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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (A)
James B. Arthur


JAMES B. ARTHUR.--The "Great American Desert" extended from the Missouri river to the Claifornia line as depicted in Mitchell’s geography and atlas. It was thought by early explorers to be an almost arid waste, thousands of square miles in extent and unfitted for the habitations of civilized men, yet time has proved the utter falsity of that statement as if often proves the errors of history. The gold excitement of 1849 was the beckoning finger of thousands and the Plains were covered with wagons bearing their human freight and household goods to California. Five years later gold, that lure for all men, was found in Gregory gulch, Nebraska territory, afterwards Colorado. The human tide was checked in its roll to the Pacific and stopped at the new find, till but a few months elapsed when that section of our state had a goodly number of hardy white men, men who staid and reared families, till today it ranks high in the sisterhood union. Among those who came afoot, on horseback or with ox team was James B. Arthur, reaching the promised land in the month of June 1860. This young man was born in County Londonberry, Ireland, 1835. His progenitors were Scotch Highlanders and, like thousands of their neighbors, they had to seek shelter in other lands, owing to the religious and civil wars that swept over Auld Scotia for so many years. The Arthurs were Presbyterians, a stalwart breed that would worship God as they pleased, even if to do so they had to wield claymore, dirk or pike. They were kin to those who settled in the North and South Carolina, crossed the Alleghenies, spread over Kentucky and the Ohio bottoms; the men who conquered the wilderness from its savage possessors and finally ended all British pretentions to the United States by whipping Packingham and his red-coated veterans of a hundred battles at New Orleans. And James B. Arthur was a good type of his clan. At fourteen years of age he left his native town and took passage on the Cathnesshire. He was bound for Pittsburgh, Pennylvania, where a sister resided. The youngster staid in "The Smoky City" for few months, working in a store, but the river life had attractions for him that he could not resist. In those day the floating palaces that plied between Pittsburg, Cincinnati, St. Louis, New Orleans and intermediate port were the chosen means of travel and they afforded just the excitement for a full blooded, hardy, daring boy. All through late fall, winter and early spring young Arthur mad his trips and by his honesty and attention to business he was promoted to positions of trust, but there were from four to five months each year that low water in the river kept the steamers tied to the leaves and James went on to the Great lakes so as not to be idle and exhaust his earnings. He first steam boated on lake Erie between Buffalo and Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit and there he was also known as a trustworthy, reliable employee; and many positions of trust he held. The panic of 1857 decided Mr. Arthur’s future. That great financial disaster paralyzed all industry and plunged the whole country east of the Missouri river in gloom. Realizing that hard times would hold all business in its grip for months, Mr. Arthur went to Kansas City where his brother John lived. That was in 1858. The gold strike in Gregory gulch took possession of him and he with several others started across the Plains with oxen and wagons and plenty of provisions. James B. Arthur was a money maker. He was shrewd, far seeing and bold in undertaking. Arriving in Colorado during the gold fever height he staid around Gregory gulch for a few weeks doing his share at placer mining. But he plainly saw that washing or mining for gold a speculation and that there were far more blanks than prizes in the drawing. He did not expect to get rich in a day, month, or year, but he did aim to acquired a competence, something that would pay him for time and trouble spent and for that reason gold mining did not appeal to him. Hay at the camps was worth from $75 to $150 a ton and the public domain--the Plains--were covered with rich buffalo and gramma grass. Having teams and wagons he saw a better chance to make money in hay than at placer mining and he went on to the prairie, put up his tent and with assistance the grass was cut and dried and when cut was baled. Scythes and hand rakes were used and hard work it proved to be, but it meant money. There was no mowing machines or hay balers in Colorado those days and everything done was on the primitive order. A box was used as a baler. This was  about 3 by 6 feet, and from 4 to 5 feet high. Ropes were placed at end and sides, inside this crude affair; hay was pitched in and a man tramped it down till the box was filled, then the ropes were hauled taunt and tied. This plan kept the hay in place and for hauling to points of destination was far superior to loose hay on a rack. But the loads were too bulky for their weight and Mr. Arthur put in practice a method he had seen hundred of times on the Mississippi river at New Orleans. He obtained an old cotton press and put it to use. He and John Hahn, now of Loveland, were the first men to use this making in Colorado, and it paid them for they put as much hay in half the space as the box method, consequently they could haul more and in better shape. Mr. Arthur had located a claim on the Cache la Poudre, when he engaged in the hay business, situated a few miles below the present sit of Fort Collins. It was a lonely spot. The neighbors could be counted on the fingers of one hand the nearest one was miles away. In this connection it is well to note the effort of government that the prevailed in the Poudre and Big Thompson valleys among the ranchers. There being no regular for a Claim Club had been organized with by-laws and officers and all questions in dispute were settled by it. The justice of peace (one of the officers) gave his decision first, then it was given to the president of the club and how he decided was considered final. A great many people labor under the impression that the territory before being named Colorado was a part of Kansas. This is an error as the following copy of the certificate for the land located by Mr. Arthur will show:

