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Unformatted text preview: “Wit-liming”- ..._,. .. _.u- .,__.-.4 .>;.. . v- -—1.'-:-'- ‘- r ": MOHAME— 4.49, 64 West Texas Historical Association Year Book such a dilatory attitude towards the problem of frontier defense in Texas between 1846 and 1860. Why was the governor repeatedly forced to ask the War Department or the President, or both, for more troops? Why did the frontier citizens and the state legis- lature send petition after petition to Washington, praying for addi— tional protection? The reasons for the neglect on the part of the Federal government between 1846 and 1848, or during the Mexi~ can War, are obvious enough. As to the causes of neglect during the next twelve years, one can only speculate. In the first place, the number of troops in the standing army was inadequate to effectively police the frontier from the Rio Grande to Canada. Since the size of the army was fixed by Congress, the War Department had no choice but to use the forces available, whether sufficient or not. In the second place, Congress, far removed from the scene of danger, did not realize the actual condition. Distance seems to make a marked difference in the intensity of emotions. The average Amer- ican regarded the reports of Indian depredations in much the same way he does the gang wars, murders and wholesale massacres in Chicago today. He deplores the situation, but does nothing about it. In the third place, the proverbial “red tape,” which has always characterized the conduct of governmental affairs, was often an obstacle impeding the efficiency of the forces actually available. In the fourth place, poor judgment on the part of army officials tended to cripple the service. For instance, when one hears that companies of infantry were stationed at isolated posts and charged with the duty of keeping back Comanche Indians, fully mounted and excellent horsemen, he marvels at the inefficiency of the service. West Texas Historical Association Year Book 65 THE INTRODUCTION OF BARBED WIRE INTO TEXAS AND THE FENCE CUTTING WAR BY R. D. HOLT The opposition to barbed wire fences in Texas began with the erection of the very first fence of this kind, which was made in Austin in 1857 by an old Swiss named Grenninger, who was a worker in the iron foundry. This fence, which has strong claim to being the first of its kind in the United States, was made by stretching a wire around the top of a picket fence which enclosod a garden and orchard and was located somewhere between Waller Creek and the Colorado River. The wire was equipped with crude barbs made of hoop iron. The fence soon passed out of use but was later reconstructed by the Haish barbed wire poople who went to Austin, took photographs of the reconstructed fence and collected testimony to show that it was one of the “prior use” fences in the United States. They were charged with the infringement of barbed wire patents; but the courts did not uphold their contentions in regard to the Grenninger fence, however.‘I No doubt the hostility of Grenninger’s neighbors had much to do with this pioneer barbed wire inventor giving up his invention- and abandoning the use of the fence. This was the first active oppo- sition to barbed wire in Texas. A number of the older residents of Austin, who are still living, relate that some of citizens were so irritated by this unheard of barrier that they threatened to remove it by force. Prejudice against the new and in the state capitol itself, , thus kept Texas from supplying her own demands with some cheap and effective fencing material and thus opened the way for “Yankee inventions” of the same kind at a later date. It was exactly ten years after this barbed wire was used in _ Austin, or in April of 1867, that the first patent in the United States was granted on a fence armed with sharp points or barbs. It was not until 1873 and 1874 that the patents appeared which were destined to supply Texas with a cheap and practicable fencing 1.' Letter: Professor W. P. Webb. History Department of the University to! Texas, to E. D. Holt. January 7, 1930. (Mr. Webb's iather-in-lnw, W. J. Oliphant. was the photographer who took the pictures of the Grenningcr fence in Austin). 66 West Texas Historical Association Year Book material. These patents were issued to Joseph L. Clidden, Jacob Haish and Isaac L. Ellwood. All of these inventors lived in Delcalb, Illinois. Beginning on a very small scale the manufacture of barbed wire gradually grew into a great industry within a few years. The Glidden wire was no doubt the best known in Texas.2 In 1875, Mr. Henry B.