Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Haunted Holidays! Oops, we mean Happy Holidays from Haunted History After Dark! Thank you so much to all of our wonderful and courageous guests and supporters and we wish you all the best for the new year!
Below enJOY the story of Fort Collins first documented murder which happened on Christmas Eve 130 years ago this Saturday!

The Holiday Season is alive on the streets of Fort Collins. Talented carolers who wander from business to business singing the classic Christmas jingles rouse the Tiny Tim in all of us. Retail stores in full seasonal regalia stir the incessant need for a Red Ryder Bee Bee Shooter like Ralphie's obsession in A Christmas Story. The holiday lights on the trees surrounding Old Town, kept lit with the generous donation of a contributor, make one feel as if they are in a scene from Frank Capra's 1946 classic "It's a Wonderful Life".

Old Town Fort Collins
Capra's fictitious Bedfort Falls
But nothing ignites the Holiday Spirit more than a good old fashioned Christmas Eve brothel murder. And Fort Collins may be one of the only towns in the nation to be able to add this to its claim to fame. This story involves a well- known old “house of ill fame”, a wayward drifter, and a very unfortunate Christmas Eve party goer.

The date was 1881. With the event of the Colorado and Central Railroad coming through town just four years earlier, the population in the city had grown exponentially from roughly 450 to 1500 and some change. The city was taking on a new character. The Commercial Hotel (now the Northern Hotel) was accommodating early travelers with fifty self-heated rooms. The Opera House Block had been completed just ten months prior and was featuring some famous names such as Harry Beresford (who would later become a very famous silver screen actor), and well-known vaudeville comedian Ezra Kendall. Jefferson Street was the heart of the city with visitors arriving by train and stage daily. This once almost forgotten ghost town was now the “Jewel of the Frontier”.
Business was also thriving in the brothel industry. Houses of “ill repute” were not illegal at this time yet. They wouldn’t be subject to revocation until a few years later by the passing and enforcement of Ordinance #17. But, they were definitely frowned upon. This didn’t stop newcomers or even some of the town’s most prominent residents. Some of those early patrons would have been the railroad workers, the miners heading up to Manhattan Creek west of Red Feather, and those cowhands coming off the very famous Texas longhorn outfit the Goodnight-Loving trail (1865-1890).
Other customerss of these establishments were locals such as Albert Sherwood. Sherwood was an African American cook at the very famous Tedmon Hotel. This hotel had been built in 1880 and with three floors of rooms and 19 bathrooms was touted as the “most elegant hotel north of Denver.”
Now on Christmas Eve 1881 cook Mr. Sherwood had been let out early, had a little money in his pocket and he knew exactly how he was going to celebrate this most precious night. He thought a little Holiday cheer at Lizzy Palmers bawdry house would lift his spirits from working for “the man” and let him cool off some steam a bit. Sherwood left the Tedmon on this frigid night and held his tattered coat close as he walked the approximately five blocks to the establishment of his discretion. This particular place was located on the 300 block of north Meldrum Street (now a vacant lot). He was warmly welcomed.
Sometime in the evening a drifter who called himself “Tex” entered the structure. Tex introduced himself, was kind and polite as he was offered a hard drink. He watched the party from the doorway for a while and graciously took another adequately liquored beverage offered to him from one of the “soiled doves” and employee of the home. He then settled back into a small couch and watched as a piano player cornered in the small dance floor banged out tunes prominent at the time such as Gilbert and Sullivan’s Away, Away! My Hearts on Fire and Oh Far Better to Live and Die.  As Tex put his glass down on a table crowded with others, his eye caught the frame of one of the workers encased in the arms of man with a tattered coat. The couple moved closer and as they did, the woman looked over her temporary lovers shoulder and smiled a red-painted, inviting and flirtatious grin at Tex. Tex took the invite and attempted to smile back, but the couple soon swayed to the other side of the small room. She never saw his rejoinder.
Involuntarily rejected Tex put his glass to his lips and took a long swig. The hand burrowing into the back of his duster and tickling his uncut hair didn’t persuade him to find affection in his new admirer who had abruptly and aggressively stumbled her way onto his lap. His eyes were focused on the white slip and maroon gown that was increasingly getting farther away in the hands of the man with the tattered coat.
Coupled by the rousing lyrics of Efrida Foulds tune Blow the Man Down !” coming from the enthusiastic piano player “…a pretty young damsel I chanced for to meet. Give me some time to blow the man down…” and his third round of firewater, Tex put his glass down, removed the woman from his waist and shoved his way through drunken Christmas Eve revelers to find the smile that would make his long way from Kansas to this frontier town worth the trip.
The rest of this story made history as the documented first murder in Fort Collins history as recorded below in the Fort Collins museum archive.
MUSEUM (GLENDURA) SCRAPBOOK (Christmas eve, 1881)
Fort Collins' first murder took place in a brothel on North Meldrum in 1881. On Christmas Eve "Tex" Lindeville shot Albert Sherwood, a black employee of the Tedmon House. Lindeville pleaded self-defense and was acquitted.
"Brawl resulted in First Murder." "Pistol shots--a dozen or more--shattered the silence of Fort Collins' west side about 10 p.m. A man called "Tex" gave himself up to Lundy, the Justice of the Peace. He was registered at the hotel as William Lindville. Tex was a hard character, a tough cowboy with his face cut and bleeding. He turned his weapons over to Lundy. The next morning (Sunday) a wagon pulled up at the Tedmon House. It carried the body of Albert Sherwood, the Tedmon's black cook, a bullet hole above his left eye--clearly alive. Just before noon Sherwood died, becoming Fort Collins' first murder victim. The brawl had been at "Lizzie Palmer's" mansion--a house of ill repute. Fight between Tex and Sherwood. Tex testified that he didn't know how he came about having guns in his possession. Sherwood had jumped Tex (armed with a razor or a pistol). Conclusion: "The jurors do say Albert Sherwood came to his death, Saturday night, December 24, A.D. 1881, from a pistol shot fired from a pistol in the hand of William Lindville--"Tex"--without felonious intent."
Albert Sherwood left the Tedmon Hotel on a Saturday night Christmas Eve as alive and joyous as the holiday spirit and returned at midnight in the grips of the Grim Reaper. He died at noon the next day on Christmas Day. In light of the events, when Justice of the Peace Lundy was asked why he didn’t send Tex Lindeville back to Kansas on an arrest warrant (which Lundy was aware of), Lundy replied that the “reward money was less than the amount of cost to send him back to Kansas!”
This Christmas Brothel Murder was brought to you by Haunted History After Dark. Hope it gets you in the "spirit", just like it did poor Albert Sherwood.
And as a historian I want to ring out the Christmas spirit in the very George Bailey way, “Merry Christmas, movie house! (Opera House Block) Merry Christmas, Emporium! (Linden Hotel) Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” (Avery Block)!
 We at Haunted History After Dark are so thankful for all the people in our lives who helped make this venture happen. Haunted History After Dark wants to wish everyone a very joyous and happy Christmas. We send tremendous amounts of gratitude to all that have taken our tours up to now and have supported us. We love what we do but most especially love all the guests who have courageously taken our ghostly adventures through Old Town Fort Collins. Below are some awesome photos of some of those guests.

All research, writing and copyright to this story was completed by Suzy Riding.