On May 2, 1867 I was married to Elizabeth Rathgeber. I built a house on the land which Father gave me and rented some more land from Dr. Hardtner. I farmed Dr. Hardtner's land for 14 years. In July 1881 as I could rent no more land from Dr. Hardtner, I took a trip to Kansas. I took a homestead in Kingman County of 160 acres and bought 160 acres, the only quarter proved up in Chikaskia Township at that time. It was located about 25 miles southwest of Kingman, in the forks of Sand Creek and the Chikaskia River. When I returned home I chartered two freight cars and shipped my horses and mules, cows and machinery to Kansas. John Wetz, Joe Frei and George Ruhl accompanied the cars to take care of my stock. In the spring of 1883 I moved out on my homestead. I bought 250 cows and herded them that summer. There were so many immigrants coming in to take homesteads that I was forced to move my cattle. Therefore in the spring of 1884, I bought 6,300 acres of land in Barber County from Dr. Hardtner of Carrolton, Illinois for $5.00 per acre and drove my cattle to this ranch.
My first outstanding experience in Barber County was my first trip to Medicine Lodge in April, 1884. Together with a cousin, Phillip Kramer, I left Harper one morning in a spring wagon for my ranch near present Hardtner. We arrived at Medicine Lodge late that night. We left our hotel about nine o'clock the next morning and started uptown. We were about a half block from the bank, north on the east side of the street I saw a man standing outside of the bank with his gun drawn. I stopped, wondering what it was all about, and at the same time he shot at the Marshall who was standing across the street. The shot missed but hit the building which is now Adrain Houck's office, glanced and went through the window in the building which was on the site of the Home State Bank Building. After this we turned around to take cover in the saloon. The man who fired the shot proved to be the watch for the robbers in the bank. The robbers had killed the cashier and critically wounded the president who died before night. When the robbers left the bank they started south on their horses with a bunch of cowboys about three or four miles southwest of Medicine Lodge and this proved to be their undoing because there was only one outlet, which was the way they had entered. The cowboys, finding that they had the bandits trapped, surrounded the canyon and then stopped to consider the best method of capturing them. A report was sent to town that the bandits were surrounded in the canyon. About this time I met Charles Eldred whom I had known in Green County Illinois. When he learned that I had a spring wagon, he suggested that we load a couple of barrels of coal oil, drive to the canyon, roll the barrels over the top, and burn the robbers out. Just as we were getting ready to load the coal oil the report came back to town that they had surrendered and were being brought in. When the robbers were brought into town they were literally covered with mud. They were first taken to a restaurant and given dinner, then brought out to have their pictures and then placed in jail. Naturally the news had gone out and cowboys kept coming to town all that afternoon and evening. There was a great deal of drinking and talk of lynching. About eight or nine o'clock the crowd stormed the jail. When they opened the door one robber rushed out but was shot down in the doorway. A second one started to run, but was shot in the back. The shot set his coat afire which made it easy to follow him. He was caught in a few minutes. The others gave up immediately and they were taken down to where the second robber was being held and all three were hanged on the same tree. I walked up to one of them just before the hanging and asked how he felt. All he would say was, "My God!, My God!" With all the drinking and shooting, I do not see how it happened that many more were not killed. The following morning we left for the ranch which I had purchased from Dr. Hardtner, I had built a little house on this ranch for Poney Walker and they boarded the men I had erecting permanent buildings and fences and breaking sod.
I moved to the ranch in December of 1885, At this time the weather was like spring and continued so until the night of January 6, 1886. Then came the worst blizzard ever known in the southwest. It killed thousands of cattle and many people froze to death out in western Kansas. This snow was two or three feet deep on the level and this caused many cattle to starve to death as range men did not provide feed in those days. In running our cattle on the range we had two roundups each, in the spring and fall. The cattle were run in the Cherokee Strip and even beyond into Texas. All cattle being branded, it was nothing for me to receive a check for some of my cattle which had been shipped by someone else. Brands were being watched in cutting out and loading cattle for market, but they did not take too much trouble to get strays cut because all brands were checked at market and cattle always sold according to the brands. The returns were then sent to the owner of the brand. At this time we had only one school house. It was located near William Sterling's place; there were no churches. I raised my first crop of wheat on my ranch which had never been grown west of the Medicine River. There was no market and I had raised my second crop of wheat before the railroad was built into Kiowa, Kansas; I sold these two crops of wheat to the Winfield miller and it tested sixty-two pounds to the bushel.
In 1886, I organized a town company and we purchased 640 acres, section eight, from Dr. Hardtner, which we laid out in town blocks and named Hardtner. The officials of our town company were Ira Wadsworth, President; Jacob Achenbach, Vice President; and George C. Smith, Secretary. I farmed from 1885 to 1900, using all horses and mules. In 1900, I decided to give up farming because of my wife's health. At this time I had 150 mules on hand which I had raised myself. During the fifteen years from 1885 to 1900 I sold a great many mules and I still believe that livestock and the increase is the only way to make farming really profitable. In September of 1895, I purchased 1,200 cows with calves by their side at Magdalena, New Mexico for $10.00 per head. The freight on these cows was $3.00. There were two train loads of these cattle and we unloaded them at Dodge City. We drove them from Dodge City and arrived here on November 2. This was in the times of the election of President McKinley. I sold calves for $13.00 a head on the range, to Gano and Williams of Medicine Lodge. This left me $1,200 to the good.
I established a post office in Hardtner and was Postmaster for thirty years. In 1926 I turned the Post Office over to W. W. Dennis, who at one time operated a store in Hardtner. A man came into the Post Office one day while I was Postmaster and began looking things over. When I asked him whether he wanted anything he said, "Yes, I am the Post Office Inspector." I told him that he was the first inspector I ever had seen in Hardtner. After looking through my books, he said that he could see nothing wrong with them. Someone had made a complaint that I did not stamp the date of arrival on the letters which I received. He said that was not required in a third class post office, however.
