435

Wyoming Sheep Wars, Rare Photograph of the Five Murderers Convicted of the Spring Creek Raid in 1909, with Provenance

Silver gelatin photograph, 7 x 5 in., mounted to 10 x 8 in. on black cardstock marked at lower right for Robinson Studio, Basin, WY. Photograph shows the five defendants in the Spring Creek Raid case standing before a brick building, likely the Big Horn County Jail, where they were held from May 3 through November 20, 1909 before their sensational trials. Inscriptions on mount verso identify the defendants as (clockwise from top left): "Herbert Leroy Brink, Ed Eaton, George Sab[a]n, Thomas Dixon, and [Milton] Alex Alexander," with notes on the charges and sentences of each man. Text at center reads, "The men I helped guard in 1909 at Basin Wyo. jail for killing sheep men. I was in the millitia [sic] at this time." Alexander, at lower left, appears to smirk at the camera, while the others either stare boldly ahead or gaze disinterestedly off to the side.

Prior to their arrest, not a single sheep raid in the state of Wyoming had resulted in a conviction, and the defendants were likely confident that they would be released before ever having to stand trial for their violent actions. "Sheep Wars" had plagued Wyoming since the late 1890s, when the number of men raising sheep surpassed that of the state's cattlemen, who believed they had a prior claim on the land. The number of sheep and sheepmen continued to balloon, however, and rogue cattlemen increasingly employed violent tactics to protect their territory. Saban and six other cattlemen were behind the deadliest of these raids on April 2, 1909, when they opened fire on a group of sheep wagons and set them ablaze, resulting in the deaths of three men and dozens of dogs and sheep. The raiders also kidnapped two sheepherders, and the testimony of one of these men proved instrumental in building the prosecution's case. The state also presented photographs, surveyor's maps, and eye witness accounts, but the most damning pieces of evidence were the testimonies of two of the original raiders, who had struck deals in exchange for prosecutorial immunity. Brink, who was tried first, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to hang. His sentence was later commuted, but it incited the other four defendants to make separate deals, and all five of the charged Spring Creek raiders served time in prison. 

Condition:

Mount with wear to corners and edges.

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,500
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium
$640
11/15/2019

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