Historian ties barbed wire to ‘Grit’

By Erin Kolb

Barbed wire history was part of Big Read activities on Tuesday night.

Historian Gerald Brauer presented The Story of Barbed Wire: An American Invention, at the Ellwood House Visitor’s Center, 509 N. First St. He talked about the history of barbed wire, which was invented in DeKalb.

Brauer said barbed wire has had a great impact on the agriculture industry, as it helps keep cattle confined to an area.

“Because DeKalb is close to the train tracks, it allowed for easy shipment of the raw materials to make barbed wire,” Brauer said.

The presentation was held in honor of DeKalb’s seventh annual Big Read and included free copies of “True Grit” by Charles Portis.

Brauer said “True Grit” relates to barbed wire because one of its characters worked for a company which used barbed wire to preserve his range.

Edith Craig, communications manager for the DeKalb Public Library, said the library used the endowment’s grant to purchase 3,000 copies of the book, which have been and will continue to be given to the community for free. The Big Read is held throughout October and features different events.

At the event, Brauer gave a detailed history of barbed wire and its roots in DeKalb, which he said was a perfect location for a barbed wire mill because of its location.

Brauer also said barbed wire is “wonderfully historic” and had a “great impact on the West.”

DeKalb resident Marcia Wilson was at the event to learn about the history of barbed wire.

“I think it’s important to know about where you live,” Wilson said. “People move from other areas, and it would make them feel welcome if they learned a little more about the background of where they live.”