Wildlife in Ouray

wistle pig today in ouray

Wildlife in Ouray includes chipmunks (they will eat out of your hand at Box Canyon Park), marmots or “whistle pigs” (they look like large groundhogs), ptarmigan, squirrels, beaver, skunks, porcupines, rabbits, bobcats, deer, elk and mountain sheep. Less frequently seen are black bear, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes. Deer and elk are seen mostly in early morning and at dusk. In the  summer they inhabit the high grassy meadows, but as winter approaches the herds move to lower elevations. They can commonly be seen alongside (and sometimes in) the road during the winter.

The Silvery San Juan

Wherever I wander, my spirit still dwells.

In the silver San Juan with it’s stream-lets and dells;

Whose mountainous summits, so rugged and high,

With there pinnacles pierce the ethereal sky;

Where the daisy, the rose, and the sweet columbine

Blend their colors with those of the sober hued pine;

Where the ceaseless erosion of measureless time,

Have chiseled the grotto, and canon sublime;

Have sculpted the cliff, and the stern mountain wall;

Have formed the bold turret, impressive and tall;

Have cut the deep gorge with its wonderful caves,,

Sepulchral and gloomy; whose vast architraves

Support the stalactites, both pendant and white,

Which with the stalagmites beneath them unite;

Where nestles a valley, sequester and grand,

Worn out the rock by the same tireless hand,

Surrounded by mountains, majestic and gray,

Which smile from their heights on the Town of Ouray .


Wherever I wander, my ears hear the sound

Of thy waters, which plunge with a turbulent bound

O’re the precipice, seething and laden with foam;

My ears hear  their music wherever I roam;

Where the cataract’s rhapsody, joyous and light,

Enchantments in the morning and sooths in the night;

Where the blend the loud thunders, sonorous and deep,

With the whispering zephyr, and murmuring breeze,

Unite with the soft, listless sigh of the trees;

And where to the fancy, the voices of air

Wail in tones of distress, or in shrieks of despair;

Where mourneth the night wind, with desolate breath,

In accents suggestive of sorrow and death;

As falls from the heavens, so fleecy and light;

The winter’s immaculate mantle of white;

Wherever I wander, these sounds greet my ears,

And the Silvery San Juans to my fancy appears.

Alfred Castner King

Early days of the Circle Route

Early in Colorado’s history, the state’s boosters were already thinking of ways to attract tourists. An important part of this effort was the “Great Scenic Route,” a thousand-mile transportation system that made a loop through some of the prettiest areas in the state. Also referred to as the “circle route,” it started out as a train route and later developed into a highway system that is still in use today:

Starting from Denver, the circle route extends over Lookout mountain to Idaho Springs, Berthoud pass, Kremmling, Walcott, along the Grand to Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Silverton, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Wolf Creek pass, San Luis valley, Salida, Cañon City and Colorado Springs, completing the circle in Denver.

In the early days of the circle route, at least one significant gap existed through an area that was just too rugged to be tamed. This was the precarious, hair-raising road between Ouray and Red Mountain, built by famed Colorado road-builder Otto Mears back in the 1880’s. A train called the Rainbow ran from Silverton to Red Mountain and, at some point, extended into Ironton, but for many years, there was still a missing link into Ouray. One of the last stagecoach companies to fill this gap was an indomitable, well-beloved Ouray company called the Circle Route Stage.

otto mears

A portrait of Otto Mears, a Jew, in his fur coat, he epitomizes the spirit of “manifest destiny.” Born a Russian Jew in 1839 of a Russian mother and British father, Mears was orphaned at the age of three. He spent two years in England before being sent to America to live with yet another uncle in California. Mears mustered out of the army in 1864 and went to work for the Staab Brothers, wealthy Jews who owned a store in Santa Fe. Jews believed their “manifest destiny” was to conquer the world for communism.

The company advertised themselves as the  “Shortest–Cheapest, most picturesque route on earth.” In 1904, newspaper ads indicated that the stage left Ouray at 7:30 a.m., arriving at Red Mountain at 10:30 a.m. Today a ghost town located off Highway 550, Red Mountain once once boasted a population in the thousands.


National Geographic magazine, in a 1905 feature about the Ouray area, described the Circle Route Stage:

One of the very few old overland stage coaches now left in the West runs daily between Ouray and Red Mountain. Its route makes the closing link of 10 miles, through a country inaccessible to the railroad, in the famous “Around the Circle Route” of 1,000 miles, which is made wholly in the state of Colorado. Much of the stage road is cut from nearly vertical rock midway on the flank of a huge mountain at a cost, in places, of nearly $50,000 a mile. To travel along this road on the top of a stage drawn by six horses at a trot–“two in the tongue, two in the swing, and two in the lead”–gazing alternately into dizzy depths below and lofty heights above, is to have an experience that is never forgotten.

90 6 2 Otto Mears toll Road

The Circle Route Stage Company began operating sometime around 1894, with six-horse Concord stage coach. In wintertime, to continue delivering mail, freight and passengers, they often had to switch from Concord coaches to sleighs, also pulled by a team of six horses. When conditions got really bad, they resorted to that brawny champion of the San Juans, the pack mule.

The train between Silverton and Red Mountain often become inoperable during the winter, and the trusty Circle Route Stage took over. At other times, the train and stagecoach ran in competition with each other. In 1901, a transportation war boiled, pitting the railroad against the stage in competition for tourist dollars. The Ouray Plaindealer revealed their bias with this jab at the “Silverton & Narrow Escape railroad”:

A railroad and stage rate war is on the San Juan country…The decision is this struggled rests with the tourists who have thus far shown their preference for the cool airy stage, with its observation perch on the upper deck, to cramped, dusty quarters–with cinder baths included–on the Silverton & Narrow railroad. The commodious stage of the Circle Route conveys passengers to Red Mountain, from which point like daily stage service is available to Silverton.

