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The Online Encyclopedia of Wyoming History

Outlaws & Crime

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Encyclopedia | 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.
Encyclopedia | Tom Horn, stock detective and hired killer, was hanged in Cheyenne in 1903 for a crime he probably did not commit. He remains controversial because of lingering questions about his guilt and the nature of the trial. Horn’s death remains important as it shows the power of Wyoming’s cattle barons, once substantial, beginning at last to wane.
Encyclopedia | On May 16, 1986, David and Doris Young took 154 people hostage at the Cokeville Elementary School in tiny Cokeville, Wyo. and detonated a bomb inside. The Youngs both died that day. Everyone else survived, and many who did recalled the tragedy with memories of the presence of angels.
Encyclopedia | 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.
Encyclopedia | University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was openly gay, was brutally beaten in October 1998 by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Shepard died several days later. The incident received international media coverage and continues to spark controversy about hate crimes. Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis, established a foundation in Matthew’s name, which continues its pro-LGBT educational work today.
Encyclopedia | Notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch frequently crossed and hid out in Wyoming when on the run from the law. Cassidy’s 18-month incarceration at the Wyoming State Prison in Laramie, 1894-1896, is a definite fact. Other than that, stories place him and his gang all over the map, from Sundance to Brown’s Hole, and Powder Wash near Baggs to Hole in the Wall near Kaycee. Stories persist as well that Cassidy returned to Wyoming decades after his reported death in Bolivia in 1908, but no hard evidence has yet turned up.
Encyclopedia | Although the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s was named for a Wyoming rock formation resembling a teapot, the wrongdoers were not from the state. During the administration of President Warren G. Harding, oilmen Harry Sinclair and Edward Doheny bribed Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall to gain access to the naval petroleum reserves located at Teapot Dome in the Salt Creek field north of Casper in northern Natrona County. Fall was the first Cabinet official to be imprisoned for crimes committed during his time in office. Sinclair also served a jail sentence.
Encyclopedia | Wyoming’s first state prison was located in Rawlins, Wyo., and housed inmates for 80 years, beginning in 1901. In 1988, a joint powers board turned the abandoned building into a museum and renamed it the Wyoming Frontier Prison. Visitors today can tour the cells and see the grounds where 13,500 prisoners, including 11 women, served time.

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