Tag Archive for: Red Cliff Colorado

Castle: A Little Town with Big Ambitions

   

        Castle: A Little Town with Big Ambitions

Richard Perske, December 2021

The town of Eagle has not always been known by that name. The small community went through several name changes in the 1880s and 1890s  before being incorporated in 1905 and officially becoming the town of Eagle, Colorado.

Photo by Alda Borah captures Castle Peak in 1910

The journey began in 1885 when William Edwards developed a townsite and a U.S. Post Office near the junction of the Eagle River and Brush Creek. Edwards named the settlement “Castle.” The settlement was situated adjacent to Edward’s ranch on a level and nearly treeless rise with a nice view of Castle Peak to the north. Early wagon road access to Castle came from Squaw Creek over Bellyache Ridge and down the fertile Brush Creek Valley.

The arrival of the railroad brought big changes to Castle. Construction of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad through the lower Eagle River Valley involved thousands of workmen, horses, and mules, creating an economic boom in 1886 and 1887. Edwards envisioned a thriving town serving both the coming railroad, nearby ranches, and the mines of the promising Fulford mining district. Castle eventually passed through a succession of ambitious and wealthy owners whose personal fortunes rose and fell with the value of their silver mines.

A locomotive powers across the railroad bridgeinEagle in the 1930s. The wooden trestle was replaced in 1934.

The 1887 arrival of the railroad connected Castle to the outside world. All railroad facilities were carefully mapped and named  to ensure the efficient delivery of passengers, freight, and mail to locations along the tracks. Within four years a series of actions by the D&RG and the U.S. Post Office re-identified the little community of “Castle” as “Eagle” (the more commonly used name). That’s the name that eventually stuck, although there were some in-between names, also.

The D&RG extended tracks 30 miles down valley along the north bank of the Eagle River from the mines at Rock Creek (Gilman) to just above Castle, where a substantial railroad bridge was required to cross the Eagle River. In August 1887, the D&RG established a watering stop and siding near this bridge that it initially named “Eagle River Crossing.” The railroad siding served Castle, the Brush Creek agricultural community, and the new Fulford mining district. All Rio Grande passengers, freight, and mail bound for those destinations were ticketed to “Eagle River Crossing” (not “Castle”). That began the Castle community’s name transitions.

The Colorado Business Directory of 1890 lists Eagle River Crossing with a population of 25.

Clark Wheeler gets involved

In 1891 Aspen millionaire B. Clark Wheeler invested heavily in the Fulford mining district, purchasing Edward’s ranch as well as the original town site of Castle. He believed that centrally-located Castle would soon become the Eagle County seat and planned to build a branch line railroad up Brush Creek to serve his promising mining properties.  Wheeler began by enlarging adding and selling additional lots to the Castle community. A.H. (Art) Fulford acted as Wheeler’s “attorney,” on the real estate deals. Fulford was also the construction superintendent for the wagon road from the Brush Creek forks to Fulford. Art and his brother Mont had recently built a modern livery stable in Castle. The Fulford family owned a ranch and stage route “halfway house” located just below the Brush Creek forks (currently the site of the Sylvan Lake Visitor Center).

In 1891 the D&RG upgraded their original siding, adding a station platform with ore bins and renamed it “Eagle Station.” In August 1891 the Post Office name was officially changed from “Castle” to “Eagle.” From this point on the community was universally referred to as Eagle, Colorado.

Among the artifacts in the ECHS/EVLD collection is this envelope addressed to F. E. Grant. Note that the writer took care to write the address of both “Castle” and “Eagle” on the envelope, likely ensuring that it would reach its destination during a time of community name transition.

Art Fulford died in a backcountry avalanche on New Year’s Eve Dec. 31, 1891, just as the Fulford mining district and town of Fulford were starting to develop. Many gold mines were dug into the hills around Fulford in 1892 and 1893 but no bonanza ore bodies had been located.

By August of 1893, the Silver Panic and steeply declining silver prices idled many Colorado silver mines and smelters. Lower grades of silver ore could not be mined, transported, and smelted at a profit. Wheeler, facing mounting losses from his Aspen silver mines, sold his Eagle County holdings. Fortunately, he found a newly-made Eagle County millionaire, Alexander Angus McDonald, willing to invest in the still-thriving gold mines. In December 1893 A. A. McDonald bought Wheeler’s enlarged townsite of Castle and took leases and bonds on Wheeler’s Nolan Creek (Fulford area) mines. McDonald also embraced Wheeler’s vision that Castle should become the Eagle County seat. He announced plans to improve his little town by building a “brick block” business section and planting thousands of shade trees.

The McDonald era

The man on the far right, top row in this late 1890s photo is believed to be Alexander Angus McDonald, who once owned whatis now the town of Eagle.

 Born in Canada of Scottish ancestry, McDonald’s path to a miner’s riches had been rocky. In May 1884 his home and boarding house (Glengarry House) in Leadville burned to the ground in a major fire. In June, his wife took their two young daughters back to Silver Cliff and filed for divorce. McDonald was fond of drink and enjoyed a party when he could afford it. He relocated to Battle Mountain and Gilman, taking up small stakes and leases in existing mines. In early 1891 he secured an exclusive lease and bond on the Belden mine, one of the original Battle Mountain mines. The locals considered it to be “a worked-out proposition”.  McDonald re-timbered the old workings, re-started production, and explored deeper for new ore bodies. Belden soon began paying off. He also discovered an extremely rich ore body that he blocked out and kept in reserve for future development. The terms of his lease required that a 25%  royalty from the Belden’s ore smelter income be paid to the mine owners in Boston. McDonald shrewdly limited his ore production to the tonnage necessary to pay off the bond and acquire full ownership of the Belden. By March 1893 he was the sole owner of the Belden. He then increased ore production and began shipping his richest ores without the need to make royalty payments.

In April 1893 the Leadville newspapers reported that several single carloads of the rich Belden ore set smelter records with returns of over $2,100 each. The money started rolling in. Belden’s amazing success was reported statewide. By June 1893 McDonald’s monthly income was reportedly $75,000 and Belden’s ore reserves were estimated at $1.5 million.  During the worst of the 1893 panic the very rich Belden ore could still be produced at a profit. That summer, McDonald kept all the Battle Mountain miners working and on his payroll by getting creative with work shifts. The miners were very grateful for steady work despite smaller paychecks. McDonald became a very popular Gilman millionaire.

