Legendary frontier merchant dies

July 30th, 1902

On this day in 1902, Charles Rath died in Los Angeles, California. Rath, born near Stuttgart, Württemberg, in 1836, came to the United States in 1848. About 1853 Charles joined William Bent's Colorado trading empire, working as an independent freighter hauling supplies and trade goods across Kansas. In the early 1870s Rath brought Andrew Johnson into his employ. Rath was among the first to take advantage of the growing buffalo-hide trade, hunting, freighting, and marketing the hides for a high profit. Often the hideyard of the Rath Mercantile Company was filled with 70,000 to 80,000 hides at one time. In 1874, as the buffalo slaughter moved south into the Texas Panhandle, Rath and a business partner opened a combination store and restaurant at Adobe Walls, near the site of William Bent's old outpost; Rath himself was back in Kansas on June 27 and thus missed the second battle of Adobe Walls. In the 1870s, Rath and partners such as Frank E. Conrad and William McDole Lee opened commercial establishments at Fort Griffin, Mobeetie, and Rath City. By 1879, however, the buffalo supply was exhausted. Although Rath and his associates profited briefly from the bones their crews hauled away and sold for fertilizer, his fortune soon decreased as his debts from unsuccessful land speculations mounted. He lived in Mobeetie for a while before moving to Los Angeles, where he died of "mitral insufficiency."

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Legendary frontier merchant dies

July 30th, 1902

On this day in 1902, Charles Rath died in Los Angeles, California. Rath, born near Stuttgart, Württemberg, in 1836, came to the United States in 1848. About 1853 Charles joined William Bent's Colorado trading empire, working as an independent freighter hauling supplies and trade goods across Kansas. In the early 1870s Rath brought Andrew Johnson into his employ. Rath was among the first to take advantage of the growing buffalo-hide trade, hunting, freighting, and marketing the hides for a high profit. Often the hideyard of the Rath Mercantile Company was filled with 70,000 to 80,000 hides at one time. In 1874, as the buffalo slaughter moved south into the Texas Panhandle, Rath and a business partner opened a combination store and restaurant at Adobe Walls, near the site of William Bent's old outpost; Rath himself was back in Kansas on June 27 and thus missed the second battle of Adobe Walls. In the 1870s, Rath and partners such as Frank E. Conrad and William McDole Lee opened commercial establishments at Fort Griffin, Mobeetie, and Rath City. By 1879, however, the buffalo supply was exhausted. Although Rath and his associates profited briefly from the bones their crews hauled away and sold for fertilizer, his fortune soon decreased as his debts from unsuccessful land speculations mounted. He lived in Mobeetie for a while before moving to Los Angeles, where he died of "mitral insufficiency."

«   Previous Next   »

Related Handbook of Texas Articles

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With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
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