Glade Park Library Book Review

"Murder in Self-Defense"

By Jonathan William Lynn

“A History of the area around Glade Park, Colorado and Westwater, Utah (1880 – 1940)”

According to the flier that appeared in Glade Park post office boxes, this book has been offered on a limited basis to residents of Glade Park, with the full release coming summer of 2007. I ordered several copies, for family and friends who are also Glade Park “natives.” My order was handled promptly. This review is a composite of my own impressions, and those of the other readers. It appears that this book was released as a work in progress, before editing and proof-reading have been completed. Therefore I have made an effort to disregard errors, except when they may interfere with a factual presentation. It is appreciated that the author has offered his book to us for early viewing.

The author has chosen as his material some of the more dramatic events that took place in this area during the time frame of 1880 to 1940. It is in no way a comprehensive history of the people in this area at that time. The author did find a good story-line in the sequence of events that surrounded the killing of Glade Park cattle baron Charles Sieber in 1902, by Joe Harris. Joe Pace was there at the time of the shooting. The bad blood between Pace and Harris was magnified by the close proximity of their ranches, in the Westwater, Utah area. In 1909 Joe Pace shot and killed Joe Harris. The author set the scene by familiarizing the reader with the main characters, and introducing a theory that the Lockhart killing also tied into this web of events.

He also tells the story of a well known black cowboy named Charlie Glass, who was at one time employed by John Thatcher, a partner of Charles Sieber, in the S+ (S Cross) ranch. Mr. Lynn stepped outside the range war story line to tell about the Colorado National Monument, from John Otto to the making of the roads.

In a non-fiction book, it is important that the information be factual. On page 25 the author takes a hard line position that is about to come back to haunt him: “In too many cases, an area may have a local historian, who is nothing more than a SNAKE OIL SALESMAN. (CAPS mine) To override this person’s telling of tales sometimes becomes an almost impossible task.”

I have to admit that this caustic, adversarial and over-generalized statement probably slid our review panel over into a bit more critical stance ourselves. You know the old saying: “When you point your finger at someone, there are 3 more fingers pointing back at you.” However, I have tried to avoid taking a similarly harsh stance. Everyone makes mistakes. Mr. Lynn does appear to have done extensive research. We have not done systematic fact checking, so will only submit for consideration some things that jumped out and bit us.

My review panel and I became suspicious about the character called Curtis Roehm. Although the Roehm family has been a part of Glade Park for many years, we do not know of a Curtis Roehm. Based upon the context of the information he is quoted on, it is our guess that the author is actually speaking of Curtis Rhyne. During the construction of the Colorado Monument road, Curtis vividly remembers being on the crew the day the half tunnel caved in, killing 6 men.

Even recently arrived Glade Park residents have probably met Curtis at the Glade Park Store on Thursdays when he is both clerk and resident historian. He is one of the oldest surviving Glade Park pioneers. The bibliography indicates that the author had a private interview with Curtis. It is surprising that he would get his last name wrong.

An error that hit close to home is the name of my uncle, Robert Newton Moorland, Jr., “Buster” to his family and friends. Buster, my father’s oldest brother, was one of the 9 men who died in the half-tunnel cave in. The error came from the initial account in the Daily Sentinel: they also called him “Russell “Buster “ Moreland.”

By the time the joint funeral with neighbor and fellow victim, Clyde Van Loan, was announced, the name was corrected. Robert N. “Buster” Moorland and Clyde Van Loan were also laid to rest side by side in the Orchard Mesa Cemetery. Curtis told the author where Buster lived, but the incorrect information published in the newspaper was also included. The local historian was correct! I sent Mr. Lynn a copy of Buster’s death certificate showing the correct spelling of his name, which has not been acknowledged at this time.

This is not our first rodeo on getting Buster’s name corrected. When Guy Carlucci wrote “The Untold Story of the Rimrock Drive and the Men History Forgot,” we also had to convince him that the newspaper was wrong. He corrected it in one place, and left it “Russell” in another. Thankfully it is correct on the memorial plaque near the site of the disaster. That memorial was a long time coming, but appreciated by the families.

There are other errors I could point out, but I am not going to continue to beat a dead horse. It is obvious that one cannot make generalizations about historians, local or otherwise. Local historians have the advantage of a more intimate knowledge of the area and the people. However, they could possibly be repeating a local legend that is incorrect, or they may have a personal ax to grind to make them biased or interested in hiding information.

The outside historian may have an advantage of being more objective, but may make mistakes by trusting the wrong sources, misinterpreting, or missing things due to unfamiliarity with the subject. However, both are capable of being honest, straightforward, and making valuable contributions.

For a lover of local history this book is worth reading. I am personally a believer that truth is much more interesting than fiction. Mr. Lynn’s writing is not highly polished, but he has found a natural story line in the chain of events surrounding the deaths of Charles Sieber, and Joe Harris. He has ventured some theories, which the reader can choose to accept or not. It appears he is sincere in his interest in the subject, and dedicated to covering it, though someone else might cover certain points differently.

--- Debra K. Moorland


The Glade Park Store may have copies available.