The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966 Page: 42
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
wild horses, and deer. It would not be possible, the early cattle-
men thought, to overstock this pastoral paradise. Yet overgrazing,
along with fires, drouth and floods, and an abundance of wild life,
contributed to the deterioration of rangelands, clearing the way
for mesquite invasion.
One agent, for example, that made possible the mesquite's in-
festation was the great prairie fires of pioneer times, which weak-
ened the sod of valuable forage plants. That questionable practice
of improving the rangeland, by both Indian and pioneer, for a
time no doubt held the mesquite in check in valleys along streams.
Valley bottoms, however, were to be transformed into thickets
unfit for grazing.
Jared Smith describes the years from 1874 to 1884 as the golden
age of the southwestern stockman, a period roughly from the
fading of the Indian to the coming of legal land owners. Depart-
ment of Agriculture figures show that the number of cattle in
Texas almost doubled between 188o and 189o. Overstocking was
a definite fact by 1885, a condition which continued until well
into the twentieth century.12
The recuperative power of the grasses was lessened or destroyed
and the weedy species which were present before, but which had
been held in check by the luxuriance of the better, dominant sorts,
immediately increased in number by rapid bounds. So also the
mesquite bean and cactus, both of which may be destroyed by fire,
grew in numbers and commenced to crowd out the grasses.
Cattle as well as other animals scattered the indigestible mes-
quite seed far and wide, year after year, when the prairies were
no longer burned over. Observers writing at the turn of the
century had seen the small shrubs of the open prairie grow to
trees in great numbers, rivaling and surpassing the former "tim-
ber islands" and scattered groves."
Every old resident can point out thickets of oak and mesquite
... which in years gone by did not exist. This is abundantly true
in Williamson, Burnet, Lampasas, Coryell, and the counties north
and west in flats and basins of the Red Beds country.
Although burning the prairie to provide fresh growth of grass
12Smith, "Grazing Problems in the Southwest," Bulletin No. T6, p. g.
"1"General Survey of Texas Woodlands," Bulletin 3 (College Station, 1917), 33.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966, periodical, 1966; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117144/m1/60/: accessed May 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.