Thursday, February 5, 2015


I'm so excited, I have a new release coming February 12th, HEARTS IN WINTER!! The hero in HEARTS is a rancher turned bounty hunter who rides with a U.S. Marshal. So today I'm blogging about a Wyoming lawman who wasn't always so law abiding. 

What’s interesting about writing lawmen in the old west is they were a colorful bunch, and often chosen from a lawless bunch.  A writer can bring these dichotomies into Western romances to create multidimensional heroes.  All but two of my stories take place in Wyoming. Most of Wyoming’s early lawmen were men with less than desirable pasts who were elected because:  

1.) A town wanted a man who would look the other way regarding other nefarious deeds

2.) The best way to catch a thief is to hire a man who knows how they think

3.) These were men were respected or feared enough to keep law and order

One Wyoming lawman had all these characteristics and his life reads like a great plot for a book. This was William Galispie “Red” Angus (Even the name is great!).

Red Angus

Born in 1849, William Angus grew up in Kansas when the territory was in the middle of a nasty guerrilla war over slavery. This warfare took its toll on young Angus.  In 1862, when he was only 12 years old, he demanded that he be allowed to enlist in the Union Army. He joined as a drummer boy.  When discharged in 1865, at the ripe old age of 15, he’d witnessed some of the worst fighting of the Civil War, but instead of quelling his desire for danger he embraced it. Angus found work as a freighter in western Kansas, when such employment was considered highly dangerous.  The Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Lakota Sioux were active in the area, and Angus was in Fort Wallace in 1867 during its siege.

Surviving these hostilities, Angus joined the 19th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry and participated in a campaign against the Cheyenne. He was discharged in 1869, and though you’d think he’d had his quota of excitement he refused to seek a quiet life. He resumed freighting between Kansas and Oklahoma, and then worked for three years in Texas as a cowboy before spending a year as a teamster in Guatemala.  He made his way back to the United States through California where he again found work as a cowboy and finally made his way to Wyoming driving a herd in 1880.  He first came to Prairie Dog Creek in northern Johnson County, but relocated to Buffalo in 1881.

Not shockingly, Red Angus had red hair and though normally easygoing he possessed a fierce temper when riled. He was also known as a man whose courage was without question.  In Buffalo, he became part of the Laurel Avenue and saloon crowd. Laurel Avenue being the area of Buffalo that catered to the baser needs of men.  Angus became known as the “Mayor of Laurel Avenue,” and his first wife had been a prostitute in one of the brothels. He was no stranger to run-ins with the law. Territory v. Angus was the first criminal case filed in Johnson County. Angus was charged with assault for pistol-whipping a man. Tried and convicted in 1882, he paid of a fine of $80 with $5 charge for court costs.

Nearby Fort McKinney was a primary economic force in Johnson County, but cattle raising was the butter on the bread supporting a great number of cowboys and a few rich men. Big cattle companies dominated the southern half of the county, while smaller family outfits filled the northern half.  Big cattle outfits in southern Johnson County, whether or not they held title, occupied and monopolized huge chunks of land, more than they could ever legally claim. They asserted rights under fictitious legal theories like “range rights” and “accustomed ranges.”

So what does that have to do with Red Angus?

By 1884, Red took an interest in becoming a lawman and started working toward that goal. He built a new saloon and became a bar man. He served on the town council and was elected chief of the fire department earning the respect of the citizens of Buffalo.

Trouble was brewing at the same time Red Angus was preparing to run for sheriff.  The year 1888 saw huge divisions in Johnson County. Officials from the northern portion petitioned the Territorial Government to become its own county, Sheridan County, and won. Also, after a series of disastrous winters the cattle barons and small ranchers were scrapping for any grazing lands.

It was during this heated time, Red Angus, likable bar owner closely associated with Buffalo brothels ran against Frank Canton, model of an efficient sheriff. But the respect Angus had been earning swayed voters in Red’s favor. And in the community of Buffalo, owning a bar and having “unsavory associations” at brothels wasn’t always a bad thing.  In the general election, Angus won 509 to 379. Angus’ election was contentious because it was well known he supported the small cattle ranchers, those the cattle barons accused of being rustlers. 

