controlled territory. With
his neighbor, John Durkee, he sent the first herd of Texas longhorns to a
Northern market in 1858, all the way to Illinois. The venture was a financial
success, and he began trading for more cattle, building another herd for the
Others followed his lead
and drove herds northward, marking the dawning of the Golden Age of the Texas
Cattle Drive. New trails were born with names like Chisholm, Shawnee and Western
Trails. Always an innovator, Oliver came up with another idea - word of the
Colorado gold strike had spread, the Pike's Peak area was booming, and no one
had reached that market.
In 1860, with John Dawson
acting as partner and guide, he drove a thousand steers to Denver - the first
herd of Texas longhorn cattle to reach Colorado. The herd was moved north out of
Texas up to the old, well-traveled Santa Fe Trail, then west along the Santa Fe,
most likely to Bent's Fort in southern Colorado, then north. When Oliver arrived
with the herd in Denver, the town was in its infancy, wild and overrun with the
gold fever. He stayed for some months peddling out the herd, but there was chaos
afoot in this wild mining region, populated almost exclusively by men and guns.
There was another kind of
fever in Denver in the winter of 1860-61 - Union fever. The area was controlled
by Loyalists to the North, and there had already been several skirmishes between
Yank and Rebel groups. The Yank groups had won out and Rebel sympathizers were
killed or jailed. Groups of Union men patrolled the region, nervous about a
Rebel takeover. Southern states had already begun to secede from the Union at
that time, and the lines were drawn; war was close at hand.
Loving was jailed for being a 'damned Secessionist' and it looked as though he
may remain incarcerated for the duration of the Civil War. It was only through
the loyalty and intercession of his friend, Kit Carson, that Loving was sprung.
He immediately hit the back trail and hightailed it back to Texas.