                           

                      BULLY FOR THE BELDEN

              It is Keeping all of the Battle Mountain Miners at Work.

  The report of the closing down of the Belden mine at Red cliff was an unfortunate error into which our reporters were led. It is not only not closed, but is in full operation and the mainstay of the Battle mountain district, not only giving employment, by rotation, to nearly every miner in camp, but contributing largely toward keeping the American Smelter, in this city, in blast. The owner of the Belden , Mr. A.A. McDonald, has a contract with this concern for sixty tons a day, and is working three eight-hour shifts, employing 120 men, but dividing the work among all of the industrious miners of the district, to the end that none may suffer for the necessaries or be compelled to move out, pending the settlement of the silver question.

Leadville Herald Democrat                             

 August 25, 1893

 

Now a state senator,  B. Clark Wheeler owned the Aspen Times newspaper, the Aspen Mining Stock Exchange, and several silver mines in Aspen. Wheeler had also invested heavily in the Town of Castle and the Nolan Creek Mining Company properties in partnership with A.H. Fulford.

Wheeler was well connected politically and keenly aware of the economic impact of the silver crash and coming recession. He was financially over-extended in mining and land speculation and was absolutely delighted to sell some of his holdings to McDonald.

 

                             NEWS OF THE MINES

   A.A. McDonald the bonanza owner of the Belden mine at Gilman has proposed to the Aspen Belt Mining and Milling company to sink a big deep shaft on five claims of the company located at Fulford for a $50,000 bond and a three years’ lease. The directors will meet in Aspen today to authorize and execute the papers.   J.H. Good, J.A. Campbell, Captain W.F. Kavanagh, and B. Clark Wheeler are the heavy stockholders of the company. Mr. Wheeler has sold the townsite of Eagle and the adjoining ranch to Mr. McDonald, who will soon inaugurate a campaign of improvement at Eagle in the way of a brick block and several thousand shade trees. Next fall the county seat of Eagle county will probably be changed to Eagle.

                                                  Aspen Weekly Times                             

December 2, 1893

There were just a few buildings in Eagle in the mid-1890s. The tent structure on the left may have been McDonald’s July 4th dance pavilion. The original railroad bridge is on the right, adjacent to the two-story building.

 Contrary to popular legend, McDonald did not “buy the town site for back taxes”. He bought the undeveloped town lots from B. Clark Wheeler and paid the back taxes Wheeler owed. Initially Mr. McDonald had very ambitious plans to improve the little community that included his idea for a new name: “McDonald.” In 1894 he had a revised town site land survey prepared, platted, and filed with the Eagle County recorder as the town site of McDonald. However, the post office, D&RG Railroad, and everyone else continued to call the community “Eagle”.

McDonald promotes Eagle

Now connected by the railroad to the world beyond, the community of Eagle would soon be impacted by economic and political events far beyond Colorado. The population of Eagle was still less than 100 with a school enrollment of about 30 students. McDonald devised a grand plan to put Eagle on the map. In 1894 he spared no expense to host a gigantic 4th of July celebration featuring $1,000 in cash prizes for drilling contests, horse races, bicycle races, and even some traditional Scottish athletic contests. McDonald lavishly advertised the event in newspapers statewide and negotiated with the D&RG railroad to provide special half- priced passenger fares. He also constructed a racetrack and erected a large canvas dancing pavilion. It was Flight Days on steroids and a huge crowd was anticipated.

                                           The Eagle Will Scream

Mr. Frank Farnum, general road overseer of Eagle county and an old-time resident of Red Cliff is in the city. “Business has been very quiet with us, but we have tried to forget our troubles and are arranging a gala Fourth of July celebration at Eagle, about thirty-five miles below Red cliff.” said Mr. Farnum. “There is a large force of men at work building a race track, dancing pavilion, etc.”

  “Crops in the valley are looking fine and the farmers look for a big season.”

 

                                             Leadville Herald Democrat                            

 June 28, 1894

In June 1894 Mr. McDonald placed advertisements in almost every newspaper in western Colorado, inviting everyone to Eagle.

 

Although sizeable crowds were anticipated, the gala event experienced a major last minute problem when railroad labor disputes and riots in Chicago resulted in a rail strike. All rail traffic in western Colorado stopped on July 2, 1894. McDonald’s special trains were not available. The people who did manage to attend reportedly had a very good time.

McDonald the politician

 In 1895 McDonald entered the political arena. He vigorously campaigned for the office of State Representative and initiated a special election to move the Eagle County seat.                                      

  A petition is being circulated in Eagle county asking for the calling of a special election to change the county seat from Red Cliff to the town of Eagle.  A.A. McDonald, the owner of the Belden mine, is the principal mover in the enterprise, having bought the town site from B. Clark Wheeler.

Aspen Weekly Times                                     

June 8, 1895

The county seat question was placed on the November 1895 ballot. At this time Eagle’s population was slightly less than 100. Considering populations of nearly 400 in Red Cliff, 450 in Gilman, and 200 in Minturn, it would seem that little Eagle would not have a chance at winning.  However rural voters from Basalt, Gypsum and Brush Creek supported the move to Eagle and there was a rivalry between Red Cliff and more the populous Gilman on Battle Mountain (Mr. McDonald’s home base). Eagle did receive the most votes for the county seat, but lawsuits, injunctions, and court appeals by Red Cliff prevented the move. In 1899, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the 1895 county seat special election was unconstitutional because voting had been limited to “taxpayers,” preventing many from voting. That decision ended the first legal battle in what became a 25 year long Eagle County seat war between Red Cliff and Eagle.

McDonald also ran for office as State Representative on the Republican ticket in 1895 but was narrowly defeated.

In December 1895 Mr. McDonald sold one-half interest in the Belden mine for $600,000 and turned the mine’s daily management over to the buyers. He then began investing in mining property and real estate, but lady luck had deserted him. Within a few years his lavish spending, generous loans, and speculative mining investments exhausted his fortune. He advertised his remaining lots in Eagle for sale and listed Frank Doll (another prominent Eagle County pioneer) as his real estate agent.

