Thursday, April 19, 2018

No short cuts across high saddles above Dunton


 Hard work may never pay off


By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

The stories grow like a bad weed in high altitude sunshine on the mountain saddles above Dunton.
If you look down the slopes below — like the miners and outlaws and other desperados of the time — you might understand that hardship, isolation, heartbreak — and realize that hard work may never pay off.
Not far from here, at the turn of the last century,  Matt Warner and his accomplice, known then as Butch Cassidy, (his given name was Robert Leroy Parker) walked into the San Miguel Valley Bank.
Warner pulled the teller over his desk, threatening him with death. Parker filled a bag with cash, eventually calculated to be $20,750. That measures up to more than half -million dollars in today’s currency when adjusted for inflation.
Like Parker, your might have had a bad taste in your mouth and felt mistreated in general.  Perhaps you would come to the conclusion that there might be shortcuts.
"The young man who would become Butch Cassidy was hired to pack ore onto mules and bring the valuable materials from the mines high in the mountains around Telluride down to the mills," writes
"Parker was keeping a colt of his on a local rancher’s property, and eventually he decided to remove it from the ranch. After Parker took his colt from the property, the ranch owner accused him of stealing the animal, and he was arrested and tried for the crime in Montrose. He was eventually acquitted but left Telluride to find work on ranches around Wyoming and Montana, until he returned to the box canyon a few years later to begin his life of crime."
Well some might argue about the timing of such a watershed moment. But it is possible that a young Leroy Parker, high on that ridge or some other, stared down at Rico on one side, and Dunton to the northwest, and formulated a plan for an easier, or at least more exciting way to make a living.
He wasn't going to scratch around in a hole, pack busted rocks up the hillsides, or labor arm-deep in blood, cutting meat all day in the butcher shop.
From that ridge, he could have probably seen the Emma, the Smuggler and the American mines.
He might have even spied Joe Roscio, who  arrived in Dunton in the 1880s from Minnesota. Roscio mined on the West Fork while federal troops were still busy chasing off Ute warriors who called the area home, or at least the equivalent of the grocery store.
The Smuggler, a tipple operation, was built on the steep slope on the shady side of the river. Roscio and his wife had at least four children, including boys Joe, Jr., Chuck, and Emilio (Mello).
They mined and survived up there in the high lonesome by also trapping, logging and supplying other miners. They rented cabins, operated a bar and lodge, and reportedly charged a nickel to use the hot springs.
Young Parker, no stranger to the possibility of fun and entertainment of the region, no doubt knew of the operation at the local hot spot. And he was prone to enjoy a leisurely life.
After their first bank job in Telluride,
"Warner, Parker and one or two other accomplices then headed west out of Telluride on horseback, urging their horses into a gallop and firing their revolvers as a warning to any would-be pursuers as they left town. The group crested Keystone Hill, a few miles west of Telluride, where a horse relay was awaiting them, one of several relay points manned by friends who were given a share of the stolen money in exchange for their assistance in the getaway," Elliot wrote in 2015.
Warner took credit for having the idea to rob the bank. Both riders with a regional reputation for winning horse races, Warner said he approached his friend and fellow racer Butch Cassidy — and then, his own brother-in-law Tom McCarty. According to his version, Butch was excited by the prospect, while Tom was more reluctant. After riding into town and up to the bank, Warner says he placed his gun under the teller’s nose, while Cassidy gathered the cash, and Tom McCarty held the horses outside.
Perhaps because it was their first bank job, the inexperienced outlaws led the teller outside with his hands up, and in the process, alerted the entire town.
After firing a few shots to back off the crowd, the three or four outlaws, made a beeline out of town, eventually ending up in the mountains near Mancos. Running so fast that they left the fresh horses behind, they ran into one of their former employers, Harry Adsit, who later helped the posse identify them and tell the pursuing group what direction they were headed.
Interestingly enough, Telluride Town Marshall, Jim Clark later confessed to the Gunnison County Sheriff to being involved — by not being involved.
Clark reportedly told the Sheriff he received $2200 of the stolen money as payment for being out of town during the robbery and later acquired one of the horses used in the robbery.
