The Killing of the Berry's By The Cowboys May Lead To A Bloody and Vindictive Range Feud
COLBY, Kan., June 8 --- Excitement is still at fever heat here as a result of the pitched battle of a few days ago between settlers and cowboys employed on the C. P. Dewey ranch, in which Daniel Berry and two of his sons were killed and two others injured. The cowboys are said to be riding the range armed, while the settlers are also reported to be carrying weapons. Dr. Newson, who attended those injured in the battle, has returned, and says that the settlers are thoroughly aroused, and are hurrying to the scene of the battle heavily armed. He says that it is likely that further trouble will occur. The trouble between the cattlemen and the settlers has been growing for years, and it will take but little friction to lead to another bloody meeting.
The cowboys who figured in the battle are employees on the O. K. ranch, owned by the C. P. Dewey company of Chicago. C. P. Dewey is a Chicago capitalist, and has a son in charge of the ranch near here. It covers a territory with fences of something like thirty-five miles square, on which they range their thousands of cattle. The ranch practically extends from Colby, Kas., to Goodland, Kas., on the Rock Island, and thence north to St. Francis, Kas., the terminus of the Burlington railroad, and thence east to Atwood, Kas., covering as it is about one-fourth of Thomas, and also about the same territory in Sherman, Cheyenne and Rawlins counties. In this territory, thirty-five miles square, the Dewey company holds by deed, tax deed and under mortgage, about 10,000 acres of land, and employs 150 men, women and children. During the summer months they have on the range 20,000 cattle, but a lesser number in the winter months. In this same territory live several hundred families of actual bona fide settlers, who own from 160 acres of land to a section or more, and who farm to a considerable extent.
This land, being just south of the Republican river and crossed by the Beaver, the Prairie Dog and the two Sapple creeks, is very desirable for both stock raising and farming. The big cattlemen have used the land not owned by them for grazing purposes, while the settlers have adopted the same tactics of using land wherever they saw fit, notwithstanding who its owner might be. This plan has caused much trouble between the cattlemen and the settlers, and has been the cause of endless friction among them.
The trouble between the Berry family and the Dewey people is of long standing. Several years ago the Deweys secured a tax deed and mortgage on property situated near their ranch which the Berry family owned. When the mortgage was foreclosed, the Deweys had the Berry family ousted by the officers of the law. Soon after this more trouble followed between the settlers and the Deweys, and later an employee of the O. K. ranch owned by the Deweys, contested in the United States court at Colby a claim of one of the Berrys. When the trial came off, the ranch employees were arrayed against the Berrys as witnesses, but the latter won. The case was then appealed.
While the time for the appeal was yet pending, an employee of the Dewey ranch made complaint against Berry and he was arrested. He was later convicted, but the claim has been made that he had neither attorney nor adviser at the trial. After the trial, it is alleged that Berry was detained at the Dewey ranch until the time for him to file an answer to the appeal had passed, and he lost the land.
The charge is also made by many of the settlers that the big cattlemen let their stock roam the ranges without regard to their land, and as a result the crops of the settlers are destroyed. When the settlers complained, it is alleged that the cattlemen would offer to settle with them at a valuation of about 50 per cent of what the destroyed property would bring. This plan was followed out and if the settler refused to accept the settlement he was told to sue. This meant that the verdicts would be appealed, and it would be some time before a final decision could be reached. As the average settler had little means with which to push a case through the courts for years he generally accepted the money offered by the cattlemen for a settlement.
These and many other causes have led to the war which is now raging and has raged in this section for a long time. The settlers, it is alleged, have cut fences put up by the cattlemen, and numerous charges are made by both sides.
Stock owned by the Dewey company has been found dead on the hills and the cattlemen have blamed the settlers for this. On the other hand the settlers claim that the cattle were killed by the cowboys themselves in order to arouse sympathy and public feeling in their favor.
(Tucson Daily Citizen ~ June 8, 1903 ~ Submitted by Lori DeWinkler)