The Valley of Opportunity: A History of West-Central Colorado
BLM Cultural Resource Series (Colorado: No. 12)
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Chapter VI:

"The cow-puncher's play-ground in those first glorious days of his prosperity included battle and murder and sudden death as every-day matter."

—Owen Wister

Mining and transportation allowed west-central Colorado to be made available for general settlement. However, cattlemen and farmers peopled the land. The former two remained compact enclaves of Anglo-American culture and civilization while the latter two spread across accessible portions of the region hoping to build their fortunes from nature's bounty. The cowboy gave America its first unique folk hero with his peculiar garb and the romance of his free existence. The cattleman's frontier in the region contained the elements of hardship and adventure associated with the "Wild and Wooly West."

During the late nineteenth century the cattle industry was based on three factors. First, the vast amounts of federal land, the public domain, offered free natural pasturage for livestock. Furthermore, national land policy, particularly the Homestead Act of 1862 that provided for title after five years of settlement and payment of patent fees, allowed cattlemen to build home ranches from which to operate. Often stockmen located their homesteads around water holes or along creeks in an attempt to secure and monopolize adequate supplies. [1]

Water, or lack thereof, constituted the second controlling influence for cattle raising as for all western agriculture. Cattle needed water to survive, but, moreover, as haying became a prevalent source of winter feed, water was also necessary to grow it. If the land was not well watered naturally, as most of west-central Colorado was not, man had to artificially supply the fields through irrigation. Irrigation became prevalent through much of the region, especially in the major river valleys. [2]

Finally, western grasses proved nutritious for stock. The first Anglo-Americans to cross the Rocky Mountain west felt the natural grama grasses to be worthless because of their dry, brown appearance in comparison to the bright green turf of the East or Midwest. Discovery of the grama's true nutritional value came about by accident during the 1840s when settlers bound for Oregon freed some lame oxen on the plains. Assuming the animals would die the voyagers were surprised to find the stock healthy and fat the next spring having survived the winter on natural food supply. [3]

Hayden's 1876 survey reports recorded available pastures on the Roan Plateau and elsewhere, [4] but some cattlemen knew west-central Colorado's potential long before the reports were published. Ranchers such as Steamboat Springs founder, James H. Crawford, used Burn's Hole, near McCoy, as early as 1879, despite a Ute presence, because it offered safe winter range. [5] Further west, cattle grazed in the Sinbad Valley-La Sal Mountain-Gateway area. Occasionally violence broke out between the Utes and Anglo-American drovers probably because the Native-Americans still held title to the land. The herds came in from Utah while looking for new pastures. [6]

Patterns of range use established in these early years remained the same until well into the twentieth century. The necessity of maintaining separate summer and winter ranges, discovered when the first herds were taken into the high country, remained common throughout west-central Colorado. During the summer months, while alpine meadows were lush, cowboys drove the cows into these ranges. With the coming of fall, herds returned to the warmer, sheltered valleys to spend the winter. This practice not only protected the stock but also allowed the grasses to regain their vigor. Furthermore, the need for transfers from summer and winter range led to the construction of stock trails throughout the region and as discussed earlier a number of these paths served as basis for later roadbuilding. [7]

The second pattern of range utilization began in the 1870s. Ranchers used both Colorado and Utah lands as they sought the best pastures regardless of state boundaries. The Grand Valley, west of Grand Junction and the Unaweep Canyon area, in particular, experienced herd movements back and forth across the border. This fluidity not only made round-ups and the registration of brands difficult it occasionally offered jurisdictional protection for those who appropriated "unclaimed" cattle on either side of the line. [8]

Cattlemen, knowing the potential of the area, were among those impatiently awaiting opening of the Ute Reservation in 1881. The topography and climate, as explained by Hayden, was considered ideal. The Grand Valley, and other areas, provided natural winter range, protected from the harsh weather of the cold months as well as being adequately supplied with water and forage. The surrounding mountains and plateaus offered lush meadows for summer pasture despite some access difficulties. [9] It is small wonder that many of the first permanent settlers, especially in the Grand Valley, were stockmen.

