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The river press. [volume] (Fort Benton, Mont.) 1880-current, February 15, 1882, Image 3

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053157/1882-02-15/ed-1/seq-3/

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How a $95,000 Gold Dust Purse was Won
at the First Denver Race Track.
[Denver Trihune.]
One early May morning in 1860 three trav
el-stainee and weary looking objects made
their way into the frontier settlement of
Denver from the old Salt Lake trail. Two
men seated upon the back of one horse, in
Mexican style, was not an uuusual sight in
those days ; but there was a something about
this trio which had the air of the extraordi
nary or mysterious. The news of the strangs
arrival spread from cabin to cabin in a few
minutes; and when the party halted at the
Elephant corral a large crowd of people
were already waiting to speak them wel
come. The strangers were attired in full
buckskin suits and armed to the teeth ; their
horse, a seemingly spirited bay, was attenua
ted and hoof-worn; his hide was covered
with streaks of dry foam and alkali mud,
and his back was scarified from the constant
carrying.of the saddle. He was a pitiable
sight as he tottered into the stall allotted to
him, and the prediction was made by the
bystanders that he would not survive the
"Give Old Ruffian the best there is in the
feed box," said one of the new comers, ten
derly. "He has stood by us through a rough
tramp, and saved our necks. It it hadn't
been for him we'd been food for Mormon
crows loug before this."
The truth was soon out : the two w re
Tom Hunt and Jim Harrison, the notorious
outlaws of Utah, and the horse was none
other than "Border Ruffian," the famed Salt
Lake racer.
Ruffian had reigned as king of the Mor
mon turf for several years ; in long or short
tests of speed under the saddle he had never
been second at the outcome. His name was
a household word in every camp in Utah and
the adjoining Territories, and his victories
afforded themes for the most thrilling stor
ies. Money could not induce his owner to
part with. Hunt and Harrison, who were
partners in the proprietorship of a gambling
bell, had lost a reasonable fortune in battlilg
against Ruffian, and resolved to steal and
transport him to'a new country. While their
plans were yet immature, Hunt murdered a
prominent Mormon, and after a brief trial he
was condemned to hang for the crime. The
sc.ffold was erected on the outskirts of Salt
Lake, near the Overland road, and the mur
derer was to swing midst all the pomp of
legal execution. In the excitement attend
ing the preparation on the morning of the
expected hanging, Harrison entered the sta
ble of Ruffi n and spirited the racer away.
He then rode to the gellows unexpected,
slipped two six-shooters into Hunt's hands,
and before the officials or multitude had re
covered from their surprise, the outlaws were
charging down the Weber Canyon trail at a
speed which defied capture. One of a num
ber of parting rifl shots killed Harrison's
horse, and it became necessary for Ruffian
to carry both men. The Mormons pursued
the desperadoes both day and night, but wvere
powerless to overtake them, so wonderful
was thespeed and endurance of the stolen
bay. Not until one hundred miles had been
covered did men or beast stop for food o.
rest, and the morning of the tenth day they
arrived at Denver, 600 miles from the Mor
mon Capital.
These facts once circulated, Ruffian be
came the hero of the hour, and in contem
plating his tanrvelous feats, the outlawed
owners were almost forgotten. Every kind
ness and care were lavished upon him, and
in two weeks he was in a condition to go in
to training for the camp. Captain A. B.
Miller, a wealthy sporting man, had bought
him and then challenged the country for a
Among the '59 pioneers of the settlement
were three brothers, "the Greer boys," as
they were familiarly know. They had come
from Iowa, were passionately fond of racing
stock, and possessed a number of fast race
horses. Conspicuous amongst these was a
bay-almost the counterpart of Ruffim in
weight, color and style-who had worked
bis way across the plains, in the harness of a
"prairie schooner." Rocky Mountain
Chief, as he was called, had retained the
proud distinction of being the best horse in
the Territory up to the time of Ruffi:n's ad
vent, and his owners did not propose to let
the honor fade until his defeht had been ac
complished. So a mile heat, best two in
three, was arranged to take place September
on the McNassdr farm, noith of Dtnver,
the purse being $40 000 in gold. The horses
were put in active.training: the news was
heralded to to Tarryall, Breckinridge, Alma,
California Gulch, Clear Creek and the other
dig!;ings, and for hundreds of miles in a
country where the modes for travel were the
most primitive and slow, the approaching
race became the one topic of conversation.
