Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cattle Growers Meet in Shoshone, Discuss Disease and Over-Grazing [otd 04/10]

The April 10, 1886 issue of the Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho reported on the Annual Meeting of the Idaho Territorial Stock Growers' Association. The meeting took place in Shoshone. The Association had been organized about three months previously at that same location.
Idaho Hotel, Silver City. Owyhee Directory.

The first documented Idaho stockmen's association began in 1878, when cattlemen held a convention in Silver City to discuss their business. (The Owyhee Cattlemen's Association – still in operation today – dates its founding from this period.) Five years later, the Avalanche reported (July 7, 1883) another Silver City meeting and said that area stockmen were "now busily engaged in drawing up bylaws, rules, etc."

Other areas also saw the need for such concerted efforts. In 1885, the Avalanche reprinted (March 28, 1885) an item from the Shoshone Journal, which said, in part, "The first annual meeting of the Idaho Cattle Growers' Association will be held at Shoshone, on Wednesday, April 1, 1885, and members of all associations of stock growers in Idaho are cordially invited to be present."

The announcement identified George L. Shoup, Lemhi cattleman and later U.S. Senator from Idaho [blog, Apr 1], as the Association's President. However, participants at the 1885 Annual Meeting apparently concluded that growers needed a more broadly-based organization.

Early the following year, the Avalanche reported (January 23, 1886) that stockmen had formed a new organization: "The association was organized under the name of 'Idaho Territorial Stock Growers' Association,' about sixty five of the heaviest stock raisers having been admitted to membership."

The new Association largely adopted the by-laws of the previous organization, which were "copied (with a few exceptions) word for word." Members selected Thomas Sparks, American Falls cattleman, as president. George Shoup was a member of the Executive Committee. The article concluded, "The purposes for which the territorial association was formed are good, and will strike the mind of all stock men as just the thing long desired."

Having completed their organizational business, the Association then held the Annual Meeting that the newspaper reported on April 10th. The Avalanche noted that, "it was well attended by stock men from Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah, and also from the various stock owners in the counties of this territory."

Among other business, the Association passed several resolutions. One urged Congress to redress "the want of quarantine laws against importing diseased cattle into this territory."
Western cattle roundup, 1887-1892. Library of Congress.

Another deplored overgrazing and stated: "Resolved, That the members of this association will not work at the round-ups with men who recklessly place cattle or other stock upon ranges already fully occupied, and when the rights of range tenure have been previously fully recognized."

Unfortunately, competition for land – including that from "tramp" stockmen, who used the range and moved on without paying taxes – thwarted their good intentions. Two years later, the Avalanche observed (May 26, 1888) that the poor state of grazing in Owyhee County was because “the ranges have all been, and are now overstocked.” In fact, they went on, the too-large herds “have worn it [the range] out, in fact, killed it.

Mother Nature, in the form of deadly winter weather, soon taught a lesson from which some never recovered.
                                                                                 
References: Mike Hanley, with Ellis Lucia, Owyhee Trails, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1973).
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).

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