Death by Gold Fever

The following is an excerpt from “Notorious Telluride,” by Carol Turner. Several of the characters in this story are buried in the Turner family plot at Riverside: Charles Turner, son of Dess and Agnes Turner; Dess Turner; and Davy Brown, uncle of Charles and brother of Agnes; and Charles H. Turner, the author’s father.

In the year 1912, the quiet of a June morning in the hamlet of Ophir was marred by several gunshots. At the end of it, 25-year-old Charles Turner lay in the dirt near the railroad tracks, blood pouring from his mouth and a hole in his chest. Standing over him with a .32 caliber pistol was 40-year-old Frank Ensign.

Ophir, Colorado

Ophir, Colorado. (Photo by Peter D. Turner)

Born in Montreal, Charles Turner came with his family to Colorado in April of 1884 at the age of five. His father, Decimus (Dess), took a job as a clerk at the early Denver department store of Charles Ballin & Company. He did not survive long in his new home. On October 30, 1886, Dess died of a sudden illness, leaving his wife, Agnes, on her own with four children, whose ages ranged from six to sixteen.

Over the next couple of years, Agnes (Brown) Turner was so stricken by her husband’s death, she rarely left her bed. Once she recovered, she spent the next dozen or so years raising the four children as a single mother in frontier Denver. Although she had income from renting and later selling their property in Montreal, plus a possible death benefit from insurance, the family struggled to survive. She may have received help from several brothers who lived in Colorado – one ran a bakery in Denver; two others worked mining claims and ran the Brown Brothers construction company in Aspen, later moving to Telluride to become full-time miners.

The two older Turner sons, William and Newton, went to work as teenagers, starting out as “cash boys,” and advancing on to positions such as wrapper, clerk, and inspector – mostly at the Daniels & Fisher dry goods store. The only daughter, Jessie, was fourteen when her father died and she took on the job of caring for seven-year-old Charlie.

In 1895, Agnes was embroiled in a vicious lawsuit in Denver against a Denver businessman, Alfred Filby. Amid allegations of an improper relationship with the married Filby, Agnes claimed she had loaned or given him for investment almost four thousand dollars (enough to buy a house) and that he refused to repay it.

Filby and his wife had been friends of the family since the first days the Turners arrived in Denver. After Dess died, Alfred Filby had made it a point to take Agnes out riding in his carriage in an effort to bring her out of her state of grief. During the lengthy trial, he explained that he got “all mixed up” in Agnes’s presence. He said he had given her a lot of money and therefore did not feel obligated to pay back the small sums he admitted she had given him. Although that part of his story was plausible, when asked why he had written Agnes a thousand dollar promissory note, he came up with a ridiculous explanation. He said he’d been very ill and that Agnes had prostrated herself before him, thrown her arms around his legs and begged him for a memento before he died. The supposed “memento” was the promissory note.

Filby further demonstrated his chicanery and lack of scruples when a ploy by his attorney to discredit Agnes went awry. Part of Agnes’ case was that she possessed money to lend Filby in the first place. A friend of hers testified about going to a Denver bank with Agnes one day and witnessing her deposit a large sum she had collected from her Montreal property. In an attempt to get the friend to recant this testimony, Filby and his attorneys hired a man to pose as an estate attorney who approached the friend. He told the woman that she had a wealthy uncle in India who had left her his entire estate, with the condition that she was still a resident of Canada on a certain date – that being after the date on which she had witnessed Agnes deposit the money.

The friend did not bite and the plot was uncovered and revealed during the trial. Agnes won the lawsuit, but the slippery Filby had transferred all his wealth and property to his wife’s name so it’s unknown whether Agnes ever collected.

What emerged during this laborious hearing was that Agnes was, at minimum, incautious when it came to handling money.

In the late 1890s, when her children were grown, Agnes met and married Henry McGlothlin, a man about 15 years her junior. Her two eldest sons left about that time – one returning to Canada and the other disappearing forever into unknown parts. Agnes, Charlie, and Jessie all moved to Pueblo in 1904 with Henry, where he ran a water hauling company.

Meanwhile, Agnes’s two brothers, Davy and John Brown of the “Brown Brothers” had left Aspen and had taken up several mining claims near Telluride – on Mt. Wilson, San Bernardo, and Yellow Mountain. At some point, a third “brother” named Robert appeared on the scene. Newspapers noted that Robert was only 12 years old however, so he may have been a cousin or perhaps an illegitimate son.

