B. F. "Frank" Harris first came to Illinois in 1835. Stopping initially in Champaign County, he then moved west and purchased cattle in Morgan and Greene counties. He also sought advice from Jacob Strawn, who, even then, was considered the "cattle king of the west" by Harris. Frank moved those cattle east and sold them in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
He returned to Illinois that same year and purchased more beef. Those he wintered in Jefferson County and moved to Pennsylvania the following year. His established routine was to buy cattle in the fall, feed them on corn over the winter and drive them to Pennsylvania the next summer. His routes required swimming the cattle over several rivers, including the Wabash, Scioto and Ohio, crossing Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia (then still part of Virginia) and over mountains into Pennsylvania. The trip would take about ninety days.
In 1841 he made his seventh and final drive to Pennsylvania. That it was his last trip was probably caused, at least in part, by his marriage earlier that year. In that drive he encountered a severe drought which hurt the sales of other drovers. Frank held his herd of 430 in Lancaster until rains came and he could sell as demand increased.
Frank purchased a farm in Champaign County in 1842 and settled down with his wife. Although he did drive a herd to St. Louis the following year his days as a drover were over. But that did not take him out of the cattle business. In 1853 his herd of 100 averaged 1965 pounds at the World’s Fair in New York and won a premium for Frank. He topped that achievement in 1856 with a herd of 100 ranging in weight from 2160 to 2970 pounds, averaging 2372. Frank challenged the country to beat those numbers.
Illinois As It Is – Frederick Gerhard – 1867
Autobiography of B.F. Harris – Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society – 1923
Pattern from the Sod – Margaret Beattie Bogue - 1979
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