In the late 1800s, the history of Cheap Wyoming land for sale was interwoven with the attempt of British aristocrats to create cattle grazing empires. The British were enamored of the new American cattle industry and the potential of utilizing public rangeland. The appeal lay in the fact that private land wouldn’t have to be purchased. These operations were financed by establishing public companies in England and Scotland, with prominent aristocrats serving on the boards of directors.
In 1878, Moreton Frewen was among the first British aristocrats to arrive in Wyoming. His wife was Winston Churchill’s aunt. Flush with money inherited from his father, he settled in northeastern Wyoming and founded the Powder River Cattle Company. For a few years his company grew rapidly, and he grazed 30,000 head of cattle on the public range.
Horace Plunkett, whose father was Baron Dunsany, founded the Frontier Land and Cattle Company. Plunkett’s grazing operations were also quite profitable in the early years. Again, however, instead of buying private land, he relied on free, open rangeland.
British investors started dozens of other cattle companies, but the largest was the Swan Land & Cattle Company, organized by Scottish bankers in 1883. Initial capitalization included almost 100,000 head of cattle and approximately 500,000 acres.
The profitability of these ranches in the early years was astonishing. A three-year-old steer cost $10 to raise and would bring $30 at market. Overall, the annual ROI ran between 20% and 40%. Such financial results made a strong impression on stockholders back in the British Isles.
Within a few short years, however, hard times arrived.
- First, the open range became overcrowded and uneconomical.
- Second, the extreme winter of 1886-87 depleted the herds.
- Third, the marker price for beef cattle declined.
The moral of this story is that business cycles—and cattle—come and go, but land lasts forever and always increases in value through the years. So the British aristocrats should have put their money in private Cheap Wyoming land for sale, instead of relying on free rangeland.
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