100 Years Ago Today: Colorado Ratifies 19th Amendment

Aspen Democrat-Times, December 12, 1919

On December 12, 1919, Colorado became the 22nd state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Governor Shoup signed his approval of ratification a few days later, on December 15th.

The Amendment required 36 states to ratify it in order to pass. Illinois was the first state to ratify on June 10, 1919, and Tennessee was the 36th state on August 18, 1920, with a very closely contested state Representative vote of 50 yes to 49 no. The 19th Amendment was officially adopted on August 26, 1920.

Governor Shoup approving the ratification

However, women’s suffrage in Colorado actually began 27 years before the adoption of the 19th Amendment, in 1893. That year, the state held the Colorado Equal Suffrage Referendum, where the measure passed with 55 percent of the vote. 35,798 Colorado voters cast ballots in favor of the referendum, while 29,551 opposed the measure. The highest support for the referendum came in Mesa county, where 78% of voters approved it, and the lowest support was in Costilla county, where only 16% of the voters approved it.

100 Years Ago Today: Farmer and Hired Man Killed by Farmer’s Son

Herald Democrat, September 12, 1919

Twenty-year-old Ole Oren “Curtis” Slinde III shot and killed his father, Ole Oren Slinde Jr., as retribution for the death of his dog at his father’s hands. The Slinde family lived in Longmont, Colorado, where the younger Slinde brought home a dog a few days before the murder. Before killing his father, Slinde III also shot and killed a hired hand, one William Fulmer.

Why did the son kill Fulmer before killing his father?

This double murder story (triple if you count the dog, which, yes) ran on the front page of the Herald Democrat, Leadville’s newspaper, so the editor must have thought that something about this story would capture readers’ interest since the murders took place all the way out in Longmont, CO, east of Boulder.

My guess is that the son’s mental state was the central point of interest in the story. Oren Slinde is called a “boy” in the article although he’s 20 years old. His quotes, “No one has a right to kill a dog” and “I like dogs, don’t you?” are loaded with both moral certainty and naivety. Is he like Lennie in Of Mice and Men and just inherently simple? The young man also confessed immediately to the police when they arrived, despite the fact that he was trying to bury the bodies and cover up the crime.

I can’t find any information about Oren Slinde’s murder trial, but according to the 1920 census he was imprisoned at the Canon City Penitentiary, so it must have been a fairly quick prosecution and sentencing.

And as quickly as he was imprisoned, he was almost immediately transferred out of the Federal Pen and into the asylum. On Feb 1, 1920, the Herald Democrat ran an article that said Governor Shoup’s Lunacy Commission found 26 Canon City inmates to be deemed insane, and among them was Oren Slinde.

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Herald Democrat February 1, 1920

According to the Herald article, “a competent medical determination of the mental condition of persons committed to the state prison whose sanity appeared doubtful was asked some weeks ago by Warden Thomas J. Tynan.” As a result of the Commission, “the persons adjudged insane will be at once removed to the state hospital for the insane,” which was in Pueblo, CO.

Pueblo Insane Asylum

Slinde’s life in the asylum is a mystery, but according to Find a Grave, Oren Slinde III died in 1935 in Pueblo, CO at the age of 36. I couldn’t find any more information about the cause of death nor whether he died in the asylum, but it seems that he did.

Note: there are quite a few spelling errors in the original article. The family central to this article is named Slinde, not Flinde, and records show that their name was originally spelled Slindee. They were Norwegian. The father’s name is Ole Oren Slinde Jr., and the son’s name is Ole Oren “Curtis” Slinde III according to his WWI Draft Card. Slinde the elder was born in Sogn, Jevnaker kommune, Oppland fylke, Norway.

100 Years Ago Today: Mob Hunts Two Murderers

Aspen Democrat-Times, April 12, 1919

In March 2019, Colorado lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 19-182, which would have abolished capital punishment in the state. Just one month later, the bill was already dead, for another year anyway. But that’s only the most recent chapter in the fraught history of the death penalty in Colorado. The death penalty has been abolished and reinstated twice in the state’s history.

The death penalty in Colorado was instated as a reaction to rampant vigilante justice, lynch mobs, and hangings without due process in the early years of Colorado territory and state history. A total of 103 people have been executed by the state and/or territory, and only one person, Gary Lee Davis in 1997, has been executed in the last 50 years. John Stoefel committed the first murder in Denver in 1859, and after a three day trial, was hanged from a tree near Cherry Creek as the first person executed under Colorado capital punishment, although the death penalty wouldn’t become formal law until 1861.

Capital punishment was abolished in Colorado in 1897, but was reinstated in 1901 due to a rise in vigilante justice. So lynch mobs like the one in today’s article aren’t really that surprising. A grizzly double murder takes place near the small towns of Rye and Walsenburg, and it’s practically historical precedent when nearly 100 men “armed to the teeth” gather to find the killers. Today’s article makes the mob’s action sound almost quaint, describing it as “an old fashioned man hunt.”

Entrance to the Death Cells at Canon City Penitentiary, 1920s
Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy

So what exactly happened on the road between Pueblo and Rye one hundred years ago, and how did the murderers get caught?

