Cattlewoman of old Colorado is subject of biography

Ann Bassett led exciting life in area of fabled ranchland wars

Posted 8/20/18

She was the first white child born in Brown’s Park, and ranch woman Ann Bassett continued to make history as a cattle queen — actually called “Queen Ann” in later years — a woman who could …

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Cattlewoman of old Colorado is subject of biography

Ann Bassett led exciting life in area of fabled ranchland wars

Posted

She was the first white child born in Brown’s Park, and ranch woman Ann Bassett continued to make history as a cattle queen — actually called “Queen Ann” in later years — a woman who could ride, shoot and curse with the best of them.

Her story is told in the new book “Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen” by Littleton author Linda Wommack, and this reader rather immediately started envisioning the related movie she’d love to see …

Ann, a small, dark-haired, pretty woman was born on the Bassett Ranch to parents who differed dramatically. She grew up under the tutelage of a mother, Elizabeth Bassett, who was a skilled, strong-willed ranch operator.

Her father, Herb Bassett, was soft-spoken warm man with health issues, who was justice of the peace and local postmaster, welcoming people to stay at the Bassett Ranch.

Ann’s parents were early subjects of threats by surrounding cattle owners who wanted their land — a fight Ann took up with gusto, especially after her nemesis, J. S. Hoy, the big-time cattle owner who wanted the Bassett land for himself.

Hoy hired gunman Tom Horn to shoot Ann’s fiancé, Matt Rash, who headed a cattlemen’s organization in Brown’s Park, as well as the Bassetts’ kind ranch hand, Isom Dart, who taught the children to ride and function on the ranch.

Disputes were violent and ongoing. The Craig Museum had a lot of information about Brown’s Park and about Ann’s older sister Josie McKnight (seven marriages and a history of cattle rustling). Wommack is now launched on a book about Josie McKnight, she added.

Littleton author Linda Wommack has been writing about the West “for 10 years, off and on,” especially about Western women. “I’ve loved Colorado history since childhood and first learned about Ann Bassett while a student at DU,” Wommack said during a recent interview.

About 10 years ago, Wommack learned that Bassett had left unpublished memoirs and she was soon started on her ninth book.

She also had memoirs by Ann’s third husband, cattleman Frank Willis, other family letters and memoirs as well as material from old newspapers.

In the Craig Museum, she found a “large newspaper archive, memoirs, court documents” and 80 percent of the photos she used. Just across the border in the Vernal, Utah, library, she found more information, especially about Josie, who is buried there and left written memoirs. Ann and Willis lived near Josie in Ann’s last years, until Ann died in 1956.

“Every book is a joy, but this …,” a huge smile said it all.

Brown’s Park is in northwestern Colorado on the Green River at the far edge of Dinosaur National Monument, extending into Utah.

It was reputed to be a legendary stomping ground for outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. (An initial internet search reported that the sisters were “girlfriends” of the notorious outlaws, but it seems more likely after reading Wommack’s interesting tales, that they were just friends and cohorts.)

Craig, in Moffat County, was the seat of activity for the area — where a newspaper was reporting on interactions of outlaws and the ranchers those who used, or wished to use, the public land to graze cattle and sheep.

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