New Castle to honor marshal killed in 1910 shootout
NEW CASTLE – Leaders in New Castle will honor a town marshal – who died protecting the citizens of New Castle during a downtown shootout almost a century ago – with a tombstone dedication scheduled for Friday.
Town Marshal John M. Rennix was shot by drunken saloon owner William “Billy” Griffith in a dramatic altercation on the afternoon of Nov. 24, 1910. Griffith was upset with citizens who testified against him during an assault conviction in a Glenwood Springs courtroom. He walked on to Main Street, intoxicated and armed, and challenged witness Frank Sample. Marshal Rennix intervened and was shot in the lower abdomen.
The headstone dedication is set for 7 p.m. Friday, July 17 at Highland Cemetery.
Although seriously wounded, Rennix was able to shoot and wound Griffith in the shoulder, as the local saloon owner was gunning for revenge and chasing Sample.
Griffith retreated to his second-floor room in the nearby Trimble building at Third and Main streets. He later shot out the window and killed citizen William Davis. Griffith was thought to have taken his life as lawmen and a posse surrounded the building.
Rennix was taken by train to the sanitarium in Glenwood Springs where he was operated on but died the next day at the age of 43, leaving behind four daughters and a widow.
Although gunman Griffith has a simple tombstone where he was buried in the town-owned Highland Cemetery north of New Castle, a headstone was never installed for Rennix. The town recently commissioned a period headstone for Rennix that will match the stone made for his first wife, Lieuvernia May, who died earlier.
The public is invited to the Friday evening headstone dedication. Rennix’s granddaughter, Lydia Gipson of Rifle, plans to attend along with other relatives. More information about the marshal slain in the line of duty and other highlights from the rich history of New Castle can be found during a visit to the New Castle Museum, which currently is open with free admission on Tuesday and Thursday evenings or by appointment. Contact museum board members at 984-2142, 984-2170 or 984-0445 for more information.
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