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Fence-cutting war reaches Mabel Day's ranch


On this day in 1883, free-grass cattle raisers began cutting the fences of Mabel Doss Day's ranch, the first fully fenced large ranch in Texas. She inherited the 85,000-acre, debt-ridden spread in Coleman County when her husband of 2 1/2 years, William H. Day, died from injuries received when his horse fell during a stampede. With the absence of any laws governing building or cutting fences, free-grass cattle raisers, long accustomed to an open range, responded to the summer drought by cutting the fences of the ranchers who had bought and fenced their land. Mabel Day responded to this threat to her ranch by lobbying in Austin for a law making fence cutting a felony; the law was passed in 1884. The fence-cutting war subsided, leaving her with miles of fence to repair. Even after her second marriage, she continued to own and operate the ranch and reduce her debt until, at her death in 1906, she was able to leave a debt-free portion of the ranch to her daughter.

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