Claim 63, Book A, Page 32, Club record, J. B. Arthur, 160 acres.
Colona City, N. T., July 25, 1860. William G. Goodwin, Recorder.

N. T. stands for Nebraska territory, so Colorado was partitioned off from Nebraska instead of from Kansas. From farming Mr. Arthur developed into a stock man, buying his first bunch of cattle in Missouri and trailing them across the Plains. Years after he went to New Mexico, Wyoming, Oregon, Utah, and Idaho after stock and at times owned 5,000 head. At that business he made the bulk of his fortune. But in the early ‘80s he saw that the open range was doomed and he sold every hoof in 1883, then devoted his time and money to other pursuits. He invested in irrigation ditch propositions, bought and sold land; he became an active member of the Empson Packing company of Longmont; also bought and opened to trade the gypsum beds at Red Butte, Wyoming; and organized the Rocky Mountain Plaster, Stucco and Manufacturing company. He was director of the Poudre Balley bank for years and its vice-president at his death. While not a politician, Mr. Arthur was a staunch believer in good government and honest officials. He never truckled to those high in authority, nor curried public favor. In those early days Governor Evans, appreciating his solid worth, appointed him to the Board of Commissioners to perfect the organization of Larimer county, and on the expiration of his term he was twice elected to succeed himself. He was also a member of Fort Collins council for two terms; mayor for one term; and state senator to fill a vacancy. He was a zealous worker in Masonry and for years he was a member of all the Masonic order in Fort Collins. Also a member of El Jebel Mystic Shrine of Denver; and a member of De Molay Commandery No. 13, K. T. of Fort Collins, Colorado.  He held many Masonic offices, serving as Master of lodge No. 19 A. F. & A. M., Fort Collins; Eminent Commanderof the commandery of that city. Mr. Arthur was also an ardent Episcopalian and worked for years as vestryman in the up building of St. Luke’s church in his home town. James B. Arthur was married to Mary A. Kelley in Bay City, Michigan, in the early spring of 1870, and there is a thread of romance to this tale of true love. The couple knew each other in 1855 and in time there grew an attachment. When he determined to go west and seek his fortune they plighted their troth, but it was nearly twelve years before they again met, through a correspondence was kept up between them and when the marriage tie mad them one they were as one--through the years they lived together--till death called him hence, August 11, 1905. James B. Arthur was one of Nature’s noblemen. There was not a more conscientious man. He detested a liar; had no use for the fellow given to sharp, questionable practices; but was a staunch, steadfast friend to those who proved their worth, no matter whether they were poor or rich. He was fearless, but not rash, and no matter whether in a mining camp in a city or town or on the cattle drive, he stood by his principles and never weakened, no matter how strong the opposition. And those days when he was constantly on the move he was welcome to all camp fires and his word was as good as negotiable paper from Oregon to the Missouri, from Mexico to the Canadian line. And as he lived so he died--a brave and honest gentleman.


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