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 XXII
WITH THE WOOLLIES

SOON AFTER the miners occupied the mountain states, sheepraising made its appearance along with cattle-ranching. The sheep of the West and Southwest, like the cow-pony and the Texas longhorn, had its origin in Spain. The silky-fleeced merinos of Castile, transferred to Mexico, were raised on the missions under the care of the Indian converts. They multiplied rapidly and their culture accompanied the missionary advance into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. For the most part these flocks became the source of the millions of animals that were herded on the area west of the one-hundredth meridian in the earlier years of the sheep industry.1

Since Colorado was on the main artery of travel and was also closer to the source of breeding stock in the Southwest, the sheep industry developed there before it did in Wyoming and Montana, the other two major sheep-raising areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. In 1880, with 1,091,443 Colorado had more than Wyoming and Montana together. The former had 450,225 and the latter 279,277. In that year alone, however, more than half as many sheep as were already in the Territory, 136,500, were driven into it. Of this number 72,000 came from California, 25,000 from Oregon, 20,000 from Idaho, and 10,000 from Nevada. The sheep industry gained some foothold in western Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, but in those areas it never equalled that of the Rocky Mountain states.2 The hard winter of 1886 to 1887 all but dealt the death-blow to the cattle industry and enabled the sheep

____________________
1
William Arthur Rushworth, The Sheep ( Buffalo, 1899), p. 21.
2
Tenth Census of the United States, Vol. III, p. 1104.

-497-

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