Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Below is a news report from the August 29, 1885, Gazette in Colorado Springs, that helped to start a rabbit hole of research on the killer "Joe Ward". There is much more to the story, and a paper on the subject has been written. But I thought some might find the early reports interesting. 

The headline read: Joe Ward, the slayer of Scheidler, riddled with bullets,
the career of a noted Colorado desperado terminated,
review of the crime committed by Ward in the city,

Early residents of Colorado Springs remember that on February 1879, Lafayette Scheidler, the young man eighteen years of age, was shot and killed by one Joe J Ward, who, when he came here, did not have a very enviable character. The circumstances of the case were these: Scheidler and two companions visited a house on the west side of the Monument, just north of Tejon street, which was occupied by a woman who had borne a bad reputation.

Upon knocking for admittance they were told by an occupant that the woman had gone to Leadville. Scheidler and his companions immediately turned back to town. After having gone from the house but a short distance Scheidler was shot in the back and after lingering nearly two days died.

It being ascertained that the shooting had unquestionably been done by Ward, the woman's husband, the officer searched the house, but the man was not to be found. Sheriff Dana, who was then Marshall of Colorado Springs, the same night detected and arrested Ward as he was coming in from the brush to take a horse from the barn with which to make his escape.

In the meantime, the news of the shooting had spread about town in a crowd gathered to lynch Ward. Scheidler was well-known and a popular young fellow, while Ward had an unsavory reputation and had frequently boasted of having killed his man in southwestern Kansas. Comparing this record with that of Scheidler the crowd were determined to make him pay the penalty of his crime but the officers very cleverly evaded them and place the prisoner within the stonewalls of the county jail. 

On April 22 of the same year Ward, who had been indicted by the grand jury, was arraigned before Judge Bowen of the fourth judicial District, now US Senator. The defendant was given a fair and impartial trial being prosecuted by CW Burris and defended by Gen. Danforth. As a result, Ward was committed to Canyon City for a term of two years.

In his sentence Judge Bowen said that the verdict was fully sustained by the evidence. At the same time, he considered the reckless and useless resort to firearms, but under the recommendations of mercy by the jury and the consideration of aggravating circumstances he would make the sentence two years.

Ward served out his sentence, and it was hoped that it would give him a lesson. Not so, however; for no sooner had he been released and he went to Leadville, where he was joined by the disreputable wife who had placed him behind the bars. Leadville was in those days very prosperous. The wife opened a dance hall and the husband lived off the profits. He lived liberally, made things lively with his six-shooter and occupied a cell in the city jail almost weekly. Finally, finding even the cloud city too warm for him, he departed for a more congenial climate, taking with him his wife and daughter.

When we next heard of Ward was last summer in Northpark, where he and his wife were keeping a sort of a tavern where liquors were disposed of without a license, and the husband and a few pals were occasionally raiding cattle ranches. Here the depraved wife by undue familiarity with a young cowboy aroused the ire of the husband. The result was he (the young man) was killed, in cold blood, one day on his way to Georgetown. A report of the shooting appeared in the Gazette at the time, and so indignant were the residents of that locality in consequence that Ward was lucky in escaping the country alive.

From Northpark we follow this desperados history to Gunnison County where it is reported that he with his ready shooter disposed of his man, but we cannot confirm the story.

Now comes the report that on Tuesday a body was found on an un-frequented road leading to Green River which was identified as that of Joe Ward. Beside him was lying his horse, that had fallen with two bullet holes in his side, and that was all that was left to tell the story of death. Upon examination, it was found that Ward had been shot five times, and his body was completely riddled with bullets. It is said that Ward had been having some trouble in that region, as in this, over his wife and that upon this occasion he started out to prescribe his favorite dose for a cowboy. Thus another Colorado outlaw with the record takes his departure.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet


  1. Interesting story, Doris. I thank God every day that writer's style guides have changed so considerably since the days this was written.

    1. I truly agree with you. Reading the newspapers from back then are so interesting. Their use of language is so different from now.

  2. Mob justice in those days was swift - no appeals to a higher court.

    1. It was. Further research, however, showed there was no mob in 1879. Doris