COBWEB CORNERS: What does he have to do with here?
By Mel McFarland
I recently traveled a lot of miles in the West. I even revisited my old residence up in Wyoming. Up there the town is famous for a crook who was in its jail once. There is even a statue to commemorate it - a fine bronze statue of Harry Longabauer sitting in his cell. You don't remember Harry? Sure you do, the Sundance Kid.
Another famous crook was supposedly living in Colorado City, but that was after he died! In the 1950s, there was a tale of how Bob Ford's murder of Jesse James had been a hoax and that he had lived into his 90s. He was purported to have lived here under an assumed name. Another Jesse James was reported in Texas. Researchers checked the DNA of the bones of James and his family, buried in Missouri, before deciding the Texas and Colorado versions weren't him.
One of the West's best known individuals, Billy the Kid, has the most unusual link to General Palmer! Back before the General had started Colorado Springs, but after he had met Irving Howbert here in 1870, he was working with the Maxwell Grant in New Mexico. This land grant covered a huge chunk of the state from near the Colorado state line and Las Vegas. He eventually quit to concentrate on his railroad project, the Denver and Rio Grande. In doing so, he and his friend, Dr. William Bell, made friends with an Englishman in New Mexico. John Tunstall was owner of a large cattle ranch adjacent to the land grant. He was the son of a well- to-do family in England.
General Palmer was raising the money to build his railroad on his own. The big Union and Central Pacific lines, which were building the transcontinental railroad, were getting tons of money from the government, but Palmer was doing it as he went by starting towns and getting investors. One of his investors in New Mexico was Tunstall, who had an employee known as Billy The Kid. It was Tunstall's death that set The Kid off on his best-known exploits. Later, Tunstall's family looked into his investments, including the D&RG, but by then the railroad building in New Mexico had stalled near Santa Fe, and there was no hope of continuing to Mexico City, as the General had planned. It was said that the stocks in the railroad were split by Tunstall's rivals, who looted his ranch.