Saskatchewan Gen Web Project - SASKATCHEWAN AND ITS PEOPLE by JOHN HAWKES Vol 1I 1924

Volume II




At a first glance such things as herds, fences, trails and such like may not look like subjects for historical matter, but they affected and largely governed the life of the early settler. Few things caused more bad feeling between neighbors than injury to crops by a neighbor's cattle. To legis- late for the tariff today is a childishly easy thing compared to the task the old N. W. T. legislators had in dealing with such matters as herd law and fencing. For one thing Alberta was mostly a stock country and here stock districts were formed, but they were not all cattlemen, and the in- terests of farmers and ranchers conflicted. In Assiniboia and Saskatche- wan there were two classes of farmers, wheat farmers and mixed farmers. The wheat farmer did not want to fence a big acreage in order to keep out cattle; while the mixed farmer preferred to fence his small arable acreage and let his cattle have free range. Herd districts were formed under which cattle were allowed to run from seeding to harvest. Then there would be difference of opinion as to the date of the restriction. Where a herd district was formed a man might live just out of it, and suffer all its inconveniences without getting any benefit. And there was also the vexed question of whether bulls might run at large. The Council and the Assembly were repeatedly amending the herd and fence ordinances sometimes with exasperating results as one never knew what the law really was. At the second Session of Laird's little Council in 1878, we get the first evidence of stock legislation in an Ordinance for "the marking of stock." The word "brand" is not used, only "mark". This provided for the governor proclaiming a district a stock district, for the sole purpose apparently of recording these "marks". The stipendiary's office was the "mark" office and his clerk was ex-officio the Recorder of Marks. The following were the fees. To Recorder for recording each mark, copy of same and mailing to stipendiary magistrate at Battleford, two dollars; fee for the clerk of the stipendiary at Battleford for filing and recording or returning such copy, two dollars; each certified copy, fifty cents; every search for mark, twenty-five cents. There was also an ordinance against any stallion running at large within ten miles of any settlement; also an ordinance (the first) for the protection of sheep and the killing of dogs which had worried sheep, and for the liability of the owner to fine and damages. It was expressly provided that the knowledge of the owner of the dog's propensity was not necessary to a conviction. There was an ordinance also imposing a fine of $100 or three months in gaol for any man who drove off stock found grazing with his own, or who drove ani- mals more than five miles away from their usual grazing places. Also a bull ordinance which made it unlawful for any bull to run at large between the first of February and the first of June.

As an instance of trouble arising from the continual amending of ordinances I may mention a case in which I was the somewhat inglorious hero. A neighbor of mine had a cross old bull which had a habit of coming pawing and snorting around my house to the discomposure of my young and interesting family. As last I ran the bull into my stable and de- manded five dollars, before I would release him. My neighbor insisted that the old bull had the right to run, an idea which I flouted. But I went back, hitched up and drove nine miles to have a look at the latest ordin- ance. My neighbor was right and I was liable to be arrested for the un- lawful retention, if not the actual theft of the bull. I was soon back. In about four hours from my first visit I was again at my neighbor's place, this time in a mood of lofty conciliation. "Look here" I said, "1 don't want any trouble; just say you'll keep old George away from my place and you can take him away and we won't say anything about the five dol- lars". "Alright" he said; and I never knew whether he found out that I was wrong and he was right. But there was no more trouble with oldGeorge.

The first fence ordinance was passed at the second session of Laird's Council held in 1878.

No.10 of 1878 defined a lawful fence as follows: "Any fence four feet and six inches high, and the lower rail not more than one foot from the ground, and no other rails more than eight inches apart, except the top rail of wire fences, and any river bank of boundary reasonably suf- ficient to protect growing crops from domestic animals, shall be a lawful fence". This was the law till 1881 when the first ordinance was repealed, and provision made not only for rail fences, but for those of board, com- mon wire, or barbed wire. The rail fence was tightened up. Three inches were added to the height of it which now had to be four feet nine in height, the rails were to be only six inches apart except the top one which might be eight. The board fence had to be "of upright posts or boards not more than six inches apart." A "common" wire fence had to have a sub- stantial top rail, and no less than four wires not more than a foot apart. The river bank or natural boundary clause still remained, but with the elimination of the word "reasonably", it had to be "sufficient" to keep domestic animals out of any enclosed land". As the years went on there was quite a battle about the top rail on the barbed wire fence. Once it was taken off; then an effort was made to restore it, and a division took place in the House. The top rail men were defeated. They came back to it again and carried their point. Bibliography follows:

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