Johnson County War  1892

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  • Johnson County War  1892
    • Tensions in Wyoming
      • 1870: only 9,000 and Gov. land
        • as pop. increased, wealthy, respectable cattlemen were appointed to all key positions in government
          • winter of 1886-87 caused power and influence of the big ranchers
            • smaller ranches did better: big ranches suspected them of rustling
              • used their connection with the WSGA to ban the ranches they suspected of rustling from the spring round-up.
      • ordinary people were tired of cattlemen taking everything for themselves
        • when on a jury, they would almost never convict someone accused of cattle rustling
      • cattlemen began to discuss taking the law into their own hands
    • The killing of Ella Watson and Jim Averill
      • farmed a 640 acre homestead in the middle of an open-range pasture used by cattleman Albert Bothwell.
      • Ella and Jim owned the land legally, but Bothwell wanted them gone
      • 1889: Ella obtained a small herd of cattle: she was accused of rustling them from Bothwell
        • both were hung by Bothwell
          • soon, he had their land and Ella's cattle
      • more killings and murder attempts followed
        • homesteaders and small ranchers made their own association and round up all the unbranded spring calves
    • The invasion of Johnson County
      • WSGA planned a full scale invasion of J.C.: to kill 70 men who 'deserved it' in full knowledge of Wyoming's governor.
        • raised $100,000 and hired 22 Texan cattle men
      • FAILED
        • learned that Nate Champion and Nick ray were at KC Ranch, so they attcked there instead
          • Nate held them off for a day, but his cabin was burned and he was shot
          • word reached the sheriff: raised 40 men and angry citizens to go after the invaders
          • fortified themselves at the TA Ranch, surrounded by angry residents, until the US 6th cavalry saved them.
    • The trial
      • powerful friends: the judge, marshals, senators etc.
        • troops sent to the TA Ranch to prevent further deaths, then they were taken away from J.C.
          • taken to Fort Fetterman to prevent lynchings
          • best lawyers hired to defend them
            • lawyers convinced judge to move trial to Cheyenne where they could have a fair trial. jury members would favor them more
              • extended trial as long as possible so that the prosecution could no longer afford the trial costs, and the charges had to be dropped.
    • Significance
      • vigilante justice had been central to Frontier solutions to problems of law and order for a long time
      • reducing tensions
        • fewer tensions when both farms and ranchers fenced off their land
          • this happened after the winter of 1886-87


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