Sunday, September 26, 2021

Ophir, rich in isolation stories, mineral wealth

Nobody stayed all winter until '78-'79

By Rob Carrigan,

Legend has it that a Lt. Howard (the same one that founded Howardsville, near Silverton) led the first mining party into explore the mineral veins at the foot of Ophir Needles. In fact, the stream tumbling down valley from there, eventually into the San Miguel River is known as Howard's Fork.
"The first legal claims were staked there in 1875 and from then on prospectors dribbled through and sometimes stopped there for a while," wrote Lambert Florin, in his book 'Ghost Towns of the West,' in 1970.

"Nobody stayed all winter at the near-timberline elevation until 1878-9 when 17 men did hole up there, working their claims whenever the weather allowed, which was seldom. Some burrowed under the banks of deep snow for some protection from the frigid blasts off the 14,000-foot peaks," Florin says.
"The next year the Osxeola mine was producing some gold and from others like the Gold King came sack after sack of rich ore. One batch of ten brought the owners $5,000. These miners were able to use arresters which, though crude, were effective when ore was rich enough. One enthusiastic Howards's Fork miner renaming the place Ophir after the fabled Arabian city so rich in Gold."

The Bible references the location of King Solomen's wealth as "the mines of Ophir," of course.
"About the time 500 prospectors were swarming around Ophir, working up thirsts that required five saloons to put down, carbonate fever struck," says Florin. "At Leadville where gold was growing scarce, miners discovered the heavy rocks they cursed as obstacles to gold mining were loaded with carbonate of lead, and with the lead inevitably came silver. This inspired many second thoughts about areas where others gold placers were exhausted, one of these being Rico, erstwhile heavy gold producer. Sure enough, the place was found to be 'rico' in silver. Since it was near Ophir, its miners were caught up in the prevailing excitement and left the camp almost deserted, a ghost town before it was fairly alive."
But, where Leadville's carbonate deposits were so extensive as to to create the greatest boom of its kind, those at Rico were disappointingly small and soon exhausted. So the tide turned and Ophir miners rushed back to their old claims," suggest Florin.
"With the building of smelters at Silverton, Ophir's miners sent their ore by burro trains over and through the mountains to the city of Sultan Mountain."

In the early 1890s, that changed with the coming of the railroad in the form of the Rio Grande Southern, though it did not quite make it all the way up the valley initially. And an offshoot town developed, thus requiring the distinction of "Old Ophir" and "Ophir Loop" where two cars of Ophir mine ore were loaded and shipped daily.

On the engineering marvel of the Loop itself, locals claimed you could fall off the train at the tracks at the top,  but still stumble down the hill and catch the same train at the bottom of the loop. 
With the train's accessibility, however, difficulties in mining, and just living life in the alpine, were not diminished.
The Daily Journal (Telluride), November 30, 1900, described this instance, leading with the following heads and nut graph:
"OPHIR LOOP ALMOST WIPED OUT," and "Fire Unquestionably of Incendiary Origin Destroys
the Principal Buildings."

The paper goes on to describe the following circumstances:

"Of the half-dozen buildings perched about on the cliffs about the station at Ophir Loop the only building of any real value was the structure known as the Glendale hotel. This was quite a roomy, modern structure, built only a year or so ago, and quite well finished. Thursday morning it was completely destroyed with all its contents, and the landlady and her daughter barely escaped alive in their night clothes. Just across the
road, which is barely wide enough to allow the passage of a wagon, stood a small building used as a storage warehouse by Mr . Skillen, the Loop merchant. In this he had stored a car load of flour on the previous day. In a sort of basement a small quantity of giant powder was stored. As the building took
fire the powder exploded, hurling some of the timbers as far as 200 yards and  utterly demolishing the store house. To this fortunate occurrence people who were there say is due the fact that every sign of a building at the Loop was not wiped out. A small building standing near the store house and used in
part as a barber shop was also burned. The high trestle of the railroad bridge was also damaged to some extent, but by shoveling of snow it was managed to save the structure before it was injured sufficiently to prevent the passage of trains. Across the creek fully 200 yards distant a freight car was also burned, the fire apparently having been started right under the center of the car. When the morning train came along from Rico, the engine went in on the side track and pulled out a string of several more cars which
were thereby saved from burning. 