From the outlying camps and settlements
miners and farmers flocked into town, days
in advance of the advent; one with his
buckskin pouch overflowing with the pioflts
of the sluice box, and the other accompanied
by his wife, daughter, and a few head of
betting stock. The outside stakes c0 the
race were about even, the gamblers aud
sports being sor RBuffian, and the miners and
farmers betting on Chief On the day pre
ceding that of the race the owners had a
ferocious discussion about the horses, at
concluded by increasing the stakes to 4,
000 a side (this w all the maoney the Q:i
brothers could raie), maritng tlie putree $;:,
000, the largest one ever made for a mile
race in the United States. E
Derby or Prix de Paris never created 1
fiercer enthusiasm, and afternoon sun never
shone upon a scene more wildly animated
than that frontier race course. Thee was
no high enclosure, no morose ticket seller,
no insolent gate tender, no protecting po
licemen. All was go as you please, go i
where you please, and uneniding confusion ;
at least ten thousand men, woman and chil
dren encircled the track in a hapless, swel
tering chain. The roughest and kindest, the 1
uilest and purest of the border elements there
migled without distinction. The men all
armed and many of them carried rifles. An
imposing stand had hastily been constructed
from rough boards and logs, and in this
structure the judges officiated. The. gold
dust purse had been melted at the mint and 1
the 400 pound retort of shining metal was
suspended by wires and ropes stretched
across thk track from the stand to a huge
poet. Men wildly staked their claims, their
homes, stock and money, and those of the
women who possessed diamonds or jewelry
did not hesitate to risk their baubles on the
At last amid frenzied cheers the horses got
got a start, Ruffian forging ahead from bhe
stand. Chief flew the track, went over a 1
deep embankment, and before he could re
cover the first heat was practically decided
in Ruffian's favor. A yell of disappointment
went up from the multitude, and a rush was
made to lynch the man who started Chief.
He succeeded in escaping the mob unharmed
however. More than one hundred thousand
dollars had changed hands on the heat. The
gamblers, encouraged, doubled bets; staked
everything on the second heat, and the out
siders, yet confident, met them all cheer
An even start was obtained in the second
heat, and the two horses passed into the
quarter stretch neck and neck. At the half
pole, Ruffian, in response to hard whipping,
slowly took the lead. All this time, Chief
had been given a free rein, but had been
spared the lash. Charlie Hamilton, a des
perado, who had all his earthly possessions
staked on the Chief, stood at the back
stretch pole as the horses approached, a navy
revolver in each hand.
"Lay the whip to that horse or I'll drop
you from the saddle," he shouted to Eugene
Teats, Chief's rider, sighting both of his
weapons. Teats knew that Hamilton would
keep his word unless the order was obeyed,
and although he was confident that Chief
would win the second heat without urging
he lost no time in applying the whip. He
drew blood at every stroke, and Chief went
under the wire winner of the heat by 100
feet, in 1:42.
Then commenced a riot and turmoil, the
like of which was never before or since wit
nessed on a race course. Men pulled their
Ssix shooters and fired madly, indiscriminate
ly; gold dust, in the quarrel for stakes, was
scattered recklessly in the sand, and even
the woman forgot their modesty so far as to
curse their ill luck in round Anglo Saxon
Ruffian was completely broken down after
tbii beat, and the gamblers, appreciating
Sthat they were braten, became frantic with
rage. Con Orem and Charley Switz, who
atterwards became noted prize fighters,
stood at the door to the stand and held the
crowd at bay until the judges had given their
decision. Chief was ordered on the track,
and after making the half mile wire was de
clared winner of the race, The judges had
to be escorted from the track to town by an
armed escort composed of volunteers from
the winning side.
Mounted on broncho ponies with pistols
t and Bowie knives drawn, the Greer brothers
a nd a party of friends made their way to the
$95,000 nugget and cut it to the ground. It
was loaded in a wagon and taken into town,
a guard accompanying the precious freight.
SThere was a large number of people shot
and stabbed in the melee, but fortunately
e none died from their wounds.
SThat night Denver was one blazing revel
Sry; one gorgeous orgie. The immense nug
get was cut up into smaller and more com
mercial commokities. Teats was presented
n with $5.000 worth of these. The balance
e of the winning were equally divided by the
brothers, and in less than forty-eight hours
Ihey had squandered all. In a state of in
ebriety they sold the Chief to Captain
McGee, the war guerrilla, for $150, who was
subsequently tortured to death by the In
diana. When McGee was captured, Chief
e.caped to the Ogallala range and fell inwith
the famous band of wild horses which has
existed in that region for years. He was
never recovered.
SRuffian seeme. to realize that his days of
glory on the turf had come to a sudden end
ing. and after that memorable contest he be
g came ambitionless and worthless. For
Sweeks he stood in hies stall motionless and
Swith bowed head, impervious alike to the
5 caresses of visitors and the voice of the host
ler, escarcely tasteing the graint allowed him.
One bitter cold November morning the great
Mormonracer was found stiff and lifeless
upon the floor. .
A 31l isuvsmei s.
: An New Yorker was seated in- an Opice in
a ( nnison city one day not los( ago, when a
4 gtly-ooolng oi edlli iutered and led4 if
,. that was'i . place where they sold shares of
observed, "I have heard the White Horse
spoken of as being a likely mine." "It cer
tainly is. We took 10,000 dollars worth of
ore out in one day." "Phew she must be
just old richness ! "How many men have ye
got to work ?" "Oh, about 300!" "Haveye
though? Are the sheers going off purty
lively ?" "Shares are selling like hot cakes,
and we have only a few left. Everybody
says the White Horse is a big investment."
