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Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Murder Mystery

Post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw


Most people think Colorado Springs, Colorado was always a nice resort town. The founding fathers didn't allow the manufacture of 'spirits', property owners needed to be of good moral character, and the company also donated land to build churches. After all General Palmer was a Quaker, even though he fought in the Civil War (on the Union side) as had been a POW. The town was all of the above and more.

Helen (Hunt) Jackson and Isabella Bird arrived in late1873. Neither had an instant love with this new town.

Around the same time of the arrival of the two illustrious ladies, there was a death that to this day has not been solved. Below are the 'facts'.

On November 3, 1873 W.H. (Judge) Baldwin met his demise by person or persons unknown. He may even have met that demise by his own actions.
His body was found in the well at Green and Stitzer’s slaughterhouse. After his body was recovered from the well, at 2 PM, it was noted that his pocket had been turned inside out and the money he that had been on his person the night before was missing. His horse was tied to the fence outside and his hat and shoes were found on the floor about five feet from the well. There was a bruise on his face near one eye. Those are the facts reported in the local paper about finding the body.

Here are additional facts which may have some bearing on the Judge Baldwin's death: The water in the well where the body was about five and a half feet deep and the well itself about four feet square.
The night before Baldwin was seen in town said to be intoxicated Others said he was slightly drunk. He said he was going home, which he may have meant his sheep ranch north and east of downtown Colorado Springs in the Templeton Gap area. Baldwin was seen leaving the Billiard Hall with a man name Blondin, but Blondin returned about 2 ½ hours later. Later Blondin was arrested for intoxication, but slipped away around daylight. (In 1873 the city did not have a jail.)

Also in late 1873 there was a movement to drive out all the 'liquor sellers’ in Colorado Springs. One woman after notice of Baldwin's death, wrote to the paper and said the following: 'Baldwin was generous to a fault, children recognized him as a friend but was the victim of a disease.' She also said ” if the vendor of liquor has sons, when he looks at them, let him think of the stop which was made unsteady by his hand, of the brain which was crazed, of the struggle in the bottom of the well… The poor man…was trying to reform”

The Root & Reef saloon had their court case thrown out on November 22. It seemed the witnesses who testified could not remember if the drank in the saloon or not. This was a contentious time in the growth of the new town.

Below is some additional information on the deceased. He was a ‘judge’ by virtue of judging a sheep contest at one of the territorial fairs. When drunk he would stand in the street and give speeches about General Jackson, the laws of the Constitution and the rights of man. After the elections in September of 1973 his new speech was “I’ll tell ye, boys, I’ll tell ya; I worked hard for ye, accordin’ to th’ rights o’ man and th’ laws o’ the Constitution. I’ll tell ye, boys —the New Town’s got it.”

There was also the story that he had been scalped in South America, and was ever ready to show the scar. He arrived in 1868 and started life here as a sheep herder. (Sheep were a major part of the early economy. I'll write more on that in another post). Later that same year he was shot in the leg and head by a band of Indians and left for dead. About four months before his death he had about 1,000 sheep but sold them to buy liquor. He also at the time of his death had a ranch worth about $1,000.

To this day there is speculation as to what really happened that night of November 3, 1873. Many of the facts are probably lost to time. The town was new and trying to establish itself as a wonderful place to live. Was it a conspiracy, murder or just an accident. We may never know, but the story is a fascinating one.


Film and Photography on the Front Range” (Regional History Series): Colorado Springs, CO. Pikes Peak Library District 2012

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15 comments:

  1. What a mystery! Boy, he sure had it rough! Great post, Doris--I love these little historical vignettes about people and places I don't know about.
    Cheryl

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  2. Thank you Cheryl. Now he is this iconic character in the cities history. There is even a bar/brewery named after him. (Smile) Doris

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  3. What a story, Doris! You are so good at digging up these little-known tidbits that say so much about a bygone era and local culture.

    There's no telling what happened to the judge, but he sure sounds like a colorful character. :-D

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    1. Oh he was, what made it more interesting was he was this 'outlandish' liberal in a very conservative town. There just wasn't room in the post to include suppositions and nuances. (Sigh) But it would make a good story if I were so inclined (Grin) Doris

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  4. Doris, boy that "Judge" was a character. When I lived in Colorado Springs a hundred years later ( my husband was stationed at Ft Carson) there was no problems getting "drink" , I would have loved to have known more about the history when I was living there, thanks for bringing us a "taste" of the old West.

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    1. Linda, you are welcome. My passion is history and I do love the research. It is these 'small pieces' that make the hunt so enjoyable.
      And yes, it is no problem to get a drink or even brew the stuff now. There is a huge microbrew industry here. Doris

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  5. The forensic fan in me wants to dig up the bones and at least find out how he died. The speculation alone makes a good story. Thanks!

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    1. It does, doesn't it. The 'what ifs' and 'hows' just lead one down the primrose path and maybe someday we'll find out.
      You know, I think an anthology with the 'judges story' as the starting point would be fun...HMMM?
      Doris

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  6. Very interesting post, Doris. This case really gets the imagination whirling as to the possibilities, and of course none land on accident that would be too simple. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Kristen, You are correct. Accident is much too easy and there were so many variables that could have played into the scenario. Glad you enjoyed this one. Doris

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  7. Doris,
    If he was so outspoken, it seems likely someone did him in. But, perhaps there was a scuffle and he accidentally fell down the well. Certainly a mystery. Thanks for sharing such great info.

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    1. Youa are welcome Kristy. There is so much that has not made it down through history. As a result the incident lends itself to speculation, but if the papers are correct, it did even back then. Doris

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  8. Doris, go ahead and shoot me now for being so dang late. I liked reading about this mysterious death. Seeing as how his pockets were empty, I'm thinking a robbery was the reason, but how the heck did he die? How funny that no one at the Root and Reef Saloon couldn't remember if he was there or not. (Who in the world thought of that weird name for a saloon, any way?) I suppose it could just be a bunch of people too deep in their cups to remember how to even get home, let alone who else was at the saloon.
    I did so enjoy your murder mystery blog, Doris. All the very best to you.

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    1. Thank you Sarah. It is a story that has so many interesting pieces and none of them seem to fit. When I was researching this post, I kept running into all these pieces that seemed to fit...but. Doris

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