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By: Keith Dameron, Historian – Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial

Officer Alvin Phippenney, 31, was shot and killed in John Schwer’s Arkansas Hall Saloon on Santa Fe Avenue at about 12:30 p.m. on June 30, 1879. He was attempting to disarm rancher John Baxter when the shooting occurred. Baxter and a man named James Moore were both armed and had been drinking. By noon they had become so loud that Phippenney was asked to quiet them down. A physical altercation ensued when Baxter refused to surrender his weapon. Witnesses stated they heard five or six shots fired. The first shot was fired in the saloon, followed by three or four more in the street, before they rolled back into the saloon where a final shot was heard. Phippenney was hit and died about 15 minutes later. He told bystanders that he had been shot by Baxter and another man. The fatal shot struck Phippenney in the back. The bullet traveled through his body and stopped just before breaking the skin of his chest. At the request of Officer Bilby, the bullet was removed by Dr. Cortwright. Witnesses stated that the bullet was too small to have come from Baxter’s gun but could have come from Moore’s smaller gun. Baxter received a scalp laceration and gunshot wound in the stomach during the fight.

A Coroner’s Jury listened to a dozen witnesses before finding that Phippenney came to his death from a pistol shot from the hands of John Baxter or James Moore. The Pueblo Chieftain reported that Baxter was mortally wounded, but he recovered and escaped on July 8 from the Bartels building (part of the Lindell Hotel) where he was being held. He simply walked out the unguarded back door. The Chieftain expressed strong criticism against the sheriff for his failure to properly guard a prisoner being held for the murder of a policeman. Investigators learned that on the day of the shooting, Moore had been given a horse and some money from a rancher after telling him he had shot a policeman in Pueblo. He fled to Texas and was not heard from again. Baxter also was never found. A $500 reward offered by the Pueblo City Council for the two men was never claimed.

Alvin P. Phippenney was born on November 28, 1847, in Ohio. He married Estelle (Stella) Ames on March 2, 1867 in Nemaha, Nebraska. They had moved to Pueblo from Glenrock, Nebraska, two or three years prior to his death. The couple had four children, when she died from complications of childbirth when their fifth child was born earlier in 1879. He was scheduled to remarry on the evening of the day he died. He was survived by his fiance and four children Herbert Calviin, 10, Acel Guy, 7, Grace Adell, 5, and Ida May, 4; and his parents Calvin and Mary (Phillips) Phippenney of Nemaha. The funeral was held on Tuesday, July 1 at 4 p.m. The Chieftain reported it to be “one of the largest ever seen in the city ... there being some 30 vehicles in the procession all well filled.”

The infant child had been left with a caretaker and that person was never located. The other four children were raised by their grandparents in Nebraska.

EOW: June 30, 1879                                                               
Cause of Death: Gunfire

 Chief Luis Velez, Pueblo Police Department
Pueblo Daily Chieftain – July 1, 2, 8, & 9, 1879 
Ancestry – Library Edition