A Fifteen Hundred Dollar Merino Sheep in Marshall County


Amongst the many boxes and trunks of letters, farm records and newspaper clippings found within the Cockayne Farmhouse, Volunteer Eddie Grose recently discovered a small clipping printed in the Farm and Garden section of the Register. At first, the date of its publication was a mystery, and then the obituary on the back revealed it had been printed in 1868. That revelation was consistent with the reference in the letter to “Young Cockayne.” Samuel A. J. Cockayne was born in 1841. He would have been 27 years of age at the time of the article.

The subject of the letter is the purchase by Samuel A. J. Cockayne of a purebred Spanish Merino Buck from Vermont for the phenomenal price of $1500. An additional hefty price was paid for twenty Spanish Merino ewes. It was eight years after the purchase of these purebred animals that the Cockayne Farm achieved its first international award.


A sketch of one of S. A. Cockayne's Merino Bucks
was found in the farmhouse.

It is important to note that agriculture was the major source of income for West Virginians during this period in out State’s history and thus interest in methods being used to improve that income base would naturally be of interest to most citizens of the local region. The full text of that letter to the Register follows.

Editor of the Register:

I am aware that you are interested in, and have a wish to see, the business of those citizens in this part of West Virginia prosper, who are engaged in agricultural pursuits, and I hope it will be agreeable to you to give this article a place in your very excellent paper. The business of sheep-growing in this county is getting to be one of the leading and most profitable branches pertaining to the farming interests here. Many of our farmers have large flocks and are realizing profits from this branch of business not to be had by raising grain and other products upon their farms. I wish to say to the sheep men of Marshal (sic) county that Samuel A. Cockayne residing one mile north of the Court House, has lately purchased a fine buck at a cost of fifteen hundred dollars, and I think it would be well for the wool growers to call and see this extra animal. He was raised upon the Green Mountains of Vermont, and has the reputation of being one of the finest bucks in the United States. Young Cockayne has entered into this business with a determination to make it pay, and also to improve the stock in this county, and he will, I know, spare neither trouble or expense in the furtherance of this laudable enterprise. I took occasion to examine this sheep the other day, and I must say that I never saw an animal of the kind that would compare with this one. His wool is as fine as silk, very long, and covers him all over from below the eyes down to the hoofs, his form is fine and large, and taking him altogether he certainly is an extra animal of the kind, and I would advise every sheep man in this part of the State to call and see him. Mr. Cockayne purchased about the same time twenty Spanish Merino ewes, thorough bred, at a heavy cost. This lot of sheep is the finest, beyond doubt, that was ever brought into this State, and this young man certainly deserves credit for his efforts to improve the breed of sheep in West Virginia.

                     Moundsville, W.V.                      B.W.P.