Tragedies on the Range
War Between Cattlemen and Sheepmen
Three thousand sheep were trailed into Natrona county in the summer of 1888 by Joel J. Hurt to be turned out on the open range. This was the first band of sheep that was brought into the then exclusive cattle country. Now we have more than 300,000 sheep ranging within our borders. The bringing in of these sheep and those that followed caused as much contention and bloodshed as the fights between the cattlemen and the "nesters" and rustlers.
People nowadays will naturally wonder why there should have been so much animosity between two classes of men engaged in similar pursuits in a country which had always been termed the "free and boundless west," where every man was supposed to have an equal chance with every other and where there was room for all. In the beginning there was plenty of room for all, but there came a time when the settlers cut up the country into ranches and the land available for free pasturage shrank until there was room only for the strongest. But this was not the real cause of the contention between the sheepmen and the cattlemen. It arose from the difference between the two classes of livestock and the further fact that the cattlemen had been "monarchs of all they surveyed" on the open range and they were opposed to anyone else coming in who might in any way interfere with them.
The cattle were turned out on the range to wander at their will without being disturbed except by an occasional rustler, but the sheep, the cattlemen claimed, were nomadic and gregarious. Wherever a band of sheep had fed they said the cattle would not go. The argument was put forth that a flock of 3,000 sheep would march across the country, eating the grass down to the roots, and what they did not eat they would tramp out with their sharp little hoofs, and pack the soil and destroy its porosity so that the grass would not grow after they had passed. They would pollute the watering places and leave behind an odor that cattle would not tolerate. These charges, taken in connection with the constantly shrinking free pasturage, were the reasons the cattlemen hated the sheep raisers and tried to drive them out of the country. As a general thing the cattlemen always got the best of the fight, because a band of sheep were generally looked after by two or three men and a dog, while from ten to a dozen cattlemen came, and in the night time, too, to look after the sheepmen.
After the sheepmen came into the cattle country, the days of the "free range," when the grass belonged to whomever chose to take it, were numbered. It was plain to be seen that the loss of the enormous free range would gradually turn the cattlemen into farmers who would feed their cattle in the winter with hay, corn, and cotton- seed and it would make ranch hands out of the once free and independent cowboy, and the vast roaming herds of cattle would be gone forever.
There were physical and mental differences between the cowboy and the sheep herder. From the very nature of his occupation, the cowboy was a wild, free being. He broke the savage and almost untamable broncho to the saddle and then rode him. His work was swift and vigorous and his charges were the great, strong, free steers and cows that never knew the touch of human hands. He lived and endured hardships with others of his kind and his pleasures were as fierce as his work. His was the strenuous life.
The sheep herder, on the other hand, pursued his solitary occupation afoot, his only companions being his dog and his thousands of sheep, which have no individuaHty and are maddeningly, monotonously alike. The very lonesomeness of his occupation made the sheep herder either a morose and sullen brute or a poetic dreamer.
Cowboys were known to stand off from a band of sheep and with their rifles pick off sheep after sheep until they had exhausted all their ammunition, and when they could shoot no more, ride away, exulting over the fact that they had caused a loss to the sheep owner. If a herder should attempt to fight back, he, too, was generally shot at. A favorite source of amusement for some of the cow punchers was to gather a hundred or so head of steers and drive them pell-mell through a flock of sheep, killing many and scattering the rest in all directions. Others have driven hundreds of sheep over a steep precipice, thus causing a great loss to the sheepman. All that was necessary to get a band of sheep started over a bank was to start a few of the leaders off and then the whole band would go over with a rush and cause a "pile-up" of the poor dumb brutes, and they were either killed from the fall or smothered by being piled one on top of the other from ten to twenty deep.
The cattlemen drew an imaginary line on the range which they called a "dead line." While most of the land was owned by the government and the cattleman had no more title to it than the sheepman, thousands of acres of good grazing land were laid out by the cattlemen as the "cattle country," and if a sheepman dared to pass over their dead line with his flock he was visited in the night by a band of men and the herders were killed, the wagons burned and the flocks scattered. Unparalleled and the most sickening barbarity was practiced both to human beings and the poor dumb brutes.
This practice of brutality, destruction, and death was kept up for about twenty years by men who, for the most part, got their start by rustling, and it seemed to meet with approval by some people, and even some of the oflficers of the law and the courts seemed to be but little concerned.
