The “Ill-Fated” Cattle Drive of 1880

copyright Guy Swanson

In the 1870's the Willamette Valley was filling up farmers and fences. Settlers were few in Central Oregon so the stockmen drove their herds across the Cascades to find seasonal grazing.

Part of Squaw Creek was settled in the 1870's by John V. Todd, a very well known man in pioneer days who owned the Farewell Bend ranch on the Deschutes. He built up his herd to over 2,000 head, taking advantage of waist high bunch grass on the public lands bordered by the canyons of the by the Metolius and Deschutes.

That led to a surplus of cattle in Central Oregon with poor markets in the west. Joseph Teal and his brother-in-law Henry Coleman combined their stock with John Y. Todd and consignments from other ranchers. Todd took the lead on driving between 3,000 and 6,000 head of cattle on a 1,200 mile drive to Cheyenne. It would go down in history as one of the longest of all drives of pioneer times.

Blackleg infected the moving herds, resulting in heavy losses before their arrival at Cheyenne. At the rail head Todd turned his cattle over to Teal for marketing and returned to his Farewell Bend Ranch.

Todd failed to get any money for his herd so he returned to Cheyenne the following spring to discover the final chapter of the ill-fated drive.

Teal had sent the cattle to fatten in Kansas most of the cattle were lost when they brok through the ice of the Missouri River. Todd received no compensation from his 2,000 head of cattle nor did he receive any pay for the long overland drive. Teal and Coleman also suffered heavy losses. The catastrophic trail drive resulted in Todd selling his Farewell Bend Ranch and using much of the proceeds to pay back small ranchers that had placed their cattle in the trail herd. Teal and Coleman also left the livestock business after the disastrous cattle drive resulted in their bankruptcy.

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