The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948 Page: 2
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
some of the herds many head were lost, first the cows with young
calves, then the calves and yearling steers. The smaller cattlemen
suffered first and most severely. Those who could move their
piteously lowing herds to better pasture and water did so but
found their stock restless and hard to control.
For many stockmen this situation was disastrous. It was made
worse by the fact that the ranges were overstocked for even a
normal year, in that era when few cattlemen had means for
hoarding water. Feverish activity and speculation had come from
rising prices of cattle and land. Ordinary Texas cattle that sold
at seven dollars a head in 188o brought eleven dollars the next
year, sixteen in 1882, and often twenty-five in 1883.3 Men who
foresaw the end of the open range and its free grass wanted to
grab all the land and cattle they could, even by borrowing big
sums at 18 to 24 per cent interest. Outside capital was coming
in from the East and from Great Britain.
Some cowmen whose herds were hit by the shortage of water
and grass blamed the new fangled barbed-wire fences for their
predicament. Barbed wire had been coming into Texas for eight
years. Ridiculed and resisted at first, it soon proved its value in
making fences that were pig tight, horse high, and bull strong.
Enterprising young John W. Gates and other salesmen were kept
busy handling orders. In the early eighties, barbed wire was
shipped in by the carload, and even by the trainload, to make
hundreds of miles of fences around the larger ranches. In the
Panhandle the Frying Pan Ranch spent $39,000 in 1882 for wire
and posts, at wholesale, to put a four-wire fence around a 250,000-
acre pasture. Some still feared that the barbs would injure their
horses and cattle, but no one any longer doubted the wire's
ability to hold. On plains almost devoid of timber and stone,
it offered the only satisfactory means for enclosing livestock.'
Many who continued to graze their cattle on public or other
unoccupied lands were infuriated as more and more of what had
been open range was fenced in. This was especially true in the
drouth year of 1883. All the good streams and water holes and
most of the remaining grass seemed to be inside the fences. Some
.'National Live Stock Journal, July, 1883.
4Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains (Boston, 1931), 280-318,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948, periodical, 1948; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101119/m1/20/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.