In the 1870s and 1880s, when the cattle boom was in full swing, many wealthy Englishmen saw the ranching business as an excellent opportunity for investment, and American ranchers welcomed the capital the English could provide. “[English] drawing rooms buzzed with the stories of this last of bonanzas,” wrote John Clay, a Scotsman who eventually became a highly successful ranch manager himself; “staid old gentlemen, who scarcely knew the difference between a steer and a heifer, discussed it over their port and nuts.”
Another type of Englishman frequently found in the Old West was the “remittance-man.” These were often younger sons of wealthy or aristocratic families who, since they would not inherit a title or fortune like the eldest son, went abroad or were sent abroad by their parents to make a fortune of their own. In the meantime they received a monthly allowance or “remittance” from their family on which to live. The American cattle business was seen as a good business opportunity for these young men, and some of them became successful ranchers on their own account. The term “remittance-man” could also be one of disgrace under some circumstances—sometimes these aristocratic younger sons were dissolute or had gotten into disgrace in England, and were packed off to America either as a last hope of reforming them or to keep them from damaging the family reputation any further.
Her Prairie Knight—into the early 20th century. Instead of grazing their cattle on the shared public domain land of the previous decades, they often depended on land leased from the government, like the ranches in the novel.
Meanwhile, in the 1890s, the XIT Ranch in Texas began selling off its land and cattle in order to pay back their British investors, and in 1912, the ranch ceased operations. “Castle Frewen” in Wyoming was demolished about the same time. The era of the cattle empire and the open range had come to an end.
POSTED BY: Elisabeth Grace Foley
Her Prairie Knight by B.M. Bower
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