The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 34, July 1930 - April, 1931 Page: 5
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Problem of Maintaining Solid Range on Spur Ranch 5
ground a common opponent, the ranchman who was ready to go
almost any length to retain the school lands he was losing. In
the struggle of the cattlemen against the settlers public opinion
decidedly favored the settler. Some of the ranches were owned
by foreign companies, and a law prevented their buying either
school lands from the state or rights to the land from a settler,
unless he had already received a deed from the state.10 Public
opinion is clearly reflected in a letter of August 16, 1901: "And
the general feeling over the country is such that every time a com-
pany gets done out of a piece of land by dishonest trickery, or
ingratitude, an approving yell of applause goes up, and most
everybody feels better in consequence." In the summer of 1898,
there was considerable agitation in the legislature to abolish the
oath required of the settlers to the effect that they had lived on
the land three years."l
If the "ungrateful nester" gave "an approving yell of applause"
when a cattle company sustained a reversal, the ranchman gnashed
his teeth and muttered smothered oaths when he thought about
what the "nester" was doing to the ranch industry. Such terms
as "thieves" (invariably preceded by one or more vitriolic ad-
jectives), "wretched nesters," "dead-beats," "ungrateful creatures,"
and "land pirates," run like a refrain through the Spur and Mata-
dor ranch records. Ranchmen often had cause to use strong lan-
gauge. Numerous prospecting settlers insisted upon running
helter skelter over pastures, causing prairie fires by their careless-
ness, leaving gates open, and abusing the ranchman's hospitality.12
Furthermore, some of the so-called settlers were disguised cattle
rustlers, who, once they had secured a legal and vested right to
settle inside a ranchman's pasture, could carry on the business of
placing their irons on someone else's calves with considerable
security. Some settlers were nothing more than "bonus hunters,"
ready to sell or lease their interests to persons with cattle outside
The attitude of the Spur and Matador people toward settlers
may be considered typical. Manager Horsbrugh stated in a letter
to his directors that the plight of the Spur Ranch in regard to the
"nester problem" was better than any other ranch except the
1Spur Records, VIII, 230.
"Spur Records, VIII, 395.
"Spur Records, X, 306, 365, 400.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 34, July 1930 - April, 1931, periodical, 1931; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101091/m1/9/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.