NESTERS. A nester was a frontier settler on a small ranch, especially a squatter without legal rights, and sometimes a homesteader. As used in the West, the term was a contemptuous label applied by cattlemen to farmers who attempted to settle on the range. The contest between cattlemen and farmers lasted approximately from 1867 to 1886. The laws generally favored the ranchmen in the early years, but the potential farmers, often cowboys who had tired of Texas steers and decided to settle down, had conviction and courage. The fence-cutting war was the result of efforts of the nesters to secure their claims. In April 1879 the Texas legislature passed a law charging an annual rent for each section of public land enclosed against nesters' encroachments, and a law of 1884 made it an offense for any person to fence state lands without executing a lease. The blizzard of 1886, which brought disaster to the range, brought victory to the nesters, who after the spring of that year occupied the public domain on the plains on a thousand-mile front. Cowboys on the Burnet Ranch in Wichita County called the farm settlement that developed on Gilbert Creek, Nesterville, and the term was applied similarly to other farming communities that grew up on ranchlands.
Dictionary of American History (New York: Scribner, 1940). Clara M. Love, "History of the Cattle Industry in the Southwest," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 20 (July 1916).
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 4, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.