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Outlaws & Crime

The Rock Springs Massacre

On September 2, 1885, long-simmering tensions between white and Chinese coal miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, boiled over into a massacre in which whites murdered 28 Chinese, wounded 15 more, and looted and burned all 79 shacks and houses in Rock Springs’ Chinatown. Though the remaining Chinese miners wanted desperately to leave Wyoming, the Union Pacific Railroad, which owned the mines, refused to grant them railroad passes or the back pay owed them. The Chinese finally had no choice but to return to work, which kept wages low and the coal flowing from the mines.

The Spring Creek Raid: The Last Murderous Sheep Raid in the Big Horn Basin

On April 2, 1909, seven cowmen attacked a sheep camp near Spring Creek in the southern Big Horn Basin. The raiders killed three men, kidnapped two others, killed sheep dogs and dozens of sheep and destroyed thousands of dollars of personal property. It was the deadliest sheep raid in Wyoming history. Unlike many previous incidents after which raiders went unpunished, however, prosecutors this time were successful and five raiders were jailed, marking the end of 15 years or more of violence between cattle- and sheepmen.

The Johnson County War: 1892 Invasion of Northern Wyoming

In April 1892, a private army of 52 cattle barons, their employees and hired Texas guns invaded Johnson County in northern Wyoming, intending to kill as many as 70 men they suspected of being rustlers or rustler sympathizers. The invaders managed to kill two men before word got out, and they were surrounded by an angry posse. Troops from nearby Fort McKinney intervened. The invaders were escorted back to Cheyenne, where they were charged but never brought to trial. The event ended in ambiguity and political division in the new state of Wyoming.

Lincoln County, Wyoming

Created in 1911 and named for President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln County is perhaps best known for its extraordinary geological history, showcased at Fossil Butte National Monument. The county seat, Kemmerer, Wyo., is the site of the first store opened by James Cash Penney, founder of J. C. Penney & Co., a business that still operates nationally today. Agriculture, mining and oil and gas industries continue to spur the county’s economy.

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Encyclopedia | The 1911 murder of newlyweds Edna and Thomas Jenkins remains unsolved. But the crime on a ranch south of Tensleep still fascinates because of senselessness, the lack of hard evidence pointing at any single suspect—though three were considered—and the social prominence of the victims.
Encyclopedia | Clabe Young came with his brothers from Texas to Wyoming Territory in the late 1870s and cowboyed for prominent ranchers including Tom Sun and Boney Earnest. The Young brothers fell under suspicion of rustling by the powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association, whose leaders hired a Chicago detective, John Finkbone, to set the matter straight.
Encyclopedia | Recurring oil theft on the Wind River Reservation in the 1970s eventually led to better practices that focus on preventing such losses and protecting American Indian tribes’ oil and gas revenues. 
Encyclopedia | News stories published about the July 20, 1889, hanging of Ella Watson and Jim Averell contained inaccuracies that historians and others accepted as fact for more than 100 years, leading to a variety of misunderstandings and resulting in questions about truth and history that haunt researchers today.
Encyclopedia | Train robber and confessed murderer Big Nose George Parrott was lynched in downtown Rawlins, Wyo. in 1881, after he tried to break out of jail. Later, local physician and future Wyoming Gov. Dr. John Osborne had a pair of shoes made from the outlaw’s skin.
Oral Histories | Jamie Buckley King attended third grade at Cokeville Elementary School in Cokeville, Wyo., on May 16, 1986, when David and Doris Young took her and 153 other people hostage at the school, and detonated a bomb inside. The Youngs both died that day. Everyone else survived.
Oral Histories | Tina Cook was the secretary at Cokeville Elementary School in Cokeville, Wyo., on May 16, 1986, when David and Doris Young took her and 153 other people hostage at the school, and detonated a bomb inside. The Youngs both died that day. Everyone else survived.
Oral Histories | LeaKae Roberts was a fourth-grader who was absent from class at Cokeville Elementary School in Cokeville, Wyo., on May 16, 1986, when David and Doris Young took 154 other people hostage at the school, and detonated a bomb inside. The Youngs both died that day. Everyone else survived.

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