Memories of a cattle drive


Back in the day

By Bob Boldman



I recently discovered a hand written story – that was among documents pertaining to family history. This is a story that relates to my Uncle Norman Harness who married my Aunt Jessie (Boldman) Harness. It relates to an early 20th century cattle drive to Portsmouth. It opens a portal into the past through a written account – of those who lived it. I want to share this story so as to bring alive the way our ancestors lived. It is written exactly as I found it, with no corrections and/or perception of my own. (My hunch is that the story was told to Norman’s Grandson Denny.)

Here is the story as discovered: “One of the stories my grandad told me as a child, was when he was 14 yrs. old in the year of 1917. My grandad and his brother John and several other men, on horseback, drove a herd of cattle to Portsmouth, Ohio. The drive started at the northern part of Scioto Co., in what is now owned by the Mc Clay family, on the west side of St. Rt. 104 north 1/10th mile above Big Bear Creek Rd.

The cattle were rounded up a few days before the drive was to begin, the herd was made up of his father Ben Harness’s cattle, his brother John’s cattle and other farmers in the area. These cattle drives was a custom of this period usually once a year. At this time period the only way to move live stock was to drive or lead the animals where they were to be sold or slaughtered. There were no trucks or stock trailers, only railheads.

The drive started at sunrise moving the cattle down the old wagon road. Along the Ohio Erie Canal, toward the bridge that crossed the Scioto River that went to Lucasville, Ohio. His father Benjamin Harness, rode his horse to Lucasville train depot, where he caught the train to Portsmouth stock yard, where a man named Jacobs owned and operated a major slaughter house.

While young Norman (sic) on horseback with his six yr. older brother John Harness, 20 yrs. old, and the other men, walked the herd down the old road on the east side of the Scioto River, somewhere around what is now north and south St. Rt. 23, toward the town of Portsmouth. Granddad said that it was high noon when they arrived at the stock pens on the northeast side of town. Once the cattle were all penned and the horses taken care of. His father took care of the business, while granddad and the rest of the men went to get something to eat and look around town. Some of the men visited a saloon, granddad and his dad went to see a picture show, to watch one of the latest cowboy motion pictures. I think he said it was a Tom Mix picture.

They enjoyed the afternoon and about 4 o’clock mounted their horses, even Benjamin, which granddad had picked up his dad’s horse when the herd went through Lucasville. They all rode back home talking about things they seen in town and about the day’s events. And arrived home just before dark, rubbing down, watering and feeding the horses, and putting the gear away just in time for dinner. Granddad told this story with great fondness and excitement, that made me feel like, I was right there with them experiencing those days in the early 1900’s.” Let us cherish our past and embrace our future, with hope and vision.

RETRACTION – Last week, my story about Lieutenant Thomas K. Coles – had some incorrect dates that I would like to clarify. The dates of concern are the date of birth and the date of his death. The following is his correct information: “ Lieut. Thomas K. Coles – Born Dec. 25, 1844 – Killed in a Skirmish – Near Bunker Hill, Va. – Nov. 18, 1864.” In the story of last week; the birthdate1841 & death date 1861 were incorrect. Thank you for your consideration.

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Back in the day

By Bob Boldman

Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: g.boldman5@gmail.com

Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: g.boldman5@gmail.com