In the 1870s, a small section of the narrow railway line She made her way down the walls of the Arkansas Canyon Cave in the heart of Colorado. Control of this railroad will serve as an important melodrama in the state’s mining history and will later be referred to as the “Royal Gorges War”. The accident occurred in the Arkansas Canyon during the years 1878-1880.
Masterson and Ben Thompson, two prominent gunmen on that day, stepped beside a warring railroad company – Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (AT&SF). The railroad company was trying to claim the tracks built by its competitor, Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG) in 1872 as a lucrative link between Denver and Wiplo.
The theater was set up in 1872 when the Denver and Rio Grande railroad company (D&RG) built a narrow railroad from Denver to Pueblo, Colorado. After that they opened a line from Pueblo to the ecclesiastical mines, which are located 37 miles west of Pueblo. Then they built south of Pueblo, and ran a streak across the mountains of southern Colorado and in the San Luis Valley until they reached El Morro in 1876. They expanded the railway line to Fort Garland in 1877 and finally to Alamosa in June 1878.
In the same timeframe, Atchison and Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF) Railroad were building west of Kansas City. AT&SF reached the Colorado Line by 1872, but due to delays it did not reach Pueblo until 1876. During that same year, Leadville was flourishing as a center for silver mines and a large amount of cargo was to be shipped in and out of the city.
Realizing this possibility, AT&SF decided to operate a railroad from Pueblo to Leadville. This required that the line pass through the royal gorge of the Arkansas River, located fifty miles west of Pueblo. The narrow lane will only allow one railway to be built. This was the crux of the conflict. D&RG wanted the same.
By 1878, both railroads walked to men and equipment to the area in the hope of securing the right to pass through the gorge while the company’s attorneys fought for court rulings in their favor. In April of that year, AT&SF had put more than 300 men in the valley to secure their construction sites. D & RG matches this number but had trouble keeping men on hire because their competitor paid higher wages.
AT&SF attorneys obtained a local court to issue a temporary injunction against D&RG, which resulted in the suspension of any additional work in the valley. However, before AT&SF took advantage of this opportunity, D&RG obtained a court order preventing Kansas from doing any additional work on its path. As the two companies stopped, the men were placed at critical points in the valley to ensure their control of the line and the equipment.
D&RG built several stone forts under the supervision of their chief engineer, a man by the name of James R. Remer who served in the Civil War and knew how to build the rock chest required to fight a battle. Dry-build “DeRemer Forts” construction in Texas Creek and Spikebuck feature weapon outlets and path views below.
Fortunately, the rock fortresses of both sides have never been used to ambush each other. By November 1878 D&RG ran out of money and forced to make a deal with its arch rival. On December 1 of that year, they issued a 30-year lease to AT&SF, which gave them use of all railways and all equipment – including rolling stock.
Once AT&SF was controlling all tracks and trains, they quickly began to press more business for Kansas City and less for Denver. Realizing their mistake, D&RG has started taking legal action to break the lease. Finally, in the first part of 1879, the case was brought before the Washington Supreme Court. In anticipation of a purple response, regardless of the court ruling, each company sent armed men to defend their rights and property. AT&SF has hired Pat Masterson and a group of 33 men who recruited them in Dodge City to set up a camp in the valley to defend construction workers and company property. They arrived on a private train and after setting up the camp, dubbed “Dodge City”, Pat returned to Kansas.
On April 21, the Supreme Court ruled that D&RG had the previous right to the valley, but they had no exclusive rights. The decision, diluted as it was, was not easy for either side. In the last part of May, the Colorado District Attorney filed a lawsuit in the state court to stop AT&SF from operating the railroads within the state. Then, on June 10, State Judge Thomas M. Bowen issued an order prohibiting AT&SF from using or operating any D&RG buildings, equipment, or rolling stock – canceling their lease. With Judge Bowen’s order at hand, D&RG officers went to the mayors of each county who crossed the railroads to seize all their belongings.
Before the orders were handed over to the county mayors, AT&SF ordered Pat Masterson to return to Colorado and focus their forces on Pueblo. He quickly recruited 50 armed men and transported them on a special train. This group included Ben Thompson and dozens of his Texas colleagues.