- Sanborn, later the founder of the city of Amarillo, came to Texas with samples of the Glidden wire and began the introduction of that fencing to the stockmen of Texas. At Gainesville he sold the first spool of barbed wire ever sold in the state. From Gainesville Mr. Sanborn took a trip of eleven days in a buggy and managed to sell 1 c it . On this trip he tried to ma e as es in Denton, Decatur, Pilot Point and other places. His partner, Mr. lllr'arner2 during the same time sold the first carload of the fencing in Togas to John A_._.Wue_lglg and brother, In Rockport, er. Sanbournfls—dld—ap-carload of the fencing to Coleman, Mathis and Fulton for their own use in fencing an enormous pasture-3 In spite of great opposition, Mr. Sanborn was successful in getting many to use the new fencing material. Wash- burn and Moon, New England manufacturers, later bought the Glidden patents and began manufacturing the invention on a large scale. Sanborn and Warner continued as their Texas agents for several years with their headquarters at Houston. From August, 1882, to August of 1883, they handled $1,000,000 worth of barbed wire in Houston.4 Another salesman to bring the new fencing to Texas was John W. Gates, who, when only twenty-one, landed at San Antonio with his barbed wire samples. San Antonio at that time was the center of the stock industry in Texas and he chose the logical place. He secured a permit to erect a corral in the plaza and when this was completed he placed twenty-five wild Texas longhorn steers within the enclosure. He gave the cattlemen of South Texas a free show. They did not believe that such a flimsy looking fence would hold Texas cattle although it might hold the milk cows baclc east. The steers charged the wire fence but after two or three defeats they 22'. Warren, Arthur 6., “Barbed Wire_Who Invented It?" in Hardware Age, July 29. 1925. V3: Cox, James, History of the Cattle Industry Bf Texlfiu IL 500. The Amlrlllo News-Globe. June 17, 1925. 4. The Galveston News, September 1, 1883. West Texas Historical Association Year Book 67 were subdued and huddled together in the middle of the pen. Barbed 'wire would hold anything! The Texas cattlemen began to buy the new fencing. They were convinced.5 Gates represented Ellwood. There is considerable difference of opinion as to the exact time that Gates came to Texas but, as Mr. Sanborn continued to live in Texas and Gates did not, more of the credit for the introduction of barbed wire into Texas is to be given to Mr. Sanborn. The majority of people in Texas opposed barbed wire at first due to various reasons. Some said that it was too flimsy and would not hold stock and was a mere “Yankee fake.” Others said that it was too cruel, while others opposed it because it was new and untried. One of the most common objections was that it would cut stock and endless trouble with screw worms would result. For many years some of the leading hardware dealers over the state refused to have anything to do with it. So strong was the opposition to barbed wire that numerous attempts were made to have the state legislature make the erection of barbed wire fences in Texas illegal.6 On February 18, 1879, a memorial from the Commissioners' Court of San Saba County was presented to the legislature asking for a law against the erection of barbed wire fences because they were dangerous to stock and created many evils.7 As late as November of 1883, the Stockmen’s Asssociation of Nolan and Fisher Counties passed a resolution stating that land west of the one-hundredth Meridian was “fit only for grazing” and petitioned the legislature to prohibit the erection of fences west of that line.8 In spite of wide-spread opposition to the new fencing, the enclosure of land in Texas increased by leaps and bounds. There was a great demand for some kind of fencing material for the vast prairies of the state and barbed wire was the only material which met the demand. The old fences of rail, stone, post and plank, brush, smooth wire and hedge had all been tried and had been found wanting. They 9 13h The San Antonio Express. August. 9. 193.1. The San Antonio Light. August 6. House Journal, 1876, p. 82, 108 Ind 124. House Journal. 18th Legislature/ 1883. p. 147. w t '7. Senate Journal, 1879. p. 308. ‘ '.