The Autobiography of “Queen” Ann Bassett

“Queen Ann” of Brown’s Park
The autobiography of ANN BASSETT WILLIS
From Colorado Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 2 (April 1952): 81-98.

"Queen" Ann Bassett, at her earliest and most beautiful

“Queen” Ann Bassett, at her earliest and most beautiful

Ann Bassett (May 12, 1878 – May 8, 1956), also known as Queen Ann Bassett, was a prominent female rancher of the Old West, and with her sister Josie Bassett, was an associate of outlaws, particularly Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Her reputation as “Queen of the Rustlers” was well-earned, though it occurred during her “war” with cattle barons trying to destroy the independent ranchers and was given to her by her enemies. This is her autobiography; note that it doesn’t mention Butch Cassidy or the Wild Bunch…which is interesting in and of itself.


Women who dared the frontier at its worst were few. True, there were many pioneer mothers whose deeds of heroism were the best kind, that went unsung. Of those who met the West on its terms, dealt back as good as they received, asked no sanctuary because they were women, so bringing bright glory to their age and sex, the number may easily be counted. They were a brave few. history and romance have immortalized but a small number of these. And among them, none exceeds in daring, intelligence, glamour and honor—Queen Ann.

Child of the West, born to a family that grappled with the West in its roughest, toughest days and tamed it, was Ann Bassett. like an antelope she was born running, and like an antelope takes water, she took to education, knowledge and experience—while moving.

There was nothing static in Ann Bassett’s career. Born in a dirt-covered log cabin, where the nearest neighbors were miles dis­t and schoolhouses were unknown, she nevertheless came to shine the most erudite company, to wear the manner and grace of the time, yet never losing touch nor sympathy with the land and the people of her native hills.

In more ways than one she earned the title by which she was own from prairie to ocean and from the land of the Rio Grande to Athabasca. Wherever men rode and cattle ranged, the name of Queen Ann Bassett was acclaimed with admiration and respect.

The Frontier has vanished. Gone are the immense herds, the mile-long cavvies, the great round-ups. Long since, the badmen have been gathered together into their last hide-out. “Queen Ann” is no longer a name with which to conjure on the range. But she lives on. Many who are her neighbors do not know that the comely, dignified, yet loveable lady “next door,” could unfold tales that would over­shadow the wildest thriller ever shown at the neighborhood theatre. After much persuasion, she has put on paper some of the happen-rigs of that day long gone, when as child and woman she rode the range

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A Personal Interview With Josie Bassett


By Kerry Ross Boren

Josie was getting old, but she still got around

Josie was getting old, but she still got around

In 1960, just before leaving for a two year study of the motion picture business in California. I was living in Daggett County, Utah, writing articles on western history for national periodicals. One particular article dealt with the topic of Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, and received numerous letters in response. Two of these letters concerned Josie Bassett.

The first was from noted author John Rolfe Burroughs, who was then in the process of researching his award-winning history of Brown’s Park.1 He had recently obtained an interview with Josie and recommended her as a remarkable source of information on Brown’s Park, Butch Cassidy, and much more.

The second letter was from a lady who lived at Jensen, Utah, who was a neighbor of Josie’s, and who stated that she had gone deer hunting with Josie every year for a decade or more. She informed me that Josie knew a great deal about Butch Cassidy, but that she was then in her 86th year and in declining health, and she suggested that if I wanted to talk with Josie, I should do so soon, before it was too late.

Inspired by these letters, I determined to make a trip to Jensen, Utah, where Josie lived, and to interview her.

This was not the first I had heard of Josie Bassett, however. My grandfather, William Schofield, Sr., had known her for many years, and had filled my inquisitive young mind with tales about her. Her exploits were near legendary in the region where I was born and raised.

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Butch Cassidy’s Return

According to the generally accepted story, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid died in a hail of gunfire after robbing a bank in Bolivia, South America; they were buried there.

The fact is, though, that there are numerous accounts of those who knew Butch that he survived Boliva, returned home, and finished his life as a businessman, though no one knows under what name he lived. I have numerous sources, but the two best sources are his former lover, Josie Bassett, and his sister, Lula Parker Betenson. Josie’s account can be read here (one has to go a bit down to read the part about Butch)…and Lula published a book, “Butch Cassidy, My Brother,” which can be bought on Amazon or borrowed from a library.

