Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Lurid, violent, dramatic incident leads to lynching

No one tried to stop these dispensers of frontier justice.

By Rob Carrigan,

Today, Old Town is a busy, vibrant place, full of life and laughter, and love, even ...  The feel of small town America is strong here. Dogs are welcome. Folks are peaceful. But there is a saying about animals, that may apply to something that happened in this normally quiet, peaceful town, on this same day, exactly 130 years ago.
“When the Fox hears the Rabbit scream he comes a-running, but not to help.”
By 1888, Fort Collins was settling down to respectability, says Phil Walker in his 1995 book "Visions Along the Poudre Valley."
"There was electricity and running water in most of the houses. Gone were the days of the wild and woolly frontier town. Gone were most of the saloons the brothels, the gambling halls and the riff-raff that all this attracted. No more was the civil and moral code of the community held in open defiance," Walker wrote.
"Eva and James Howe lived in a little house on Walnut Street, just a half block from Linden Street where Old Town Square is today.  They had a five-year-old daughter. James was a millwright and a very good mechanic and was well-respected in the business community. Eva Howe was a happy, pleasant woman ... quite pretty, and very much liked by all the ladies. Most of the time, the Howes lived quietly as the 1880s rolled by," according to Walker's book.
"But alcohol was eating at James Howe..."
"Herein lies a tale for within this house began a lurid, violent, dramatic incident that ended in murder. A lynching followed the deed," wrote Babara Allbrant Flemming in "Fort Collins: A Pictorial History."
"Mr and Mrs. James Howe lived in the house, then at Linden and Walnut streets. On April 4, 1888, Howe came into the house drunk to find his wife packing to leave him. He became enraged and attacked her with a pocket knife, slashing her throat. She staggered out of the house, though fatally wounded, seeking help, but it was too late. She fell down on the walk and died. Since the house was right down town, everyone around had seen what happened. Howe was immediately arrested, and normal activity halted for the rest of the day," she said.
"That night, when it got dark, the town's newly installed electrical system suddenly stopped working. In the inky blackness, a band of men broke into the jail and hauled the murderer out. He pleaded for mercy, but he was quickly strung up on a derrick being used to build the new courthouse. One account has it that Charlie Clay, the town's black cook and delivery man, sat on the scaffold and played his harmonica while Howe died."
Flemming noted that no one tried to stop these dispensers of frontier justice. And when they had done their work, the electric lights went on again. For a long time, the house was considered haunted, but eventually Daisy Bosworth took up residence there and turned it into a boarding house.
The house was eventually moved to 1314 West Myrtle Street, and is still occupied today. 

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