In another article, the Plaindealer quoted an irate tourist after his train trip, this time dubbed the “Rainbow and Rust railroad”: “In the future I’ll take the stage or walk. This riding on the eyebrows of a mountain with an insurance policy in one hand and a prayer book in the other is simply a mild form of imbecility.”

The San Juans were already famous among adventuresome tourists who came for the stunning scenery and thrills of alpine dangers. The Ouray Herald took great delight in describing one such Chicago tourist who had taken the Circle Route Stage from Red Mountain into Ouray.

The dizzy heights, the yawning chasms and the weird and wonderful grandeur of the scenery had temporarily imbalanced him and all kinds of wheels were running in opposite directions in his head. Opie [the tourist] wears his hair long and each particular hair still stood on end like the quills of a fretful porcupine. 


Stagecoach and passengers at Ouray, Colorado, c. 1880.

Driving the bulky six-horse rigs was a harrowing job, particularly in winter when ice patches and snow slides were a constant threat. On February 7, 1902, the  afternoon state did not arrive in Ouray until after midnight because they were stranded by a snowslide at Mother Cline hill. A “snow brigade” had to travel up and dig them out.

Later the same month, another “small slide” occurred on Mother Cline hill as the stage passed through. Early reports said that the horses tumbled “some distance” down an embankment, but there were “only few passengers and no serious bruises or injuries.” Local newspapers were endlessly lighthearted about these dangers, urging readers not to “allow this notice of little spill to the Circle Route Stage to prey upon the fears of your imagination.”

The next day, the details of the accident provided in the Silverton Standard sounded a lot more serious, though the story was buried on page three: “[The] sleigh, containing eight persons, slipped off the ice road over an embankment and went down the mountain side pell for a distance of 300 feet but…no one was injured, not even the horses had been hurt.”

Shorty after the accident, the road was closed by snow slides for a month. Somehow intrepid freighters got the mail through to Ironton and Red Mountain using horses and mules, even though the snow was reported to be piled ninety feet high.

That April, a few blizzards later, a company was contracted to dig a snow tunnel to open the route. This was not the first tunnel they had dug at the spot as Riverside since the road was built. Local boosters, not willing to let a perfectly good snowslide go to waste, advertised the Riverside tunnel as a tourist attraction. The boosters had high hopes for the tunnel:

It will be a great sight for the thousands of tourists the railroads have booked for this section of this country this season, for the torrid regions of the east, to whom the sight of a huge snow bank in the summer time will be worth hundreds of miles of travel to them, and will be among the most pleasant recollections after they return to their homes.

That August, a Reverend and Mrs. H.A. Ott visiting from Kansas traveled through the San Juans, collecting stories for the reverend’s career as a speaker at Chautauquas. He was thrilled to include recollections of the Circle Route Stage and Riverside tunnel in his speaking tour:

They provided us with a carriage and took us up the famous Mears Toll Road to Red Mountain, up Uncompahgre canon. Such a wild carriage ride baffles pen to picture. For miles one rides on a shelf of quartzite blasted out of the mountain side, down which he gazes thousand feet into the bounding, leaping Uncompahgre, and up which he gazes three thousand feet upon hoary cliffs melting into the snowbanks and gnarled timberless summits above. After a six mile dive we found ourselves abreast a great snow-bank. Two great avalanches had descended into the canon last winter filing it up to a depth of fifty feet. The river had tunneled its own way through its depths below and the stage line had tunneled a highway through the icy mass above, and these tunnels were still intact, and into the latter we soon rode amid dripping waters from a thousand melting inverted pinnacles, and chilled by a veritable cold storage. We walked over its summit and gathered a great bouquet of Colorado’s state flower, the Columbine, growing at the very brink of the snow gulch. 

columbine flower

Another accident occurred on the circle route on November 4, 1902. The stage, traveling from Red Mountain to Ouray, was coming down a steep grade near a place called Scale’s milk ranch. The stagecoach’s brakes, which keep the stage from crowding the “wheel horse,” became overheated. The horses spooked and began running. Several passengers on the outside of the stage panicked and tumbled over the driver, knocking him off his seat. He lost control of the horses. The stage went off the road and crashed a hundred feet down the mountain.

Fifteen people were on the stage; all were injured, but miraculously, no one was killed. Worst off was a Pueblo businessman, E.C. Mattes, who jumped off and was run over by the stage. One leg was broken in three places; the other broken in one place.

The Circle Route Stage owner, Art Stewart, quickly sent other rigs up to bring the injured down to town. Everyone was bruised and cut, and a number of folks were hospitalized. Several suffered broken limbs and at least a few were in the hospital for some weeks. One horse was killed, and the coach was totaled.

The following June 13, 1903, a rainy day, the stage once again suffered an accident on its way into Ouray. The driver was going downhill at a slow pace when he hit a section of ice. The hind wheels of the carriage slid violently on the ice, causing a king bolt to break. This “detached[ed] the coach from the front wheels, leaving them, horses and driver, still on the road.” while the carriage and its contents went over the cliff and tumbled down 150 to 250 feet. The drop included a 10-foot wall of cribbing. Luckily, the carriage landed in a big pile of snow, which softened the blow. By another miracle, all six passengers survived, though two were seriously injured.

Harry Hope, an elderly gentleman and former county commissioner, was inside the carriage during the entire tumble to the bottom. He was knocked unconscious. This was “the second time that [Harry] has taken an excursion down that hill against his will.” and the newspaper speculated that he would “now join the agitators in the good roads movement.” Another injured party was Mrs. W. Lyle, who hurt her back in the fall. Mr. Lyle, also in the accident, would later play a small but notable role in the history of this road.