In the Sweetwater country numerous sheep camps were burned, the sheep killed and the herders shot at because the "dead line" was crossed, but the men who committed these depredations were never brought into court for the reason that those who had suffered the loss were reasonably sure that a trial in the courts would result in a farce and only cause more trouble.
On the 24th of August, 1905, ten masked men visited the Louis A. Gantz sheep camp, which was located about forty miles from the town of Basin, and they clubbed and shot to death about 4,000 head of sheep, burned the camp wagons and shot a team of horses valued at $400. About $700 worth of grain and provisions were also destroyed. The Gantz sheep, about 7,000 in number, were being taken to the Big Horn forest reserve and the settlers along the foot hills of the mountains complained that the stock was being moved unnecessarily slow and that they were destroying the home range of the settlers. The men who committed this crime were so bent on destruction that even the sheep dogs were tied to the wagons and burned. The men who were in charge of the sheep were given some provisions and told to leave the mountains and never return, and they lost no time in complying with the demand, considering themselves fortunate in escaping alive. Mr. Gantz suffered his loss as the many who had suffered before him and nothing was ever done to bring the men to justice who committed the act, although it was well known who perpetrated the heinous deed.
There was one case, however, where the perpetrators were brought into court. A raid was made April 3, 1909, on No Water creek, in the Ten Sleep country, between Thermopolis and Worland, when Joe Allemand, a sheepman from Natrona county, with his camp mover, Joseph Emge, and sheep herder, Jules Lazier, were shot to death in the night time and their bodies burned. The wagons were destroyed by fire and many sheep were slain. The crime was so revolting that the Wyoming Woolgrowers association offered a large reward for the apprehension of the murderers, and at the session of the grand jury held in Basin the first part of May, true bills were returned against George Sabin, Herbert L. Brink, Milton Alexander, Ed Eaton, Tom Dixon, Charles Faris, and William Keyes. At the November term of the district court Faris and Keyes showed the white feather and turned state's evidence, with the understanding that they should not be prosecuted. Brink was the first to be tried and he was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and was sentenced to be hanged, but a compromise was made with the court and it was understood that the sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment, provided two of the others would plead guilty to murder in the second degree and the other two would plead guilty to arson. It was claimed that Faris and Keyes were the actual murderers, and the court and the people in general naturally felt that it was unfair that they should escape and the others should suffer, but the prosecuting attorney had promised them this reward for turning state's evidence, and they were the chief witnesses against their companions in crime. In accordance with the compromise and agreement Alexander and Sabin pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree and each was sentenced to serve from twenty to twenty-six years in the penitentiary. Tom Dixon and Ed Eaton pleaded guilty to the crime of arson and they were each sentenced to the penitentiary from three to five years. At the same term of the district court a poor Mexican sheep herder, who had shot and killed a gambler because he had been robbed by him, was convicted of murder in the first degree and given a sentence of life in the penitentiary. Judge Parmelee, who presided at the trial of the cattleman, as well as at the trial of the Mexican, was severely condemned by some of the newspapers of the state because of his light sentence upon the men who had committed the atrocious crime of killing the three sheepmen, slaughtering the sheep and destroying the property, and the seemingly severe sentence upon the Mexican sheepherder who had killed a professional gambler who had robbed him of all his money, and to an unprejudiced and unbiased public it would truly seem that the Goddess of Justice did have her face turned to the wall at that term of court.
When the men left the little town of Basin to be taken to the penitentiary there were many prominent people at the railway passenger station to bid them farewell and express the hope that they would all soon be pardoned and be allowed to return home; all but Lorenzo Paseo, the Mexican sheepherder. He received no sympathy and no one expressed the hope that he would be pardoned or that he would ever return, because in the heat of passion he had shot and killed a gambler who had robbed him of his last penny. But the other men had premeditatedly murdered three men, slaughtered a thousand dumb sheep and destroyed by fire the property of the men they had sneaked upon in the night time and killed; these were the men that were attracting the sympathy of the public.