- 8. The Wool Journal. November 27, 1383. p. 4 (From The Abilene Reporter). l 5 a g 68 West Texas Historical Association Year Book could be used to enclose small patches or even larger areas in some cases, but their cost was prohibitive in all the western part of the state or else they were not effective as barriers for stock. Barbed wire after many practical demonstrations was proven to be cheap, strong, durable and an effective barrier for stack. It could be stretched rapidly and could be hauled long distances into the plains and prairie regions. Barbed wire was just the thing which the stock-' men of the state had been looking for with which to enclose their land and thus insure the exclusive use of the land to themselves. It would give them an opportunity to grade up their stuck. The more they fenced the less the fencing cost per acre or per section and thus _ there was an incentive to enclose large areas of grass land. In 1879 a barbed wire fence with blinds on it was made a legal fence. From- that time on the rapid fencing of the country took placa- By 1880 the wholesale fencing of the country was well under way. A few examples of this may be given for the different sections of the state. In 1879 about twenty-five miles of barbed wire fence was erected in Bee County.9 By 1883 the entire county was under fence.1o In the late seventies Coleman, Mathis and Fulton enclosed a large pasture in San Patricio County. Tom O’Conner did the same in Refugio County, as did Dilliard Fant in Goliad County.H In 1883, 190,000 pounds of barbed wire were used to fence the King. Ranch, the largest pasture in the world.12 In 1881, a pasture of 36,000 acres was enclosed in Uvalde County.‘3 In north Texas the same thing was taking place. In 1879 fences were erected in Tarrant, Clay and Danton Counties. In 1881, Mr. John H. Belcher, now of Plainview, Texas, fenced 27,000 acres in Montague County.”- In the same year Bellah 81 Humphrey fenced a large pasture on the prairie near the line of Hunt and Rains Counties. In 1879 9. Letter: J. E, Kelley, Beeville, Texas, to R. D. Holt. 10. The Fort Worth Gazette. May 8, 1883. 11. George W. Saunders, San Antonio, Texas, to J. Evetts Haley, March 16. 1927. (Manuscript in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society archives, Canyon. Texas). 12. The Austin Stltesman. November 13, 1883. 13. The Galveston News. January 11, 1331. III. The Sherman Democrat. March 7, 192?. West Texas Historical Association. Year Book 69 the prairies of Bell and Williamson Counties were being fenced.‘5 In the geographical center of the state fencing was also taking place by 1879. In that year W. H. Day fenced a large pasture in Coleman County and when some of his neighbors objected because he had fenced in the grass he told them that his was a mere horse pasture. The next year he fenced about one-fourth of the county.“5 Just a little later, R. K. (Bob) Wylie fenced in a large pasture in Runnels County.17 In 1882 and 1883 several large ranches were fenced in the Texas Panhandle and on the South Plains. In the Texas Panhandle a drift fence 175 miles long was erected in 1881 and 1882.18 In 1882 the first wire fence was built on the J A Ranch in Armstrong and Donley Counties.19 In 1882 H. B. Sanborn and J. L. Glidden erected a four-wire fence around a vast body of land, some 250,000 acres, in the Texas Panhandle. This was the Frying Pan Ranch and the fencing of this cost $39,000, for the wire and posts alone at wholesale prices. This was one of the first fences of any size in the Texas Panhandle.20 In 1881 Judge 0. H. Nelson fenced the Shoe Bar Ranch, imme- diately after Gunter and Munson had built a fence near Canyon.21 The first pasture on the South Plains was built by R. C. Burns, then manager of the Llano or Curry Comb Ranch, in what is now Garza County in 1883.22 In 1884 the Vermont Ranch, in what is now Schleieher County, located on the Edwards-Plateau was fenced with barbed wire. It was [he first large pasture between San Angelo - and Del Rio.23 By 1883 the fencing of the whole state was almost an accom- plished fact. So rapidly Were fences erected everywhere during the early eighties that unheard of and unforseen changes were made within a few days time. Most of the fencing in the western and south- 16. Letter: W. M. Green, Colorado, Texas. to R. D, Holt December 19. 1927. 16. F. S. Hilliard, Faywood, New Mexico, to R. D. Holt, June 4. 1928. 11’. H. G. Harding, Amarillo, Texas, to R. D. Holt, June -—-, 1928. ell-87.3. Evetts Haley, "And Then Came Barbed Wire to Change History's Course." in "The Catlemnn. March 1927. 19. Burton, E. '1‘., "A History of the J A Ranch." in Southwestern Historical Quarterly, April 1928, 354. 20. Cox, James. Op. Cit. p. 500. 21. Judge 0. R. Nelson, Romero. Texas, to J. Evetts Haley. February 26. 