The open range cattle industry in the United States boomed from the late 1860s through the late eighties and coincided with the settlement of west-central Colorado. The "beef bonanza" success stories of the period portrayed cattle raising on the open range as an easy route to wealth.

The propagandists based their arguments on free use of the public domain to raise a Texas calf or cow costing $4 and after two or three years of grazing the animal was worth $40 to $50 at market. As long as the demand for beef remained unsatisfied and grass was available there were no limits to the riches for cattlemen. This dream of wealth was already realized in Colorado's eastern plains by such men as John Wesley Iliff, and it motivated many to head for the western slope. [10]

Free grass was the natural resource cattlemen used during the years of the "beef bonanza." As stated, unclaimed federal lands were utilized by the cattlemen throughout west-central Colorado. In addition to the Homestead Act of 1862 and other laws such as the Ute Reservation Law of 1882, Congress during the 1870s, passed two other bills that aided cattlemen in their goals. The first, The Timber Culture Act of 1873 allowed a settler to claim an additional 160 acres if he planted and maintained forty acres of trees for 10 years. Later the requirements were relaxed by decreasing the number of acres of trees. The theory behind the act was that existence of timber upset the atmosphere and thereby increased rainfall. [11] While such theories proved not to be the case, the law did allow settlers to double the size of their holdings.

Four years later Congress, in a further attempt to encourage settlement in the arid west, passed the Desert Land Act. This law allowed a person to claim an additional 640 acres (1 section) by paying fees of 25 cents an acre. Claimholders then had three years to irrigate the land. If they did so and found a witness to testify to that fact, they could buy the property for an additional $1.00 an acre. [12] These two laws had many loopholes and could easily be circumvented.

Cattleman arrived in the region after the statutes were passed and soon were using and abusing the laws to their advantage. Early area stockgrowers, attracted by land and liberal federal land policies, set about immediately to cash in on the "beef bonanza," and in so doing, did not worry about "bending" the law. After homesteading or preempting homesites, ranchers informally took up other areas. As usable lands filled and competition for that which remained grew more intense, stockgrowers in the area started filing claims under the Timber Culture Act and Desert Land Act so as to obtain control of choice pastures or waterholes. In doing this, a cattleman could often control thousands of acres of surrounding public domain. [13] To "satisfy" requirements of these laws, area cattlemen used many ruses. A favorite was dumping a barrel of water on the land and calling it "irrigated" in order to satisfy Desert Land Act stipulations. Another trick was to "build" an irrigation ditch by dragging a pointed stick or plow behind a horse and rider. [14] The General Land Office (GLO) realized problems were created by the various laws and subsequently the stockgrowers' use of the range. [15] However, changes were not made until the 1890s.

cattlemen branding
Cattle ranching was important to western Colorado and one of the annual events was cattle branding. Photo by Museum of Western Colorado

In addition to these land frauds many cattlemen, determined to secure choice areas, simply fenced portions of the public domain. Barbed wire was first introduced in Colorado during 1878, by John W. Powers and its use spread with the herds into western Colorado. [16] From 1881 until 1884, herd size remained small, but by the later year large droves poured into the area and the demand for fencing increased. [17] These barricades often led to violence between rival cattlemen, with one cutting the other's fence. Congress, aware of these problems, started an investigation in 1884. The next year United States Interior Department officials became alarmed by the closing of public lands with barbed wire in Colorado and on August 7, 1885, President Grover Cleveland ordered all fences on public lands removed. [18] While the order was promulgated in 1885, as late as 1887 or 1888 and even into the 1890s, many federal lands remained fenced. [19]

During the 1890s, area ranchers contrived yet another method of using federal land without owning it. During the decade, cattlemen in the Gateway and Glade Park regions filed placer mining claims on many tracts to expand their grazing lands. At the same time, a few actually worked the claims in an attempt to augment their income during the Panic of 1893. [20] In 1901, the General Land Office introduced a system of grazing permits that removed many of these abuses. [21] The battle over control and management of the public domain will be discussed in detail in later chapters.