In early May of 1899, a double tragedy struck the family when two of the Brown Brothers died of pneumonia within a week of each other:

The JOURNAL a week ago today noted the death of John Brown, of Brown Brothers, at San Bernardo, and the serious illness of Robert, his brother, from the same disease. Sunday last Robert was taken to the hospital at Durango, where he died Thursday morning. So of these three sturdy Scotch brothers, only Davy remains. They owned and worked the Kendrick mine on the western point of Yellow mountain.” (Telluride Daily Journal, May 13, 1899)

After the death of his brothers, Davy Brown stayed on in the region. At some point, he became partners with a man named Frank Ensign on six claims on Mount Wilson, near the Morning Star mine. Ensign, by all accounts, was a hard-working man who had been in the area for some time. Formerly a compositor at the Durango Democrat, Frank had a brother, William Ensign, who was a well-known New York publisher. Frank was a hardy soul, well-known and respected by the locals:

Frank Ensign, who came down from the Mayflower mine Saturday, went over to San Bernardo Sunday…Snow seems to have no terrors for Frank, for he was snowed up all winter at the Mayflower and could not get to town at all, and now as soon as he gets out at one place back he goes into another. (Telluride Journal, June 27, 1907)

When Charlie was in his early twenties, he moved to the San Juans to work as a miner. A few years later, in 1909, Davy Brown succumbed:

Old Davy Brown is dead. The news was received today by a telegram to C.M. [Charlie] Turner, employed by Manager J.L. Brown of the Buckeye Leasing company on the Butterfly Terrible from Mr. Turner’s mother, who is a sister of the aged prospector so well known here.

Davy’s death occurred in Pueblo yesterday evening at the home of his sister, Mrs. McGlothlin and the cause of death was a hemorrhage of the brain.

Mr. Brown owned some prospects and mining locations in the vicinity of Trout Lake.

It was only a few weeks ago that he left Telluride for Pueblo. His death marks the passing of one of the land marks of this region and the old man (he was upwards of 70) will be remembered for many years by the friends he made while in this region.” (Telluride Journal, March 4, 1909)

Charlie Turner and Davy Brown

Charlie Turner (seated). The man on the horse is probably Davy Brown. Both are buried at Riverside.

Except when he was needed at home, Charlie stayed on. One newspaper notice says he worked at the Ames power plant. In 1910, he was listed in the census as living at Trout Lake – probably living in the Brown Brothers’ cabin up on Yellow Mountain.

The Brown Brothers cabin on Yellow Mountain above Ophir. Photo by Peter D. Turner

Agnes was named as the administratrix of Davy’s estate, and visited the area several times after his death, both on estate business and to visit Charlie. (Agnes stayed with her friends Mary and Con Meenan – Mary being the former Mary Mahoney, the wife of the “murdered” John Mahoney, supposedly killed by union strikers.)

The trouble began when, in 1911, Davy’s Brown’s estate somehow fell into the hands of Frank Ensign. It’s possible, based on Agnes’s previous misadventures in handling money, that she was unable to fulfill her duties as administratrix of Davy’s estate and Ensign was appointed to take over.
Charlie’s feelings about Ensign and the family’s financial situation are alluded to in this cryptic letter written from Pueblo to his brother, Newton Turner, who now lived in Ontario, Canada:

My dear Newton,
Hope you old folks are well and everything going alright.
Got a wire from Mann Monday saying he had instructed his broker to sell the bonds and haven’t heard since. I got a little vexed and sent him a wire yesterday. Wire money immediately will stand no more persecution and signed Mother’s name to it. I did it because H.L. can’t stand this worry and of course Mother can’t when she is worrying her.
Oh never mind we will win out yet old fellow. Some day. I know we will cause I can’t feel depressed.
I only wish I had gone back in January when I intended going and Ensign wouldn’t have allowed himself to be appointed for any amount of money and don’t think anyone else would have. Mother was afraid of rheumatism though so here I am.
Love to all, Charl

Although the identity of “Mann” and “H.L.” are a mystery, the letter clearly indicates that Charlie was not pleased that Ensign had control of the estate and its mining claims.

The day after Charlie wrote the above letter, on August 24, 1911, Ensign published a notice in the Telluride Journal, announcing the sale of Davy Brown’s mining properties, nearly a dozen in total. Ensign had also been billing the estate during this period for ore assay services.

A short time later, Charlie Turner was back in Ophir, and over the next ten months, the relationship between the two disintegrated. On the day of the shooting, Frank entered the small store in Ophir at about seven in the morning. There, he ran into Charlie, who confronted him. Frank was armed, but Charlie was not. Nevertheless, Charlie followed him out of the store, threatening to “get” him. Frank drew his gun and said he would shoot if Charlie didn’t leave him alone. Charlie kept coming. Frank fired at the ground. Charlie kept coming and Frank fired off several more shots, hitting Charlie in the chest. Despite being shot, Charlie tackled Frank and had nearly wrestled the gun out of his hand when blood burst from Charlie’s mouth and he fell over dead. He had been shot in the heart.

Sheriff Tallman soon arrived, along with Coroner Hadley and Dr. M.T. Rothwell. Tallman arrested Frank Ensign. Coroner Hadley held an inquest the following day. Several residents of Ophir testified that Charlie Turner was a troublesome fellow who had quarreled with several others in the village. Although just about everyone had been fond of Davy Brown and thought highly of Agnes McGlothlin, few had anything good to say about Charlie. Although Charlie was never mentioned in any of the numerous articles about Jesse Munn and his crime and subsequent months on the run – and despite the fact that Munn’s friend Dick Martin was arrested for helping him escape, the Telluride Journal now claimed Charlie was involved:

According to Turner’s own statement at the time of the Jesse Munn case he was the man who fed Munn and gave him a gun, assisting him to escape.