On April 11, 1919, George Bosko (24) and his younger brother, Thomas Bosko (17), went to Pueblo looking for work on the Hatchet Ranch, located ~25 miles from there near Rye, CO. George was trying to get money to start a garage in Lafayette, CO with his brother-in-law, Horace McFadden. George Bosko committed one felony already in order to start this business when he forged a check in his father’s name, although his father did not press charges. His next felony would escalate quickly.

After hitchhiking their way to the ranch, George and Thomas were turned down for work, so they headed back out on the road where they were picked up by two men test driving a new Dodge car. Elton C. Parks, an automobile dealer in Pueblo, was giving a lesson in how to operate the vehicle to William T. Hunter, who was ready to buy the car. Hunter mentioned to Parks that he had $3,000 in cash on him for the purchase. George Bosko and his brother, upon hearing this from the back seat, decided to kill the men and make off with the money.

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1919 Dodge Roadster

George Bosko took out his pistol and shot Elton Parks in the back, through the seat of the car. Parks was killed immediately. Bosko then shot William Hunter, who managed to escape the car and flee on foot. The brothers dragged Parks’ body from the car and threw him down the nearby arroyo. George Bosko pursued William Hunter and shot him two more times, killing him. The brothers left his body in the arroyo as well, but not before being seen by two people, William Reed and Jack Parker, in an approaching car. The Bosko brothers stopped the car at gunpoint and told Reed and Parker to go back to Pueblo, which they did.

Word reached Pueblo and the nearby towns of Rye and Walsenburg that Parks and Hunter were dead, both of whom were well known to the community, and each was married with two small children. Immediately, a hot blooded posse formed and started hunting the men. They found the abandoned Dodge south of Pueblo with an overheated radiator, but there was no sign of the Bosko brothers. The posse continued their manhunt into the mountains where their chase was stymied by the unforgiving terrain.

Rye, Colorado circa 1930
Denver Public Library Western History and Genealogy

Meanwhile, the Bosko brothers somehow made it back to Pueblo, where they boarded a train to Lafayette to stay with their sister and brother in law, Mary and Horace McFadden. After staying only a few days, they left for Utah to hide from police. However, they confessed their crime to the McFaddens, who eventually gave up the Bosko brothers’ location to the police after intense questioning.

Sheriffs and Under-sheriffs from Utah and Colorado collaborated quickly, especially for 1919, and on May 21, 1919, the Bosko brothers were in custody back in Pueblo, where they signed a confession of their crimes. Apparently, things almost turned out much differently, for a Pueblo Chieftain headline from that month read “George Planned to Slay his Brother and Kill Himself”.

Since the brothers had already confessed, there was no trial for guilt. Instead, a jury was rigorously selected to determine degree of crime as well as sentencing. Sheriffs were placed throughout courtroom during the two day trial in case there was indication of mob justice. The jury took two and a half hours to bring back a first degree murder decision with a sentence of death for George Bosko and life imprisonment for Thomas Bosko. Although the execution by hanging was supposed to take place in September, it was continuously pushed back, notably in July of 1920, when George Bosko was given a three month reprieve so that a lunacy claim could be investigated.

Automatic Hanging Machine in Canon City Pententiary, 1930s
Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy

Finally, after almost two years of failed appeals, George Bosko would be executed in December of 1920 at the Canon City Penitentiary. His execution date was held earlier than planned when Bosko collapsed in his cell and pleaded to be killed after his final emotional visit with his mother.

George Bosko wrote a final letter to his mother the night before his execution saying, “What ever we suffer here will only be better for us after death. For God has everything prepared for us, even for me. May peace from Almighty God come down on you and rest you and give you happiness and joy.”

He was put to death by hanging on December 10th, 1920. His brother spent the rest of his life in prison.

Inside Canon City Penitentiary c.1890
Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy

100 Years Ago Today: Blizzards and Lizards

Montrose Daily Press, March 4, 1919

M. H. Loeffler was a tailor and prominent Grand Junction Elk member who was known not only for his custom suits, but also for promoting and selling the Hynes Level Measure, which was the first instrument of its kind that could measure the angle of a person’s shoulders.

Hynes Level Measures as sold by Loeffler

Anyway, he was riding the not-mentioned-by-name Rio Grande Southern Railroad in today’s article. The RGS was a narrow gauge railway built between 1890-1893 by the legendary “Pathfinder of the San Juans”, Otto Mears.

The railroad navigated through the steep, majestic San Juan mountain range in southwestern Colorado in order to connect the mining towns of Ridgway and Durango. It featured several hundred-foot long stretches of trestle bridges in order to pass through such dramatic mountain terrain, which also meant it was expensive to build and maintain.

Lizard Head Pass on the Rio Grande Southern Railroad Line

Soon after it was completed, the RGS suffered from the Silver Panic of 1893 when the area’s mines closed en masse. The railroad would continue to struggle financially through the Great Depression, but it managed to survive until 1953 by pivoting from expensive steam locomotives to the odd-looking hybrid railcar called the Galloping Goose, which ran from 1931 – 1952.

