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Sunday, June 7, 2015

QUEEN ANN: The Amazing Almost Maybe True Story

Post copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw
The 'cowgirl' of the late west?

Yes, I do love history. I am also guilty of becoming passionate about women in history. Couple this with a love affair with THE WEST, and you are in the company of a card carrying Old West loving Feminist. But enough about me. This post is a combination of all of the above. Queen Ann, Ann Bassett for those who don't know, is a figure from the later years of the Old West. So many stories abound about her, her sister Josie and her mother Elizabeth. All are fascinating, but I fell in love with Ann and have been digging trying to find the truth.

We know she was born in May of 1878, the second daughter of Herb and Elizabeth Bassett. The family had a ranch on the Colorado, Utah and Wyoming border. She was married twice. First to Henry Bernard, that marriage ending in divorce, then later in life to Frank Willis. She died in 1956 just shy of her 78th birthday. Her mother Elizabeth was twenty four years younger than her father, and much has been made about how Elizabeth 'ruled' her husband.

The Bassett ranch was located in Brown's Hole or Brown's Park, Moffett County, Colorado. Ann insisted that it be Brown's Park. I can hear the wheels turning in your heads. Yes, near the area made famous by Butch, Sundance and other outlaws.

 View from the rim of Johnson Draw (foreground) west-northwest along the escarpment of the Yampa fault, Moffat County, Colorado. In the distance the fault ...
That Ann was intelligent seems to be a given, but the extent and where of her education is still under scrutiny. Her father did send her back East sometime after her mother's death, and upon her return she presented herself that way. But she still had that rebellious streak. In an article for the "Colorado Magazine", she talks about giving her riding instructor scare. That she felt he was a fool seems clear. The students had been riding side-saddle and Ann took it into her head to break the mold so to say. When the instructor reach for the bridle and ordered her to dismount, after she had swung her leg over, riding astride and giving the other show, she was "completely 'r'iled up' " and "Leaning from my saddle, I exclaimed vehemently, " Go to hell, you repulsive, little, monkeyfaced skunk!"

Ann was also tried for cattle rustling. The trial was held in Craig, Colorado, and story goes that they rented a large hall to accommodate all the people who wanted to attend. The circumstances surrounding the charges were circumstantial at best. The time of the big ranchers eating up the little ones was over, although this trial appeared to be a case of little ranch taking on big ranch. Ann was acquitted.

Entering Craig from the south on South Ranney Street.
Craig, Colorado today.
Those are some of the established facts. Ann and the Bassett family was also said to associate and work with the various 'criminal' element in the area. She was supposed to have 'lured' her first husband, who was foreman at the rival ranch, away and married him to spite his former employer. All three women are mentioned, in separate chapters of the book, "Wild Bunch Women" by Michael Rutter. Even the Denver Post had something to say.

Ann is also been declared as the real "Etta Place". For more on that, along with refutation of the claim can be found here:

One of the most complete books on the Bassett family, Herb, Elizabeth and their children is "The Bassett Women" by Grace McClure. Yet even this book doesn't give Ann her full due, in my opinion. That she was rebellious, gracious, intelligent and so much more seems to be a given. Her full story, well the whole true story, that is another matter completely. Here's to more research and trying to find the 'Almost, maybe, true story of Ann Bassett, known by many as Queen Ann.

Doris McCraw/Angela Raines: Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women's History.

NEVER HAD A CHANCE- upcoming in the COWBOY CELEBRATION anthology
Home for His Heart:
Photo and Poem:


  1. Wow, such an free spirit, which is probably what got her in such a stink now and then. Strong women who didn't cow down to men were most likely earmarked for trouble. I'm sure she'll serve as inspiration in many future novels. I will definitely be looking for more.

  2. Nancy, thank you. She was a spitfire, which does make researching her true story a bit harder. The McClure book does a good job with the family, but Josie ends up being the focus for a lot of it. Still, I have to know more. .

  3. Loved this historical tidbit. I read a little bit about the Bassett sisters when researching for Trouble on the Tracks. I love the photo of her sitting astride the horse. Do you know the date?

    1. That isn't her, but the photo I think dates from around 1900? It's from

      The story is so fascinating, and so many assumptions that their fame grew. Like you, I love these stories. Doris

  4. Makes you wonder how many women, outstanding in one way or another, were swept under the carpet of history. And I wonder if she really was Etta Place. She certainly doesn't fit the characterization that we've taught, and quite a few women have received speculation on that score. Ann sounds like she doesn't need to be Etta to stand out from the crowd, though.

    1. Jacquie, there was one study done, comparing photos where the examiner swore she was Etta, (they do look at lot alike), but the dates just don't match up.

      Everything I've been able to find shows her to be quite the personality. Her mother and sister Josie weren't any slouches in the amazing women profile either. To me this is great Colorado and Western history. Doris

  5. All 3 Bassett women seem pretty interesting. It's always fascinating to discover the unique and self-possessed women who lived out west. They were definitely a breed of their own.
    A very interesting article, Doris.

    1. Sarah, they are so fascinating. Once I ran across their names in some other research, there I was heading down that rabbit hole. I think Alice has nothing on me when I comes to heading down the research path. I'm working my way through the McClure book and have read the "Wild Bunch Women". So many stories, so little time.

      Thanks for stopping by Sarah and letting me share my passion for these Western Women. Doris

  6. I think you had to be pretty tough to live in wild and wooly west especially back in those days. I love the part where Ann tells her ride instructor," Go to hell, you repulsive, little, monkey faced skunk!" She wasn't very lady like for sure. Good luck on your research Doris. I'm sure we'll hear more about Queen Ann in the future.

    1. Barb, Even the research I've done so far is so fascinating. Perhaps I'll tell about the dinner Butch and the others cooked and served for them in a future post. But if you click through the links, you will see she was a strikingly beautiful woman, and could be very lady like when it suited her. (Smile) Thank you for the well wishes, I may need them. Doris