Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ebenezer's Paper Was Published

Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster

In a previous post, I shared the exciting discovery that my maternal 2nd great-grandfather, Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster, invented a dehorning chute. He was granted a patent for his invention on April 15, 1890.

While doing a search for Ebenezer on Google, I was excited to find a paper that was written by him. It was published in the Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture published in 1890.1

This publication and Ebenezer's paper can be found in Google Books by clicking HERE. In this publication, Ebenezer's paper was introduced as follows:
"The next subject to enlist attention was a paper from the veteran dehorner E. P. C. Webster, of Marysville, which paper will be found on the following page."
The title of Ebenezer's paper was Should Dairy Cattle Be Dehorned?

Here are screenshots of the paper. A transcription follows.

Page 1

Page 2

Transcript of Ebenezer's Paper.

Should Dairy Cattle Be Dehorned?
By Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster

Should dairy cattle be dehorned? Yes; why not? I suppose the subject of dehorning is at the present time receiving as much attention as any subject pertaining to our stock industry. I have no doubt there has been some bungling work done, and that there has been some very unfavorable reports circulated. But it is essentially true that those reports are either false or the fruits of imperfect work. Either the operator did not know where and how to cut, or he did not hold the subject in a proper manner to perform the operation. But I am thoroughly convinced that the loss reported from dehorning has been greatly overdrawn.
            It is hardly possible that an intelligent man at the present time needs any time or space to prove to him that dehorning pays; so I will speak mostly on the manner of performing the operation. I was very ignorant on the subject when I began to dehorn cattle. All I knew was that I wanted to rid my cattle of the miserable horns. I commenced as low as anyone, and have studies up and practiced, until today it is a wonder to me how I ever dehorned so many cattle under such unfavorable circumstances. But such seemed to be the necessities of the case, that I had to do it some way. As I always was very careful, I happened not to kill any animal up to this time, not out of 30,000. I consider that very remarkable—almost a miracle. I have found that experience and some knowledge of cow anatomy is a great help, and the more experience the better. Some good common sense will do no hurt.
            Before a man commences he should know what he wants to do, and how to do it, and the reasons why.
            I believe in specialists as applied to dehorning, the same as any other profession, on the principle that the more a man does in a certain line the more expert he becomes. And the more he as to do the better instruments and appliances he can afford to have.
            I cannot believe Mr. Haaff’s plan, “every man his own dehorner,” is conducive to the best results, for this reason, that if every man bought his book and studied and followed it, by the time he got his own cattle dehorned he would only then be a beginner. The consequence would be the cattle would all be dehorned by beginners, and in the nature of things, no one would be as well pleased in the end as though he had hired a specialist with all the improved appliances to come and do his work at ten cents per head. I take this ground, and here I stand firm on the principle that no man can strike it right every time without some practice. And then he must have some way to hold his subject, so that a good surgical operation can be performed, knowing first where to cut, then being able to do it as exact as a carpenter saws to the scribe, so that he may not only gain the maximum speed, but reduce the pain to the minimum. Mr. Haaff, the great originator, has told the people that the horns can be removed, and fought it through on that line. But how to do it practically and satisfactorily, has been left to your humble servant.
            He says, cut down at the matrix. I take exceptions right at this point. Cut the bone off at the matrix or above it, and there we are very liable to have trouble as a result. In the first place, a long, tedious sore, because the matrix, in trying to throw off a bony cap to cover the cavity, and the skin at the same time is trying to grow over it. And here an inflammation is set up by the contending forces of nature, which extends through nervous sympathy to all the adjoining structures. So, as a consequence, the animal’s jaws will be sore, the sides of its neck will be sore; in short, all the muscles to which the fifth pair of nerves ramify will be sore.
            But if the matrix be dissected out clean, there is no longer a cartilaginous ridge for the skin to raise up over. There is no attempt at bony growth, but the skin grows right over the wound in a healthy animal, at the rate of about an eighth of an inch daily, and heals over as smooth and with as little suppuration as any common wound, until the flesh meets and there is scarcely a scar left to mark the spot. Then in that case we have a perfectly symmetrical head instead of a broad, square-topped head with stubs on each side, which not only look ugly, but strengthen the skull and increase the tendency to butt a thing that otherwise never would be attempted. Another thing, cutting too far out results in excessive bleeding in some cases, because outside of the matrix the blood flows through bony channels and the saw does not stop them, but behind the matrix those blood vessels are in the flesh and the mangling tendency of the saw closes them. The saw should be so constructed that the horn can be taken off with the greatest ease and the fewest strokes; should be long enough to give a good natural-stroke motion to the arm. It should have a strong steel back, with handle set low, so that the cutting edge is on a line with the forearm, and wide enough between back and blade to allow it to curve out at the proper time, so as not to sever the vein that runs across the ear.
            As for its being cruel, I say if the animal is properly held and the operation properly done, it is humane in the highest sense. There are many painful operations inflicted on our animals that are vastly more severe than dehorning, but such are the customs and necessities that we don’t stop to ask whether or not they are painful. Dehorning will become as general as castration all over the world in time, and the people will become so used to muleys that horns won’t be fashionable and won’t look well. Then the cry of cruelty will have been forgotten. Painful or not, we should dehorn. Better hurt 20,000 cattle than to have one person killed. This reminds me that I dehorned a Jersey bull that had hooked a woman in the mouth, knocking out six front teeth and tearing her cheek open to the ear. Then there are other minor reasons for dehorning. (1) The saving of a vast amount of loss of stock. (2) The saving of time and space in handling and housing. (3) The great saving of feed.
            It has been said that dehorning would injure the milk and butter qualities of the cow and her progeny. That is something that has no foundation for argument. You might as well say that the dismemberment of a hoof or tail or an ear would affect the milk-producing functions. People ought to take a common sense view of such things. I can say that I have lived with dehorned cattle for four years, and I know that my cows never did do as well when they had horns as they have since dehorning.
            Here are the words of Mr. Huse, of Manhattan: “My cows are Shorthorns. If any differences, they give more milk than they did before. If I was milking a hundred cows I would dehorn them by all means. I consider dehorning a great kindness.”
            Mr. I. N. Coard, Pawnee City, Neb., says: “Dehorning did not injure my cows in the least. It is the kindest act that can be performed in cattle.”
            Clarence F. Hunt, Superintendent for the dairy department of the Windsor farm, Denver, Colorado, says: “Dehorning is here to stay. We milk now one hundred cows, consisting of full-blood Holsteins, Jerseys and Swiss, and grades of all breeds. Since dehorning they have done better than before.”
            Alden E. True, of Paxico, says: “Dehorning did not injure the milk qualities of my cows in the least; I think dehorning cannot interfere in that direction. I regard dehorning as a great benefit to cattle-raisers and dealers. It is a kind of work that has a right way to be done, and I am sorry to say that there are many cattle that show conclusively that there is a wrong way.”
            H. M. Kirkpatrick, Exchange, Kansas City, says: “I am greatly pleased with the results. It did not interfere in the least with the milk. Of mine, some were fresh, some were strippers, some within a few days of calving. Some were pure-bred Holsteins and Jerseys. Not one lost a calf or a feed. It is a satisfaction now to see them feeding together like so many sheep, none fearing former bosses.”
            Various gentlemen, well qualified to form an intelligent opinion, have expressed themselves in explicit terms, signifying that dehorning has not and cannot injure the milking qualities of milch cows, while many have reported a considerable improvement. Personally, I do not consider the horns as having any bearing on the question. In my opinion, the improvement came from the fact of the cows becoming more docile, in consequence of being dehorned.
            Governor Hoard’s theory on the nervous temperament is unsupported by any facts.
            The best age to dehorn cattle is from six months to a year old, and the time that I would advise is any time when there is no danger of being fly-blown. I never knew of cold weather producing any bad effect. Rich breeders who have specially fine herds may have good and valid reasons for not dehorning, and in that special domain I do not wish to be considered an aggressor.

