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The Carlisle Cattle Company
By C. Kutac
 

In 1883 the Carlisle brothers, Edmond and Harold purchased 7,000 head of cattle from ranchers on the east side of the Blue Mountains. They made their headquarters at Double Cabins, about 6 miles out of Monticello, Utah. It's reported the Carlisle Cattle Company had over 2 million dollars invested in cattle and controlled a million acres of land in the Four Corners area.

During the relatively short time the Carlisle Cattle Company operated, their cowboys had gun battles with sheepherders in New Mexico and Ute Indians in both Colorado and Utah. They also tried to run roughshod over the Mormon settlers and bullied a number of peaceful Navajo settlers. An 1881 report from the United States Land Office shows that the Carlisle Cattle Company had fenced in a large tract of land near Blue Mountain. Unfortunately this land was being used by many herds, belonging to many ranchers, and not just by the Carlisle's' cattle.

Although the Mormons were upset over the loss of all that prime grazing land, they were powerless to stop the English brothers, who had the man power and the funds to back their move. The Mormons did try to bridge the gap, in 1890, by inviting the cowboys to a party at Bluff. So many riders turned up, however, that only part of them were allowed inside the hall. The rest milled around outside, shouting their displeasure, then shot up the town as they rode off.

When Harold Carlisle decided that the people around nearby Monticello, Utah were cramping his style, he gave his cowboys permission to try and cut off the town's water supply. Even children weren't safe, because the cowboys would shoot out the windows of the schoolhouse. The terrified children inside could do nothing but cringe on the floor and wait until the cowboys tired of their game and rode off.

At a dance in Monticello, Carlisle hand Tom Roach was drunk and rowdy, and was ordered off the floor. When he drew his pistol, a friend by the name of McCord tried to reason with him. Roach's answer was to shoot McCord dead. Also killed was Mrs. Jane Walton, mother of three.

Twice a year the Carlisle herd was moved through Mancos, Colorado. In the fall, cattle were driven down to Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico; in the spring they were moved back up to the high country to graze. In Mancos, children looked forward to the time when the Carlisles moved their cattle because school would be closed for three days as they passed through..by 1885 the herd numbered 10,000 head.

The excited school kids liked to watch the cowboys move the cattle across the Mancos River, especially when it was running high. But kids weren't the only ones keenly interested in the cattle drive. It was common knowledge in Mancos, although not to the Carlisles, that cattle rustlers lurked nearby, waiting to appropriate stragglers. (One didn't have to be a genius with a running iron to adapt the Carlisles "Three-Bar" brand to something else) With so much resentment against the Carlisles, many folks thought stealing their cattle was justified.

The majority of the cowboys who rode for the Carlisle outfit were from Texas, and many of them weren't any better than they had to be. Butch Cassidy, Kid Jackson, Mont Butler and others of the "Robbers Roost" band worked at the Carlisle Ranch at one time or another. Tom McCarty and Matt Warner visited the ranch several times. And since both of them had ridden with Butch Cassidy, the ranch foreman paid close attention to the pair, especially when they spent a lot of time sewing buckskin bags. Later Warner and McCarty returned, showing the foreman the buckskin bags, containing loot taken during a robbery.

It's true that most of the men who rode for the Carlisle brothers were brave to the point of being reckless, but despite their reputation for being wild, there were among them a number of good, straight men who had grown up with a strong sense of right and wrong. Harry H. Green later went on to become mayor of Moab. Emmet Wirt established a trading post on the Jicarilla Reservation and was well respected. Other riders in the outfit were: Tom Trout, Frank Allen, Hickory Dennis, Jim McTurner, Jim Moore and Bob Kelley.

One of the first foremen at Double Cabins was John Mosely, followed by Mack Goode. And then there was W. E. Gordon, called Latigo. Once after a shootout at Double Cabins, the doctor informed a severely wounded Latigo, that he wouldn't live out the week. Cursing, Latigo told the doctor he would outlive him---and he did.

There were several instances when trouble erupted between Ute Indians and the Carlisle outfit. In l884 a group of Utes attacked a roundup camp, and two cowboys were wounded, while five Indians died. It all started when four cowboys were riding past a Ute camp and one of the cowboys wanted to cut a horse out of the Indian herd. The Carlisle hand got his rope and was about to lasso the horse, when one of the Utes pulled a knife. The Indian was promptly shot by another cowboy. Immediately the Utes chased after the cowboys who rode back to the roundup camp, where further fighting ensued.

In l885 there was a news report about a large party of cowboys attacking a peaceful group of Utes. The cowardly attack came at dawn, and six Indians were shot as they slept. Upon hearing the news, one of the Carlisle brothers telegraphed the newspaper, saying that Indian Agent Stollsteimer had investigated and was convinced that it was horse thieves and not Carlisle cowboys who had killed the Utes.

The Carlisles were also having Indian trouble on the New Mexico side of their holdings. Their Gallegos operation was huge---they had invested over $5,000 for stocktanks and windmills to supply water for several thousand head of cattle they ran in that area. The Gallegos ranch lay only 15 miles to the east of the Navajo Revervation. So when fifty Navajo families moved off the reservation and settled along the Gallegos, the Carlisles were livid. The cavalry was called out to remove them. Edmond Carlisle, however said that the Indians were removed under orders of the Department of the Interior. No doubt they were, but everyone knew who it was that set the ball in motion.

Not satisfied that the Navajos were no longer living along the Gallegos, the Carlisles were fuming because Indians still came to that area to visit a trading post run by W. B. Haines. The angry Carlisle foreman claimed the trading post caused the Navajos to come to the Gallegos, when otherwise they had no business there. Haines' store went out of business, but no one could prove it was due to pressure from the cattle company.

Although they had dealt with the Navajos and came out of it with their reputation unscathed, the Carlisles weren't that lucky when dealing with Mexican sheepherders. They were severely censured for a shootout that left either three or five Mexicans dead---according to which source you believe. The fight on the Gallegos had begun simply enough between one sheepherder and one cowboy. However, before long other cowboys and sheepherders were exchanging
gunfire. A newspaper account claims that the cowboys were under attack, hiding in a pump house, for several days. Finally the Mexicans withdrew, taking their dead and wounded with them.

Eventually, New Mexico's governor offered a reward for the capture of the men who had killed the sheepherders. Edmond Carlisle contended that there had already been a trial and that the cowboys had been acquitted---mainly because of testimony given by the Mexicans who had survived the shootout. The governor replied that he knew for a fact that the cowboys had carried both rifles and pistols into the courtroom. The terrified Mexicans had given their testimony while a cocked rifle was pointed at them, hence it was obviously given under duress and should be discounted. The governor went on to accuse Edmond Carlisle of seizing control of land that was in the public domain, land that had been used by the sheepherders for a generation or more. His final word was that the Carlisle Cattle Company was reckless and irresponsible---what was commonly known as a "hurrah outfit".

More and more sheep moved into the Four Corners area. In the l890's there was a drought and the price of beef was low. The Carlisle Cattle Company began to sell off its cattle and other property. In 1900 it ceased its operations. Probably the only ones who mourned it's passing were the Carlisle brothers themselves, and the cowboys who rode for them.

 

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