Certain accounts speculate that the two horse racing friends, and now, bank robbers, along with McCarty and perhaps additional accomplices, changed horses in the Cortez area (perhaps even at Longabaugh ranch south of Cortez, home of Harry Longabaugh’s father. Harry, (a.k.a. ‘The Sundance Kid”) would later befriend Cassidy and famously ride with the “Wild Bunch,” in Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Texas and New Mexico.
The Roscios sold Dunton in 1974 to a group of investors from Telluride and the East Coast. Dunton clintele morphed from local sheepherders, valley ranchers, reservation workers, bikers, and hippies playing nude volleyball games in high-altitude surroundings — to high-dollar euro tourists and film stars.
In the 1990s, a group of German Chemical company executives and other European investors affiliated with Christoph Henkel, purchased the little frontier village.
"The interior of each cabin was reborn as a piece of art in its own right -- a magazine stylist's collage — created mostly by Katrin Bellinger Henkel, Christoph's wife," according to the New York Time's piece.
The Henkel family radically transformed Dunton from its rough and ready beginnings to an exclusive resort with pricing North of $1,000 per night.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the drafty old cabins with unchinked logs reportedly suffered from hard use by "outlaw" motorcycle gangs, careless hippies,  and a severe skunk infestation — not to mention party-focused local high-school kids and other miscreants.
In early January 2005,  a New York Times travel piece by Anne Goodwin, described how the Henkel family
Tyson Horner, assistant general manager of the place at the time.
"Did you catch those names?" Mr. Horner's eyebrows arched as his practiced index finger nimbly found a prominent "Butch Cassidy," and just below it, a smallish "Sundance."
"Come on," I said. "That's got to be a prank."
"Well," he pulled on the word, grinning broadly, "they're not sayin,' but rumor has it they holed up here in 1889, after they robbed the Telluride bank — their first heist."
Only problem with that, is that it was not likely Cassidy's (Parker's) first legal transgression. He had been suspected of rustling cattle since his teen years in Circleville, Utah, and he was more likely going by another name, like George Cassidy, Tom Gillis, James Ryan, Santiago Ryan, Santiago Maxwell, J.P. Maxwell, James Lowe, Santiago Lowe, George Ingerfield.
And as far as being associated with the Sundance Kid, there also was no record that the two men were associated until later. Though they could have been.
Maybe the Dunton bar has 'Roy Parker' carved in it? Or Harry Alonzo, or Frank Boyd, as Sundance was prone to use as an alias?
Robert Leroy Parker did do a prison stretch in the Wyoming Territorial Prison from 1894-1896 for stealing horses. And in 1887, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid, was sentenced to 18 months in the Sundance, Wyoming jail, for stealing a slow horse.
No evidence suggests that met before Parker was released from prison. But the two incarceration locations are several hours apart — by fast horse.
Perhaps bank robbers did take a short cut along the West Fork of the Dolores River, change to faster horses, and did briefly hide out in Dunton.
Perhaps carving their names in history, and the wooden bar. 
But what names did they carve? It is going to take hard work, hardship, and perhaps isolation and heartache, that may never pay off —before we ever know for sure. 
In the meantime, stories grow like a bad weed in high altitude sunshine on the mountain saddles above Dunton.





Photo Information:
West Dolores Hotel and Bathing House Sept. 18, 1887. Men, women and children in front of the hot springs. Photographed by T.J. McKee. Denver Public Library.

Dunton - Smuggler Mine: Creator: Wolle, Muriel Sibell, Broken lumber and timbers mark the site of the Smuggler Mine, Is Part Of WH906. Muriel Sibell Wolle papers, 1926-1976 Subject Dunton (Colo.); Abandoned mines--Western History and Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library.
Dunton - Emma Mine: Creator: Wolle, Muriel Sibell, Western History and Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library, Dunton - 1950 Creator Wolle, Muriel Sibell, 1898-1977 Date 1950 Donor Muriel Sibell Wolle estate, 1977 Summary View in Dunton (Dolores County), Colorado; shows a harp switch handle at a wye in the ore car tracks; dilapidated buildings and mountains are on one side, a sheer cliff is on the other.

Dunton - 1950 : Creator: Dunton (Dolores County), Colorado; shows a harp switch handle at a wye in the ore car tracks; dilapidated buildings and mountains are on one side, a sheer cliff is on the other. 
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