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Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)

Joe Offer 02 Aug 21 - 08:01 PM
Joe Offer 02 Aug 21 - 08:22 PM
GUEST,# 02 Aug 21 - 08:44 PM
leeneia 03 Aug 21 - 12:54 AM
mayomick 03 Aug 21 - 10:50 AM
pattyClink 03 Aug 21 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,pattyClink 05 Aug 21 - 08:07 PM
Neil D 06 Aug 21 - 07:31 AM
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Subject: ADD: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 21 - 08:01 PM

We had a discussion at the Singaround about the Johnson County War. Background information would be appreciated.

JOHNSON COUNTY WAR
(Chris LeDoux)

Headed for Wyoming, in 1882
A woman, a team, and a wagon
Gonna make our dreams come true
Settled in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountain slope
Life is sweet, we lived on the meat
Of the deer and the antelope

We cut house logs up on the mountain
With the team we hauled 'em down
Peeled 'em and we stacked 'em up
House, and bottom ground (??)
Traded for some cattle, turned 'em out on the open range
The skies were blue and we never knew
How things were gonna change

Ol' Powder River, you're muddy and you're wide
How many men have died along your shore?
When you brand a man a rustler, he's gotta take a side
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War

Well, the neighbors stopped by yesterday
While I was outside choppin' wood
And they filled me in on the local news
There ain't none of it sounded good
Said, there'd been some cattle stealin'
By some no-count outlaw bands
We'd all been branded rustlers
By the big ranchers of this land

Well it was us against the cattlemen
And the years just made it worse
First the drought and then the tough winter
Johnson County had been dealt a curse
Then there came the story about the two Dry Gulch attacks.
Ranger Jones and John Tisdale both shot in the back

Ol' Powder River, you're muddy and you're wide
How many men have died along your shore?
When you brand a man a rustler, he's gotta take a side
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War

And then last night at supper time
Riders stopped by chance
They said the cattleman and their hired guns
Just burned the Kaycee ranch
Two men had died this mornin'
Shot down in the snow
Now the vigilante army was on the march to Buffalo

Well the county was in an uproar
And every man saddled up to ride
Caught the cattlemen at the TA ranch
And surrounded all four sides
We hailed the house with bullets
And swore they were gonna pay
But the cavalry came across the plains
And once again they saved the day

Well, they marched them off to Cheyenne
And no one went to jail
The cattlemen were all turned loose
And the hired guns hit the trail
And I guess the only justice
Wasn't much to say the least
Last winter me and mine ate mighty fine
On the cattle baron's beef

Ol' Powder River, you're muddy and you're wide
How many men have died along your shore?
When you brand a man a rustler, he's gotta take a side
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War

Source: Musixmatch (corrected by Joe Offer, but still uncertain in spots)
Songwriters: Chris Ledoux

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS5CTMQ2Vro


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Aug 21 - 08:22 PM

There is a Wikipedia page on the Johnson County War:

The Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder River and the Wyoming Range War, was a range conflict that took place in Johnson County, Wyoming, from 1889 to 1893.

Johnson County is a huge county, right smack dab in the center of Wyoming - it's just east of the beautiful mountain pass town of Ten Sleep. As I entered Johnson County, I got stuck in a torrential thunderstorm, the most violent thunderstorm I've seen since I moved from the Midwest to California. It was a magnificent storm, but scary.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: GUEST,#
Date: 02 Aug 21 - 08:44 PM

Excellent video: "C-SPAN Cities Tour - Casper: Wyoming Cattle War"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BITxQJ8LG5E

It gives the background and a clear, brief history. Very much worth a listen. Only takes 16 minutes.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: leeneia
Date: 03 Aug 21 - 12:54 AM

Idle curiousity. There are 12 Johnson Counties in America. Johnson is the most common American last name.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: mayomick
Date: 03 Aug 21 - 10:50 AM

what about the family name Cartwright ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: pattyClink
Date: 03 Aug 21 - 12:10 PM

The lyrics from Musicmatch are garbled in a few places, here is a cleaned up version:
especially
2d verse 2d line
4th verse 3d line

Headed for Wyoming in eighteen eighty-two
A woman, a team, and a wagon, gonna make our dreams come true
Settled in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountain slopes
Life was sweet, we lived on the meat of the deer and the antelope

We cut house logs up on the mountain, with the team we hauled 'em down
Peeled 'em and we stacked 'em up, plowed some bottom ground
Traded for some cattle, turned them out on the open range
Skies were blue, but we never knew how things were gonna change

Oh Powder River, you're muddy and you're wide
How many men have died along your shore
When you brand a man a rustler, he's gotta take a side
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War

Well the neighbors stopped by yesterday while I was outside chopping wood
They filled me in on the local news, there ain't none of it that sounded good
Said there'd been some cattle stealing, by some no count outlaw band
We'd all been branded rustlers by the big ranchers of this land

So it was us against the cattle men and the years just made it worse
First the drought and then the tough winter, Johnson County been dealt a curse
Then there came the story about the two Dry Gulch attacks
Ranger Jones and John Tisdale, both shot in the back

Oh Powder River, you're muddy and you're wide
How many men have died along your shore
When you brand a man a rustler, he's gotta take a side
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War

Then last night at supper time, well, a rider stopped by chance
He said the cattle men, their hired guns, just burned the Kaycee ranch
Two men had died this morning, shot down in the snow
Now the vigilante army was on the march to Buffalo