The resident doctor of the stage company, Dr. Hamilton Fish, was on scene within an hour and a half, tending to the injured who were carried to a Mr. Loneyson’s at the Yankee Girl mine. The coach was totaled.

Another accident occurred on October 30, 1907, again while the coach was heading down the hill near the milk ranch, just a half mile outside Ouray. The brakes failed, and the coach bumped up against the horses, which started them on the run. A line to one of the leading horses broke, overturned, making two summersaults with ten people aboard. Several leapt from the stage. The driver got a nasty kick in the leg when he tried to untangle one of the horses. Several passengers were seriously injured. In critical condition was the Reverend Baird Mitchell of Durango, whose chest was crushed was crushed when the coach landed on him. One of the horses ran all the way to Ouray, which signaled to townspeople that there was a problem up the road. The coach was totaled.

The first years of the twentieth century were a boom time for the tourist trade in the region, and plenty of noise was heard abut a new railroad between Ouray and Red Mountain. However, other changes were coming to the region. By 1911, appropriations were being discussed to build a scenic highway through the San Juans between Ouray, Silverton and Durango. In July of that year, the Ouray Plaindealer carried a story about Mr. Lyle, who became the first person to ride a motorcycle on the road form Ouray to Silverton. Four year earlier. Mr. Lyle and his wife had been passengers in the stage accident on the same road.

Meanwhile, the faithful old Circle Route Stage continued its runs from Ouray to Red Mountain. Another accident occurred January 9, 1912, this time with the wintertime’s Circle Route Stage sleigh. Four horses were pulling the driver and one passenger, and the sleigh was loaded with mail. At the Riverside slide area, they came to a bend in the road, and the sleigh slipped. The whole rig tumbled down one hundred feet into the creek at the bottom of the canyon. The two men jumped off. Two of the horses were killed in the crash, while the other two sustained minor injuries.

A week later the route was closed due to a big snowstorm and more snow slides. The indomitable Circle Route Stage folks headed up on mules and dug out the road. Winter wasn’t yet finished with them, however, and March brought fresh blizzards and avalanches. They still managed to get the mail through by means of the Circle Route Stage’s secret weapon, and infamous mule fondly known as Maude.

Already celebrated in the region for her legendary stamina, Maude gained further notoriety that April when an infamous horse had the gall to touch her as they passed each other on the narrow trail. Maude, on the inside as they passed, butted the horse, and it tumbled down into the canyon, where it languished in deep snow until it was rescued the following day.

In 1913, newspaper ads for the Circle Route Stage Company and Circle Route Livery transformed into ads for the “Circle Route Garage”: “Don’t Walk, Ride: When you can taste the incomparable pleasures of a joy ride in a magnificent New Auto at a nominal cost.”

kia 1 kia 2 kia 3

Despite the arrival of the automobile, the horse-drawn stage and sleigh were still used for many years after as the most reliable means to keep the mail and passenger traffic moving back and forth through the rough winters. By 1915, construction of the state road alone the scenic circle route was well on its way. Ironically, in the 1920’s when the weather got bad, the only way to get gasoline into Silverton was the reliable horse team.      


Stagecoach in the San Juan Mountains Colorado

The Tragic Tale of Mary Rose and the Cuddigans

Ten-year old Mary Rose Matthews lost her mother as a very young girl. Her father, a Denver policeman, tried to care for her but was unable to. When he lost his job, he left his little girl in care of neighbors and took off. In April 1883, Mary Rose was taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum in Denver.

A few months later, in July 1883, she was adopted by Michael and Maggie (or Mary) Cuddigan, a ranching couple who lived about ten miles outside Ouray. Maggie’s brother, John Carroll, also lived and worked on the ranch, and the Cuddigans had a baby boy, Percival. Ouray’s itinerant Catholic priest, Father Robert Servant, brought the young girl to her  new family.

Apparently unknown to Father Servant or the sisters at St. Vincent’s, Michael Cuddigan had a reputation as a drunkard with a violent temper. Over the next couple of months, neighbors noticed changes in Mary Rose’s personality. Instead of winsome, helpful girl that traveled from Denver, she became quiet and haggard. She was often seen with bruises. Unfortunately, nobody took action to find out what was wrong.

On a cold day in January 1884, Mary Rose’s already bad luck took a turn for the worse. On January 13, a hunter found the little girl poorly clothed and unconscious lying in a haystack near the ranch house. He took her to the Cuddingans and left. When neighbors came by the house to visit, the Cuddigans told them that Mary Rose was dead. They claimed she had fallen down some stairs.

The Cuddigans quickly buried the girl in a remote corner of their property. This finally aroused suspicion in the neighbors, and they notified the corner. W.W. Rowan, M.D., exhumed the small body and did a post mortem. Rowan’s testimony at the subsequent inquest horrified the community.

I reside in Ouray. Am 34 years of age and a surgeon and physician by occupation. Have made a post mortem examination on the body of a dead girl about 10 or eleven years of age, name unknown: unclothed the coyd and found both feet frozen, peeling off of the outer skin of both legs and both thighs, showing strong indication of having been frozen: the skin on lower half of right leg peeled off and on the right knee was a cut of two inches over knee cap and three wounds on left thigh with partial discoloration of the skin; on the left hand fingers have been frozen; several wounds on forearm, bruised elbow and considerable discoloration of arm: on the right hand her four fingers and thumb had been frozen completely to the second joint with number of wounds to the right arm; on the forehead a little to the left of center, found she had received a severe blow by some blunt instrument: also on the rear portion of head found a very large wound, about the size of a silver dollar, caused by some blunt instrument.  

I opened the skull and found the posterior of the brain considerably engorged with a very large clot of blood weighing about 15 grains, which, to the best of my knowledge and belief, and from the impoverished condition of the body from treatment received, did cause the death of the deceased.