By 1891 and 1892, this small Wyoming County was described by national papers as “a raw and brutal haven for range pirates,” and “the most lawless town in the country.” A county “under the control of criminals so maliciously confident that they had begun naming big cattlemen to be put to death.”   Charges and counter-charges were flung from one camp to the other.  It wasn’t long before the battle of words turned to a series of lynchings and other hostilities perpetrated by the large cattle barons against the small rancher.

Tensions between the large cattlemen and small ranchers exploded into the Johnson County War After a series of murders and raids, in the spring of 1892, “regulators” under the leadership of men from the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association took a train from Cheyenne to Casper where they unloaded and rode into Johnson County. The invaders attacked a small ranch and killed two “rustlers” Nate Champion and Nick Ray.  They then took refuge at a friendly ranch, the TA Ranch.
Courtesy of the Jim Gatchell Museum

Angus’ legendary temper and courage surfaced with a vengeance and he rounded up a posse of 48 men that soon grew to an army of anywhere between 200 to 300 men, and surrounded the TA ranch. Many riding, and duly deputized by Sheriff Angus, were cowboys who had worked for the very men they were riding against. The invaders held off Angus’ army by using the natural defenses of the ranch along with well-placed ranch buildings.

Soldiers from Fort McKinney saved the invaders, but Angus issued arrest orders for the “regulators.” His warrants were denied as the soldiers had been called in as a favor to Governor Amos Barber (a supporter of the big cattle barons), who knew the men would be executed if turned over to Red Angus.  Angus secured an agreement that the invaders would be turned over to Civil Authority for trial, and the prisoners were sent to Fort McKinney. Authorities fearing the wrath of the local citizenry transferred the prisoners to Fort D. A. Russell for safe keeping. Their fears may have been justified, a few days after their arrest the barracks at McKinney were bombed by three cowboys. 

The Court held that the regulators wouldn’t receive a fair trial in Buffalo and transferred venue to Laramie County. The people of Johnson County had no recourse, as the County simply couldn’t afford the cost of prosecution. In Laramie County, the invaders faced a sympathetic court and were set free.

Sheriff Angus was defeated for reelection and took a job tending bar at the Occidental Hotel, in Buffalo. Later, however, he served as deputy clerk and county treasurer. In 1893, he engaged in a shootout with Arapahoe Brown in the street in front of the hotel. Neither was a very good shot. Doctor Will Frackleton, a circuit riding dentist was in town and witnessed the fight from the doorway of the hotel. Bullets flew into the barroom while the customers ducked for cover. When the fight was over, Frackleton told Angus and Arapahoe, "Well I don't see what in hell you carry those things for. You fellows can't hit anything with them.”  The tension dissolved and the men joined the dentist for drink at the bar.

William “Red” Angus remained in Buffalo where he passed away in 1921.

Davis, John W.  Wyoming Range War: The Infamous Invasion of Johnson County. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2010.

Here's more on HEARTS IN WINTER! It's up for pre-order on Amazon! 

BLURB:  Christmas Eve, 1894...

The night Garrett McPherson finds his wife violated and murdered is the night he turns his back on his Wyoming ranch to become the most feared bounty hunter on either side of the Mississippi. But what keeps Garrett on the hunt for Elsie's murderers and unable to come home is his sister-in-law, Jenny Westin. He's never stopped loving her, and if it weren't for his young son, Ethan, he might never return to the ranch again to keep from facing her and his feelings.

Jenny has never understood why Garrett threw her over for her sister, beautiful Elsie. When Jenny returns to Wyoming, a tense reunion at the train station for the two former lovers becomes a nightmare when they discover Elsie's battered body upon their return to the ranch. Garrett vows to find Elsie's murderers and avenge her death, and Jenny has no choice but to stay and care for Garrett’s son. For three years, she manages to live at the ranch raising Ethan, keeping her secrets and heartbreak hidden.

Another Christmas will bring Garrett back from his search for Elsie's murderers to the Double M Ranch. Will this be the season for Jenny and Garrett to sort through the hurt and betrayal and face the truth of their love? The secrets of the past are the only key to unlock their HEARTS IN WINTER...

 Kirsten Lynn writes stories based on the people and history of the West, more specifically those who live and love in Wyoming and Montana. Using her MA in Naval History, Kirsten, weaves her love of the West and the military together in many of her stories, merging these two halves of her heart. When she's not roping, riding and rabble-rousing with the cowboys and cowgirls who reside in her endless imagination, Kirsten works as a professional historian.


  1. Congrats, Kirsten! Looks like another winner. Adding to my TBR list.

  2. Sounds intriguing, Kirsten. Loved learning about Red Angus, too.

  3. Thanks, Alisa!! Hope you enjoy Garrett and Jenny's story!

  4. Thank you, Caroline. I thought Red Angus was quite the character.

  5. Kirsten, I noticed during my research, that many lawless men became lawmen at one time or another in their illustrious lives. I thought it truly odd that they would play on both sides of the fence.
    Red Angus seems to have had a trait that the famous Wyatt Earp had--fearlessness. I wonder how much of that courage factored into them being elected to office as lawmen.
    Congratulations on your new release. I love the story line and the cover. All the best to you.

  6. Sarah,

    It is interesting how many lawmen played both sides of the fence. I think for the most part it was because these men were known to be tough (sometime ruthless) and get the job done. In some cases I think it was because these were the men most could identify with.

    Thanks so much for the good wishes! I hope readers will love Garrett and Jenny.

  7. I notice you restrained your baser impulses and didn't point out that some of the "regulators" were from Texas. ;-)

    This was interesting, Rustler. You know I'm always in the mood for a story about villainous lawmen or law-abiding villains. Keeps things interesting.

    Best wishes with the book! I know it'll be another winner. (Nobody saw me type that, right?)

  8. Great story about Angus, and your new book sounds wonderful. Good work!

  9. I was quite proud of the fact I didn't mention those heathens from Texas invading our fine state. :) I just couldn't work that in with enough venom. :)

    I think my favorite part of the Red Angus story is the dressing down he got from the local dentist. I'll be blogging on Fracklton in the future, he was a character all his own.

    I really do appreciate the good wishes for the story even if it did cost us both some street cred. :)

  10. Thanks so much, Connie!! Glad you enjoyed reading about Red Angus. There are so many characters out here it's hard to narrow it down to whose story I should tell.

    I appreciate the kind words about the book. Garrett's partner almost steals the story, speaking of unconventional lawmen. :)

  11. Colorado also had their fair share of such lawmen. You are right, they make such interesting characters, and their stories are more interesting than what some ficion writers can devise. I wish you the best on this new book. It sounds like a good one. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

  12. It's true, Doris, truth often makes a better story. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. My question is: why did so many men of that time grow those icky overblown mustaches?
    It's easy to understand why towns and citizens often chose a criminal to act as sheriff and guard their town and the citizens. Who else would be so quick with a gun, have a coldness about him which did not prevent his killing whomever he thought he should. Red Angus definitely is an intriguing character, and once again, one I'd not heard of. Mercy, there were so many.
    Only the fit survive...the law of the biological world, and of course, the law of the Old Wild West.
    I do love the blurb for your new release. I know it's going to be an appealing read.
    The kind of hero I love most--the kind that finds redemption.
    Thanks for the history lesson. Very good.

  14. Kirsten, what a great post--I loved learning about Red Angus. I didn't know about him.

    And congratulations on Hearts in Winter, too. What a great story that is...I'm so glad it's soon going to be "out there" in the world!


  15. LOL, Celia, I love the comment about the mustaches. The only man who can pull off the full mustache is Sam Elliot.

    My grandmother used to say the reason so many outlaws became sheriffs is because everyone in the West came with an outlaw past, so you were hard pressed to find someone to take the position who didn't have a shaded past. :) (she was joking...kind of)

    Glad you enjoyed the post and the snippet!

  16. Thanks so much, Cheryl, I'm just thrilled to have Garrett and Jenny's story out there!

    I hadn't heard of Red Angus either until I moved up here. He's an interesting character for sure.


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