RICHARD I. COCKRUM. In that vast region of ranch and range lying along the Colorado-Kansas border there is perhaps no better known cattle man and business man than Richard I. Cockrum of Stanton Township, Stanton County. Mr. Cockrum has been through practically every experience which is popularly associated with the western ranchman. As soon as he could ride in a saddle he began performing some of the humbler duties of the old time cowboy. He has followed the movements of cattle over a domain as large as many of the principal states of Europe. He has slept out under the stars for nights unnumbered, has endured the perilous heat of the western prairies as well as the blizzards of winter, has fought cattle thieves, has bucked all the vicissitudes of the cattle industry and from grade to grade and experience to experience has risen to a position where for years he has directed one of the biggest and most noted ranches along the western border of the state.
While a resident of Kansas since childhood, Mr. Cockrum belongs to Kentucky by nativity and is of an old Kentucky family. He was born in Barren County July 4, 1872. His father, Edward E. Cockrum, was a native of the same county and spent his early and middle life in humble circumstances but subsequently gained success in the cattle business on Bear Creek in Western Kansas. He died in December, 1907, at the age of fifty-six. He was a republican voter, but took little interest in politics and was a member of the Baptist Church. He married one of the good women of his locality, Martha E. Sims, who was born near Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was of a Confederate family, daughter of John Wesley Sims. The hot blood of the South courses through her veins and her first advice to her children was always to conduct themselves as ladies and gentlemen. She is still living at Syracuse, Kansas, at the age of seventy-four. Her children were: Richard I.; Florence, wife of M. A. Bullock, of Sharp County, Arkansas; Samuel P., who died unmarried in Stanton County; John V., associated as a partner with his brother Richard; and Nannie who died unmarried.
The great-grandfather of Richard I. Cockrum was Preston Cockrum, a native of Ireland. He spent his last years in Casey County, Kentucky, and is said to have been a fine citizen and noted as a horse trader. The grandfather was also named Preston Cockrum, and was a native of Casey County, Kentucky, but in 1842 moved to Barren County, where he spent his active career as a stockman and farmer. He married Eliza Edwards, and their family consisted of four sons and four daughters: John K., George A., Edward E., Samuel, Mrs. Susan Dodson, Mrs. Matilda Reynolds, Mrs. Sarah Pedigo and Mrs. Corrinder.
Richard I. Cockrum acquired a substantial common school education before he was fourteen years of age. When about eleven years old, in the fall of 1882, he became a boy employe on the ranch of Hewins and Titus at Hunnewell, Kansas. His duties were fence riding, keeping the gates closed, and looking out for breaks to guard against the escape of stock. The following year he worked for Helms Brothers of the Broad Ax ranch on the Chicaska, spending the summer there. The following two years were given to moving cattle for the settlers going out to Comanche County, and in 1886 he accompanied the family out to Stanton County.
For the previous four years the Cockrum family had lived in Sumner County, where his father was a small farmer and made very little progress toward gathering property. His father was a renter and had no cash capital when he came into Stanton County. Here the headquarters of the family were established on the Colorado line in section 33, township 29, range 43. Edward E. Cockrum pre-empted a claim, proved it up, and then because of the free range privileges crossed over the Colorado line. He remained there, grazing his accumulating bunch of cattle, for twenty years. It was to this home that Richard I. Cockrum reported as a youth and young man during the many years of his active connection with Beaty Brothers ranch.
He entered the service of Beaty Brothers as a common cow puncher, and by his work and as a result of his conduct rose to become a favorite foreman and finally ranch foreman and wagon boss of the ranch. The Beaty Brothers had their headquarters at Point of Rocks, while their horse ranch was at Manzanola, Colorado, then known as Catlin. Mr. Cockrum's time was divided between these two points. He continued with the brothers until 1896.
In November of that year he resigned and went to work for himself. For years he had been sending his wages to his father, who invested them in cattle and thus in 1896 he found himself possessor of 300 cattle and 100 head of stock horses. This stock was being held on Bear Creek in Baca County, Colorado. From that time until 1900 Mr. Cockrum gave his time to the ranch. In the latter year he organized the Doctor Rea Cattle Company, capitalized at $100,000. He became the company's general manager and filled that office until 1904. The company bought 100,000 acres of land in the five northwest townships of Stanton County, and stocked the ranch with 2,800 head of Mexican steers and cows. Those four years were extremely busy ones for Mr. Cockrum. He built sixty-one miles of fence, put down and equipped nine wells on the ranch, and subdivided the property into pastures. By his operations as a buyer and seller he made the ranch one of the most noted in Western Kansas. He sold his own lands to the company when it was organized, and on leaving the company he gave his active management to the stock accumulated at his own home and which his father had by illness become unable to manage.
