The Cattle Business in the 19th Century

photo of Love residence
Photograph of the Love residence on Elmhurst Farm, about two miles southwest of Hamel. John Love built the original farmhouse in 1840 (the house has been expanded to the left in the photo).

William Love was born in 1839 to Irish immigrants. His father, John, died five years later. By that time, John Love had established a 280-acre farm in Hamel Township, with horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs. When William Love grew up, he became a cattle and hog farmer. He was also a stallion keeper.

William Love cabinet card photo
Cabinet card photograph of William Love.

An archive of receipts shows William Love’s cattle purchases and sales through various agencies operating on commission out of the National Stockyards. Located outside East St. Louis, the stockyards opened in 1873. The area became a central hub for cattle raised in the West. Prior to the advent of refrigeration, the animals were either sold to local packinghouses or shipped live via railroad to processing facilities throughout the eastern United States.

The receipt below, dated 1877, shows William’s purchase of two sets of eight mature cattle at two different prices. The agency brokered the best price possible for each seller. Each line includes the aggregate weight for each set and the price per hundredweight.

cattle purchase receipt, 1877
MCHS document 1981-126-0093.

A receipt from 1880 records William selling a total of 24 mature head of cattle. Hull, Steele, & Walker, the brokering agents, deducted their commission and costs for housing and feeding his animals from William’s proceeds.

cattle sale receipt, 1880
MCHS document 1981-126-0097.

In 1890, William sold five very small calves for a whopping $6 per hundredweight. A year later, he purchased 35 head of young cattle at $2.10 per hundredweight.

cattle sale receipt, 1890
MCHS document 1981-126-0101.
cattle purchase receipt, 1891
MCHS document 1981-126-0100.

The receipt shown below documents William’s purchase of a white Shorthorn bull “guaranteed to breed while in his hands” for $60.

white short horn bull purchase receipt
MCHS document 1981-126-0102.


  • Cousins, Scott. “Stockyards: Ripe for Redevelopment?” Edwardsville Journal, October 8, 1997.
  • Find A Grave. Accessed August 1, 2018.
  • Motchan, Roxanna. “110th anniversary for East Side stockyards.” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 26-27, 1983.
  • Naffziger, Chris. “Ghosts of the Stockyards: The Last Traces of National City.” St. Louis [magazine], September 24, 2014. Accessed August 1, 2018.
  • Petraitis, Thomas. “East St. Louis, Illinois: ‘Hog Capital of the Nation.'” Preservation Research Office. May 9, 2005. Accessed August 1, 2018.
  • Portrait and Biographical Record of Madison County, Illinois. Chicago: Biographical Publishing Company, 1894. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.
  • Schumacher, Dave. “National Stockyards Thanks for Memories.” Edwardsville Journal, October 8, 1997.
  • William Love Papers. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.
  • William Love probate documents. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.