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Galloping Goose with Lizard Head Rock in Background

The fleet of seven Galloping Goose railcars had motorized bus bodies fitted with cow catchers up front, and they featured a passenger car in the back. Originally painted black and green, all seven were painted silver in 1935 and remained so until their end. The Galloping Goose railcars were all built in manufacturing plants in Ridgway, and they carried mail between the small San Juan towns in addition to becoming popular tourist rides as well. Today you can find Galloping Goose railcars #2, #6, and #7 at the Colorado Railroad Museum, railcar #4 in Telluride, CO, railcar #5 in Dolores, CO, and railcar #3 at Knott’s Berry Farm in California.

Colorado Experience episode on the Galloping Goose railcars

Now let’s head back to the year 1919, where our friend Loeffler is on a steam-powered train on the Rio Grande Southern, heading over the iconic Lizard Head Pass when the train he’s on runs into a natural phenomenon that today’s weekend travelers on I-70 may have seen pummel their route: a huge avalanche.

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Avalanche covers I-70 near Copper Mountain on March 3, 2019

Another reason why the RGS was so expensive to maintain is that any winter service required a constant battle against snow. Loeffler says that 20-30 feet of snow has piled up near Windy Point, which is located just north of the iconic Ophir Loop. That snow total seems like a stretch, but ok.

If he came from Lizard Head Pass in the south, traveling north to Montrose, then that means his train also passed through the notoriously avalanche-prone Ames Slide area, where I’d fully believe that 20-30 feet of snow could have piled up. Regardless, I can only imagine the anxiety of traveling by rail through so much snow.

Blue Line is the Rio Grande Southern Line near Ophir
Rio Grande Southern being dug out from massive snowfall

Today, you can drive over Lizard Head Pass on CO-146 and see the titular Lizard Head Rock spire, which was once featured at the center of the Rio Grande Southern seal. In 1911, a huge rockfall occurred on Lizard Head Rock which took out the larger, taller spire and left the smaller spire as the most prominent feature, which it still is today. Albert Ellingwood, storied mountaineer, recorded the first known ascent of Lizard Head Rock in 1921. Read his trip report here.

Rio Grande Southern Railroad logo featuring the iconic Lizard Head Rock
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Lizard Head today
Rio Grande Southern Railroad on Lizard Head Pass

100 Years Ago Today: Eat Mangel Soup

EAT MANGEL SOUP

WITH THE AMERICAN ARMY IN FRANCE, Jan. 11 — Darmstadt’s civilian population has been staving off starvation with mangel soup, mangels stewed in water before American occupation, according to Edward Prunier, of New Haven, Conn., private in the 102nd infantry, 26th division, who was prisoner of war there for eight months.

“The Boche have been starving, around Darmstadt anyway,” said Prunier. “You cannot imagine how scarce food was. Mangels, stewed in water to make what they called soup was the chief diet of the civilian population. Why food was so scarce I believe anyone would have sold his soul for a biscuit.”

Prunier, who earned six cents a day on a factory while a prisoner, lived entirely on Red Cross food and found his sole recreation in playing games with equipment sent the 35 American prisoners at Darmstadt by the Y.M.C.A.

Aspen Democrat-Times, January 11, 1919

This headline sure is misleading. I thought we were getting a recipe for an early 20th century cure-all called Mangel Soup. Nope, instead it’s a retrospective morale-boost tucked inside a piece of World War I, POW journalism.

What the heck is mangel soup? Let’s start with the mangel, which is a hardy, weather-resistant beet that around this time in Germany was fed only to livestock, according to G. F. McCauley in Soldier Boys.

Ugly Food by Horsey and Wharton, illuminates the etymology of the word as a bastardization of the word “mangold” which means beet in German. Horsey and Wharton go on to describe the baseness of this vegetable by telling the story of John Le Marchant, a British cavalry officer who used the mangel as a means of testing swordsmanship because the oddly shaped beet with tough skin would flop around like a wounded man when tossed on a board, and therefore was good practice for new techniques of sword slicing.

mangel-wurzel

Mangel soup, we learn, was made by stewing mangels in water “to make what they called soup.” Prunier was so disgusted by this food that was the “chief diet of the civilian population” that he thinks anyone would sell their “soul for a biscuit.” Excuse me, Mr. Prunier, but I think one Dwight K. Schrute would have something to say for such maligning of a perfectly good, hearty beet.

Regarding the use of the term “Boche” referring to Germans, we turn now to Current History: A Monthly Magazine of the New York Times.

Numerous attempts have been made to explain the origin of the word “boche” which is now almost universally used by the French soldiers when speaking of the Germans…

Boche is an abbreviation of caboche…This is a recognized French word used familiarly for “head,” especially a big, thick head (“slow-pate.”)…Boche seems to have been used first in the underworld of Paris about 1860, with the meaning of a disagreeable, troublesome fellow.

100 years ago today, a WWI POW survivor on pittance factory pay remembers the disgusting beet soup that (slur-described) German civilians had no choice but to eat because they were starving so badly that they probably would’ve sold their souls for a biscuit.