Of the six men, who were taken to the penitentiary, five of them received every consideration that it was possible for the warden to give them. Paseo, however, received no favors, and in the summer of 1912 he led a revolt by a dozen other convicts and broke through the prison walls and in his attempt to make good his escape, he shot a citizen of Rawlins who attempted to effect his capture, and a few minutes later he himself was shot dead, and thus ended his miserable existence. Ed Eaton, who was to have served three to five years, died on June 1, 1912, just five months before his term would have expired. Tom Dixon served his three-year sentence and was discharged November 1, 1912. Alexander, with the twenty to twenty-six year sentence, was paroled on December 14, 1914, and pardoned February 13, 1917. Sabin was soon made a "trusty," or an "honor" convict, and was allowed to work on the public highway instead of inside the prison walls, and on December 17, 1913, while "working" in the Basin country, among his friends, he "escaped" from the guards and has not since been seen by the authorities. A feeble attempt was presumed to have been made by the authorities to capture him, but they were careful not to make the search too diligent. It is claimed that he went to South America. Brink, who was first sentenced to be hanged, but according to agreement the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment, had his sentence commuted by Governor Joseph M. Carey on December 4, 1914, to from twenty-five to twenty-six years. Because of the liberties and favors extended to him by the prison and some of the state authorities Brink was looked upon by many of the convicts as a hero. A few years after his incarceration, a negro, who had committed a heinous crime upon a white woman, was brought into prison because it was feared a mob would take him from the county jail and hang him, but the state prison was not as safe a place as the county jail, for Brink was the leader among the convicts who hanged the negro to the topmost gangway of the cell house in the penitentiary. The state and prison authorities made an "investigation" of the hanging, but they were unable to discover who committed the act, and as the negro deserved to be hanged, it was considered that the job was well executed and it was presumed the authorities did not press the investigation very closely. On December 8, 1914, Brink was paroled and on May 15, 1917, he violated his parole and left the country. Nothing was heard from him until February 11, 1922, when he was returned to the penitentiary to serve out his commuted sentence. He was captured by the authorities of Vancouver, B. C. He had been living with his sister since his escape, and after three children had been born to the brother and sister, as father and mother, he then deserted the poor woman and unfortunate children, and the woman complained to the authorities of her brother's treatment. The authorities returned him to the Wyoming penitentiary, and it is said he is constantly in dread of receiving the same treatment that he helped mete out to the negro who had committed a less revolting crime.
But coming back to the wars between the cattlemen and sheepmen. The Allemand, Enige and Lazier case was similar to many cases that had previously occurred and a number that have since been committed, except that the perpetrators of the crimes were not even brought into court. But now, since it has been learned that the sheep do not devastate the range, befoul the water and "leave an odor that the cattle will not tolerate," and that there is fully as much profit in sheep growing as there is in cattle raising, the dead lines have been removed; cattle and sheep feed on the same range and drink from the same water hole, and many of the early-day cattlemen now own large flocks of sheep and the deadly wars between the cattlemen and the sheepmen are no more. And it is well that it is so.
Guide Murders Two Men
"The Monument," cut from a slab of rough Pennsylvania granite, standing about eight feet above the ground, fourteen inches in thickness, with cross arms four and one-half feet long, and weighing several thousand pounds, in a lonely spot along a trail on Monument creek, in Carbon county, about eighteen miles from Alcova and fifty-two miles in a southwesterly direction from Casper, is the silent marker for one of the most deliberate and dastardly murders that has ever been committed in Central Wyoming.
Inscribed on the base of this rough cross, 'way out on the lone prairie, the brief inscription gives but this information: "To the memory of God, and in the name of I. Morris Wain, of Philadelphia, Pa. Born July 12th, 1866, murdered by his guide July 28th, 1888,"
There is a question as to whether the date inscribed on the monument is the correct date upon which the murder was committed, as will be noted from a sketch by Boney Earnest, who claims that he saw Wain and two other men on August 8; and there were two men murdered, instead of one, as the inscription would indicate.
I. Morris Wain of Haverford, Pennsylvania, and C. H. Strong of New York City came west on a hunting, prospecting and pleasure trip in the early spring of 1888.
At Wichita Falls, Texas, they outfitted with a wagon, team of mules and two saddle ponies and came north, arriving in Denver early in June. They remained in that city for a week, and in Denver they hired a man named Thomas O'Brien as cook, guide and teamster, and started for Bozeman, Montana. Near Rock Creek, Wyoming, they found game in abundance and they remained in that vicinity two days, killing game. On July 27 the party reached Boney Earnest's ranch on Canyon creek. Strong talked with Mr. Earnest, and among other things he told him that they were on their way to Bozeman, where they intended buying a bunch of horses, ship them east and sell them at a good profit.
"I saw them again on the 8th of August," says Mr. Earnest, "while I was on my way to Oil City to attend a meeting of the miners. I was accompanied by my wife and Miss Castleberry. We were about three miles from the Sweetwater bridge. Wain was driving the team and Strong and the cook were on the saddle ponies. We did not stop to talk to them, but I wondered why they were going back over the same road that they had come over a week previous.
