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 several 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 to kill some 70 suspected cattle rustlers who had been placed on a “death list.” However, after killing Nick Ray and Nate Champion, Sheriff 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 Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.