When Lawlessness was the only law in town!
This building is no longer standing, but the site can be visited. 150 years ago, justice in Laramie was served up by 3 violent lawmen: Asa "Ace" Moore, Con Wagner aka Con Moore, and “BigNed or "Big Ed" Bernard." Their leader was "Big" Steve Long, who was also eventually hanged. Ruling the town with an iron fist, “justice” often got bloody.
History: Little is known about Steve Long’s early life or childhood. After the American Civil War, he had settled in Laramie, Wyoming. He and his half-brothers, Ace and Con Moore, established a saloon together in the railroad town called the "Belle of the West Saloon." Both Ace and Con helped found Laramie. Long reportedly had spent several years as an early version of a gunfighter before being elected in 1867 as Deputy Marshal of Laramie.
It is believed that Long had served during the Civil War, in the Confederate States Army, but under a different name. He migrated to Wyoming around 1866. Long soon earned a reputation as a particularly violent lawman, killing eight men in gunfights within two months. On October 22, 1867, Long opened fire on eight men during a street brawl after his orders to cease were ignored, killing five of the men. He rarely arrested anyone, choosing instead to either intimidate them with the threat of force or shoot them.
Long and his brothers used their forceful personalities and his position as the Deputy Marshal to their own financial advantage. Within months of his gaining that position, they had forced several local ranchers to sign over to them the deeds to their properties. Several of those who refused were later confronted while alone by Long, who killed them, always claiming later that the other man had reached for a weapon. If the victim was not carrying a pistol or rifle, Long would place one on his person after killing him. There were never any witnesses. It is alleged that Long killed at least nine men in that fashion during a four-month period. Local residents called the saloon the “Bucket of Blood” because of the violence that often happened inside.
By October 1868, Long had killed thirteen men. Another seven men had been killed under suspicious circumstances, with Long suspected, but his role was never confirmed. There was no evidence to support his being named as the killer in these incidents. Long made little effort to find the alleged murderers, leading to speculation that he had committed those murders. Each of the seven men had been known to have refused to sign over land deeds to Long and his brothers.
A local rancher and the first sheriff of Albany County, N. K. Boswell, organized several other ranchers to conspire against the troupe. Boswell insisted that if they could watch Long closely enough, eventually they could catch him in the act of committing a crime. Then they could act against him with the law on their side. On October 18, 1868, Long attempted to rob a prospector named Rollie “Hard Luck” Harrison. Harrison drew a pistol, and a gunfight erupted between the two. Long was wounded and retreated. Harrison was killed, dying from his wounds before naming his assailant.
Long confessed to his fiancée how he became wounded, and she told N. K. Boswell. Boswell organized several men in the town. The "Committee of Vigilance" hanged Moore, Wagner, “Big Ned” and eventually “Big” Steve. There were no legal actions taken against the members of the lynch mob.