Before the Doctor Rea Cattle Company was organized Mr. Cockrum and his father had begun the nucleus of their Bear Creek ranch. This ranch was occupied by his father until 1900, and in 1904 Richard I. Cockrum came to it and has since been its active manager. Two of the Cockrum ranches embraced 4,480 acres and are stocked with White-Face cattle. One other ranch, of three sections is in Prowers County, Colorado, while still another of 2,200 acres, is in Hamilton County, Kansas. Two hundred high bred Hereford cows, called the old ranch stock, constituted the basis and the source of the splendid bunch of cattle still found on the ranch. Another important feature of the industry is the raising of mules.
Mr. Cockrum deals extensively in outside stock, and offers a market for practically everything the settlers have to sell in this region. Grain and feed grown by other farmers are fed upon the Cockrum ranch, which runs about 1,000 cattle annually. Mr. Cockrum has been a shipper to the Kansas City market since 1891. In that year his first load was sent to market, and that was a red letter day in his history as a cattle man. He had been in touch with cattle men and stock markets through papers and correspondence, and it was with keen hopes and anticipations that he looked forward to the check he would get for his first load of stock. The handling of large shipments and the receipt of big payments have since become almost a commonplace of his existence.
Beginning in a most humble capacity as a child worker in the cattle business Mr. Cockrum has come to the supervision of many large and varied business interests. A number of years ago he abandoned the "quirt and the spur," and his days of riding the range are now merely a matter of reminiscence to him. He is one of the most interesting old timers in Western Kansas and when he is at leisure has a wealth of incidents to tell of his experiences on the plains, in branding mavericks with his spurs, and in chasing up cattle rustlers during the Cimarron war. During that time about thirty men were captured for cattle stealing and placed in the bull pen of the O-X outfit. This was while Mr. Cockrum was working for the Beaty Brothers.
Besides his position as a stockman Mr. Cockrum is also a Stanton County banker. Several years ago he was approached by the people of the county to take stock in a home bank at Johnson. He consented to do so, subscribing for a fifth of the capital, but by the time the bank was opened he owned four-fifths. He arranged for the employment of a reliable man for cashier, and after the preliminary battle of securing upon a bid of 2 per cent, the legal rate, for the county funds as a deposit the business of the institution has gone on without incident and with growing prosperity.
The matter of securing the county deposits for the Home Bank constitutes a feature of local history that should not be overlooked. For many years another bank had been handling the county funds, and they applied before the Board of County Commissioners for the continuation of the privilege as against Mr. Cockrum's associates. The attorney for the outside bank made a bid of 3 per cent on the funds, and the Board of Commissioners, feeling friendly to the old bank, ordered the money deposited with them. Mr. Cockrum felt that the action of the board was illegal, and brought suit to force them to deposit with the Home Bank in Johnson. The case went through the District Court with a verdict for Mr. Cockrum and from there was appealed. Before trial was had in the higher court the commissioners, anticipating their defeat, offered to compromise, each side to pay the costs, and through that compromise the funds were deposited with the Cockrum Bank.
The Johnson State Bank was capitalized at $10,000 and opened for business November 25, 1913. The present officers are: Richard I. Cockrum, president; Charles Heinlen, vice president; J. B. Cockrum, cashier; while the directors are Richard I. and J. B. Cockrum, J. V. Cockrum and Charles Heinlen.
Mr. Cockrum is also a stockholder in the Kansas Packing Company of Hutchinson, the Wichita Crude Oil Company, and is president of the Bear Creek Telephone Company. Although his father was a republican, as above noted, he is a democrat, but expresses his politics chiefly as a voter. The only public office he ever held was as director of school district No. 5 for fourteen years. While he was a member of the board the $2,200 of outstanding bonds were paid off. As a citizen he has exerted his influence toward securing clean and moral men for public place as far as possible. He is a high degree Mason, having joined the order at Coolidge, Kansas, in 1902. He has membership in Coolidge Lodge No. 316, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Syracuse Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, Commandery No. 50, Knights Templar, at Garden City, and Scottish Rite Consistory No. 2 at Wichita.
On January 1, 1896, about the time he entered ranching for himself, Mr. Cockrum married at Stonington, Colorado, Miss Dora E. Nanee. She is a daughter of Rutherford D. and Joycie Nanee of Bloomington, Illinois. Her parents came to Kansas in 1877 and Mrs. Cockrum was born in Sumner County of this state, being one of nine children. Mr. and Mrs. Cockrum have an interesting family of children, named Mansker R., Ethel L. (wife of William Dunbar) Dora Vesta, Edna Ella, Anna Lillie May, Richard Donald and Russell Dudley.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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