By Horace McQueen
Back thirty and forty years ago it seemed that local livestock auction markets were in most east Texas counties. Some counties boasted two markets. Well, that has changed leaving some livestock raisers miles and miles from a sale barn. In the past few weeks, another facility—Anderson County Livestock auction in Elkhart-- closed.
In the 80’s and 90’s, Lufkin, Jacksonville and Tyler had sale barns that sold lots of cattle. There were also several other auction markets that are now just a memory. Palestine had a thriving sale just east of town for many years. Henderson had two auction markets as did Sulphur Springs. But as owners aged or due to increased competition or property tax increases, some owners made the decision to close the doors. Don’t expect new sale barns to open in our area. The cost of construction would be mind boggling and most bankers would pass on an offer to provide financing.
This is a true story that offers a look into early Texas. Once the Civil War ended, the only thing of real value in the southern part of Texas was the rough, tough and prolific longhorn cattle breed. During the war years the longhorn ran free and had little contact with two-legged Texans. After the Civil War ended some enterprising folks figured out that the cattle had good value—if they could be herded and driven north to market centers in the mid-west. Those cattle could then be sold for their hides, tallow and beef for $15 a head or more. That price got several takers that rounded up the wary longhorns, hired a team of cowboys to drive them north and, if lucky, come back home with plenty of money. One of the herd owners was William Burks, who in 1871 rounded up 1,000 head of cattle and herded them to Abilene, Kansas. His wife Amanda Nite Burks made the long ride as well—with over a dozen Hispanic cowboys and a herd of horses. Mrs. Burks rode a buggy for her journey, and according to those who recorded her trip, she made a top hand.