The woman history remembers as Amarillo Rose was born Rosemary Wozniak in June 1848 in Pennsylvania. Little is known about her early life but shortly after the end of the Civil War she married a native Texan named Humphrey Bogart and was with him when he assumed ownership of his family’s Casablanca Ranch outside of Amarillo. Since Humphrey had split with the rest of his family by serving in the Union Army during the final year of the war the situation was very tense for him and his new bride from the very beginning.
Relations with the rest of Humphrey’s family were mild compared to the hostility with which fellow ranchers treated Humphrey and Rosemary and it was only a matter of time until the situation exploded into violence. In 1871 Humphrey and a pair of cowhands were returning to the bunkhouse when they were all shot to death by assailants still unknown. This was followed up by large-scale rustling of Casablanca stock. The Amarillo Range War was on. After burying her beloved husband Rosemary assumed control of every element of ranch operations while simultaneously directing the Casablanca’s war effort. She would often lead her men into battle herself astride her favorite horse Bogie (named in honor of her late husband) and gained a reputation as the surest shot with a rifle before Annie Oakley came along.
Given the constant social snubbing the Bogarts had received from the community their ranch hands were largely freed blacks and a few of Humphrey’s Union Army comrades-in-arms but the overwhelming majority were Native Americans who drifted in from Indian Territory just to the north, attracted by tales of the fair treatment Rosemary and her late husband had always shown their employees.
Early on Rosemary- already being referred to as Amarillo Rose by friend and foe alike – recognized the need for more professionalism among her gunmen. This prompted her to hire the mercenary gunslinger known only as Paden (later famous for his exploits as sheriff of the New Mexico town of Silverado) to drill her troops in some martial essentials. Paden lingered at the Casablanca Ranch for the next year and a half, causing many to speculate that he and Amarillo Rose were having a fling after her year of mourning her late husband had passed. Eventually Paden left to ride with legendary outlaw Jedediah Cobb but the fighting force he and Amarillo Rose had put together would earn notoriety that lasted long after the Amarillo Range War was over.
The group was officially known as Rosemary’s Range Rifles but the preponderance of Native Americans in their ranks resulted in them living on in the popular imagination as Rosemary’s Redskins. As if a woman out-generalling her male competitors and doing it with mostly freed blacks and Native Americans was not outrageous enough Amarillo Rose caused further scandal with her purported fling with George Starke, an African American from New York. Starke rode with a wild bunch known as The Hogs but settled in at the Casablanca Ranch to carry on his romance with the notorious cattle queen.
By the mid 1870′s Amarillo Rose had wiped out nearly all her competition either by gunplay or by superior business skills. She had absorbed so many rival ranches that her spread now ran from Amarillo to nearly all the panhandle region above Texas. The Casablanca Ranch remained headquarters but Amarillo Rose renamed the bulk of her virtual federation The Oklahoma Ranch in honor of her many Native American employees since Oklahoma means “red people” in Choctaw, one of the many Native American languages Rosemary was said to speak.
Amarillo Rose continued compiling wealth and enemies into the 1880′s with occassional romances like her fling with the Greek gambler-gunfighter Michael Nouri AKA Big Athens. Even the infamous rancher and gunman Clay Allison was said to know better than to mess with the woman who is popularly believed to be the real inspiration for the song “The Yellow Rose Of Texas”. Many films have been made about this and the range war period of Amarillo Rose’s life with the colorful figure being portrayed by actresses like Jane Wyman, Katherine Hepburn and most recently Glenn Close.
As the century was drawing to a close the United States government bought most of Amarillo Rose’s by-now enormous spread (which exceded the size even of the legendary Ponderosa further west) to help complete Indian Territory. The name of the Oklahoma Ranch lives on, however, in the name that was later selected for the territory and eventual state.
Amarillo Rose used the enormous wealth she had accumulated by this point to move to Hawaii, pausing along the way in California to provide financial aide to Giuseppe Gioberti, whose Falcon Crest Vineyard was experiencing a downturn. In Hawaii Amarillo Rose established a new ranch called the Bar 5-0 and as it flourished Amarillo Rose soon added Cattle Queen of the Islands to her list of nicknames. She was last heard from in the early 20th Century as a very outspoken proponent of statehood for the Hawaiian Islands.
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