I originally posted this on another blog in March of 2012, but have an update that I want to share. Please read and pay special attention to the part about the cemetery and Wyatt and McCurdy. Then, read the addition (in blue) right below the pictures of the tiles for them. A woman named Wendy Stelle, who happens to be the great-great-granddaughter of Benjamin Ratcliff, came across the blog post that I had written and had some information that explains the “messages” that had been added to the graves. I think you’ll find it interesting!
Jack and I met some friends yesterday for a “day out”. We started with breakfast at a local cafe/pizza placed and had a good time talking and joking with our waitress. She was really funny and it was a nice beginning to our day. Sandy wanted a little tea and the waitress brought him an empty cream container with a small ice-cube and a swallow of tea. It was silly, but fun! When we were ready to leave, Jack and I each got a beverage to go and our cups had a message on them. Sort of a “fortune cookie” idea, but more personal.
We drove to Fairplay to go to a store that we like there and also drove by their community center to show it to Patty and Sandy. It’s an interesting building and I love how they’ve incorporated wood with metal siding that’s both vertical and horizontal. All of the colors are nice, too. Jack and I are both happy when we see that buildings are designed and constructed in such a way that they blend with the area.
Como was next on our stops and Jack, Patty, and Sandy were all interested in the “roundhouse” that was used to repair trains long ago. Trains no longer go through there and the town is very tiny, but it’s interesting and we all love the history of our area.
The Mountain Man Gallery isn’t just a gallery, it’s also the Post Office for Como. Actually, the Post Office takes up a very small corner of the gallery, but the Post Mistress is full of information about the town and its’ past. The gallery has work by local artists in it and also sells pelts from wild animals such as raccoons, fox, beavers, and a few others. We discovered that the pelts aren’t purchased from people who trap or kill the animals, but from government agencies who sell (rather than just destroy) the pelts that have been confiscated from people who are trapping/killing the animals illegally. The money is then used to help the wildlife, so something good is obtained from something that was bad.
We visited a local hotel that is in the process of being restored. It’s a huge project and it’s going to be amazing when it’s done. Right now, they have a very small portion of it finished, but Moya (one of the owner’s) offered to show us around inside and let us see what they have planned for it. It is going to be a huge project and I can’t imagine the amount of work involved in it. So far they have 4-5 rooms that are finished, but they’re doing a great job. Jack and Sandy also got to go outside and talk to the men about the boilers that will supply the hot water for the radiators that are being installed. After talking to Moya, and especially after finding out that Sami (our dog) is welcome, we made reservations to stay there this August when we go to Como for Railroad Days.
Moya’s grandchildren are staying with them while they’re on spring break and the kids dug up a bunch of old pharmacy bottles. Some of them have raised lettering on them saying what they were for and a few of them even had the pharmacist’s name on them in raised lettering. Moya had one that still had oil of cloves in it from many, many years ago. The kids were going to find more bottles and then possibly sell them, so we offered to purchase some and they were more than willing to sell them. How interesting that they found them!
We walked around the cemetery and were speculating about many of the head stones. So many children! We are so lucky that we now have medicine that can prevent or cure so many illnesses! Patty and I saw one headstone that was from a 16-year-old wife who had died. Wow! She probably had gotten married by the time she was 15 or even younger. Can you imagine? Anyway, there were a lot of interesting things printed on the head stones and it was fun.
Two of the headstones had “messages” added to them. One said, “Wyatt shouldn’t have been shot…Sorry”, and the other one said “McCurdy spread immoral lies about a handicapped girl”. The postmistress had told us about this a few months ago when we were there, but the cemetery was covered in snow and we hadn’t seen them. We thought that the stories behind them were interesting and were glad that we got a chance to see the messages this time.
And now, for the rest of the story:
My name is Wendy Stelle and I just came across the Hargrave Haven blogspot.
In regards to the March 29, 2012 story, “A Day with Patty and Sandy”, when you visited the Como, Colorado cemetery and photographed the tombstone of George Douglas Wyatt with a tile that says “Wyatt shouldn’t have been shot. Sorry” and across the path the grave of Lincoln McCurdy, with “McCurdy spread immoral lies about a handicapped girl.”
I am the one who placed those tiles in 2010, and Here’s The Rest Of The Story:
In the nearby town of Bordenville, Colorado, my great-great grandfather, Benjamin Ratcliff, was the single father of three teenagers, a son and two daughters. His wife and fourth child had died in childbirth in 1882. When the elder daughter was about four, she had fallen off a chair and broken her hip. The lack of medical attention rendered her left leg six inches shorter and she always walked with a severe limp.
In 1894, Lincoln McCurdy was a newcomer to town and had been elected president of the school board. One day he saw Lizzie in town, he assumed and started gossip that she was “six months gone by her pa.” A neighbor wrote a letter to Benjamin alerting him to the rumor.s you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with Benjamin. At 10 am on May 6, 1895, he went to the schoolhouse when he knew the elections for a new board were being held, wanting to demand an apology from McCurdy. When McCurdy and the two other men with him said nothing, Benjamin shot them all. Nine months later, Benjamin was executed by hanging. McCurdy’s thoughtless ignorant words got he and innocent bystander George Wyatt killed. For some reason, Park County has “honored” McCurdy by naming a hiking trail and a small mountain for him, while Wyatt has no acknowledgement. My intent of the tiles was to show the truth and make a public apology to Wyatt.
A local author says the tiles have been good conversation starters for her to sell some books.”
Wendy went on to say: “Yes, you can share the story. There’s a Wikipedia article about Benjamin Ratcliff and he’s in chapters by several authors in the South Park area. I was a co-researcher on “The Legend of Benjamin Ratcliff: From Family Tragedy to Legacy of Resilience” by Chris O. Andrew, published in 2011.
Lake George persists another rumor (darn rumors!) that Benjamin stalked and killed Tarryall Rancher Gottlieb Fluhmann, who disappeared in 1892 and whose skeleton was found in a cave in 1944. Benjamin and Fluhmann lived more than 30 miles apart and Benjamin had some physical infirmities which would limit his desire to bother Fluhmann.
Because I’m a descendant, I feel a mission to quell the lies and make sure people know the truth. Three murders was enough. No need to sensationalize a fourth. I feel a great sadness for the families of two wives and seven children who lost their husbands and fathers because of words and gunshots. But Benjamin was punished justly in due time. (Unlike today’s CO death row inmates…)
I found the Hargrave blog because I recently had new tiles professionally made for Como and it was on my mind to google the phrases. I was surprised to find three results, and folks who might be curious to know the backstory, so I’m trying to get in touch.”