McDonald had remarried in 1895 and was the father of two small children when he suddenly died of pneumonia at Gilman on April 3, 1899, at the age of 43. His death was reported statewide and his large funeral service in Red Cliff was well attended. McDonald had recently taken another mining lease on Battle Mountain and was anticipating a big strike and a financial comeback. His obituary noted that McDonald’s unbounded generosity and his boastful “gasconading” style had contributed to his downfall. He had always been a gambler and risk taker.  He began as a miner working for wages.  The Belden bonanza, his ultimate success, made him a millionaire for a few short years before he gambled it all away.

Eagle finally became the county seat in 1921, ending the bitter 26-year war that A. A. McDonald had so eagerly started. The bonanza owner of the Belden did win in the end and a much larger town of Eagle, once a pioneer community named “Castle,” marked its 100th year as the Eagle County seat in 2021, thanks to efforts and ambitions of Alexander Angus McDonald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endangered Places 2021

Colorado Preservation Inc. has named the historic bridges of Colorado as one of its Endangered Places for 2021. Included is our favorite bridge, the green bridge at Red Cliff which has been an iconic landmark since 1941. Click on the link below to see CBS coverage of the historic bridges.

http://cbsloc.al/3qVlv6x

Valentines Day 1886 : A Lynching at Red Cliff

Researched and written by Rich Perske

In 1879 Red Cliff was a rough mining camp consisting mostly of tents and a few crude cabins. It quickly grew to be a respectable little town with a busy commercial center and in 1883 became the Eagle county seat. Red Cliff was becoming a prosperous town that dealt firmly with the “criminal element” to maintain law and order. On Saint Valentines Day 1886 a lynch mob descended upon the town, broke into the jail and hanged a man accused of murder.  This lawless act immediately brought statewide scorn to Red Cliff. However, many thought it was swift justice for the senseless murder of a Battle Mountain miner by a drunken bully. The lynching of “Missouri Jack” caused quite a stir and a defiant Jack Perry found fame at the end of a rope.

Red Cliff and Horn Silver Mountain:
This sketch of the bustling Red Cliff mining camp appeared in the Leadville Democrat Herald newspaper on June 1, 1890.

January of 1886 began with a very optimistic outlook for the Battle Mountain miners and Red Cliff. Recent gold strikes were producing significant wealth and steady employment.  The “good times” had finally arrived, but so had winter.  The winter of 1885-86 brought unusually heavy snow and bitter cold throughout Colorado. Avalanches ran in the Eagle River Canyon and Ten Mile Canyon in January and February, disrupting train service to Leadville and Denver. Between work shifts the miners crowded around stoves in cabins and saloons to keep warm while playing cards, drinking, and gambling to pass the time. Living and working in these winter conditions was difficult and some of the miners were getting quarrelsome.

The thriving town of Robinson was just east of the Eagle River headwaters on Ten Mile Creek and about twice the size of Red Cliff. (The ghost town of Robinson is now under a lake formed when the Climax mine tailings piles were reclaimed.) Several very successful silver mines were in operation there including the Wheel of Fortune mine. Robinson was located 20 miles from Red Cliff by way of a narrow mountain trail along the upper Eagle River drainage.  Riding the Denver &Rio Grande railroad over Fremont Pass to Leadville and then over Tennessee Pass to the end of the line at Red Cliff was a longer, but much safer trip in winter.

Jack Perry

In January a young and inexperienced miner named Jack Perry began working in Robinson’s Wheel of Fortune mine as a “mucker,” filling ore carts at the bottom of the mine incline. The loaded ore carts were pulled to the surface, dumped and returned for another load. Twenty-one year old Jack Perry was from a well-to-do family in Independence, Missouri and had a bit of an attitude problem. He also owned a .44 caliber nickel-plated Hopkins and Allen six-shot revolver. His 27-year-old brother, Willard, had arrived in Colorado several years earlier and was employed by the D&RG at Salida as a telegraph operator. Willard C. Perry was well thought of in Salida and liked by all his coworkers. However, his younger brother Jack was considered the black sheep of the family. Jack was described as a “hot-blooded” fellow who became belligerent and violent when angry or drinking. He could be a real hellion and bully. Young Jack admired Missouri’s famous rebel outlaw Jesse James and carried a gun that was one of Jesse’s favorites. He also developed a taste for saloon whisky and western dime novels, a very dangerous combination.

On Monday, Jan. 25th, Perry was carelessly loading the ore carts and the hoist operator was having trouble dumping some of his loads. The overloaded carts would hang up, requiring extra time and effort to dump them. At mealtime the operator asked Perry to pay attention to loading and not overload the cart. They exchanged some angry words. Later when the problem was not corrected, the ore cart suddenly returned down the incline and Perry had to jump back to avoid being hit. Furious, Perry raced to his cabin for his gun. When he returned, Perry found the operator at another task. Perry brandished his gun, cursed, and threatened to kill him, then pistol whipped the man severely, leaving him semi-conscious on the ground and bleeding profusely from three deep gashes in the top of his head.

Believing that the man’s head injuries could be fatal, Perry hastily grabbed a few belongings and fled Robinson. The hoist operator was taken to Leadville for medical treatment and was unable to work for well over a month. He claimed he had been called away to another job and that a less experienced man had lowered the cart that nearly hit Perry. Perry committed this armed assault in Summit County and jumped a train to hide out in Leadville (Lake County). He later slipped into Eagle County and eventually reached the end of the Rio Grande line at Battle Mountain. Perry was on the run from the law and laying low. On February 11th he was drinking heavily at Lou Deering’s saloon at Belden’s camp on Battle Mountain. The next morning a strong winter storm moved in, for the next two days, halting train traffic from Leadville. The blizzard lifted late on Saturday, followed by bitter cold.

Winters were fierce in Red Cliff, as indicated in this undated photo of Eagle Street.