"There seems to be no doubt of the fire having been incendiary, and all sorts of rumors and suspicions were circulated yesterday among the excited villagers. The fire was discovered about 2 o clock Thursday morning. The hotel was owned and operated by N . Savignac, who only the previous day had installed a Mrs. Roberts as manageress, he coming to Telluride in the evening and stopping over night . A little daughter of Mrs . Roberts first discovered the house to be in flames
and barely got her mother out, nearer dead than alive from suffocation. Doctor Compton was called from Ophir and ministered to the injured woman. Yesterday morning it was reported that a human life had been lost in the fire, but later in the day this, was doubted. Some said there was no one in the house, but Mrs . Roberts and daughter and others, said a man had taken lodging there. Some bits of bone were picked out ot the smouldering coals which Doctor Compton said looked like a part of a human anatomy. When the
powder exploded, Spencer Reed , who was shoveling snow on the railroad trestle at some distance, was struck by a flying timber and quite seriously hurt. He was brought to Telluride on the morning train. Farther than this and the injury to Mrs . Roberts by inhaling smoke, no one was hurt. That the general store of Mr. Skillen was not consumed with its considerable stock is due solely to the blowing up of the store house. This, with the depot, which must have went too had the store gone, would have wiped the place out entirely. Except the small stream that winds through the deep canon out of reach of even a bucket line, there is no water, and all that could be done was to stand by and see the fire do its work. The building was partially insured and was the property of an honest, industrious man, who put his all into the purchase and had it only partly paid for. The insurance, it is understood, goes to the former owner who held a mortgage. While there seems no doubt of the fire having been maliciously kindled, people are at at a loss to identify the incendiary."

Historians note that though the train's presence improved isolation in the Alpine, it was still a rough go at times, exemplified by mail service.
"In the summer of 1879 "official" mail service from Silverton was established, Muriel Sibell Wolle relates that the service, though welcome, left something to be desired and cites some items from the Ouray Times, which had a correspondent at Ophir.
"The mail carrier from Silverton  ... has robbed the mail and left the country. The mail bag cut open and with registered mail rifled has been found near Iron Springs." Another item. "No mail for weeks. The Kansas tenderfoot says he wouldn't carry the mail again for $5,000 after one trip." And — "No mail from Rico in ten days. The snow is nearly 10 feet deep and there are snow slides in every gulch ... the mail carrier nearly froze on his last trip."

At the base of the last switchback on the steep mule trail to Silverton that predates the train, mail carrier Swen Nelson, was buried by a snow slide and not exposed for two years.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Appearing and disappearing Tom McCarty

Tom McCarty

Can't keep track of outlaws

By Rob Carrigan,

In their life and death struggles, it can be pretty confusing trying to track down Old West outlaws. None more so than Tom McCarty. Half the time, historians and accounts at the time of their exploits, don't even agree on spelling of a name, (such as McCarthy) as many put down in print. But all agree, Tom — who may have trained "Butch Cassidy" as a cattle rustler, and most definitely helped him rob his first bank — was more slippery than usual.

One summer day shortly after noon, when three outlaws rode into to the mining town wearing “silver-studded bridles, spurs, saddles and artillery, five-gallon hats, red bandanas, flashy shirts, chaps and high-heeled cowboy boots,” according to an account by one of the men involved, Matt Warner.

Matt Warner

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.

"At one time there were more rewards for Tom McCarty than for any other outlaw in the West," writes Oregon historians Jon and Donna Skovlin in their 2001 book “In Pursuit of the McCartys.”

"The Skovlins list reward amounts in their book about the McCartys: Moffat bank in Denver $2,500; Telluride bank $250; Enterprise bank $500; Summerville bank $250; Roslyn bank $3,000; Baker County reward $1,000; Delta bank $500; and various Utah rewards $2,000. The rewards totaled $10,000 (in today’s money about $280,000). Yet Tom was never arrested and no one ever collected a penny in reward money." notes Baker City, OR,  historian and McCarty family author Gary Dielman.

Actually, Tom McCarty’s only arrest and conviction was in 1877 for holding up a railway station agent in Nevada, for which he was sentenced to one year in the Nevada State Prison. After release in 1878, he never again served time in jail or prison for the many crimes he committed during the next decade and a half of horse stealing, cattle rustling, train robberies, and bank robberies. 

John Thomas “Tom” McCarty, was born in Iowa around 1850, Dielma says, was the leader of the family and the eldest of the McCarty siblings; in 1873 Tom married fifteen-year-old Christina “Teenie” Marie Christiansen; their children: Lewis “Lew” William McCarty, born July 4, 1874, and Thomas Leonard “Len” McCarty, born. 1868; Teenie’s brother was Willard Erastus “Ras” Christiansen, born in 1864 in Utah, aka Matt Warner, and aka Ras Lewis, who married Rose Morgan, whose sister was Sara Morgan.

At the end of the 1800s, it seems much of the fast action was in Colorado. The McCarty gang started in the Pacific Northwest and Utah but ended up pulling two very significant bank robberies in Colorado in1889 — First National Bank of Denver and a bank in Telluride.

