Joanne S. Liu: Barbed Wire

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Always have been interested in the western expansion of this country Having grown up on a farm this book educated me on the controversy between cowboys and farmers as barb wire fences changed the openness of the prairie and how people in masses changed the land Since I was a child I was interested in the barbed wire fencing that cuts and divides the ural landscape I picked this book up at a western historical museum and was glad to finally have some answers to why barbed wire dissects the frontier Good ead very informative Barbed Wire is an easy to ead history of the ole of fencing in the settlement of the American West Both native Americans and cattlemen depended on the wide open ange but homesteaders needed a way to protect their crops Barbed wire became the elatively inexpensive solution in an area where lumber and stone were scarce Fence cutting wars and other violence ensued and loss of ange contributed to the near extinction of the bison and the end of the traditional Indian way of life Now of course there are fences everywhere Biased on my ating a little because I know the author However I d ecommend this book to anyone who finds the subject intriguing The author said it was supposed to be geared to a young adult eader so it is a fairly easy ead and not too long The most interesting part for me was the description of the open ange laws that uled the plains before the age of barbed wire The meteoric ise of the barbed wire industry is also uite interesting Barbed Wire The Fence that Changed the West by Joanne S LiuISBN 978 0 87842 557 0Copyright 2009 Mountain Press Publishing CompanyThis is a history book of just how it was that a simple product made of steel managed to change history in a twist of the wire over a period of decadesIn times preceding the advent of barbed wire farmers in the eastern part of the country made fences of stone and of wood to mark the boundaries of their fields as well as keep livestock wild animals and other people off of their fields to protect their growing produce from damage theft and lossWhen the westward expansion began in the 1840s increased in the 1850s with the 1851 Go West Young Man saying attributed to John L Soule combined with Manifest Destiny it became impractical to farm land which could be homesteaded One could not keep his own nor his neighbors cattle or wild horses out of his oats hay corn or vegetables Hence many homesteads which began with high hopes and expectations were abandoned after a few years when they could not make a living on their landThere were large cattlemen who for the most part an their branded cattle on wild grasses according to season and water availability between Texas and Saskatchewan New Mexico to Manitoba Missouri to Alberta The cowboys of the old west branded their livestock and kept watch on the herds as they oamed the plains The Native Americans too used these wide open spaces to hunt wild game and follow their game wherever the herds went The cattlemen cowboys and Natives were in competition However large scale wars seldom broke out between these groupsWestward settlement became even popular in the aftermath of the US Civil War ending in 1865 With nothing left of their homes and farms many took advantage of the Homestead Act and sought to make new lives in the west Open ange was the ule of the land and fence out was the ule as opposed to the eastern herd law Before the mid 1800s much of the American West was a vastexpanse of open plains Native tribes followed buffalo herdsunimpeded for hundreds of miles cowboys an cattle whereverwater and grass led them and the cattleman s Law of the OpenRange uled All this changed when settlers pouring into the Westunder the Homestead Act of 1862 brought with them the Easternfarmer s concept of fencing in farm.

