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
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.
barons' powers of persuasion in justifying their deeds have colored
accounts of the war for more than a century.The Johnson County War
tells a compelling story that redraws the lines between heroes and
Wyoming Range War
The Infamous Invasion of Johnson County
by John W. Davis
University of Oklahoma Press, 2010
Out of the Past