Photo: Frank Fitchue – 1883

Photo: Frank Fitchue – 1883

This is a studio portrait of Durangoan Frank Fitchue taken in 1883. In November of that year, Fitchue was approached by Cellas Hawkins and four co-conspirators to assist in burglarizing First National Bank of $30,000 in gold and currency. They chose him because as a bank employee, he lived in the bank’s basement and one of his bedroom walls was the back of the large metal safe. Although threatened if he didn’t comply, he notified his employer, A.P. Camp, of the impending crime, as well as a plan to set a nearby building on fire as a diversion. Along with Camp, the town sheriff and the town marshal, he assisted in setting a trap for the burglars, who intended to enter the vault from his bedroom. On the night of Dec. 16, Hawkins (the other four men were forewarned of the trap and never appeared) attempted to chisel through to the vault but was met by the lawmen. A gunfight ensued, and R. Bruce Hunt (son of the former Colorado Territorial Gov. A.C. Hunt) was fatally shot in the heart by Hawkins as he fled. Hawkins managed to escape and hid out on the Ute Reservation. A $500 bounty for his capture was offered by outraged Durango residents. A posse eventually found Hawkins, who jumped off a cliff to evade capture, but broke his neck in the process. He lived for another three days, during which time he named his four co-conspirators. The confession was found inadmissible in court, and the four were acquitted. First National Bank eventually commissioned a plaque to honor Fitchue for his “loyalty and courage.”

Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, edhorvat@animasmuseum.org

Photo: Frank Fitchue – 1883

This is a studio portrait of Durangoan Frank Fitchue taken in 1883. In November of that year, Fitchue was approached by Cellas Hawkins and four co-conspirators to assist in burglarizing First National Bank of $30,000 in gold and currency. They chose him because as a bank employee, he lived in the bank’s basement and one of his bedroom walls was the back of the large metal safe. Although threatened if he didn’t comply, he notified his employer, A.P. Camp, of the impending crime, as well as a plan to set a nearby building on fire as a diversion. Along with Camp, the town sheriff and the town marshal, he assisted in setting a trap for the burglars, who intended to enter the vault from his bedroom. On the night of Dec. 16, Hawkins (the other four men were forewarned of the trap and never appeared) attempted to chisel through to the vault but was met by the lawmen. A gunfight ensued, and R. Bruce Hunt (son of the former Colorado Territorial Gov. A.C. Hunt) was fatally shot in the heart by Hawkins as he fled. Hawkins managed to escape and hid out on the Ute Reservation. A $500 bounty for his capture was offered by outraged Durango residents. A posse eventually found Hawkins, who jumped off a cliff to evade capture, but broke his neck in the process. He lived for another three days, during which time he named his four co-conspirators. The confession was found inadmissible in court, and the four were acquitted. First National Bank eventually commissioned a plaque to honor Fitchue for his “loyalty and courage.”

Ed Horvat for Animas Museum, edhorvat@animasmuseum.org