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Getting Away with Murder: The Wyoming Cattle Barons, 1880-1910


with Richard Ellis

author and history professor (retired)

Ellis looks at one of the most controversial periods in Wyoming history, a time that saw the sudden growth of the cattle industry and the influx of eastern and foreign capital and individuals, who sought to monopolize public lands for their own benefit. The cattle barons organized as the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and controlled the territorial legislature and other government offices for their own benefit at about the same time as the Copper Kings controlled Montana politics. After the disastrous winter of 1886–1887 and the hard times that followed, the cattle barons tried to drive out small ranchers and farmers and ultimately murdered a number of people who challenged their efforts to control public lands. They sent an armed force into Johnson County in an effort to eliminate their competitors. The Johnson County War and related events and individuals such as Tom Horn remain controversial topics in Wyoming and have been the subject of historical research, fiction, film and television.