Guns and dynamite, badges and bullets, labor versus mine owners – saddle them up with a talent for shooting (accurately) from the hips and mix in a reputation as a bad man, and a picture of Jim (Lambert) Warford emerges.
“People in Independence didn’t think much of him but knowing his reputation as a bad man, they kept their mouths shut,” wrote Mabel Barbee Lee in her classic 1958 book Cripple Creek Days.
“He boasted too loudly about his sharp-shooting prowess and seemed proud of the fact both his father and grandfather barely escaped lynching because of their gun scrapes. Only a few years before, Jim himself, who had been Tom Horn’s chief triggerman during the Wyoming range wars, had fled to Colorado when Tom was finally caught and strung up. He hid out in the mining camps over in the San Juans, which at the time were involved bloody labor battles. But Jim couldn’t keep his presence secret for long. Two pistols which he could fire simultaneously from the hips always hung from his cartridge belt, and he never missed his target whether it was the heart of man or the beady eye of a blue jay. Few mortals, aware of the notches on his guns, had the temerity to start arguing with Jim Warford.”
According to the Daviess County Historical Society in Pattonsburg, MO, where Warford grew up as Jim Lambert, he lived in Independence Camp and became associated with the mine owners and prominent members of the Citizen Alliance.
“He soon became a troubleshooter to aid the effort to rid the district of unionism,” according to the society.
“His reputation spread with the shooting of Deputy Constables Miller and Lebo in the streets of Goldfield, Colo. Jim Lambert killed Miller and Lebo in self defense at the polling place ‘in an action of true grit.’”
Stories vary however on what really happened that Election Day, Nov. 9, 1904 Lambert (Warford) when he killed the two men.
“A cousin of the desperado, Tom Lambert of Pattonburg, says both men were shot at the same time, one gunshot each from the two guns in the hands of a man wearing a white hat. Both shots took effect at about the same place on both men,” according to Daviess County Historical Society.
According to Michelle Rozell, who at the time was manager of the Cripple Creek Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum, “Warford was one of the deputy sheriffs charged with seeing that all went well in the pro-union town of Goldfield. At election time in November of 1904, Warford ran across Isaac Leibo and Chris Miller, both constables at Goldfield. The two lawmen were sitting on a fence near a polling place. Warford told them to move on. They just sat on the fence with their hands in their pockets, so Warford whipped out his pistols and killed them both. Warford was quickly jailed.
“According to Warford’s story, he fired in self defense. According to the autopsy report, the two men were shot in the back. Warford was in and out of jail for years. As sentiment wavered, charges were dropped and re-filed.”
The Election Day ‘gun fight’ brought Warford (Lambert) five years but the Governor of Colorado, according to the Daviess County Historical Society, eventually pardoned him.
Warford (Lambert) had already enhanced his reputation in the district with other incidents as author Mabel Barbee Lee noted in her book.
“As the deportation lengthened, Sheriff Ed Bell and his deputy, Jim Warford, grew so ruthless that women trembled at the mere mention of their names. Then the commander of the troops said that something should be done to put a stop to the pro-labor editorials in the Victor Daily Record. ‘They are likely to incite riots,’ he asserted, ‘and lead to the destruction of life and property. A raid on the plant might teach the radicals a lesson or two.’ The job went to triggerman Jim Warford. As herded the editor and four members of the staff toward the door, Jim stopped and looked back at the wreckage. Only the big clock on the wall was running as usual. It angered the deputy sheriff and, letting out a string of oaths, he shot off the clock’s minute hand. ‘There by God,’ he shouted, booting the editor, ‘that’ll learn you to mark time an’ get in step.”
Information from FindAGrave.com notes that Warford (Lambert) came to a violent end himself in 1912.
“On April 17, 1912, Jim Warford's body was found frozen on Battle Mountain near Victor in Teller County. He was riddled with bullet holes. His Savage 30-30 rifle and someone's sack of dynamite sticks were found near the body. The Teller County Sheriff said he believed Warford was killed the night of April 11 since Warford's Colt .45 revolvers were pawned in Colorado Springs the next day by a person using Jim's name.
Jim Warford's murder was never solved despite much investigation. James Hanover Warford was buried April 21, 1912, at the Sunnyside Cemetery. Mr. R.E. Maupin, a Pattonsburg banker, paid for the services. Jim's effects included a signet ring, a belt with buckle reading "Deputy Sheriff of the Black Hills," and a star showing Jim may have been a deputy sheriff of Elkhorn, Nev. Jim was married to his cousin Sarah Adaline Rhoades, they married in Daviess County, MO., 20 Feb 1894. Jim and Addie, had three children Mable, Theodesia, and Freda Warford. James and Addie divorced prior to his murder.”
Victor Strike, June 6, 1904
Western Federation of Miners workers stand in a group and hold rifles in an empty lot in Victor. Colorado Historical Society, Original photographs collection.