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Case concerned fowl play

Frontier Diary
Willa Soncarty
Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyIn 1911, the Garfield County Courthouse on the corner of Eighth Street and Pitkin Avenue perhaps became the plushest chicken coop ever known when it housed a confiscated chicken, subject of a court case. Ironically, the cost to house the chicken was $2.50 per day, but jailer Bart Hopkins nearly received a citation for cruelty to animals for once failing to feed and water the bird in his charge.
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Occasionally, neighborhood spats escalate into public spectacles.

During the summer of 1911, a wandering chicken happily moved between the yards of two Colorado Avenue neighbors, Mrs. Max Schwartzman and Mrs. Thomas Scroggins. Both neighbors seemed to accept the idea of the chicken passing from yard to yard on daily business. However, in August when each woman tried to establish ownership of the chicken, a vicious fight broke out between the two.

This was not a physical fight, but instead a fight in the court of law. So steadfast was each woman that the other had stolen the chicken, that two suits ” Scroggins v. Schwartzman and Schwartzman v. Scroggins ” were filed in District Court about the matter.



Judge Charles White heard “the case of the yellow legged hen” in mid-August. It would take time to gather the facts, so Judge White ordered the chicken confiscated by jailer Bart Hopkins. The absurd case reached new heights when Hopkins noted that the cost of housing his feathered prisoner would be $2.50 per day as prescribed under the “custodian of property in litigation” law. With that, the cases became the topic of discussion and the subject of many jokes.

The hen remained in court custody for two weeks. After hearing the evidence, Judge White took the matter under advisement and on Aug. 29, 1911, said he would render a decision later. Each squabbling woman was ordered to pay the litigation costs, causing the Avalanche Echo newspaper to declare the little hen “the most valuable in the world.”



White’s decision was never published, but perhaps the ridiculous cases reminded Glenwood Springs residents of a greater lesson: Choose your battles wisely.

“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


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