I built the first telephone line from Kiowa to Hardtner in 1896 and installed a telephone in my store in Hardtner. The line was completed just before the election of President McKinley. Everyone in this part of the country crowded into my store to get the election returns over the telephone. This was quite an event.
In 1908, I organized a company to build a railroad from Kiowa to Hardtner, a distance of about ten miles. We made application to C. E. Denton, Secretary of State, for our charter and named our company, the Kiowa, Hardtner and Pacific Railroad Company. The charter members were: Jacob Achenbach, Ira Blackstock, W. H. Brownback, A. B. Jarvis, J. W. Blunk, J. H. Decker, W. J. Sterling, and J. H. Morgan. I called our first meeting July 9, 1908 and we elected the following officers: President - Ira Blackstock; Vice President - Jacob Achenbach; Secretary - Peter Ballet; and Treasurer - W. J. Sterling.
We had a great deal of trouble crossing the main line of the Santa Fe as they did not want us to cross their road. After putting our crossing in on the Beaver Enid and Gulf line one Sunday we were ready to cross the Santa Fe main line, but their superintendent, Mr. Shafer, had blockaded the crossing by having his private car stopped on the proposed crossing. About forty or fifty cowboys gathered on Mule Creek and sent word to the Superintendent that it would be best for him to move his car as they were going to put the crossing in that day and if he refused to move his car they would riddle it with bullets. Poley Tincher, the Santa Fe Attorney, was in Kiowa at the time this happened and was told that a group of cowboys were gathered on Mule Creek, determined to put the railroad crossing in that day. He was advised to go tell Mr. Shafer that it would be best for him to move his private car before the angry cowboys arrived, as they would start something which would be hard to stop. When Mr. Tincher drove out to see Mr. Shafer he said. "What do all of these guns and pistols mean?" He then informed Mr. Shafer that he was connected with the law department. He advised Mr. Shafer to move his car, but Mr. Shafer thought the proposed raid was just a bluff, however when he saw the cowboys coming over the hill on horseback just as fast as the horses could run, he ordered his engineer to move the car back to town. The cowboys had all of the tools necessary for putting in the crossing and in less than three hours the crossing was laid.
When I was forced to give up farming in 1900 because of my wife's health, I leased all of my farms and we traveled in this country for six months. We then visited all of the principal countries in Europe. This was greatly beneficial to Mrs. Achenbach and she returned home improved in health.
When the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railroads, a branch of the M. K. & T., built into Beaver County in Oklahoma, they stopped at Forgan and established a town site there. This left Beaver, the county seat, seven miles away without a railroad. Some of the citizens procured a charter for the B. M. & E. and undertook to build a railroad from Beaver to Forgan, but they soon ran out of funds. As they had heard of the Kiowa, Hardtner and Pacific Railroad, which Mr. Blackstock myself, and our associates had built, they came to Mr. Blackstock and me for assistance. When we were first asked to extend the proposed road, we refused but they were so insistent that we finally agreed to go to Beaver and investigate the matter. Therefore, in the spring of 1915, I started to Beaver, accompanied by J. H. Morgan from Alva, Oklahoma. After a thorough investigation on the ground, I decided that we could advance them necessary funds to complete their seven miles from Beaver to Forgan, the road when completed to be turned over to Mr. Blackstock and me for operation. The road was completed and turned over to us in the late summer of 1916 and we operated it as a unit until 1923. In the meantime, after making several surveys west of Forgan, I saw the possibilities of developing the Oklahoma Panhandle through railroad facilities, and decided to make application for a charter for a railroad from Forgan to Des Moines, New Mexico, our objective being the coal fields near Des Moines. This road split the Panhandle wide open. In 1923 we received our charter and started construction west from Forgan, connecting with the end of the main line of the M. K. & T. At this time, large delegations came from Liberal, Kansas and Hooker, Oklahoma begging for an opportunity to furnish all right-of-way and station grounds if we would come through their respective towns. We decided in favor of Hooker, Oklahoma, as they agreed to give right-of-way not only to Hooker, but ten miles beyond. When we commenced the construction of the Beaver, Mead and Englewood Railroad, west from Forgan in 1923, no other railroads were building in this country and none contemplated building. The M. K. & T. had been satisfied to stay in Forgan for years and the Santa Fe had stopped at Elkhart with no indication that it would build farther. For years the B. M. & E. was the only railroad building a mile of tract in the state of Oklahoma. When we reached Hooker the Rock Island sat up and took notice, as we extended ours farther west, the Santa Fe became interested.
In 1929, we sold sixty-five miles of track to the Chicago Rock Island, subject to the approval of the ICC. The M. K. & T. claimed it was their territory and carried their claim to Oklahoma City in July of 1930. The ICC reserved its decision until a later date. In November of 1930, the ICC disapproved the sale of the B. M. & T. to the Rock Island and gave the M. K. & T. permission to purchase the road. In the meantime the road had been extended another twenty miles to Eva, Oklahoma. In the spring of 1931 we started the final stretch of our railroad building, the last twenty miles from Eva to Keyes, the latter town being on the Dodge City belt line to the Santa Fe. We were under contract to deliver the B. M. & E. from Beaver to Keys to the M. K. & T. upon completion. On July 1, 1931 we turned the B. M. & E. over to the M. K. & T. the road they had once refused to buy, saying that it would never earn sufficient revenue to buy grease for the engine. I still maintain my interest in the K. H. & P. and it is still leased to the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. I am also continuing my feeding operations with cattle.