"On March 30, 1889, Tom McCarty pulled off a brazen, single-handed robbery of the First National Bank of Denver, Colorado. Using the surname “Wells,” Tom lied his way into the office of bank owner, David Moffat. Tom stuck a pistol in Moffat’s face and coerced him into writing a check to “Wells” for $21,000, which he demanded be immediately cashed. In addition to the pistol, Tom, acting crazy, waived a bottle which he said contained nitroglycerin, and threatened to blow the place up and everyone in it including himself, if his demands were not speedily carried out. Tom made off with $20,000 in large bills and $1000 in gold coin (about $575,000 in today’s money). Tom’s true identity was never officially discovered. Later a woman friend of Tom said he told her all about the robbery on numerous occasions," says Dielman.

"During the June 24, 1889, robbery of a bank in Telluride, Colorado, Tom had the help of Matt Warner and none other than Butch Cassidy, for whom Tom was a mentor in the outlaw ways. While a cowboy friend stayed with their horses in front of the bank, Tom, Matt, and Butch entered the bank. There was only one employee in the bank, a teller, but no customers. Upon seeing Matt display his pistol, the teller’s hands shot into the air. With alacrity the robbers stuffed cash into a buckskin pouch and left the bank forcing the teller to proceed them, so he could not get a weapon or sound an alarm. Releasing the teller unharmed, they jumped on their horses and made their getaway with $22,000 ($600,000 today)," says Dielman

"The McCarthy (McCarty) Gang, from Colorado Geneology Trails newspaper accounts tells various later Colorado related robbery stories.

Bill and Fred McCarty

The Sun, Sep 8, 1893 tells the tale of the Delta, Colorado, bank robbery attempt.
"THE CASHIER SHOT DEAD," screams the headlines.
"Two bank robbers killed as they ran off with the plunder." And "An exciting three minutes in Delta, Colorado. "- "Cashier Blachly killed as he raised the alarm" - 

The Sun continues. "Well-aimed shots from Mr. Simpson's rifle pick two of the outlaws from their horses -chase given to the third, but he escapes to the mountains."

"Delta, Col., Sept. 7.-The usual attempt to rob a bank in a bold manner ended disastrously here this morning, when three young desperadoes tried to make away with the funds of the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank.

"Cashier A.T. Blachly was shot in the neck and instantly killed, and two of the robbers were picked from their horses as they rode down an alley by the clever marksmanship of W. Ray Simpson, a hardware dealer, and the money was recovered from their dead bodies.

"It was about 10 o'clock when three men on horseback appeared in the alley at the rear of the bank. Two dismounted, leaving the other man to hold the horses. The men entered by the front door and appeared at the window.

"At that moment only the cashier and his assistant, H.H. Wolbert, were in the bank. They both went forward to wait on the customers, when they were covered with revolvers and ordered to hold up their hands.

"Cashier Blachly yelled, and was promptly cursed by the robbers, who told him to keep quiet. He yelled again, when one of the robbers fired his revolver and Blachly fell dead, the ball having passed upward from the neck. The men then vaulted over the partition, grabbed what money was in sight, and fled through the rear door. As they did this Wolbert picked up his revolver, but was observed by the robbers, who got the drop on him. They did not shoot, but ordered him to throw away his revolver, which he did very quickly. They then dashed into the alley, mounted, and fled down the narrow way toward the Gunnison River.

"When the first shot, which killed the cashier, was heard the cry was raised that the bank was being robbed. Men rushed for revolvers and guns and then ran toward the bank. Among them was W.R. Simpson, a young hardware merchant, whose shop was across the street from the bank.

"He picked up a rifle and started up the street. As the robbers came out of the alley and crossed the street Simpson fired and one of the robbers fell, the top of his head being fairly taken off by the ball.

"Simpson then ran to the alley and fired after the other two fleeing men. He shot twice, killing first another man and then his horse. The second man was also struck in the head. The remaining survivor escaped across the river and down toward Grand Junction.

"A posse was soon gathered and started in hot pursuit. The robber's horse was fresh, and he gave them a pretty chase. A number of ranchmen came into town this afternoon from down the valley, and reported having seen the man riding by several miles ahead of his pursuers.

"Other parties left later, going across into the Escalante country, hoping to head off the man. He will be promptly lynched if caught.

"At the time the robbery was going on a lawyer named W.R. Robertson, having his office in the rear of the bank, heard the first shout and ran out into the alley into the arms of the robbers holding the horses, who quickly covered him with a revolver and kept him there until joined by the escaping robbers from the bank.

"The men have been seen about this part of the country for several days. No one knows them. While here two stopped at the hotel, registering as Clarence Bradley and James G. Bradley. About $1,000 was taken by the robbers, and it was all recovered from the dead bodies of the two men left in the alley.

"Since they were placed in the undertaker's shop they have been identified by several as the same fellows who held up the bank of Telluride four years ago.

"Clarence Bradley told one man here that they came from the Rogue River country, Oregon, and that they had been herding cattle in Utah. A reward of $500 has been offered.