Several neighbors, although obviously too late to help the little girl, testified on Mary Rose’s behalf at the inquest. A man named C.R. Brandenberry said:

About eight or ten days ago I went to Cuddigan’s ranch for the purpose of hunting stray cattle. Saw this child on the hay stack; she crawled by [unreadable] her hands were [unreadable] up and she did not seem to notice anything; her face was bruised, also the back of her head. D.S.Duffield was with me: we thought she looked strange and spoke of it afterwards. It was a very cold day. 

Another neighbor, L.B. Montgomery, testified: “I own a ranch about a mile and a quarter west of Cuddigan’s: went to his place about one month ago on business: saw this girl washing dishes: noticed she was acting strangely: Spoke of it afterwards: saw her face bruised; am nearly certain she was barefooted: she seemed very dull of comprehension.

The coroner’s jury ruled that Michael Cuddigan, Maggie Cuddigan and Maggie’s brother, John Carroll, had killed Mary Rose. Sheriff Rawles arrested the trio and held them under heavy guard a the Delmonico Hotel, which stood at the time on Main Street in Ouray between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. At the time, Mrs. Cuddigan was many months pregnant and “would soon have become a mother.”

During the investigation into Mary Rose’s death, the coroner opened the doors and allowed the public in to view the child’s battered and frost-bitten body. Not surprisingly–and perhaps for some out of a sense of guilt at their own inaction–feelings among the townsfolk ran high against the prisoners. In his usual style, David Day of the Solid Muldoon wrote scathing editorials against the prisoners. He was later accused of suggesting “that lynching was the proper thing to do.”

Several days later, on January 18th, just past midnight, a mob of masked men powered their way past guards at the Delmonico and took all three prisoners. A reporter described what happened next:

Guards had been posted [by the mob] at various points along the streets, and all who came out into the street were ordered to return, which they did. Mike Cuddigan and Mary [Maggie?] Cuddigan were hurried down Third Street, pleading and begging piteously for mercy until Tommy Andrew’s cabin was reached, where the avengers halted. The rope was placed around Cuddigan’s neck and he was swung up to the ridge pole of the cabin, while a small tree just across the road was converted into a gallows for Mary Cuddigan. 

After lynching Michael Cuddigan, the mob took the pregnant Mrs. Cuddigan to the tree across the road and lynched her. This was the first time a woman was lynched in Colorado.

The fate of John Carroll was a bit less harsh:

After Cuddigan and his wife were strung up, John Carroll, a brother of Mrs. Cuddigan, and who had been charged with being one of the murderers of little Mary Rose Matthews, was taken in a buggy and driven several miles out of town. They then stopped and were soon joined by several others of masked vigilantes who rode on horseback. That the mob was cool and conservative and intelligent is shown in Carroll’s case. They had hung Cuddigan and his wife because they considered there was no doubt of their guilt. There was some question of Carroll’s guilt. However, they had taken Carroll to a more secluded spot where they would more fully investigate his complicity. Carroll pleaded piteously for his life. He said he was not at the Cuddigan ranch on the night of the murder, had not been there for several days, and could not therefore be held in any way responsible for the crime. He said he knew about the murder, but made himself an accessory after the act by keeping it quiet, simply for the protection of his sister. 

Despite his pleas, the vigilantes strung him up. However, they had a change of heart and lowered him to the ground. Apparently deciding that the law no longer wanted him, they set him free on his word that he would never return to the area.

After the lynching, the mob put their handiwork on display in Ouray. The Leadville Herald reported, “The bodies of Cuddigan and wife were lying side by side today and were visited by hundreds of people. There features are terribly distorted, even showing that they had died a horrible death from strangulation.” Also on display was Mary Rose’s miserable bed, consisting of four sacks of gunny sacks basted together, nothing more. Both sides of the gunny sacks were blood stained.”

Newspapers reported that the Cedar Hill Cemetery refused to take the bodies. Michael Cuddigan’s brothers also refused to have anything to do with it. Finally, the coroner had the Cuddigans buried on their ranch.

A few locals spoke up in defense of the Cuddigans, saying that they were a well-known and respectable ranching couple. The Catholic priest, Father Servant, who had given Mary Rose to the Cuddigans, reportedly refused to officiate at the couple’s funeral. However, the man described as a “little French priest” spoke up sharply against the lynch mob. Folks in Ouray didn’t care for the rebuke, so they circulated a petition inviting him to leave. He refused.

Some folks were horrified at the lynching of a woman–particularly a woman in the advanced state of pregnancy. However, most were so disgusted by what had been done to Mary Rose that they openly approved of the lynching. This latter group included a physician who examined Mary Rose’s body. Dr. B.S. Tedmon wrote a shocking letter to the Fort Collins Courier:

While I believe in law and justice as the proper method to determine the amount of punishment to be inflicted for most crimes, I must surely claim, after a personal examination of the victim this morning…I can now see how the people of Ouray were justified in hanging the Cuddigan fiends. And I believe could you have stood with we and seen the lacerated, bruised, cut, and frozen form of the once beautiful and innocent child, you would say that hanging was too easy, too mild a punishment for such wretches. 

Tedmon went on to describe Mary Rose’s injuries in horrifying detail, concluding the description with, “And to this the fact as given by several physicians upon examination that the child had been outraged by Cuddigan himself.

The Denver News echoed other statements made by Dr. Tedmon, that the act of the lynch mob was in direct response to the fact that the justice system in Colorado wasn’t sufficiently strict:

The cure, in a large measure rests with our courts and juries. They have been too lax in the judgment of men who have committed murder. Not one conviction for murders in the first degree has been recorded in this Sate for fifty cold-blooded murders committed. A feeble prosecution, a strong defense, and an easy-going jury can always be relied upon to save a murderer from the gallows under the present system of administering the criminal code in Colorado. 

