Prather’s Pick: Queen Ann’s biography |

Prather’s Pick: Queen Ann’s biography

​This week’s featured nonfiction book is “Nighthawk Rising: A Biography of Accused Cattle Rustler Queen Ann Bassett of Browns Park.” The author is Diana Allen Kouris, who also lived in Browns Park. The book is published by High Plains Press (2019). 

​A page of brands — two of them belonging to Elbert and Samuel Bassett — is found at the very beginning of the book. Then, following the table of contents, the reader finds two maps: one of Browns Park — Utah and Colorado — dating from the 1880s to the early 1900s and the other an overview of Browns Park area — Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado — from 1862 to 1907.

​This review includes some highlights of the 414-page, well-written and well-documented account of history. There are extensive chapter notes and an impressive bibliography in the book. 

​In the book’s “A Prelude,” the author explains that some “side trails must be explored” before moving into Ann Bassett’s life. The book begins when Ann was born, on May 12, 1878. Her parents, Herb and Elizabeth Bassett, had just moved their family to Browns Park. Ann was the third child, after Josephine (Josie) and Samuel (Sam). They had learned about the Browns Hole — as it was known then — country from Herb’s brother Sam, who was living there.

​Later on, two other sons joined the family — Elbert and George.

​Ann’s birth caused a “dilemma” for the family because Elizabeth was not able to feed her. A young Ute mother, See-a-baka, had a little boy of her own. She became Ann’s wet nurse. When the young woman’s band moved to the head of willow Creek for the summer, Elizabeth and her children had to go along. 

​The need for a wet nurse ended when a family friend, Judge Ashbury Bateman Conaway, brought the family a milk cow. Judge Conaway was an attorney who years later was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court for the Territory of Wyoming. He was a close friend of the Bassetts for many years.

​The Bassetts lived with Ute neighbors. Nobody could have predicted what lay ahead. Indian uprisings were taking place in other parts of the country and there was trouble at the White River agency which was only about 65 miles away. The Browns Park settlers became afraid and began moving away to more populated areas. Finally, following the Meeker Massacre, the Bassetts also moved away. They temporarily settled at Green River City. 

​In the book’s side trails, the reader learns about the lives of Ann’s parents and two chapters cover an interesting and detailed account of the events leading up to and after the Meeker Massacre. 

​After things settled down, the Bassetts moved back to Browns Park to resume their dream of owning a cattle ranch. The book covers Ann’s growth into womanhood, her education, her rebellious times, and her marriages—first to Hiram H. Bernard and then to Frank Willis. 

​As the years passed, Ann, who became known as “Queen Ann,” was arrested along with Tom Yarberry and charged with butchering some steers belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. The sensational trial was covered by the Craig Empire Courier. 

​And there is so much more to this book, including stories about the range wars and outlaws such as Butch Cassidy. The book begins and ends with the flight of the nighthawks.

​I can’t say enough about the book. It’s superb, and I admire the author’s extensive research and her gift for writing. The book is a must-read!

​You can find “Nighthawk Rising” at the Museum of Northwest Colorado. It costs $19.95 in paperback or $35 in hardcover. All of the books at the museum are signed by the author.

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