Thursday, February 10, 2011

History of Cattle Rustling in the Old West

Cattle Rustlers of the American West

Cattle raiding is the act of stealing livestock. In Australia, such stealing is often referred to as duffing, and the person as a duffer. In North America, especially in cowboy culture, cattle theft is dubbed rustling and an individual who engages in it is a rustler.

Historically the act of cattle rustling is quite ancient with the first suspected raids conducted over seven thousand years ago.

Cattle raids play an important part in Indo-European mythology. These myths are often paired with myths of the abduction of women. Abduction of women and theft of livestock were practiced in many of the world's pre-urbanized cultures, the former likely reaching back to the Paleolithic, and the latter to the earliest domestication of animals in the Neolit


In the American Old West, rustling was considered a serious offense, and it did frequently result in lynching by vigilantes. Mexican rustlers were a major issue during the American Civil War, with the Mexican government being accused of supporting the habit. Failure to brand new calves facilitated theft.

Conflict over alleged rustling was a major issue in the Johnson County War in the U.S. state of Wyoming.

The transition from open range to fenced grazing gradually reduced the practice of rustling in North America. In the 20th century, so called 'suburban rustling' became more common, with rustlers anesthetizing cattle and taking them directly to auction. It often takes place at night, posing problems for law enforcement because on very large ranches it can take several days for loss of cattle to be noticed and reported. Convictions are rare to nonexistent.

Famous or Infamous Rustlers (depending on how you look at.........)

Jack Sully

Jack Sully (c. 1850 – May 16, 1904), also Arthur McDonald, was an American cattle rustler and outlaw. He was also elected Sheriff of Charles Mix County, South Dakota.

Jack Sully was born Arthur McDonald in Virginia circa 1850. Sully graduated from an American or Canadian college and was living in Hamilton, Ontario, by the early 1870s. During that d

ecade, he moved to the southern area of the Dakota Territory (to what is now South Dakota) and gained employment as a cowboy. There, the young man became a skillful horse rider as well as a good shooter. In 1872, Sully was elected Charles Mix County, South Dakota, sheriff in a landslide, winning the vote 61-1. However, election observers noted that this tally placed the number of ballots cast greater than the number of people who actually voted.

The cowboy soon became acquainted with criminals, and by 1880 had become an outlaw and married a Sioux woman named Mary. Sully and his wife moved to the Rosebud Indian Reservation, and the former became the leader of an outlaw gang which caused the loss of hundreds of cattle and horses from Dakota Territory properties each year. In his early days, Sully also caused the Government of the United States trouble when he cut timber from government-owned property to sell at the market.

By the early 1890s, the cattle rustlers had reached into Canada, with stolen Saskatchewan and Alberta cattle being found in American markets, and vice-verse. Law enforcement remained unaware of the perpetrators of the crimes. By 1900, the rustling gang had accumulated over 12 members, stolen 50,000 cattle and 3,000 horses, as well as killed seven settlers on the Missouri River. In 1901, law enforcement forced Sully to retreat to Canada, but he returned two years later, in 1903. On an unknown date, Sully was arrested and held at Mitchell on a cattle rustling charge, but escaped from prison and eluded officers until May 1904. During that month, the new United States Deputy Marshal, Johnny Petrie, who had been a close friend of Sully's until he discovered his illegal activities, shot the outlaw when he refused to surrender in a stand at Rosebud Indian Reservation. By 1906, law enforcement officers had forced Sully's old gang to disband.

Ellen Liddy Watson ( Cattle Kate)

Ellen Liddy Watson (July 2, 1860[1] – July 20, 1889) was a female pioneer of Wyoming who became better known as Cattle Kate, a post-claimed outlaw of the Old West. The "outlaw" characterization is a dubious one, as she was not violent and was never charged with any crime during her life.

She was ultimately lynched by agents of powerful cattle ranchers as an example to what happens to those that opposed them and whose interests she had threatened. Her life has become the subject of an Old West legend.

Cattle Kate was born Ellen Liddy Watson on July 2, 1861, in Arran Lake, Bruce County, On

tario, Canada. Her father was Thomas Lewis Watson, and her mother was Francis Close Watson. She was called Ella in her youth, and she was the eldest of ten children born to the Watson family, the later four of which were born in Kansas after the family moved there in 1877.

The family settled near Lebanon, Kansas, and began to homestead. At the age of sixteen, Ella was courted by a local farmer named William A.

Pickell, who was three years older than she. The two were married on November 4, 1879. However, Pickell was abusive, both verbally and physically, and drank heavily. He often would beat Ella with a horse

whip. In January 1883, Ella fled to her parents' home. Pickell came after her, but was intimidated by her father and fled, having no contact with her afterward. Ella filed for divorce and moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska, fourteen miles (21 km) north of her family's homestead.

That same year she moved, against her family's wishes, to Denver, Colorado. One of her brothers lived there, and she stayed with him for a time, then moved on to Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was unusual during that period in American history for a woman to move independently and alone. However, she did so, finding work as both a seamstress and a cook.

Ella later moved on to Rawlins, Wyoming. While in Rawlins she began working as cook and waitress in the premier boarding-house/hostelry in town, the Rawlins House. It has been alleged that the Rawlins House was a brothel and Ella worked as a prostitute there, but it was not a brothel, and there is no evidence Ella ever worked as a prostitute anywhere. The story that Ella was a prostitute was circulated in newspaper articles later on by the influential cattle barons, in order to discredit her.

