N.R. Stegall to Ireland, March 31, 1884
A drought hit Texas in 1883, bringing to a head a long-simmering conflict between the landless cattlemen of the open range and those who were establishing permanent ranches fenced in with barbed wire. Cowmen began to wreck the fences to get access to grass and water for their herds. They were joined by others who resented the practice of some ranchers of fencing off public land along with their own, and by blocking access to public roads, schools, and churches with their fences. Soon, fence cutting was reported from more than half the counties in Texas, and at least three people were killed as ranchers defended their property. By the fall of 1883, fence cutting had caused $20 million in damages, lowered property values by $30 million, interfered with farming, and discouraged prospective settlers from coming to Texas.
Governor Ireland called a special session of the legislature on January 8, 1884, to deal with the fence-cutting issue. The legislature made fence-cutting and pasture-burning crimes punishable with prison time. At the same time, they regulated the fencing. Ranchers were required to remove any fences from public land or land belonging to others and to provide and maintain gates in any fences that crossed public roads. The new laws largely ended the fence troubles.
This letter is from N.R. Stegall, the Adjutant General of Texas, who held responsibility for verification of veterans' land claims.
Austin, Texas, March 31, 1884
To His Excellency
Sir - In conference with Interested
Yours very respectfully
N.R. Stegall to Ireland, March 31, 1884, Records of John Ireland, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.