History Detective for March 8 2018

Don’t mess with pensioners

by Carolyn Newman
SHARPSDALE — “Bandit” is not a word we use much today, but 80 years ago “bandits” made the headline in the Walsenburg World-Independent newspaper.
It was in February 1938 and many people were desperate during the Depression.  Old-age pensioners did have a steady income, but word came that their monthly income of about $42 was to be reduced to $26, on average.
In an isolated ranch house near Sharpsdale, 10 miles above Gardner, lived two old-aged pensioners with their not-quite-pensioned sister.
Four masked men came to the house at night; two of the oldsters had gone to bed.  The men knocked on the door and asked for food and a little money so they could get to Alamosa.  Homer Danburg, 74, would not open the door.  The men knocked loudly using a large board.  Homer grabbed his shotgun and ran to the door to try to hold the men back.
One of the men, Homer later said, stuck a gun through a hole he had punched in the door and fired a shot into the room.  Then the men fled.
Homer stepped outside the door and fired one shot at the men he saw fleeing across a field.  One fell dead near the corner of the house.
Sheriff Claud Swift was called; first he gathered up Undersheriff Carl Swift, Deputy Fidel Aguirre, State Patrolman Haddon, and Coroner Herbert Furphy to go to Sharpsdale with him.
They found the dead bandit lying on his face near the corner of the house, apparently having died instantly.  There was a red mask around this face.  The shot found in his body was the same size as fired by Homer.
By the next day all four suspects were in jail for what was described as an attempted holdup and a gun battle.
The tracks of their shoes near the Danburg home coincided with the shoes of the suspects.  One of the four was a 12-year-old boy
The coroner’s jury, in giving its verdict, did not give a statement on who fired the fatal shot.  It did state that the deceased met his death at the Danburg home from a gunshot wound suffered in what appeared to be an attempted holdup.
And that appears to be the end of the official story.
Information is from the Feb. 7, 9, and 11, 1938, issues of the World-Independent newspaper in the Huerfano County Heritage Center, 114 W. Sixth Street, Walsenburg, CO 81089.
The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society.  The Heritage Center is open Wednesday and Friday 2 to 5 pm, and Thursday 11 am to 3 pm.  719-738-2346.