1921'- HInuseI-ipt in the archives of Panhandle-Plains Historical Society. Canyon, Texas. 22. Rickard. J. A" "The Cattle Ranch Industry of the Texas South Plains," I. A. Thesis at the University of Texas. 28. Interview: 0. G. Duty, Elder-ado, Texas. .. 1:7": ' 70 West Texas Historical Association Year Book western parts of the state was done on large scale. 0. Henry relates that about fifty men worked on the building of the fence on the Leo Hall ranch in LaSalle County.24 In some of the counties of the state, as in Kerr, “fencing bees,” corresponding to the traditional hocking bees and log rollings on the frontier, were held. Men who were accustomed to thinking that the range would always be free and open saw the country fenced up so rapidly that they could not understand what was taking place until it was too late for them to adjust themselves to the changed conditions. The opposition to barbed wire fences, which had existed all along but which had been dormant, was suddenly kindled into a flame of active opposition to all wire fences when it was finally brought home to the people just what had taken place. After fence cutting once began there was a regular epidemic of destruction reported from various sections of the state, simultaneously during the summer of 1883. Barbed wire had brought on a revolution which almost meant civil war. The Causes of the Fence Cutting War The causes of fence cutting in Texas were numerous and varied. They differed in the different localities, with personal dislikes and grudges often enterng as an important factor. Generally there was an accumulation of grievances at work in those localities where the greatest destruction took place. 1. The immediate cause of the wide-spread destruction of the fences was that a severe drought in the summer of 1883 called the attention of the stockowners to the fact that streams and water holes had been enclosed in the mad Scramble to get possession of the ranges and the old settlers finally realized the enormity of the changes which had been wrought by barbed wire fences. Water. like grass and air, had been considered a free gift of nature to man. The old frontiersman who had bMEofied’mmfirig/hi: own laws took things into his own hands and defiantly opposed the new economic order by the direct method of cutting the offending wires. Adjutant General King, in his report for 1883, (p. 25) after extensive investigations in areas where the destruction was worst, stated that V 24. Smith. 0. 4L. 0. Henry Biography. 110. West Texas Historical Association Year Book "it during the dry seasons many sheep, cattle and horses were lost by the small owners on account of not being allowed access to water. which was abundant, but which was fenced in and exclusively controlled by the large pastures. Numerous state newspapers reported that the drought during the summer of 1883 was a cause of the fence cutting troubles.25 2. A second cause of fence cutting was the desire for free grass and open range. The trouble seemed to be worst in localities near the frontier where large tracts of land had been enclosed in or near neighborhoods of farmers and small stockmen whose cattle had formerly grazed upon the land. Long use of the open range had led to the claim of the right of common pasturage. Before barbed wire fences came in all the fence laws had been to fence stock out and to fence the growing crops in.25 Many of the “free grass gentry” were neither farmers nor small stockmen but were landless cattlemen who owned thousands of cattle but not an acre of land. They realized that barbed wire was the only possible fencing material which could he used to enclose the prairies of Texas and if they could influence public opinion to favor the abolition of fences then they would have free grass.27 In regard to free grass (and the landless cattleman) a recognized authority on the cattle industry of Texas, Col. Charles Goodnight, stated: “There is no question but what the wire cutting iself originated among the cattlemen themselves, a class of hold- ers 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 open. I understand this is not generally known but it is the truth just the same.23 3. A third cause of the fence cutting epidemic in Texas was to be found in the hatred against the big pasture system which sym- bolized capital and the hated corporations. The Marlin Ball in a statement during the trouble touches upon this cause when it said: The wire fence cutting troubles are only one of the many 26. The Waco Examiner, September 1. 1883. The Austin Statesman. Novzm‘ber 14. 