Season of Terror
The Espinosas in Central Colorado, March–October 1863
Publication Year: 2013
For eight months during the spring and fall of 1863, brothers Felipe Nerio and José Vivián Espinosa and their young nephew, José Vincente, New Mexico–born Hispanos, killed and mutilated an estimated thirty-two victims before their rampage came to a bloody end. Their motives were obscure, although they were members of the Penitentes, a lay Catholic brotherhood devoted to self-torture in emulation of the sufferings of Christ, and some suppose they believed themselves inspired by the Virgin Mary to commit their slaughters.
Until now, the story of their rampage has been recounted as lurid melodrama or ignored by academic historians. Featuring a fascinating array of frontier characters, Season of Terror exposes this neglected truth about Colorado’s past and examines the ethnic, religious, political, military, and moral complexity of the controversy that began as a regional incident but eventually demanded the attention of President Lincoln.
Published by: University Press of Colorado
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...(18four.oldstyle6–18four.oldstyle8), which saw the United States seize more than five.oldstyle0,000 inhabitants and so dif_ferent from today’s state of more than f_ive million that we can imagine it only with the help of Despite Price’s meticulous research, lost or overlooked evidence may surface to shed new light on the story. For example, consider a couple of sentences ...
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...correspondence bearing on the hunt for the Espinosas and its consequences in the of_f_icer corps of the volunteer Service of the US Army. He was also kind enough to read and comment on selected portions of the manuscript bearing on the cultural and military aspects of the New Mexico–Colorado i also owe an immense obligation to Christie Wright of Highlands Ranch, ...
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...inspired more fear and dread over a greater expanse of country than this trio, yet today they and their grisly rampage are largely forgotten, save in the local And even in the Centennial State the Espinosas are not widely remembered. When they are, sensationalism has been the order of the day. As recently as the 1970s, the then-director of the museum at old Fort Garland3 regularly staged ...
1. “Alarming Intelligence and Intense Excitement”
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...of the cotton-woods show, and they know their business better than anyone can tell them, and have stood too long in this latitude not to be well aware when the time has come to start their young leaves out into the open air.”3The unseasonable weather seemed miraculous, so much so that one Thursday in mid-March the editors of both the Mile-High City’s weekly news-...
2. “Most Horrible and Fiendish Murders”
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...distant to be heard; yonder a brilliant welcoming sun in a clear sky; there, immense occluded clouds rolling darkly down from towering summits, spew-ing squalls of snow; and from yet another direction a constant bone-numbing At any time of the year, the Park can look especially sinister. Latter-day water diversion arrangements, preventing development, have left huge tracts ...
3. “There Has Been Considerable Excitement”
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...once by Unionists.3 While large-scale violence between the factions did not break out, there were individual instances of fights and disturbances involving But overall, Colorado escaped anything resembling the bitter partisan war-fare that af_f_licted border regions like Missouri and the Southern Appalachians, where Unionists and Confederates, former neighbors, turned on each other ...
4. “The People Are Scared Nearly to Death Here”
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...“th.sce p.sceop.scle are scared nearly.sc to death.sc h.scere”62served by a branch of the main road. The other two seem to have been from Fairplay. Evidently the trio had climbed this high in the mountains to obtain wood because most of the timber lower down had already been cut since the rush of 1859 to make flumes, sluice boxes, rockers, and the other parapherna-...
5. “Fallen into the Hands of Hard Men in an Evil Hour”
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...“f.scallen into th.sce h.scands of.sc h.scard men in an ev.scil h.scour”76McCannon must have offered a commanding presence. Certainly his let-ters, preserved in the files of the Kansas Historical Society, are full of a brash, self-assured belligerence.4 His 1864 photograph shows a high-cheekboned, dark-browed countenance with a lofty forehead and pale, penetrating eyes; ...
6. “Glorious News! The Mysterious Murders Unraveled at Last”
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...“glorious new.scsexclam.sc th.sce my.scsterious murders unrav.sceled at last”92These movements suggest that McCannon, whatever his disagreeable qual-ities, owned a sound head for tactics—he had used Wilson’s men to execute a flanking movement that would drive the killers down the Park, then had split and dispersed his own force to cover their only routes of escape, eastward ...
