On the Horns of a Dilemma: A Life Course and Network Analysis of Strategic Responses to the Enclosure of the Plains as Explored in 19th c Custer County, Nebraska

LuAnn Wandsnider, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

In Custer County (Nebraska, Central Great Plains) from 1870 to 1885, the public domain became enclosed and, yet, the tsunami of incoming farmers was just beginning to crest. Stockmen and cattlemen were faced with a decision regarding their livelihood. They could: maintain access to forage by somehow expanding land holdings via stealth (employees filing homestead claims) or wealth (purchasing tracts of land) or other means; leave the county for, literally, greener pastures; or, become farmers themselves. Which strategy was selected by whom? How did respondents fare? Using census, land record, and homestead patent documents, this analysis considers strategic responses with respect to geography, stockman life course position and aspects of the social network.

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 Presented in Session 164. Linking: Following people and household through time