Last Open Attack in the Wyoming Range Wars: Spring Creek Raid of 1909

The Spring Creek Raid of April 2, 1909 marks the last open attack in a long-running range war in Wyoming and concludes the era of private warfare in the state.

In the Spring Creek Raid, a collection of Big Horn cattlemen attacked sheep man Joe Allemand, killed him, and then burned his sheep wagon.

sheepwagon

Typical sheep wagon in 1909. Charles J. Belden Photographs, Accession Number 598, Box 9, Item 733

This was one of a series of raids that had occurred since sheep were introduced into Wyoming in the 1890s.

The brutality of the assault shocked area residents who for the first time supported legal efforts to prosecute the perpetrators in the Big Horn Basin, which previously had not been the case.

As part of the Wyoming Pioneers Oral History Project housed at the American Heritage Center, an interview was conducted in 1955 with 76-year old Herbert Brink, a local cowboy and one of the participants in the raid.

Spring_Creek_Raiders_Wyoming_between_May_and_November_1909

Defendants in the Spring Creek Raid case. Clockwise from top left: Herbert Brink, Ed Eaton, George Saban, Tommy Dixon and Milton Alexander. Courtesy WyoHistory.org.

A jury convicted Brink of first-degree murder and sentenced him to hang. Brink’s death sentence was commuted, but five of the seven Spring Creek raiders were sentenced to serve prison terms. The two who testified for the prosecution were provided immunity.

metz2

Fearing trouble from cattlemen, Wyoming Gov. B.B. Brooks authorized a guard of Wyoming militia at the Big Horn County Courthouse in Basin, Wyo., during the trial of Spring Creek raider Herbert Brink, 1909. Photo courtesy Washakie Museum and Cultural Center.

The tide had effectively shifted some years earlier in the state as the willingness to prosecute and execute assassin Tom Horn in 1903 had demonstrated.

Later in life prosecuting attorney Percy Metz (1883-1964) considered writing a book about the Spring Creek Raid. In addition to his insider knowledge of the case, he held highly important written materials, including, for example, notes setting out the entire strategy of the prosecution and a transcript of the grand jury testimony. But he sickened before he could write his book.

He turned over all his materials to his niece, Lola Homsher, longtime director of the Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department. Metz’s materials are now housed at the American Heritage Center in Lola Homsher’s papers, providing a rich source of materials for researchers about the Spring Creek Raid.

 

Excerpts of text courtesy of On This Day in Wyoming History by Patrick T. Holscher and the article “Percy Metz: Prosecutor and Judge” by John W. Davis on WyoHistory.org.

This entry was posted in found in the archive, Livestock industry, Range wars, Uncategorized, Wyoming history and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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