25-50-10 Years Ago | AspenTimes.com

25-50-10 Years Ago

Compiled by John Colson
The Sheehan & Yates All-Star Minstrels came to the Wheeler Opera House in May 1908, one of a number of traveling minstrel shows that stopped in Aspen while touring the West. The Aspen Democrat declared the first nights show successful in all particulars and predicted that all those who attend the Wheeler tonight will be satisfied that they have received their moneys worth. (Courtesy Aspen Historical Society)
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One never knew when mayhem might erupt in the towns of the Wild West, and Aspen was no exception. A little too much liquor, coupled with feelings of resentment and a desire for revenge, made a recipe for violence that sent one man to the hospital with a 45-70 cal. rifle ball in his right arm, and other man to jail on charges of assault with intent to kill.At 9:30 last night the attention of the police and people on the street was attracted by a young woman calling from an upper window over the post office in the Brown & Hoag Block. On reaching the corner a man was found lying on the sidewalk … the police rushed upstairs and were informed … that Frank Kane had shot Billy ODonnell and pointed out the room in which Kane had retired … He attempted to resist arrest [but was] finally [taken] to the county jail.The story as told by the women of the house was that Kane was drunk and very abusive to the women, ordering one of them to leave the place … ODonnell interceded in behalf of the women and then went to his room … followed by Kane … ODonnell was heard to say, Dont do that, Frank which was followed by a shot. Kane then came out of the room with a rifle in his hands and the women retreated to Mrs. Kanes [wife of the accused gunman] room and fastened the door … Then it was the window was opened and the cries for help went out [as related above] … Evidently after Kane had left him … ODonnell went downstairs in search of a doctor, falling on the sidewalk.[In the meantime, Kane told police …] I shot him in self-defense; he tried to take my gun away from me … I struck him with the barrel of the gun and I must have pulled the trigger as the gun went off when I struck him.Within a week Kane was brought before Justice Sanders for a preliminary hearing. The hearing fell just a day before Kanes wife, born Bridget Magee in Pennsylvania and a transplant to Aspen in 1884, died following three years of unexplained illness.The hearing may be postponed owing to the fact that the prosecuting witness, William ODonnell, will not be able to appear in court nor able to undergo an examination at the hospital, on account of the seriousness of his wound. It is thought it will be at least 15 days before he will be in condition to give his evidence.Controversy continued over allegations of impropriety by the former Pitkin County Treasurer, W.H. McNichols, to the tune of a missing amount of some $1,500, and an investigation into the charges. Editor Charles Cap Daily of The Aspen Democrat continued to urge restraint on the Board of County Commissioners.The Democrat cannot yet believe that ex-Treasurer W.H. McNichols has intentionally wronged the people of this county or that he has willfully misappropriated the money …This paper has supported Mr. McNichols in two elections … we believe him to be honest, faithful and conscientious … We still stand by him and will continue so to do until is proven beyond the peradventure of doubt that he has misplaced our confidence and thrown to one side the implicit trust of the people.Microfilm of The Aspen Times 1904-1909 is missing from the Colorado Historical Societys archives. These 1908 excerpts are from The Aspen Democrat.

Local officials came out against, or at least were highly skeptical of, a plan by the state highway engineers, who wanted to replace the aging Castle Creek Bridge with a new structure to join Highway 82 directly to Aspens Main Street, avoiding the infamous S-curves. The initial plan was for a bridge that would entail a 7 percent grade from one side of the gorge to the other.The strongest stand on the question was taken by the Chamber [of Commerce] directors who [argued that, as planned, the bridge] would be difficult to negotiate in winter and harmful to the best interest of Aspen as a resort. The commissioners voted to recommend to the State Highway Department that a high level bridge with a flat approach should be constructed.Wagner Park, preserved as open space by the city, was gaining a reputation as a dust bowl when the snows melted every spring to reveal a vast expanse of highly mobile dirt.A cure for Aspens chronic Dust Bowl was in sight Monday, May 5, when the Pitkin County Commissioners decided to form a three member committee to study the feasibility of seeding Wagner Park. The land in question, located near the center of town, has been used for many years as a public ball park. Until recently the park was assumed to be jointly owned by the city and the county. Last year, however, when the question of seeding it came up, as it has every spring for many years, it was discovered that the city had no claim to the land and that it was owned entirely by the county.

Politics has always been Aspens premier spectator sport, in which spectators (the electorate) believe they have vast and inalienable rights to carp and whine about the actions of those they elect. But in the early 1980s, Aspenites decided they had had enough of the old guard and ushered in a new era.An unusually high 56 percent of Aspens 2,091 registered voters turned out to give property manager Bill Stirling a stunning landslide victory over his main opponents in the mayoral race, Susan Michael and Dick Knecht, city council members who had hoped for a promotion … reaffirming its dissatisfaction with present city policies, the electorate shot down George Parrys plans for a third term … and gave an overwhelming vote of confidence to Charles Chic Collins, the maverick incumbent … Parry apparently parted ways with the majority of the voters when he shrugged off the employee housing problem and dismissed a CBI [Colorado Bureau of Investigation] report suggesting that ex-police chief may have deliberately misplaced a gun from evidence … Parry embraced the concept of several major hotels in Aspen and acknowledged that he had voted for all development proposes put to the council in the past eight years. [Charlotte] Wall had no trouble taking a second seat on the council … Lodge owner Al Blomquist squeaked by Parry with seven votes for a 535-528 margin. The newly elected mayor and council members agree that the message in Tuesdays election is clear: Voters are disappointed in the citys laissez-faire policies, concerned about the councils loose rein on administrative activities, and not convinced that bigger is necessarily better. They want a change.In the same election, an obviously energized electorate also seemed ready for a change in direction when they installed a new educational regime with Dorothea Farris, Jon Seigle and Roulhac Garn.A record turnout of 1,255 people [voted] … traditionally only 600 to 800 people have voted in the school election … The vote clearly showed that the community is tired of the divisiveness and wants teachers, the school board, administrators and parents to all work together on the common goal of providing the best education possible for Aspen youngsters.With a voter-approved tax to pay for a newly consolidated bus system throughout Pitkin County, area officials started thinking about another possible change annexing the entire town of Basalt into Pitkin County.The first tentative steps toward a possible redrawing of the political borders were taken by the county recently, in an effort to straighten out the tangled tax situation brought on by the combination of the new countywide sixth penny of sales tax and the fact that one-quarter of Basalt already lies within the county. Since the sales tax within the Pitkin County portion of the town was already at the seven-percent maximum set by the state, adding an extra penny for the county would have brought the tax in that part of Basalt up to an illegal eight percent. [A complicated temporary solution involved Basalt dropping a penny from its sales tax schedule, and Pitkin County reimbursing Basalt for the lost revenue.] The reimbursement is expected to cost the county roughly $80,000 a year which provides a strong incentive for finding a better, more economical long-range solution.


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