JACK WATSON – A REALLY BAD MAN
On February 9, 1884, a short article was published in the Grand Junction News. It read: HORRIBLE! The City Marshall and Judge Edwards of Montrose both shot. Undersheriff J.F. Spencer received the following telegram last evening:Montrose,Colo.Feb 7, 1884. “Arrest a cripple named Watson; large man with bushy black whiskers, riding black horse. Has shot our city Marshall and Judge Edwards. Signed: John Adams, Acting Mayor.”
Both shooting victims survived, as Judge Edwards was shot in the chest and the City Marshall through the ankle. On February 13th, the Delta Chief picked up on the story by adding: “Last Friday Montrose was the scene of an almost sanguinary battle between Joe [sic] Watson, a good-natured, fearless, daring, and withal a Delta county cowboy on one side, and the entire native population of Montrose, together with their imported Mexicans and Mormons, dogs and other reprobates on the other side. [It gets better!] It is said that several thousand shots were fired from first to last, and long after the enemy had disappeared the fusillade was kept up, for no other apparent cause than, after the enemy had been scared out of sight, to keep him scared out. It appears that Watson had been foolish enough on several occasions to visit that burg, and was taken in each time in their usual style, until patience ceased to be a virtue on the part of Watson, when on the night in question he turned loose on some of whom he had an especial enmity against.” Well, that writer certainly had an active imagination!
In a more sober article in the same issue, it was noted that Watson had a grudge against both men, as he had spent several occasions in the Montrose city jail based on actions by both. It seems that he had called the City Marshall out of a store, then shot him and rode away, and while a party was searching for him in one direction, he returned in another and ran across Edwards, and shot him.
For months, Jack Watson simply disappeared. Then a June 11, 1884article in the Delta Chief reported that Watson had been arrested in Surface Creek inDeltaCounty, and brought to Montrose and “safely lodged in jail.”
It turned out that Watson was hiding in the cabin of a friend in the Surface Creek area, and his presence was made known to the legendary sheriff ofGunnisonCounty,DocShores– who happened to be in the area. Shores was in Cedaredge, undercover, searching for an escaped convict from theMissouripenitentiary who had an uncle in Cedaredge, and was not willing to break his cover. Perhaps the reward for the escaped convict was higher, since a large part of a sheriff’s salary, back then, was dependent on such returns.
Soon thereafter, Jack Watson was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Arnold Howard of Montrose along with two assistants, at the home of a man named Scott. Apparently Watson had been working cattle for Scott, and Howard, whose wife had accompanied him along with the two other men, had stopped at the Scott cabin on some subterfuge. Howard displayed no evidence that he was an officer of the law, nor did he disclose it. They engaged Watson in conversation, and when he was off his guard, pounced on him and arrested him.
For his effort, Howard received a $600 reward. Watson spent a few weeks in jail in Montrose, then, somehow, paid a $6,000 bail and returned to Surface Creek. That is where this story ends, as no further printed word ever disclosed further details of his Montrose trouble. Other historical sources claim that Watson was finally shot and killed in Price, UT and is buried there.
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