The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968 Page: 38
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
of use. In 1885 the United States Assistant Agrostologist, J. G. Smith,
There has been much written and said within the last ten years about
the deterioration of the ranges. Cattlemen say that the grasses are not
what they used to be; that the valuable perennial species are disap-
pearing, and that their place is being taken by less nutritious annuals.
This is true to a very marked degree in many sections of the grazing
Several conditions may have contributed to the rapid decline in
range carrying capacity. First, the early ranchers overestimated the
productivity of the range. H. L. Bentley, an agent for the United
States Department of Agriculture, studied the problem of pasturage
exhaustion and in 1898 wrote a pamphlet pointing out that in the early
years of the Texas cattle industry, "there is little doubt that the ranges
would have supported Soo head of cattle to the square mile."' Almost
everyone who came to Texas wrote of its productive nature. Richard
Irving Dodge proclaimed that, "In Texas there is a fine grass growing
to the height of two, and under very good conditions of three, feet,
called the 'gramma-grass.' The 'buffalo-grass' of the high plains and
this 'gramma-grass,' though entirely different in growth and appear-
ance, are really identical."" Not only was the vast amount of grass
heralded, but its quality was lauded also. Writing from Cox's colony
in Crosby County, William Hunt stated that "the rich grazing qual-
ities of the grass is beyond question."9 Army explorers reported that
the West Texas area was carpeted with bluestem, sedge, bunch, and
mesquite grass'" and that they always found the "finest of grass.""
Not all of the early settlers described the West Texas area as being
so graciously inviting. When Captain R. B. Marcy first came upon the
great open expanse of grassland, he wrote in his journal:
When we were upon the high table land, a view presented itself as
boundless as the ocean. Not a tree, shrub, or any other object, either
"Jared G. Smith, "Forage Conditions of the Prairie Regions," United States Department
of Agriculture Yearbook, 1895 (Washington, 1895), 322.
7Henry Lewis Bentley, Cattle Ranges of the Southwest: A History of Exhaustion of
Pasturage and Suggestions for Its Restoration, in United States Department of Agricul-
ture, Farmers Bulletin No. 72 (Washington, 1898), 7.
8Richard Irving Dodge, The Plains of the Great West and Their Inhabitants (New
York, 1877), 82.
*A. W. Spaight, The Resources, Soil, and Climate of Texas (Galveston, 1882), 358-359.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968, periodical, 1968; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/m1/56/: accessed November 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.