The stockmen of west-central Colorado during the late nineteenth century were typical of their counterparts throughout the west. Clad in boots with pointed toes, and high heels, chaps, a revolver slung on the hip, a bandana and wide brimmed hat, these intrepid young men came from many walks of life. Some were sons of midwestern farmers out to make it on their own, others were drifters needing a job and a few were men looking for a new start. Occassionally they were men who had problems with the law. [23] After construction of the Teller Institute in Grand Junction many ranchers in the vicinity hired Ute boys to tend the herds. [24]

The early herders drove cattle overland to reach summer and winter ranges and more importantly to and from the market place. While west-central Colorado never witnessed the long drives famous on the Great Plains, there were still occasional movements from Texas into the region, particularly when area ranching was in its infancy. Texas Longhorns served as the basis for many herds during the 1880s. [25] In 1883, Charles Sieber brought 8,000 head into Glade Park from Texas. [26] In addition to these long drives, West Slope cattle went great distances overland to markets in Wyoming and the Dakotas before railroads arrived to transport them. [27] Cattle raised in eastern sections of the region, such as the Eagle Valley, or around Glenwood Springs, and then marketed at Leadville also moved by hoof until the advent of rail service and in some cases long afterward. [28] Mining camp markets offered considerable potential and miners disgruntled by a lack of success took up ranching as a livelihood. [29]

Rail service encouraged stock growers but did not eliminate the need for overland movements to the railheads. This facet of open range lasted well into the twentieth century. During the 1890s, Rifle became the largest volume livestock shipping point in Colorado. In 1904, over 22,000 head of cattle and 1,000 horses were put on rail cars at Rifle. [30] By 1899, Wolcott, another rail shipping location, loaded out an average of $700,000 worth of cattle annually. [31]

Before stock could be marketed from open ranges it had to be gathered in one location. Traditionally round-ups were held to accomplish this and throughout west-central Colorado, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such bi-annual operations were undertaken each spring and fall. Spring roundups were particularly important because they allowed cattlemen to identify and brand new born calves as well as account for winter kill before transferring the herds to summer pastures. [32] Occassionally the process of branding mavericks, unclaimed calves, and other cows led to disputes. In at least one case, the end result was the death of two Glade Park cattle men. [33]

The early 1880s witnessed a boom in open range stock raising. However, this beef bonanza was short-lived. Severe winters and overgrazing depressed the beef markets during 1886 and 1887 and caused many stockmen to re-evaluate their methods. [34] A shift away from open range grazing started. As operations grew and market conditions demanded higher quality beef, ranchers began the process of herd up-grading by introducing blooded breeding animals. [35]

Ranchers took many steps to safeguard their new stock, as well as fencing the public domain and misusing land laws to increase their holdings. [36] Furthermore, to protect Colorado cattle from deadly Texas Fever, the state legislature enacted strict quarantine laws. [37] Also cattlemen's associations were formed to enforce range divisions and the quarantine rules. Among the first on the Western Slope was the Grand River Cattleman's Association organized by Frank Squires for settlers in the Rifle-Glenwood area. [38]

During the late 1880s, while these changes took place, ranching spread to new areas within west-central Colorado. The Gypsum Valley, Silt, Parachute Creek, Plateau Valley, and the Grand Valley (west of Fruita) all experienced settling by ranchers. [39] At the same time, large cattle companies entered the region. The Reefe and Nuckolls Cattle Company moved to Red Cliff with over 10,000 head of stock. [40] Further west at New Castle the Farnum Brothers, with financing from mining magnate Horace Tabor, set up and then expanded their operations. [41]

These large spreads required dependable sources of winter feed and haying became another use of the public domain. From the Roaring Fork and Eagle Vallies to Battlement Mesa mowing crews cut and stacked grass each summer. Competition for winter feed also occasionally led to gunplay and death. [42]

