Post copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw/Angela Raines
On the night of Friday, February 7, 1879, Joseph Ward shot Lafayette Shideler. Shideler died ten hours later as a result of the shot. So what happened? Was it Murder like the above headline from rhe Gazette said? Reporting was and maybe still is about headlines.
According to the papers, Shideler and two other young friends had gone to the Ward house. Knocking on the door around 10pm saying they had $2.00 Ward and where was his woman. When Ward said she'd gone to Leadville that morning the three retorted "that's too dammed thin". Ward then told them to come back in the morning. At that point someone threw something at the door, breaking one of the panels. Ward got his gun, and getting down on one knee fired through the broken panel at the three as they were running away.
The case came to trial, with allegations that Ward's wife was a prostitute. There were also two children in the house that night, a daughter and a son. The daughter testified at her father's trial and basically told the same story as her father. Ward, was found guilty of manslaughter and spent two years in the Territorial Prison in Canon City, Colorado.
What makes this story so fascinating? Well, in 1879 Ward appears to have been pictured as a fairly decent fellow. They pictured him as someone who was protecting his home. They talk about how Shideler brought his death on himself by his actions. By 1885 the paper paints a different picture. They talk about how he was not an 'enviable character'. That the sheriff had detected him coming from the brush with a horse to make his escape. (A completely different story from the one told in 1879). The 1885 version had the local town folks gathering to lynch Ward. They go on to say, that instead of learning his lesson in prison, he went to Leadville, 'where he was joined by his disreputable wife, who had placed him behind bars'. In 1885 this same story tells of his demise in Gunnison County Colorado on the road leading to Green River. His horse had two bullets in it, and Ward's body 'had been shot five times, and his body was completely riddled with bullets'. The final line of the 1885 article, " Thus another Colorado outlaw was a record takes his departure."
The final reason this story of Joe Ward keeps me coming back to the research, there were actually three Joe Wards, all 'criminals' operating in Colorado at the same time. Two were in prison at the same time, with a third not too far behind. I have found no photos of the Joe Ward who shot Shideler. There was also a Joe Ward in Igeria Park, near Steamboat Springs, who was more than a bit violent. The third was a thief working out of Pueblo, Colorado. Some day I hope to find and read the trial manuscript, if it still exists. Locate and find out where each of the three Wards are buried and any data I can find.
|Unused Guard Tower at the Territorial Prison|
This story, along with research on the Territorial Prison, built in 1874, prior to Colorado becoming a state, were the nuggets that helped me conceive the upcoming novella from Prairie Rose Publications.
In my upcoming novella "Angel of Salvation Valley", the hero has been incarcerated unjustly and kept in solitary. He makes a bargain to earn his release. His bargain, kill the woman who owns Salvation Valley.
A brief excerpt:
"What do you say, Carson?" Luke asked with a smile.
Andrew 'Drew' Carson stared at the man. Here was the break he had been praying for, or would have, if he were the praying kind. He looked at the stone walls around him, inhaled the musty smell of decay. Not just the decay smell of the buildings, but the decay of a soul, of hopes and dreams. Three long years he had dreamed of leaving this prison. But the cost, it seemed high and Luke was too smooth.
"Why the hesitation? You want out of here don't you?"
"Of course," Drew answered, cautious of the well–dressed man opposite him. The differences between the two were striking. Drew knew he smelled of old sweat and dirt. Luke was polished, smelling of bay rum and another scent Drew couldn't quite place, but recognized from somewhere.
"Then what is the hold up, if you will pardon the term?" The question came with a slight smile, a quick wink.
Drew cringed. He was here because they said he held up a stage and killed two of the passengers along with the guard, and wounded the driver.
Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku which is posted on the blog:
Home for His Heart: http://bitly.com/1Ibnw5U
Cowboy Celebraton: http://bitly.com/1MiguNL