History of Wyoming 1251
13 December 2012
Major: Pre Nursing
Who were “Cattle Kate”, Ella Wilson, Kate Maxwell, Ellen Liddy Watson, Ellen Watson Pickell, and Ellen Liddy Andrews? Were these all aliases used by one woman? The answer to this lay with who you talk to, their motives behind the accusations, and if their memories were clouded or not? There were many different stories most of which were built on lies told to the press by the prominent cattle barons. All these names were given to one woman; some were by mistake, others through birth and marriage, and others intentionally for the purpose of slandering an innocent woman’s reputation to justify the hanging of a woman. These names belong to other real women that were cattle rustlers and “soiled doves”, as the prostitutes were called back then. With the help from authors like; John W. Davis, Lori Van Pelt, Kathy Weiser, Tom Rea, and especially George W. Hufsmith with his 15 years of research and interviews the answer to the question will be answered.
Ellen Liddy Watson, or as The Cheyenne Sun, the Cheyenne newspaper of her era called her, “Cattle Kate,” was the “first and only woman hung in the history of Wyoming” (Kristina 2012) for cattle rustling; without a trial, proof, or conviction of such a crime. The lynching of Ellen Watson and Jim Averell was one of the most famous murders that some members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association had taken part in, prior to the largest member gathering, for the Johnson County Invasion; a continuation of these men taking matters into their own hands. The lynching was proof of how powerful men can get away with murder of innocent people just on their word alone by calling someone a rustler therefore; justifying their illegal actions. Ellen Watson was a settler with a legal claim to land ownership, and that didn’t agree with the cattle baron Bothwell’s plan to run his cattle free range, so she had to be eliminated by any means; bought out, forced out, or killed.
Who was Ellen really, and how did she get branded as “Cattle Kate”, rustler and soiled dove?
Ellen Liddy Watson was born on July 2, 1861 to Thomas Lewis Watson and Frances Close Watson near Arran Lake, Bruce County, Ontario, Canada (Weiser 2010). Thomas Watson was born in Scotland in 1837 and came to America with his parents and settled in Ohio. Thomas as a young man worked his way into Canada where he met and married Frances Close. Frances’ family had come from Ireland. Ellen was their first child out of ten, and she was known to her family as “Ellie”. Later Ellie’s parents and the seven children at that time had moved to Kansas and three more children were born (Weiser 2010). Thomas wanting to homestead and lay claim to the land became a naturalized citizen his wife Frances never did. Thomas and Frances also did not have Ellie naturalized. Back in those early settlement years and with having such a large family they were poor and had little time for a formal education other than bible studies. Ellie’s parents were illiterate however; they did want their children to learn to read and write. The children did so only after their daily chores were done. Ellie and her siblings attended schooling in a one room elementary school nearby. Ellie did not have an extended education any higher than an elementary one. (Hufsmith, 1993 p.35) “She was said to be extremely bright and was described as being five foot eight inches tall and weighing 165 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, most considered her handsome” (Davis p.69). Ellen was kind and always helpful to a neighbor in need.
Ellie was probably accustomed to hard work, cooking and cleaning for others, with such a large family to help take care of, and she being the oldest, had a hand with raising all of her siblings. According to Hufsmith (1993 p. 39) at the age of 16 she went to work as a housekeeper and cook for a local rancher and banker, H.R.