Ballots, bullets and bloodshed: Charlie Siringo comes on the scene

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Isaac Cade was one of the so-called rebels who opposed the first county officials elected in Archuleta County in 1886.

We’ve been writing about the wrangling between Anglo and Hispanic for control of the county government following creation of the county in May of 1885. This week, we’ll look at a report from Charlie Siringo in a book he published in 1912 titled “A Cowboy Detective.”

Siringo devoted much of Chapter II in his book to the Archuleta County affair. The following headlines opened Chapter II. “ARCHULETA COUNTY UPRISING-ROPE SECURED TO HANG ME.” Before we get to Siringo’s version of ballots, bullets and bloodshed, a brief explanation of who Siringo was might be useful.

According to Google, Siringo was born Feb. 7, 1855, in Matagorda County, Texas, and died Oct. 18, 1928, in Altadena, Calif. His occupation is listed as lawman, detective, bounty hunter, cowboy and merchant.

He quit school at the age of 15 to work as a cowboy. While in Dodge City, Kan., in 1877, he witnessed a confrontation between Clay Allison and Wyatt Earp. After taking part in several cattle drives, Siringo married in 1884 and opened a merchant business in Caldwell, Kan.

In 1886, he moved to Chicago and was hired by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, using Pat Garrett as a reference. He became adept at working undercover and gained much notoriety for infiltrating Butch Cassidy’s outlaw gang. If you watched one of my favorite movies, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the actor featured as Siringo was the lawman chasing Butch and Sundance. Such is a brief description of Siringo, who was involved in the Archuleta County fracas.

Siringo opens his account of the Archuleta County affair this way:

“Early in the spring of 1887 I was sent out on my first cowboy operation.

“In the southwestern part of Colorado on the border of New Mexico, was situated the County of Archuleta, the county seat being Pagosa Springs, and the nearest railroad Amargo.”

Siringo got off the train in Durango, bought a horse and saddle, and road 60 miles to Pagosa Springs. On the way, he stopped at the Gordon Grimes cattle ranch, then located on Yellow Jacket Creek just west of the Piedra River bridge. Using the name Anderson, he identified himself to Grimes as a bad man from Texas.

The next step for Siringo was to get E.M. Taylor to put him up at his house in Pagosa Springs. In that way, he infiltrated the insurgent gang of cowboys at Pagosa Springs who had rebelled against the Hispanics living at Amargo who had been elected to county office.

More next week.