The History of Bent County

by Charles W. Bowman



J.W. Prowers   John Wesley Prowers was born near Westport, Jackson Co., Mo., January 29, 1838. The educational privileges of that day and place were limited, but such as the district schools were young Prowers enjoyed the benefits for thirteen months only, after which practical life became his school, and his naturally good perceptive facilities, aided by reason, his teacher. In 1856, being then eighteen years of age, he crossed the plains to Bent's New Fort (now known as Old Fort Lyon) with Robert Miller, Indian Agent for the Upper Arkansas Agency. Miller's Agency included the Kiowas, Comanches, Apaches, Cheyennes and Arapahoes, for which tribes, on the occasion referred to, he brought out large stores of annuity goods and employed Prowers as clerk. The distribution of these goods took place at Bent's New Fort, and occupied two months. Mr. Prowers at this time entered the service of Col. William Bent, who was an Indian trader at the same post. He remained with Col. Bent seven years, during which period he made ten trips across the plains in charge of wagon trains, bringing supplies from the Missouri River to the trading-post, and during the same period made several trips to Fort Union, and one to Fort Laramie, making in all twenty-two round trips across the plains, twelve of which were on his own account. After leaving Col. Bent's service, Prowers had charge of the suttler's store of Mr. Windsor and his successors Stewart & Shrewsbury, at Old Fort Lyon. From 1865 to 1871, he engaged in freighting Government supplies from Leavenworth to Fort Union. Mr. Prowers was married in 1861, to Amy, the daughter of Chief Ochinee, of the Cheyenne tribe. Ochinee was better known as One-Eyed Chief. He was at the head of the band and was reputed to be an influential counselor. Ochinee was killed at Sand Creek. It is related of him that he had been instrumental in bringing the Indians into camp there under the impression that they would be protected; that at the first dash made at the camp, he made his escape from Chivington's men, but seeing all were to die, returned into the thickest of the massacre with the evident intention of dying with his people. In 1868, Mr. Prowers opened up his farm at Boggsville, where Mr. Tom Boggs had already made some improvements. Upon the organization of the county, the county seat was located at Boggsville, and that became an important business point. Mr. Prowers was appointed by the Governor as one of the first Commissioners of the county, and was afterward returned to the office by the people. In the fall of 1873, upon the founding of West Las Animas, he removed to this point and engaged with his brother-in-law, Mr. Hough, in the commission business and general merchandise, at which he continues. In 1873, he was chosen to represent the county in the Legislature, having by request come out as an Independent candidate. In 1880, Mr. Prowers was again elected to the General Assembly as a Representative of Bent County. He was a member of the committees on stock, irrigation, and representative apportionment. He was the originator of the bill on apportionment, which, after a hard fight, became a law just before the adjournment of the Legislature. The late Col. Jacobson gave it the title of the "Sliding Scale" bill, and it will be known as such in the future. Mr. Prowers is well known far beyond the bounds of Bent County as a large and successful stock raiser and dealer. He has paid much attention to the improvement of his herds. He is a firm believer in the Hereford stock and was one of the first to introduce it into this portion of the State. In 1871, he bought "Gentle the Twelfth" of Frederick William Stone, of Guelph, Canada. Her increase during the following ten years number fifty-seven head. Three met with accidents and died. The remaining fifty-four averaged her owner $200 per head; a sum total of $10,800. He has inclosed 80,000 acres of land in one body, and owns forty miles of river frontage, controlling 400,000 acres of range. He believes the Government ought to lease the various ranges and make them a source of revenue, from which it now receives nothing. Mr. Prowers started in the cattle business in 1862, with a cash capital of $234. His first venture was the purchase of a black steer in June from D.B. Powers, of Leavenworth, but before the end of the year he had just 100 head. Nineteen years later, his herd numbers more than 10,000 head, many of which are of the best blood. It will be seen that Mr. Prowers' career has been an eventful one, and is intimately connected for nearly twenty-five years with the history of the section which now forms Bent County. The story of his experience on the Santa Fe trail and his experience at Bent's trading post, then in the midst of a country occupied by Indians, would be sufficient for a volume.

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