The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948 Page: 3
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of the less settled cowmen moved farther west, but the barbed-
wire fences were quick to catch up with them. Stockmen in two
counties petitioned the legislature to ban fences west of the one-
hundredth meridian on the ground that land west of that line
was suitable only for grazing.
To advocates of a continued open range and to buyers who
came too late to acquire choice sites along streams, application
of the English common law of riparian rights seemed unfair. In
the arid plains, those who bought land on rivers or creeks had
a big advantage. By fencing their land they could keep away
from the streams all stock except their own and thus make almost
worthless the land farther back. Those who grazed their herds
on the upland pastures argued that the water should belong to
all the land, since the rain which filled the streams fell on the
whole plains region.
Opponents of fencing included not only farmers and small
stockmen but some big cowmen who owned thousands of cattle
but had no land. These men had been grazing their herds
without either buying or leasing an acre and were determined
to keep on doing so. They considered free grass and access to
water as inherent rights that the legislature was bound to pre-
serve. They were all the more enraged when big pastures were
bought and enclosed by corporations and foreign capitalists. One
leading ranchman, Charles Goodnight, noted that antipathy to
fencing "originated among the cattlemen themselves, a class of
holders who did not want to lease or buy land and hence did not
want anyone else to, their aim being to keep the range free and
The conflict over fencing was by no means confined to Texas.
It brought clashes in nearly every part of the western range
country. It was the renewal of an ancient struggle between the
nomadic herdsman and the settled stockman. The rapid spread
of barbed wire merely brought the conflict to a head. In Texas
the clash was sharpened by the fact that the public land was
owned not by the federal government, as elsewhere in the West,
5Charles Goodnight, letter to R. D. Holt, October 31, 1927, quoted by Holt in
"The Introduction of Barbed Wire into Texas and the Fence-Cutting War," West
Texas Historical Association Year Book, VI (June, 1930), 65-79, a comprehensive
discussion of the fence trouble and its causes.
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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/m1/21/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.