Problems in mining towns
- Claim - jumpers because of no law until 1866
- Towns grew VERY quickly e.g 90,000 went to California in the gold rush
- Desperados stealing gold
- Vigilante groups encouraged people to take the law into their own hands e.g Bannack
- Often town marshals were not honest or good at their job
- Miners courts couldn't cope with the amount of violece
- It took a long time for law enforcement to reach mining towns, e.g Bannack, Virginia City as they are in remote areas
- Some criminals became lawmen so their gangs wouldn't be arrested. e.g Henry Plummer who was the Sherrif in Bannack and leader of the 'road agents'
Henry Plummer and Vigilantes
First a town marshal in Nevada City
Then became sheriff of Bannack
Organised a gand of road agents
Threatened to kill a men who was marshal of Virginia City, then gained his job
Eventually a vigilante group overpowed and hung him in 1864.
People took the law into their own hands.
One group of vigilantes in Virginia City hanged over 20 people in 6 weeks in 1863
In the short term, it was an effective way of managing lawbreakers but in the long term they had a damaging effect on the way people saw the law and encouraged them to take it into their own hands.
Problems in cow towns
- Cowboys paid as soon as they arrived
- Cowboys spent money in the saloons, leading to drunkeness and gun fighting
- Small towns, lots of cowboys
- Cowboys didn't like the law
- No lawmen until 1870
- Cowboys released people from jail e.g In Abilene, they pulled down the jail
- In 1872 cowboys were banned from Abilene
Billy the Kid
Born as Henry McCarty, shot Frank Cahill in 1877
Escaped for New Mexico, called himself William Bonney
Involved in Lincoln County War and castle rustling
Arrested by Pat Garret in 1880
Shot guards dead and escaped
Shot by Pat Garret in 1881
Johnson County War, 1892
Cattlemen didn't want homesteaders on plains and set up Wyoming Stock Growers Association. The state governer belonged to this and passed laws that suited the cattlemen
After the invention of barbed wire in 1874 the homesteaders wanted to fence off their crops but this cut off access to water for cattlemen.
Many cattlemen went bankrupt in the wnter of 1886-7 and more homesteaders arrived on the plains. Cattlemen were angry
In retaliation, cattlemen accused homesteaders of cattle-rustling. E.g Jim Averill and Ella Watson were hung
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association hired 50 gunmen and 22 Texan gunmen, promising $50 for every cattle rustler they killed
The hmesteaders defended themselves by forming a vigilante and electing a sympathetic sherriff called "Red" Angus
The hired gunmen invaded Johnson COunty but Angus and his men caught them at the TA ranch and held them there till the US 6th Cavalry arrived.
Success or Failure? Who won?
Failure in short term:
- No one was punished
- Biased laws
- Cattlemen went on trial where there friends were the jury
Success in long term:
- Wyoming Stock Growers Association and cattlemen never had as much power again
- Plains were much calmer
- Laws passed suited both
In the long term the homesteaders were the winners because they could carry on farming and the cattlemen were forced to fence off their ranches which brought an end to the open range.