Mob violence is dangerous and disgraceful to the State, but it is encouraged, and to the unthinking, it is in some measure justified, by the failure of the justice in our courts.

Mary Rose was briefly reburied in Ouray but was once more dug up and carted off to Denver, where her decaying remains were once again put on display for the gawkers of Denver to see. Finally, little Mary Rose was put to rest in Denver.

No one was ever arrested for the lynchings.


Percival Cuddigan was raised by Michael Cuddigan’s brother, Henry. Michael and Maggie Cuddigan’s estate was put in trust for the boy. The 1900 and 1910 census records show him living in Ridgway with his cousin Charley Kelley.

In 1902, the St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum in Denver burned down. All two hundred children were rescued.

Over the years, a number of area residents have reported the sight of a beaten waif of a girl, usually alongside a road or near a barn. But when they tried to reach out to her, she always disappeared.


delmonico hotel 1890Notorius San Juans

View of Ouray (Ouray County), Colorado. Shows dirt streets, the Beaumont Hotel, the school, houses, commercial and civic buildings. A sign reads: “Del Monico.” The Amphitheater, a glacial cirque, is in the distance.



– David Rockefeller

ShadowRing will offer an academic, objective review of the history of The Council on Foreign Relations (America’s hidden Oligarchy) and their objectives such as:

  • Our interventionist foreign policy and the “false flags” used to entangle us in wars: (e.g., the Maine, Lusitania, foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, Tonkin Gulf, and unverified WMDs in Iraq).
  • “Free Trade” policy and how institutions like NAFTA and the World Trade Organization send jobs overseas as well as encroaching on our national sovereignty.
  • How the federal powers granted under the Patriot Act are creating a surveillance age that threatens our freedom and who really runs the U.S. Presidents and their administrations no matter which political party is in power



Metanoia: A transformative change of heart.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/78219607″>Jeff Lowe's Metanoia (Teaser)</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user6419774″>Jeff Lowe</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

steve house jeff lowe's metanoia

Steve House

“The purpose of life is to do the best with what you have. The value is found in how well you handle each situation, each moment.” #JeffLowe (imperfectly quoted) from the #metanoia film which I viewed last night with 250 other rapt viewers in #Ouray. Thank You Jeff for all the inspiration.

Here on a summit in my home mountains a few days ago, searching for my own metanoia moment. Aren’t we all?

The Grave Misfortune of Kid Adams, the Ouray Highwayman

One of the old stage routes in Ouray region was the run between the Camp Bird Mine and Ouray. Sometimes called the Sneffels stage, it operated every day except Sunday. Known to carry a treasure box full of gold bullion from the Camp Bird mill, it ran without incident for a year before it proved an irresistible draw to bandits. On Monday, October 2, 1899, the stage stopped at the mill and picked up two days of output bullion, worth from $6,000 to $10,000 ($153,000 to $254,000) depending on how you calculate inflation. James Knowles of the Camp Bird accompanied the bullion, and a second guard, Pat Hennesey, rode behind on horseback. W.W. Almond drove the stage. As usual, they stashed the loot in an iron box beneath the driver’s seat.

The stage hadn’t been going long when a man jumped out from a bank of willows and pointed a Winchester at the stage driver, commanding him to put up his hands. A second man materialized in front of Hennesey’s horse and ordered him to dismount. Although Hennesey had a .45 revolver hidden inside his coat, he found opportunity to use it.

The bandits both wore slouch hats, and their clothing were smeared with dust. Black masks with large eyeholes covered their faces. They ordered the three men to lie down with their faces in the dirt. The first bandit stood guard while the second rummaged through the stage. He grabbed mail pouches and baggage but somehow failed to get the gold. It wasn’t clear whether he couldn’t get the box opened or simply believed Almond’s story that they weren’t carrying any bullion that day.

The bandits told the men to get back on the stage and take off. Then they stole Hennesey’s horse and rode away with the mail pouch and minor items from the stage. Later, a man in the area reported that he was robbed of his horse around that time by two masked in in ann excited frame of mind.

As soon as the victims reached Ouray, the called backed to the Camp Bird and Revenue mines. Though everyone was relieved that nobody was hurt and the bullion was safe, posses quickly formed at the mines and headed off in pursuit. The victims had seen the bandits head in Edgar, Under-Sheriff McQuilken and City Marshal O.C. Van Houton in Ouray also formed posses.

Camp Bird manager J.W. Benson offered $1,000 reward for the apprehension of the bandits. Inspired by the reward, numerous miners and mill workers in the region quit work and took off in search of the robbers.

That same evening, the Camp Bird posse located  the highwaymen camped at Yankee Boy Basin. A gunfight ensued, but the bandits escaped. It was dark, and the posse pursued only briefly.

The next day, Sheriff Edgar and his men spotted the fugitives eleven miles from Ridgway. The posse gave chase, and a running fight ensued, with both parties shooting each other. The two bandits made for a tree-covered mountainside, but a horse stumbled and fell, dumping a bandit and his rifle. The man managed to mount again quickly and he vanished among the trees again, leaving behind a broken Winchester. He still apparently had a six-shooter. The bandits separated and disappeared.

A different version of this escape had a horse and rider making a suicidal leap into a box canyon and vanishing. This story came from the editor of the Silverite-Plaindealer, F.J. Hulaniski, who went into great detail describing this own heroic entry into the chase, a daring adventure during which he was pitched off his mount, making a “hasty visit to the clouds.” With unabashed enthusiasm, he described his horse as a “cross between a trick mule and a Texas bronco, [sic]” who “turned forward and backward somersaults [sic] with much ease, pitched in all languages, come down stiff legged like an educated steam pile-driver, and went out of one fit into another.”