"This evening one party of pursuers returned to town saying that the trail had been lost, the man escaping into the mountains. As he has a good mount he will no doubt make good his escape.

"Mr. Blachly was about 47 years old. In 1878 or thereabouts he conducted a drug store at Canon City. As the railroad was extended he followed it, keeping at various periods a drug store at Arkansas Ctiy, Mears, and Sargent.

"Finally, when the Denver and Rio Grande reached Gunnison, he located in that city, opening a drug store, as in other places. In 1885 he failed in business. Then he went upon a ranch near Delta for a time, leaving it to become cashier of the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank. He has relatives in several places in Connecticut."

The Sun also speculated about the earlier robbery in Denver.

"Denver, Sept 7. - Speaking of the Delta Bank robbery this evening, President Moffatt of the First National Bank said: "I think the robbers are of the same gang of scoundrels that has been doing so much mischief in the West, and probably one of them robbed me."

Other papers around the country weighed in.
"THEY ARE AFTER HIM: The Dalton Bandit is Fleeing Toward the High Hills" headlined
San Francisco Call, Vol 74, No. 101, Sep 9, 1893,
"Delta, Colo., Sept 8-Two of the posse which started yesterday in pursuit of the bandit who, with two companions held up the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank and killed the cashier in doing so, returned late last evening without the fugitive. Other parties are in pursuit, and although the outlaw has taken to the mountains, he will be captured. Ex-Chief of Police Farley of Denver is of the opinion the robbers belonged to the McCarthy gang, who operated so extensively in Denver."

And later, "END OF A BAD GANG: The Delta Robbers Identified as the Oregon McCarthys.
Source: San Francisco Call, Vol 74 No 103, Sep 11, 1893
"Delta, Colo., Sept 10-The men who were killed last Thursday while attempting to escape after robbing the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank and killing its cashier, were positively identified to-day as Tom and Fred McCarthy, father and son. The Third man who participated in the robbery but escapes is Billy McCarthy, also a son of Tom McCarthy. These men constituted the McCarthy gang of Oregon, and are wanted there for robbing stages and the United States mails. There is a reward of $10,000 for them on that account. The dead men were exhumed and identified by Sheriff Condee of Baker City, Or., who attempted to arrest them in Oregon, but was prevented by the McCarthys getting the drop on him."

"Ex-Chief of Police Farley of Denver also knows the gang and says Tom McCarthy was the man who robbed President D.H. Moffatt of the First National Bank of that city some four years ago, securing $21,000. Budd Taylor of Moab, Utah, who claims to be a relative by marriage to the McCarthy family, also identified the men. Billy McCarthy, the escaped robber, is still at large, but the pursuit has not been given up," said The Call, but they mis-identified Tom, of course, as one of the dead robbers, when in fact it brother and nephew.

"THE DELTA BANK ROBBERY : Wife of One of the Robbers Said to Be Here," says The Salt Lake Herald, Sep 15, 1893. The Herald was able to correct the mis-identification.

"The Report of the daring bank robbery at Delta, Colo., a few days ago, was read with interest here, and now it is said the the wife of Bill McCarty, or rather his widow, for it is believed that Bill was one of the two robbers who was killed, is living this city. Sheriff Belknap[sic] is looking the matter up, according to an article which appeared in the Ogden Standard yesterday, reading as follows:

"Sheriff Belnap yesterday received two photographs from Delta, Colo., one each of the two bank robbers who were killed at that place last Thursday, while attempting to rob a bank. The sheriff has in his gallery the photos of three of the McCarty gang-Bill, Fred and Tom, and he is of the opinion that the ones who were killed were Bill and Fred. It was stated in the dispatches that the killed robbers were Bill and Tom, but a careful comparison of the pictures shows that Tom was not one of those who departed this life full of lead and an unsatisfied longing for gold galore.

"The pictures of Tom McCarty, who escaped the fusilade of Winchesters, shows him to be a young man with a smooth, attractive face and rather slender form. Bill's picture shows a middle aged man with a rather rough, coarse face, covered with a beard.. Fred was the son of Bill, a young man of about 20 years of age, smooth, very full, round face, and quite fleshy. The two pictures sent from Delta tally closely with those in Sheriff Belnap's gallery, representing Bill and his son Fred and hence he thinks they are the ones.

"The pictures received yesterday were taken within a few minutes after the shooting was done and on the spot where they fell. The picture of the older man, or the one identified as Bill McCarty, shows the top of the head shot entirely off, the bullet entering the back of the head and coming out in the forehead just between the eyes. The body was evidently held up on crutches while the picture was being taken, supported by some one in the rear. The face is covered with short beard stubble, and presents a ghastly, forbidding appearance.

