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By: Keith Dameron, Historian – Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial

Pueblo Policeman Alvin Phippenney, 31, was shot and killed in John Schwer’s, Arkansas Hall Saloon on Santa Fe Avenue in Pueblo about 12:30 pm on June 30, 1879. Officer Phippenney was attempting to disarm a ‘ranchman’ named John Baxter when the shooting occurred. Baxter and a man named James Moore were both armed and had been drinking with others. About noon the group had become loud, and Officer Phippenney responded to quiet the group down. A physical altercation ensued and Phippenney ‘clinched’ (grabbed & held) with Baxter, who was known to be dangerous when drinking. Baxter had stated that he would not give up his gun. Moore was also known to be carrying a gun. Witnesses stated that 5 or 6 shots were fired. The first shot was fired in the saloon then three or four were find in the street before they rolled back into the saloon where a final shot was heard. Officer Phippenney was shot and died about 15 minutes later. Before dying he stated that he had been shot by Baxter and another man. The fatal shot struck Phippenney in the back with the ball traveling thru his body and stopping just before breaking the skin of his chest. At the request of Pueblo Officer Bilby, the ball was removed from Phippenney’s body by Dr. Cortwright. Witnesses stated that the ball was too small to have come from Baxter’s gun, but that Moore’s gun was smaller. Baxter received a scalp laceration and was also shot in the stomach during the fight.

A Coroner’s Jury listened to at least a dozen witnesses before finding that Alvin Phippenney came to his death from a pistol shot from the hands of John Baxter or James Moore. The Pueblo Chieftain Newspaper stated that Baxter was mortally wounded however he recovered enough to escape on July 8 from the Bartels building (part of the Lindell Hotel) where he was being held. Baxter just walked out the back door of the building which was only being guarded at the front door. The Chieftain express strong comments against the sheriff for his failure to properly guard a prisoner being held for the murder of a policeman. John Moore had left town on the day of the shooting, obtained a horse and some money from a rancher after telling him he had shot a policeman in Pueblo and reportedly left for the Texas panhandle. No further information about either Baxter or Moore was found despite a $500.00 reward offered by the Pueblo City Council.

Alvin P. Phippenney was born on November 28, 1847, in Ohio. He married Estelle (Stela) Ames on March 2, 1867, in Nemaha, Nebraska. They had four children and had been in Pueblo for 2-3 years, having moved from Glenrock, Nebraska. He was a widower with 4 small children as his wife had died earlier in 1879, possibly during childbirth. Alvin was scheduled to remarry on the evening of the day he died. He was survived by his fiancé and four children Herbert Calvin, 10, Acel Guy, 7. Grace Adell, 5, and Ida May, 4. His funeral was held on Tuesday, July 1, at 4:00 pm and was noted by the Chieftain to be “one of the largest ever seen in the city, there being some 30 vehicles in the procession all well filled.”

EOW: June 30, 1879                                                               
Cause of Death: Gunfire

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