This 1909 Wyoming Massacre Forever Changed The West
The men in the picture above are murderers.
The two videos below explain the story.
In the early days of Wyoming, there were turf wars of all sorts.
Many of those disputes ended in a bloody conflict.
One of the deepest divides was between cattlemen and sheepherders.
Both were important industries, but both were competing over grazing land and water.
At the time cattlemen believed that sheep would poison the land.
That their droppings would foul the grass and the water.
They wanted sheep herders out.
The Spring Creek Raid
This event, also known as the Ten Sleep Murders or the Ten Sleep Raid, occurred in 1909.
What happened was bloody and shocked the state in a way that forever changed Wyoming.
Basin, Wyo., April 6 - Three sheep herders were shot down in cold blood and the bodies of two were cremated by a band of fifteen masked raiders who attacked a sheep camp at the mouth of Spring Creek in the Ten Sleep country on the night of April 2. After the slaughter the raiders cut the telegraph wires to prevent news of the murder spreading. The news was brought to this place by sheep herders who escaped.
[Source: Riverside Independence Enterprise (Riverside, California), dated April 7,1909]
The attack was brutal. The men who were killed never had a chance to fight back.
One morning, as they were resting about the campfire, a band of twelve or fifteen men rode up and began firing. The raiders wore masks and were all heavily armed. So deadly was their fire that the sheep men fell, evidently without having time to fire a shot in return.
The sheep were butchered, many of them being shot or clubbed to death, and others being driven over a steep cliff and killed. The sheep wagon was burned, and it was not until a camp leader visited the scene a day or two later that the tragedy was discovered. [Source: Riverside Independence Enterprise (Riverside, California), dated April 7,1909]
Not all of the cowboys felt good about what was being done.
It was evident, from the cartridge shells scattered over the ground that the raiders had completely surrounded the camp and had poured volley after volley into the defenseless herders.
At one place, where a man had stood, however, loaded shells were found. It was surmised that this man had sickened of such bloody work, and had refused to fire. In order not to open himself to suspicion by having a full cartridge belt, he had thrown away loaded shells. This was the man that LaFors aimed to get when he went to Basin and confronted the suspects in the jail at that place. Such a clew would be sufficient for this range detective, who is a veritable Dupin or Holmes when it comes to ratiocination. [Source: Riverside Independence Enterprise (Riverside, California), dated April 7,1909]
The guilty men were rounded up and brought to justice.
What brought these men to justice was the two men in the group who had gone to a local saloon and were heard bragging about what they had done. They were arrested and brought to Sheridan.
The video below is the latest account of this tragic Wyoming war.
Wyoming history is rich in the stories of pioneers and tragedy out on the plains. In this video Wyoming historian Clay Gibbons shares the history behind one of the most historical events in Wyoming's history of the Spring Creek Raid. (Kent Rollins).
They were brought to Sheridan because it was believed that if they were put in a jail in their county they might be killed before they could turn on those who were with them during the raid.
Five Ranchers Indicted For Complicity In Murder
Cheyenne, Wyo., May 7 - The grand jury investigation arranged on the sheep ca mp of Allemand & Emge, near Spring Creek today returned indictments against George Sab an, M.A. Alexander, Thomas Dixon, William Dise and Charles Ferris, all well-known cattle men of Ten Sleep, charging them with complicity in the murder of a herder named Lazier and Allemand and Emge. All of the men indicted are now in jail.
On the night of March 2, the camp of Allemand & Emge was attacked by 18 men. The sheep men were shot and the bodies of two burned. The sheep men had been warned not to cross a certain line with their flocks.
[Source: Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), dated May 8, 1909]
There are far more details to this story that can be found at the Washakie County Gemology Site.
To help you learn a bit more you can also watch this Youtube video by John Posey. It it probably the best account I have heard of the horrible events of that day and what happened after.
So shocked were the people of the state of Wyoming by what had happened, it never happened again.
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Gallery Credit: Glenn Woods
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Gallery Credit: Glenn Woods