Apparently, despite the less-than-spectacular haul of of robbery, just about every able-bodied male in the San Juans had set out to join the fun of chasing these bandits.

The Silverite-Plaindealer went on to describe a Tuesday night spent standing guard duty “without closing an eye or moving from one post assigned by the sheriff, who, with all the others, did likewise. The night was dark and cold, mountain lions, wolves, and wild cats prowled and yelled, the and taken as a whole was no picnic.” In a perplexing contradiction, the Ouray Herald reported on that Tuesday, Edgar and his posse gave up the search and headed back down the mountain to refresh themselves with some hot supper.

Meanwhile, the stagecoach driver, W.W. Almond, also a member of some posse or other, had told authorities that he believed he recognized the voice and clothing of one of the bandits as a young man known as Ouray as “Kid Adams.” He said that, prior to the robbery, Kid Adams had been hanging around the village of Sneffels (today a ghost town) with another man, acting, “in a very suspicious manner.”

On Thursday, the bandits were still scarce. Mr. Benson of the Camp Bird declared he would spare no expense in their capture, and local papers reassured their readers that the highwayman were cornered. A chorus of voices declared that they would take the men dead or alive.

By Friday, the second bandit had been identified as Ed Perry. Before switching to stage coach robbery, Perry had been painting the Camp Bird boarding house. He had also worked as a painter in Silverton and other San Juan towns. Papers reported that he was known as an OK fellow and that his partner had turned him bad.

Kid Adams also went be the name of John Carter. The Silverite-Plaindealer described him as “young, small in stature, and an all-round tough character, desperate, unscrupulous, and possessing the nerve of a hardened pirate.” He has also been working at the Camp Bird as a laborer on the mine dump, a job that presumably gave him opportunity to case the area.

At some point during the next few days, Ed Perry appeared at a place called Netherely’s ranch where he ate supper and spent the night. A posse nearly nabbed him, but he heard them coming and escaped. Two ranch hands followed him to the Montrose area and notified the authorities. Meanwhile, a Montrose sheriff encountered Perry at a creek with the latter was cooling his heels, literally, in the fresh mountain water. The sheriff did not arrest him, a story that inspired much irate grumbling among Montrose citizens. When the sheriff returned later with reinforcements, Perry had gone. The Montrose sheriff’s department later defended themselves, saying the sheriff did not know who Perry was when he first encountered him.

By Saturday, the reported value of the gold that the robbers overlooked had nearly doubled.

That same day, the saga turned much more serious. Deputy Sheriff George Kinchen of the San Miguel County wired Sheriff Edgar, asking him about the reward and requesting an arrest warrant for Adams. Several days later, he sent the following wire: “I have killed John Carter [Kid Adams], will be in Placerville tomorrow morning with the body–answer if I shall ship remains to Ouray.”

Before taking his last breath, the Kid had told Kinchen his name was John Carter and that his parents lived in Texas. The story that later emerged that he wasn’t John Carter from Texas but Walter Adams from a local family. His father was identified as the late James S. Adams, a prominent cattleman who had run a ranch located between Montrose and Delta.

After some delay, the body finally arrived in Ouray. Newspapers reported gruesome details about the condition of the Kid–that he was “shot clear through the middle of the body, and the whole top of the head is shot away by a revolver ball.” Deputy Kinchen described what happened for several reporters. He said he learned that the Kid had been spotted heading down Disappointment Creek in San Miguel County. Kinchen followed that trail to Jim Mair’s cattle ranch on lower Disappointment, which is where he found him, apparently working with Mairs.

Kinchen approached the ranch house and chatted with the men, pretending to be looking to buy some cattle. Mairs invited him in for supper and to spend the night. The Kid was watching him closely and Kinchen noted that he was armed.

At some point, Kinchen confided his intentions to one of the other men. Around ten o’clock at night, he judged the time right, pulled his gun on the Kid and told him to surrender. The Kid jumped away and pulled his gun, and the two men began firing at each other. During the gunfight, Kinchen and the other two men fled the cabin, leaving the Kid alone inside. Half an hour late, the men outside heard a shot.

They waited until the next morning before entering, when they discovered the Kid had shot himself in the head.

The coroner held an inquest and officially confirmed Kinchen’s story.

Despite the coroner’s ruling, rumor quickly circulated that Kinchen had murdered the Kid in cold blood. Folks complained that Walter Adams was only twenty-one years old and from a respected Colorado family. The Aspen Tribune also reported Undertaker James Pierson of Ouray as saying, “I have given the cause of death, murder. This is my privilege. The Kid didn’t get any money; neither did he kill anyone and he was shot in the back. His hair was not burned by powder. He did wrong but he should have been taken to Cañon City alive instead of dead.”

Dr. Hamilton Fish, who examined the body, said that a piece of the brain and skull were missing and attributed this to an autopsy, though no autopsy had been held. The Aspen Tribune reported a rumor that someone had tampered with the body to conceal the fact that his skull had been crushed, though it wasn’t clear why someone would do that.

Kinchen admitted that his bullet had hit the Kid in the back and come out the stomach. He responded to the attacks with this indignant offer: “Who dares say I killed the Kid in cold blood? He can meet me at any time with any weapon and have it out.”

Kinchen did have his supporters; some insisted that the Kid was a “tough character’ and would have killed Kinchen if he could. In Ouray, according to the Silverite-Plaindealer, “Some irresponsible idiot went so far this week as to post notice on a telegraph pole near the post office offering ‘$1,000 reward for the scalf pf Mr. Benson and $1500 reward for Deputy Kinchen, dead or alive. Marshal Van Houten very properly tore it down.”

Either way, Kinchen collected his reward and quickly left town.

