Conflict between cattle ranchers and homesteaders

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The cattle ranchers wanted the same land as the homesteaders.

Early conflicts were caused when the homesteaders tried to stop the cattle drives. They were afraid of damage to their crops and of Texas fever infecting their animals.

This conflict was one of the reasons for the end of the cattle drives.

From the 1870's onwards, cattle ranchers setted on the plains and conflicts continued. The cattle ranchers wanted 'open range' with access to water for the cattle. The homesteaders wanted to fence off their crops to protect them, this could cut off the water and bring the two sides into direct conflict.

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Sheep Farmers

By the 1880's flocks of sheep were a serious threat to cattle, they were competing for grazing.

Sheep-rearing was most common in the south-western states. The advantage was it required a smaller intial investment and offered quicker returns than cattle.

There was some violence by cattle ranchers, which took the form of killing shepherds, slaughtering sheep and burning the hay of farmers. Racial and religious intolerance fed this hostility as most of them were immigrants who were not of European origin.

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Barbed Wire

In some places the invention of barbed wire led to trouble.

Homesteaders used it to fence off their land, this aroused the hostility of the cattle ranchers.

Later cattle ranchers, discovered the value and fenced off vast areas off vast areas of the range.

Smaller ranchers fought back to avoid being cut off from water, they cut the fences.

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Johnson County War

Johnson country had been settled by cattle ranchers. These men ran large scale ranches and were known as Cattle Barons. Thye became very powerful in the state and joined together in an Association, its purpose was to protect the interests of the members.

Three threats began to develop:

  • Beef prices were falling, Droughts in 1883 and the harsh weather of 1886-87 damaged income.
  • Homesteaders were growing, and small ranchers were settling. Thus led to disputes over land ownership. The people were staying on land the Cattle Barons has 'claimed'.
  • Rusting, the Cattle Barons blamed the homesteaders and small ranchers.
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JCW cont.

It was hard to convict people for rustling, so they took the law into their own hands. They hired Frank Canton, a gunfighter, as their chief detective to hunt down rustlers.

The first killings took place in 1889. A couple called the Cattle Barons land snatchers and were lynched. The Cattle Barons claimed that they were rustlers and weren't prosecuted. Other killings followed.

In 1892, they went a stage further. They planned a full scale invasion of Johnson County. A death-list of 70 names was drawn up and 24 gunfighters recruited.

The plan was to kill the sheriff and then the rest of the men.

They took 2 newspaper men with them, and readily posed for photographs as they thought they were in the right and they deserved the land.

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End of the war

They began by cutting down telegraph poles but then it began to go wrong.

At the KC ranch, they were held up by Nate Champion's resistance all day before they burnt him in the cabin.

While this was going on, a passer-by noticed them and raised the alarm in Buffalo, they were then armed and prepared for them.

They retreated to TA ranch. Here they were trapped by 300 men, until the US calvary arrived to save them. They were taken into protective custody.

They were brought to trail but never convicted. However, no-one trusted them and they lost their power. Homesteaders and small ranchers could live in peace.

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