Golden’s annual Buffalo Bill Days celebration begins today, July 28, making it a fitting time to remember just what is authentically western about the city.
Truth is, historic accounts and early newspaper clippings show just how rough a town …
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Truth is, historic accounts and early newspaper clippings show just how rough a town Golden really was, as it started out as a home-base for miners venturing west. Saloons and bar fights, gun fire and formal duels all were realities in the city’s early years. Vanover Park is even named for one gentleman who had a habit of firing off his guns whenever he had a bit too much to drink. For the safety of the community, the lad was hanged by a tree in the area where a park now bears his name.
A less lethal incident was shared by George West, the Golden Transcript’s founder and first editor. In the April 5, 1882 version of the paper, he shared this recollection.
A bloodless duel
Golden, like all the wide-awake, booming towns on the frontier in ‘59 had its full quota of the rough element that wandered through the mountains during the summer months, and came down to the valley “to winter.” Among many others of the class that were here in the winter of ‘59-’60 was a young Virginian known as Dock Turpin — a jolly, whole-souled fellow, generous to a fault, and a pleasant companion when sober, but when in his cups a tough customer, one who would rather fight than eat, and some what of a bully withal.
The writer of this was at that time publishing The Western Mountaineer (the city’s first newspaper), the office being in the second story of the building now owned and occupied by Mr. John Nicholls, north of Washington avenue bridge. This building was the first house built in the town, a substantial log structure, but as regards the floors, stairs, etc., somewhat primitive. In fact the floor of the second story was as loose as the actions of some of the inhabitants of the city. Our printing office and sanctum was on this floor, while the lower one was occupied by the Boston company as a store.
This item angered the doughty Dock, and after getting pretty well filled up with “Duge” he came over to the office in search of gore.
Jim McDonald and Mark Blunt were in the store when he came in, of whom he inquired as to the present whereabouts of “that West cuss, who writ the piece in that paper about me,” and without waiting for a reply from them declared his intention to climb all around on top of his ears, or words to that effect. From our position above we could hear his pleasant words and observe his movements, so that we was not wholly unprepared. Placing an iron “side stick” within easy reach, to be used in case of necessity, we thought it best to take the matter pleasantly and bluff him off if possible.
“You dog-goned ornery cuss,” was his salutation, as his head appeared above the floor, “what do ye want to blow on me for that-a-way? I hain’t shot none of folks, have I?”
We assured him that so far as our knowledge extended he had not, and proceeded to give him some good advice as to what he had best do should such a contingency arise, in fact we tried to convince him that the first break he made in that direction we would proceed to blow off the top of his head. This not very mollifying speech did not seem to soothe him to any great extent, and he went on:
“Well, yer hain’t got any business to say anything about me in yer dog-goned old paper any how, and ye’ve jest got to fight me. You can just name yer weapons now, and we’ll fight it out and be done with it.”
This was a new phase of the quarrel, and as it seemed to offer an opening out of the scrape we thought best to humor him on it, for a while at least.
“Why, look here, Dock,” we said, “don’t you know that is not the way to arrange for a duel? I’ll fight you, of course, but we can’t make the arrangements ourselves. You go over and send your friend to me and I’ll refer him to mine, and let them settle the preliminaries.”
He seemed to have taken enough drinks to cause him to forget this essential portion of the code d’honeur, as his reply indicated.
“Wall, I’ll be doged if that arn’t so. I forgot all about that. I’m going to fight ye, though, you gamble, and I’ll send somebody over to fix it up.”
Upon this he staggered to the stairs, and with our help descended to the store below. Before leaving, however, he insisted upon taking a drink or two of Pollard’s best, to bind the bargain.
Meanwhile negotiations were going on between the seconds, there being no apparent difficulty in arranging the preliminaries, except in curbing Dock’s impatience until some of the effects of the whiskey should wear off.
Being the challenged party, we of course had the choice of weapons, ground, etc. As the arrangements progressed, slowly but surely, the information was conveyed to our opponent that we had chosen Bowie knives as the weapons to be used. This just suited him as he claimed that if there was anything that was just to his hand it was a Bowie knife. Then as the day passed on other arrangements were perfected, such as the time of meeting, which was fixed at sunrise on the following morning, and the place the top of Table mountains.
About nine o’clock in the evening, when the boys reported that the “benzine” was pretty thoroughly eliminated from our antagonists system, our ultimatum was taken to him by the two seconds, which was as follows:
The meeting to occur at sunrisee on the morning following, in the presence of the respective seconds, the combatants to be armed with knives of uniform length and make, ground to an equal sharpness, the challenging party to stand upon the edge of North Table mountain, facing south, the challenged party to stand upon the edge of South Table mountain, facing north, and, at the word, !
The idea of the combatants thus placed, the gulch being fully half a mile wide “as the bird flies,” was so supremely ridiculous that Dock took it, as was expected, as a huge joke, and at once insisted upon finding his opponent and shaking hands across the bloodless chasm.
This ended the affair, and never an angry word passed between us so long as Dock remained in the country.
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