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Seven - Documents Relating To The Johnson County War by Various

Seven - Documents Relating To The Johnson County War

by Various

Publication: 1889 - 1897, NP

7 Documents dealing with complaints, indictments, jury selection, etc. on various individuals involved in the Johnson County War. "The Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder Creek, was a range war between large cattle ranchers and small ranchers in northern Wyoming in April 1892. Johnson County is located at the confluence of the three forks of the Powder Creek. The county was ideal for raising cattle, and by 1880, the cattle rush in Wyoming had begun. But an overstocked range, low beef prices, and the disastrous winter of 1886-1887 forced many cowboys to become homesteaders and to maintain small herds. The increasing number of small ranchers alarmed the big cattlemen of the region and they used their influence to gain passage of the Maverick Law of 1884. The law made it illegal to brand a maverick (cattle, regardless of age, found roaming the open range without a mother and without a brand) except under orders of the foreman of each roundup district. Another provision of the law required high bonds for bidding on mavericks. This made it difficult for small ranchers to start or enlarge their own herds. To the disappointment of big cattlemen, the Maverick Law did not stop the illegal branding of mavericks. Prior to the 1892, cattlemen punished individuals they suspected of being rustlers and cattle thieves. But in 1891, several large ranchers, many of whom were influential members of the Wyoming Stock Growers (WSGA) Association, decided to rid themselves once and for all of these individuals they believed threatened the prosperity of the cattle industry. The plan was to use armed force and kill or drive the rustlers from the state. All of the participants in the group were to take the train from Cheyenne to Casper, Wyoming. From there, the invaders would march to Buffalo, take control of the courthouse and the weapons stored there, and then mete out "severe treatment" to those they deemed deserving of it. They had a 'death' list of these individuals, which varied in number from nineteen to seventy according to different accounts. The cattlemen, supported by powerful political leaders, were convinced that they would face no opposition to their cause and that the good citizens of Johnson County would rise up and join them in ridding society of these troublemakers. They sent representatives to recruit gunfighters from Paris, Lamar County, Texas and Idaho. Their efforts resulted in twenty-two Texans and George Dunning from Idaho joining the invasion party as it was later called. The hired guns were told that they would be serving warrants to known rustlers and other dangerous outlaws. The invasion began on April 5, 1892. A large party of cattlemen, including the owners, superintendents, and foremen of six large Johnson County cattle outfits, five stock detectives including Frank M. Canton, 23 gunfighters and their commander Major Frank Wolcott, and surgeon Dr. Charles Penrose set out from Cheyenne on the afternoon train. Sam T. Clover of the Chicago Herald and Ed Towse of the Cheyenne Sun also joined the group. The cattlemen and their hired guns arrived in Casper the next morning, loaded their wagons, and began the march to Buffalo. They stopped at the Tisdale ranch where two more men were added to the party. It was at this ranch that the invaders received news that fourteen rustlers were at the K.C. ranch approximately eighteen miles north of the Tisdale ranch. The cattlemen decided to deviate from their plan and rode to the K.C. ranch. The delay would prove costly. When the invaders arrived at the K.C., they discovered that only four men occupied the small cabin on the ranch: Nate Champion, Rueben "Nick" Ray, and two innocent trappers. One trapper left the cabin headed for the barn for some water. The invaders promptly captured him. After some time, the second trapper exited the cabin looking for his partner and was also captured. Champion and Ray surmised that something was amiss. Champion warned Ray before he set out in search of the missing trappers. Before Ray could walk into the yard, the invaders opened fire. Champion was able to pull his body back into the cabin but Ray died from the injuries he sustained an hour later. The cattlemen laid siege to the cabin, and eventually forced Champion out by setting fire to it. During the siege, Jack Flagg, a suspected rustler, and his stepson Alonzo Taylor unwittingly crossed the firing zone. They were able to escape after the gunfighters gave them chase. Their escape was significant because Flagg and Taylor were able to warn the people of Buffalo of the group of armed men hunting rustlers and small ranchers. After the encounter at the K.C. ranch, the invaders pointed their horses toward Buffalo. The party was less than ten miles from the town when their friend and fellow cattleman James Craig urged