Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Murder In The Old West...!

There seems to always be some reason for folks killing off one another. That was pretty commonplace in the range wars of the early days.

Many western movies have been made based on the fact that the cattle ranchers and the homesteaders didn't get along. That is definitely an understatement if there ever was one!!

Homesteaders murdered by Wyoming ranchers

Having made the mistake of homesteading on land previously controlled by a Wyoming cattle king, homesteaders Ella Watson and James Averell are accused of rustling and hanged.

As the days of the open range cattle industry faded, conflicts between powerful western cattle barons and the homesteaders who were settling on "their" lands were inevitable. The homesteaders had every right to claim their 320 acres of windswept grasslands but some old-time ranchers tried to discourage the settlers in hopes of preserving more rangeland for their cattle. Usually, such discouragement was limited to cowboys cutting the settlers' barbed wire fences or diverting irrigation water, but the tactics occasionally became more violent.

A common complaint among ranchers was that many of the homesteaders were actually rustlers who stole their cows and horses. The ranchers' accusations were surely exaggerated, but the charge of rustling allowed them to take drastic actions. Such may have been the case with Ella Watson and James Averell. Watson, a former prostitute from Kansas, came to Wyoming Territory in 1886. That same year, she received a license to wed James Averell, a Wyoming saloonkeeper who had a homestead on the Sweetwater River. The couple either never married or kept the union secret so that Watson could file a second homestead near Averell's place. Both claims were located on lands claimed by the powerful rancher Albert Bothwell without legal foundation, and Bothwell used the lands for grazing his herds.

Bothwell–described as one of the most arrogant cattleman in the region–eventually accused both Watson and Averell of rustling. On this day in 1889, Bothwell and five of his men took the couple prisoner and hanged them. Although the men were later charged with murder, a pro-rancher jury acquitted them of any wrongdoing. It was the only incidence of a woman being executed–legally or illegally–in the history of Wyoming.

With all the killing that went on in the early days, it's a wonder that many places ever got settled. Life was hard and hit the early settlers on all sides. Expansion of the west was never easy, that's for sure!

Coffee out on the patio this morning? I have some yellow cake with chocolate icing as a side!


Chickenmom said...

All the western movies were usually about about cattlemen vs. the world!
Never knew a woman was hanged, though. Thanks for the history lesson, Mr. Hermit! Windy here with more rain on the way. Anything with chocolate on it is MINE!

linda m said...

Thanks for the history lesson - never knew a woman was hung in the Old West. Life certainly was very hard back then and most women died very young due to the hard life and/or childbirth. Coffee outside sounds good; rain expected here.

JO said...

I read about this story in a book about Soiled Doves. I'd give more info but the book is in Tucson. :(

There are many books out on the West such good reading.

I'll have some of the Cake with my coffee please.

Sixbears said...

If we could settle the land issues of the West, then we might as well fix the Middle East while we are at it.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Just another case of the rich and powerful stepping on the little guy. Still goes on today, only not quite as blatant.

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
The cattlemen seemed to control a lot of the politics of the old days, but I think that controlling a large portion of the meat market could have something to do with it.

I think you like chocolate almost as much as I do!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey Linda...
The old west was hard on everyone, especially on the women.

Plenty of rain all around, it seems!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Jo...
I figured you had a book that had something like this in it. You have read a lot of the stories that I come up with!

One of these days I'm going to surprise you!

Thanks, sweetie, for dropping by today!

Hey Sixbears...
Boy, isn't that the truth? No answer for these kinds of problems, that's for sure!

Thanks for the visit, my friend!

Hey Dizzy...
Guess that will always be a problem. Just seems to be part of human nature!

Thanks for coming over today, buddy!

BBC said...

Even before those days guns are what settled this country.