Train robbery on Garfield Creek
“If the dead man was really Logan, the most desperate and daring of all the Western train and bank robbers has been removed from earth.” – Quotation from an unknown Colorado newspaper, July 1904 The Number 5 of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad slowed as it made its way into the town of Parachute on June 7, 1904. Engineer Allison slowed the train just enough to allow a passenger to disembark. However, even with the evening’s darkness and through a pouring rain, Allison noticed that while one passenger got off, another climbed on to the tender.This was not unusual. People often hopped the train. Allison sent his fireman, John Anderson, to remove the unwanted passenger. As Anderson approached the intruder, he soon found himself with a gun to his face. By gunpoint, Anderson was escorted to the engine cab. Engineer Allison quickly assessed the situation and realized there was no way to get out of the holdup. The bandit ordered Allison to run the train and then to blow the whistle as if to signal for cattle on the track. About a mile out of Parachute the train was ordered to be stopped. Two men seated next to a campfire then boarded the train. Allison was ordered to uncouple all the cars except the express car, and then to run forward another half mile and stop at Streit’s Flat.Express Messenger Daniel Shea refused to open the express car to allow access to the safe. With that, the bandits set dynamite beneath one side of the car. Realizing his danger, Shea opened the door and got out. The charge was lighted, and the resulting explosion severely damaged the car. Once inside additional charges – probably more than necessary – were set. This explosion gained access to the safe. The bandits, hoping to reap riches, were instead disappointed. The safe yielded very little money. Their intended target had been the Colorado Midland 105, which carried $150,000, but had been missed by the robbers due to a change in schedule. Taking what they could, the three robbers then left the scene, making their way to a boat they had hidden along the Colorado River. Once across, they mounted three horses they had hitched nearby. The bandits then started their getaway to the southeast.Posses were not far behind. Law enforcement officials from Mesa County, railroad detective C.W. “Doc” Shores, and various local ranchers began the chase, breaking into groups to scour the countryside. The search of June 8 proved fruitless; however, on June 9 the bandits demanded breakfast and fresh horses from Mrs. Joe Banta on Divide Creek. A telephone call from Mrs. Banta began the alert to the neighborhood. The alert made its way to a pursing posse who found the robbers in a defensive position near Garfield Creek.A shootout ensued, during which one robber was severely wounded. Declaring he was “done for,” the robber took his own life with a shot to the head. His two companions escaped.Garfield County Sheriff Francis Adams brought the robber’s body to Glenwood Springs on June 10. Excitement and speculation swirled about his identity. Some thought he was “Tap” Duncan. Others thought he was a man by the name of J.H. Ross. However, Ross turned up alive. With no definitive identification, the body was photographed and buried in Glenwood Springs’ Linwood Cemetery on June 14.Pinkerton detectives continued to work on the identity problem. They circulated copies of the photographs. Finally, they made a visit to Glenwood Springs on July 16, 1904, to exhume the body. More photographs were taken, a thorough examination for identifying scars was made, and a death mask prepared. In the end, Pinkerton Detective Lowell Spence declared the robber to be Harvey Logan, also known as “Kid Curry.” Logan had been a train and bank robber and well as a murderer who ran with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.With reward money in the balance, not all law enforcement officials agreed with Spence’s conclusion, creating doubt and speculation lingering today as to the true identity of the robber buried in Glenwood Springs. However, until definitive new evidence comes to light, Detective Lowell Spence’s conclusion gives a name to one of the robbers who conducted a thrilling train robbery in 1904.Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448. “Frontier Diary” appears the first Tuesday of every month.
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