As a natural auxiliary to cattle ranching, many stockmen also started raising horses commercially. A few cattlemen gave up cattle entirely for horse rearing. In 1885, Tom Wallace set himself up as a horse rancher at Una, Colorado, simply to meet the cowboy's need for animals. [43] At about the same time, George Swigert started the same type of operation at Satank to raise draft animals. [44] By the end of the nineteenth century, horse ranches dotted all west-central Colorado while many cattlemen raised horses to supply their needs as well as for sale because horse and cattle could share the same range. [45]

West-central Colorado horse raisers used traditional elements of the business. Foremost among these was taming of the horses that had spent a summer running loose on the range. [46] This use of the open range and incomplete round-ups led to creation of the area's wild horse herds of today. This process, more commonly known as bronco busting or breaking, required men with particular talents, as many a bragging cowboy rudely found out when he landed unceremoniously on the ground after a short ride. The professional "bronco busters" travelled to ranches around the area like migrants. [47] If natural reproduction did not enlarge the herd to satisfactory levels, cowboys, especially in the extreme western areas, occassionally raided the Uintah Ute Reservation to increase their herd's numbers. [48]

The small cattlemen's apex passed quickly as a result of Federal land policy changes and a competition for land. The Panic of 1893 also put many out of business. [49] Large operations remained viable and expanded at the end of the century, but many of the region's minor ranchers sold out or reduced the size of their herds and took up farming much the same way as others had taken up horse raising. [50] This process worked both ways, especially in dry farming areas such as Glade Park, and continued well into the twentieth century. [51]

At least one area stockman responded to the era's changes philosophically. Frank Benton, Burn's Hole rancher, began authoring a column "The Philosophical Cowman" for the Denver Record-Stockman around the turn of the century. Somewhat like a western "Poor Richard" he attempted to analyze problems of the day, such as federal forests. [52]

Other area cattlemen chose more direct approaches to protecting their lifestyle by opposing the entrance of sheep and "sod-busters" into the region. [53]

The hills and mesas around the area furnished good summer range for sheep as well as cattle and, because of this, many sheepmen cast envious eyes on those lands. [54] Woolies first crossed west-central Colorado in 1872, at about the same time as cattle entered the territory. The sheep were being driven overland from California and Oregon to New Mexico. [55] This was part of a mass exodus from the Pacific Coast due to droughts. [56] There is no record that any of these sheep stayed permanently in western Colorado.

The first sheep growers into the region came with the initial wave of agrarian settlement in 1881 and 1882. Many stockmen raised both cattle and sheep during the early 1880s, but as time passed they specialized in raising either one animal or the other. [57]

Sheepmen duplicated patterns of range usage established by cattlemen. In particular, the system of drifting between Utah and Colorado was repeated and the pattern became even more pronounced with sheepherders. This continued into the twentieth century. [58] Sheepmen also followed the summer range-winter range patterns, especially those who settled further east in the area. [59]

Sheep raising presented new problems. In addition to their market value as meat, the animals produced an annual crop of wool. However, securing labor to shear the lambs and tend the flocks was difficult. Anglo-American workers during the nineteenth century, at least in the West, felt sheepherding was demeaning, especially when compared to the highly romanticized life of a cowboy. Woolgrowers found the solution by hiring Mexican-Americans or Mexican nationals to tend the flocks. By the 1890s these people had arrived at Fruita and soon their reputation as reliable shepherds spread throughout west-central Colorado. [60]

To augment the supply of Mexican workers, large sheep companies, particularly in eastern Utah, recruited Basques. These people, natives of Spain, had centuries of experience tending flocks in the harsh dry climates of their native land. By 1910, Basques were present in the western parts of Colorado shepherding their charges back and forth with the seasons from Utah. [61] These people became a key element in the success of wool-growing in the area in the twentieth century and have continued to make contributions to many local communities.

