Friday, February 27, 2009
STONE FENCES AND CORRALS
In the 1860's, livestock owners allowed their cattle or sheep to run unfettered anywhere they chose to graze. But, in the 1870s, California passed laws to protect farmer's crops from livestock. Ranchers were held liable for damage from their herds whether the farm had a fence or not. Tuolumne, Amador and Calaveras Counties have an abundance of rock fences and corrals. The native rocky terrain is the result of prehistoric volcanic flows, a material that was plentiful and cheap. These stone fences and corrals are clearly visible on private and public lands from the highways. The barriers kept animals from trespassing and also helped keep fires from spreading. They were built by Chinese laborers, stonemasons, ranchers, prospectors and homesteaders and are still serving as fences today, a testament to the stone workers craftsmanship of long ago since they were built without mortar. Its called "laid dry". Some of the oldest examples are found at the Russell and Twist ranches and the Crimea House near Jamestown on Highway 108 that date back to the 1850s.