Life of crime didn’t pay |

Life of crime didn’t pay

Frontier DiaryWilla SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and MuseumGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyThe right side of this 1891 photograph shows the Elisha Cravens property. Located in the photo just south of the rail bridge crossing the Colorado River, this large undeveloped area was coveted by many pioneer settlers. Cravens was forced to relinquish his ownership of the property in the 1890s to cover the mounting court costs associated with his murder trial.

“I don’t charge you anything for having saved your neck, but for the nights of sleep I’ve lost.” – Joseph Taylor, attorney for Elisha CravensElisha “Lige” Cravens sought his fortune in the west. A Civil War veteran on the Confederate side, the 55-year-old Kentucky native first viewed the village of Glenwood Springs in 1884 and saw opportunity. However, Cravens’ fortunes and the fortunes of all he encountered would never prosper.Cravens squatted on a prime piece of property – about 71 acres – which stretched from the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers southward to where the Glenwood Springs Elementary School is located today. With no real right to the property except his presence, Cravens had to constantly defend his homestead, usually with the aid of a rifle. Having a passion for drink and cards, on Aug. 29, 1885, Lige was bested in a fight at one of the local saloons. He took defeat poorly. After leaving the saloon, he went to his cabin, grabbed a gun, and returned to the saloon where he shot and killed his adversary, George Fuller. With that act, Elisha Cravens had just committed Glenwood Springs’ first murder.Justice would not be swift. Cravens was immediately arrested and held without bail for 11 months until a grand jury could hear his case. The grand jury returned an indictment for murder in August 1886 and ordered Cravens to stand trial during the next district court session in August 1887. With nearly a year and a half passing since his incarceration, $15,000 in bail was finally set for Cravens, which was posted by Glenwood Springs’ founder, Isaac Cooper. Although he was a free man, Cravens could not stay out of trouble. Soon after making bail, he got into an altercation with a neighbor, which resulted in Cravens mutilating the other party’s burro. Cravens returned to jail.Postponements and attorney changes riddled Cravens’ murder trial. Finally, in July 1888, Cravens stood trial in Aspen. After six days of testimony, the jury found Elisha Cravens guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He was ordered to serve a maximum of a year imprisoned in the county jail. Costs for his defense totaled $103,000, forcing Lige Craven to sign over his property to pay the bill. In the 1890s, Elisha Cravens would be charged with assaulting his female housekeeper. For forging money orders, he did time in the Colorado State Penitentiary. Cravens died of alcoholism in Leadville on Aug. 22, 1900.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.

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