The murder

Perry later testified that he coincidently met Lou Deering, age 27, at Battle Mountain and that they were old school friends from Missouri. Deering and Perry drank at the saloon on Thursday night and Perry slept that night in the saloon. On Friday morning he and Deering resumed drinking and he remained in the saloon all day. He was down to his last 20 dollars. The saloon, a small wood frame building, and known locally as “the Little Church,” was situated on the road between Gilman and Bell’s camp. The story unfolded with the sworn statements from five witnesses presented to Justice of the Peace Arthur Helm. The witnesses all testified to essentially the same facts :

On Friday evening , February 12, between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Lou Deering, Fred Bayha, J. L. Caruthers, and J.M. Goolsby, were in Deering’s saloon, and they noticed that Mike Gleason and Jack Perry were talking in a friendly way together. They had been drinking considerable whiskey, and both Perry and Gleason were under the influence of liquor. Perry would pull out his revolver occasionally, saying what a good shot he was and by way of proving it, would fire a ball through the roof and the side of the wall. All of the witnesses say he shot through the side of the building at least twice. About three o’clock Gleason asked Perry to loan him five dollars. Perry immediately took a twenty dollar greenback and handed it to Gleason. A short time elapsed when he asked Gleason to give him his change. Gleason said, “You are too drunk now, Jack. I will give it to you tomorrow.” “Give it to me now, I want it.” roared Perry

“You shut up or I’ll whack you in the jaw” was the reply.

“No I won’t shut up. I want my money” said Perry brandishing his revolver by his side.

“Let me have my money now, I want it.

“No I won’t ” said Gleason. I’ll give it to you to-morrow, when you are sober”

Those were the last words Gleason ever said, for Perry struck him on the side of the head with the revolver. Gleason walked toward the door, with Perry following. Gleason turned to open the door and Perry shot him in the breast. Gleason had opened the door by this time and fell out of it down to the ground. Perry stood over him and fired at him again, but must have missed him as the only shot that entered his body was the first one fired, and this one entered his breast. He then put his hand in the hip pocket and fumbled around for something. When he drew his hand out a $20 bill, three dollars and fifty cents in silver and a pocketknife fell to the ground.

Judge Helm’s recorded witness testimony

Perry had been drinking for two days and apparently not eating much. Gleason had just come in that afternoon for a few drinks and a card game. Perry’s drunken pistol shooting must have annoyed and disturbed the men enjoying their Friday afternoon of relaxation and drinks. As he reloaded his gun, Perry reportedly said “these two are for the old marshal at the Cliff, ” referring to Marshal Tom Evans. One man had just left the saloon to begin his work shift at a nearby mine. It appears that Mike Gleason had used the excuse of a $5 loan in an attempt to get Perry to stop drinking. When they later searched Gleason’s body he was found to have $78. Gleason had no need to borrow $5 except to try to quiet the very drunken Mr. Perry. It was a fatal miscalculation.

That Sunday (Valentine’s Day) the following column was published in Leadville:              

Mike Gleason’s Character

 Mike Gleason, the man who was killed in Red Cliff by Perry, was well and favorably known in both Leadville and Aspen. He has been what is known as a lucky miner, and sold an interest he had in a mine in Aspen a few months ago for several thousand dollars. After this he came to Leadville and sojourned here sometime.  Judge Rose met him in this city, and gave him a tenth interest in the Printer Boy mine at Red Cliff.  About the first of January the men working in the mine struck a nice body of ore that has been assaying fifteen ounces silver and one ounce gold, and Gleason it is said, was offered $1,000 for his tenth interest in the mine shortly before he died, and refused it. Although Gleason went on incipient sprees occasionally, his reputation for peace and quietude seems to have been the very best. He has been known for many years to Alderman C.C. Joy and others in this city, and this is the character that they give him.

  A resident of Red Cliff, in a chat with a reporter of this paper, says that Perry was crazy with drink when he shot Gleason through the brain. Of course this is not mentioned by way of excuse for the terrible crime for which no palliation has so far been offered.

 Leadville Herald Democrat February 14, 1886

The unarmed Mike Gleason had been senselessly murdered by an arrogant young drunk. Gleason,40,  may have had his faults, but he was a family man. He and his wife, Barbara Quirk Gleason, had been married 16 years and had three children. Their oldest son Tom was 10, daughter Kate was 7 and youngest son Frank was 4. Their home was in Leadville, but Mike had interests in a mine on Battle Mountain, as did his relatives. His father-in-law, Dennis Quirk, owned a Battle Mountain mine nearby at Rock Creek. Molly Quirk Fulford was his sister-in-law and Art Fulford was his brother-in-law. Art Fulford operated three mines employing almost 100 miners within a half mile of Belden’s camp and was one of the area’s leading citizens. It is little wonder that the Battle Mountain miners were extremely angry and soon began talking about lynching Jack Perry for murdering Mike Gleason.

Running from the law

Immediately after the shooting, Perry grabbed his money from Gleason’s pocket, took another $20 from Deering and fled towards Red Cliff. He intended to skirt Red Cliff and get back to Leadville, but was hampered by drunkenness and snow. Goolsby and Bayha had quickly left the saloon and headed towards Red Cliff to report the murder. Perry caught up with Goolsby and forced him at gunpoint to lead the way and break trail through the snow as they descended into the canon in order to follow the railroad tracks. Perry hoped to take the road up Homestake Creek to Leadville. Bayha had ducked into a tunnel, taken a different route, and reached Red Cliff first, alerting Marshal Tom Evans. Evans was waiting with a drawn gun when Perry and Goolsby arrived at the railroad bridge below Red Cliff. He arrested Perry without further incident. Perry was in custody for nearly two hours and “was most nonchalant and asked at once for a dime novel and a pint of whisky, and declared that his neck was not made for a rope, and that his father had too much money to let any harm overtake him. He also boasted that he “did” three men at Cheyenne and one in Denver.”   Perry’s lack of remorse and arrogant statements were soon public knowledge, interpreted as a clear admission of guilt and an expectation that his family’s wealth would free him. News of his arrest for murder was telegraphed to Perry’s brother in Salida who acted immediately and soon had legal assistance on the way.

Willard Perry and his friend Jake Bergeman traveled from Salida to Leadville on the Saturday morning train where he hired a well-known defense attorney and judge. Judge Rice was a tall man with a commanding courtroom presence and extensive experience in defending criminal cases. They knew that Perry’s murder case would be difficult to win if tried in Red Cliff. they would need a change of venue. The wheels of Perry’s defense were already in motion but the Saturday Rio Grande train to Red Cliff had been canceled because the blizzard had blocked the tracks. The three men had to wait out the storm.

Men watch a rotary snowplow clear the railroad tracks in order to open up the line for rail traffic.