According to reports from the Loop Turner has been mixed up in different scraps and fights around that place and boasted being a gun man and only about ten days ago walked up behind a man at the Loop and knocked him down and kicked him almost into insensibility. (Telluride Daily Journal, June 27, 1912)

Although the Journal simply painted Charlie as a crazed sociopath, the San Miguel Examiner was a bit more even-handed in summing up his character:

Turner was a fine looking, big six footer, who ought to weigh close to 200 pounds, and the man who shot him will not weigh to exceed 140 pounds. Turner had a bullying disposition and all that was bad in him in this respect seemed to crop out over there, although when we met him in Telluride he always seemed a perfect gentleman, and was so far as we were concerned. (San Miguel Examiner, June 29, 1911)

After the inquest, Frank Ensign was set free. Charlie’s body was sent to Agnes and Jessie in Pueblo, who took him to Denver and buried him in the Turner family plot at Riverside Cemetery.

In the years after Charlie’s death, the newspapers noted several visits to Telluride by his sister, Jessie G. Turner. One family story says she spent an entire winter by herself up at the Brown Brothers’ cabin. During one of these visits, she staked a claim on the property near the S.B. Kendrick mine. Many years later, her nephew, Charles H. Turner (the author’s father), found an old claim corner on the property. It was a rusted tobacco can containing a description of the property and Jessie Turner’s name. On this property was the cabin where two of the “Sturdy Scotch Brothers” became fatally ill and where Charlie lived when he was shot. This land on Yellow Mountain was included in Frank Ensign’s auction list as the one property that was held in fee, meaning Davy owned it free and clear. The property, called “Matterhorn” by descendants, reverted to the State of Colorado at some point. Years later, it was purchased for back taxes by the author’s late father, Charles H. Turner, who, like the Sturdy Scotch Brothers and Frank Ensign and Uncle Charlie, suffered his entire life from gold fever.

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Brief History of Capt. Timothy R. Stinson

Marker for Captain Timothy R. Stinson

I have recently had a very interesting correspondence with Kenneth Schaaf who was searching for the plot at Riverside of Timothy R. Stinson, a Maine sea captain whose ship went down in the Grand Bahama Islands on May 5th, 1853. Mr. Schaaf’s interest in the captain was generated when he discovered a distant relative of his, Maartje Schaaf , was one of the passengers aboard Stinson’s ship, the William and Mary.

What makes his history particularly compelling is that the captain, along with his crew, abandoned his ship just prior to its sinking. The ship carried some 208 individuals of Dutch, German, and Irish ancestry, and had departed from Liverpool in March, 1853. According to a contemporary account published later, as the ship approached Nassau, it struck a reef, and was grounded there. Stinson ordered the passengers to man the pumps in the hold until rising tides might lift the vessel off the reef, so that it could travel the seven miles on to shore.

When it became obvious that the William and Mary was beginning to sink, the captain and his crew cut free one of the remaining sound life boats and sailed off, “thus (deserting) the ship, and (leaving the passengers) all to perish”, according to a news article. The last remaining life-boat quickly filled with mostly able- bodied men, who left their wives and family, “weeping…and calling upon them to come back again, saying ‘Let us die together!’”

Just as it appeared that all was lost, a schooner appeared and was able to ferry the majority of the abandoned people safely to land in the Bahamas. From there they reached New Orleans, and were scattered to their various final destinations.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Stinson left his life at sea, moved from Maine, and eventually arrived in Denver in 1871, where he took up the house painting trade. Mr. Schaaf has learned that in 1873 the former captain joined the Central Presbyterian church in Denver, which he attended for 21 years until his death on March 24, 1894. His marker is in Block 5, Lot 50. His wife, Lucy, and son are also buried alongside him.

Note: this is precisely the kind of personal history I am hoping to receive from the multitude of families who have relatives or persons of interest at Riverside. Please feel free to correspond with me at david.c.cass@gmail.com. Let’s bring Riverside Cemetery alive!
David Cass
History Chair
Friends of Riverside Cemetery

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A steetcar to Riverside Cemetery

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This “Funeral Car A” ( was there a B or C?) is parked at a Tramway Building at 35th and Gilpin, a building that still stand at this location. According to old tram maps it must have traveled east from here on 35th to York and then north to Riverside. Did the casket travel with the mourners?

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Photos of early horse drawn hearses

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Top photo is of the Chas. Lillybridge funeral on Oct., 1902 .Taken on Kalamath St.

Bottom photo is of a horse drawn hearse on a snowy road ( on its way to Riverside?), early 1900′s. Note top hat and coat.

Photos courtesy: Denver Public Library

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The Search for James D. Cannon and Joseph Cramer by Carol Turner

the wrong Helen Cannon

my story about looking for Cannon and Cramer’s graves

James Dean Cannon was a Lieutenant in the First New Mexico Infantry when he was assigned to Fort Lyon in Colorado in 1864. He was present at the Sand Creek massacre and afterward testified against Chivington.

