Berthoud shocked by shooting at Rockwell Ranch in 1889

By Mark French

The Surveyor

The main character in last week’s tale, Dr. R.L. Liggett, found out what it was like to be a doctor in the Berthoud community during the 1880s and ‘90s when absentee landowners manned their ranches with crews of hired hands. In November 1889, only six months after Liggett arrived in the community, he was called to attend to a ranch hand who had been shot at the Rockwell ranch east of Berthoud.

The Rockwell ranch was owned by Denver lawyer Lewis Clinton Rockwell. At one time the U.S. District Attorney for Gilpin County, Rockwell was also a real estate investor who owned 1,200 acres in Weld County. Rockwell’s ranch was located two miles east and one mile south of Berthoud. Rockwell resided in a home at 1830 Grant St. in Denver.

On Nov. 14, 1889, the Berthoud correspondent for the Loveland Reporter newspaper wrote, “Our usually quiet community was thrown into a state of excitement last Monday night by the report that a man had been killed at the Rockwell ranch. Your correspondent went down immediately and gathered the following facts: The Rockwell ranch comprises several hundred acres and is leased by L.G. Hollenbeak. He has in his employ a number of men among them were Elmer Robb and Albert Martin.

“On Monday evening Martin went to bed about 8 o’clock. [The men sleep in rooms fitted up for the purpose upstairs in the barn; while there is a room fitted up with stove, seats, tables, etc., as  lounging room for the men.] The other men were below having a merry time with perhaps a little ‘O-be joyful’ to help matters along; among the number was a Sweda boy named Chas. Sholtz, Robb [who is a brother-in-law of Mr. Hollenbeak] wanted Sholtz to fight Martin. This he did not want to do, finally by threats Robb succeeded in getting Sholtz to consent to fight Martin. Robb went upstairs to where Martin was sleeping and told him to come down. This Martin refused to do and Robb went down.

After a while Robb went up again and commenced cursing Martin and told him he must go down, Martin again refusing. Finally Martin had occasion to go down; taking a 32 cal.  revolver he started downstairs, Robb seeing Martin take the revolver asked him if he was going to take the gun. Martin answered that he was. They both went down, Martin ahead arriving at the lower floor Robb continued to curse Martin. Martin backing up Robb following finally Martin reached the door and went out on the east side of the barn. He then went around to the north side and into the corral northwest of the barn.

Finally Martin started back toward the east side of the barn, when about half way directly north of the barn Robb came out of an outhouse with a double-barreled shot gun at his shoulder and pointed directly at Martin, and called out ‘Riley’ [Martin’s nickname]’put down that revolver.’ Martin answered, ‘I never will.’ Robb advanced toward him with the gun still pointed at him and again said ‘put down the revolver.’ Martin again replied, ‘I never will.’ By this time Robb was close enough so that Martin grasped the shotgun by the muzzle, when they commenced to scuffle for the possession of the gun, Martin thinking Robb would gain possession of the gun, (Robb being the larger and stronger man) commenced to shoot and fired four shots, three took effect in Robb’s body. One entered six inches to the right of the apex of the sternum; the second entered about two inches to the right of the sternum between the seventh and eighth ribs; the third entered about an inch to the left of the sternum an inch and a half from the nipple.

Martin went into the barn and told the men, ‘I’ve shot Elmer.’ The men going out found Robb on the ground dead. Dr. Leggitt was summoned and the officers notified. Martin stayed at the barn and surrendered himself to W.W. who turned him over to Deputy Sheriff McIntyre., of Weld County, the shooting taking place in that county. Justice C.R. Skinner was notified and impaneled a jury consisting of M.D. Whipple, H.F. Stewart, J.W. Logie, H.D. Hughes and R.H. Boatman., who found a verdict in accordance with the above facts. At this writing Martin is having his preliminary examination.”

Later the Loveland newspaper added, “Albert Martin who shot and killed Elmer Robb at the Rockwell ranch, had a preliminary examination before G.R. Skinner, on Wednesday, November 13. George Bailey appeared for the people and Lyman Porter for the defense. After hearing the witnesses and the arguments of the attorneys, His Honor discharged the prisoner. The next morning J.M. Wolaver, Sherriff of Weld County, appeared and took Martin to Greeley. The witnesses were subpoenaed at the same time and that afternoon the case was brought before the grand jury. That jury after hearing the testimony refused to find a bill against Martin and he was set at liberty. This meets the approval of all who are familiar with the case.”

 

 

 

 

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