Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cattleman Con Shea Drives Texas Longhorns to Owyhee Ranches [otd 9/24]

On September 24, 1870, the Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho) published the following item: “From Texas – Con Shea, one of Owyhee's most adventurous and enterprising citizens, just got back from Texas. He and Tom Bugbee left here in March last, since that time they have purchased in Texas, and driven to within one hundred miles of Denver City, some 1300 head of cattle. Bugbee remains with the stock, which will winter on the waters of the Arkansas river. Grass is very short along the route, which accounts for their not coming on this season.”
Longhorns on the move.
International Texas Longhorn Association.

Originally from Canada, Cornelius “Con” Shea arrived in Idaho in the spring of 1864. He worked as a miner and then teamster for awhile, but by 1867 had established himself as a cattleman. The following year, a well-off rancher bankrolled him to go to Texas and bring back a herd of longhorns. (Texas had a “glut” of cattle, and prices were low.)

Con started east, but at Raft River ran into a drive already on its way from Texas. The owners agreed to sell him the herd. Con drove the cattle to range along Sinker and Catherine creeks (southeast of today’s Murphy). These are believed to be the first Texas cattle brought into the “Owyhee Country” of southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon.

The following year, Con and some other cattlemen bought longhorns along the Brazos River in Texas and drove them to Idaho. As noted by the lead newspaper item above, Con repeated the process in 1870. Many of these cattle went, as needed, from the range to meat markets in the Owyhee mining camps. But ranchers like Shea also began to build up their breeding stock.

In 1874, Con moved his herds to grazing land that straddled the Oregon border, about 15 miles northwest of Silver City. He and a brother also ran a meat market in a mining camp that flourished near Silver City from 1871 to about 1876. Con and two of his brothers took part in the Battle of South Mountain during the Bannock War of 1878 [blog, June 8]. For the next twenty years, Shea played a major role in the Owyhee Country cattle business. He left his name on Idaho’s Con Shea Basin and on Sheaville, Oregon.
Con Shea, ca 1898.
Savings Bank of Santa Rosa.

Around 1883, Shea purchased a winter home in Santa Rosa, California. After that, he “commuted” to Idaho and Oregon to oversee his ranch and business properties. Local newspapers usually referred to his town visits with the lead: “Con Shea of Cow Creek ...” (Cow Creek rises about ten miles northwest of Silver City.)

After the Oregon Short Line laid tracks across Idaho, Shea began selling cattle to the Eastern markets. Thus, the Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho, reported (July 4, 1885) that Shea had sold a consignment to a company in Chicago. The item said he was about to “turn over 1500 or 2000 head to the agent of the firm at Caldwell.”

Around 1897, Shea disposed of his Idaho and Oregon ranch holdings and moved permanently to Santa Rosa. There, he had invested in land and other real estate, and served as Director of the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa. After the 1906 Bay Area earthquake, a Santa Rosa newspaper lauded the fact that Shea intended to rebuild his commercial properties using reinforced concrete.

Con passed away in May 1926.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-State]
Mildretta Adams, Owyhee Cattlemen, 1878 – 1978, Owyhee Publishing Co., Homedale, Idaho (1979).
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).
“Savings Bank of Santa Rosa,” Sonoma County Homes and Industries, Reynolds & Proctor Publishing, Santa Rosa, California (1898).
“Solid Block of Concrete: Santa Rosa Will Have Substantial Structure,” Santa Rosa Republican (July 16, 1906).  

2 comments:

  1. It’s good to read such interesting stuff on the Internet as I have been able to discover here. I agree with much of what is written here and I’ll be coming back to this website again. Thanks again for posting such great reading material!!

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  2. Thanks for the kind words. I find it interesting that Shea spent something like 30 years in Santa Rosa, dealing in real estate and so on, but there's no longer much evidence of that around the town. Developers usually at least get a street named for them. :-)

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