Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cedar County Cow War

Completely unaware of the period known as the Cow War, I decided to use the internet for more information. Isn't that what it's for?

What started as a protest against state intrusion onto their farms, the so-called Cedar County Cow War resulted in mostly civil unrest and minor violence. No one was killed in the few months of 1931 during which hundreds of Cedar County farmers prevented state veterinarians from inspecting their cattle for bovine TB. The only casualty was a guardsman who accidentally shot himself in the foot or maybe shot himself in the stomach while cleaning his rifle. Once the National Guard was called out, the movement fizzled.

Read more at:
The Cedar County Cow War of 1931

Iowa Cow War

The papers of Grant White at the University of Iowa - a collection of news releases from the late 20's and early 30's chronicling Cedar County incidents. But you're going to have to go to Iowa City to read them.

Why didn't these farmers rise up in violence against the state?

One reason would be the 1400+ National Guard troops, as staring down the barrel of a gun with a fixed bayonet tends to change one's outlook. But another possibility could be the Quaker history of the county and their roots in non-violence. Breaking windows, and pelting the veterinarians with eggs seems to have been it. Taking up arms against fellow Iowans would have required a much larger leap.
"...we are first of all peace loving American citizens, and we do not want, unless forced by further arbitrary confiscation of our property, to enter into controversy with the officers and young men of the state militia, who, we feel, do not understand our grievences."
From Milo Reno, Farmers Union pioneer By Roland A. White which contains a detailed, but slanted, history of the Cow War in Iowa.

It's worth the read. From the link:
Oh yes they put it over
And they have us on the run
They're the doctors, judge and jury
And appraisers all in one.

What can you do about it
When your choicest cow they kill?
Just pretend to like it
While your taxes pay the bill.

From Knights of the Squirt Guns - J. S. Stamp
Other counties in Iowa held their own protests during this period, but it seems the biggest rabble rousers were from Cedar County and from Sioux City.

1 comment:

TheFarmerTakesAHoliday said...

If you are interested in this time period, I would suggest reading The Farmer Takes A Holiday one of the few definitive studies of this forgotten but important time in our history.