Cannon was also a friend of Silas Soule. After Soule was murdered, Cannon was the man who brought the assassin, Charles Squires, into Denver to face court martial. A couple days after his arrival in Denver with Squires, in July of 1865, Cannon was found dead in his room at the Tremont Hotel in Denver. Of course, rumors abounded that he had been murdered.

While I was researching Cannon for my book (Forgotten Heroes and Villains of Sand Creek), I found a lot of information about his role in the massacre and subsequent investigations, along with the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. However, finding biographical information about him was another matter. He turned out to be the most elusive of all my subjects.

In the 1860 census, I did find a James D. Cannon born in 1836 in Kentucky to a large family. Kentucky was a neutral state during the Civil War so it’s conceivable that James Cannon might have left home, headed west and ended up in a Union infantry in New Mexico. However, I have no real proof that the fellow I found is the right Cannon.

There is a single card in his Civil War pension file that mentions the name of a wife, Helen, but I got no hits for a James and Helen Cannon of that period in the ancestry records.

After Cannon was found dead at the Hotel Tremont, he was buried in Denver. Like Silas Soule, he was probably interred at Mount Prospect, which later became City Cemetery.

I was hoping that he might have been moved to Riverside, as Soule was, so I drove out to Riverside on a crisp winter afternoon and took a little walking tour through the Civil War section. I saw a lot of names that I recognized from reading through all the Sand Creek investigations and other sources, but no James Cannon. I headed into the office. Garry O’Hara was there and we searched through the books for James D. Cannon. No hit. My guess is that James Cannon is probably one of the four thousand or so folks who are still buried beneath Cheesman Park.

Garry suggested we have a look in the Riverside books for Helen Cannon. This time we had a hit. I noted the location and walked out to have a look. I found this repaired tombstone but was sorry to see she was noted as the wife of O.R. cannon, and not James. Like James, Helen Cannon remains a mystery. I hope someday that I can find out more about them.

When I attended the Sand Creek healing run ceremony at Riverside a couple years ago, I assumed that Joseph Cramer was buried there as well. The Cheyenne and Arapaho honor Cramer along with Soule — Cramer also wrote a letter about the massacre that is comparable to Soule’s in its details and condemnation of the attack. He also gave a scathing testimony against Chivington and Anthony.

As I later discovered, there is no Joseph Cramer at Riverside. Through sheer luck, I hooked up with another researcher — Vicki Casteel, an archivist at the Indiana State Archives. She had information that Cramer was buried at Prairie Mound Cemetery in Solomon, Kansas. Cramer was a sheriff there when he died at a young age — reportedly of injuries suffered from a riding accident while he was stationed at Fort Lyon.

I mentioned this to Byrom Strom, Silas Soule’s descendant who lives in Iowa. By coincidence, he was soon visiting his father in Kansas. During that visit, he and his father, E. Malcom Strom, drove out to Prairie Mound one day but were unable to find Cramer’s grave. Since the place is a little far away from me, I had resigned myself to not having any really pertinent images for my Joseph Cramer chapter.

Then, Vicki got me in touch with a woman named Sharon Crowder who lived near Prairie Mound. Sharon graciously went out and took a picture of his grave for me. Unfortunately, her photograph did not match the specs required by my publisher so I couldn’t use it.

Luckily for me, E. Malcom Strom decided he just couldn’t stay away from the place and took another trip out there. This time, he found Cramer’s grave and got a nice shot that I was able to use in the book.

I do hope that the folks who live in Solomon, Kansas area recognize that they’ve got a true hero buried in their cemetery.

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Doctor cures patient, at gunpoint.

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The following is an anecdote told by Dr. O.D. Cass to the early Colorado historian, Frank Hall, who published his “History of Colorado” in 1895 ( Vol. III, pg 166-167). As I have mentioned before, Dr. Cass arrived in Denver during its formative years in 1860. He tried to make a go of it as a doctor in his first months here, starting with Dr. J.F. Hamilton the city’s first hospital. Though present Denver General traces its lineage back to this pioneer facility, the business struggled to survive. The two doctors in charge reportedly had to cover expenses out of their own pockets. Having had some experience in evaluating gold dust in San Francisco’s heyday, Dr. Cass turned to banking and opened an office at the corner of Market and Fifteen ( parts of this structure survive to the present), and began buying the findings of Colorado’s many miners. He also profited from “grubstaking” his customers, making loans at 25%- per month!

The story below occurred while he still had a physician’s office on Blake street, sometime in 1860.

“ One evening while sitting in my office, the door opened, and in stalked a man about five feet nine inches in height, ‘bearded like the pard’*, trousers in boot legs, his dark hair covered by a black slouch hat, beneath which I saw a pair of glittering black eyes.

“‘Are you the Doctor?

“‘Yes, sir.’

“‘ Well, I want you to go and attend my woman who’s sick.’

“’ What’s the matter with her?’

“’ I don’t know, but I want you to go and see her.’

“’ Well, my fee is twenty-five dollars, which must be paid before I go.’

“’ The words had scarcely passed my lips before the stranger whipped out an ugly looking six-shooter, and thrusting it in my face, said:

“’ Damn your fee! Follow me, sir, and be quick about it.’

“’ Thus positively adjured, I stood not upon the order of my going, but went at once. He led me to the door of his cabin, opened it, pointed out the patient, and immediately disappeared in the darkness. I attended her for a week, and cured her. I did not in the meantime see nor hear of my conductor. The woman having recovered, he came again. Striding up to my desk with the air of a cavalry brigadier, he said,–

“’ You cured her, did you?’

“’ Yes. I think she is all right now.’

“ Laying five twenty dollar gold pieces of Clark and Gruber’s mintage on the desk, he added in a milder tone,-

“’ Will that pay you for your services?’

“’ Yes, sir, abundantly, and I’m very much obliged.’

“’ See here, Doctor. I’ve taken a notion to you. There’s a good many rough fellows about town, who drink and fight and make trouble for honest people. If any of ‘ em ever interfere with you, you send for me. My name’s Charley Harrison.’”

Charley Harrison was a local thug who ran his criminal activities out of his saloon on Larimer Street, the Criterion, known as a notorious den of cutthroats and thieves. He had some standards of decency though, as Dr. Cass attested above. In a similar incident, William Byers, editor of the Rocky Mountain News, was kidnapped at gunpoint by some of Harrison’s goons after the newsman criticized him in print for gunning down an innocent black man. Charley freed Byers quickly, sending him back to his office with the warning, “arm yourself for protection against these sonsofbitches” ( as told by Bill Brenneman in his Miracle on Cherry Creek).

* a phrase from Shakespeare’s As You Like It., pard meaning leopard.

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New book out about the cast of characters involved in the Sand Creek Massacre, including Silas Soule

Carol Turner writes in a recent e-mail to the “Scout”:

A few years ago, I went on a Halloween night tour of Riverside Cemetery. The tour guide took us into the Civil War section and showed us the nondescript grave of Silas Soule and told us about his actions at Sand Creek and afterward. From that night on, I developed a bit of an obsession with Silas Soule, along with Wynkoop, Cramer, Cannon, Left Hand, Black Kettle, Downing, Chivington and the whole cast of characters who were involved in Sand Creek. The result is my new book, “Forgotten Heroes and Villains of Sand Creek,” just released from The History Press.

Here is an excerpt from her book, informing us of fascinating new details of Silas Soule’s life before he was shot down in the streets of Denver. It describes his involvement with the Underground Railroad during the “Bloody Kansas” period of that state’s history and quotations from his unusual correspondence with the poet, Walt Whitman. Ms. Turner will be making presentations of her book at the Boulder Book Store on August 3rd, and at the Louisville library in Louisville, CO.on August 9th.

Captain Silas Soule

On New Years Day 1865, Captain Silas S. Soule (pronounced “sole”) and his men walked their horses along a bend in Big Sandy Creek, also known as Sand Creek, counting Arapaho and Cheyenne bodies. Most of the corpses, or what was left of them, were women and children. They had lain in the winter grass for over a month. By then, the work of the elements, wolves, coyotes and the hundred or so dogs living in the former camp had disguised the mutilations, but Soule wrote to his mother a few days later that all had been scalped. He did not mention the other things that had been done to the bodies. “I hope the authorities at Washington will investigate the killing of those Indians,” he wrote. “I think they will be apt to hoist some of our high officials. I would not fire on the Indians with my Co and the Col said he would have me cashiered but he is out of the service before me and I think I stand better than he does in regard to his great Indian fight.”

Twenty-six-year-old Silas Soule was no stranger to violence and death. He was a hardened frontiersman and cavalry officer without qualms about killing warriors in battle. He was also handsome, funny and well loved by friends and family. He was known as a wag, a wit, a mischief, popular with ladies, fond of playacting and imitation—he specialized in Irish and German accents. He was highly skilled at the art of persuasion. The Denver and Central City papers reported frequently on his doings—a broad canvas of snippet reportage, ranging from fact to rumor to inexplicable remarks with the tone of inside jokes. Even during his tense Sand Creek testimony in front of John Chivington, Soule joked about a fellow officer being “excited” when Chivington objected to his use of the word “drunk.”

Soule came from extraordinary beginnings and had a gift for taking part in important historical events. He was born in Maine in an abolitionist family descended from George Soule, a passenger on the Mayflower. His father, Amasa Soule, was a cooper with a taste for politics. The Soule family’s reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin inspired them to uproot and move to Kansas in the late 1850s. The race was on at the time between abolitionists and proslavery advocates to populate the fledgling frontier territory with voters. The Emigrant Aid Society of Massachusetts sponsored the relocation of half a dozen parties of abolitionists—some of them more suited to life on the frontier than others. The Soules were among the hardy founding families of Lawrence, Kansas, who stayed on.