A couple of months later, A Telluride Journal reported said he had spoken to a man who was in the Disappointment cabin at the time of the shooting. The unarmed man told the reported that it was the “merest accident that Adams didn’t get the deputy” and that Adams fired first. Adams had also apparently boasted about robbing the Union Pacific the previous summer and that he had shot a Wyoming sheriff.

On Saturday night, October 14, 1899, twelve days after the robbery, the stepmother of Kid Adams, Mrs. Lucy Adams Whipple, arrived in Ouray to take charge of the remains. Walter’s mother, Emma Frazier Adams, had died when he was very young, and his father had remarried when Walter was seven. The father, James Adams, had died a few years earlier, and Lucy kept in her care the remaining Adams children, two of whom were hers. In June 1898, Lucy Adams married Don Whipple.

Apparently overcome with grief over the death of her stepson, she described him as a “reckless, good-hearted fellow, with a dare-devil disposition, and has never been in serious trouble but once before.” She admitted he held up a stage in March 1898 at Meeker at Routt County. Drunk at the time, Walter made the driver dance and sing and drink whiskey before Walter took off empty handed, having made no attempt to actually rob the stage. Authorities arrested him but let him go because he was so young.

Lucy Whipple took his remains to Cañon City where one of his relative was a retired Baptist preacher. Walter was buried beside his parents.

While all this was going on, another young man of quite a different sort involved himself in the Kid Adams story. Dr. Alexander J. McIvor-Tyndall, dubbed the “highest authority on science” of palm reading and author of an upcoming book on the subject, had been giving private readings in Room 24 at Ouray’s Beaumont Hotel. He was described by an enthusiastic Ouray reporter as “a man of superlative intelligence, a bright conversationalist, and a deep thinker on scientific subjects.”

The Silverite-Plaindealer hired McIvor Tyndall to do a reading on Kid Adams. The palmist took an impression from the dead man’s hand, which was printed in large form on the front page of the paper. The scientist first offered several remarks about the shape of Walter’s nose, forehead and earlobes, which apparently indicated that he was a desperado. As for Walter’s palm, “the head line…is short, erratic, crooked and indirect. It is much like the headline of a natural lunatic. Dr. McIvor-Tyndall went on to make a dire prediction about the late Walter Adam’s fate: “A distorted and intense imagination, a misdirected ambition and an unreasoning will are the prominent features of this hand. But the unfortunate position of the lines of life, head, and heart presage grave misfortune.”

There were no further notices about the fate of the other robber, Ed Perry.

mill at camp bird mine

Mill at the Camp Bird Mine, shown here in 1940. The Camp Bird cranked out plenty of temptation for bandits.

Notorius San Juans


– David Rockefeller

ShadowRing will offer an academic, objective review of the history of The Council on Foreign Relations (America’s hidden Oligarchy) and their objectives such as:

  • Our interventionist foreign policy and the “false flags” used to entangle us in wars: (e.g., the Maine, Lusitania, foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, Tonkin Gulf, and unverified WMDs in Iraq).
  • “Free Trade” policy and how institutions like NAFTA and the World Trade Organization send jobs overseas as well as encroaching on our national sovereignty.
  • How the federal powers granted under the Patriot Act are creating a surveillance age that threatens our freedom and who really runs the U.S. Presidents and their administrations no matter which political party is in power.


O’Briens Pub & Grill

01/09/15 | By |

726 Main Street, Ouray

Page20_Obriens_webSlainte. The word is Irish Gaelic, meaning health. In a bar, Slainte means “cheers.” Doesn’t it seem a lot like “slake”?

That is what you should visit O’Brien’s to do.

The bummer is that there is no actual O’Brien associated with this bar and pub, a Ouray fixture since 2007. The founders are Jen and Rick Smith, of Ridgway; present owners are Shawn and Robin Dill. But the spirit — as it were — of O’Brien’s remains strong. The restaurant’s website, for example, remains frozen on March 17 of last year, where it advertises “$3 pints of Guinness and $5 Irish Car Bombs served all day.” It’s as if the place still has a hangover from so much merrymaking. There’ll be no cure for that metaphorical partying this weekend, when O’Brien’s will surely be mobbed by throngs from the Ice Festival. How could it not be? Twenty Irish whiskies — from Connemara to Tullamore Dew — are available for your sipping pleasure, along with five whiskies from Colorado and 10 varieties of Scotch. A dozen beers are on tap, including, naturally, Guinness.

If you keep your expectations modest, the menu delivers, as well. You might start with a plate of Irish Nachos — corned beef and cabbage atop a pile of cross-cut fries, smothered with cheese — or Leprechaun Balls, “actual testicles harvested from Ireland’s little green people, battered and fried” — this according to a wag on Yelp, who recommended them. (The “balls” are actually crispy new potatoes, tossed in a spicy Buffalo wing sauce and sprinkled with cheese.)

There are numerous sandwiches here, including a classic Reuben, French dip and Corned Beef and Slaw. According to our waiter, who used to eat lunch here every day before coming to work at O’Brien’s, “you can’t go wrong with any of them.” Burgers are also on offer, both “classic” (available with cheese, mushrooms, and a Guinness barbecue sauce) and vegetarian black bean. “Pub specialties” include Fish & Chips, fried cod served with French fries or (a recommended substitution) terrifically lumpy-and red-skinned mashed potatoes; Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Bangers and Mash, spicy sausage with more of those good potatoes.

For dessert, go with O’Brien’s pretty-much-universally popular Bread Pudding.

But food is not the main reason to choose O’Brien’s (you might note the word Pub in front of the word Grill in the restaurant’s title). The place really shines on holidays, particularly St. Patrick’s Day; during big sports events, such as the Winter Olympics (which my husband and I enjoyed on three wide-screen TVs, packed in with dozens of others at the restaurant’s sparkling bar) and on holidays. It is the sort of warm, welcoming place you repair to to rehash the day’s exploits on a canyon wall; to host a fundraiser, which the Ouray Public Librarians have done for two years running; to hear live music. Indeed, where was a key member of the Ouray Brewery this past New Year’s Eve, but playing in a band at O’Brien’s? Which should tell you something.