On February 24, 1886, Ella met a homesteader named James "Jim" Averell, who was in town on business. The two began a romance, and she moved with him to his homestead near the Sweetwater River country.

He had previously married Sophia Jaeger after his second service in the army was up. The two had a child together, but both Sophia and the infant died from fever in August 1882. Devastated, Averell began homesteading fifteen miles (24 km) north of the homestead he had worked while married to Sophia. He began to frequent the Rawlins House, where he became acquainted with Ella.

Jim had built and opened a "road ranch" (a combination eating place and general store) on his homestead property, serving both cowboys and settlers who traveled through headed to Oregon and

other locations west. Ella served as the cook, and she was allowed to keep the money she made, fifty cents a meal. In March 1886, Ella's divorce became final. Ella and Averell applied for a marriage license in Lander, Wyoming, that same year, but it is unclear whether the two ever legally married, as the license was never filed. On June 26, 1886, Averell was appointed postmaster of the community. Ella, however, expressed her desire to have her own ranch, working independently from his.

Ella filed on a homestead adjacent to Averell's in August 1886 and built a small two-room cabin. At the time, the Maverick Law stated that unbranded calves found on a property were to be branded with an "M" and became the property of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, a powerful group of cattlemen at the time. The cattlemen's association limited small ranchers from bidding on cattle at auctions, and insisted that all ranchers, small and large, have a registered brand. The cost for registering a brand was set quite high, to ensure that few smaller ranchers could afford it. Also, a brand had to be "accepted", and the cattlemen's association had substantial power inside the committee that either rejected or accepted brands. Essentially, this locked out many smaller ranchers from operating within the scope of the law of the time.

The wealthy cattlemen began to build portable cabins on land, claiming it as homesteads, thus making the land theirs, and after registering it with the county, they would simply move the portable cabins to another location and repeat the same process over again. Averell, being the local justice of the peace, began writing about these acts to a newspaper in Casper, Wyoming. This infuriated the cattlemen.

On March 23, 1888, Ella filed her claim for her homestead, where she had built her cabin two years before. By law, this made the property hers. Between her claim and Averell's, the two owned 320 acres (1.3 km2). She fenced much of the property and built a livery stable and several corrals. In 1888, under extreme pressure from small ranchers and homesteaders, the governor repealed the Maverick Law, bringing on heavy opposition from the wealthy cattlemen. By now, Ella had been dubbed by local newspapers as "Cattle Kate".

In the fall of 1888, Ella purchased 28 cattle from a man who was driving them from Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. On December 3, 1888, Ella applied for the "WT" brand, but was rejected. On March 16, 1889, likely feeling her own brand would never be accepted, she bought a brand already registered, thus now having a legal operating brand.

That same year she adopted an eleven-year-old boy named Gene Crowder, whose father, a heavy drinker who was unable to properly care for his son, had worked for her previously. Gene and another boy, fourteen-year-old John DeCorey, worked her steadily increasing ranch. By the middle of July 1889, she had forty-one head of cattle, and she hired a man named Frank Buchanan to mend fences. Albert John Bothwell, a wealthy cattleman and member of the cattlemen's association, lived only about a mile from the ranch. Although he had never owned the area of land on which Ella's ranch was now located, he had used it from time to time in years past. He now greatly resented the presence of her ranch.

Jim Averell had granted Bothwell right-of-way so that Bothwell could irrigate his property. Bothwell began to fence in parts of Ella's ranch and sent cowboys working for him to harass the couple. On July 20, 1889, a range detective, George Henderson, who was working for Bothwell, accused Ella of rustling cattle from Bothwell and branding them with her own brand. The cattlemen sent riders to arrest Ella. While young Gene Crowder watched, they forced her into a wagon, telling her they were going to Rawlins.

Crowder rode to tell Averell and Buchanan what had happened, finding Buchanan first, and Buchanan rode after the wagon. By the time Buchanan arrived, the group of riders were lynching both Ella and Jim. Buchanan rode in and opened fire on the riders, and a shoot-out followed. At least one of the vigilante riders was wounded, but Buchanan was forced to withdraw, as there were around ten men facing him. He then rode to the ranch, where he was met by employee Ralph Coe and the two teenage boys. By that time, both Jim and Ella were dead.

County sheriff Frank Hadsell and deputy sheriff Phil Watson (no relation to Ella) arrested six men for the hangings. A trial date was set, but prior to the date several witnesses were intimidated and threatened, and several people were killed mysteriously. One of those who disappeared was young Gene Crowder, who was never seen again. Buchanan fled after another shoot-out with unknown suspects, and was seen periodically over the next two to three years, eventually changing his name and disappearing altogether. Ralph Coe, who was a nephew to Averell, died the very day of the trial, from poisoning.

Another witness, Dan Fitger, had observed the lynchings, and had seen the riders arrive at the location with Buchanan riding far behind. He also witnessed the shoot-out between Buchanan and the riders, stating that at least one of the vigilante riders was wounded, possibly two. However, he did not come forward until years after the incident, for fear of the cattlemen. At the time of the trial, it was unknown that Fitger had witnessed this. He stated he had been plowing in a field when the incident happened.

In the end, Jim and Ella's possessions were sold off in auction, and their property eventually became the property of members of the cattlemen's association. This was one of many events that eventually sparked the Johnson County War.

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