Not surprisingly, Lawrence quickly became a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Soule and his father both worked as “conductors.” According to Annie Soule, one of his two sisters, Silas worked with John Brown, who was later arrested and executed after the raid on Harpers Ferry.

“My brother, Silas, and Brown were close friends,” Annie said in a 1929 interview.

Silas was out on many a foray with him. I recall well when Brown came to our cabin one night with thirteen slaves, men, women and children. He had run them away from Missouri. Brown left them with us. Father would always take in all the Negroes he could. Silas took the whole thirteen from our home eight miles to Mr. Grover’s stone barn, two miles west of where the Haskell Indian school is now. The Negroes stayed there, hidden in the barn for several days, when a chance offered and they were taken still further toward freedom by another agent of the Underground.

In January 1859, Dr. John Doy and his son, Charles, both of Lawrence, were escorting a group of free blacks north out of Kansas when they were captured. The would-be escapees were most certainly absorbed into the slave system, Charles was later released and Dr. Doy was taken to Missouri and tried twice. At the second trial, he was found guilty of abducting slaves and given a five-year prison term. A group of friends from Kansas, including Silas Soule, planned a rescue. In an affidavit, Doy describes how this rescue was initiated by a visit from a man later identified as Silas Soule:

Towards dark the outer door of the cell was opened, and a young man with a carpet bag…came to the grated door and informed me that he had recently seen my wife and son, that they were well, and hoped to see me within two weeks. He was quite curious about the jail, looking around a good deal, and as he stood with his back close to the grated door talking with the jailer, whose attention he directed to some means of ventilation outside, I, expecting something, saw a small slip of paper in the hand which he held behind him, and took it…

After the outer door was again closed…I read from it aloud: “Be ready at midnight.”

Midnight brought with it a storm and an arrested horse thief, escorted into the cell by two men. As soon as the jailer opened the cell door, the “horse thief” and his “captors” announced they had come to rescue Dr. Doy. They held a gun on Doy’s jailer, headed out with their prize and ran on foot to the Missouri River, where several boats waited to spirit them across the heavy current back to the relative safety of Kansas. This rescue group soon became known throughout the region as the Jayhawker Ten.

After the Doy affair, Soule headed east to help rescue his old friend, John Brown, who had been captured at Harpers Ferry and was due to be hanged. Soule reportedly visited Brown in jail, but the rescue attempt was aborted, due either to snow or to Brown’s refusal to participate. After Brown was hanged, Soule was involved in another plot to rescue two men from Brown’s group, but that plan was also abandoned.

During his travels, Soule met and befriended Walt Whitman in Boston, along with men from the “Black String Society,” a secret abolitionist group whose members identified each other by wearing black ribbons around their necks. These included the book publishers William Thayer and Charley Eldridge, who published the expanded third edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and James Redpath’s Life of John Brown.

When Soule returned to Kansas, he discovered that his brother, William, and many of their friends were heading west to join the Pike’s Peak gold rush. In a move typical of the adventuresome, impulsive Silas, he took off for Pike’s Peak. As he wrote to his new friends in Boston, “Now I must tell you something that will surprise you. When I arrived here I found a party waiting for me to go to pikes peak. My Brother and cousin were in the gang going with a quartz machine belonging to Solomon and Parker of Lawrence and there was no way but I must go.”

In Colorado, he spent a couple years mining and blacksmithing, ending up broke and restless in Central City. By the middle of 1861, he was already “getting D–n sick of this God forsaken place.”

When the Civil War started, he joined the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers as a first lieutenant. The exuberant Soule wrote to Walt Whitman:

Perhaps you think I am writing very familiar for almost a stranger and writing to a distinguished Poet but I think I have made a sufficient apology when I tell you I have been in the Rocky Mountains for almost two years where every man is an old acquaintance if you never saw him before. When I left Boston I came to Kansas and from there out here among Grizzly bears, Indians, yankees and almost every species of man and beast that inhabit the globe. I have lived on venison and I have lived on bread. I have gone hungry for many a day and have had plenty to eat for many more. And for all the hard ships I have seen, it suits me. I like it. I enjoy myself hugely, and I think you would do the same.

In March 1862, when an army of Confederates from Texas invaded New Mexico, the Colorado Cavalry was called in to help. Soule described the famous march of the First Colorado in a letter to Whitman:

As soon as we heard of the battle we made a forced march to the rescue. We marched a Reg of men 350 miles in 14 days. We marched 120 miles in three days and 80 miles in 24 hours. I think we made the biggest march on record. We understood that Sibley was making an attact [sic] on Fort Union. The word came to us about sundown after the men had marched 40 miles and had not had their supper and they threw their hats in the air and swore they would march 40 miles farther before they slept and they did. They started off singing the Star spangled banner, Red white and Blue and yankee doodle, so you can imagine what kind of material this Reg is composed of.

In late March, Soule’s Company K of the Colorado Cavalry fought in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. After Union troops destroyed their supply train, the Rebels headed back to Texas.