It is an established fact that Butch tried to get amnesty for his crimes; he never hurt anyone, but was a train and bank robber, and had amassed quite a bit of money…the amnesty attempt fell through, and this is one of the main reasons that Butch and Sundance decided to take a long siesta in South America to get away from the Pinkerton detectives….here is an account from Lula Betenson’s book, of Butch Cassidy’s return home, which I thought would be interesting; note that his real name was Robert Leroy Parker, which is why he is referred to as Bob, or Leroy. Here is chapter 15, from Lula’s book, describing Butch’s return:

After Mother’s death in 1905, Father lived in the brick house in town with his six unmarried children. Since I was the eldest daughter living at home, it was my responsibility to try to keep things together. I am the only one of the girls who stayed in Circleville, and I remained very close to Dad and my brothers.

On New Year’s Eve, 1907, I married Joseph Bet­enson, and we lived in Circleville, where five children were born to us: Pauline, Scott, Mark, John, and Barbara.

Most of the time my brothers were out on the range with the livestock, spending the summers on the mountain and the winters at home, feeding cattle and horses at the ranch south of Circleville. My brothers worked elsewhere as time permitted, but they helped Dad at the ranch also. They had always raised good horses, cattle, and sheep, but were only moderate stockmen.

One day, Jim Gass, a Circleville neighbor, came home from a trip to California and told me he had seen Bob getting on a train in Los Angeles. He and Bob waved to each other, but the train pulled out before they could speak to each other.

Jim had been a close friend of Bob’s when they were boys. He told me of an incident when he and Bob were in the hills together, and a deer jumped out and refused to run away. They rode back and discovered a fawn lying on the ground, pinned down by a log that had rolled onto its leg. Jim said, “We’d better shoot it to get it out of its misery.”

But Bob said, “No, we’ll fix that leg.” They dis­mounted, and Bob took a buckskin string, splinted the leg, tied the string, and turned the fawn loose. A master with knots, Bob did this so skillfully that, as the leg healed, the movements of the deer would wear it off. Jim had always said, “Bob couldn’t kill a dog, let alone a man.”

Jim also told me that Bob was a true conserva­tionist. He said that in the fall of the year Bob always filled his pockets with seeds of wildflowers, and as he rode along on his horse, he scattered the seeds in barren places along the road or trail.

As we pursued our very ordinary lives, occasion­ally a rumor reached us that Butch Cassidy was still alive and had been seen in various localities. Dad seemed so sure that he was still living. We wondered how much he really knew. But if Butch ever communicated with Dad, we didn’t know it.

Dad, eighty-one, was sitting on the step by the kitchen door of the brick house, enjoying the shade and the late afternoon calm. His hair was white, and he wore a thick white mustache. He was a fine-looking man, straight and alert, and, as always, dressed immaculately. The flashy car drove into the yard, and Mark stepped out. Dad was surprised. That morning Mark had left on horseback, headed for the ranch. Rather slowly the driver slipped out on the left side of the car and straightened up. At first Dad wondered who it was.

Bob’s face for once was solemn; perhaps he wondered how he would be accepted. The screen door to the kitchen was open behind Dad’s back. Bob took off his hat and twirled it through the door. It landed squarely on the post of the rocking chair inside. Then he grinned that unmistakable grin. Dad knew him. No one could ever describe that meeting after all the years of uncertainty and separation—forty-one years. That reunion proved the strength of Dad’s heart; he survived it.

Minutes later my brother Mark appeared at my kitchen door and said, “Lula, we’ve got company. Dad wants you to come down and fix supper.”

That wasn’t the first time I had been asked to leave my family and prepare supper for Dad and the boys. Pauline was old enough to take care of our children, but John, the baby at that time, sat up a howl to go along.

Jose went with me to Dad’s. In clean dishtowels I wrapped two loaves of warm bread and a fresh bullberry pie that I had just taken from the oven, and we walked over to Dad’s. We walked in the front gate and around to the kitchen door. I glanced at the unfamiliar car and wondered who it was this time. As we stepped into the kitchen, put down the food, and went on into the living room, the conversation stopped. The stranger stood up as I stepped into the room, and I studied his face in the awkward silence. He wasn’t a stranger, not really, and yet he was. Why did he look so familiar?