them not to go to Buffalo. Because of Jack Flagg's tales of his run-in with the invaders, the townspeople knew of the cattlemen's impending arrival and believed that the armed group was after innocent ranchers, not dishonest rustlers. Despite the invaders' belief that their actions were just and would meet with general approbation, the people did not rally behind their cause. The invaders decided to retreat to the T.A. ranch, thirteen miles from Buffalo. Within a day, Sheriff Angus of Buffalo and several small ranchers surrounded the ranch. More men joined their ranks as they laid siege to the ranch. The standoff lasted for two days. Early on the morning of April 13th the standoff came an end when Troops H, C, and D of the 6th Cavalry under Major Fechet, with Colonel Van Horn in command accepted the surrender of the cattlemen. After the machinations of powerful friends of the invaders including both Wyoming senators and the acting governor, President Benjamin Harrison ordered the troops to intervene. Charges were brought against many of those who participated in the invasion. However, in the end, none of the invaders of Johnson County War were convicted." DOCUMENT 1) 14 ½" x 8 ½" Indictment dated June 24, 1889 which states that O.H. Flagg, Martin Allison, Lou Webb, Thomas Gardner, William Hill and William Carroll on May 30th, 1889, did "wilfully, maliciously and unlawfully brand one certain maverick, the same being the property of the Territory of Wyoming....." Signed by Henry S. Elliott, Prosecuting Attorney, Johnson County, Wyoming. "The Hat Ranch was originally located on Red Fork, and its four partners included Jack Flagg, Martin Allen Tisdale (known as Al Allison due to his questionable criminal background), Billy Hill, L.A. Webb, and Tom Gardner. All had been blackballed from employment from the big outfits for their blatant disregard of the discriminatory round-ups laws implemented by the big cattlemen." In 1882 Henry Elliott moved to Wyoming and served as prosecuting attorney of Johnson County for two terms and as mayor of Buffalo for one term. In 1889 he was selected as one of the Democratic delegates to the Wyoming constitutional convention to draft its constitution to be submitted for statehood and served as temporary chairman. DOCUMENT 2) 14 ½ x 8 ½" Bail Bond for O.H. Flagg, Martin Allison, Lou Webb, Thomas Gardner, William Hill and William Carroll, dated July 3, 1889. "William Carroll, principal, and Stephen T. Faswell (?) Amd Thomas J. Keisel, as sureties, are held and firmly bound unto the territory of Wyoming, in the penal sum of one thousand dollars .... The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas the above bounden, William Carroll, has been arrested for the crime of stealing live stock .... Signed by William H. Carroll, Stephen T. Faswell (?), Thomas J. Keisel. Opposite side are declarations by Stephen F. Farell (?) And Thomas J. Keisel stating that each is worth the sum of $1000. Each declaration is signed by individual and also by the clerk and by Deputy T.P. Hill. DOCUMENT 3) 3 - 14 ½ x 8 ½" sheets in which the State of Wyoming, Johnson County, before Justice of the Peace Geo. S. Bartlett, vs W.C. Irvine for assault with intent to kill and murder. On April 9, 1892 Alonzo Taylor filed a complaint against W.C. Irvine who "unlawfully, willfully, and maliciously and feloneously" perpetrated an assault upon him. A warrant was issued and given to the sheriff of Johnson County on April 20, 1895. The warrant was returned endorsed on April 20, 1895, and the sheriff brought in W.C. Irvine before Geo. S. Bartlett, Justice of the Peace. Signed O.A. Sproal. Prisoner Irvine was "arrained" and without council, pled not guilty. Bond was placed at $3000. The following parties bonded him out .... W.J. Thomas, M. L. Redman, W.W. Pringle, E.B. Mathr, G.W. Munkers, J.H. Lott. Offers a listing of costs ... warrant, hearing, files, entries, bond, affidavits, transcript, etc. = $8.90. Document is signed by Geo. S. Bartlett (Justice of the Peace) DOCUMENT 4) 13" x 8" carbon-copy Information Sheet. State of Wyoming vs Clayton Cruze, Ed Star, and Henry Smith. On May 9th, 1892, the three men, "contriving, and intending purposely and with premeditated malice" did purposely shoot and kill George A. Wellman. Signed by Alvin Bennett, County and Prosecuting Attorney within and for the County of Johnson. Prosecuting witness: Jack Danahue. On May 10, U.S. Marshall George Wellman, was ambushed and killed by locals en route to the small community of Buffalo. The incident received national attention, with Wellman being the only marshal to die in the war. "After 'Cattle Kate' Watson and her lover Jim Averell were hanged near Independence Rock, Wyoming, on suspicion of brand-running, a series of murders and attempted murders among cow thieves and ranchers bega. On June 4, 1891, a group of thugs ... presumably backed by ranchers ... posed as lawmen and took Tom Waggoner, a reputed horse thief, from his home. Folks soon found Waggoner decorating a cottonwood branch near Newcastle, Wyoming. Five months later, on the Powder River, Nate Champion, another suspected cow thief, was almost murdered. That same month, assassins hid beneath a bridge some 15 miles south of Buffalo, and as 23-year-old Orley E. 