7. “Desperate and Lawless Bravos”
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...named Decedero Abeyta,3 was dead; Deputy Austin had suffered a broken leg; and Lieutenant Hodt had managed to shoot himself in the head by acci-dent. Three Hispanos who were suspected of having killed Corporal Abeyta At some point soon after this armed clash, Colorado’s US Marshal Alexander Cameron Hunt and another federal deputy named Olmstead arrived on the ...
8. “Revenge for the Infamies Committed Against Our Families”
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...“rev.scenge f.scor th.sce inf.scamies committed against our f.scamilies”138door to one another, the dwellings of several members of both families might We do not know whether the home or homes were totally destroyed, but they must have been at least partially consumed, and of course Felipe and Vivián themselves—or perhaps, as Tobin claimed, their womenfolk—had ...
9. “Malicious Interference was the Cause”
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...the garrison at Albuquerque. He saw action at Peralta and Los Pinos and at a skirmish at Albuquerque during the Texan invasion of New Mexico in the winter of 1861–62. In the summer of the latter year, when the volunteer ser-vice was reorganized, he became captain of Company D, First New Mexico Volunteers. Eaton’s actions were performed under the eye of Colonel E.R.S. ...
10. “Times Have Become Quiet Again”
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Espinosa there was one more brief flurry of excitement on the northern verge of the Park when a party of men from Gold Run in the Blue River country were assaulted by five “guerrillas” on the same route Lehman and Seyga had traveled, the Denver, Bradford, and Blue River toll road. According to the May 9 edition of Central City’s Miner’s Register, the attack resulted in “a terrible ...
11. “Ready for Any Duty, Untiring, and Full of Energy”
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...“ready.sc f.scor any.sc duty.sc, untiring, and f.scull of.sc energy.sc”208ing First Lieutenant William B. Moore, who had taken temporary charge of the post after Captain Davidson, of the E. Wayne Eaton affair, relinquished it The onset of winter was always unpredictable in the San Luís. Frost was com-mon in September and October and heavy snowfalls were erratic, sometimes ...
12. “If This Woman Is Found Dead, Tell the People the Espinosas of the Conejos Killed Her”
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...resource would make a boomtown of sleepy Trinidad and an expansive coalfield of the area around it, leading eventually to bloody labor unrest and the infamous Ludlow Massacre. But in 1863 the town and county were not yet widely settled; the few ranches and farms were strewn sparsely along the river Though Trinidad had not been an actual town until 1860 or 1861, for over ...
13. “I Drew His Head Back over a Fallen Tree and Cut It Off ”
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...“i drew.sc h.scis h.scead b.scack.sc ov.scer a f.scallen tree and cut it of.scf.sc”240and Hispano—whom Tobin had killed.5 In those days, the notching of a gun to record one’s kills was thought to bespeak a certain vicious indifference to human life, but in Tobin’s case, though he certainly could kill quickly and without evident thought, the practice seems to have been a simple matter of ...
14. “The Brightest Success Rewarded Them for Their Toils”
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...“th.sce b.scrigh.sctest success rew.scarded th.scem f.scor th.sceir toils”266Given Tobin’s discomfort with the spoken word, the speech he gives himself in this version is unconvincing to say the least. His grandson, Kit Carson III, in his reminiscences, may have better preserved both the old scout’s terseness and the actual circumstances of the exposure of the grisly trophies:...
15. “Who Is There to Gather the History of This Wretch?”
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...“w.sch.sco is th.scere to gath.scer th.sce h.scistory.sc of.sc th.scis w.scretch.scquestion.sc”278Even at the height of terror in South Park, a Montgomery correspondent could submit the following item to the same newspaper shortly after Metcalf was providentially saved from death when a packet of papers in his breast pocket, including President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and some ...
16. “Times with Me Have Sadly Changed”
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...scout, through an intermediary, dollar.oldstyle200 as an expression The last image of Tom Tobin, 1902, at seventy-nine years of age. (Photo courtesy of that I have never received anything from the Government by way of acknowl-Governor Evans and others, he complained, had from time to time promised to pay him dollar.oldstyle2,500 “for the killing of the Mexican bandits, the Espinosas.” But ...
Appendix A: Location of the Death Site of Vivián Espinosa
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Appendix B: John McCannon’s Attempt to Claim the Espinosa Reward
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Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: A Timberline Book
Series Editor Byline: Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel