Frontier Diary |

Frontier Diary

Willa SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyLeland Vrain, also known as Diamond Jack Alterie, came to the Sweetwater area intent on operating a dude ranch. It was reported he held the skills of a cowboy, with the ability to rope and ride with the best of any western rancher. Although he dressed in the style of a Hollywood cowboy, the clothes and the image could not conceal the Chicago gangster within. After many scraps with the local law, Alterie was court ordered from the state of Colorado, and ultimately met his end in a 1935 Chicago gangland shooting.

In the early morning hours of June 4, 1927, Leland Vrain was shot by his brother, Bert. Under any conditions, Garfield County Sheriff George Winters would take this incident seriously. However, Leland Vrain was a special concern. Vrain was a Chicago mobster known as Diamond Jack Alterie.Diamond Jack Alterie had been a member of Chicago’s underworld, affiliated with Al Capone. However, the escalating violence in 1920s Chicago possibly caused Alterie to take actions to preserve his own life. In April 1926, Diamond Jack purchased the Sweetwater Ranch. A quiet life of dude ranching was envisioned.However, Diamond Jack’s flamboyance caused notice. He spent large sums of money freely in Glenwood Springs. His opulent automobile attracted attention as he offered rides to children in town.The drunken early morning shooting of June 4, 1927, was just the first of what was to become many headlines produced by Diamond Jack’s actions. However, the next major headline would be generated May 25, 1931, when fishing season opened on Sweetwater Lake. Alterie, holding a lease of the lake with the Department of Wildlife, rented boats to fishermen. He, however, prohibited private parties with their own boats from fishing on the lake. That morning, three men challenging Alterie’s claim to the lake launched their own boat from government land. Alterie, in a boat, intercepted the men and ordered them off the lake. When the fishermen refused, Alterie shot into their boat. No one was injured. Charges of assault with intent to kill were filed against Alterie, but he was found not guilty.Diamond Jack wore out his welcome on Nov. 7, 1932, when, after being bested in a fight, shot two men at the Hotel Denver. Alterie was jailed, tried and convicted of assault with intent to commit mayhem. In lieu of a penitentiary sentence, Judge Shumate ordered Diamond Jack to leave the state of Colorado.Alterie returned to the violence he knew. On July 18, 1935, Diamond Jack Alterie was killed in a Chicago gangland shooting.”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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