QUEEN ANN BASSETT – Ann Bassett, like a female Michael Corleone out west, took over her late mother Beth’s leadership of the Brown’s Park Gang of rustlers. The Johnson County War proper was over and done with but Queen Ann led the band of Robin Hood rustlers in additional raids and other guerrilla strikes at the vicious Cattle Barons of Wyoming.
When Ann was much younger Beth had sent her and Ann’s sister Josie to boarding school and while Josie excelled as a student Ann was a different story. The future Queen of the Rustlers enjoyed shocking people in her teen years, dolling up in the lastest fashions from back east and wearing (gasp) MAKEUP in a way that “decent” society knew was only done by Saloon Girls.
Ann at times put on a New England accent just to see people’s reactions to it and spouted made-up gibberish while claiming to be speaking Chinese. All the while she was absorbing every element of the way her mother Beth ran the Brown’s Park Gang. Sometimes the only things Ann agreed with her mother about were the beauty of Brown’s Park and the need to fight the Cattle Barons of the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association.
Beth Bassett’s death in December of 1892 (from a burst appendix or late life pregnancy, accounts vary) filled Ann with a sense of responsibility. She eventually took over the Brown’s Park Gang’s operations, overseeing everything from the daring rustling raids and the frequent gunplay that accompanied them all the way through to having the brands doctored and distributing the stolen cattle.
Brown’s Park’s location near where Wyoming bordered both Utah and Colorado made Queen Ann’s outfit the “one stop” rustling outfit for a large chunk of the region.
Years went by and in 1904 Ann pursued a Romeo and Juliet-styled romance with Hi Bernard, Manager of the Two Bar Ranch, one of the most bitter adversaries of the Bassetts. The forbidden romance ended with the two getting married later that same year, with the owner of the Two Bar Ranch – Ora Hailey – promptly firing Hi for “consorting with the enemy.”
Without the allure of the illicit nature of their courting Ann and Hi’s marriage quickly got ugly. There were screaming matches and frequent battling over how to run the legit ranch and orchard. Queen Ann would not brook ANY interference with how she ran the Brown’s Park Gang.
In 1911 Ann amped up her war against her foes, covertly overseeing the digging of unregistered irrigation ditches that cut off water for some of the ranches of the Cattle Barons. There was no way to hide the ditches like she could hide stolen cattle so Ora Hailey of the Two Bar Ranch had Ann arrested by some of his pocket lawmen.
The sensational trial was held in the Opera Hall in Craig, CO since that Hall was large enough to accomodate all the press and spectators. The newspapers from all over the country were not controlled by the Cattle Barons and they depicted Ann as the heroic female outlaw defending her homestead and family from the big money boys of the WSGA.
The jury agreed and Ann was found not guilty. Ora Hailey and the other Cattle Barons didn’t sit still for this and, pulling strings and spreading around bribe money they had the verdict thrown out on the grounds that the jury was “incompetent” to render the decision since the jury members were all rustlers themselves. At least according to the WSGA.
In the second trial Queen Ann’s lawyer got Ora Hailey on the stand and exposed him as a tax cheat among other offenses. The shooting death of one of the Cattle Barons’ prize witnesses prevented him from testifying, too. Once again Ann was found not guilty and Craig, CO exploded in raucous parties and a bonfire.
Bassett divorced Hi in the early stages of all that drama and was a Western celebrity the rest of her life. In 1923 she married Frank Willis, the great love of her life, though the two had no children. Queen Ann passed away in 1956 at age 78. +++
FOR TWO GUNSLINGERS IN THIS SAME MOLD CLICK HERE
AND FOR SIX MORE NEGLECTED WESTERN FIGURES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2012/06/18/six-neglected-wild-west-figures/
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