On this day in 1884, the state legislature made fence cutting a felony punishable by one to five years in prison. In 1883, fence cutting had become a major source of friction between landless cattlemen who wanted to retain practices of the open range and those who fenced their land with barbed wire. The fence war was precipitated by the drought of 1883, which made it all the harder for the cowman without land of his own to find the grass and water necessary for his herds. Wrecking of fences was reported from more than half the Texas counties and was most common in a belt extending north and south through the center of the state. In the fall of 1883, when damage from wrecking of fences in Texas was estimated at $20 million, Governor John Ireland called a special session of the legislature to meet on January 8, 1884, to address the issue. The ensuing legislation ended most of the fence troubles, although sporadic outbreaks of nipping continued for a decade, especially during droughts.
On this day in 1919, ballerina Nana Gollner was born in El Paso. She began ballet training at age four as treatment for infantile paralysis. She continued dance lessons after moving to Los Angeles, making her first professional appearance there at age fourteen. In her teens Gollner also performed with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. During the 1940s she appeared alternately with the American Ballet Theatre, the Ballet Russe, and the London-based International Ballet. With the latter she became the first twentieth-century North American to gain prima ballerina roles in a European company. While best known for performances in classical ballets such as Giselle and Swan Lake, she also performed memorable parts in works by modern choreographers Anton Dolin, George Balanchine, and Antony Tudor. Gollner married Danish dancer Paul Eilif Petersen in 1942. Frequent dance partners, they used the professional names of Nana Gollner and Paul Petroff. In 1948 Gollner and Petroff formed their own company and toured Europe and South America. In 1950 Gollner returned to New York to perform with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, later known as American Ballet Theatre. The Gollner-Petroff company resumed touring in 1951, and in 1952 Gollner and her family moved to Belgium. She died in Antwerp in 1980.
On this day in 1864, seventeen-year-old David Owen Dodd was hanged. The Texas native was captured as he tried to cross Federal lines near Little Rock, with notes in Morse code hidden in his shoe. After a military court found him guilty, he confessed that he had been sent to gather information about Union troops. Dodd may have been the youngest person hanged as a spy in the Civil War.
On this day in 1865, about 160 Confederates and 325 state militiamen lost a battle against the Kickapoo Indians about twenty miles southwest of present San Angelo. A month earlier a scouting party had discovered an abandoned Indian camp and, assuming the group was hostile, dispatched forces to pursue them. A militia force under Capt. S. S. Totten and state Confederate troops under Capt. Henry Fossett set out, but the two forces lacked a unified command and full communication. When the troops and militiamen finally rendezvoused near the timbered encampment of the Kickapoos along Dove Creek, the forces concocted a hasty battle plan. The militia waded the creek to launch a frontal attack from the north, while Confederate troops circled southwestward to capture the Indians’ horses and prevent a retreat. A well-armed Indian fighting force, possibly several hundred strong, easily defended their higher, heavily-wooded position as the militiamen slogged through the creek. The Confederate force was splintered into three groups caught in a heavy crossfire. Three days later the battered Texans retreated eastward, while the embittered Kickapoos, once peaceful, escaped to the Mexican border. Thus began a violent period of border raids on settlers along the Rio Grande.