While sheep were well adapted to the environment of west-central Colorado and a number of people took up sheep raising as a livelihood, they did not realize the early prosperity enjoyed by area cattlemen. Rather, they met stiff, often violent, resistance from beef producers because popular thinking at the time maintained that sheep ruined the range. Allegedly the woolies ate the grass down close to its roots, thereby killing it. Other legends claimed that sheep left odors that repelled cattle and that sheep fouled the water. [62] Credence was given to these findings when the Federal government refused to allow sheep grazing on federal Forest Reserves and Parks about 1900, [63] after impassioned arguments for such a ban. [64] Competition for the finite supply of grazable land probably played a greater role in the sheep-cattle hatred than any of the other allegations. [65]

These natural antagonisms flared into violence almost as soon as both sides arrived. In 1884, the Western Stockgrower's Association was formed by cattlemen around Grand Junction to stop the encroachment of sheep. [66] Two years later, on the road from Whitewater to Delta, a flock of sheep and their shepherd died at the hands of cowboys. Reports ranged as high as 300 woolies killed. [67] This started a period of sporadic open warfare between sheepmen and cattlemen that lasted well into the twentieth century.

In 1888, stockmen along the White River threatened death to any Utah sheepman who dared venture across the Green River into Colorado. [68] Two years later when Ed Horton, a woolgrower, tried to settle on part of Grand Mesa's cattle range, stockgrowers drove him out at gunpoint. [69]

The violence continued throughout the decade primarily in the form of the cattlemen's aggressions against sheep growers. In 1892, the greatest slaughter of woolies to date took place when 800 sheep were killed by gunmen in the Plateau Valley. They also ran off the shepherds. Ranchers enjoyed status as local residents, familiar with the terrain and people, while the sheepmen usually were outsiders from Utah. [70] The events shook the region but proved only a minor event as the years passed.

On Peach Day of 1894, September 10, while most Parachute, Colorado, citizens were in Grand Junction celebrating, 50 hired gunslingers attacked sheep flocks pasturing in the Roan Cliffs above Parachute Creek. A Mr. Starkey, Charlie Brown, and Luther Hurlburt lost around 4,000 head of sheep. Masked riders rimrocked (drove over the cliffs) most of the woolies. Only one shepherd suffered injury and the perpetrators, who were paid $100 each plus expenses, were never identified or brought to justice. [71] This episode convinced Hurlburt to sell his flock and take up farming. [72] The entire state was outraged by the events on Parachute Creek and demanded some kind of official action. The state legislature replied with passage of the Rees-Oldman Act, which divided the Roan Plateau ranges between cattle and sheep. [73]

Shock over the Peach Day Massacre led to a period of relative calm until the early twentieth century. In 1903, cattlemen renewed their attacks by driving 100 head of sheep over the edge of Pinon Mesa. [74] Two years passed before violence flared again near Fruita. About 300 sheep died near Dry Ridge at the hands of cowboys. [75] That same year other beef producers from Glade Park tried to raise $1,500 as a bounty for the killing of a local sheepman. The plan failed when only $1,000 was raised. [76] In 1907, four cattle-growers were convicted of the murder of Peter Swenson, a lamb raiser. [77]

From 1908 until 1915, the feud centered itself in Glade Park. Cattlemen continually harassed the flocks and shepherds. The last major violence occurred in 1915, when Mrs. Nancy Irwing's herd of Angora goats was driven off the edge of No-Thoroughfare Canyon. A Mexican herder was killed and Mrs. Irwing's cabins were set afire. [78]

The people who possibly suffered most from the range wars were not the sheepmen but their Mexican and Basque herders who faced the cattlemen's guns and continued racial prejudice. [79] These feelings were reinforced in the 1930s when local Fruita folk hero Charlie Glass, a black cowboy who had been in the region since 1917, was killed by Basques. This murder was in revenge for Glass's shooting of Basque sheep herder Felix Jesui in 1921. [80]

Illegal activities in the area were not limited to conflicts between cattlemen and sheepmen but also included stock rustling, bank and train robbery, murder, and all varieties of lawlessness traditionally associated with the "Wild West." Livestock stealing, however, proved to be the greatest single problem throughout the region. Many years after the frontier's passing, these activities inspired a novel, entitled Grand Mesa about local rustling. [81]

