“I wish there was someone here with me so we could watch all sides at once”
Nathan D. Champion, known as Nate, was born a twin on 29 September 1857 near Round Rock, Texas, and was a rustler in Wyoming during the Johnson County War, a series of violent conflicts over land and cattle. The powerful cattlemen’s association, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), hired killers from Texas to deal with Champion and his ilk.
Fifty men known as Regulators were hired and they took two reporters along to ensure that they got a good spin on their antics. To prevent help being summoned, the vigilantes cut the telegraph lines. They headed to Champion’s KC Ranch where he had three friends staying with him. Two — Ben Jones and Bill Walker — were captured as they went to the well for water and a third, Nick Ray, was shot and died a few hours later. The Regulators besieged the KC Ranch. Two people saw what was happening and rode to alert the sheriff Red Angus who got together a posse of 200 men and headed for the KC Ranch.
For several hours battle raged and Champion managed to kill four of the Regulators. During this time he kept a journal and addressed it to his friends, “Boys, I feel pretty lonesome just now. I wish there was someone here with me so we could watch all sides at once.” The last entry read, “Well, they have just got through shelling the house like hell. I heard them splitting wood. I guess they are going to fire the house tonight. I think I will make a break when night comes, if alive. Shooting again. It’s not night yet. The house is all fired. Goodbye, boys, if I never see you again.”
The Regulators then set fire to the KC Ranch house, forcing Champion to leave. He ran out the back door, a knife in one hand, a gun in the other and his diary in his pocket. He was mown down by 28 bullets fired by four gunmen, making him the first person murdered by a band of hitmen.
KC Ranch, Wyoming, USA
Saturday 9 April 1892
The Regulators stuck a note to Champion’s bullet-riddled corpse bearing the legend, “Cattle Thieves Beware”. They also removed pages from his diary that named names. One of the Regulators, Frank Canton, later became a US Marshal in Oklahoma Territory. From 1885 to 1909, 15 rustlers were killed by mobs.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Christopher Walken played Champion in Michael Cimino’s mega-flop film Heaven’s Gate.