1888. 28. Wooten. D. 8., Comprehensive History of Tens. II. 251. 2‘7. The Galveston News November 18. 1833. 28. Letter: G. Goodnight. Phoenix. Arizona. to R. D. Holt, October 31. 192?. 72 West T exas Historical Association Year Book evils growing out of the fallacious and dangerous policy of the state in Selling off its domain in such large tracts, creating principalities, pashalics and baronates among a few capitalists and arousing a spirit of agrarianism among}l the poorer cheeses.29 A note found on the streets of Coleman when the trouble was attracting much attention also illustrates this causes The note follows: Down with monopolies, they can’t exist in Texas and espe- cially in Coleman County; away with your foreign capital- ists; the range and Soil of Texas belong to the heroes of the South; Give us homes as God intended, and not gates to churches and towns and schools and above all give us water for our SlOC-k.30 4-. The wire fences often closed roads and obstructed travel, for in the rapid closing up of the open range, fence lines sometimes ran mile after mile without an opening and little attenton was paid to the old lines of travel. The old-time Texan did not take kindly to the new obstructiOns and often proved that the distance across a pasture was less than the distance around. In hunting and driving stock the fences were greatly in the Way and were often cut for that reason. It was not uncommon for a person to have to travel a day’s journey out of the way in order to reach a gate in that day when travel was slow. This inconvenience to travel often led to fence cutting. In the early eighties a man sent out to repair the government telegraph line from Fort Griffin to Coleman came to 's new fence which had been erected on Jim Ned Creek near old Camp Colorado. - He was greatly surprised but he did not hesitate. He left an opening where he entered the pasture and where he left it on the opposite side-'51 Mr. T. D. Hobart, of Pampa, Texas, President of the Panhandle Plains Historical Society, relates a story as told to him by Capt. Leggett, who was stationed at Fort Elliot in the 30’s, which illus- 29. The Galveston News November 20. 1888. 80. The Fort Worth Bally Gclette. November '1, 1883. 31. Frontier Tina, July. 1924. p. 16. a, West Texas Historical Association Year Book 7 73 tratesi how the new fences sometimes unlawfully obstructed the public roadsl As Capt. Leggett and his men were marching through Clay County they suddenly came upon a new fence across the regular road. Captain Leggett told his men to cut the fence. The Owner of the fence was present and told the'Captain that he would have him indicted if the fence was cut. Capt. Leggett replied that it would be a question as to which was indicted first and he proceeded to the county seat where District Court was in session and asked the judge to charge the grand jury in regard to fencing the public highways. The owner of the land was indicted and fined. A consider- able portion of the fine was given to the captain who distributed it among the three churches of the town. When he returned to Fort Elliot, Capt. Leggett found a gallon of good whiskey awaiting him as a result of this affair. It is to be supposed that the churches did not send it, however.32 5. A fifth cause of fence cutting was that the wire fences ‘ threw the cowboys out of work in many cases. Worms The cowboy who was out of a job naturally resented the cause of his unemployment and sometimes became a fence Cutter for that reason. 6. Wire fences hindered stealing of stock and rustling and thus they were opposed by the rustlers. A wire fence was antagonistic to cow-stealing, as it obstructed the night trail, was a natural detec— tive and in many ways protected stock. Some persons showed great aversion to barbed wire fences because they interfered with their business. The brand burners, skinners and those who had lived Off of the drift cattle often became fence cutters. 33 7. Another cause of fence cutting was to be found in the old Conflict between the nester and the cowman.34 Both the master and the stocktnan sometimes cut the fences.35 ‘ 8. An eighth cause offence cutting was charged to the teach- ing of the Greenback party in Texas. The fence destruction. was said to be only a new phase of the fight between capital and labor and was the same principle as the communistic movement in Eng- 32. Letter: T. D. Hobart. l’nmpc. Texas. to D. Holt, January 26, 1929. 38.. The Fort Worth Dally Glutte, March 29. 1838. M. Ibid. August 81. 1888. 85. The Dallas Daily Herald. October 14. 