"The picture of the boy shows a stout heavy youth with smooth face. The bullet which terminated his career also entered the back of his head and came out throught the forehead, but the top of the head was not torn off. Last summer when Bill McCarty and his son were in Ogden, the boy purchased a pair of pantaloons from a prominent dealer, who remembers that the could find nothing to fit him in length that was large enough for his limbs. In order to be fitted the boy took a pair that were fully a foot too long and had them cut down, and even they were a very close fit.

"Sheriff Belnap, acting on instructions, wil go to Salt Lake city today or tomorrow to find Bill McCarty's wife, who is thought to live there, and talk with her regarding the gang. Afterwards he may go in search for Tom, who is believed to have been the third member of the gang, the one who escaped.

Later, in another Colorado bank robbery not too far away, Tom, was again mis-identified as being killed in the process of robbing said bank.
"THREE ROBBERS DEAD: Shot Down by Citizens are Robbing a Bank-Four Citizens Were Wounded," 
according to the Ryan Daily Eagle, Bryan TX, Oct 16, 1896. The paper quoted sources in Colorado.
"The Thieves raided the bank, marches the employees into the street and then made a rush to escape, but the citizens stopped them with their guns," read the head.
"Meeker, Colo., Oct 15-Three men entered the Bank of Meeker yesterday, which is connected with the storeroom of J.W. Hughes & Co., who own the bank. Two of the men held the store employes at bay while the third went into the bank cashier's window and firing one shot, ordered the cashier to throw up his hands. The order was not obeyed and the robber fired again, whereupon the cashier's hands shot up. The manager of the store was then forced to open the bank door, and after gathering up all the money in sight the robber marched the cashier and store employes into the street with hands uplifted. They then rushed out the back way with their booty.

"Citizens attracted by the shots had pretty well surrounded the building by this time, and being armed, opened fired on the robbers, two of whom, Charles Jones and William Smith, were killed by the first volley. The third man, George Harris, was shot throught the lungs, dying in two hours. He was fully identified and gave the other names, which are believed to be fictitious.

Four citizens were wounded, it noted:
•  District Game Warden W.H. Clark, was shot in the right breast, not fatally injured.
• Victor Dikeman, a clerk, was shot through the right arm.
• C.A. Booth, a clerk, scalp wound.
• W.P. Herrick, finger shot off.

"It is believed one of the dead men is Thomas McCarthy, who robbed the banks at Telluride and Delta, Colo. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of justified homicide.
Meeker is 90 miles from Rifle, on the Denver and Rio Grande, the nearest telegraph station.

Subsequent edits continued the story, though continuing with the mis-identification.

"THE MEEKER ROBBERY: Believed the Dead Men Belonged to the McCarthy Gang."
Says Ryan Daily Eagle, Bryan TX, Oct 16, 1896
"Denver, Oct 15-According to the lastest advices from Meeker, Colo., which is 90 miles fromt he nearest telegraph office, the three men who were killed after robbing the bank have not been identified. The robbery was one of the most daring ever perpetrated in the west occurring, as it did, in broad daylight, and at a time when there were 20 or more people in plain sight.

"It is believe here that the robbers were members of the McCarthy gang that committed several daring train and bankrobberies in Montana, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

"It is also supposed that the man who robbed David H. Moffat, president of the First National Bank of this city, of $21,000 in 1889, was a member of this gang. The McCarthys formerly lived in an out-of-the-way place in Oregon, in which they were regarded as wealthy ranchmen.

"In an attempt to rob the bank at Delta, Colo., about a year ago, John McCarthy and his son were killed, but Tom McCarthy escaped.

"FAST MAIL HELD UP: Failing to Blow Open the Express Safe Rifled the Mails."
read the head from Ryan Daily Eagle, Bryan TX, Oct 16, 1896, when it picked up a story from Utah.
"Ogden, Utah, Oct 15-The Union Pacific fast mail, due here at 2 o'clock yesterday morning, was held up by three masked and heavily armed men a half mile east of Uintah. Two of the robbers clambered over the engine tender, and with oaths, backed up by revolvers in each hand, compelled the engineer to stop the train. He did so and the robbers immediately attacked the expresscar. An attempt was made to force the safe with dynamite, but the charge failed to explode. In the meantime the engineer started to run. He escaped a fusillade of bullets and made his way to the city. The robbers then went to the mailcar. While they were sorting the registered packages the conductor cut the engine loose and opened the throttle and started for Ogden. Near the city he overtook the engineer and brought him to Ogden.

"Several large posses of men have started on the trail of the robbers, including many old scouts, who know every foot of the county."

"The Robbers Still Free," noted the papers then. 
"Ogden, Utah, Oct 15-Several posses are still in search of the robbers who robbed the Union Pacific, but so far have found no clew[sic]. A bottle of nitroglycerin and several sticks of dynamite have been found near where the train was held up. Three of the registered mailracks rifled were for San Francisco and four for Sacramento."

