Report of death was false
Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
” Mark Twain
“There is no need of your coming down here to trade cows with Andy Barnett. He is dead. Was found dead in his cabin this morning,” the voice on the telephone reported to a Glenwood Springs cattle buyer. Surprised by the news, the cattleman abruptly canceled his plans that morning of Jan. 10, 1911, and digested the report.
Andy Barnett lived near New Castle. A farmer by profession, the 53-year-old widower was a respected fixture in the community. In addition to his farm, he was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hunting as well as shooting contests with the New Castle Gun Club.
The cattleman was unsure if anyone had contacted the coroner, Dr. Granville Hopkins, about Andy Barnett’s passing. So, he picked up the telephone and made the call, reporting the details as he knew them.
Dr. Hopkins took the call seriously. After all, there was no reason to doubt the validity of this person’s report. Because Barnett had been found dead, Coroner Hopkins sent his deputy to New Castle to begin an inquest.
The deputy reached Andy Barnett’s home, only to be greeted by Andy himself. The deputy was stunned to “find him very much alive, and the deputy being powerless to convince the man he was dead.” A befuddled deputy coroner phoned Coroner Hopkins and stated, “Say, this man is not dead, and furthermore says he does not want to die. What shall I do about his case?”
A death inquest had now turned into an inquest of a different sort. Was the report a cruel hoax, a case of mistaken identity, or of misplaced fact? If this was a case of mistaken identity, then the identity of the true deceased needed to be determined.
Andy Barnett later moved from New Castle to the Silt area, where he continued to farm. He would live another 18 years, dying in 1929 at the age of 71.
“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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