Mad dash in buggy failed to save hunter’s life

By Mark French

The Surveyor

Jack Hill, the topic of last week’s tale, was a well-known citizen during Colorado’s territorial days. While Hill made his living operating saloons in Golden and then Denver, it was near the little burg of Berthoud where he took his last breath.

After Jack Hill was wounded at Lone Tree Lake, he was rushed in a buggy to Berthoud in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life. This segment of the Loveland, Colorado, 1908 quadrangle map shows the location of Lone Tree Lake in relation to the tiny burg of Berthoud. The buggy driver, Sylvester Williamson, covered the distance in 12 minutes. The Haworth place where Bill Turner viewed the speeding buggy was located at the southeast quarter of section 16.

In 1925 Bill Turner, the son of Berthoud town-founder, Peter Turner, penned a reminiscence of his early days in the community for the local newspaper. The subject of Turner’s article was a mad dash that was made from Lone Tree Lake to Berthoud to save the life of Hill. On Nov. 27, 1925, Turner wrote, “In the early nineties there was a saloon keeper in north Denver by the name of Jack Hill. He supported a semi-pro baseball club and was a pretty well known sport all over the state.

“He owned a hunting lease on the Welch lake (now part of the reservoir system of the Handy Ditch) and made his hunting trips in a light spring wagon which had a high seat in front and lots of room in the bed behind. He was generally accompanied by a couple of friends.

“On his last trip here an accidental discharge of a shotgun by one of his companions struck him in the back and the left side, and he fell helpless to the ground. His companions, panic stricken, rushed to the nearest house for help. Living on the bank of the lake at that time was a big elongated cowboy named Sylvester Williamson (who is still alive and lives at Nampa, Idaho) whom they told of their predicament.

“In those days there was no telephone to rush to, or doctor with a Ford to answer the call, so Williamson proposed that their quickest way for help would be to make a bed in the back of the wagon for him and run for a doctor and help. They hitched up Hill’s team, threw their beds in the back of the wagon and beat it around the lake to where Hill had fallen. Arriving there they found the friend who had stayed with him frantic, and Hill almost dead. They made a bed the best they could, lifted him in, and held him in their arms, in a sitting position, as he could not breathe when they laid him down. One of the men remarked to Williamson that he would give him twenty dollars if he would have them to a doctor in fifteen minutes. It was four miles from where Hill fell to Berthoud, the nearest place for help. Williamson had never seen the team before but that boy could sure drive them.

“The writer of this story was in the lane just south of Everett Haworth’s place [near the present-day intersection of Larimer County Road 10 and Highway 56], and when hearing the noise of the team coming down the road (by what is now the Stepp place) on the dead run, was compelled to pause, for such a magnificent drive for a man’s life is not seen more than once in a life time by anybody, the horses with nostrils extended, sides heaving, sweat pouring from them, but their heads exactly even and under a tight rein. He slacked them a little at the turn and once squared away down the road he did throw the whip to them, first one and then another, but as long as they were in sight they did not vary one foot from the center of the road.

In a few minutes they were in town. The man looked at his watch—they had made the trip in twelve minutes, but with all their heroic efforts to save him, Jack Hill died a few minutes later in the drug store or hotel, I have forgotten which.

“Our young men today are spreading out in many walks of life, but where is the one that can do what Sylvester Williamson could do? That kind are passing away.”

Turner’s tale was corroborated by a short announcement concerning Hill’s death that appeared in Leadville’s Herald Democrat on Oct. 21, 1894. On that date the newspaper noted, “Jack Hill, the well-known saloon keeper of the west side, and baseball manager, was accidentally shot by E.H. Naylor. Hill was an old resident of Denver and was best known in connection with the Jack Hill ball team, which he managed. The deceased, Naylor and George Abbott started for Lone Tree Lake near Berthoud, Thursday, to shoot ducks. A message was received today by Naylor’s brother saying “Hill was shot accidentally and killed by me. He died thirty minutes after. Break the news gently to his wife.”

 

 

 

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