Back in Red Cliff, sworn statements and evidence were gathered. As facts became more widely known, the talk of lynching Perry grew stronger. Angry Battle Mountain miners huddled in groups around saloon stoves. Justice Solon N. Ackley collected testimony and evidence. The 20 dollar greenback at the root of the dispute had been issued by the Bank of Boston. Judge Ackley took the notorious bank note as a souvenir and substituted one of his own.

By Saturday afternoon the storm was slackening, the sky was clearing, and the temperature was dropping towards zero.

William Greiner, Eagle County Sheriff from 1887 – 1891.

Sheriff William Greiner was now in charge of the prisoner and he sensed danger in the gathering crowds. Anticipating a possible Saturday night lynching party, he secretly moved Perry out of the jail to a private residence. The night passed without incident and the Sunday morning Leadville train managed to arrive in early afternoon, bringing W.C. Perry, J. Bergeman, and Judge Rice. Judge Rice interviewed and counseled Jack Perry and then took his sworn statement for the record. Rice also requested a change of venue and permission to take Perry to Leadville for trial. At that time Judge Ackley saw no reason to grant his request.

Jack Perry’s carefully prepared statement contradicted the eyewitnesses’ testimony. He said Gleason had aggressively advanced on him and cornered him, forcing him to shoot. He described Gleason as a known fighter. Perry claimed that he had recently been beaten by three men in Cheyenne and had vowed to never to let it happen again. Perry also denied forcing Goolsby to break trail, claiming that he was headed to Leadville to turn himself in to the authorities there. Perry’s brother offered well-rehearsed excuses to anyone who would listen to him: Jack had had a severe ear infection as a child that caused him to act crazy when sick or drinking alcohol. Jack was a tee-totaler prior to coming to Colorado and drinking at high elevations badly affected him. Jack was not in his right mind now or when he shot Gleason. Jack Perry was insane.

The Battle Mountain miners knew that Jack Perry was a dangerous, gun-crazed bully when he was drinking. It was clear to them that the Perry family had plenty of money and intended to free Jack using the old insanity dodge. The miners were now determined to present their case to Judge Lynch and to do it quickly. By late afternoon even Judge Ackley sensed their growing anger and smelled danger. Ackley agreed to the change of venue and prepared the witness statements for a transfer of jurisdiction. Sheriff Greiner agreed to immediately release Jack Perry if a special train could be summoned from Leadville. W.C. Perry agreed to pay the $100 fee for a special Rio Grande train to be dispatched from Leadville that day. Greiner also deputized as many of the town’s responsible men as he could find who were willing to assist him. Things were getting hot in town as the sun set, but the thermometer was headed to zero and would soon go well below. Judge Lynch began hearing the miner’s appeals in the saloons and large crowds of miners were gathering for action.

Although the jail referred to in this blog may have been a different building, this is the historic jail that remains in Red Cliff currently.

The plain stone Red Cliff jail was located on a rock bluff across the Eagle River on the south side of town just above the railroad tracks and accessed by a bridge. The Rio Grande train depot and locomotive water tank was a quarter mile further up the river. That night the sky cleared, and a three quarter moon reflected off the snow like daylight. The special train from Leadville arrived at the depot about 10 p.m. enveloped in a cloud of smoke and steam. The temperature was 10 degrees below zero and dropping. The shrill locomotive whistle and a hiss of escaping steam announced the start of the action.

The lynching of Jack Perry

D&RG train Depot at Red Cliff.

At the railroad depot, Deputy Sheriff Fulford and Jake Bergeman boarded the coach car that was to carry Jack Perry to Leadville. W.C. Perry climbed on top of a freight car, directing the engineer to stop at the jail where Sheriff Bill Greiner and Jack Perry would be able to quickly board. The train advanced towards the jail, but some empty freight cars, frozen solid to the tracks, blocked the way. The engineer broke the locomotive pull bar in repeated attempts to bump and dislodge the frozen cars. He started to back to the roundhouse to reverse the engine and try again, but fate intervened. A large mob had already begun attacking the jail and seeing this, W.C. Perry jumped down and ran to his brother’s aid.

At the trackside jail a mob of 200 miners demanded that Perry be given over to them. Sheriff Bill Greiner was inside, well-armed and determined to resist. He said he would sell his own life dearly before giving Perry up and they should damn well keep back. That’s when he heard the mob call for giant powder (dynamite) and noticed the pounding of hand drills attacking the stone jail walls. Not wanting to be blown up, Greiner opened the door and was immediately knocked to the floor. The lynch mob grabbed Jack Perry and began marching him out of town and up the tracks a quarter mile to his fate. His brother reportedly tried to intervene and hand him a gun, but he was disarmed and restrained by the mob. On the long, cold walk Perry was combative and asked if they were trying to freeze him to death.

Railroad water tank at Minturn, similar to the tank in Red Cliff where the mob hanged Jack Perry.

The lynch mob was cold, disorganized, and fueled by alcohol. No one had brought a rope. As they passed the locomotive they cut the bell cord rope off and proceeded to the  tall Rio Grande water tank where they hanged Jack Perry from a ladder rung. Perry’s body was left hanging until after midnight when his brother finally cut him down.

Valentine’s Day had passed, and Jack Perry’s life had ended just like the bad men in  his dime novels, at the end of a rope. The D&RG railroad had supplied the gallows and his own brother had supplied the rope.  On Monday his body was taken to Leadville to be embalmed and his brother accompanied it back to Independence Missouri for burial in the impressive Perry family plot. Perry’s funeral and his family’s grief were later reported in the Leadville papers, noting “the family is quite well off and stands very high in the community.” Mike Gleason’s funeral service was held on Wednesday, February 17 in Red Cliff with a very large number of people in attendance.

Newspapers throughout Colorado quickly reported and denounced Perry’s lynching at Red Cliff and strongly criticized the town. The headlines proclaimed A LYNCHING BEE AT RED CLIFF !The townspeople correctly pointed out that the lynching was not done by them but by the Battle Mountain miners. In the weeks that followed, the Leadville newspapers carried numerous articles updating the facts and developments concerning Gleason’s murder and the sensational lynching of Jack Perry. A group of Leadville newsboys even penned a popular play titled “The Lynching of Missouri Jack” with a very creative and fictional plot, selling a lot of newspapers.

