Women on the frontier in the 1800's were not the beautiful dainty wallflowers like their counter parts in Europe. The frontier women had to be strong, resourceful, hard working, and a great horseman.
Women in the 1800’s took part in all facets of Frontier Life. The hardship of frontier life required that all members of the family take part to make ends meet. So, 1800 women mounted their horses to hunt with their husbands and also camp out for days. Some women even became cattle-women. One such cattle-women was Elizabeth E. Johnson.
*Elizabeth E. Johnson was born in Missouri in 1843. She moved to Hays County, Texas soon after her father had established the Johnson Institute there in 1852. Lizzie began teaching at the school when she was sixteen. Later she left to teach in schools at Manor, Lockhart, and Austin. Quietly she saved her money and added to her income by writing stories for Frank Leslie’s Magazine. As she accumulated money, she invested it. At one point she purchased $2,500 worth of stock in the Evans, Snider, Bewell Cattle Co. of Chicago. She earned 100 percent dividends for three years straight and then sold her stock for $20,000. On June 1, 1871, she invested the money in cattle and registered her own brand (CY) in the Travis County brand book along with her mark.
Lizzie Johnson’s wealth continued to grow. So did her responsibilities. In the summer of 1879, at the age of thirty-six, she married Hezkiah G Williams, a preacher and widower with several children. She continued to teach school in Austin, write magazine articles, and invest in cattle. She maintained control over her wealth, having had her husband sign a paper agreeing that all of her property remained hers. On his own, Hezkiah entered the cattle business in 1881, but he was a poor businessman who also liked to drink, and Lizzie had to keep pulling him out of financial trouble. At least twice Lizzie and Hezkiah traveled up the Chisholm Trail to Kansas. They rode behind the herd in a buggy drawn by a team of horses. This was about 1879, and Lizzie was the first woman to drive her own herd up the trail. For several years she and her husband, after coming up the trail, spent the fall and winter months in St. Louis, where Lizzie made extra money by keeping books for other cattlemen. When she died in 1924, at the age of 81 (her husband had died on 1914), Lizzie Johnson’s estate totaled more than $200,000, including large holdings in Austin real estate.
(*An excerpt from Emily Jones Shelton, “Lizzie E Johnson: A Cattle Queen of Texas” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol L (1947) pp 349-366)
The old west is filled with stories like this of men and women and their adventures on the trail. They worked hard for a living and expected their horse tack to work just as hard and to last.
The styles of the old time horse tack are not only appealing to the “old time cowboy” but like the horse tack of the 1800, the durability and quality is essential to the cowboy and the horse.
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