Johnson County War

1888-1893 range conflicts in Johnson, Wyoming

The Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder River and the Wyoming Range War, was a fight over farmland. It happened in Johnson County, Wyoming between 1889 and 1893. The fights started when cattle companies started ruthlessly punishing accused rustlers in the area. Many of the “rustlers” were actually innocent settlers that competed with the companies for land, livestock and water rights. As tensions swelled between the large established ranchers and the smaller settlers in the state, violence finally reached a peak in Powder River Country, when the ranchers hired armed gunmen to invade the county. The gunmen's initial incursion in the territory aroused the small farmers and ranchers, as well as the state lawmen, and they formed a posse of 200 men that led to a grueling stand-off. The siege ended when the United States Cavalry on the orders of President Benjamin Harrison relieved the two forces, although further fighting persisted in the following months.

The events have since become a highly mythologized and symbolic story of the Wild West, and over the years variations of the storyline have come to include some of its most famous historical figures. In addition to being one of the most well-known range wars of the American frontier, its themes, especially class warfare, served as a basis for numerous popular novels, films, and television shows in the Western genre.