                                        A Lynching Bee at Red Cliff

Special to the Tribune-Republican

    RED CLIFF, Colorado, Feb. 14. —- A mob numbering about two hundred came into town earlier this evening, overpowered the Sheriff, and took Perry, the man who killed Mike Gleason on Battle Mountain day before yesterday, out of jail and hung him from the railroad water-tank at 10:45 p. m.

   His only request was to be allowed to climb the ladder and jump off, but this request was denied. He was drawn up a short distance from the ground by the hooting mob and strangled to death. No man ever died more game.

   The officials getting word of the coming of the mob late this afternoon, telegraphed to Superintendent Cook for an engine to take the prisoner to Leadville, but it was met at the depot and taken possession of by the mob.

   The populace is greatly excited, but the mob has dispersed, and all is quiet now. The body is still hanging at 12 o’clock midnight.

In addition to reporting the details of the Perry lynching, the opinions of several prominent Red Cliff citizens were published :

A.R. Brown, county attorney : “I was retained on the defense, and think that the plea of insanity would have cleared him; but the deed is done, and everybody concurs in the action of the mob, I have no blame to attach.”

Dr. A.G. Mays : ” We all feel that the fate was deserved and that the Battle Mountain miners vengeance was as merited as it was vigorous.”

Robert Haney : “Yes, I know some of the people of Robinson say the bounds of propriety were overstepped, but they should remember that this retributive act was not for deeds done at Robinson, but for the murder in cold blood of an inoffensive Battle Mountain miner.”

Thomas Randall : “I don’t care to say, but in view of the expected influx of people, it would certainly have a deterrent effect upon the bullies and rounders always in the advanced guard.”

  1. N. Ackley : “It was a perfectly orderly crowd. I looked on from my office door and I can say I did not see a drunken man in the party, and if Judge Lynch ever executed a righteous judgment he did it that day.”

                          Leadville Herald Democrat

February 20, 1886

On February 19, George S. Irwin, the editor of the White Pine Cone in Gunnison county managed to summarize the entire affaire in just two brief lines:

Mike Gleason, a miner, was shot dead at Red Cliff last week by a man named Perry. Cause, whisky.

The remains of Jack Perry, the man who was lynched at Red Cliff, were taken to Leadville for burial.

(In 1893 George S. Irwin would move his family and printing press to the gold rush town of Fulford and establish its only newspaper, The Fulford Signal.)

A reporter had asked miner Tom Baynard why he referred to Red cliff as “a poor man’s camp” ?  Mr. Baynard had some very wise and interesting observations:

Because a poor man can make good wages working those prospects from the grass roots. Whether you get into the porphyry or quartzite it pays. There is not an idle man in the camp, and there need never be if they want to work. It requires a comparatively small outlay to begin to work a mine in Red Cliff to what it does in other camps. Just compare it for a minute to Aspen. There you have to spend from fifty to one hundred thousand dollars before you can get out any pay ore.

In Red Cliff a couple of Swedes started to dig on Battle mountain about January 1, and they are shipping pay ore already. This is the reason there is going to be a tremendous boom in the camp in the spring. The miners have learned the nature of the displacement there and some of them have got right into the quartzite and struck the main body of the ore, which simply means a fortune for all who have done it. It seems to me, I mean so far as the result is concerned, like placer mining used to be in California. If a man don’t want to work his claim on Battle mountain  he can generally sell it for a fair and reasonable price.

Is the town growing ?

Yes, it continues to grow even during the winter. You bet it is quiet over there. Since Missouri Jack was lynched people have left their doors unlocked, and if a sneak thief happened to be in town he wouldn’t dare to open a door or touch even a stick of wood. Lynching may not be what the lawyers would call the correct thing; but it helps the camp wonderfully and makes a jail a useless ornament to the town, and cuts down the sheriff’s and city marshal’s fees to nothing. Yes, sir, Red Cliff is a very orderly place and we propose to keep it so.”

The Leadville Daily/Evening Chronicle

March 1, 1886

This man on the street interview presented a good overview of the situation in Red Cliff in the spring of 1886. The camp was finally prosperous and booming again largely due to Art Fulford’s recent gold discovery in the quartzite. People were optimistic and many were sharing in the riches of Battle Mountain. The lynching of Jack Perry had brought severe criticism to the town, but most of the town’s citizens believed it was totally justified. They also believed it served as a strong warning and deterrent to criminals in general.

Don’t mess with Red Cliff !

 

 

 

 

                            

 

 

Prospecting at the End of a Rope

(Editor’s note: Richard Perske is the author of  “Boom Town to Ghost Town: The Story of Fulford.” Since the book was published in 2015, Perske continues to dig deeper into the history of this Eagle County mining camp at the base of New York Mountain.)

 

Prospecting at the End of a Rope

By Richard Perske

Arthur Fulford, the daredevil prospector. (Courtesy ECHS and EVLD)

Art Fulford read the Leadville Herald Democrat of January 1, 1886 with a great deal of pride and personal satisfaction. The article titled “EAGLE’S CAPITAL” and described in great detail the town of Red Cliff, the county seat of Eagle County. The article cited several of Fulford’s recent achievements and gold mining successes. Nearby Battle Mountain was finally booming again and largely because of him. Art could well remember his earlier and less prosperous times in Colorado. Red Cliff had a pretty humble beginning as well.

 

Red Cliff had been established in 1879 and at that time was a remote silver mining camp in Summit County, accessed by trails and a very bad wagon road to Leadville. Red Cliff had its ups and downs as the silver mines on Battle Mountain were first discovered and the area boomed, then slumped. Early on, mine speculators and bad luck damaged the reputation of the town. However, everyone had faith in the mineral treasure in the Battle Mountain mines. Even that faith would soon be sorely tested.

The nearby Holy Cross Mining District had initially showed great promise as a gold producer. Numerous veins showing free gold had very good initial assay results. Speculators quickly sold their claims to large companies who made major mine investments, only to discover that the gold content diminished significantly a few feet below the surface. Eons of natural weathering and erosion had concentrated the gold mainly near the surface. The mining companies soon went bankrupt and pulled out, contributing to a general slump in Red Cliff mining investments.

