Fred Barton and the Warlords’ Horses of China

How an American Cowboy Brought the Old West to the Far East


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About the Book

In the years before World War I, Montana cowboy Fred Barton was employed by Czar Nicholas II to help establish a horse ranch—the largest in the world—in Siberia to supply the Russian military. Barton later assembled a group of American rodeo stars and drove horses across Mongolia for the war-lords of northern China, creating a 250,000 acre ranch in Shanxi Province.
Along the way, Barton became part of an unofficial U.S. intelligence network in the Far East, bred a new type of horse from Russian, Mongolian and American stock and promoted the lifestyle of the open range cowboy. Returning to America, he married one of the wealthiest widows in the Southwest and hobnobbed with Western film stars at a time when Hollywood was constructing the modern myth of the Old West, just as open range cowboy life was disappearing.

About the Author(s)

Larry Weirather lives in Vancouver, Washington, and is a professor emeritus of popular culture at Clark College. He has published articles in The Journal of Popular Culture and The Popular Culture Review and served as editor for various literary magazines.

Bibliographic Details

Larry Weirather
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 236
Bibliographic Info: 26 photos & illustrations, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9913-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2079-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Preface 1

Introduction 4

One • Fort Keogh Days, 1889–1905 11

Two • A Young Bronc Peeler in Miles City, 1905–1911 23

Three • Vladivostok and the World’s Largest Horse Ranch, 1911–1912 36

Four • “Smoke ’Em If You’ve Got ’Em”: The ­British-American Tobacco Co., 1912–1916 46

Five • Horses for the Warlords: The Longest Drive, 1917 60

Six • 15th Infantry Cowboys and U.S. Intelligence, 1917 71

Seven • Khabarovsk, Siberia, to Hilar, Manchuria, 1917 87

Eight • Hilar, Manchuria, to Urga, Mongolia, 1917 94

Nine • Across the Gobi: Urga to Kalgan, 1917 103

Ten • Final Leg: Kalgan to Taiyuanfu, 1917 113

Eleven • Montana Cowboys in the Celestial Empire, 1918–1920 120

Twelve • When to Hold ’Em, When to Fold ’Em, 1920–1937 134

Thirteen • Poor Little Rich Boy and Princess Xenia, 1920 144

Fourteen • The Many Wives of a Lifelong Bachelor, Here and Abroad 148

Fifteen • Life Without Warlords: C.M. Russell and the Fred Barton Museum of the Old West, 1937–1967 164

Sixteen • Barton and the Hollywood Cowboys 173

Seventeen • Ruminating on Guys, Gussies and Morons at Trail’s End 190

Epilogue 198

Chapter Notes 207

Bibliography 213

Index 219

Book Reviews & Awards

“a major achievement”—Bookish Asia; “a rich and varied panorama of the Warlord and Republican eras”—Jottings From the Granite Studio.