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Wyoming Range War: The Infamous Invasion of Johnson County

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Wyoming attorney John W. Davis retells the story of the West’s most notorious range war. Having delved more deeply than previous writers into land and census records, newspapers, and trial transcripts, Davis has produced an all-new interpretation. He looks at the conflict from the perspective of Johnson County residents—those whose home territory was invaded and many of wh Wyoming attorney John W. Davis retells the story of the West’s most notorious range war. Having delved more deeply than previous writers into land and census records, newspapers, and trial transcripts, Davis has produced an all-new interpretation. He looks at the conflict from the perspective of Johnson County residents—those whose home territory was invaded and many of whom the invaders targeted for murder—and finds that, contrary to the received explanation, these people were not thieves and rustlers but legitimate citizens. The broad outlines of the conflict are familiar: some of Wyoming’s biggest cattlemen, under the guise of eliminating livestock rustling on the open range, hire two-dozen Texas cowboys and, with range detectives and prominent members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, “invade” north-central Wyoming to clean out rustlers and other undesirables. While the invaders kill two suspected rustlers, citizens mobilize and eventually turn the tables, surrounding the intruders at a ranch where they intend to capture them by force. An appeal for help convinces President Benjamin Harrison to call out the army from nearby Fort McKinley, and after an all-night ride the soldiers arrive just in time to stave off the invaders’ annihilation. Though taken prisoner, they later avoid prosecution. The cattle barons’ powers of persuasion in justifying their deeds have colored accounts of the war for more than a century. Wyoming Range War tells a compelling story that redraws the lines between heroes and villains.


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Wyoming attorney John W. Davis retells the story of the West’s most notorious range war. Having delved more deeply than previous writers into land and census records, newspapers, and trial transcripts, Davis has produced an all-new interpretation. He looks at the conflict from the perspective of Johnson County residents—those whose home territory was invaded and many of wh Wyoming attorney John W. Davis retells the story of the West’s most notorious range war. Having delved more deeply than previous writers into land and census records, newspapers, and trial transcripts, Davis has produced an all-new interpretation. He looks at the conflict from the perspective of Johnson County residents—those whose home territory was invaded and many of whom the invaders targeted for murder—and finds that, contrary to the received explanation, these people were not thieves and rustlers but legitimate citizens. The broad outlines of the conflict are familiar: some of Wyoming’s biggest cattlemen, under the guise of eliminating livestock rustling on the open range, hire two-dozen Texas cowboys and, with range detectives and prominent members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, “invade” north-central Wyoming to clean out rustlers and other undesirables. While the invaders kill two suspected rustlers, citizens mobilize and eventually turn the tables, surrounding the intruders at a ranch where they intend to capture them by force. An appeal for help convinces President Benjamin Harrison to call out the army from nearby Fort McKinley, and after an all-night ride the soldiers arrive just in time to stave off the invaders’ annihilation. Though taken prisoner, they later avoid prosecution. The cattle barons’ powers of persuasion in justifying their deeds have colored accounts of the war for more than a century. Wyoming Range War tells a compelling story that redraws the lines between heroes and villains.

30 review for Wyoming Range War: The Infamous Invasion of Johnson County

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rey Dekker

    Wyoming Range War: The Infamous Invasion of Johnson County by John W. Davis...another tale of self-priveleged rich boys thinking they hold all the cards...and an object lesson in how the press can be manipulated to almost any means...then the lawyers get involved...a shameful era in Wyoming history where vigilante cattle magnates decided the little guys had to go...so why not just kill them...???...and they tried to do just that in a very big way...but the little guys fought back and it took the Wyoming Range War: The Infamous Invasion of Johnson County by John W. Davis...another tale of self-priveleged rich boys thinking they hold all the cards...and an object lesson in how the press can be manipulated to almost any means...then the lawyers get involved...a shameful era in Wyoming history where vigilante cattle magnates decided the little guys had to go...so why not just kill them...???...and they tried to do just that in a very big way...but the little guys fought back and it took the President of the US to save the invading army's sorry asses...a corrupted governor and senator...money-grubbing lawyers who were so crooked they had to screw their pants on...a shameful tale meticulously researched and written...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Randi Samuelson-Brown

