West Texas ranchers defy future governor

By Bartee Haile

Panhandle cattlemen called the attorney general’s bluff on Jan. 9, 1886 by indicting themselves on charges of “illegal fencing” on public land. Fifty-two ranchers, including the majority of the grand jurors, defiantly thumbed their noses at state authorities.

By the 1880’s, most people in the eastern half of Texas believed beef barons in the distant Panhandle were exploiting the public domain for their own private gain. Pressure mounted on the legislature to curtail the custom of letting the cowmen graze their herds for free on government land.

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