The Killing of William E. Lewis
“whenever everything else fails, I have a system which
- Tom Horn
man could have been better than Tom Horn to investigate
the cattle thievery that was occurring northwest of Cheyenne
along Horse Creek.
The years before and after the Langhoff episode reflected continuing
problems with rustling for the cattleman. The Langhoff case of
cattle theft, which resulted in only Louis Bath being jailed,
was simply another in which the middle class and associated riffraff
once again prevailed.
For years the courts had been lenient with cattle thieves. The
Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and large independent
cattle ranchers had hired as brand inspectors and stock detectives
reputable men like N. K. Boswell and W. C. Lykins – and
others carrying dubious reputations -- in an effort to gather
evidence and arrest the thieves. However, their efforts were
frustrated by juries that were often made up of the lower and
middle classes -- including rustlers -- and by lenient judges.
The judges, being elected, understandable played to their own
Thomas Sturgis, secretary of the Association had said in 1886,
| Whenever a special case [of cattle stealing]
comes to our notice, we always push it if the evidence
is sufficient to get even a hearing before the proper
authorities... [but] it is very difficult to get an indictment
from a grand jury [even] with pretty definite evidence
as to the guilt of the party charged with stealing cattle.
Unfortunately, it is almost completely useless to bring
matters to the court even after an indictment has been
obtained and the evidence pretty well gathered. There
seems to be a morbid sympathy with cattle thieves both
on the bench and in the jury room....
As matters turned out, even hiring independent, private detectives to procure
evidence of rustling to present in court was wasted effort. WSGA Secretary Thomas
Adams, describing the frustrations and sorry financial situation in which the
large outfits found themselves said:
| It would be impossible for the Association...
to undertake to bring the parties referred to, to justice. In the first
place, we have no money at our disposal. In the second place, if we had
the means to enter into any investigation of the matter, we would be
obliged to act through private detectives. We already have tried this
system, and have been thrown out of court and laughed at for our pains.
Circumstances have forced cattlemen to look to themselves for protection
outside of any association....[Emphasis added]
“Looking to themselves” meant taking whatever measures became necessary.
William Lewis invited those measures upon himself….
The site of William Lewis’ murder
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