Early Grand Junction home to 20 rough-and-tumble saloons

Emma Thompson’s Saloon on Colorado Avenue in 1882.

In 1882, Grand Junction was a bustling, wild frontier town. The full-time population of Grand Junction was 524 people. As the railroad came closer to Grand Junction, the population of railroad men, teamsters and others working on the building of the railroad added up to 300 people. A “Hell on Wheels” tent town popped up overnight that was pretty much lawless.

The new city was experiencing the problems that came with the crews who, upon reaching town, did their fair share of drinking and carousing and spent a great deal of time in the 20 saloons, most of which had sprung up overnight on Colorado Avenue.

One of those was Emma Thompson’s Saloon.

On Nov. 12, 1882, The Grand Junction News reported on a shooting that occurred Nov. 10, 1882, about 11 a.m. at Emma’s Saloon.

According to the story, the reporter had been unable to get all the information but was reporting what had been gleaned from the different stories that were floating around.

The story said Mike Dundon was the man who was shot. Apparently he and a gambler named Sims were in the saloon drinking and got into an argument, Sims pulled out a revolver and shot at Dundon, but missed him.

Kittie Sheeney was standing nearby, and was so frightened that in attempting to get out of the way she fell and broke her arm.

Upon hearing the shot, Officer Davis and his deputy quickly went to the saloon. When Dundon saw the officer, he started to run out the back door of the saloon as the people in the saloon began shouting “arrest that man for God’s sake!” As Davis pursued Dundon, he called out for him to stop, but Dundon paid no attention to him, and kept on running. Davis then shot at him, the bullet striking Dundon in the small of the back, imbedding itself in the intestines.

The story went on to report that Dundon was a very bad character. About a week before the shooting, he had been discharged from the railroad gang working near town, and he had been drinking and raising all manner of hell ever since. Dundon had been arrested once during the week of the shooting for making a disturbance.

Sims was arrested and placed in jail until the investigation could be completed.

After the shooting, Officer Davis gave himself up to Deputy Sheriff Brown and a preliminary examination was held at 10 the next morning.

Dr. H.E. Stroud was called in to see if he could remove the bullet but was unable to do so, and Dundon died two days later from internal bleeding.

Dr. Stroud also set the woman’s broken arm.

On Sunday morning, Nov. 12, five hours after Dundon died, a coroner’s jury was convened and an inquest was held with Judge Mobley acting as coroner.

Nothing new came out in the inquest. Kittie, the woman who had her arm broken and the only witness, testified that she saw Davis shoot, but that she thought he shot toward the ground.

The jury consisted of foreman J.P. Harlow, J.H. Rice, T.B. Crawford, James Crook, J. Bernham and L.S. Robinson. They returned with the verdict that City Marshal Davis had just cause to discharge his weapon.

There was no further report on what happened to Sims or how much longer Emma Thompson’s Saloon continued to provide refreshments and entertainment for the men of Grand Junction. But I imagine that this wasn’t the first or last saloon shooting on “The Avenue” where there were 19 other saloons open for business.

After all, one of the other saloons advertised that the “Stock Exchange for morning cocktails is the place to go.”

Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel. She is involved in many local preservation efforts and is on the board of directors for Colorado Preservation Inc.


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