Tom McCarty Gang and Marshal Dick Plunkett in Cortez In 1889.
Thompson Mercantile; Tom McCarty Gang and Marshal Dick Plunkett in Cortez In 1889.
Frank Clyde Thompson came to Montezuma Valley with his parents in 1887 at which time his father A. L. Thompson, drove into town with three wagon loads of dry goods and groceries. Thompson opened the first mercantile establishment in Cortez in his wagons on the corner of Main and Market Streets; his first sale having been $250.00 worth of supplies to Angus Stocks, the Mormon contractor, who helped Peter Baxstrom erect the Company Building. The A. L. Thompson Mercantile Co., had to do business from wagons until a building could be erected. Frank Clyde began his business career in his father’s establishment, and on being asked for an early-day incident that had left its impress on his mind, he replied: “I remember the time that Tom McCarty took the town in 1889. He and his gang rode their horses right into the saloon, the Hotel, Mrs. Lamb’s Millinery Store and some of the private houses. They killed all the dogs on the streets, shot out the lights, and had the whole town terror stricken.”
Dick Plunkett, who was marshal, was too good natured to enforce law and order, and Cortez was a “wide open” town. The leader of the gang undertook to ride into our store, but there were ladies shopping in there at the time, and father told them they must get out. Sherlock, the leader, said he was going to ride in anyway. Father told him there were ladies shopping in there, and if he did, he would have to ride over his dead body. Sherlock galloped away, but turned his wrath in another direction and created much havoc before leaving town.
THE GOOD NATURED MARSHAL
Dick Plunkett came to the United States from County Down, Ireland. He arrived in New York and immediately came west, locating first in Colorado. He was one of eleven brothers – all big, athletic men- and had sold cattle in every county in England, so he was not a green unsophisticated lad when he came to this country. Without waiting even a day to see something of the east, he came out to join his brother-in-law in the sheep-raising business, near Pagosa Springs in Southern Colorado. Seven weeks of loneliness and monotony of a sheep ranch were all he could endure. It was his remarkable prowess in athletic sports and demonstrated courage that first commanded popular attention and interest. The town of Montezuma, just then infested with the toughest “bad men” in the land offered him the job of Marshal.
(Montezuma now a ghost town between Dillon and Loveland). He entered upon his duties with enthusiasm that disgusted the bad men. They tried to kill him as it seemed to them it would not be difficult. Marshal Plunkett only carried a cane. The idea of arresting one of them with his bare hands seemed absurd. But to their astonishment and shame he did it. They shot him many a time but a few bullets more or less in his powerful frame did not appear to have any effect. Broad, deep-chested, strong limbed, weighing 250-260 pounds and always in condition he could jump over a horse or turn somersaults and handsprings forward or backward and he soon taught them to know him as their master. It was reported “this officer never smokes or chews tobacco, never swears, and never was known to be angry. Even when fighting for his life he laughs and seems to enjoy the excitement. “
A criminal whom he thought to arrest might get one shot into him but before he could fire a second would find himself on his back, with Dick’s grip on his throat, the handcuffs on his wrist and if he did not happen to have a broken limb or rib as a result of the sudden mix-up, should consider himself in luck. No provocation or numbers opposed to him would make Dick shoot to kill. If they opened fire on him at too great distance for him to quickly close with them, he might use a revolver – and he could shoot very straight – to hit their legs and bring them down, but that was as much as he would do.
Quite early in Plunkett’s Western career the Indians won his sympathy. He was very protective of the Indians. His first meeting with the red men was while he was Marshal at Montezuma, when he convoyed a party across the Dolores and Mancos mountain ranges, going to obtain blasting powder for use in making an irrigation ditch.
Plunkett was known as a frontiersman, United States Marshal from Oklahoma and all-around conqueror of “bad men” and became known as “Col. Dick Plunkett”. “Texas Sam” was one of the worst characters vanquished by the Marshal. Sam from the Rio Grande was 6’4” tall and very muscular but encountered Plunkett and ended up in handcuffs. Plunkett was elected Marshal of Creede in a contest with Bat Masterson in Creede’s hot and boisterous days. He arrested Ed Kelly, the slayer of Bob Ford.
He was known as a close friend of Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. In October 1919 he died in New York following an operation performed for cancer of the stomach. He was fifty-eight years old.
(Research information on Col. Dick Plunkett from Montezuma Journal, June 6, 1901; Reno, Nevada Evening Gazette and New York Times April 7, 1901.
June Head is Historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society and can be contacted at 970-565-3880 for comments or corrections.