Archives On The Air 123: The Hanging Of "Cattle Kate"—George Hufsmith Papers

Feb 27, 2019

Ellen Watson became known as "Cattle Kate." But she never actually went by Kate. The press said she ran a brothel and accepted stolen cattle as payment. This does not seem to be true.

Watson and her partner Jim Averell were homesteaders near Wyoming's Sweetwater River.

Nearby, a group of ranchers set up the town of Bothwell. Their goal was to control the whole area. The ranchers asked to buy Watson's land for its water access. Watson and Averell said no.

In 1889 the Bothwell ranchers kidnapped Watson and Averell. A friend saw and tried to save them. But he ran out of bullets and fled.

Watson and Averell were lynched. The case against the ranchers was dropped. There was no evidence. The ranchers fed false stories to the press about "Cattle Kate." They also took control of the homestead.

George Hufsmith was a composer who wrote an opera about Cattle Kate. His papers are at UW's American Heritage Center.