AGRICULTURAL
AND URBAN GROWTH
CHAPTER 22

The economy of many agricultural states depends heavily on some single crop, such as corn, tobacco, or cotton or on meat or dairy products. California, the nation’s leader in agricultural output, produces more than 200 different farm commodities. The garden and field planting that went on at the missions was later complemented by cattle ranching, which became characteristic of California’s agricultural activities.

The great variety of crops that the state produced quickly made it the nation’s leading agricultural center. Indeed, agriculture shaped its future long before urbanization occurred. By the early l860s, more than 3 million cattle roamed California’s hills and valleys. Then, several hundred thousand sheep grazed on the state’s ranges. Eventually, trouble was bound to flare up between cattlemen and sheep herders when the latter erected sheds and barbed-wire fences. Also, lambs gave off a peculiar odor and overcropped the pasture ranges.

These conflicts occasionally became violent; and the sheepherders seldom emerged victorious. The cattlemen were more powerful and better organized. Among these were two particularly aggressive German immigrants, Henry Miller and his partner Charles Lux, who established a ranching empire that covered more than 800,000 acres. Their lands stretched from the Mexican border northward into Oregon and eastward to Nevada. Miller and Lux, by rigidly controlling water rights, became the largest ranchers on the Pacific Coast. In addition to raising more than a million head of cattle, they also herded sheep and grew crops on many thousands of acres. These cattle and land barons drove small ranchers and farmers out of business, particularly in drought years. A few land monopolists were backed by eastern, English, and Scottish capital.

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