For much of the following year, Soule served as acting assistant adjutant general to Colonel John Chivington. Soule had written to Whitman about his affection for the “Fighting Parson”: “Our Colonel Chivington was a methodist Preacher, ‘Presiding’ elder in Colorado. He is about six feet four inches high and built in proportion, a first rate fellow and liked by his Regament [sic].” Four months before Sand Creek, he also wrote fondly of Chivington to his sister: “Our Col is a Methodist Preacher and whenever he sees me drinking, gambling, stealing or murdering he says he will write to Mother or my sister Annie so I have to go straight.”

That September, news reached Colorado of the August 21 attack on Lawrence, Kansas, by William Quantrill and three to four hundred proslavery “bushwhackers.” At the time, Soule’s brother William was marshal of Lawrence, and their mother and two sisters also lived there. Soule’s father, Amasa Soule, had died in 1860. During Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence, the bushwhackers destroyed a quarter of the houses and murdered over two hundred men and boys. They sacked and burned the Soule family home, but all family members escaped. On September 4, Soule wrote to his sister, Emily:

I sympathize with the sufferers at Lawrence and wish I was able to help them. Tell Mother to be brave and not fret over our loss. We will come out all right. Tell me in your next how much we lost there and where the house was and all the particulars. I will write more next time. I have no time now as the mail will close soon.

During 1864, he was stationed mainly in Fort Lyon but also wrote letters from Fort Garland; Conejos, Colorado; and Fort Fillmore in New Mexico. This was a period of increased skirmishes with bands of Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa, and Soule was involved in several fruitless chases across the plains. In August, he wrote to his sister, Annie: “I am still at Fort Lyon and perhaps you had better direct your next here. I presume I shall be here some time yet. We have considerable trouble with the Indians. They would like to scalp us all. We have been chasing them for two weeks but only killed two. It is hard to get into a fight with them, they scatter so.”

During September, Soule accompanied Major Edward Wynkoop to Smoky Hill and the Camp Weld Council in Denver. After Camp Weld, he returned to Fort Lyon with Major Wynkoop and the chiefs. On October 17, his relations with Colonel Chivington were still friendly, as he wrote to discuss issues about his company being mustered out, which was due to occur on January 26. He also mentioned the presence nearby of Arapaho chief Left Hand:

Colonel—
I arrived here with Major Wynkoop on saturday. The command has not arrived yet but we expect them today. There is no news of importance here. There are about two hundred Indians camped fifteen miles from here awaiting the return of the chiefs. Left Hand is here with about twenty Indians. Today he says if all the rest go to war he will with his band lay down their arms and come in for protection, or fight even against his own tribe rather than take up arms against the whites.

Shortly after Major Wynkoop left Fort Lyon for Kansas, Soule was out on patrol when he met Colonel Chivington and the hundred days’ men. During this unexpected encounter, Chivington quizzed Soule about nearby Indian camps. Soule reiterated that those camped at Sand Creek were the chiefs who had recently met with Chivington to talk peace, that they were considered prisoners and that they were waiting to hear from General Curtis about the next course of action. He later testified that “some one made answer that they wouldn’t be prisoners after they got there.” Soule soon realized what Chivington’s intentions were, and he and other Fort Lyon officers tried to stop it. Soule later wrote to Ned Wynkoop:

As soon as I knew of their movement I was indignant as you would have been were you here and went to Cannon’s room, where a number of officers of the 1st and 3rd were congregated and told them that any man who would take part in the murders, knowing the circumstances as we did, was a low lived cowardly son of a bitch. Capt. Y.J. Johnson and Lieut. Hardin went to camp and reported to Chiv, Downing and the whole outfit what I had said, and you can bet hell was to pay in camp.

Soule approached Major Anthony, who had previously assured Black Kettle and the others that he would maintain Wynkoop’s policies until given further instructions. Anthony informed Soule that he had only been “acting friendly with them until he could get a force large enough to go out and kill all of them—‘all the Indians,’ or words to that effect.”

Soule later described what happened next:

I was warned by Major Anthony, Lieutenant Cramer, and some others not to go to the camp where Colonel Chivington was; that he had made threats against me for language I had used that day against Colonel Chivington’s command going out to kill those Indians on Sand Creek.

In a letter to General Curtis two weeks after the massacre, Chivington boasted that hundreds of warriors were killed and commended the “bravery and effectiveness” of his troops but added that he “cannot conclude this report without saying that the conduct of Capt. Silas S. Soule, Company D, First Cavalry of Colorado, was at least ill-advised, he saying that he thanked God that he had killed no Indians, and like expressions, proving him more in sympathy with those Indians than with the whites.”

In the days and weeks after the massacre, while Chivington and the hundred days’ men returned to victory celebrations in Denver, Soule and the other Fort Lyon officers who had opposed the attack wrote letters to military and Congressional leaders. By January, most of the troops involved were mustered out of the cavalry, and in early February, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Tappan began his investigation of the Sand Creek massacre.

