(September 29, 1857 - April 9, 1892)
Nate Champion was born in Texas and migrated to Kaycee, Wyoming. Working as a top hand for many ranches in the area, Nate became a participant in the Johnson County War where it was the cattle barons against the smaller ranchers. Champion sided with the small ranchers.
Some historians claim the smaller ranchers were really rustlers rounding up stray cattle. Other historians point out the cattle barons were just greedy and did not want competition.
Nate has mostly been portrayed as quiet and courageous. The first attempt by the cattle barons to rid the area of Nate Champion failed when he wounded several of the attackers.
On April 9, 1892, while Nate and Nick Ray were at the KC ranch, another attack ensued. Nick Ray was killed early in the onslaught. Nate Champion held off the 50 'Regulators' for most of the day. When the ranch was set afire, Nate emerged and was shot dead. The 'Regulators' consisted of cattlemen, range detectives and some 20 hired gunmen from Texas.
The Johnson County War and the killing of Nate Champion has been depicted in the awful movie Heaven's Gate.
Nate Champion is buried in the Willow Grove Cemetery in Buffalo, Wyoming. Nick Ray is buried nearby.
Information compiled by Steve Grimm
Drawing by Richard Florence
Books About the Johnson County War
The Johnson County War by Jack R. Gage
A unique book that presents both sides of the Johnson County War. One half explaining the cattle barons view and the other half presenting the 'rustlers' side.
Guardian of the Plains by John Rolfe Burroughs
This book is a history of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the cattle barons. A good history of Wyoming with a chapter on the Johnson County War, Burroughs' books are always wonderful reads and well researched.
Powder River Country, The Papers of J. Elmer Brock edited by Margaret Brock Hanson
A history of the area surrounding Kaycee, WY, this book has many articles about the Johnson County War. Additionally, there are many insights to other area historical events gathered from original sources. The spectrum of information in this book is priceless.
Malcolm Campbell, Sheriff by Robert B. David
About one third of the book describes the Johnson County War from Malcolm Campbell's view. Though Campbell was not directly involved in the range war, he provides great insight into the conflict. I came away thinking this is the way it was.