The San Francisco Papers told the far-fetched tale later of a fantastic outlaw hideout.
Utah Has Offered a $5000 Reward for His Capture, but He Seems to Take Life as Quietly as Usual."
wrote editors of the San Francisco Call, Vol 85, No 151, Apr 30, 1899

"Salt Lake, Utah-In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, protected by towering precipice and yawning canyon, is the luxuriously furnished, electric lighted fastness of a bank of robbers which has for years terrorized a great deal of three states, and on the heads of whose members is set a price, "alive or dead."

"The Legislature of the State of Utah has determined that the famous Tom McCarthy gang of bandits and cattle thieves must be broken up. A bill providing an appropriation for the purpose of hunting the men down has passed the second reading, with all chances for actment into a law.

"This bill sets aside a sum of $5000 with which a war to the death is to be launched against the members of one of the most notorious bands of murderers and cutthroats known to the history of America. It is proposed that the dealings with the robbers, who have held portions of three States in abject terror for three years and whose agents are scattered the length and breadth of the land, will be as harsh and merciless as those used by the outlaws themselves. They may be invited to surrender to submit to the punishment their crimes deserve, and those who refuse and defy the officers wil be hunted down an dealth with through persuasion of powder and ball.

"It has been generally acknowledged for some time that ordinary methods of procedure will not do with the men who lawlessly reign in the heart of the Blue Mountains, or Roan Ridge. They are not inclined to submit to the law in any extremity, for they are all amenable for the greatest of crimes and will probably die fighting rather than be taken and compelled to submit to trial before a court.

The story talks of a combination of Governors from three states.

"Little over a year ago, as will be remembered, three Governors-Adams of Colorado, Wells of Utah and Richards of Wyoming-entered into arrangements whereby the militia of the three States were to be sent against the robbers. Plans were made and the matter was well under way when the first signs of hostility between the country and Spain were heralded. The brave boys were needed against a greater and more than local foe and the repression of the outlaws was laid for a time upon the gubernatorial sheif. Perhaps it was well, judging by the tales of the gang and its strength which are current.

"In fact, it has been decided by the administration of Utah that the soldiers are not the agency which can combat and overcome the McCarthy brigands, or make attempt with the best chance of success. The movement of a body of troops and a military campaign would be too much like an open book for the eyes of the vigilance of this band which has long ago taken precautions against just such a move on the part of outraged justice.

"The people have come to the conclusion that the only way to deal with the gang is through men as wary as they. The posses to be sent against them will not besiege the rocks which hold the gang, but they will depend more upon killing the members one by one as they venture out for supplies. They will try to invest the place and starve but the outlaws. They may be successful, but it will not be done, according to the judgment of people who know, in a few days or weeks. It is generally believed that there will be bloodshed on both sides before the object of the Legislature is accomplished.

"Tom McCarthy, the leader of the Blue Mountain robbers, or the "Hole in the Wall Society," as it is often called, has been called the Napoleon of outlawry. His origin is in doubt, but it is known that he is wanted in several parts of the country for crimes of unusual atrocity. His appearance is anything but prepossessing. He is about five feet six inches in height and weight about 175 pounds. His forehead is narow and forbidding, and covers deep set, gray eyes. A fold of fat curls over the point of his chin. His mouth is wide and his teeth are irregular. His nose is a pug and his ears are turned forward.

"With a small following McCarthy perpetrated several mail and express robberies a number of years ago on stage coaches over the Utah desert and in the mountains. It was his first appearance in the country in this role, and before long his daring exploits gathered about him a choice company of criminals from the neighboring States and Territories. After moving about considerably, always pursued by the sheriffs, the company settled in a certain point of the Blue Mountains, on the line between Colorado and Utah. The loss of some of the most daring of his comrades had seemed to give McCarthy an idea of establishing a rendezvous where he might retreat when sorely pressed."

The Call claimed a "Fastness of the Bandits."

"Miners and prospectors have in a number of instances wandered close upon the retreat of the bandits, and have always been warned away and never molested if their business in the locality was clearly peaceful. A few have engaged in a fight with the outlaws, who were retreating to their granite fortress, and have lived to tell about it. From these sources a faint idea has been gained of the character of the place. Now and then one of the band, while visiting a town not many miles away, has revealed a number of things in his cups; but at the present time the exact locality of the retreat of McCarthy and his men is not known, thought there are persons who could guide a party within three or four miles of it. The path runs through a narrow canyon and leaves it at a particular wild and tortuous place for a serpentine trail running a mile or more up and down the heights. Again, at the end of the trail there is a passageway blasted and cut through solid rock. The termination of this shorter pathway brings the robber to the entrance of the gathering place, which is nothing less that a great cave or amphitheater in the center of the rock.