Red Cliff had become noticeably cash-poor by late 1881 and the merchants were forced to extend credit to many customers. Mining was very risky business and the local smelter operation was a large part of the problem. The Battle Mountain Smelter Company in Red Cliff refined the silver ore output from the mines and was in dire financial difficulty. The smelter closed in March 1882, owing its workers four months unpaid back wages. The workers, merchants, and suppliers were owed nearly $40,000 and were very angry.  The smelter’s financial  manager F.C. Garbutt, unable to satisfy their demands for payment, wisely secured a horse and left town just ahead of a growing mob. That night the mob paraded on Eagle Street and lit a large bonfire to burn Mr. Garbutt in effigy. This was only the first blow to the town’s economy.  The Belden mine, the area’s best producer, was also forced to close and a dispute among the Denver owners put the mine in an extended period of receivership. Many Red Cliff men were idled and out of work in 1882. The economic slump would last at least 12 months.

On the night of September 22, 1882 nearly half of Red Cliff burned to the ground as the result of a disastrous fire that started at the Southern hotel, saloon, and dance hall located in the Strand building on Water Street.

This turn-of-the century photo shows a bustling Red Cliff business district. The Quartzite Hotel is on the right side, middle of the photo. (Courtesy ECHS and EVLD)

Red Cliff  managed to slowly rebound from these early misfortunes. The State Legislature established Eagle County in late 1883 and Red Cliff, the only town, became the county seat. By then the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad had finally reached Red Cliff providing essential ore freight, scheduled passenger coaches, and telegraph service to Leadville and the world beyond. The Battle Mountain lead and silver ore was now being shipped by rail to Leadville smelters. However, it was the efforts of a “daredevil prospector” named A.H. Fulford who found gold in the quartzite cliffs of Battle Mountain in 1884 that finally put the town back on its feet.

On October 12, 1884 Art and two partners discovered and located the Ben Butler mine high on a remote unclaimed cliff section of Battle Mountain. Bob Haney and Will Travers lowered Art on a rope to investigate the high cliff crevices and openings in the quartzite formation. He found a fissure vein that yielded high grade free-milling gold ore. Art sacked the ore and they hauled it up the cliff by rope. Art soon became known as “the daredevil prospector”. By December they were shipping the first gold ore produced from the Battle Mountain quartzite contact and a new gold rush was on. The Ben Butler quickly developed into a big gold producer and the partners were getting rich. In 1885 Art used some of his proceeds to buy interests in other nearby quartzite mines including the Gold Wedge, Golden Wonder, and Percy Chester. He also took on several local partners to help finance the costs of mine development. All of these mines became very good gold producers and Art was soon supervising 45 men developing the remarkable Percy Chester mine.

This 1898 postcard shows the D&RG Railroad narrow gauge track in Eagle River canyon. The Ben Butler mine is visible among the sharp-pointed rocks in the upper right corner. (Courtesy ECHS and EVLD)

In the two years prior to Art’s discovery the annual production of the Battle Mountain mines in both silver and gold was about $500,000. In 1885 gold production had doubled and in 1886 gold production alone would reach $420,000. Total ore production for 1886 would exceed $1,000,000. The economic impact of Art’s Ben Butler gold discovery on the town of Red Cliff and Battle Mountain mine production was huge. The cliffside quartzite gold formation was no longer being ignored. Red Cliff even had a new hotel named “The Quartzite.”

 

The discovery of rich gold ore in the Ben Butler quartzite spurred the development of other nearby claims that had not previously been worked. Renewed exploration of the quartzite fissure veins had quickly doubled the value of gold output on Battle Mountain, entirely due to Art’s amazing discovery. The nearly inaccessible claims in the quartzite cliffs formed a narrow band just below several well-established silver mines, the Eagle Bird, the R.L.R., and the Belden.  Art and his brother Mont took a lease on the nearby Ground Hog mine and made a considerable gold strike there as well.

Art supervised the construction and development of the Percy Chester mine and employed 45 miners. They constructed a 750 cable tram to deliver ore to the D&RG tracks below. When the miners encountered a large, flooded cave with promising ore, it was pumped and drained and the valuable heavy, wet ore delivered to a trackside building and dryer that Art devised. The mine machinery, ore trams, and pumps were run by steam engines.

In the spring of 1886, the camp was finally prosperous and booming again largely due to Art Fulford’s gold discovery in the quartzite. People were optimistic and many were sharing in the riches of Battle Mountain.

This drawing of Battle Mountain mining claims appeared in the Leadville Herald Democrat newspaper on June 1, 1890. The Ben Butler claim is on the right. (From the Colorado Historic Newspapers website)

(Want to learn more about Eagle County’s early mining days? Rich Perske’s “Boom Town to Ghost Town: The Story of Fulford” book may be purchased from the Eagle County Historical website, or at several retail outlets in the Eagle Valley.)

Who was Hume White…and why did he need an opera hat?

Sometimes local history arrives unexpectedly. In the case of Hume Stanley White, it was the donation of a collapsible opera hat that first piqued the Eagle County Historical Society’s interest in this Eagle County pioneer. When collapsed, the hat, which has an internal spring system, looks like a flattened black silk pancake. Pop it up, and it’s a shiny top hat, suitable for a society event. Couple that hat with a box full of yellowed papers that came from Hume White’s roll top desk, add in the research time made available courtesy of the spring of 2020 corona virus epidemic, and this pioneer story comes into focus.

George White [Courtesy of ECHS and EVLD]

  Hume Stanley White (the middle name comes from a prominent mining family in Idaho Springs), born in 1882, was the youngest son of George G. and Sarah Morton White. The Whites were adventurous pioneers. Originally from Kentucky, George served in the Confederate Army, that including a six-week stay in a Union prison. After the war, he pursued higher education with the goal of becoming a lawyer. He established both a large farm and a law practice in Missouri and married Sarah Anne Morton in 1867.

Sarah Anne Morton White [courtesy of ECHS and EVLD]

  Intrigued by tales of the mining  boom out west, the young couple and their children left their comfortable brick home in Missouri and headed to Colorado.

George quickly established a successful legal practice. In 1876, he helped write the Colorado Constitution. Eventually, his adventurous nature drew the White family to the bustling Leadville mining camp, where he served as a judge. In 1891, the Whites went exploring down the Eagle River, and found the country along Brush Creek (south of Eagle) promising enough to prompt them to file several homestead claims. Those homesteads encompassed 480 acres including what is now the heart of the Eagle Ranch subdivision, and rural properties farther up the creek.

