Fenciq ig Mceana Comity, Uexas
ROGER N. CONGER
OF THE SEVERAL different factors which combined near the
close of the last century to bring an end to the romantic
era of the cattle trails, one of the most obvious and most
important was the advent of the barbed wire fence. Within but
slightly more than two decades the invention, perfection, and
rapid spread of barbed wire throughout the western United
States wrote finis to the day of the vast, unfenced range country.
Barricading what had once been free grazing ground, barbed wire
ushered in the era of the fenced farm.
An outstanding study of barbed wire fencing and its implica-
tions in the development of the American West may be found in
Walter Prescott Webb's classic The Great Plains.1 In Dr. Webb's
synthesis barbed wire emerges as a "natural" for the fencing needs
of the westward-moving Americans who left the woodland environ-
ment of the eastern United States in growing numbers during the
last third of the nineteenth century and pushed into the increas-
ingly treeless region of the central prairies and plains. In contrast
to the various fencing devices that had been adopted in the East,
barbed wire possessed a number of characteristics that made it
ideally suited for the region in which it was developed. It was
cheap to buy and fast and easy to erect. It did not obstruct the
view, nor did it waste ground as did the old snake fence and stone
wall. It effectively stopped and held livestock without danger to
them once they had become accustomed to it.
The position of McLennan County, which is situated near the
western margin of the wooded region of the United States, made
it part of the zone of transition in which the introduction of
barbed wire fencing produced what might be termed its most
characteristic features. Westward lay the great prairie and plains
regions which were devoted almost exclusively to stock raising.
Effective settlement of the area began before 185o0, the year in
]Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains (New York and Boston, 1931), 28o-318.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101162/. Accessed July 30, 2014.