"This is the throne room of the Irishman, and from this there run in all directions tunnels, their openings artfully concealed, so great are the precautions of the band, and their other ends terminating at one or the other side of the mountain. This is known from statements made by miners and mechanics who were taken by the gang to do the work and who were blindfolded while aproaching and leaving the place.

"By the most remarkable feature of all is the fact, boasted of by more than one of the gang, that the cave possesses an excellent electric motor and dynamo, taken there piecemeal on horseback. It is even said that the system is used to light the rocky recesses, but the chief boast is that it is for another purpose. Robbers say that wires run from room to the chief to all approaches of the fortress and communicate with charges of dynamite. They have stated that it would be possible for them to annihilate a regiment of soldiers and that the exploding of dynamite in the approach from the west side would close the passage instantly, after which they could either lie in the cave with security or escape from one of the many openings and scatter over the country.

"A former Deputy United States Marshal of Utah is authority for the statement that there are fifty skeletons lying in a gulch not a great way from the mouth of McCarthy's canyon. The Marshal says that he saw the place himself, and that the skeletons represent persons put out of the way by robbers, who feared they would reveal secrets they had stumbled across.

But what really happened to Tom and the McCarty gang?

"In 1896, Matt Warner was involved in a shooting near Vernal, Utah. Two men died. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison. In January 1900 Matt was released for good behavior after serving only three years. For a while he ran a saloon in Green River, Utah. Matt’s wife, Rose Morgan McCarty, whom he married in Utah when she was fourteen years old, gave birth to a child and died while Matt was in prison. The child was given up for adoption. In 1902 Matt married Elma Zufelt and they had five children. After release from prison, Matt had vowed to leave his outlaw life behind. Proof that he kept that vow is the fact that he worked as a city marshal, deputy sheriff, and justice of the peace in Price, Utah, where Matt and Elma lived beginning in 1915. In 1937 a writer named Charles Kelly helped Matt write his memoirs, which were published serially in January 1938. Matt died later that year," says Oregon historian Dielman.

"By 1900 Tom McCarty had given up the outlaw life and returned to a place where he knew he was reasonably sure of not being arrested. It had been seven years since the Delta bank robbery, which was no longer in the news, and the statute of limitations had run on most of his criminal activity. As added insurance, the place he chose to retire to was the Imnaha River area in northern Wallowa County, Oregon, where he had a decade prior bought property. Just over the ridge to the east of the Imnaha River Valley was Hells Canyon, through which Snake River had carved the deepest canyon in North America, an area about as remote as any place in the United States. Nevertheless Tom was taking a calculated risk returning to Wallowa County, where in 1891 the McCarty Gang had robbed the bank in Enterprise, the county’s seat of government. The perpetrators of that robbery had not yet been discovered," according to 

"Tom found employment with Wallowa County. In 1903 the county court appointed Tom Imnaha road supervisor. Tom’s district covered an area of 325 square miles or 200,000 acres, and included nine townships. Tom was reappointed road supervisor in 1905 and appointed Judge of Elections for that precinct. In 1906 Tom and his crew built a six-mile stretch of road in his district that became known as McCarty Road. Also named for Tom was McCarty Springs and McCarty Creek. For a while before 1912 Tom served as Justice of the Peace for the Upper Imnaha District."

"After 1917, Wallowa County records make no further mention of Tom McCarty. Many historians of western outlaws have speculated about Tom’s whereabouts and activities after 1917, but none has provided proof of a final resting place," says Gary Dielman.

Yet, even in 1909, the newspapers were claiming and blaming exploits on the McCartys.
Said the San Francisco Call, Vol 107, No. 2, Dec 2, 1909. Though it might have been suggesting relatives in Los Angeles area for the crime.

"According to the police John Bennett Rogers, who was arrested in the Lacey saloon, 640 Market street, early Tuesday morning for burglary, was a member of the gang headed by John McCarthy that tunneled from Rogers' saloon in Los Angeles opposite the First National Bank to the bank several years ago with the object of stealing $250,000.

"McCarthy was the only one arrested. He was sentenced to serve a term of 10 years in San Quentin. The other known members of the gang were Louis Matheny, Frank Stevens and John Stewart.

"It was the same gang that committed numerous burglaries in Oakland just prior to the Los Angeles attempt, when Joseph Touhill, a member of the gang, was shot and killed and Policeman Cashel met a similar fate."


Monday, September 6, 2021

Hoping to go from the jailhouse to White House

Eugene V. Debs, five-time Socialist candidate for President, set free from prison on Christmas Day as he left the Federal Prison at Atlanta, Ga, in 1921, on Dec. 25.

