Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Wartime Wednesday: Johnson County War

Wartime Wednesday: Johnson County War 

Photo: Pixabay/Steppinstars
When I think of the Old West, I imagine land as far as the eye can see. On one level that was true, but in another, much of that land was used although not owned, by ranchers. As the American West developed and large portions of the territories were being settled as a result of the Homestead Acts conflicts arose between the immigrants and cattle barons. Interestingly, the land the cattlemen were using to graze their stock was public domain, and as such, it was open for anyone’s use or settlement. Apparently, they felt possession was nine-tenths of the law. 
By 1884, the entire area was monopolized by about twenty ranches whose cattle roamed freely. Roundups were held in the spring, at which time cows and calves were separated by owner and the calves branded. However, rustlers were known to steal the calves and brand them before they could be rounded up. Some of these rustlers were small ranchers who made off with the calves as a way to growth their herd. The rest of the rustlers were common thieves out to make a buck, however, the cattlemen began to blame the homesteaders for any missing animals. 
The summer of 1886 saw no rain and was followed by a winter of severe blizzards. Thousands of cattle died, and many were lost to wolves and rustlers. Additionally, prices plunged, causing a huge loss of profit for the cattlemen, some of whom lost their businesses. In an effort to curb the thefts, the barons increased the number of range detectives and drew up new rules that made it difficult for someone to register a new brand. In 1889, the situation came to a head when two homesteaders, Ella Watson, AKA Cattle Kate, and Jim Averell were accused of cattle rustling and hanged. (The charges later proved false.) 
Photo: Pixabay/stokpic

Small ranchers were furious, but intimidation continued. Three years later, they formed their ownassociation called the Northern Wyoming Farmers and Stock Growers Association and hired about fifty men, some of whom were known to be killers, to eliminate the alleged rustlers. 
In response the cattlemen pulled together their own group of armed men, including Frank Canton, a fugitive who had a career as a deputy US marshal under an assumed name and was said to operate more by assassination than law. The invaders (as they came to be known) stopped at the first homestead, but found only four men at the ranch cabin, the owner Nate Champion and his cowboy Rueben “Nick” Ray who were shot and killed, and two trappers passing through who were captured. The next stop was the TA Ranch where the posse laid siege. The standoff continued through the night. The next day, Jack Flagg, a neighbor and suspected rustler, escaped and headed to Buffalo where he contacted the Wyoming governor. 
Photo: Pixabay/ArtTower
Within a short time, the Sixth Cavalry was dispensed from Fort McKinney. Upon their arrival, the cattlemen surrendered. Shortly after obtaining bail most of the gunfighters skipped town. Time passed, and material witnesses disappeared, dead or running from fear is unknown. By all reports finding impartial jurors proved difficult, and the court dismissed the case. 
Here is an interesting documentary about the incident:


About Dinah's Dilemma

Will she have to run from the past for the rest of her life? 
Dinah Simpkins has no chance of making a good marriage. Her outlaw brothers and her father’s gambling addiction have ruined the family’s reputation. Then the Westward Home and Hearts Matrimonial Agency provides an opportunity for a fresh start. After Dinah arrives in Nebraska, she discovers her brothers played a part in the death of her prospective groom’s first wife. 
As a former Pinkerton detective Nathan Childs knows when someone is lying. The bride sent by the matrimonial agency may be beautiful, but she’s definitely hiding something, and he has no intention of marrying her until he uncovers the truth. But an easier solution may be to send her packing. Then his young daughter goes missing. He and Dinah must put aside their mutual hurt and mistrust to find her.

Purchase link:

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