Soule was the first witness called in for questioning. His testimony began on February 15 and lasted nearly a week. He declared that the people they attacked understood that “they were to be protected by the troops there until the messenger returned from General Curtis” and that Major Anthony had told them to move their camp to Sand Creek.

After leaving Fort Lyon, Soule reenlisted and became the Denver provost marshal. In the months after the massacre, Soule told friends that several attempts had been made on his life. Despite these worries, on April 1, 1865, he married Hersa Coberly, a beautiful and clever young woman whose family ran a well-known stage stop called the Half Way House near today’s Larkspur. Cavalry troops traveling between Camp Weld near Denver and the forts in southern Colorado often stopped at Coberly’s. In his Sand Creek testimony, Lieutenant Joseph Cramer mentioned a visit to Coberly’s after the Camp Weld Council. Silas had likely gotten to know the popular Hersa during such holdovers.

After the wedding, the couple made their home in Denver. On a quiet April night, less than a month after they married (and ten days after the assassination of President Lincoln), Silas and Hersa were returning home after an evening with friends. They heard gunshots out in the streets, so he escorted Hersa home and went back out to check on it. As he walked down Lawrence Street approaching Fifteenth, a figure appeared out of the darkness and shot him in the face. At age twenty-six, the newlywed Silas Soule was dead.

Soule’s friends were shocked and angered by his murder, and all of them believed that he had been assassinated at the behest of Chivington. He was buried with great honors, though undoubtedly Chivington’s supporters stayed away. The killer was captured and brought back to Denver by a friend of Soule’s, Lieutenant James Cannon, but the man escaped and Cannon died mysteriously.

That summer, Major and Mrs. Wynkoop, along with Samuel Tappan—all good friends of Silas Soule, probably as far back as their Kansas days—escorted his widow Hersa to Lawrence to stay with William Soule, Silas’s brother. In August, Hersa described her grief to Silas’s sister, Annie:

I like Will and Mary very very much but I don’t think that Will is much like Silie, he is not so full of fun, but his eyes and hair are very much like My Silie’s and I have no doubt but he is as good and I love him dearly but oh dear Annie no one can feel as I do, he was my future hope and sometime when I look at Will and see the very same eyes, I think oh, can it be, I want to throw my arms around his neck and say ’tis true you are with me yet my own dear Silie. The thought is almost maddening to me sometimes and I go to my room and stay for hours and read to get it off of my mind. Oh, I am afraid I shall make them unhappy. I would rather die than to. I think because it is fate to be unhappy it is not right that I should make others unhappy on my account.

Five years later, Hersa was back in Denver, living with her brother, William Coberly. She later married a Boulder miner, Alfred Lea, with whom she had several children. Their son, Homer Lea, grew up to become a noted author of political books, an advisor to the Chinese leader Sun Yat-sen and a famous general in the Chinese army. Hersa Lea died in 1879 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Denver.

Silas Soule is buried in the Civil War section of Riverside. Every year on the anniversary of the Sand Creek massacre, members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations hold a Healing Run ceremony. Youngsters run from the Sand Creek site up to Denver, where they honor Silas Soule and Joseph Cramer at Soule’s grave. They then march to the capitol, where they read aloud the letters written to Wynkoop by Soule and Cramer, telling the world what really happened.

Excerpted from Carol Turner’s new book, Forgotten Heroes and Villains of Sand Creek, published by The History Press.

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Wanted: Photos and Stories for the “Scout”

Cass family plot at Riverside


(click on photo to enlarge)
I am posting this photo of my family plot in hopes of encouraging others to contribute their memorabilia to the “Riverside Scout”. All submissions will be considered for inclusion, but prefer that they relate to the cemetery in some direct or indirect way. If you are uncertain as to how to register or post material, please feel free to e-mail it to my address: david.c.cass@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Note about the above photo: This image of the Cass family plot was taken in the summer of 2006: as you can see, this was a pretty dry season that year and indicative of the reasons why Friends of Riverside came into existence. The plot is located directly west of the Baker Horse. It contains six burials, only five of which are identified…..a family mystery? The site was purchased early in Riverside’s history by my great-grandfather, Dr. O.D. Cass, who was one of the earliest doctors to arrive in the fledgling city of Denver, arriving here 150 years ago, May 13th, 1860.

In following posts, I plan on telling some of the more interesting stories and facts about his experiences here. As I mentioned above, I am hopeful these postings will encourage others to search their family archives, and share their stories and photos of their forebears whose final resting place is at Riverside. Let’s let some of the lesser known ghosts in the cemetery come alive!

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The Lester Drake Monument….then

Back when there was grass, live trees, and even flowers at Riverside!

Compare this photo with the one of the monument on the home page.

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how photogenic is Riverside?

These photos are among my favorites by artist Izah Gallagher.  They give a perspective on the sculpture that encourages the viewer to see them in a new way.

A quick search on the web comes up with hundreds of images- from professionals to facile iphone photos- there are over 700 hundred images on flickr alone.

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