COBWEB CORNERS: Teller County’s sleeper-car tax grab

By Mel McFarland

       Sheriff Henry Robertson of Cripple Creek, on October 5, 1903, repossesed the Pullman sleeper car “Chamita,” standing at the Midland Ter-minal depot, for the nonpayment of $663.21 in taxes to Teller County. To make sure that the Pullman Palace Car Company, based in Chicago, could not pull its car out of the county, Sheriff Robertson secured a large log chain and a heavy padlock. He placed the chain about the axle of the car and passed the chain under the steel rail and then locked it. Chancy Hoskins, a deputy, was made custodian and occupied the car. In addition the two Pullman employees in the car were not allowed to leave their posts.
       The sleeper, valued at about $5,000, stood chained on the Midland Terminal siding through the day and night.
       The Pullman Company and the Midland Terminal Railway reacted by abolishing their Cripple Creek sleeping car service that night, and no Pullman Palace cars came from Colorado City.
       Several trains with Pullman cars did pass through the county on the Colorado Midland Railway, with stops at Woodland Park, Divide and Florissant. The idea that the county might do the same to other cars passing through the county gave considerable worry to the Pullman Company and the railroad. Indeed, County Treasurer Duncan McNeil let it be known that it was his intention to have the sheriff go to Divide and attach all the Pullman cars that traveled through. This could also probably result in endless suits brought by patrons in the cars that would be detained.
       The standoff ended two days later. The Pullman Company posted a bond, and the Chamita car was released. It was attached to a Midland passenger train and pulled to Divide. Deputy United States Marshal Thomas Clark had arrived from Denver and served an order of release upon Sheriff Robertson and County Treasurer McNeil!
       The Pullman Company paid plenty of taxes to Colorado and was not amused by Teller County's action. The Pullman company began an action against the county to recover damages on the grounds that the car was unlawfully detained. I understand that eventually an agreement was made and things quieted down on both sides.