Here in 1904 a fight involved almost every man in Ector County, over filing a claim for 4 sections of public land. Elias Dawson and Charlie Lewis each brought friends to help him file. Before courthouse doors opened, several men had clothes or boots torn off, in foes' efforts to find filing papers. When the doors opened, a man was boosted over the heads of the crowd, and Lewis won the 4 sections of land.
Texas as a republic owned over 200,000,000 acres of public land. She used land to attract settlers, pay her soldiers, set up school funds. At annexation, she retained her public lands—the only state to do so. In a boundary dispute she ceded 63,552,144 acres; used land to pay for railroads, harbors and canals; compensated civil war soldiers or widows with land; traded 3,000,000 acres for a state capitol.
By 1883 her lands were over-committed. Free grazing had to be stopped. Terminations of leases and the corrections of surveys later made available some land for filing. This led to the 1904 rush.
In one courthouse a man hid overnight to be first in line. Cattle chutes to a clerk's window would be lined for months with men hoping to file. Cowboys and farmers battled. Filing was a challenge.