Spring Creek Raid
In the 1870's, in Wyoming, Texas and Colorado,
sheep ranchers with their herders and "woolies" began
to encroach on the open range in significant numbers. There was
immediate dislike and antagonism on the part of the cattlemen and
their cowboys towards the newcomers. The ensuing
battles were, however, really being fought over the use of the rangeland
grass and the wealth it could provide in the form of beef or mutton
The 1909 raid in Wyoming was particularly brutal
attack by cattlemen on a sheepherder's camp. It received protracted
and widespread news media coverage at the time and marked the beginning
of the end of such conflicts. The cattlemen involved were tried
in the local court and, for essentially the first time, convicted
of major crimes. All prior such cases that made it to court were
either dismissed or won by the cattlemen because of expensive legal
defenses and/or sympathetic jurors.
After this raid, the battle for use of public
land for grazing would continue sporadically until about 1921. During
their half-century duration, cattlemen-sheepmen battles numbered
more than 120 over 8 states. They caused at least 54 human deaths
along with the slaughter of more than 53,000 sheep. The cowboys
found a number of ways to kill the hated sheep during their raids,
including "rimrocking", i.e., driving a flock over a high
The Spring Creek Raid began in the Spring of
1909 when two sheepmen, Joe Allemand and Joe Emge, along with their
three sheepherders, drove 2,500 head of sheep from Worland, Wyoming,
east to Tensleep, some 25 miles distant. Allemand was well liked
by both the cattlemen and the sheepmen of the area even though he
ran sheep. Allemand was having some financial difficulty for some
of his sheep had been lost in a couple of raids so he had sold a
partnership to another Spring Creek rancher, Joe Emge. The latter,
a squatty dark man, was not so well thought of. Emge had at one
time been with the cattlemen but after taking over the sheep he
had boasted that he'd graze his sheep any place he liked and that
he'd run the cattlemen off the range.
On this April day in 1909, the two sheepmen were
driving two bands of sheep across the badlands from Worland to the
Spring Creek ranches. Allemand had telephoned his wife to say that
he would be home that evening. Listeners over the party line hurried
to inform some of Emge's enemies that Allemand would not be in the
camp that night and Emge would be alone with the herder and the
camp tender. But after camp had been made with one band of sheep
and a sheepwagon on each side of the creek, two brothers who lived
nearby stopped to visit and eat supper and by the time they left,
Allemand thought it was too late to ride on home. So Allemand and
his young nephew, Jules Lazier, a French subject, and Emge went
to sleep in the upper wagon. A newly hired young herder, 16 year
old Bounce Helmer and another Frenchman, Pete Cafferal, were in
the lower wagon.
When it grew dark the raiders struck, two headed
toward the wagon with the sheepmen and the other five after the
sheep. Shots were fired at the herds and Helmer, fearing for his
dog sprang, half-dressed out of the other wagon. He was immediately
captured by the raiders as was Cafferal and both were tied up. Helmer
who had lit a lantern was able to see and recognize some of the
men but Cafferal could not.
When no one came out of the upper wagon, the
two men who were near it started firing into it. One of them started
a fire by throwing Kerosene from Helmer's lantern on the sage brush
that had been piled under the sheepwagon to build the morning fire.
As Allemand came out of the wagon he was shot and killed. The fire
grew so rapidly that Emge and Lazier were trapped. When the raiders
realized that they had killed the wrong man, they fled in a panic.
In the meantime, Helmer and Cafferal freed themselves and ran to
the neighbors for help.
It was almost noon the next day before Big Horn
County sheriff, Felix Alston and Judge Percy Metz reached the scene
of the raid. Joe Allemands body was lying near the smoldering embers
of the sheep wagon and one of his sheep dog's puppies was curled
up on his chest. The burned bodies of Emge and Lazier were found
Seven men were eventually arrested for the crime.
Albert Keys and Charles Ferris turned states evidence and told the
whole story. They were jailed in Sheridan and the other five in
the Basin jail. A long trial was held in the fall of 1909. Herbert
Brink was found guilty of first degree murder. George Henry Saban
and Milton Alexander were found guilty of second degree murder.
All three were sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Tommy
Dixon, and Ed Eaton were sentenced to two years on arson charges.
The Spring Creek Raid did indeed prove to be
a major turning point in the relations between cattlemen and sheepmen.
However, while such conflicts continued for the following decade,
the day of the gunman in Wyoming was rapidly fading.