Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cannibalism In Colorado

October 21, 2014, at our Spirit of Christ Young at Heart Luncheon, we were told a story about Alferd Packer. The interesting talk, by the past president of the group, kept everyone quiet and listening to the tale of the only man in Colorado history who ate his fellow prospectors.

Packer and twenty other men began a trip to search for gold in the San Juan Mountains. They began their journey in November and as the speaker said,  "Everyone who lives in Colorado, knows this is not a good time to travel in the mountains because the weather is so unpredictable." The group became lost, had nothing to eat, and were rescued by the Indian Chief Ouray. The Chief advised the group to stay in the camp until spring and then they could continue their search for gold. Six men, including Packer, decided not to wait and headed into the cold and snowy mountains.

On April 16, 1874, Alferd Packer walked into Los Pinos Indian Agency, had money and wallets belonging to the other prospectors and gave a couple of versions of what happened on the trail. He maintained he killed the prospector who had already killed the rest of the party but it was an act of self defense. Another story
was that everyone died along the trail in different spots. Yet, when the bodies were found they were found all clustered together. He was sent to Saguache jail but managed to escape and for nine years he was free. He was captured in Wyoming and went to trial and he was sentenced to death by hanging. He went to prison for sixteen years until a reporter for the Denver Post, Polly Pry, petitioned the governor to pardon him and to release him. The governor did not pardon Alferd Packer, but he did set him free.

He died on April 24, 1907, and his last words were: "I'm not guilty as charged." He is buried at the Littleton Cemetery on Prince Avenue on Lot 65.

In 1989 the bodies of the prospectors were exhumed and the comment made after investigating the bodies, was that Packer was "a murdering cannibal and liar."

I was curious if, in fact, he was buried in Littleton and after driving seventy-five miles, hoping my car would not get scratched by low hanging evergreen branches, trying to follow three different sets of directions given to me by kind souls I still managed to get lost. I laughed at the street name of Jackass Hill and finally found the Littleton Cemetery.

Alfred (spelling on gravestone) is on a peaceful hill. There were coins and a rock on top of the tombstone. Rocks placed on the tombstone means a visitor while coins refers to a fellow service/military visitor.

The total trip today was four and one half hours and it was a trip well worth taking.We will never know the truth of what happened, yet it is an interesting story of a man with a colorful and hungry past!

 "In the Colorado Rockies where snow is deep and cold
and a man a foot can starve to death unless he's brave and bold.
Oh, Alferd Packer you'll surely go to hell 
while all the others starve to death you dined a bit to well."

From Ballad of Alferd Packer

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