Friday, September 17, 2021

The Fence Cutting Wars

The Fence Cutting Wars occurred near the end of the 19th century in the American Old West, and were a series of disputes between farmers and cattlemen with larger land holdings. As newcomers came to the American West to farm, established cattlemen began to fence off their larger tracts of land with barbed wire in order to protect them from the farmers' claims. The settlers viewed this as a closing of the open range, and began to cut fences to attempt to reclaim lands in the public domain. The ensuing, widespread series of conflicts was known as the Fence Cutting Wars.


  1. I am not sure that is an accurate picture. Farmers wanted fences to keep cattle out of their large fields of crops. cattle men did not -- they wanted open range.

    1. Not always. For the most part, farmers put up plain wire fences because barbed wire was outrageously expensive compared to plain single or double strand wire, and most farms back then were under a couple hundred acres because farming back then was so labor intensive.
      It was the ranchers at the end of the free-grazing era that began to use barbed wire to keep their cattle in, a good example being the XIT Ranch that fenced off a large part of the panhandle of Texas starting in 1885, using the Brinkerhoff patented wire. If you have the time to do the research, you'll see that the huge majority of barbed wire patents are from the early to mid 1880s, and that was after free grazing was pretty much wrapped up.

      Now, how do I know all that? I collected antique barbed wire for years and years and studied the history of it. Someday I'll get around to posting some pictures of displays of some of my most unusual samples.

      Fun fact: The earliest patent was Kelly's Thorny Wire in 1868 which was a dual strand wire using a sheet metal barb, and each and every barb was inserted by hand during the manufacturing process. It wasn't until 1874 that Joseph Glidden invented a machine to do it mechanically with his patented Winner Barb.

    2. I can't belive you know the XIT!!!!!

    3. Hell, every serious student of Western American History knows about the XIT.

    4. Six thousand miles of fence, made with barb wire personalized with their brand.
      150,000 beeves, over 300 windmills.
      The ranch whose owners built the Texas Capitol building in Austin.

      Everyone should read the book 'The XIT Ranch of Texas' by J. Evetts Haley. It's an incredible story.

    5. They took that Red granite from Llano to build the Capitol, I am about 45 minutes from there, I hunt for arrowheads and Texas Topaz up there.

  2. Pam Anderson.
    Barb Wire, 1996 techno-thriller.
    Co-starring Jack Noseworthy, 'domestic partner' of Al Trujillo, proud 'parents' of 'their' son, Truworthy.

  3. Some people just like the illusion of control a fence provides. I remember when my grandfather sold his ranch east of Yellowstone (100k deeded acres). The new owner came in and promptly erected miles of new fencing. My grandfather's observation was that the new fencing was keeping the cattle from the water. One spot I particularly recall didn't have any people living within ten miles, just antelope, jack rabbits, and snakes. Sure is nice fence though.

  4. There was a chain of steak houses that featured a couple dozecpn different barb wire types on a board. I think it was in the Midwest.


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