"One morning, about a week later, after we had returned home from Oil City, a man came to the Pick' ranch, at the mouth of Sand creek, and he had in a tin can the upper and lower jaw bones of a dead man, and the teeth were filled with gold. The man said while he and a number of cowboys from Colonel Torrey's ranch were on their way home from Rock creek they camped at the Point of Rocks over night. The cook went to a clump of willows to get some wood to start a fire, and in this bunch of willows he discovered the body, which was very much decomposed.
"Art Roberts, living at Ferris, was coroner, and he was sent for to make an investigation. We went to the Point of Rocks, gathered up the remains, held an inquest and buried the body. The verdict of the jury was that the man, unknown, came to his death from a gun-shot wound, inflicted by a party or parties unknown.
"I took a silk hankerchief which was around the neck of the dead man, and a silver bangle off from his wrist, hoping that these might lead to a clue to his identity.
"About a week later, while the men of the Pick Cattle company were gathering beef and rounding up cattle in the vicinity of the Point of Rocks, H. A. Burtch, who was wrangling the saddle horses, discovered another body in a gulch, partly covered with brush. When we went over I at once recognized the dead man as the young man. Strong, on account of his perfect teeth. William High, who was sheriff of Carbon county at that time, and Frank Hadsell, his deputy, were notified, and they made every effort possible to trail the murderer, but owing to the fact that there had been several heavy rains, the trail could not be followed, although we did find that the man had gone in the direction of Laramie City. We learned several months later that Ed. White, Ad. Keith and a man named Snider had met the man on the road between the head of the Bates Hole road and the Little Medicine Bow river. The man had the mules hitched to the wagon and the saddle ponies were following, but the men had not heard of the murder, and took it for granted that the man was traveling through the country with his own outfit. These men gave the information that O'Brien was headed in the direction of the Medicine Bow river.
"For more than a month the officers scoured the country, looking for some trail, but were unable to find anything definite until they learned the story of Messrs. White, Keith and Snider. In the meantime the murderer was going back to Colorado as fast as possible, over the same trail that he and his victims had come over.
"On September 27, while my brother Frank and I were on our way to the Pick round-up, we stopped at several places where the murdered men had camped. On Dry creek, about eighteen miles from where the two men were killed, we found that the party had camped alongside an irrigation dam. We found where they had had a big fire and the grass was tramped down. There was some paper and other material scattered about in the grass. My brother found a spur about twenty feet from where the fire had been, and on the spur strap was cut in the leather 'Red Dog.' I found several pieces of paper with the name S. M. Wain and J. S. Wain scribbled upon them. In the grass, about forty feet from where the fire had been, I found a letter, which had been torn into small pieces. I gathered up every particle of this letter, and that night at George Mead's ranch, which was about a mile away, we pasted the letter together on some tissue paper, and had no trouble in reading every word of it. The letter was from Miss S. M. Wain, Hamstow Farm, Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, a sister of I. M. Wain. I wrote to the young lady, telling her of the tragedy, and her brother, Jacob S. Wain, immediately left for Wyoming. He came directly to my ranch and I took him to the place where the young men had met their death. He recognized the bangle and the silk handkerchief which I had taken off from the body of his deceased brother. The bodies of both young men were exhumed and taken back east for burial.
"The Monument, or granite cross, that stands on the spot where the crime was committed, was shipped to Rawlins by Mrs. Harrison, a sister of I. M. Wain, and it was erected by me on December 23, 1889."
O'Brien was trailed to Aspen, Colorado, where it was learned that he disposed of the mules and the other property that he had stolen from the men he had murdered. From Aspen he went to Colorado Springs where he stole some horses. He was captured, tried in the courts and convicted of horse stealing and received a sentence of fourteen years in the penitentiary at Canyon City. Messrs. White, Keith, Snider and Frank Harrington, all of whom had seen O'Brien on the range, accompanied Jacob S. Wain to the Canyon City peni- tentiary, where the murderer was positively identified as the man who had the team of mules, saddle ponies, etc., and was headed toward Colorado.
Arrangements were made to have the man brought to Carbon county, Wyoming, and stand trial for murder, after he had served his sentence in the Colorado penitentiary for horse stealing, but the fellow died in the penitentiary before he had served his sentence for horse stealing, and thus he escaped the hangman's noose.
Monarch of the Plains," Killed Six Miles West from Powder River Station.
From left to right: Lord Travillion. Lord Fell, Frank Earnest, Boney Earnest,
Charley Cummings, Lord Napier.
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