Frank Wolcott – Enforcer in the Johnson County War


Frank Wolcott

Frank Wolcott

Frank Wolcott was a soldier, lawman, and instigator in the Johnson County War in Wyoming.

Born in Canandaigua, New York on December 13, 1840, Wolcott served in the Civil War, leaving as a Major in 1866. He then moved to Kentucky, before making his way to Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1870. He worked for the U.S. Land Office until being appointed a U.S. Deputy Marshal for Wyoming. However, he didn’t last long in this role, as three years later he was released because of what Governor John M. Thayer called “offensive” behavior.

He then bought a ranch in 1876 and became involved with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and a number of large cattle barons. When the conflict between the small ranchers and the cattle barons erupted in the 1880s, Wolcott sided with the large ranchers. Known as the Johnson County War, Wolcott led a group of 50 henchmen into Johnson County in April 1892 with the intention of killing some 70 suspected cattle rustlers who had been placed on a “death list.” However, after killing Nick Ray and Nate ChampionSheriff Red Angus, leading a posse of 200 men, trapped the gunmen and besieged Wolcott’s forces at the TA Ranch until they were rescued by the 6th Cavalry three days later.

Over the next couple of years, Wolcott continued in his efforts to destroy the small ranch owners of the area. In 1894, he moved to Nebraska where he became a general agent at the Omaha Stockyards. He died in Denver, Colorado on March 30, 1910.

©Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.

Also See:

Johnson County War

Lawmen of the Old West

Old West Legends

Who’s Who in American History