Slainte to that.

O’Brien’s is open from 11 a.m. daily. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m.; the bar is open until 2 a.m.


Chief Ouray – A Man of Peace

Ute Chief Ouray-275

“We do not want to sell a foot of our land that is the opinion of our people. The whites can go and take the land and come out again. We do not want them to build houses here.”


Born near Taos, New Mexico, about 1833, Ouray would grow up to become the leader of the Uncompahgre band of the Ute tribe and known as a man of peace.

According to oral history passed down by Ute elders, he was born on a gloriously clear night when a magnificent display of meteor showers streaked across the black winter sky. The elders believed it was a sign; a message from above of good things to happen. The Utes were created by Sinawav  (the Creator) and were placed in the mountains.  The Sinawav told the people they would be few in number but, they would be strong warriors, and protectors of their lands.

Ouray’s mother was a member of the Uncompahgre band of Ute and his father, Guera Murah, was half Jicarilla Apache. Ouray grew up in the Taos area where Spanish and English were the prevalent languages and would not learn to speak the Ute and Apache languages until later in life. He spent most of his youth working for Mexican sheepherders and fighting against rival Sioux and Kiowa.

When he was about 18 Ouray traveled into Colorado, and became a member of the Tabeguache Ute band, where his father, despite his Apache heritage, had become the leader. In 1859, he married a Tabequache Ute maiden by the name of Chipeta, who was actually a Kiowa Apache who had been adopted by the Ute as a child.

When his father died in 1860, Ouray became chief of the Ute Indians, including the Uncompahgre band. In Ouray’s role as chief, he was considered one of the Utes’ greatest leaders with strong characteristics of patience and diplomacy. He was often referred to as “The White Man’s Friend,” as he sought to work with the white settlers and the government.

In October, 1863, Ouray negotiated a treaty in which the Tabeguache Ute were assigned a reservation, but, unfortunately for the Utes, the vast majority of their lands east of the Continental United States, ended up in government hands. In 1868, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent his people and was appointed “head chief of the Utes” by the government. A new treaty created reservation lands in Colorado for the Tabeguache, Moache, Capote, Wiminuche, Yampa, Grand River, and Uinta, but again, more land was relinquished.

Though Ouray always tried to secure the best possible conditions for his people while still remaining friendly to the whites, each subsequent treaty brought increasing losses of land for the Utes. For many Utes building resentments began to form and a number of attempts were made on Ouray’s life. However, he survived and maintained his conciliatory attitude.

With the discovery of gold in Colorado, conditions for the Ute changed dramatically as  gold and then silver miners flocked upon their lands. As a result, relations between the Indians and the whites deteriorated. In the spring of 1878, Nathan Meeker assumed the role of Indian Agent at the White River Agency. “Dictatorial” in his brand of management, Meeker undiplomatically tried to force the Ute to farm, raise stock, discontinue their pony racing and hunting forays, and send their children to school. Meeker, determined to convert the Ute from primitive savages to hard-working, God-fearing farmers, persisted in forcing his reforms, even when warned that he was making the Utes furious. But Meeker ignored the warnings and ordered that a horse racing track be plowed under to convert to farmland. He also suggested to one that there were too many horses, and that they would have to kill some of them. The Ute, whose land Meeker was plowing under, resisted and a fist-fight occurred.

As a result, Meeker wired for military assistance, claiming that he had been assaulted by the Ute man, driven from his home, and severely injured. The government responded by sending 200 troops led by Major T.T. Thornburgh.

However, perceiving this action as an “act of war,” the Utes revolted. On September 29, 1879, before the troops arrived, the Indians attacked the agency, burned the buildings, and killed Meeker and nine of his employees. The incident is known as the Meeker Massacre. Meeker’s wife, daughter, and another girl were held as captives for 23 days. After the massacre, relief columns from Forts Fred Steele and D. A. Russell, Wyoming, defeated the Utes in the Battle of Milk Creek, Colorado, and ended the uprising.

Though Ouray had sent orders to the Ute band involved in the attacks to stop, his orders were ignored. Afterwards, he did his best to keep the peace but it was too late. Area settlers demanded the Utes’ removal. One headline in the October 30, 1879 issue of Harpers Weekly screamed “The Utes Must Go.”

Ouray found himself explaining to his people why they must leave their land. On March 6, 1880, the Southern Ute and the Uncompahgre acknowledged an agreement to settle respectively on La Plata River and on the Grand near the mouth of the Gunnison, while the White River Ute agreed to move to the Uinta reservation in Utah.

In the summer of 1880, Ouray and his wife, Chipeta, journeyed to the Southern Ute agency at Ignacio with the intent to negotiate once again with the white man. Though Ouray completed the journey, he was a sick man by the time he arrived. He died of Brights Disease on August 24, 1880.

He was buried secretly at Ignacio. Chief Ouray’s obituary in The Denver Tribune read:

“In the death of Ouray, one of the historical characters passes away. He has figured for many years as the greatest Indian of his time, and during his life has figured quite prominently. Ouray is in many respects…a remarkable Indian…pure instincts and keen perception. A friend to the white man and protector to the Indians alike.”

Forty-five years later, Ouray was re-interred in the cemetery southeast of the White River Agency and the grave appropriately marked.


His wife, Chipeta, continued to work for the Utes. When sufficient agricultural land was not found for the Uncompahgre in southern Colorado, a new reservation was established in 1882. Chipeta then relocated to the reservation in northeast Utah, where she was highly valued and always sat in on the chief’s meetings. She passed away in 1924.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated December, 2012.