Well, the county was in an uproar and every man saddled up to ride
They caught the cattle men at the TA ranch and surrounded all four sides
They hailed the house with bullets, swore they were gonna pay
Then the cavalry came from across the plains, once again they saved the day

Well, they marched them off to Cheyenne, no one went to jail
The cattle men were all turned loose and their hired guns hit the trail
And I guess the only justice, wasn't much to say the least
Last winter me and mine ate mighty fine on the cattle baron's beef

Oh Powder River, you're muddy and you're wide
How many men have died along your shores
When you brand a man a rustler, he's gotta take a side
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War
There's no middle ground in this Johnson County War


    Hi, Patty. I listened to the recording and made some changes to my post above. I think we're more-or-less in agreement now, but there are still some parts I'm not sure of.
    -Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: GUEST,pattyClink
Date: 05 Aug 21 - 08:07 PM

Well let's at least add a bio of Mr. LeDoux, a fairly unique life.

https://www.chrisledoux.com/bio


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Subject: RE: Origins: Johnson County War (Chris LeDoux)
From: Neil D
Date: 06 Aug 21 - 07:31 AM

The Johnson County War is an important and iconic event in the history of the American West. It was basically an attack on homesteaders by rich, powerful cattlemen who didn't want to give up the open range, a conflict that played out again and again in different areas of the West. What we need to understand is that the cattlemen were nearly always in the wrong. The passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 gave settlers the right to purchase land from the government at a low price and establish farms and small ranches. The cattleman used intimidation and outright violence to try to drive the small landowners off the range, and even though their actions were illegal, they generally got away with it because of their wealth and political influence.
In Johnson County the cattleman branded the homesteaders as rustlers, They weren't. Of course there were rustlers active in the area as in any cattle raising region, but the large ranchers used that fact to make war on any small landowner competing for land and water rights. Then they hired a small army of of outlaws, gun thugs and other disreputable characters from Texas to invade the county. One of their first actions was the murder of nine miners who had nothing to do with land or cattle whatsoever.
Then they went after a cowboy named Nate Champion. Nate's "crime" was forming an organization of small ranchers to compete with the Wyoming Stock Grower's Association. The WSGA had sent assassins to kill him 5 months earlier but when gunman invaded his cabin in the middle of the night Nate pulled a pistol from under his pillow, shot two of them and escaped. Now this small army of Texas killers had him cornered at the KC ranch that's mentioned in the song. Mr Champion single-handedly held them off for several hours, killing four and wounding three more before they managed to set fire to the cabin. He came out shooting but fell in a hail of bullets.
By now word had spread of the happenings at the KC and the Sherriff of Johnson County, who was sympathetic to the homesteaders, had raised a posse of 200 men. The cattleman army now found themselves under siege and outnumbered at the TA ranch. The governor, whose sympathies lay with the cattlemen, appealed to President Harrison to send in the US Army. When the soldiers broke the siege the cattlemen's force was arrested and held prisoner at a military base. However, even though papers found on the leader of the gunmen contained a hit list of 70 homesteaders and implicated over 20 prominent stockmen for having hired and directed the cattlemen's force, no charges were ever brought.
A great amount of Western novels, films and TV shows deal with these range wars. Some. like a 1902 novel by Owen Wister called "The Virginian" were sympathetic to the cattlemen and even glorified lynchings and other extrajudicial violence. The movie "Shane" on the other hand, was sympathetic to farmers and painted the large ranchers and their minions quite villainously.
The first person to write about Johnson County was an interesting character named Asa Shinn Mercer.
Mr Mercer is one of those now forgotten figures who pops up at different times in history for diverse reasons. In the early days of Seattle which was suffering for a severe lack of women, Asa went back east and recruited proper young women of good families to make the long journey west, take jobs as teachers, store clerks, etc. Nearly all ended up marrying local men and populating the region. To this day being descendant from these Mercer Girls is considered quite prestigious in the Seattle area. These events formed the basis for a popular 70s TV series called "Here Come the Brides." Asa Mercer would eventually be the founder and first president of the University of Washington but Between the Mercer Girls and the U of W he was a practicing journalist. When the Johnson County War broke out he was editor of the official publication of WSGA. But even though he was being employed by the stockmen, he recognized immediately the heinous nature of their actions against the homesteaders, and being a courageous journalist with integrity, he began to editorialize against them while still in their employ. In 1894 he wrote a detailed history of the war titled "Banditti of the Plains", the Banditti of course being the rich and powerful ranchers. This book was heavily suppressed at the time. The entire first printing was ordered destroyed by a court after a lawsuit was brought by the WSGA. An entire second printing mysteriously disappeared from the boxcar of a Union Pacific train. His printing press was burned, he was arrested and jailed and the book plates destroyed. His writings were seized in the mail as obscenity and his business was ruined, but his views were ultimately proven true. The book was the main source material of a notorious 1980 film called "Heaven's Gate". I say notorious because director Cimino went so over budget and the film performed so poorly at the box office, that it propelled United Artist Studio into bankruptcy. I personally enjoyed the movie and it has begun to develop a bit of a cult following, particularly the director's cut. There's one scene most Mudcatters will enjoy where a young man plays a fiddle tune while skating around an early roller rink.
Go to Youtube and type in Heaven's Gate: Roller Skate Dance.


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