Stock thieving started before settlers reached the Grand Valley. In 1879, George Howard and his gang took up rustling as a livelihood. They stole cattle from eastern Utah ranchers and used western Colorado, especially the Unaweep-Gateway area, as a hideout before moving the stock to the San Juans and elsewhere for sale. Their career only lasted two years. Gunnison, Colorado's Sheriff Bowman, and Marshall Allison tracked the outlaws to Monroe's Ranch outside of Grand Junction and in the shoot-out that followed, the highwaymen died. [82] Working as members of organized groups became the prevalent modus operandi for rustlers throughout west-central Colorado well into the twentieth century. [83]

Once the Ute Reservation was opened and settlers poured into the region, rustling became the greatest problem faced by lawmen. By 1882, bands of marauders infested much of the Grand Junction vicinity. In addition to stealing livestock, the bandits broke into stores and terrorized the citizenry. Lawmen worked hard to control the situation, attempting to break up the gangs by killing their leaders. [84]

The situation has not improved by the next year. The law and the citizens took matters into their own hands. George Lewis, described as an Afro-American desperado, threatened Marshall Crowley's life after an evening of drinking. The Marshall shot and killed the Negro and was acquitted on a plea of self defense. [85] Local citizens, while pleased with Marshall Crowley, felt he should be given a helping hand. They hired a night watchman, a Mr. Ham, to guard the herds, especially from three "Mexican" horse thieves known to be in the area. [86]

As more stockgrowers moved into west-central Colorado, so did more men to steal their cattle. The Brock Gang operated around Fruita [87] while the Johnson boys pilfered Roaring Fork ranches. [88] However, courts were established and now penalties were meted out by judge and jury, not Colt revolvers. But only if the desperados were arrested. As a mark of "civilization" a Grand Junction jury in 1885, sent two horse thieves to the state penitentiary for seven years rather than the old custom, the gallows. [89]

Occasionally residents, dissatisfied with the legal process, still took matters into their own hands. Thieves taking advantage of the Ute scare of 1886, attacked ranches along Rifle and Government Creeks and as far north as Meeker. In October 1887, local residents formed a Vigilance Committee and "took care" of the problem by hanging any rustler they caught. [90] The cattlemen's associations, formed to protect the range from sheep, also offered rewards and hired detectives to discourage rustling. [91]

These efforts did not stop the criminal activities but did slow the rate of loss. During the 1890s, rustlers continued to operate in areas near the Utah State line for easy escape. Horse-thief Valley, west of Fruita, became a collection point for stolen stock until enough was gathered to drive to Utah. [92] Areas such as Parachute Creek also were plagued by stock stealing and this remained the area's largest criminal activity as recently as 1970. [93] Glade Park ranchers, during the early years of this century, constantly found their herds pilfered by John Dalley who divided his time between rustling and train robbing. [94]

Many stock thieves came to west-central Colorado because of the advantages it offered. Being the most settled Western Slope region, the area offered good pickings. Also, nature gave the area many isolated locations perfect for hideouts. The Sinbad Valley, with only one entrance and walls 1,400 to 1,600 feet high, was one of these nearly perfect getaway places, except for the natural salt deposits which were used by animals and men. [95] The La Sal Mountains became another popular way station on the robber's route to Utah. [96]

The most famous group of outlaws to utilize these hideouts was the McCarty Gang. Led by two brothers Tom and Bill, the gang robbed banks throughout western Colorado during the 1880s and 1890s. The brothers, originally from Tennessee, headed west after Civil War and established a ranch in Eastern Utah on the south side of the La Sal Mountains. [97] They started their life of crime by trafficking in stolen horses. [98] The San Juan silver boom of the 1880s and the resultant bulging bank vaults of camps such as Silverton or Telluride, convinced them to take up bank robbing. On June 24, 1889, Tom McCarty, Matt Warner, and LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, held up a bank in Telluride and fled toward the Sinbad Valley with $4,000 in loot. Because of pressures from local law enforcement officers Tom McCarty and Warner decided to head for the Pacific Northwest. [99] Tom and Bill McCarty, along with Bill's son, Fred, and Warner left for Washington state where they laid low until 1892. That year the band robbed a bank in Roslyn, Washington, taking $30,000. Warner fell into the hands of the law and the three McCarty's returned to Utah. [100]

