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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Early ranchers
formed well-organized groups

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Since the beginning of livestock domestication of sheep and goats in 6,000 B.C., problems of ownership of livestock and regulation for grazing the public domain have occurred. As numbers of livestock increased, pastoral customs, grazing regulation and preservation of ownership problems grew in proportion.

Long before the establishment of stockmen's associations and very early in the development of civilization, man contrived a rudimentary scheme of administration to guide the pastoral industry.

The first such regulations, beginning in 1273, came from the Castilleia stockmen during the Middle Ages. These meetings were called "mestas" because most problems attended concerned stray animals called "mezclados" and their proper ownership.

Later, again after the numbers of domesticated livestock increased, the grazing practice of "transhumance" was instituted. Because of the absence of fences and in order to plant, grow and harvest crops in the village areas, all livestock had to be removed to outlying areas and grazed through the crop-growing months. This removal and return of all large livestock and poultry required organized community efforts in the form of roundups, marking and culling of the livestock.

Ranching had always been the major industry in Spain and its conquests. The expansion of ranching in the Americas is probably the most important contribution made by the Spaniards.

As Spanish domination waned and Anglo influence grew, the rancher/stockmen continued to be at the forefront of the first settlements and civilization in almost all new areas. Always on the search for "new graze," the livestock factions met and solved the many problems of the industry. In spite of being scattered to the four winds, poor communications and independent logic, the cattle industry often brought the first law and order, of sorts, to the frontier.

The largest of these livestock groups was the Wyoming Stock Growers Association formed in 1873, extending into Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and the Dakotas with more than 400 members. It was so powerful it was almost an extension of the territorial government, with many of its early rules becoming the first state laws of the area.

In the Panhandle of Texas, the first livestock organization was formed in 1880. Called the Panhandle Stockmen Association, its president was Charles Goodnight and its vice-president was Henry Cresswell.

They guided early brand registration, the building of drift fences, trail drive disputes and efforts at preventing cattle theft.

A third worthy Oklahoma association formed in 1883 was called the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association, which guided the grazing of Indian Lands, the coming of barbed wire fences and the end of the Trail Drive Era.

The greatest of the cattle groups was the partial outgrowth of these last two associations. The Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association was organized in 1877 and is still a major influence today with many committees covering every phase of the industry.

America owes the early-day cattlemen a vote of thanks for their continuing search for new graze and the exceptional organizational efforts carried out under trying conditions, then used in establishing their industry.


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"

October 16, 2007 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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