100 Years Ago Today: Murder-Suicide at Tolland Station

Oak Creek Times, March 7, 1919

More tragedy on the old Moffat Road this week. On January 29th it was a boiler explosion on the hoodoo Engine No. 100 near Dixie Lake that killed two coworkers. Today it’s a murder suicide at the Tolland railroad station of the Denver Northwest & Pacific that left two friends dead.

In 1919, Tolland was the last railway stop before the big climb on the Moffat Road known as Giant’s Ladder, which topped out at the Continental Divide. The town is in a valley along the S. Boulder Creek, surrounded by mountains, with the crown of them, 13er James Peak, visible in the distance.

James Peak as seen from Tolland, CO with the railroad station on the right
Courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Department

Tolland was previously called Mammoth in its pre-railroad days, when it was a mining community and a wagon stage stop. The name changed when an attorney, Charles Hansen Toll, bought the land in 1893 for $1,000, renaming the town after his wife’s ancestral home of Tolland, England. Toll died in 1901, leaving the land to his wife, Katherine, who saw an investment opportunity when the DNW&P railroad came through in 1904. She and her children platted the land and sold off parcels.

Toll Inn, in Tolland, CO, burned down c.1910
Originally called the Mariposa Inn

Tolland had a year-round population of 250 in 1919, many of whom, like our soon-to-be-dead, W. H. “Shorty” Allen and James Carton, worked for the railroad. Commuter trains allowed for seasonal residents as well as day-trippers from Denver to come up to the cool and scenic Tolland at 8,900′, and the town grew a reputation for being a resort town. Tolland had shops, a dance pavilion, picnic shelters, saloons (until Colorado Prohibition in 1916), hotels, and the University of Colorado even built a Mountain Laboratory of Field Biology aka the “Bug House” in 1909.

Image result for tolland colorado historical pictures
Tolland circa 1900

But March is not tourist season. It’s cold season. And by the end of the day on March 6, 1919, two bodies would be very cold indeed. Shorty Allen and James Carton were both from Colorado Springs, and by other accounts were intimate friends. They had worked together in Tolland for the past six months. They were bunkmates, coworkers, and bachelors. I imagine them spending a lot of their time together. Maybe a bit too much time in the end.

Tolland Depot, rebuilt brick by brick from a Denver station
Giant’s Ladder railroad cuts in the background

The trouble between the men started over wash day duties, of all things. It’s unclear whether we’re talking clothes washing or house cleaning/washing. Regardless, Shorty Allen got mad at his friend, James Carton, because he thought Carton had shirked water carrying duties the previous week, and this week Carton was using too much water, which he didn’t have to carry. Every week, you see, the other one had to carry the water back to the railroad car where they bunked.

Allen got so mad over spilled milk…err…water that he picked up a broadaxe that had been sharpened to a razor’s edge and when Carton was bent over, he plunged the axe into Carton’s back, which severed his spinal cord and sunk into his lung. Carton fell to the floor and quickly bled to death.

Two other coworkers, Frank Hullenback and H. H. Wilson, who were also on the Moffat Railroad Bridge and Building Crew, witnessed the gruesome murder and ran out to tell others what happened. While they were gone, Allen, crying over what he’d done, took his .22 caliber rifle, and shot himself in the head, falling down dead over his friend’s body.

Tolland, Colorado in 1926
Image result for tolland colorado school house yellow
Restored Tolland School House, today

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s