Tom Horn is one of those real-life legendary Wonders of early Wyoming. He came to Wyoming in the 1890’s, which was a turbulent time in the state’s history. It was truly the Wild West in those days, when Wyoming achieved Statehood. And in those years immediately following, Wyoming was beset with range wars and outlaws. Tom Horn was very much involved with both.
Tom Horn was making his way in Wyoming during the Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch days, and was one of the members of the gang at one time. It was in this period of Tom Horn’s life that he had become known as the “fastest gun in the West”. Horn would later catch-on with the Swan Land and Cattle Company, the biggest in the entire region, covering a million acres of land at its height of operation. Tom Horn was officially employed as a stock detective, but he was said to have actually been hired as “muscle”. Apparently, Tom Horn was pretty good at putting the “scare” into people.
Then one day in 1903, a young boy by the name of Willie Nickel was killed in cold blood. Nickel was just 14-years old, and the local outrage was enormous. Well, it was the former outlaw, stock detective and hired-gun, Tom Horn, who was accused, tried for murder. and found guilty. And on a cold day in November of 1903, Tom Horn was hanged.
Interestingly enough, some 90 years later in 1993, Amnesty International contracted with a group of forensics experts and conducted a proper trial. And with the benefit of today’s modern forensic technology, and a dispassionate jury, found Tom Horn not guilty of the murder of Willie Nickel.