On July 20, 1889 the first woman in Wyoming, either legally or illegally, was hanged. I think you’ll find her story very interesting.Ella Watson

Ella Watson has been described as “a dare devil in the saddle, handy with a six shooter and adept with the lariat and branding iron.” She has also been described as a homely prostitute who happened to take the wrong form of payment for her services.

In truth she was homely. Ella Watson secretly married a Wyoming Territory merchant named Jim Averill. Jim wasn’t liked by the cattle ranchers. That’s because Jim had acquired land traditionally used for grazing, and he rubbed salt in the wound by writing “anti-cattlemen” letters to the local paper.

Ella filed for a homestead, and built a log cabin close to Jim Averill’s store where she started plying her trade as a soiled dove. She also started taking cattle as payment for her services.

The cattle ranchers accused Jim and Ella of cattle rustling. Now, quite possibly a cowboy or two may have paid her with cattle not belonging to him…but because the local authorities wouldn’t take action against them, the cattlemen kidnapped Jim and Ella and lynched them.

It was well known who did the lynching. There were even five witnesses. But they were all either shot or disappeared. So the trial never took place.

Now, most people have never heard of Ella Watson, because after her death she acquired another name.

The town’s people started protesting the lynching. So the cattlemen planted stories in local newspapers changing the homely prostitute Ella Watson into a gun slinging gang leader by the name of “Cattle Kate”. She became so famous her story was written-up in New York’s “Police Gazette.”

Filed under: Old West History

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