Vanguards of the Frontier: A Social History of the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains from the Earliest White Contacts to the Coming of the Homemaker

By Everett Dick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
THE LONG DRIVE

CATTLE-GRAZING is a logical frontier enterprise. The first English colonists who settled on the Atlantic seaboard brought cattle with them. It was natural that they should live on the extreme edge of settlement in order that they might graze their herds on the abundant pasture in the unoccupied wilderness beyond. Long before the Revolutionary War a narrow ranching area had developed along the cutting edge of the frontier. One of the battles of the struggle for independence was named from one of the cowpens on the margin of the wilderness where the cattle-raisers took care of their stock. This cattle-raising fringe moved slowly westward, an omen of advancing civilization. The ranching belt was restricted in size by two factors: it could not advance too far into the wilderness because of the savage Indians; neither could it move too far from the centers of population which furnished the cattleman with a market for his product. Nevertheless it was always present, but although the area varied in size from time to time, these early cattle-raisers operated on a small scale as compared with the cattlemen of the post-Civil War range-cattle era.1

One of the most phenomenal changes in the industrial life of the United States occurred when, following the Civil War, this hitherto narrow fringe along the border leaped out into space and spread with the magic of the Arabian Nights, until within ten years the cattle-raising area became larger than the cultivated portion of the United States.2

____________________
1
E. E. Dale, "The Ranchman's Last Frontier", see Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. X, No. 1 ( June, 1923), p. 35.
2
Everett N. Dick, "The Long Drive", see Kansas State Historical Society Collections, Vol. XVII, p. 34.

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