Skip to main content

Fencing and Fencing Laws

FENCING AND FENCING LAWS

FENCING AND FENCING LAWS. The fencing of land was a problem in colonial America, where unoccupied land was plentiful and cultivated acreage was rare. Virginia Colony in 1632 required crops to be fenced and in 1646 defined a legal or "sufficient" fence. Maryland adopted a similar approach, but the laws of North Carolina were more rigid.

Fencing law evolved as white settlers moved west. Settlers claimed unsold public land as free range for their livestock, and as settlement increased, the demand for fenced pasture grew more acute. Planters in Virginia secured some relief in 1835, as did farmers in New Jersey in 1842. Despite the depletion of timber, laws requiring the fencing of crops were the rule by the mid-nineteenth century. In 1872 Illinois extended this general principle to livestock, passing a law requiring farmers to corral their animals.

Fencing styles varied with region and time. In the Northeast, stone fences were common. Elsewhere, the zigzag, or Virginia rail, fence was used wherever timber was available. As timber grew scarce, post and pole, picket, board, and wire fences became more widespread.

By the late nineteenth century, cattlemen controlled large swaths of the West and were driving cattle to the railroads. The advent of barbed wire allowed homesteaders to protect their crops from these enormous herds, but this evoked bitter complaints from cattlemen and sparked violent confrontations with the settlers. Open ranching gradually gave way to stock farming, with its controlled grazing and improved breeding techniques. As cattle ranching spread northward, cattlemen fenced government land for their private use, a practice curbed by federal legislation in 1885.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fletcher, Robert H. Free Grass to Fences: The Montana Cattle Range Story. New York: University Publishers, 1960.

Russell H.Anderson/a. r.

See alsoLand Policy ; Public Land ; Fencing of ; West, American .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fencing and Fencing Laws." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Jun. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fencing and Fencing Laws." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fencing-and-fencing-laws

"Fencing and Fencing Laws." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved June 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/fencing-and-fencing-laws

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.