The Musgrove Gang

Horse Thieves and Cattle Rustlers

In the summer of 1868 a gang of horse thieves and cattle rustlers set up camp at the Bonner Springs Stage Station, which had been abandoned for about 5 years. This was a perfect hideout as it was an almost inaccessible natural rock fortress, complete with the springs. From this hideout, the Musgrove Gang operated throughout Southern Wyoming and Northern Colorado, stealing horses, mules, and cattle.

The Musgrove's primary targets were the Government animals, which the Indians, who made a perfect cover for the gang, were often falsely accused of stealing. In the middle of the night in mid-September, 1864, a herd of fifty cattle was stolen from Ft. Steele in Wyoming. The very next month, all of the calvary horses were taken. This was a lucrative business for the Musgroves as a pair of mules brought from $350 to $700, with no questions asked, when wages rarely exceeded $2 a day.

L.H. Musgrove, born in Mississippi, made his way to California during the gold rush. He killed several men in California, Nevada, and Wyoming. Musgrove first appeared along the Overland Trail in 1863, when he was arrested for murder at Fort Halleck. After being taken to Denver, he was let free on a technicality. He soon became the leader of a network of horse thieves who conducted a number of raids on government posts and wagon trains all up and down the Front Range of Colorado, following the Cherokee Trail, and into Southern Wyoming along the Overland.

The crime of horse stealing was considered almost as serious as murder, and it's been noted that more men in the West were strung up for horse stealing than were executed for murder. This usually happened quite quickly. When the horse thief was caught red-handed, he soon found himself hanging from the limb of the nearest cottonwood, or cross-bar of a telegraph pole. Musgrove was no exception.

Through a series of ploys by Abner Loomis of Fort Collins, whom Musgrove considered a "friend," Musgrove was handcuffed and taken to the Larimer street prison in Denver. This was unfortunate timing for Musgove, as the citizens of Denver were devoting their full attention to cleaning up the town, and ridding themselves of outlaw gangs.

Musgrove boasted from this cell that his friends were planning his escape, and nothing could be done about it. This news spread like a wild fire, and in no time hundreds of men moved into action. A vigilante committee marched to the prison in an orderly procession, and demanded that Musgrove be handed over to them. The lynch mob met with no resistance from the prison guards.

Musgrove was quickly taken outside to the Larimer Street bridge over Cherry Creek. Here he was placed on a wagon under the bridge, his feet and hands were bound, and the noose adjusted around his neck. With his hat pulled over his eyes, the order was given for the driver to move the wagon. The lynching of Musgrove was complete.

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