***End of Paper***

It really is fascinating to read something written by an ancestor. I wouldn't have known anything about Ebenezer's paper if I hadn't searched for his name on Google.

So, here's a tip for my fellow genealogists: search for your ancestors on Google. Also, make sure to use name variations in your searches. Ebenezer was listed in this publication as E. P. C. Webster, not Ebenezer Perry Carlisle Webster. In a search using "Ebenezer P C Webster" this publication was not listed in the results. I'm not sure if this publication would have been listed in the search results if I hadn't searched for "E P C Webster."

Here's another tip. Search in Google Books for your ancestors too. You never know what you may find.

Thanks for reading!


© 2016 Copyright by Jana Last, All Rights Reserved

1 Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture. Topeka: Kansas Publishing House, 1890. E P C Webster, Page 47. Google Books. University of Michigan, 2008. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.


  1. I love that you were able to find his paper and for the insight that has given you about him!

    Another way to google their names is to do last name first and then their first name because that is often the way it appears in an index.

  2. This is indeed a thrilling find. Reading the words of your ancestor must have given you goose bumps.

    It's funny that Ebenezer's first name didn't come up in the search. It's not like it's "not close." So many times I search for names and the most bizarre variations not even close come up. I guess every source has its own system. So, GOOD TIP!

    1. Yes Wendy! This was such an exciting find. I'm so glad I decided to try searching for E P C Webster. If I hadn't I may not have found this document. :)

  3. Jana, that's a wonderful & unique discovery!




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