Dad smiled. “I’ll bet you don’t know who this is.” I was puzzled. By his features, he had to be family. “Lula, this is LeRoy!” Dad announced.

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John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln… but who killed John Wilkes Booth? | The Verge

Source: John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln… but who killed John Wilkes Booth? | The Verge

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California Vigilante Justice, The Clappe Letters, 1851

This is a fascinating article about one mining town and how they took care of a thief:

They granted him a respite of three hours to prepare for his sudden entrance into eternity.”

Mrs. Louise Clappe was the wife of a physician and lived in the mining area known as Indian Bar that bordered the Feather River in Northern California.

In the period from 1851 to 1852, she wrote a number of letters to her sister in Massachusetts describing her experience.

These letters were originally published in Pioneer Magazine (1854-55) and then as a book in 1922.

A copy of this book resides in the Library of Congress.

In a letter written on December 14, 1851, Mrs. Louise Clappe describes how the mining community established its own form of law and order:

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Cowboy Joe – The Last of the Wild Bunch

Cowboy Joe – The Last of the Wild Bunch

by Kerry Ross Boren

While thumbing through the Letters to the Editor section of my Fall 1992 issue of Old West magazine I was surprised to discover reference from a reader to an article I had written for Westerner magazine back in 1975. The article was an interview with Joseph Claude Marsters, an octogenarian friend of mine who just happened to be the last known survivor of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. The letter’s author, Mr. Clyde Dykes of Doyle, California, claimed to have recently purchased a piece of ground near Doyle which was once part of Joe Marsters’ old ranch. On that ground, according to Mr. Dykes, was a small cemetery plot containing the graves of Joe, his wife Nellie, and a brother Claude.

I have since heard directly from Mr. Dykes, who sent me photos of the graves, and memories of my old friend Cowboy Joe came flooding back. It seemed appropriate to share a few of those memories in these pages.

Joseph Claude Marsters was born at Tillamook, Oregon, near Portland, in 1894. In 1907, when Joe was a lad of 13, his best friend was his uncle, a young retarded youth in his early twenties. Some local fellows took advantage of the young man’s simpleness to blame a local crime on him, and he was dragged away kicking and screaming, and summarily hanged. Joe had followed, and he witnessed the gruesome death of his favorite uncle. The trauma caused him to run away from home.

“My poor mother,” Joe told me, “was quite a business woman in Portland, Oregon and through the lodges of Eastern Star and Rebeccahs, she had a small reward offered for me.” But Joe was nowhere to be found.

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A Thanksgiving Dinner With Butch Cassidy

I have a copy of Ann Bassett’s autobiography on this blog, but if one really wants to get to know Ann Bassett, her sister and the residents of Brown’s park, one needs to read Grace McClure’s excellent and readable book about Ann and her sister, Jose, “The Bassett Women,” which you can get on in paperback and Kindle…here is an excerpt about a most unusual Thanksgiving dinner given by the Outlaws, including “the Wild Bunch,” lead by Butch Cassidy, for the citizens of Brown’s Park:

“In that little group of socially acceptable lawbreakers were, for instance, the Bender Gang. These men “worked” in the summer and spent their winters in Brown’s Park. Ann Bassett wrote in detail about a Thanksgiving dinner the outlaws gave for the families in the Park around 1895, recreating it for Esther Campbell so that Esther might use it for a community program. Ann is quoted here, with the faulty spelling and casual punctuation she used in letters to her personal friends:

. . . Brown’s Hole was a rest retreat for the men we called the “Bender gang.” Billie Bender and Les Megs were men of education and refinement. They had several younger men who came with them regularly. It became known in our country that Bender and Megs were agents for smugglers working from the Mexi­can border to Canada. Several years after they no longer came to Brown’s Hole, Bender died in Wyoming and Megs became a real estate broker in Los Angeles. None of them ever gave the people of Brown’s Hole any trouble. They were quiet peaceful citizens while there. Their profession or business was rather a mystery to the settlers but it was not our business to question that since they were well be­haved and kept their boys in line.

Butch and Lay were on friendly terms with Bender and Megs and their boys, so they gave the Thanksgiving party for the Brown’s Hole families together and did not spare expenses in putting over a grand spread of the best delicacies Rock Springs could supply.

Tom Davenport raised the turkeys and the “gang” bought them. The dishes, linens, and silver waS furnished by the women of the Hole.

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