Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Bassetts, Barons and Bandits

Toad Haul Manor Journal – June 18, 2015
Josie Bassett was born four years prior to her more notorious sister Anna M. Bassett. Their parents, Amos Herbert Bassett and Mary Elizabeth Chamberlin Miller, resided in the area known as Brown’s Park (Now Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge). Herbert was twenty years older than Elizabeth.
Their parents ran a profitable cattle ranch despite and because of the local outlaws and rustlers in the area. Their cattle grazed widely across the Colorado border into both Wyoming and Utah. The outlaw culture preceded the Bassetts in Brown’s Park by several decades. Fresh beef and horse meat were hot commodities in the mining communities in eastern Colorado.
Similar to Josie, Ann Bassett was educated in a boarding school, was intelligent, articulate and desirable to the many men that called northwest Colorado their home. At heart Josie and Ann both preferred the rustic cowboy life to fineries of the big cities of Denver and Salt Lake City.
If you remember any of the B-grade western movies of your youth the common theme in many were the very real conflicts between sheep herders, homesteaders, rustlers and cattle barons. Several cattle barons unsuccessfully tried to buy out the Bassett ranch and when they failed they started a feud by rustling their cattle. Eventually the cattlemen brought in a killer named Tom Horn, (a hired gunman, army scout, Pinkerton, range detective, cowboy, soldier, and assassin of 17 men.) Horn killed several area rustlers but never bothered the Bassetts.
In about 1896 the relationships of both the Bassett daughters got a wee complicated. Josie Bassett was seeing an Elzy Lay, Butch Cassidy’s best friend and liked Butch since a young age. Ann was seeing Ben Kilpatrick. When Butch Cassidy was released from an eighteen-month prison sentence Ann Bassett turned her affections to Butch and Elzy stopped seeing Josie in favor of a Maude Davis, his future wife. Josie then started in with a Will “News” Carver. No matter the intricacies of the changing affections the sisters and the gang all got along and the sisters acquired a degree of protection from Butch and all his gang in dealing with conflicts with the cattle barons.
In early 1897 both Ann and Josie became two of the five women occupants of the infamous Robbers Roost hideout. Some Pinkerton reports and subsequent photographic analysis done at Las Alamos indicates that Ann was actually operating under the alias of Etta Place but Etta was also known to have been the Sundance Kid’s girlfriend!
By April of that year both sisters were sent home from Robbers Roost so that Butch could finalize plans for their next big heist. Butch and Sundance both fled to South America in 1901 to avoid the law that allegedly caught up with them in 1908.
Time moved on and by 1903, Ann Bassett married Henry Bernard. That marriage lasted six years, but her husband stayed to help both the Bassett women maintain their respective ranches. By 1904, nearly all the outlaws that associated with the Bassetts through the years were either in jail or dead. Ann was repeatedly accused by the cattlemen’s associations of rustling, but neither she nor Josie was ever convicted.
Twenty-four years later Ann married for the second time to a cattleman named Frank Willis. Ann stayed at their Wyoming ranch until her death at the age of 77 in 1963. She died having acquired the reputation of Queen Ann of the Rustlers.

Ann Bassett's Cabin in Brown's Hole

Butch Cassidy Front right) and Sundance Kid (Front Left)

Ann Bassett

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