Back in the 1890s, after Cripple Creek opened up, a thievery problem developed in Woodland Park and Florissant.

A number of freight cars belonging to the Colorado Midland Railway company, standing on the side track at Woodland Park, were broken into by thieves, and goods of considerable amount were stolen. The company made every effort to apprehend the parties, but had not met with much success until one Friday, when the traveling agent for the Robson grocery firm of Colorado Springs accidentally came upon a man who is no doubt the guilty party.

The agent related the incidents that led up to thief's arrest, “I was walking from Woodland to a station called Divide, up on the Hayden Divide, in search of ranchmen who had potatoes to sell, as my firm was desirous of obtaining several car loads. I suddenly came upon a fellow sitting on the side of the track. As soon as he discovered me he left his bundle and ran into the brush. This occurred to me as very peculiar and I went a short distance to a ranch and told the ranchman of the occurrence.

"Pretty soon the fellow came up and begged, while we were out in the potato patch, but as soon as he saw us he went on up to the railroad. We followed him and as my suspicions by this time had become almost confirmed I pretended to hire him to dig potatoes, as I proposed to report the circumstances to the officers and wanted sufficient time in which to get a good description of him. He refused to work as he said he was a miner, and pulled out a bottle of whisky or something that resembled whisky and wanted us to drink. We refused, whereupon he asked me for a cigar that was protruding from my pocket. The bundle he carried appeared to be very heavy, and was extremely large and resembled blankets.

"We retraced our steps and I proceeded on to Divide, where I found a deputy sheriff, who swore me in as a deputy, and procuring transportation, we boarded the regular passenger going to Florissant, first giving orders to the engineer to stop when he came upon the fellow whom I described. The train had run only a few minutes when the engineer stopped and got off. We soon came upon our man, who was told to throw up his hands, which he did very reluctantly, and we marched him back to Divide, where we boarded the passenger from the east and brought him on here, placing him in jail.

"An investigation of the bundle disclosed a ten-gallon keg almost full of alcohol. This we left at the ranchman’s house to send on here. When questioned as to how he came in possession of it and where he was from, he told several stories. He said his name was Tom Bright, and that he had been working on some mines on Castle Creek. He stated later that he had been in the Junction for over a month, and that the way he happened to get hold of the keg was that he saw some fellows hiding it in the brush and he went over and dug it up.

"On the train coming up, he seemed very much agitated and said that he would confess if the penalty for breaking seals on cars was not so great. Ten years in the penitentiary was not a pleasant thought to him, but it is most likely that a complete confession will be made later, disclosing full particulars of the disposition of all the goods stolen."

E.M. “Mel” McFarland is an artist, historian and railroad enthusiast. He is a Pikes Peak region native and has written a handful of books and guides highlighting the area’s rich history. Contact Mel at mcmidland@yahoo.com.

Load comments