When I was a child, I learned my great-great-uncle, Virgil Ernest Christison, spent time in prison for stealing cattle. His story captured my attention in my childhood and I wrote a paper about him in high school. Today I am writing a book about the events that took place in 1883-1884.
Here's a short summary:
Ernest Christison and Ed Watkins had a partnership and owned cattle together near Salida, Colorado. Christison took his share to sell over at Gunnison and Watkins kept his. While moving his cattle to Gunnison, Christison was arrested for having stolen cattle near St. Elmo. After Christison was arrested, the cattlemen went to Watkins' ranch and drove away 21 head of cattle they claimed as their own and had Watkins arrested. While Watkins was in the custody of the sheriff, a mob captured him and hanged him from the 1st Street Bridge in Canon City.
Christison was released from jail on bond, but made the wrong move when he visited a dancehall with Frank Reed in October. Baxter Stingley, the Salida Marshall, showed up with a warrant for their arrest and Reed shot and killed Stingley. Christison was arrested again and jailed in Buena Vista.
Life was quiet for a while, then Christison was one of 11 prisoners who escaped from the jail on January 27, 1884. His freedom didn't last long as he was captured the next morning. He changed his "not guilty" plea to "guilty" on the charge of grand larceny and on June 7, 1884 he boarded the train to Canon City to spend the next two years in the Colorado State Penitentiary.
Below are links to posts about this story and my journey in researching it:
The Log Fence
126 Years Ago Today
Baxter Stingley's Murder
Black Sheep Sunday