Initially, when approaching the show, Ben was reluctant to sign, fearing he would be accused of murder if violence erupted. Finally, he agreed to hold the stone circular house in Pueblo until law enforcement officers gave him legal papers to seize him. According to Walton’s book (Ben Thompson’s life and adventuresThompson agreed to do the work for $ 5,000 and was contacted by D&RG to deliver the round for $ 25,000. Ben refused the offer, saying, “I will die here, unless the law relaxes me.”
On June 11, the Denver Sheriff and his court of D&RG men seized the AT&SF office and a round tour of Denver. Then a train from D&RG agents headed south to seize the property along the road. Meanwhile, the former Colorado governor, AC Hunt, raised a group of 200 men, took a train, headed north, seized all the small stops and took clients as prisoners. In Cucharas, Hunt forces shot her with twelve AT&SF men – killing a Mexican and injuring an Irishman, Dan Sullivan.
At Pueblo, Sheriff Henley R. Price supported two D&RG officials, J.A. McMurty and R. Weitbrec provided copies of Judge Bowen orders to all AT&SF workers at dawn. After serving the orders, Sharif walked and rested to the train dispatcher’s office at 8:30. The sender refused to let him take over the building and the police warden told him that he had thirty minutes to think about it.
At 9:00, Price returned and found the office full of dozens of armed AT&SF men who refused to budge. After his refusal, Sharif returned to the Grand Central Hotel and recruited 100 additional deputies – all armed and prepared with plenty of free wines.
Returning to the warehouse at noon, Sheriff Price and his army demanded that those in the warehouse surrender. They refused and the body moved to the roundabout where Ben Thompson and Texans were waiting. Facing the police warden, Bin said that he was assigned the company property and could not give it up without authorization to do so. Then the police warden said that he came to disperse an armed gang.
Ben replied that there was no armed mob in the roundabout, only men from the construction crew were sent to guard the property of the company. Saying that some of the men were carrying weapons, Bin Mamur called the police to enter the roundabout and look at the men to see if any of them were guilty of violating the law. The price was allowed to enter the round alone and after conducting a brief search without any arrests.
Facing a powder keg from the standoff, Sheriff Price pulled his men out and sought advice from local lawyers. After reviewing the judge’s order, he was notified that he was not authorized to use force to seize AT&SF property. He chewed it until 3:00 pm and then decided it was time to take action regardless of the legal aspects of the matter. He and fifty of his alcohol-laden deputies met in front of the Victoria Hotel where they were provided with rifles equipped with spears and a heavy portion of ammunition, with permission from D&RG. They crawled into the warehouse and formed a skirmish line in front of the building.
Around that time, he fought as W.F. Chumside ataxia from the ticket office. He was said to be “under the influence of a little alcohol” and wanted to argue over the warehouse issue. One of the deputies soon hit him and kicked him in the head.
After that, Al-Bouzy went to the telegraph office and started shooting while they were hitting the door. Most of the men inside the office quickly escaped from the back doors and reached safety. Unfortunately, Harry Jenkins fell as he escaped and was shot through the chest with the bullet placed in the spine. The wounded man was installed in an express vehicle and sent for medical attention. He died a little while.
After storming the Telegraph office, Al-Busi raced to the Round Building, the last bastion of AT&SF defenders. Thompson met them outside the circular cry: “Come on, whores! If you want to fight, you can fight one.” Before he could support his challenge, he was overpowered by dozens of deputies and thrown into prison. Without their leader, those inside would want to quarrel. Soon after, they surrendered to the building without firing a shot. They are all disarmed and cut across the street to join Thomson in the crowded little prison on West Fifth Street.
Late that evening, the former governor of Hunt and his party arrived by train from the south, and then continued their ascent to the Arkansas River to Canon City. By midnight, the entire railroad was caught. At some point during that night, Pat Masterson, Ben Thompson and others who were hired by AT&SF were released from prison and put on a special train to Dodge City. Ben arrived the next morning, he collected his money from AT&SF and headed to Texas via Kansas City and St. Louis.
The Royal Gorges case did not end on June 11, but continued in the courts for several more months. Finally, “The Baron Robber” Jay Gold bought fifty percent of the shares in D&RG and settled the lawsuit outside the court. On March 27, 1880, both railroads agreed to sign the “Boston Treaty” that returned rail and property to the D&RG. AT&SF was paid $ 1.8 million for the railroad line it built across the boardwalk and the Royal Gorges War finally ended.