1888. 74. West Texas Historical Association Year Book land, the Socialism in Germany and Communism in France.36 This may be illustrated by a note which was found on the premises of a wealthy pasture owner in Hopkins County, in 1883, and which read: This pasture business is getting to a nice pass now that a man can’t buy himself a little home. We dont care to be made serfs of yet like poor Ireland and the majority of England. We are a free people and if we can't have protec- tion we will protect ourselves and the least you can say the better it will be for your hide and neck. 9. Another cause of fence destruction was to be found in the wholesale fencing of the country by men who neither owned nor leased the land. 10. Lastly, damage to stock was frequently listed as a cause for fence cutting.37 The Beginning of Fence Cutting The opposition to barbed wire finally culminated in the fence cutting war of 188384. By 1883 the accumulated grievances, both real and fancied, had set the stage properly for trouble between the different economic interests of the state. Beginning with isolated and sporadic cases fence cutting gradually came to be noticed. During the regular session of the 18th legislature, in 1883, the trouble was brewing but no cause for alarm was felt at that time.35 Even at that time the stockmen had petitioned the legislature for relief, how-_ even-39 One newspaper stated that the first fence cutting took place in Frio County and the fence cut belonged to the Hawkeye Cattle Company. Big Foot Wallace, then an old man, was said to have been back of the movement for he claimed that the men who whipped - the Indians out of the country should have first choice of the range.“40 The first newspaper reference to the fence destruction was 36. Th G 1 ton News, October 9. 1883. 3?. Dad. fifgiggers, "From Cattle Ranch to Cotton Patch." 9. 90. Fort Worth Daily Gazette. September 19, 1333. 38. The San Antonio Emma. January 20. 1884 as. The Fort Worth Gazette, September 13. last. 40. The San Marcos Free Press, January 10, 1884. wm-nlfl—II- 1.....- West Texas Historical Association Year Book 75 under date of January of 1883. It was reported that a regular organi- zation of men in a certain county southwest of San Antonio had cut a number of fences and were determined that no more fences should be erected”,1 When once begun the trouble spread at an alarming rate. The offense was new in its character, extensive and rapid in development, secret in its methods yet found open support in many cemrnunitiesfl'2 Fence cutting was peculiarly a Texas craze. It began in the summer of 1883 as a regular, organized movement and spread like wildfire.43 One newspaper stated that it was the last outburst of oxcartism in Texas, tinctured with double-distilled deviltry. Much bitterness was engendered, violent encounters became common and a condition of civil war seemed inevitable.44 The struggle shook Texas to the very center. It became one of the state’s most difficult problems that authorities have ever deal with.“5 Extent of Fence Cutting Fence cutting increased in volume until it seemed to be a general epidemic over most portions of Texas where there were barbed wire fences, except in the Texas Panhandle and on the Plains. The trouble belt extended in a line from north to south through the exact geo— graphical center of the state. It was generally found in a tier of counties three or four deep but sometimes much more. From east to west there was fence cutting from Henderson and Limestone Counties to Tom Green and Fisher Counties. In some counties and localities the trouble seemed to be general while in others it was the exception. The trouble extended over an area of hundreds of miles and involved thousands of men!"5 The regions where the trouble seemed to be worst were generally where large tracts had been enclosed near the farming frontier and where settlers were pushing the cattlemen westward. Accounts of fence cutting have been found in more than one- half of the 171 organized counties in Texas in 1883. Apparently there were three centers of the trouble. One of these was in north Texas, centering around Clay County. Another center of the trouble 41. The Fort Worth Daily Gazette, January 22, 1883. 42. Report of the Adjutant General of Texas, 1884. p. 22. 48, The Austin Statesman, December 5, 1883. M. Worthm, L. 3., History of Tex-a. V. 95. - L‘fi, Burgers, Don PL, From Cattle Ranch to Cotton Patch, 96. 