Socialist arrives early on the "Red Special" in Colorado

By Rob Carrigan,

The term "socialism" largely remains a "dirty," though arguably an often misunderstood term, in the realm of U.S. politics. I suppose we have the Cold War, anti-Soviet sentiments and McCarthyism, a campaign against alleged communists in the U.S., and recent partisan politics largely to thank for that. But it has been around for a long time, especially here in Colorado. Early on it took the form of one Eugene Debs.

"On Sept. 4, 1908, the Red Special arrived in Denver. Before his scheduled appearance at the Denver Coliseum, Debs dined with Channing Sweet, a prominent socialist leader in Colorado and the West. Sweet, an attorney, had lived in Colorado for nearly 30 years. Part of his time had been spent in Glenwood Springs in the 1880s, where he helped build the town by constructing some of its early buildings," wrote Willa Kane, a former archivist of, and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, in Glenwood Springs.

After working with several smaller unions, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Debs led his union in a major ten-month strike against the CB&Q Railroad in 1888. Debs was instrumental in the founding of the American Railway Union (ARU), one of the nation's first industrial unions. After workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company organized a wildcat strike over pay cuts in the summer of 1894, Debs signed many into the ARU. He led a boycott by the ARU against handling trains with Pullman cars in what became the nationwide Pullman Strike, affecting most lines west of Detroit and more than 250,000 workers in 27 states. Purportedly to keep the mail running, President Grover Cleveland used the United States Army to break the strike. As a leader of the ARU, Debs was convicted of federal charges for defying a court injunction against the strike and served six months in prison.

In prison, Debs read various works of socialist theory and emerged six months later as a committed adherent of the international socialist movement. Debs was a founding member of the Social Democracy of America (1897), the Social Democratic Party of America (1898) and the Socialist Party of America (1901). Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.6 percent of the popular vote), 1904 (3.0 percent), 1908(2.8 percent), 1912 (6.0 percent), and 1920 (3.4 percent), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native state Indiana in 1916.

But back to the "Red Special" in Colorado.

From Denver, Debs traveled to Leadville on the rails of the Colorado Midland Railway. After delivering speeches along the route, Debs headed for Glenwood Springs. The Glenwood Post newspaper of Sept. 6, 1908, announced his anticipated visit on its front page. The Avalanche Echo newspaper gave the scheduled visit no mention at all. Neither newspaper embraced the socialist cause. The Glenwood Post editorialized, “Eugene is a very mild man but his social philosophy is red hot. Harmless, however, when it gets cold.”

"The bunting-covered Red Special arrived in Glenwood Springs on Sunday, Sept. 7. Debs was taken by the beauty of the town, and took some time to relax at the Hot Springs Pool. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon, an estimated 200 people had gathered to hear Debs deliver his speech. During his oration, he noted Glenwood Springs was a luxury provided by nature and only a small percentage of people could enjoy it. He declared “that when socialism prevails millions will be able to reach the beauty spots that dot the earth, evidently put there by nature for the benefit of all human beings.” Ironically, he delivered his speech on the Glenwood Hot Springs grounds, a place created by the capitalist system," noted Kane.

Debs lost his bid for the presidency in 1908, but did gather close to 500,000 votes nationwide, partly due to the Red Special. In the years to follow, Debs ran again for the presidency, once in 1912 and again in 1920. With his 1920 bid, he ran his campaign from prison, having been convicted of sedition during World War I. One of his campaign slogans in the 1920 run was "From the Jailhouse to the White House."

But Debs had earlier experience in Colorado.

"Home at last from his relentless touring in support of Democratic-Populist fusion Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, Gene Debs found he had a surprise visitor for Christmas 1896 — Edward Boyce (1862-1941), President of the Western Federation of Miners. We are accustomed to think of the WF of M as a union; it was not, but rather an umbrella organization of affiliated local miners’ unions, just as the American Federation of Labor is an umbrella organization of affiliated craft union," writes the creators of the Debs Project.

"Boyce had a favor to ask of the ARU chief: there was an expensive and increasingly violent strike in need of resolution in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado — a place where Boyce had himself labored in the mines for four years previously. As the Panic of 1893 hit a double dip recession in 1896; unemployment remained at double-digit levels, business closings swept the land, and commodity prices such as that for silver had fallen precipitously. Mining was distinctly less profitable than it had been and some local operators used the bad economy and weak bottom line as an excuse to slash wages, one after another reducing the basic daily rate for a Leadville miner from $3 a day to $2.50. Those who had not moved the scale were threatening it."

The ideas of the Socialist Party were never embraced by a majority of the population of Colorado, despite Debs’ 1908 visit. However, socialist Channing Sweet of Denver continued to contribute to Colorado politics. He personally ran for several offices under the socialist banner into the 1920s. His son, William Sweet, a Democrat, became Colorado’s 23rd governor.


Socialist delegation which was in Washington urging Executive Clemency for Eugene Debs. Photographed at the White House, May 15, 1920.