Ann "Queen Ann" Bassett
(May 12, 1878 - May 8, 1956)
Herb and Elizabeth Bassett moved to Browns Park in extreme northwest Colorado. Already pregnant when they arrived, Elizabeth gave birth to the first white child in Browns Park - Ann Bassett.
Ann inherited many of the Bassett traits helping people in need and loving the rural life, but genetics added a violent temper and manipulative personality. Ann learned how to push the right and wrong buttons in her association with people. Queen Ann want things done one way - her way.
Yet, you can't help, but admire a self-assured woman who combined the ability of a range rider and a woman of fashion.
Trouble began in Browns Park when the large cattle barons wanted to move the smaller ranchers out of this pristine area. An agreement was made that cattle from these large holdings could not cross into the area. Riders from the small ranches were used to herd any strays back over the invisible line. A range detective was hired by Ora Haley -one of the cattle barons - to sniff out any "rustlers". Notes where posted at various ranches warning these "rustlers" to leave the area or suffer the consequences. First Matt Rash was killed, then Isom Dart. This range detective was Tom Horn.
A number of the small ranchers exited the area. The Bassetts received their warning, but stayed. Ann had known Matt Rash and Isom Dart since childhood. Also, Ann and Matt had grown close with Ann spending time at Matt's cabin. Ann Bassett began her vendetta.
Ann took it upon herself to ride the invisible line looking for strays from the large operations. Instead of herding them back, Ann would shoot them or herd them into the Green River letting them suffer the fate of being permanently stuck in the muddy bottoms or carried downstream to places unknown.
Ann then set her sites on Hi Bernard. Bernard was the manager of the Ora Haley operations and known as an efficient and honest operator. In the book The Bassett Women is the following description of Ann's meeting Hi Bernard:
In Confidentially Told, Frank Willis [Ann's last husband] describes Hi's courtship of Ann--or Ann's entrapment of Hi. According to Willis, Ann wrote a note to Hi, suggesting an interview at her cabin on Douglas Mountain. When Hi arrived he found the petite Ann, curved in all the right places, waiting for him in a pretty dress and smelling of a seductive perfume, with the light of friendship shining in her soft eyes. She proposed a partnership with Hi, using her Douglas the winter range down in the valley. "Surely," she may have said, "a man of your ability needs to be building for himself rather than for another."
The marriage of Hi Bernard and Ann Bassett surprised the Browns Park area. The cattle baron, Ora Haley, fired Hi Bernard. This rocky marriage lasted about six years.
Later Ann was taken to court on the accusation of rustling. The first verdict resulted in a hung jury and the second trial's outcome was not-guilty. A Denver reporter called her the "Queen of Rustlers". From this point, Ann was called "Queen Ann".
A long time resident of Browns Park relates her experience with Ann in the book The Bassett Women:
Rosalie vividly remembers Ann riding up to the Miles cabin, her back straight and her head held high, singing as she rode, with a side of beef tied to her saddle.
"Maybe it was Two-Bar beef like they said," Rosalie said, "but we would have gone hungry without it. They were good to poor people, both Aunt Ann and Aunt Josie were. We'd be invited to pick apples in the Bassett orchard, and at Christmas they'd be the ones to fix up a tree at the schoolhouse. We wouldn't have had much of a Christmas if Josie and Ann hadn't been there."
Ann settled down, married Frank Willis and these two traveled to California, Arizona and Wyoming trying to start new ranches. Eventually, Ann returned to Browns Park on the old homestead where she died.
"Queen Ann" Bassett Willis is buried in the Bassett Cemetery in the Browns Park area. Ann was cremated and for many years her ashes remained in the jar. She was finally buried in the cemetery, but the exact spot is only known by family members. A memorial plaque for Ann and other Bassetts was erected years later. This cemetery is on private land, but can be visited by asking at the only gas station/general store in Browns Park. The cemetery is only a couple of blocks behind this store.
Information compiled by Steve Grimm
Drawing by Richard Florence
Books About Ann Bassett
The Bassett Women by Grace McClure
This book is so well written I felt I knew the Bassett women when finished. It is a book filled with the history of the Browns Park area.
Additionally, it is a book about sibling rivalry, the good and bad in people and accepting people for what they are.
Where the Old West Stayed Young by John Rolfe Burroughs
THE book on the history of Brown's Park. The view of the Bassetts in this book is somewhat tainted since it was based on a privately published paper by a resident who hated the Bassetts.
The Romantic and Notorious History of Brown's Park by Diana Allen Kouris
An important book on Browns Park since the sources used are different (in places) from those referenced by Burroughs.