46. The Austin totesman. September 1, 1838. ‘ 76 West Texas Historical Associatiori Y ear Book was almost in the geographical center of the state but on the frontier at that time, in Brown and Coleman Counies. A third center was in southwest 'Texas in that group of counties near Frio and Medina. In these particular centers the excitement ran high and serious trouble was barely averted at times. Fences were cut as often as they were erected. At first only the fences around the big pastures were cut but later the epidemic of destruction spread to all fences. So serious was the trouble in some sections that one newspaper editor declared that in relation to Texas the fence cutting question was greater than secession or reconstruotion.47 The fence cutters worked in groups generally and were appar- ently well organized in some sections. Working at night and in secret it was almost impossible for the regular officers of the law to detect the guilty parties and if they were indicted it was equally impossible to get a jury to convict them. The “Knights of the Knippers” were organized under such names as The Land League, The Owls, The Javelinas and the Blue Devils. In Coleman County the fence cutters had for their pass words, “Do you want to work for the coming - ‘?”48 generations . Due to the fact that the regular officers were powerless many pasture owners appealed to Governor John Ireland for help. One pasture man of Coleman County, who had over forty miles of fence out between every post, states that Governor Ireland wrote to him to “kill or capture.”49 In Gonzales County, in Brown County and in Medina County the trouble was especially bad and in the first two areas mentioned the fence cutters went into town bent upon reVenge. At Waelder, in Gonzales County, a few Texas Rangers coolly disarmed a mob of fence cutters which departed peacefully for their homes after a time.50 At Brownwood an armed band of about tlgrty five _01r_ forty, fence cutters came into town and took possession of the court homile -- av - emcn were likewise; armed and in possession of - opera house ere they remained practically all of one co er counsel finally persuaded the invaders to return peacefully to their homes and the trouble was 4'?_ The Austin Statesman. December 21. 1883. 48. letter: Hunter, W. W“ Santa. Anna Texas, to R. D. Holt. 49. letter: H. R. Starkweother. Gotemnn. Items. to R. D_ Holt, October 4. 1928. 50. Tho San Antonio Enroll, February 5{ 1384?», ' West Texas Historical Association Year Book 77 avertedf-aI The fence troubles continued in Brown County long after the epidemic had ceased in other sections. A noted Texas Ranger, Ira Aten, now of El Centro, California, was sent to the county to break up the trouble and was finally successful in catching the guilty partiet3.52 Damages From Fence Cutting There is no exact way to estimate the damage done to the state of Texas by the fence cutting troubles. Contemporary estimates of the losses due to fence cutting point out that in addition to the actual loss of property in the fences destroyed, property depreciated in value, capital was frightened out of the state, immigration ceased, and a period of business depresssion resulted. The reputation of lawlessness given to the state meant loss of trade, loss of capital, high interest rates and scarcity of money.53 The fact that capital was kept out of the state by the fence destruction lawlessness is illustrated by the experience of Mr. H. R. Starkweather, a stockinan of Coleman County, who went to Chicago to borrow money on his ranch about the time the trouble began in. his section. He hair-fl. almost completed the arrangements for his loan when the daily newspapers appeared upon the streets with headlines something like this, “Hell Breaks Loose in Texas—Wire Cutters Destroy 500 Miles of Barbed Wire in Coleman County.” Mr. Stark- weather’s trade fell through and later he had to sell the ranch as the fence troubles almost broke him.54 One state newspaper estimated that the taxable valuation of property decreased by more than $30,000,000 on account of the fence troubles.55 One citizen of BroWn County estimated that the. damage in his county was over $1,000,000.55 One authority esti- mated that the destruction in fences alone was over 352030030057- The death toll which resulted from the fence cutting war Interview: Will H. Mays, Austin. Texas, who was county attorney of Brown Co ' r- at the time. 52. The Round Rock Newl, December 3, 1886. 53. The Galveston News, October 8, 1883. The Austin Stoteunnn October 13, 1883. The Fort: Worth Gazette, November 30, 1883, 54. Frontier Times, July, 1924, p. 16. 56. The Fort Worth Gazette, February 8, 1884. 56. The Galveston News. January 11 1334- li'l'. The Galveston News, January 1'1, 1884. 78 West Texas Historical Association Your Book cannot be computed accurately, of course. If the total number was known doubtless it would be large enough. It is surprising, however, that with the feeling aroused to a white heat in some localities, there was not more bloodshed. The newspapers of the 80’s report only a very few men shot and a smaller number killed over the fence question. The killing of Pat Warren at Sweetwater, Butler in Clay County and Level in Brown County are about all the actual deaths reported during the fence cutting war, proper. This does not count the deaths which have resulted over partitiou fences. These have been a source of trouble ever since fences have been erectd. The Work of the Special Session 011 Fence Cutting The destruction of fences became so serious that in October, of 1883 Governor Ireland called a special session of the legislature to meet on January 8, 1884, “to consider and provide a remedy for the wanton destruction of fences.” This body was in session from January 8th to February 6th and was literally deluged with memo- rials, petitions, delegations and special representatives from the areas where the fence troubles were the worst. Dozens of bills were intro- duced on the fence question and ranged all the way from making it justifiable homicide to shoot a fence cutter to the o osite extreme of a rigid herd law for all the state. Heated speeches were made on 0 st es of the question and considrable attention was drawn to the action of the law makers. Finally laws were passed which made fence cutting a felony, gates were required to be placed every three miles and it Was made unlawful to fence land not owned or leased. All of these acts were passed as emergency acts, and an appropriatiOn of $50,000 was grantd to help with the enforcement of the acts. The work of the special session showed unmistakably that the representative of the people who came directly from their homes were for law enforce- ment and opposed the fence destructiOn. The final trial of barbed wire in Texas had hem ended. Barbed wire had been introduced into the remote parts of Texas and was here to stay. The fence cutting epidemic was over although some fence cutting continued for years. In 1887 there was some fear that another fence cutting war would West Texas Historical Association Year Book 79 begin due to the dry weather but timely rains prevented the threat- ened trouble.5B _ The fence cutting war reflects no great credit upon Texas but it holds a place of some importance in the history of the. state because it definitely marked the transition from the old order to the new in Texas; it marked the end of the free grass era and brought order and system where confusion had prevailed; it showed clearly that the cattle industry had been revolutionized and that the indi- vidual ownership of land was a reality; it showed that law and order and not “frontier justice” should be the rule; and finally, the fence cutting flare, a contest between the economic interests of the state, showed that the tiller of the soil, with hoe and plow, was destined to push the cowman from his hard earned land. The fence cutting war was the crisis in the introduction of the new invention into Texas. In the eight years since the introduction of “a cheap fencing for the prairies of the west” the white settlements in Texas had advanced further westward than in the fifty years preceding. By 1884 barbed wire had proven itself to be an agent of civilization and progress and wire fences were to be protected by the law of the land. It took the combined efforts of the governor of Texas, the state legislature, hundreds of land owners over the state, high pres- sure barbed wire salesmen and the Texas Rangers to introduce barbed wire and to stop the destruction of the fences as a general practice. But now we, of a younger generation, can boast of our great Lone Star State with her fine blooded livestock, her fine farms and ranches, towns and cities in West Texas all of which have been possible by the advent of wire fences and all of which stand as monuments of progress today dedicated to those men who by their actions said that barbed wire fences should be property and that they could be used on the vast prairies and unsettled plains of West Texas to change that which had been since time began and to make nature pay the debt she owed. 58. The Dallas News. May 13, 1887. ...
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