By Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pikes Peak can be a dangerous place. Today, you can wreck your car on the highway. Many have. You can have a heart attack climbing, or perish because of altitude sickness, or have any number of bad things happen up there on one of the more accessible 14ers in nation. But what are the chances of being murdered on America's Mountain?
Turns out, it is not out of the question.
From early records, as reported in New York Times, August 9, 1860, on Page 2 of the New York edition with the headline: Life at Pikes Peak: TWO MURDERS IN THREE DAYS, A VIGILANCE COMMITTEE.
"The Rocky Mountain News, of the 25th, gives full details of several murders lately committed at Pikes Peak. One of the guilty parties was JAMES A. GORDON, who became engaged in a quarrel with the barkeeper of a saloon where he had been indulging freely in liquor, and finally shot him, inflicting a dangerous wound. This outrage he followed up, on the next day but one, the 16th, of July, by shooting and instantly killing one GANTZ, another barkeeper in the same town. Then GORDON thought it was time to put himself beyond the reach of the law. No one started in pursuit until the next morning after the murder had been committed, and then all efforts to arrest the scoundrel proved unavailing," the paper reported, according to the other paper.
But there is more:
"On Sunday, the 20th, a bar-tender. BILL BATES by name, shot and instantly killed Mr. M.F. HADLEY, an auctioneer. It was claimed that this affair was accidental, and the Vigilance Committee to which the case was submitted so decided, censuring BATES at the same time, for his careless use of deadly weapons," The Rocky Mountain News related and the Times relayed to readers.
Some of the proceedings of this Committee, the organization, of which was provoked by the outrages committed by GORDON, are thus sketched by the News:"The trial of SAMUEL K. DUNN, for mule stealing, took place. A jury of twelve men was impaneled. Several witnesses were examined, whose testimony established the fact that three stolen mules were found in possession of three men, of whom DUNN was one. DUNN made a statement to the jury, admitting that, though he did not steal the mules himself, he knew that they were stolen, and was riding one of them back to the States, being anxious to get home again, and having no other way to go. The jury, of course, found him guilty, and he was sentenced, to receive twenty-five lashes at 7 o'clock last evening, and to leave the country within twenty-four hours. In reply to the question, where would the prisoner be whipped some said on the back, and others said he would be whipped on the bottom -- meaning of course the Platte bottom. Accordingly, at the appointed hour, the sentence, to the extent of nineteen lashes, was duly executed in the presence of a large crowd of spectators assembled to witness the agony and debasement of a victim quicker than they could have been drawn together by the inauguration of a President or the coronation of a Prince. At the nineteenth stroke the poor fellow fell and the flagellation ceased. His wounds, as well as himself, were dressed, and he is probably now far on his way hence, realizing the fact that "the way of the transgressor is hard."That was with early arrivals of "so-called" civilized settlers from the east, early in Colorado's written history.
A few years later, it had not improved much.
"On the morning of August 19, 1897, two men, George Reed, of Buttes, Colorado, and H.A. Barclay of Denver, walking down from the summit of Pikes Peak on the Cog Railway, noticed the legs of a man sticking from the culvert about three-fourths of a mile from the summit," reported local papers at the time.
"Investigation show great spots of blood scattered over the track, and a revolver with one chamber discharged, about ten feet away," noted Carl F. Mathews, who was superintendent of the Colorado Springs Police Department's Bureau of Identification, writing many years later about the incident for a paper the Denver Westerners.
"The men hastened down to the Saddle House where they notified the foreman of the section gang, and continued on. Before they arrived at Manitou, the management had been notified by telephone, but the men again stopped and notified Manager Sells, who in turn telephoned Sheriff Boyington. Coroner Marlow was in Cripple Creek, but his assistant was notified and went to the Peak on the afternoon train, arriving back in Colorado Springs with body about 6 o'clock," reported Mathews.
"Upon examination, a bullet hole was found in the head, the shot having been fired at close range as the hair was burned. The victim was about 25 years of age, nearly six feet tall, slender build and about 175 pounds in weight; fairly well-dressed. No papers in any pocket, but on the inside coat pocket, a tag with the makers name and also, 'E.M. Kirton, Wisner, Nebr. April 16, 1897.'"
The body was eventually identified as Herbert H. Kay, of Wisner, Nebr.
From more investigation, it was determined that Kay had nearly $200 on his person when he started up the Peak on the night of August 18, and had been staying at room on Ruxton Avenue in Manitou, and had asked his land lady to prepare a lunch for himself and two friends that he had met, and planned to watch the sunrise at the summit. She prepared a lunch of eight sandwiches and a pie, and Kay departed.
"A possible clue was given by Dr. Fraker and a Mr. Meyers. Dr. Fraker had employed a 19-year-old youth as an office boy, who gave the name of J.B Edmunds. The doctor was abscent from the office Monday, Edmunds took advantage of his absence to take a good portion of the doctor's wardrobe and to to decamp. Early Thursday morning, the 19th, Mr. Meyers had met two men coming down the Cog Road, one of them answering the description of Edmunds, and both had blood on their coats," Mathews report said.
On August 26, Edmunds was arrested in Kansas City. On his arrest he became very angry and before being told why he was wanted, said "I was in Larned, Kansas, on August 19th."
He was convinced to return to Colorado Springs.
A strange turn was taken in the case.
"Two young ladies who said they had seen the stranger in Kay's company the night previous to the murder were taken to the county jail and viewed Edmunds in the clothing worn on his last day in Colorado Springs; and then saw him in ordinary attire. The girls talked to him about 15 minutes, but told the sheriff that they could not identify him. According to the papers, "they were of more than ordinary intelligence."
Edmunds was release shortly afterward, on Sept. 10.
But according to Kansas papers, a year later, the jury in the case of one Shirley D. Chamberlin (with a possible alias of Edmunds?) was charged with the murder of Herbert H. Kay, of Wisner, Neb., on Pike's Peak, in August last, brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree. "The case is the most sensational one in the history of El Paso county, and has attracted widespread interest, owing to the place where the deed was committed," noted several Kansas publications, at the time.
Following the rule of threes, and the reportage of these three separate murders, it does seem possible that one does realize — at least at some level, a measure of risk — when one considers the possibility of being murdered on Pike Peak.