A Swallow Press Book
“The Bassett home gave refuge to a veritable who’s who of western outlaws, among them Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Elzy Lay, Matt Warner, and many lesser rustlers… What makes the book so delectable are the lovingly detailed scandals involving Brown’s Park pioneers.”
In the late nineteenth century, Elizabeth and Herb Bassett settled in Brown’s Park, a secluded valley straddling the border of Utah and Colorado. It was a troubled land of deadly conflict among large cattle barons, outlaws, rustlers, and the small ranchers who were often called rustlers by men greedy for their land. Elizabeth Bassett, a gentlewoman homesteader in 1878, was soon branded a rustler and cohort of outlaws. Her daughter Ann became known as “queen of the cattle rustlers.” Another daughter, Josie, before the age of forty had married and discarded five husbands, sometimes, it is said, by violent methods.
After the West was “tamed,” the Bassett sisters lived on through droughts, the Great Depression, and two world wards. Ann eventually became a writer, striving to counteract the flurry of sensationalism which had distorted the Brown’s Park she remembered. Josie established her own homestead near Vernal, Utah, on land now belonging to Dinosaur National Monument, where her cabin still stands. She lived there for almost fifty years, applying her unorthodox set of pioneer ethics to a mechanized worlds, and becoming a local legend for her resourcefulness, steadfastness, and pure audacity.
Grace McClure has tracked down and untangled the man legends of Brown’s Park, one of the way-stations of the fabled “Outlaw Trail.” From a variety of stories about the Hoy brothers, the Meeker Massacre, Elza Lay, Harry Tracy, Matt Warner, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Bender Gang and their “outlaws’ Thanksgiving dinner” of 1895, and the shooting of Isom Dart and Matt Rash by stock detective Tom Horn, she has created an even handed account of the Bassetts. Drawing on interviews with surviving family, friends and enemies, on memoirs, and on oral and written records from local libraries, newspapers, and archives she presents believable, life-size characters who respond realistically to the demands of pioneer life. The Bassett Women is one of the few credible accounts of early settlers on Colorado’s western slope, one of the last strongholds of the Old West.
Grace McClure was a free-lance writer based in Tucson, Arizona.
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