Traveling the Chicago Union Stockyards

Journey back in time to the Chicago Union Stockyards at the turn of the century.

| November 2020


Sometimes when I am out exploring, I come across an old cemetery. I find myself walking among the graves, reading the headstones with the inlaid colored glass and marbles and wondering about the people there. It was on one of these afternoon trips west of Alva that I came across the Lookout Cemetery and William Schwartz.

William T. Schwartz was born on Dec. 27, 1837, and passed away Feb. 10, 1910. As I stood in front of his headstone, I found myself wondering about his life. Did he experience any historic Civil War battles? Maybe he got to see the Great American Desert before barbed wire. Did he ride up the trail on a cattle drive from Texas? I wondered if maybe he sat on a high bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River or maybe the Missouri River and watched the big paddle wheel steamers slowly moving people and goods. Did he ever stop and watch the trains bringing livestock into Chicago (or Porkopolis, as Cincinnati – once the largest pork-producing city in the world – was once known)?

Did he watch the big steam engines crossing the prairie or lay eyes on the massive herds of buffalo? Maybe he came across the ocean on a big steamer and landed at Ellis Island, making his way west in time to see the big steam traction engines turning under virgin prairie to bring civilization to the Wild West. As my mind pondered all the possibilities, it took a right turn and I started to wonder if Mr. Schwartz were alive now, what things his eyes would see that he had never seen. What would he think about tractors, combines, cars, television, radio, and how about cell phones and airplanes?

There are those in my life who think I am a prime candidate for counseling, and some of you readers may be leaning toward me and the counseling gig right now, but trust me: I am firing on all cylinders.

There are times that I ask the same questions about my life. I desperately long for things of the past that I never had the opportunity to experience, and then I think about what the future will look like. I start to take stake in the many things I have had the opportunity to experience in my lifetime that future generations will not have. I often wonder if, down the road, there will be livestock sale barns. Will there be farm auctions where you can listen to the call of a good auctioneer, or will they all be conducted over the internet? How about passenger trains, barber shops, and drive-in movies? That’s the reason I always do my best to stop and experience something that we could be visiting about in the future. We are all guilty of gazing past what is right at the end of our nose.

10/13/2020 4:14:00 PM

What is even more interesting, (a matter of opinion to many) is visiting the stockyards. My grade school class had a field trip to Armour & Co. slaughter house in the yards. I still wonder to this day what possessed anyone to offer such a trip. It put me off meat for 3 months. The girls in the class never opened their eyes again after the initial sight of a hog hanging by it's rear leg having it's throat cut. The sights, sounds and smells would put ANY horror show to shame.


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