Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association

"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.

During the years following the Civil War, the beneficial possibilities of collective action were sought by groups such as industrial workers, through labor unions, and farmers, through the Grange and the Farmers Alliance of the South. Stockmen quickly recognized the need to organize themselves against cattle thieves and to coordinate roundups and other ranching practices.

The Cattle Theft Association, founded in 1865, was the first of several New Mexico associations formed to battle rustlers. The Colorado Cattle Growers Association was organized in 1884 and counted among its members a young rancher from New York named Theodore Roosevelt. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association exercised enormous political power, and when the Wyoming Territorial Capitol opened in 1888, there was an office suite for the WSGA.

The Old Post Office Museum, with cowboy
statuary in the right corner
There were more ranches on the vast ranges of Texas than in any state or territory, and livestock theft was rampant. On February 15, 1877, 40 ranchers met in Graham, seat of Young County. Legend suggests that the meeting was held beneath a large oak tree, but it is more likely that the ranchers gathered inside the year-old courthouse on a chill February Thursday. C.C. Slaughter had helped to organize the meeting, and Burk Burnett was among the prominent ranchers who attended. The ranchers formed the Stock-Raisers' Association of Northwest Texas, intending to counter rustlers with field inspectors and to organize roundup districts for spring work. Scornful of the relatively mild term "rustlers," association members preferred "damn cattle thieves." As the organization grew in effectiveness and membership, the name was changed to the Cattle Raisers Association of Texas, then to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Today the SWCRA, with 15,000 members, is the world's largest organization of its kind.

On a recent visit to Graham I took another look at the mural and the site of the oak tree, and I toured the Old Post Office Museum on the large town square. In Fort Worth the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Foundation maintains its headquarters at 1301 West 7th Street. Outside stands a superb statuary of cowboy and cattle, and inside is the Waggoner Library, an excellent research facility. The headquarters building long featured the Cattle Raisers Museum, but it has been upgraded, modernized, and moved to the city's museum district, just opposite the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

A visit to Fort Worth and/or to Graham will produce an historical connection to this significant organization which represents an iconic Texas enterprise. And if you can't make it to Fort Worth or Graham, just look for signs on the fences of thousands of ranches in Texas and surrounding states:
                                             TEXAS & SOUTHWESTERN
                                                      CATTLE RAISERS
                                                            ASS'N, INC.
This old brand book is among
many treasures at the
Cattle Raisers Museum.

The Association began
publishing The Cattleman
in 1914. I was privileged
to contribute an article
on the historic LS Ranch
in this issue (Oct. 1987).
 This superb statuary stands in front of  the
Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Foundation
headquarters in Fort Worth.

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