Abstract – Matthew Ryan Todd

Matthew Ryan Todd, “Now May Be Heard a Discouraging Word:  The Impact of Climate Fluctuation on Texas ranching in the 1880s,” M.A. thesis, Department of History, University of Saskatchewan, 2010.  Supervisor:  Geoff Cunfer.


This thesis deals with the negative interrelationship between climate fluctuation and cattle ranching during the 1880s. The focus is on three large ranches that were used as case studies in the Texas Panhandle. These ranches were selected because of their size, longevity, and the number of primary documents that were available at the Panhandle Plains Museum and Archive in Canyon, Texas. The temporal focus is from 1880 to 1890. The primary documents that have been examined are letters from ranchers to the Capitol Syndicates that owned the ranch and the financial documents of each ranch. Scientific journals that examined grassland ecology, animal ecology, and climate were used in conjunction with the primary documents. The combination of these sources led to a nuanced reinterpretation of a cattle disaster from the 1880s. The disaster was a massive loss of stock through a series of extremely cold winters and a drought that lasted several years. In the wake of this disaster, through the use of technology, these ranches were able to recover and increase their stock numbers beyond what they were prior to the years dominated by stock losses and low cattle prices.