'Ranger' Jones rode by, they shot him to death. Soon thereafter, some seven miles north of where Jones had died, assassins left rancher John A. Tisdale stone-dead. Friends found the corpse of Mart Tisdale's dad in a pile of Christmas toys and supplies the old man had planned to take home to his family. By April 10, 1892, such depredations by both sides finally exploded into a full-scale war that raged for three days. '[Johnson County is] a good place for fugitives from justice,' Wellman once said. 'There are more desperate criminals there than probably could be found in any place on earth. These men lead a riotous life. They are notorious gamblers, thieves and murderers, and none of them ever think of working for a living. The rough country enables them to carry on their depredations with a free hand. They steal unbranded and stray cattle ... branded cattle, too, sometimes ... and in that way they have been getting rich at the expense of the cattle owners. There has always been trouble between the two parties.' The cattlemen had tried time and time again to have these outlaws punished, but no matter how strong the evidence against them, it was impossible to secure conviction as the juries almost always decided against the cattlemen. The ranchers finally resolved to take the law into their own hands. Soon after his return to Wyoming from Michigan, Wellman teamed up with rancher Robert Lee Gibson, and they secretly swore oaths as U.S. deputy marshals to help stop the lawlessness. Presumably, Wellman's instructions were to 'assemble evidence to prove that the homes, ranches and herds of the stockmen were being looted and rustled.' That evidence would be sent to Washington D.C. and, it was hoped, would persuade President Benjamin Harrison to declare martial law in Johnson County. The orders Wellman received were simple and to the point, and they may have worked, had he and Gibson not discussed them in a crowded bar. On the night of May 8, Wellman prepared for his trip back to Buffalo, taking along his prized pistol. He left the next morning with Thomas J. 'Big Mouth' Hathaway, a 36-year-old ranch employee. The two were approaching Nine Mile Divide when they heard shots. Soon after Wellman hit the ground, someone stole the lawman's pistol from his still warm body and rushed it from the scene. It would take years for anyone to piece together what had happened. A decade after the killing, Mayor Burritt told of a ride he had with fellow herder Austin Reed, around 1892. Reed admitted he was present when members of the Red Sash Gang drew lots to determine who would kill Wellman. 'It had been framed for Ed Starr to draw that ticket.' Reed noted. Tommy Carr, a mail carrier, said that he had stayed at a ranch with the killers the night before they ambushed Wellman. The morning of the murder, he saw three men steal out of camp ... "Black Henry" Smith, Ed Starr and Charles Dembrey." The three men set up an ambush, killing Wellmen in a crossfire. Interestingly Henry Smith and Ed Starr are named in the Information Sheet but rather than Charles Dembrey being named as the third involved individual, the sheet names Clayton Cruse. DOCUMENT 5) 11" x 8 1/4" sheet. Criminal Complaint. Buffalo, Wyoming, March 12, 1894. John Newell charges that Alonzo Taylor and Walter Devoe assaulted Fred C. Newell, inflicting great bodily harm upon him. Signed by E.D. Metcalf, Justice of the Peace. DOCUMENT 6) 14 ½" x 8 ½" Information Sheet from the District Court of Johnson County, State of Wyoming .... State of Wyoming vs. W.C. Irving (Irvine) for assault, filed on April 24, 1895, in which T.P. Hill, County and Prosecuting Attorney of Johnson County, Wyoming, gives the court to understand that W.C. Irving (Irvine) on April 9, 1892, assaulted Alonzo Taylor by shooting at him with a Winchester and repeating gun, attempting to kill him. Signed by T.P. Hill and John W. Peterson, Clerk of District Court. Witnesses for the Prosecution: Alonzo Taylor, O.H. Flagg. DOCUMENT 7) 14 ½" x 8 ½" double-side sheet, embossed with The District Court of Wyoming, Johnson County, seal. A Venire, dated May 10, 1897, from the State of Wyoming, County of Johnson, to the Sheriff of Johnson County requiring him to summon twenty-four good and lawful men, possessing the qualifications of jurors. Opposite side is signed by Sheriff O.A. Sproal of Johnson County and offers a list of 24 law-abiding men. Names include (???) George W. Minkers, Thomas Vanitta, Jim Wright, William Clarkson, A. Clive, Sam Dickey, Tayer Darrow, John A. Sonnamaker, Albert Brook, Robert Foote Jr., Warren Gollup, William Graham, M.B. Tanner, Dave Foote, John Erhart, John Stanley, Charles Reynolds, W.B. Power, F. M. King, Charles Taylor, L.N. Roberts, J.C. Beck, S.H. Ackerman. All documents in very good condition.

Inventory Number: 47250