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201 CHAPTER 20 Winters’End K id Curry and his cohor ts most likely hid out in the badlands between the Little Rockies and the Missouri Ri ver until the majority of manhunters left the area after mid- July 1901.1 This would have been the most opportune time for Curry to leave his hideaway for a visit to his friend Jim Thornhill and Jim’s common-law wife, Lucy Tressler. She was most likely the “old lady” Curry had in mind as the recipient of the bolt of green silk he lifted from the Wagner robbery. He would have been greeted at the door b y three curious children, one his four -yearold namesake, Harvey D. Thornhill, nicknamed “Man.” When Jim later moved to Arizona, Man became a top roper and won several rodeo competitions . The others were three-year-old Sarah, and Jim’s son George, born December 27, 1899.2 Some histories state that Curry even took time out to visit his friend Sid Willis in Great Falls. He first took a room in the Minot b lock, not bothering to hide his identity. He then supposedly asked the Mint Saloon owner to act as a go-between in finding someone who would forge signatures on the unsigned Bank of Montana mone y. Whether Willis refused or just couldn’t find anyone willing to sign the bills, Cur ry nevertheless left Great Falls without the desired forgeries.3 Jim Winters was understandably nervous and wary after he had killed John Curry in 1896. Four years later he told Siringo “that he expected to be waylaid and killed by ‘Kid’ Curry.”4 But it had been o ver five years since the gunfight, and during that time Kid Cur ry had not shown any inclination to seek revenge. About six o’clock in the mor ning, on July 25, 1901, eight days after the posses disbanded, Winters stepped out the back door to air his b lankets and feed the chickens. He was on the back porch holding a tin plate of water and brushing his teeth, when he was struck by two bullets in the 202 Chapter 20 abdomen. One bullet lodged in his stomach, the other passed through to shatter his spinal column.5 According to Walt Coburn, Winters’ stepbrother and partner, Abe Gill, was at the ranch, along with six easter n college students from Gill’s Brooklyn alma mater. They had been invited to spend their summer vacation to help with the haying and other ranch work, and had arrived at the ranch after the posses had left. 6 One press report described the six visitors only as “pilgrims,” and that Gill had left the night previously for Fort Benton.7 The inquest report lists them by name as witnesses, and the occupations of at least a couple of them are known. Edwin F. Wetzel, an insurance clerk from Chicago, and a teacher from Pennsylvania named (A. L.?) Hoover, were able to carry Winters into the house.A friend ofWetzel’s, twenty-one-year-old Boyd L. Spahr, who had been hired to cook for the ha ying crew, saw a man he didn’ t recognize running up a coulee in a crouched position over 150 yards distant. While Hoover remained to do w hat he could for Winters, Wetzel, Spahr, and Joseph D. Steele, tried to reach the bar n for horses to ride to Landusk y, but a burst of warning shots drove them back to the house.8 About 8:30 a.m., after the w arning shots had finally stopped, Steele and Alfred Nicolovius saddled up and set out for Landusky. They pulled up at the J. B. Morrison ranch where neighbors John L. Merchant and Jim Thornhill were visiting. This provided a convenient alibi for Thornhill in the shooting of Winters. After alerting authorities in Landusk y, Steele and Nicolovius continued north toward Harlem to fetch the nearest doctor, and reportedly caught up with Abe Gill near St. P aul’s Mission . Gill instructed Steele to continue on to Harlem for the doctor and to notify authorities, while he and Nicolovius returned to the ranch.9 On the other hand , the Fort Benton Daily River Press of July 26, states that Gill rode the sixty- six miles from his ranch to Harlem for a doctor, and sent a tele gram to Chouteau County Sherif f Tom Clary at Fort Benton.10 He was the official who had...


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