prominence at a later date was Daniel Boyd. He was the grandson of James Boyd, who came to Canaan township in 1820 and lived there until his death in 1831. As the railroad lines extended westward, many of the old stock speculators and drovers retired from business and a new generation stepped to the front. One of the leaders of these was Daniel Boyd. His early business training was in connection with the cattle herds of Darby township. Accordingly he made his first shipments to the Eastern markets in 1855. After a few years' experience, he practically abandoned the shipment of cattle and confined his efforts to the shipment of hogs, sheep and wool. He was engaged in this business in the county for over thirty years and many of the older residents remember the times when his business was most flourishing.

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