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Farming was a major economic activity in the southern states and especially in Texas. This essay will discuss farming and ranching in Texas as from 1865 through to the World War1. Several afflictions affected the farmers during the 1970s and a response was the creation of the Southern Farmers Alliance. The same problems also affected Ranching when it experienced a boom in sales. This essay will explore the events that took place during this time, the dates and names of famous people and places.
Farming in Texas
The myth in Texas, like in the southern parts of the US, was that all persons depended upon farmers because it was the farmer who fed them. The myth also held that agricultural people were self sufficient and needed few others. By 1870 farmers lived the myth and worked t produce for their families as well as surpluses. A farmers' protest in Texas against economic hardship and exploitation led to formation of the Grange party in 1867. The grange movement organized American farmers against monopolies by the railroad. Its leader, Oliver Hudson Kelley, who founded it in 1867 organized for social and educational purpose for farmers. The Grange had demonstrated the possibility for a united action but its decline led to a vacuum among the farmers' .The farmers blamed monopolistic practices of commodity markets in New York and Chicago that determined crop prices (Ayers, Edward L. Pgs.477-483).
In 1890-1891, farmers were hard pressed by debts and low prices for their crops. The crisis in Texas and the whole of Southern agriculture was building for decades. Between 1865 and 1885, the prices of farmers' productivity declined. Farmers' grievances ranged from price decline to mounting debts to furnish the merchants and monopoly power of the railroads formed by the people's Party. The Farmers' Alliance had their roots in a time when these farmers were faced with great hardship and as formed in Lampas County. In the mid 1870s, crop prices began to fall as the Texas farmers were hard hit by a decline in cotton prices. Cotton fluctuate between 0.12 and 0.18 per pound but fell to as low as 0.046. In 1886, the president of Texas Alliance, Charles Macune, instituted mechanisms that could see farmers gain control over the market place (Farmers' alliance).
Ranching in Texas
When the civil war broke out between the Southern and Northern states, the Texan ranchers left their farms to fight for the confederate army who later lost the war. This loss destroyed the South's economy but the cattle which were left to their own devices had multiplied and in 1965, there were approximately 5 million longhorn cattle in Texas.
Fences were destroyed in more than half of Texas counties. Groups like Blue devils or Javelins struck at night and destroyed fences and warned owners against building them. The fence cutting had forced tax evaluations to fall by $30 million dollars. Governor John Ireland instituted fence cutting laws punishable by imprisonment to 5 years in prison. The cowboy strike arose later for same problem that caused fence cutting. As absentee ranch owners gained greater control of the ranching industry, the ranching industry became less migratory. They paid the cow boys an average of $40 a month as opposed to calves they were paid. In 1883, a group of demanded higher wages and issued strike notice of March 31 as the deadline.
Tom Harris seemed to be the main organizer. The strike lasted for two and half months but was unsuccessful as some striking workers were either fired or given a small increase. Afterwards though, cattle rustling increased and this was attributed to disgruntled workers. In 1885 to 1887, the reputation of barbed wire fencing suffered from the die-up and in winter, northern Texas pastures drifted to the south. Ranchers built drift fences to keep the cattle contained. The Panhandle Stock Association ran a cooperative drift fence that ran into Oklahoma. (Powell, Mary Jo. Pgs.189-192).
Comparing and contrasting issues that affect farmers and ranchers
The farmers and ranchers both experienced a boon in their sales before prices fell. Although the ranchers did strike and ended in cattle rustling, the farmers opted to form Alliances to voice their concerns. These alliances were later to become political parties. While in farming women were more involved especially the alliances, ranching involved men.
We have examined farming and ranching in Texas since 1865 to WW1. Farmers were afflicted with falling price and monopoly that resulted to formation of political Alliances. The same happened to ranchers whose livelihood was affected when foreigners took over most of the ranches and the staged a strike to protest against this. Most were fired though and this and issue like fence cutting and cattle rustling were on the rise.