Barn on Sarah White Ranch [courtesy of ECHS and EVLD]

  Hume was the youngest of the four White children. Born in 1882, he likely never really knew his father, who died unexpectedly in Leadville in 1884, at the age of 38.

The widow Sarah proved her strength and independence by establishing a cattle ranch on the Brush Creek property, where she raised her children. Determined to provide her children with a high quality education, Sarah’s success at the ranch, along with the money left by her husband, enabled her to send her children to boarding schools. The boys, Ben and Hume, completed their elementary education at Notre Dame. Hume spent his higher education years at William Jewel Academy College in Missouri, completing college in 1905, the same year that his mother died after a several-month illness.

Sarah White and Family [courtesy of ECHS and EVLD]

  The White brothers took over their mother’s ranching operation. Ben was particularly prominent in Eagle County’s agricultural industry. Hume was drawn to Denver, where for several years he worked as a newspaper reporter, including a stint at the Denver Republican working alongside the famous writer, Damon Runyon. Hume was not destined for a newspaper career. After he was “fired for his own good,” as he later recalled, he obtained a law degree from the University of Denver in 1911.

Hume began his law practice in Denver, working in the office of his father’s former law partner. In 1913, Hume married Genevieve Fisher Chilson. Several perfectly preserved engraved wedding announcements were among the papers in Hume’s rolltop desk.

From 1916 until 1920, he worked as a Deputy District Attorney, prosecuting criminals in the City and County of Denver.

But he always had strong ties to Eagle County, where he enjoyed the ranching, the hunting and fishing. When silver was discovered at Horse Mountain on Brush Creek in 1913, Hume was one of the investors in silver mines.

Hume White House, Eagle [Courtesy ECHS and EVLD]

  In 1920, Hume, Genevieve and their son George G. White II moved to Eagle to be nearer the ranch operation (Hume leased out his portion of the ranch.) He established a law practice in Eagle, and quickly became drawn into the county seat fight that had roiled Red Cliff and Eagle for nearly 20 years and through numerous court battles. The White brothers were prominent players in the fight. In 1920, Ben chaired the committee fighting to move the county seat down valley; and Hume was both a committee member and legal advisor. The papers from his desk include a flyer detailing a dozen arguments promoting Eagle as the better location for the county seat. Eagle finally won that battle in 1921.

Like his father, Hume was a skillful lawyer. The family memoirs claim he never lost a case. He was also a politically savvy Democrat. He represented Eagle County in the State Legislature from 1922-1924, a job that probably required the occasional use of a formal opera hat. His work included stints as the Eagle town attorney, Eagle County attorney, and a term as a District Court judge.

Hume was the vice-president of the First National Bank of Eagle County. He served on the Colorado River Water Conservation Board for 23 years, including the time during the late 1940s and early 1950s when the controversial Fryingpan-Arkansas water diversion project (resulting eventually in the construction of Ruedi  Reservoir) was taking shape. Hume White was well known in Democratic Party circles throughout the state; and in 1936 was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention.

Hume Stanley White [courtesy ECHS and EVLD]

Throughout his life, he was an approachable, integral part of the Eagle County community. In addition to his high-profile legal work, local newspaper columns report White’s adventures ranging from making a local splash by driving a large Thomas Flyer touring car into town in 1920 to his adventures fishing at Deep Creek, exploring Fulford Cave, and moving cattle to market throughout the decades. Hume was apparently a good sport. In 1945, he was one of numerous Eagle County competitors participating in a men-only “War Loan Beauty Contest,” a fund-raising event where people voted by making donations in the name of specific contestants. The newspaper suggested that Hume was attempting to capture votes by asking the local beauty shop to design a new hairdo for him. At that time, Hume White was quite bald.

Genevieve White died in 1951. Hume White retired from his law practice but remained prominent in county affairs. He died 1968. The opera hat and the desk drawer of papers are small artifacts of the accomplishments of a man who played a big role in Eagle County.

[courtesy of ECHS and EVLD]

Complied by Kathy Heicher

Eagle County Historical Society

April 25, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eagle County Pioneer Talk: Sarah Doherty September 21

Saturday, September 21, 2019, 2 pm

Eagle County Pioneer Sarah Doherty

First Christian Church, 1326 N. 1st Street, Grand Junction, CO.

Sarah Doherty was a frightened Irish immigrant when she first arrived at the Red Cliff train depot in 1883. An independent, unmarried woman, Sarah eventually homesteaded at Dotsero where she became known as the “Cattle Queen of the Badlands.” Hear her story at a special presentation by local historian Kathy Heicher for the Territorial Daughters of Colorado, Western Chapter. Free.

 

Happy Holidays!

The Santa of Christmas Past …

Santa Claus stopped in Red Cliff, Colorado on Christmas Eve, 1935, delivering bags of fruit, nuts and candy to each child, and promising to return later that night. The American Legion and Auxiliary, Battle Mountain Post No. 47 hosted Santa’s visit. He stopped at Clooney’s Store to greet the locals, and posed for a photo with his hosts.

The Eagle County Historical Society wishes you a Merry Christmas and hopes that Santa stops by your house, too!

Colorado Gives Day — December 4, 2018

Give where you live: Support the Eagle County Historical Society on Dec. 4

  It takes more than beautiful scenery and great skiing to build a healthy community. The Eagle County Historical Society is among dozens of non-profit organizations in Eagle County that work hard every day providing quality-of-life services for locals and visitors. Programs include educational and health services, housing assistance and cultural enrichment.

   Eagle County Gives, a coalition of 50 local and worthy non-profits, will once again participate in Colorado Gives Day on Tuesday, Dec. 4. This annual event simplifies philanthropic giving by providing a convenient on-line option for supporting local non-profits with a single website visit.

  Last year, the one-day event raised nearly $1 million for local organizations. Donors have the option of making contributions on the official Gives day, or scheduling donations in advance.

  Watch for posters, news articles, and sign -waiving volunteers in the roundabouts.  Take this opportunity to support your local community. Present and future generations will thank you.

  More information at eaglecogives.org.