    Three and a half stars - it gets repetitive for my tastes. What I appreciate most about this book is the first half - the atmosphere in Buffalo/Johnson County, who the people were, and why events unfolded as they did. Newspaper battles are very much a feature in Wyoming's history, but I'm not sure that I'm so interested in such minute detail, multiple times. I will admit that I stopped in the jury selection process in this book, and the inherent unfairness in forcing Johnson County to bear such h Three and a half stars - it gets repetitive for my tastes. What I appreciate most about this book is the first half - the atmosphere in Buffalo/Johnson County, who the people were, and why events unfolded as they did. Newspaper battles are very much a feature in Wyoming's history, but I'm not sure that I'm so interested in such minute detail, multiple times. I will admit that I stopped in the jury selection process in this book, and the inherent unfairness in forcing Johnson County to bear such heavy costs of the trial. Will go back if I need that information at a later date. The research is great (a lot of work obviously went into it)- and as the back cover says - it is pretty much the definitive book on the invasion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Kept my interest throughout. Wyomingites haven’t changed much since the 1800s and this book captures their spirit and character very well while also painting a vivid picture of how this part of the West was tamed (somewhat) over time, for better or worse, through a regional and mobile system of courts, deputies, business development, and citizen activism.

  4. 5 out of 5

    M Moon

    Incredible story telling of the real west; the cattle rustling, horse theft or not. Big business precluding small start ups, corruption, obstruction of justice and yes a community fighting for its rights; and of course a couple real heroes. Long live Nate!!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    WRH

    Fascinating read about a little known historical subject: the range war in Wyoming in 1892. Big ranchers versus small farmers. The story is filled with bad blood, lies in the newspapers and political shenanigans. Reading got a little tedious at times but the event itself was incredible.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lloyd Mullins

    Great book, and surprisingly relevant.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Cool

    Been reading up on the Johnson County Invasion of 1892. In "Freedom Around the Corner," a survey history of America from 1585-1828, historian Walter McDougall addresses the American gift for hustling, a trait shared by those who hustle in the sense of working hard, for themselves, their families, and in shared community endeavors, and those who hustle others, deceitfully, fraudulently, and aggressively for their own gain. The latter, in unsavory, illegal, even unconstitutional form, was practice Been reading up on the Johnson County Invasion of 1892. In "Freedom Around the Corner," a survey history of America from 1585-1828, historian Walter McDougall addresses the American gift for hustling, a trait shared by those who hustle in the sense of working hard, for themselves, their families, and in shared community endeavors, and those who hustle others, deceitfully, fraudulently, and aggressively for their own gain. The latter, in unsavory, illegal, even unconstitutional form, was practiced by 1880s-1890s Wyoming capitalist ranchers, Social Darwinists who felt they deserved it all, against the smaller settlers in Johnson and nearby counties. John W. Davis, Wyoming Range War (Univ. of Oklahoma Press), establishes that Johnson County was never a rustler haven Its rich land was a magnet for small ranchers who were stymied by the big cattlemen in their every legitimate attempt to build small herds on homesteaded public land. In reality, the invasion by Wyoming’s biggest cattlemen and their Texas mercenaries was launched to drive out settlers out of their legal homesteads and to cover up previous assassinations and a botched attempt on Nate Champion and others. Davis mines overlooked sources to reveal how big cattlemen, egged on by two of their number with Hardin-like sociopathic tendencies, assisted by murderer-turned-lawless lawman Frank Canton, aided by a pocketed state government and paid-for press, aimed to quickly murder 70 settlers and local leaders, intimidating other settlers to clear out. They largely failed in this end, but in their later successful perversion of the courts, did selfishly endanger Wyoming’s reputation and future. The best book on Gilded Age greed gone Wild West.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    A must read for anyone who is interested in Wyoming history or old west history. This event—Johnson County War—takes place within a year of Wyoming's statehood. The book is well written and well paced.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lashonda Slaughter Wilson

    This is one of the most fantastical stories I have read about the west and it is all true. I found myself shocked at the corruption and the influence of Big Cattle in 19th century Wyoming, the book is amazing. I especially enjoyed the chapter on "Cattle Kate"

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emily Carroll

    This was a very detailed account of the Invasion of Johnson Country. I found it interesting seeing the perspective of how people thought about the law and their rights during that period. It includes a lot of law and background information.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Clay

    Excellent look into a poignant time in Wyoming's past. If you are interested in the history of the west, you will enjoy this book. There is plenty of wild-west, politics, and law to create turbulence in anyone's mind.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    great piece of history, but not a great pick for "storytelling". had to adjust my expectations to appreciate this one. Reading it alongside "the ox bow incident" provided interesting context.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    A great book that focuses on what the people living in Johnson County thought about the events of the Johnson County War in Wyoming.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elad

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ken Smith

  17. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jess Clark

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lynda

  20. 5 out of 5

    HH

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth D. Willis

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  24. 5 out of 5

    Schoppie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donald Kreitz

  26. 5 out of 5

    Scott L Smith

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Travis Deti

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary Carlson

  29. 4 out of 5

    George Aguilera

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hanley Rose

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