"What are sheers worth to-day ?" "I will
sell you at ninety-five though I know they will
be face value to morrow." "No! You don't
really mean ninety-five ?" "I do." "Well
that's better. There's a 100 shares which
you sold my pard yesterday for twenty dol
lars. I went over to the mine, and found
nothing but a hole and a dead mule and I
told him I'd come up and get my money 4
back or do some shooting. I'm 'tarnal glad
to find them sheers has riz from twenty to
ninety-five. That will give my pard his
money back, and buy me a winter outfit be
sides. Here's the sheers and now let me see
the color of your money." "But, sir, we
" "Pass out the cash," said the old
man, as he rested at the end of his shooter
on the edge of the counter. The "Company"
E rd left his revolver in his overcoat outside.
After a look round, with a bland smile he
began counting out the money; ani as he
made the exchange, he said 'Certaily, esir
gr atest of pleasure, ,sir Sorry you didn't
hold the,; .,ne day more and get the full
face value "
Atchison's Trading Post
A complete stock of
General Merchandise,
And Miners' Outfits.
Having removed my stock of merchandise from Ft.
Maginnis, and added a large and complete invoice of
new goods, I am prepared to supply settlers, miners,
and travelers with as good goods an<l at as low figures
as any store in this seetion of the coun,ry outside of
Fort Benton,
Lath, Shingles.
t Will deliver Lumber to order at any point along the
Missouri River from Stickney Creek to Fort
Benton. Parties wishing lumber
- -1tt Care WM. MOORE, Benton Road.
SChoteau House
Thoroughly Refitted and Newly Purnished.
SConductei on first-class prmnciples. Everything new
neat and attractive. Feelin a sured that we can
offer the very best of accommodation, we res
e pectfully solicit the patronage of the
Front Street, Fort Benton.
-:THE -
Finest Tonsorial Parlors
With or without fre. The house ha. been recently
f enlarged and new sleeping rooms added. Board
by the day or weeL. Special ratc5 given
Regular Boarders.
SPassengers on Coaehbes wishing to Stop
ir st bl11 aoase will please Inform
lthe drivers.
Dealer in a line of
SGeneral Merchandise.
I alays have n hand £ full supply of goods demand
edby the trade, and eU them a reasonable
A good hotel, under the mausaement of Mrs. Bar
i rows; a saloon and view aftbte, anter the manate
ment o Msews.b ihieds &..Lund, and a cotplet
blaekmnith- shon are ran In connectlea with the
Sstor . Coe toe "too nl ad use _ nse befors bsq
I_ tng1 * tmhbdal.s M. t
Manufacturers and Dealers in
Saddlery Hardware, Etc., Etc.
Agent for Hill's
Cash Paid for Hides Furs, Peltries, Wool, E c., Etc. Repairing
Neatly aI,. Prom p ly Done.
1881. ESTABLISHED 1876
Black.Snake Whips, Hobbles, 3
California Lashes, Halters,
Curry Cembs, Rading Bridles,"
Horse Brushes, Side Saddles,
Mexican Spars, Horse R ankets,)
Block Stirrups, Surcingles,
Slipper Stirrups, Horse Collars,
Iroe Boa.-d Stirrups Harness Soap,
Plaited Bridle BReis, Feed Bags,
Picket swivels, Whip %talks,
GI .ves and Mittens, Teuts,
Harness Oil, Cinches,
Mills, Leak & Co.'s Gloves adl Mittens.
Cor. Front.and Bond Sts., Fort Benton, Montana.
Harness and Saddle
Front Street, Benton. MIont.
3 kWe keep a full line of Saddlery Hardware, Collars, Whips, Blankets and Coronas.
Saddle-Trees of every descriotion, including the celebrated IRON ,FORK
and LIVE OAK TREES. Particular attention paid to the manu
facrure of
Also all grades of Harness, from the Lightest to the Heaviest, suitable for Stock
men, Ranchmen, Freighters and others.
No Machine Stitched Work in our Stock I
Ladies' Saddles always on hand. Highest Cash Price paid for Hides, Furs, Wool and
Peltries. Prompt atteniion paid to orders by mail and satisfaction guaranteed.
Front Street, Fort Benton.
This popular Hotel is situated in the centre of the town, convenient to the business houses,
and opposite the steamboat landing. A number of New Rooms have been recently
added, and nothing is left undone which will contribute to the comfort
and convenience of guests.
-- -
CAPITAL, $1,000,000. 500,000 SHARES.
Own the Wright & Edwards Mines and Mill Site Attached.
JWON w. POWRa , al. L. WEaoT, JOl'R *. I·ILL, *. 3*. coLIN!q
JOSEPH 8. HILL, Presldent. J. J. DONNELLY, tsecretaty.
H. L. WRIGHT, Vici-Presideat T. E. COLLINS, Treasurer.
' A limited numberot ba~reaof TresuryJtock is ofered for sal at s0 cents per share
antil firther advanced witheat notice.

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