“Notorious Telluride” Tidbits

These are tidbits from my new book, Notorious Telluride.

Wanted Dead or Alive: Jesse Munn
The murder of Night Marshal Arthur Goeglein by Jesse Munn was one of the biggest stories in 1911 Telluride. Munn had grown up in the region and was well-known as a miner and prospector — but he had a bad temper and a tendency to carouse. When the young, popular Night Marshal Goeglein took Jesse’s gun away from him and threw him in a jail cell for a night, Jesse Munn found it unforgivable. A few months later, his simmering resentment exploded, and the result was Goeglein lying in the street of Telluride’s red light district, a fatal bullet hole in his back. Jesse Munn was nowhere to be found. That night was just the beginning of the long, tragic saga of Jesse Munn.

Jesse Munn

Jesse Munn

Death in Disappointment Valley
Jack Dunham was an easy-going, hard-working ranchman who had grown up in the Disappointment Valley in western San Miguel County. He married the beautiful and tempestuous Lena Estes. Jack’s childhood friend, Jim Nash, was wild and charming and aggressive — and more successful than Jack. His marriage to Lena’s sister, Tennie Estes, should have been the beginning of a long, happy life together, but Lena had other ideas. When Jack was crippled with rheumatism, Lena took his place on the range — riding alongside Jim Nash. What developed between Lena and Jim during those long lonely days literally became the death of Jack Dunham — helped along by a bullet from Jim Nash’s gun. What happened next surprised even the hardiest souls — Tennie moved out and Jim Nash married the widow Lena Estes. And two decades later, Honey Nash, the son of Jack and Lena, had his revenge against the man who shot his father.

The Highgrader and Rattlesnake Liz
One of the most common crimes in 19th century San Miguel County was high grading. Simply put, high grading means swiping ore from a working mine — a crime usually pulled off by miners and mill workers. One such fellow, mill worker Will Erwin of the Liberty Bell gold mine, had a weakness to support — his love of a woman nicknamed Rattlesnake Liz. He efforts to keep her in finery led to his downfall.

The Troubled Saga of the Smuggler-Union Mine
At the turn of the last century, Telluride was dogged by labor troubles — many of them centered around the Smuggler-Union mine. Problems began when the mine was bought out by an outside interest and the rabidly anti-union Arthur Collins arrived to take over management. Within about a year, 350 Smuggler-Union miners went on strike. The union leader, Vincent St. John, was a non-violent, charismatic man, and the mine owners resorted to all sorts of lies and low-down trickery to try and discredit him. After the strike was finally settled in favor of the union, this hatred of St. John and the union continued. When Arthur Collins was murdered, the union was naturally blamed. Unfortunately for the anti-union factions, their efforts to frame St. John and other union leaders for the murder failed in court. But that didn’t stop them from declaring martial law, bringing in gun slinging killers, promoting endless lies about the union, and eventually exiling from Telluride anyone who supported the union. A sordid tale about a gross abuse of power.

Smuggler-Union Mill

Smugger-Union Mill. Drawing by Richard Turner

The Snowy Adventures of the Millionaire Kid
There’s always some kid who thinks he deserves to get away with anything — and that was the Millionaire Kid. After he was caught helping himself to his boss’s paycheck, he bolted from town and headed straight into the wintry San Juans. Somehow he survived an overnight trek from Telluride to Ophir in midwinter — up and down the mountains — only to be captured. But that wasn’t the end of his snowy adventures…

Where is James O’Kelly
One of the most puzzling stories is the strange disappearance of James O’Kelly, a popular Telluride saloon owner who filled his pockets with cash one day and walked out of town. Spotted here and there by various travellers, O’Kelly’s behavior got stranger and stranger, and finally he just vanished. It was two years before the devoted Mrs. O’Kelly found out what happened to her husband.

The San Miguel County Bank Robbery
Probably the most famous story in Telluride’s history — the first criminal act of Butch Cassidy.

The Life and Times of the Tremont Saloon
In its colorful 30 year life during the heydey of Telluride, the Tremont Saloon was the scene of many robberies and shootings — as well as the beloved watering hole and gambling den where citizens came to get the news, lose their paychecks, and forget their troubles.

The Disappearance of a Tomboy Bride
Mrs. Anna Borg had an admirer — but maybe not the best kind. One August morning, she left her little shack at the Tomboy mine and set out on the long walk down to Telluride. She never arrived.

Banquets at the Telluride Treasury
Telluride’s coffers have suffered considerably at the hands of her keepers — and these are their stories. Or, What happens when town officials find themselves the subject of mug shots?

Marshal Jim Clark
The mysterious life and death of Telluride Marshal Jim Clark.

The Tale of Trembling Bandit
This perhaps should be called The Tale of Tall Tales Told by the Telluride Journal. How a frightened bandit accidentally got away with a whole lot of loot, and then was turned into a criminal mastermind by the press.

For Love of Diamonds
Martin Gabritsch liked shiny things. Telluride’s popular druggist, Henry Baisch, was a successful business man, and he wore a lot of shiny things. Unfortunately for Henry.

Telluride’s Gunfighter-Deputy, Bob Meldrum
Bob Meldrum was a killer. Still, he hadn’t killed as many folks as his reputation claimed and most of his victims were either drunk out of their minds or facing away from him. He was almost always arrested after he shot someone but managed to wriggle out of the charges — sometimes with a little help from powerful friends.

Bob Meldrum, gunfighter

The gunfighter Bob Meldrum

Doc Mentzer and the Mysterious Monroes
It’s pretty clear that Doc Mentzer had a drinking problem and that he shot his wife. What wasn’t clear was whether it was an accident. There were also a lot of juicy stories about the star witness, Will Monroe, and the victim herself — neither of whom were quite who they said they were.

Death by Gold Fever
This is the sad story of my great uncle Charlie Turner, who was killed by Frank Ensign in Ophir in 1912. One of the papers of the day said Charlie was a crazed bully who got what was coming to him, but there is much more to his tale. Frank Ensign was armed while Charlie was not — so why would Charlie keep attacking a man who was aiming a gun at him and promising to shoot? Maybe there was a real reason behind Charlie’s rage.

Brown Brothers cabin near Ophir

The cabin above Ophir where the Brown Brothers and Charlie Turner lived. Photo by Peter D. Turner

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4 thoughts on ““Notorious Telluride” Tidbits

  1. Carol,
    I am really interested in the story of Jesse Munn. I have read the stories of his murder and trial of Marshal Goeglein in the Colorado Historical Newspaper Collection but the articles don’t give any information about his family.

    I would really appreciate any information you can pass on.

    Thanks.

    Cindy Logan

  2. Hi Cindy,
    Jesse was a rather tragic figure in my opinion. He showed great promise but turned out to be his own worst enemy. After he went to prison, he tried to escape and died during a shootout. Here’s a brief bio of Jesse from my book: ” Munn’s mother and stepfather, Mr. and Mrs. Sam H. Thompson, were prominent citizens who lived on the Thompson Ranch north of Durango until they sold it in 1906. Sam Thompson had been county commissioner of La Plata County for several years. Munn’s biological father was “said to have been killed in Durango, years ago, in some sort of trouble and his mother later married Thompson.” Jesse had a brother, R.D. Munn, also of Durango.” — Carol

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