4 – Moffat County Sheriff’s Badge

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

Moffat County’s sheriff’s badge was first used to arrest a famous woman cattle rustler.
In 1911, Moffat County, CO was carved out of Routt County, CO and John Ledford was appointed as the new county’s first sheriff. As luck would have it, his very first arrest warrant would be his most memorable. With a shiny new badge upon his chest, he set out for Brown’s Park to arrest “Queen” Ann Bassett. Ann was accused of cattle rustling by huge cattle magnate, Ora Haley.
Ora Haley had been waiting years for an opportunity to take Ann down. She had been a thorn in his side ever since the murder of her fiancé by the infamous Tom Horn in 1900. Horn was almost certainly hired by Ora.
During her arrest, a few off Ann’s cow hands attempted to physically dissuade Mr. Ledford. However, after 20 years as a saloon owner in Craig, CO, he was not easily intimidated. He pulled a double barreled shotgun and threatened to take as many men as he could before they got him. The arrest was allowed to proceed.
Ann Bassett’s first trial ended in a hung jury. She was re-tried again in 1913 and Ora was put on the stand. Ann’s attorney prodded Ora’s ego by asking if he considered his cattle operation to be a large one. In a snarky reply, he said yes. He was then asked if he would share with the audience how large exactly. Ora proudly boasted that he had 10,000 head – large indeed. To this, the attorney asked why Ora claimed a MUCH smaller number for tax purposes. From that genius coercion of perjury, the cause was all but lost. Ann was found not guilty.
There are perhaps only 2 women ever arrested and tried for cattle rustling: Ann and later her sister, Josie. Both were acquitted.
After two terms as sheriff, John Ledford became a
rancher until his death in 1937 at the age of 77.
His badge and shotgun are on display in the museum.