Weekly Register-Call – March 12, 2015

A Tailing Tale

Marshal Clark of Black Hawk in 1863

Chief Stephen ColeI recently had the opportunity to visit with Black Hawk’s Chief of Police, Stephen Cole, to discuss Robert A. Clark, the first Marshal of Black Hawk, and the first Colorado law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty. As the killing of Clark occurred prior to Colorado declaring statehood, he never received the honors given to fallen officers.

Over several years, Chief Cole spent many hours, accumulated substantial information about Marshal Clark, and put forth considerable effort to correct the oversight on the part of the State of Colorado and the U.S. Government. Thanks to Cole’s efforts, today Robert A. Clark stands among those brave fallen officers Robert A. Clarkmemorialized by our state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Today, two impressive bronze plaques immediately greet anyone entering the Black Hawk Police Station. One lists and honors all men and women who served as marshals in Black Hawk from 1864 to 1989. The other remembers Robert A. Clark for his life, dedication and bravery serving the people of Black Hawk.

On July 10, 1869, brothers, James and Thomas Cranmer, former residents of Peck Gulch and Nevada, while hauling a load of flour through the Central City, drove recklessly close to the Lafayette Restaurant. Their irresponsible behavior nearly destroyed the chicken-coop, and the ruckus brought Nick Dupris, the restaurant cook, charging out the door shouting and threatening to get the sheriff. The older brother, Thomas, dismounted the wagon and proceeded to beat Dupris about the head and then knock him to the ground. The brothers then fled Central City, and were seen heading up Dory Hill.

Squire Kennedy immediately issued an arrest warrant, which he gave to Constable Peter Herbert and instructed him to pursue the culprits. After enlisting the assistance of Marshal Robert Clark of Black Hawk, he and Herbert sped up Dory Hill, stopping near Dora’s Ranch, where they found the Cranmer’s wagon, team, and an abandoned cabin.

As they approached the cabin, the front door slammed shut, bringing Herbert and Clark to dismount and investigate. Herbert rapped on the door, which the younger brother, James Cranmer, opened. Herbert stepped inside, followed closely behind by Marshal Clark. The constable asked James if he knew the whereabouts of his brother Thomas. The younger brother responded indignantly that it was none of his business.

Herbert pushed past the younger Cranmer and ascended the stairs to an overhead loft. There he found Thomas hiding out. Cranmer asked Herbert what he wanted and the officer told him that he had a warrant for his arrest and he must accompany him back to Central City. Thomas Cranmer agreed to go with him, and Constable Herbert descended the stairs.

In the meantime, James Cranmer resisted arrest by Marshall Clark. A scuffle ensued, and Cranmer attacked Clark with a club. Then, a shot rang out from the loft, and a bullet passed through the ceiling, striking Clark in the head. The marshal dropped to the floor and Herbert returned fire. Another shot cracked from above, again passing through the ceiling, this time striking Herbert in the right forearm, passing through flesh and lodging in the constable’s upper arm.

With Marshal Clark down and Herbert seriously wounded, James Cranmer took the opportunity to escape. Herbert, unable any longer to maintain the fight, stooped down and spoke to Clark, but the Marshal gave no answer and did not move. Finding his own horse gone, and believing his fellow officer to be dead, the constable mounted Clark’s horse and rode as quickly as possible back to Central City. As soon as the constable reached town and told what had happened, Sheriff Grimes formed a posse, who rode up to the cabin where they found Marshal Clark dead and the Cranmer brothers gone.

Authorities found James Cranmer several days later and arrested him. Thomas Cranmer, who shot Marshal Clark, made his getaway on Herbert’s horse, which a Mr. Groseclose returned to the livery two weeks after the murder. He reported finding the animal about a half-mile above Rand’s sawmill with no bridle and a nearly new saddle badly worn. Those facts appeared to confirm a report that Thomas Cranmer turned the horse loose, but it shed no light upon the man’s whereabouts.

James Cranmer stood trial for charges of accessory to murder. Black Hawk offered a $1000 reward for Thomas Cranmer’s arrest and the county commissioners offered an additional $1000, but authorities never found the older brother.

Robert A. Clark’s funeral was the largest ever to occur in Gilpin County. The Masonic Fraternity of Central Lodge and some members of the Nevada Lodge, preceded by the Opera Band, joined the Black Hawk Lodge, to which Mr. Clark belonged. They then went to the Clark residence, from where they accompanied his remains to the Presbyterian Church. The building, filled beyond capacity, left not even standing room inside, and many mourners remained outside the church. Rev. Whitehead of the Episcopal Church, assisted by Rev. Byrne of Nevada, performed services. After the funeral, a procession formed and proceeded to the Masonic Cemetery in the upper portion of Central where mourners consigned Marshal Robert A. Clark to the earth with Masonic honors. (The family of Lucinda Clark later exhumed the marshal’s body and moved it to Riverside Cemetery in Denver to rest near the grave of his widow.)

Robert A. Clark, born in Maryland in1834, moved to Black Hawk in 1860 to work as miner. In 1863, the people of Black Hawk elected him their fist City Marshal, elected him every year thereafter, and he was a man held in the highest esteem by the citizens and officials of Gilpin County. He married Lucinda Converse Dougherty less than one year prior to his death, and left behind his widow along with stepdaughter Sophia Jenna Dougherty.

Published March 12, 2015 in the Weekly Register-Call.

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