Bassett, Ann (1878–1956)

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Bassett, Ann (1878–1956)

Supposed outlaw and cattle rustler of the American frontier. Name variations: Queen Ann, Ann Bassett Willis. Born in Brown's Park, Colorado, in 1878; died in Leeds, Utah, on May 9, 1956; daughter and one of four children of Herbert (a rancher and horse exporter) and May Elizabeth (Chamberlain) Bass; attended school at Craig Colorado; St. Mary's of the Wasatch in Salt Lake City; Miss Potter's School for Girls in Boston; married H.H. "Hi" Bernard, in 1904 (divorced 1911); married Frank Willis, in 1920.

Ann Bassett was raised on a ranch in Brown's Hole, Colorado, a lawless western settlement that at the turn of the century was said to have given refuge to fugitives, rustlers, and outlaws such as Butch Cassidy. Known as a fearless horsewoman (she may have been the first cowgirl in America to wear a divided skirt so she could ride in a man's saddle), Bassett was also the product of a Boston finishing school, making her a curious blend of gunslinger and refined gentlewoman.

From an early age, she had no patience with ranchers who let their cattle wander off the public grazing lands onto the homesteads of Brown's Hole. Later, when the large cattle companies threatened to buy out the town and "squeeze out the settlers," Bassett took steps to rally the residents and defend what she considered "her own personal fief." Although her tactics included cutting off her property as a common watering place and ringing the entrance to Brown's Hole with bands of sheep so the cattle would not cross, it is questionable whether she really "headed a band of outlaws," as legend would have it. Up until her death at age 78, she remained a controversial figure. Although she always denied that she or any of her friends were rustlers, the Desert Magazine in 1949 reported: "She left her mark as one woman who could not be intimidated, held her ground against ruthless antagonists … almost single-handed she defied and defeated some of the biggest barons of the cattle industry at their own tough game."

In 1911, Bassett was involved in a lengthy court case when her foreman was accused of stealing and butchering a heifer. After receiving a favorable verdict, she eventually moved to California with her second husband. They later had homes in Arizona, Colorado, and Utah.


Ray, Grace Ernestine. Wily Women of the West. San Antonio, TX, Naylor, 1972.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts