Thursday, June 9, 2016

THE TAP DUNCAN DEATH

6/9/1904 - Following his amazing 6/27/1903 escape from the Knox County jail in Knoxville, Tennessee (bedding is used to create a lariat that captures one guard around the throat, and wall molding is used to fashion a nine foot long pole and hook that allows access to a shoe box the guards put their guns in before entering the cell house), Wild Bunch gunman, Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan rides west out of town and vanishes, becoming a vast wind of rumors.  Some believe he died trying to cross a wilderness area of North Carolina called Jeffrey's Hell, others that he is hiding with friends in Montana, or on his Allie's horse ranch in Missouri, a letter is received at the Daily Journal and Tribune newspaper of Knoxville posted from Perkins, California, in Sacramento County, claiming to be from the escapee, a man named Edgar Young claims to have spent time with Logan in Brazil, he is said to be with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the wilds of Patagonia, he secretly works as a section hand for the Great Northern Railroad (which he robbed in 1901), disguised as a hobo, Logan takes odd jobs around the Chinook, Montana region, he hangs out around Rock Springs, Wyoming, asking lots of questions at the local train station, and a hotel clerk and bellhop in Denver claim that Logan is the man that checks in carrying a large valise stuffed with cash (who then flees when he is disturbed by the bellhop bringing him a pitcher of water while he is counting out cash on his bed).    
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Headlines
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Logan In His "Hobo" Disguise

Train robbery not quite over despite the new century being in its infancy, on the Tuesday evening of 6/7/1904, three cowboys hit the seven-coach Denver and Rio Grande Western Mail train, #5, just outside the town of Parachute, Colorado (located seventeen miles west of Rifle and forty miles east of Grand Junction), on the Colorado River (a fruit producing and shipping center, the town's name comes from a butchering of the Ute word, "Pahchouc," meaning twins, which referred to a nearby stream passing through two almost identical mountains), then known as the Grand River.
Parachute Train Robbery Site
Site Of The Robbery

The train raid begins in typical Wild Bunch fashion with a robber climbing aboard, making his way forward, taking command of the engine, its engineer, Ed Allison, and its fireman, John Anders, and then having the men stop the train at a large bonfire where the robber's two confederates are waiting.  Coming forward to find out why the train has stopped, conductor Charles Ware and head brakeman Ed Shellenberger instantly recognize a robbery is taking place when shots shatter the lantern that Ware is carrying (vanishing with the lost light, Ware runs back to town and gets the pursuit of the bandits started), and a round hits Shellenberger in the thigh.  The outlaws then have the other members of the crew separate the passenger cars from the express and baggage car, before moving forward about a mile down the line, to Streit Flats, for the actual looting of the train. 
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Core Members Of The Wild Bunch
Standing L To R - Will "News" Carver,
Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan
Sitting L To R - Harry "The Sundance Kid" Longabaugh,
Ben "The Tall Texan" Kilpatrick, and Robert Leroy
"Butch Cassidy" Parker

Stop, start, then stop again, with gun shots and shouted commands also in the mix, realizing the train is probably about to be robbed, mail agent Fred Hawley hides registered mail and other valuables in various bags and nooks in the car, while express messenger D. M. Shea barricades the door with heavy baggage and trunks.  A robbery indeed, when the men refuse to open the door, the outlaws produce dynamite and blow an entrance into the car (blown off his feet in the blast, Shea will later get a cash reward from the Globe Express Company for his bravery) ... where, when they see the style safe they must crack, the bandits realize they are robbing the wrong train ... delayed, the Denver and Rio Grande train has passed the Colorado Midland train, that uses part of the same tracks, that is heading to the Philadelphia Mint to drop off $150,000 in gold bullion (a different disaster, had the outlaws been correct, it would have been three bandits versus fifteen armed guards).  Making the most of the mistake, the outlaws blast open the safe (after two tries) and find their booty consists of a bag of coins worth around a hundred dollars, numerous 50 cent pieces, a handful of sealed packages, and as an unhappy goodbye, Shea's gold watch is also taken.  Robbery completed, the outlaws allow the train to back up towards Parachute, while they vanish into the darkness, making their way down to the river, where they use a stolen boat to cross over to where they have left their horses on the south side. Mounted, the men head for the forested wilds of ten thousand foot Battlement Mesa.
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Battlement Mesa

Not a Wild Bunch getaway where hard riding to hidden supplies and fresh mounts results in posses being escaped, the outlaws steal horses and beg food from ranches and homesteads they pass through, mistakenly thinking that they have left pursuit far behind on the other side of the river.  Alarm sounded by Ware and passed on to the railroad's offices in Denver, Pueblo, Salida, and Grand Junction, within hours of the robbery though, posses depart from the Colorado towns of Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, and Meeker, and a contingent of lawmen is dispatched by train from Leadville that heads towards the robbery site with a pack of trained bloodhounds (the amount of activity is surprising given that no one was gravely wounded or killed, and because a big score did not take place, the reward for capturing any of the bandits is only $300).  Already in trouble, a gunfight between the fleeing crooks and authorities becomes inevitable when an invention just coming into its own is used to contact the latest location of the criminal trio ... the telephone at rancher Joe Banta's home, where the outlaws stop and demand breakfast (which they pay for with a single dollar), and steal three horses (unsurprisingly, after Banta splices together the telephone wire the outlaws have cut, he joins up with the outlaw hunters when a posse arrives at his place later in the day).
<b>Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical Society</b>Garfield County Sheriff Francis W. Adams was in the process of organizing a posse from Glenwood Springs when he heard that one of the Parachute train robbers had taken his own life during a shootout on Garfield Creek. Instead of bringing in a prisoner, Adams instead brought to Glenwood Springs the body of the robber, who would be later identified as Harvey Logan, a robber who ran with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of the infamous Wild Bunch.
Posse Member - Garfield County Sheriff Francis Adams

A bad day for the bandits, 6/9/1904 begins at the Banta homestead (after the phone call, a Mrs. Trumble, the telephone operator for Garfield County, spends the day keeping the authorities coordinated as to the latest sightings of the outlaws).  Finding one of the horses they pilfered is lame, the outlaws attempt to steal more horses from the nearby Larson ranch (in Divide Valley, south of the town of Silt) ... where Mrs. Larson, spying the theft, runs outside and reprimands the men, who respond by chasing her back into her house ... another bad move, for inside she has allies in the form of her two young sons (the Larson men are already out with one of the posses combing the area) who grab guns and begin firing at the fleeing outlaws ... just as a posse shows up at the ranch.

Robbery Remembered

Trying to escape, the outlaws ride into a nearby gulch, make their way from there into a gulch on upper Divide Creek, and eventually push their way into a deep gorge in Garfield Creek Canyon, where they abandon their fatigued horses and begin climbing up and out of the steep, boulder-strewn area ... with the posse right behind. "Okay you SOBs, that is far enough.  Just turn your horses around and head down the mountain.  If you try to follow us again, I will shoot the first man that comes in my sights around the corner down there," calls out one of the outlaws, and then to punctuate his words, the bandits open fire ... Deputy Elmer Chapmen is grazed in the face by a round, and the horses of Deputies Rolly Gardner and Joe Doby are shot out from under them (they are about fifty feet from the outlaws when the shooting begins).  Seeing Doby fleeing on foot, the outlaw that had given the warning takes deadly aim with his rifle on the back of the running deputy, but before he can fire, is hit by a rifle bullet from Gardner (the round breaks the bandit's left arm, grazes across his chest, and exits the man's right arm, blowing off the top of bicep ... a fatal hit if not taken care of immediately) who has hunkered down behind his dead horse to engage the outlaws.
Rolla Gardner receives a $25 reward for taking down the outlaw with his amazing shot. He also is awarded a new horse to replace the one shot out from under him, a new bridle, a shotgun and a scabbard. Considering that, at various times, at least $13,000 in reward money has been offered for the person who brings down Kid Curry, this is small recompense.
From True West Magazine - Gardner Firing
Shooting Positions of Gardiner and Curry
From True West Magazine - Site Of The Gunfight With The Posse

From True West Magazine - The Hit

"Are you hit?" one of the outlaws calls over to his downed confederate.  "Yes," is the weakly spoken reply.  "Are you hurt bad, Sam?"  "Yes, I am all in, I guess, and I'm going to put an end to it." Seconds later, a shot rings out as the wounded man places his revolver to his head and pulls the trigger.  Gunfight over, as the posse's attention is focused on the wounded or dead outlaw, his confederates finish their climb up the hillside and vanish, never to be caught or identified.
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Harvey Logan's Revolver?

The dead man is clean shaven, has large, deeply sunken black eyes, syphilis scars on his legs, and skin that appears slightly tinted yellow with jaundice.  On or with the corpse are two revolvers, a Winchester rifle, a pair of field glasses, bullets, a compass, a listing of railroad timetables, and a crudely drawn map of the region. Horse to wagon to train, the body eventually makes its way to Glenwood Springs for identification and internment ... and the "who is the fiend" fun begins!

Newspaper Drawing Of Logan At His Nashville Trial

The Corpse

The body is first thought to be a local cowboy named J. H. Ross (but Ross is found to be still very much alive), then a Nebraska outlaw named George Kendricks is honored (but he is found behind bars in Omaha), a Leadville thug named Brennick is thought of as a possibility, and then the corpse is called Tap Duncan ... a quiet cowboy who showed up in the region the previous year with exceptional gunslinging abilities (upset when his fellow ranch hands can't hit empty bottles set on a fence, Duncan draws his revolver and shatters all the bottles, then demonstrating his rattlesnake quickness at drawing and firing with accuracy, places a card on the back of his hand, which he flips up in the air and hits five times before it falls to the ground).  Unknown and starting to go ripe, the body is photographed in four different positions, a death mask is made, and full hand prints are taken before the mystery man is buried in a pauper's grave.  Pictures sent to law enforcement agencies around the country, Lowell Spence of the Pinkerton Detective Agency quickly comes up with a new identification for the dead desperado ... the body is the man known as "The Tiger of the Wild Bunch," Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan.
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Girlfriend Annie Rogers & Logan

Controversy brewing, a month after going into the ground, a court order gets the mystery outlaw exhumed for an evaluation of whether scarring on the body matches any of Logan's known wounds (at the examination along with Spence, are railroad special agent R. Brunazzi, Union Pacific's chief of detectives, William Canada, local Undersheriff Mohn, Deputy Crissman, and a few other locals).  Unfortunately though, the body is too badly decomposed to come up with a definitive identification ... a scar known to be on Logan's hand can't be found, and no one thinks to check the corpse's head for permanent souvenirs of the pistol whipping the outlaw took resisting arrest in Knoxville in 1902. Inconclusive, Spence sticks by his identification of the bandit (a face he'd probably remember, while visiting Logan while he is behind bars, the outlaw tells the Pinkerton he will kill him as soon as he is free again ... not everyone agrees though, and in part, legendary detective Charlie Siringo, who has chased the Wild Bunch all over the West, retires in 1907 because he thinks Spence is wrong and that Logan is still on the loose), while the railroad representatives say the dead bandit isn't Logan (whether it has anything to do with the fact that the railroad will have to pay out $30,000 in reward money if the body really is Logan's is unknown).

Pinkerton Logo

Replanted in Glenwood Springs (just a short distance from Doc Holliday's memorial), under a tombstone stating the body below is Logan's, the corpse mystery remains unreconciled still today ... with most historians going with the Kid Curry identification because from 1904 on, his presence is never attached to another robbery ... while others say no, Logan lived out his life under an alias (like Butch Cassidy, friends and family members will state the outlaw in his old age would sometimes visit places from his youth in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado). 

From True West Magazine - The Four Pictures Of The Body
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Tombstone

Kid Curry or Tap Duncan ... on this day in 1904, an outlaw goes down in the wilds of northwest Colorado ... if Logan, the bandit would have been 37 when he ends his violent life, with a violent death.

Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan

  














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