FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS
FAMOUS AND INFAMOUS VISITORS TO GLENWOOD SPRINGS
As an Old West town, Glenwood Springs is full of dichotomies—and that includes the mix of names of those who were past guests. The historical roster ranges from one of the most beloved leaders of the free world to some the most wanted criminals in US history. On the one hand, are those famous for their honor, bravery and philanthropy; and on the other for their greed, treachery and malice.
Born in Georgia, John Henry Holliday was raised a southern gentleman, always well-dressed and soft-spoken. Trained as a dentist, his career was cut short when he contracted tuberculosis. “Doc” headed west in search of both a better climate and fortunes. He became a legend for his part in the shootout that occurred at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona on Oct. 26, 1881. The battle, which also involved Wyatt Earp and his brothers, lasted mere seconds and cut down three known outlaws who were part of the treacherous gang known as The Cowboys. Doc arrived in Glenwood Springs in May of 1887, seeking relief for his lung disease. Unfortunately, he would only last a few more months. John “Doc” Holliday died, in his bed at the Glenwood Springs Hotel, on Nov. 8, 1887. He is buried in Potter’s Field at Linwood Cemetery, though due to his fame, a memorial marker was erected in his honor. He was 36 years old.
“Buffalo Bill” Cody
A flamboyant personality, William Frederick Cody was a soldier, buffalo hunter, frontiersman and a rider for the Pony Express but is best known as an entrepreneur and showman. He founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1887, a traveling entertainment troupe. Cody made frequent stops in Glenwood Springs to visit his good friend Dr. William Crook. Unbeknownst to him, on Jan. 5, 1917, Cody paid his last visit. He died just five days later in Denver. He is buried on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.
President Theodore Roosevelt
His first visit was as Vice President in 1901. During that initial hunting trip, Roosevelt bagged several trophies including a record-breaking mountain lion. During his term as President, the Hotel Colorado became known as the “Little White House of the United States.” In addition to running the country from Glenwood Springs, the avid sportsman took advantage of the abundant hunting opportunities in the area. According to legend, not all of Roosevelt’s expeditions were successful. When he returned to the Hotel Colorado empty-handed, it is believed that hotel maids fashioned a cloth bear from scraps of material and presented it to his daughter who was with him. She was delighted and named the bear, “Teddy.” Some say that is how the beloved stuffed toy came to be.
A cowboy and actor, Tom Mix was the star of 291 Western films from 1909 to 1910. He was acknowledged as “King of the Cowboys” by the young actors who would follow him—Ronald Reagan and John Wayne. In 1926, Mix made the Great K&S Train Robbery, much of it filmed in Glenwood Canyon. For three weeks the town turned out to watch the progress, as well as see Mix and his “wonder horse,” Tony perform their own stunts. A legend in his day, Mix was a pallbearer at the funeral of Wyatt Earp in 1929 and in 1905 he rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade.
Margaret Tobin Brown
After surviving the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, she was referred to as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” It was because of her tireless urging that her lifeboat returned to the debris field of the sinking ship to look for survivors. Her sense of humor and magnanimity are equally famous. Though her husband struck it rich in Leadville, Molly (Maggie to her friends) continued to work in the town’s soup kitchens serving less fortunate souls. She was a fervent promoter of the rights for workers and the poor, as well as the education and literacy of children. A lover of travel, Brown frequented the Hotel Colorado, where one of the tower suites is named after her. Margaret’s family has graciously furnished many of her photographs and even a telegraph she sent after the sinking of the Titanic as displays in her signature suite.
Harvey Alexander Logan, Kid Curry, rode with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Wild Bunch gang. Curry was a cold-hearted killer with the murder of at least nine lawmen attributed to him and he participated in several bank and train robberies. The last of his heists occurred on June 7, 1904 when he and two other gang members robbed the Denver and Rio Grande train outside Parachute, Colorado. Pursued by a posse, Curry was wounded in a shootout and decided rather than be captured and hanged, he would take his own life. Harvey Logan is buried in Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs.
“Diamond Jack” Alterie
A Chicagoland gangster, Alterie had an extensive rap sheet that included burglary, hijacking, kidnapping, racketeering and homicide. His given name was Leland Jack Varain, but he had many aliases. His nickname stems from his penchant for dressing in a flashy manner. He was particularly fond of tall cowboy hats, gold jewelry, custom made cowboy boots and a particularly gaudy diamond-studded belt buckle. Though he made his home in Sweetwater near Gypsum, he often stayed in Glenwood Springs. On two separate occasions, while at the Hotel Denver he wounded three innocent bystanders during drunken brawls. Justice was served quicky, as Alteri was fined and given the choice of prison or leaving Colorado permanently. He returned home to Chicago where he was gunned down in the street by rival gang members.
The notorious Chicago gangster also known as “Scarface” rose to prominence during Prohibition in the 1920s. Between bootlegging and racketeering, Capone built a vast underworld criminal empire. When in town he shopped for gems at Dever Jewelry and preferred to stay at the Hotel Colorado. The mobster is said to have used a now blocked tunnel in the basement to smuggle booze and women into the hotel. In 1931, Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. He died of complications from a stroke in 1947.
Just months after his escape from the Pitkin County Jail in Aspen, psychopath and serial killer, Ted Bundy was recaptured and incarcerated in the Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs, but he did not stay long. He escaped on the evening of Dec. 30, 1977 by slipping through a small hole in the ceiling of his cell, crawling through a passageway and exiting through a closet in an adjacent room. Bundy hitchhiked his way out of the area and was permanently taken into custody in April 1979. He was executed by electric chair in Florida on Jan. 24, 1989.
Explore all of the historical things to do, learn and see in Glenwood Springs with a modern twist; there is something for everyone and a new adventure to be had every day! For more Glenwood Springs history, visit the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum.
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