Nd fence in ule That is a matter of variation in State Laws egarding agriculture and livestock to this dayHowever when the settlers farmers came along it all changed Some of the early farmers especially those who could afford it had fencing materials shipped in from the east on the ailroad The less affluent tried digging trenches around their fields Either way this was a very expensive proposition The book says that an 1940 publication claimed it took 170 worth of fencing to prevent the loss of 240 worth of crops It cost 640 to put a fence around a 160 acre parcel of land They needed a cheaper effective form of fences to put up in the Great Plains where there are too few trees to make wooden fences and where ocks and stones are not nearly as plentiful as they are in the east near the Appalachian or Ozark Mountains It also did not go over well with the cattlemen cowboys or Natives Organized parties would take down or punch holes in the fences or fill in the trenches They did not take kindly to this Hence many skirmishes broke out among cattlemen farmers cowboys and nativesThe aftermath of the Civil War left the western cattlemen in turmoil too As many of the cowboys left the anches to join the war on either side the cattle were untended After the war herds oamed everywhere many of which were unbranded This led to people trying to get those unbranded hence unclaimed cattle for themselves This was considered cattle ustling as many of the cattlemen large and small claimed the cattle were theirsSmooth wire fencing has been available since the 1830s However it lacked effectiveness In the late 1860s and early 1870s several people and corporations developed twisted wire usually with barbs of their own types They each patented their own twist of the wire but patent law was not as good as it is now The legal battles over barbed wire patents had the effect of making patent law effective and the operation of the patent office being effective at protecting patents This enhanced protection of intellectual property including inventions processes and operations greatly helped the industrial evolution and the manufacture of better and better things to enhance all of our livesOf course violations of patent or pirate imitations of the patented item are not a new phenomenon During the late 1870s 1890s moonshine wire was manufactured and sold in great uantities and the buyers of such counterfeit products were liable as well Hence all sellers of barbed wire came under suspicion by the farmers and anchers in the west This led to what was called the Free Wire Movement countered by those interested in defending their patentsNonetheless putting up barbed wire angered both the cattlemen and the Natives It also led to the deaths of millions of cattle during harsh winters It has to do with the way that cattle put their back to the wind or incoming blizzard and slowly move away from it usually they would drift south When the cattle would encounter a fence they could no longer move and died along the fence This became a horrible crisis during the brutal winter of 1885 Later it was discovered that building drift fences shelters in areas where the cattle would congregate during blizzards would save their lives I d always wondered why there were shelters on the same corner of pastures mile after mile but which corner varies among wide areas This is my answer to that puzzleCattlemen cowb. S With the invention and massproduction of barbed wire in the 1870s it soon became possiblefor homesteaders to fence off millions of acres of what was onceopen ange But barbed wire threatened the livelihood of thecattlemen who depended on unfenced grasslands and a clash ofcultures was inevitableIn a style that will capture the interest of adult and teen eaders Barbed Wire The Fence That Cha.

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Oys and Natives were even displeased with this effective fencing which they called the devil s ope Fence cutting became common but the farmers did not just take it lying down They d put up new fence certainly especially with this new barbed wire being much less expensive than other fencing but also used patrols to guard their fencesAlso during the 1880s as prime farmland homesteads became difficult to get people would just lay claims to land Certainly many of these fences were cut by the cattlemen and natives Fence cutting had become a felony while putting up an illegal fence was a misdemeanor Gone unchallenged after a period of years the land enclosed by the illegal fence would become legally the property of the person so laying the claim This is the legal philosophy of adverse possession False claims of someone using a fictitious name to gain a parcel of land or a cattleman having everyone in his employ file a claim to a homestead under the agreement that the homestead would be turned over to the cattleman were very common To allow the title of the land to be salable adverse possession laws had to be used here tooSo many cattle died in the winter of 1885 and demand for meat was so high and the price went up after the death of an estimated 200000 cattle that there was a movement to get id of barbed wire in the late 1880s However farmers esisted this The problems with the cattle deaths were abated the price of barbed wire and the designs improved and the demand eturned higher than everThis was also the cause of the decline and the demise of the cattle trails once predominant in the Old West Instead cattlemen fenced in their huge large and modest spreads To ensure enough food they began farming grain and hay as cattle feed or paying neighboring farmers to aise their cattle feed in fenced fields The cattle fared better in these confined spaces where they could be better protected from hazards of the wild Shipping the cattle to market by ailroad to large slaughterhouses in Kansas City Chicago and other areas was faster cheaper and safer than having a long cattle drive to get them to marketAs cattlemen too adopted the practice of fencing in and claiming their land marking the demise of the Open Range philosophy throughout the west the Natives found their traditional ways of life following herds of buffalo and other animals destroyed Instead they found themselves signing treaties assigning them parcels of eservation land The Cherokee Outlet now the panhandle of Oklahoma had a lot of cattle driven over it to ail heads They began charging tolls for cattle to cross their landHence it was barbed wire that played a big part in turning the United States from a small area of populated territory with wide expanses of land with only a few Native Americans on it into being fully claimed populated This change brought its new set of problems which are not yet settled I picked this book up in Pagosa Springs Co and was eager to ead it Most eaders would not find it interesting at all But I did because I had taught Shane for so many year and the changes barbed wire was making in the West were a part of that book I would loved to have had this book then Not anything very exciting you can say about barbed wire but this mere twisting of a small piece of wire had big economic impacts changed the distribution of the country s population and contributed the the fading of cowboy. Nged the West eveals the surprisinglycritical ole the invention of barbed wire played in the settling ofAmerica From the legal battles over barbed wire patents to thebrutal fencing wars that erupted on the frontier and the ultimateend of the open ange author Joanne Liu tells the fascinating storyof how a simple twist of wire transformed a country s landscapeand ushered in a new way of life.