Monday, March 15, 2010

Strange artifact given to Cripple Creek museum

Posted By on Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 3:16 PM

A little morbidity adds a lot of character to a town and Cripple Creek surely has plenty of its own. The sawed-off piece of skull of one miner that was once collecting dust in the Teller County Courthouse surely imbues a sense of old-west justice upon a place.

Brooks lawyer J. Maurice Finn
  • Cripple Creek District Museum
  • Brooks' lawyer J. Maurice Finn

Here's what happened:

Myers Avenue, the street on which Dawson Club was located
  • Cripple Creek District Museum
  • Myers Avenue, the street on which Dawson Club was located

The skull-piece belonged to James Roberts, who went to a bar called Dawson Club on Christmas in 1901, got in a fight with the bar owner, and was bludgeoned with a Colt .45 revolver. His killer William Brooks let Roberts die slowly on the floor, teasing and eventually dragging him to the back of the bar.

After Roberts was found dead, Brooks hired lawyer J. Maurice Finn who came up with the defense that Roberts was born with an abnormally thin skull and Brooks' didn't mean to hit him so hard. His proof: a piece of Roberts' skull he'd cut out in the night with the help of the coroner. Brooks walked and left town immediately.

The scrap was cataloged and sat mostly forgotten in the courthouse until it was rediscovered by a court reporter who worked to give it to the Cripple Creek District Museum earlier this year. The museum plans to hold the artifact until it can find the location of Roberts' grave somewhere in Mt. Pisgah Cemetery and bury it with the rest of his body.

Since the exact location of the grave is not known, it's a safe bet that Roberts' missing piece will stay at the museum for a while, on display.

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