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pen & ink drawing show three men pointing guns at a man standing on a bed.  2 of the guns appear to be firing.
I’m not sure of the source, but this picture is always used by people telling the story of “Heartless Ed Franklin” – click to enlarge - Click to enlarge

Throughout the 1930s, the Colorado Transcript ran a series called UNWRITTEN HISTORY. In it, they published memories of long-term townsfolk. They paid $1 for a good story. Since the stories were based on old memories and didn’t suffer the constraints of absolute accuracy, they made for good reading. One story, published on May 1, 1930 was provided by G.E. Dollison.

This was the tale of three bandits–Franklin, Musgrove, and one whose name was lost in the mists of time. The three were in Jack Hill’s saloon (now part of the Buffalo Rose) when a posse entered. The bandits ran out the back door, shooting as they left. One of the shots killed the bartender. The posse eventually caught up with Musgrove and the unnamed guy “in the bottoms along Clear creek somewhere east of Ford St..” Mr. Unnamed was killed in the fight. In this version of the story, Musgrove “was immediately hanged to a convenient tree.”

A team of men in uniforms pulling a hose cart.  The cart is decorated in bunting & American flags.
This photo from the Golden History Museum collection shows the Overland Hotel, where Franklin was killed.

The third bandit–Ed Franklin–was discovered in bed, in his room in the Overland Hotel (which stood on the site of the Buffalo Rose). His guns were out of reach, so he opened his shirt, pointed to his heart, and told them to “shoot me here, so there won’t be any doubt about it.” That was the story, as recalled by Mr. Dollison in 1930.

I searched for the newspaper accounts written at the time the events occurred, finding them in the November 25, 1868 Colorado Transcript. The story as Dollison recalled it was basically accurate, though there were a few pertinent details missing.

One might wonder why Ed Franklin would go upstairs to bed after his gang had shot a bartender. The testimony at the inquest explained that he was drunk. His guns weren’t “out of reach–” there were no guns in the room. The deputies were trying to put handcuffs on him and take him into custody, but there was much swearing and wrestling as he resisted arrest. The part where he instructed them to shoot him in the heart did appear in the testimony, and one of the deputies obliged.

The Transcript’s comment was “As Franklin was known to be a desperado of the worst stamp, and was doubtless guilty of the crimes charged upon him, no one here regrets his death, but many think that three armed officers should have been able to hand-cuff one unarmed, naked man, and given the law a chance at him.”

The way the story was told in 1930, it seemed that Musgrove was captured near Ford and Clear Creek and hanged on the spot. In fact, he was taken to a jail in Denver. From there, “a vigilance committee of fifty of the citizens of Denver, among them some of the most respectable people, proceeded to the jail, took the notorious Musgrove from the officers in charge and hung him on the Larimer street bridge over Cherry Creek.” (Colorado Transcript, November 25, 1868)

The Golden Transcript (originally called the Colorado Transcript) has been publishing since 1866. The Golden History Museum has been working on digitizing the historic issues. You’ll find old Transcripts online at