Ellen Watson, dubbed by local newspapers in the late 1880’s, as
"Cattle Kate,” has long been thought of as an
outlaw. Watson along with
were hanged by
near the Sweetwater River in
on July 20, 1889 for the accused crime of cattle rustling. However,
there is a mystery surrounding the hangings and it appears that their
deaths were unjustified, perpetrated by powerful land and cattle
owners of the time.
Ellen Liddy Watson was born on July 2, 1861 to Thomas Lewis Watson and
Frances Close Watson near Arran Lake, Bruce County, Ontario, Canada.
Ella, as she was called, was the oldest of ten children, six of which
were also born in Canada before the family moved to
in 1877. Settling near Lebanon in Smith County, Kansas,
Ella, as she was called,
met a young man by the name of William A Pickell who lived on a
neighboring farm. On November 24, 1879, the 18-year-old
Ella and 21-year-old
William were married. But within just a few short months
Ella found that her husband
was both a heavy drinker and an abusive man. Often, he would verbally
abuse her then escalate the violence to physical blows and striking
her with a horsewhip. By January 1883, she could take it no longer
and fled to her parent’s home. Later, she moved to Red Cloud,
14 miles north of her parent’s farm to put even more distance between
herself and her estranged husband. On February 14, 1884, she filed
Against her parent’s
wishes, Ella moved to Denver,
Colorado after filing for divorce. Seeking better opportunities,
she lived with a brother for a short time, but didn’t stay long. Ella
then moved again, first to Cheyenne, Wyoming,
then to Rawlins, Wyoming
in late 1885 or early 1886. She found employment at a boarding house
called the "Rawlins House” as a cook and domestic for about two years.
Watson has often been misidentified as a prostitute because the
Rawlins House was erroneously thought to have been a brothel.
On February 24, 1886, she
met a handsome young man named James Averell, who was in Rawlins to file a claim on his
homestead 60 miles east of Rawlins near the Sweetwater River.
Immediately, the two fell for each other and began to court.
James Averell was born
on March 20, 1851 to John and Sarah Ann Averell in Renfrew County,
Ontario Canada. The youngest of seven children, his father died
shortly after his birth. At the age of 20,
Averell, now in
the U.S., joined the military and was initially assigned to Fort
and later transferred to
Fort Fred Steele, Wyoming, 15 miles east of
Rawlins. In 1876 he was discharged but he soon re-enlisted, this time
assigned to Fort McKinley, Wyoming, near Buffalo.