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1889 Shootout - Huerfano World - July 25, 1991
Anyone who has been in Walsenburg for, say, 20 minutes, has heard the story
about the notorious Bob Ford living here in the 1880's. Ford gained notoriety
as "the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard" on Apr. 3, 1882 when he,
accompanied by his brother Charles, shot the infamous outlaw Jesse James in the
back. James was living at the time in St. Joseph, MO under the alias of Howard.
The Fords performed the dirty deed evidently just for the reward money and had
actually lived with Jesse and his family for a while, gaining his confidence
while plotting his murder.
Bob Ford's act was not well received. He was more or less banned from his
former haunts around northwestern Missouri by friends and relatives of Jesse but
just how he found his way to Walsenburg is unknown.
In the 1880's, Walsenburg was a typical Western town, full of enterprising
merchants, drifters, schoolmarms, upstanding citizens and, yes, gamblers and
carousers. Ford opened a saloon to keep the latter types occupied.
An interesting incident concerning Ford, not widely known, was reported in
the Oct. 25, 1889 issue of the Walsenburg World. It reads as follows.
"About one o'clock on last Wednesday night, in Ford & Kehr's place, Bob Ford
shot Earnest Curry, three times, but not fatally. The evidence brought out in
the preliminary hearing before Judge Hendren, on Thursday, was as follows:
Curry came to Walsenburg about four days previous to the shooting, and, has quite
a rep as a sporting character. Early in the evening of the night of the
shooting, he made threats against Ford. At the time of the shooting he came into
the hall and told Ford to get his gun, at the same time shooting at Ford, who
dodged down behind the bar, just in time to escape the ball. Ford then drew his
gun and took three shots at Curry, one striking him in neck, one in breast
[sic] and one in the arm, but none of which are deemed fatal. Ford at once gave
himself up and in the hearing was acquitted on the ground of self defense.
Curry even asked that Ford should not be prosecuted, as it was all his (Curry's)
So, Ford once again got away without so much as a slap on the wrist. He got
his comeuppance, though. As in all good Western stories, frontier-style justice
caught up with him on July 8, 1892, when he was operating a tent saloon in
Creede and one Ed O'Kelley shot him - appropriately, in the back.