Once back in the area, their money ran low and the urge to pull yet another hold-up gripped the trio, especially Fred, the youngest of the gang. They considered a repeat performance at Telluride but telephones and telegraphs made bank robbing and subsequent escape a risky business, especially from Telluride. So through the summer of 1893, Tom and Bill examined other possibilities, such as some of the farming towns of southwestern Colorado. They chose the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Delta as a target. The two brothers felt they should wait but Fred, 25 years younger, chided them as old men and they agreed to go ahead with "the job." [101]

On September 7, 1893, the trio rode into Delta. Two entered the bank while the third held the horses and covered the street. With loot in hand, the three mounted their horses to make their getaway, but the alarm was sounded. As the highwaymen rode down the street, out of town, Ray Simpson an expert marksman fired at them, his Sharps rifle killed Fred and Bill. Tom made a successful getaway. He buried the loot along Tabegauche Creek before heading to Grand Junction and safety. A $1,000 reward was offered for Tom dead or alive, but it was never collected. [102]

Stagecoaches and trains offered highwaymen many of the same attractions—namely money—that banks did and during the period from 1880 to 1920, west-central Colorado experienced a number of such robberies. The first occurred outside Aspen in 1882, when two masked men held up a stagecoach and made their escape. They were later arrested in Decateur, Texas, and returned to Colorado for trial. [103] Other stages were robbed but railroads proved more lucrative for bandits. The infamous Wild Bunch, notorious train robbers, tempted by gold shipments on the Denver and Rio Grande, stopped an express train about five miles southeast of Grand Junction on November 3, 1887. They found only 23 letters and no cash or bullion so the gang made their getaway. [104]

The most dramatic train robbery in the region did not occur until 1904. Three outlaws commandeered a Denver and Rio Grande express train at Parachute, Colorado, and had it taken about three miles west of town to Streit Flats. Once there, the crew returned to Parachute as the desperados made their escape across Holmes and Battlement Mesas to Divide Creek. At that point they encountered a posse from Grand Junction and one bandit, Harvey Logan, was killed. The remaining two fled on foot to Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming. [105]

John Dailey continued a life of crime, holding up trains, until World War I. He used Glade Park and other isolated parts of extreme western Colorado as his hideouts between jobs. [106] However, Dalley's career marked the end of an era for the region.

Notably Garfield County did not experience the degree of lawlessness the rest of west-central Colorado did, especially in the Glenwood Springs vicinity. Possibly this was because of the resort quality of that town. In fact some of the Wild West's most notorious criminals passed through Glenwood Springs, but as tourists not on "business". Tom Horn, killer of over 20 men and who eventually died on a Wyoming gallows, liked to vacation at the Springs and take advantage of the healing waters. Doc Holliday, a dentist and companion of the Earp Brothers, came to the spa in an attempt to recover from tuberculosis. He died in Glenwood Springs and was buried above town. [107] Lawlessness in Garfield County during the period from 1880 to 1920, tended to lean more to riots than robberies.

Rifle, as a cattle shipping town, often experienced scenes normally associated with Dodge City or Abilene, Kansas, when the drovers hit the bars on Saturday night. Cowboys after weeks or months on the range or trail were ready for a good time when the drive was completed. Saloons did a booming business and as the liquor flowed, the celebrants became more boisterous. Occasionally shootings and brawling took place and men with exotic names such as the "Texas Kid" killed each other in these disturbances. Much of this type of behavior continued until 1920, when national prohibition closed down all public drinking establishments. [108]

The years from 1910 to 1920, witnessed many changes in west-central Colorado's stockgrowing industry. Meat demand during World War I led to greater production of both cattle and sheep. The violence of the frontier diminished. Reluctance to cooperate with Federal policies concerning grazing land had all but disappeared while the supply of available range land decreased. [109] Overgrazing, especially during the war, became a problem and, as a result, the trend toward individuals being both ranchers and farmers accelerated. [110] By 1920, the stockman's frontier had passed and it became just one more source of livelihood among many others, such as farming, in the region.

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Last Updated: 31-Oct-2008