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Archiver > KILGORE > 2008-01 > 1199255611

From: "Gail Kilgore" <>
Subject: [KILGORE] Skelton
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2008 23:33:31 -0700

Hope you don't freeze too bad in FL, Nell. We have been having horrible
wind all day.

Ok, my skeleton... this fisherman was fishing on the Arkansas River in
Colorado in July and stumbled across a skeleton sticking out of the bank.
Part of the bones had been washed away but a lot were still in the grave.
There were rusted nails from the coffin and very eroded Dragoon buttons off
a military Great Coat. The coroner of Lake Co. took control of the remains
and then they were moved to the Colorado State College Anthropologist people
to see if the sex could be determined and if the nationality could be

The buttons are a clue here as the Dragoon button were used between 1821 and
1855 so this person more than likely was in the military. About 600 ft.
from where the remains were found there is a marked grave of a Jane Kirkham
who was attempting to rob the stage coach as it left Leadville with gold
aboard when the sheriff and his men were in the stage and shot and killed

I thought maybe, just maybe, this was Jane Kirkham's remains that had
surfaced. So, I started a long and tedious journey of trying to find out
about Jane Kirkham's life. It is so strange how all this came together and
how I could do this and still have brick walls of my own that I haven't
crossed. I found out that Jane Harris was born in the 1840's in Jefferson
Co., IA , actually Iowa City, and her mother had the first 4th of July
celebration [1850] in the town. Her father died in 1848 and left her mother
with a big mortgage on the property. Sybil, the mother, was taken to court
and I think they may have lost that property but not sure. So, there were
five kids 3 males and two females in Jane's family. Jane goes off and
marries this Ben Kirkham. They have two children, one born in Montana and
the other born in Leadville, Colorado. Well, it seems that Jane's older
brother was a prospector and he was hitting the mining camps and he and his
mother were also in Leadville. From newspaper reports in IA, the Harris's
hit it big in Leadville and I wonder if it was because of Jane. When Jane
was killed her son, James, was 9 and her daughter, Mary, was 7. Sybil shows
up in Iowa City with her two grandchildren that she has announced that she
has adopted not telling what happened to the mother. She has money now so
she buys a farm in Tama Co. and she and her younger sons are now farmers.

I followed Ben Kirkham into another marriage and four more sons but he had
no contact with his two children that went back to IA. I mean that
grandmother grabbed those kids and was gone and Ben is living with his
brother in the 1880 census and no kids. Jane was shot in 1879. Ben moves
on to Western Colorado and finally ends up in Poway, San Diego Co., CA where
he and his four unmarried sons and second wife are buried. I found it
strange that he had four sons that never married. They were medium built
people with light hair and red hair.???

So then I needed to go back and find James and Mary and I found them in
Washington State, James 18 and Mary 15. I haven't a clue as to what took
them to WA as I couldn't find anyone else there. Jane's younger brothers
and their families were in IA.

I needed to find Mary's line in hopes that she had a daughter and so on for
DNA purposes. But, I tend to loose Mary at about 18. James is still around
now and married and having his family. His son catches a boat to Alaska and
then is in WWI and while he is in the service he marries a girl from
England. This son's name is Glen and Glen has children and he has a son
Glen. Glen Sr. is out on one of the Islands working Civil Service and
coming home whenever to see his wife and family. Glen, Jr. joins the
military and gets called home during WWII because his mother needs him. He
tells his mother that he is going to go and visit some friends and will be
back in a while. She tells him that if he leaves she will shoot herself.
He didn't believe her and he leaves and as he is walking away from the house
the gun goes off and she shot and killed herself. Glen and Glen Jr.s family
all stay in Alaska and some are still there.

On this journey, I talked with Glen, Jr.'s third wife who now lives in OR.
She is in a assisted living and she gives me the name of Glen's daughter by
his second wife. So, I call Jill and bravely tell her what I am doing as I
did with Glen's third wife and she is shocked. She never knew that her g g
grandmother robbed stage coaches and was killed during a robbery. She is
laughing knowing that her Dad would have loved this story as no one ever
talked about James mother. Now they knew that James had a father in CA but
nothing on his mother.

So, I made it from the 1840's to the living room of Jane's g g granddaughter
and we have actually become friends. She is a terrific person but still
shocked about her grandmother...

So, we are all patiently waiting for the results of the remains. We have
pictures of the bones, the skull, the nails, the buttons and I assumed that
Jane donned a man's garb to rob this stage. I doubt that she went out in a
carriage with a parasol to do her deed. Jill is wondering if it is her g g
grandmother is she going to have to rebury her and the 3rd wife wants the
buttons???? Jill is ready to give DNA if it would show anything.

Now on my end, when I looked at the pelvis bones I thought we are looking at
a man not a woman. The findings came in and the skeleton was identified as
a white male. No age given but he had red hair so that is how they
determined that he was white.

The Ute Indians used this area as their summer hunting grounds so that was
another thought, he was dressed in a Great Coat, we won't say where he might
have gotten it back in the mid 1800's. But, especially since Leadville
didn't get real big until the 1870's but there were surveyors in the area as
early as the late 1840's. And, gold was found as early as 1849-50 by Abe

Jill would like to travel to Colorado next summer and I am going to meet her
and we are going to go together and visit her g g grandmother's grave. I
have sent her pictures of the grave but I also thought Marcia at the
newspaper could get a real neat PR story out of this.

So we still have an unknown white male with red hair that was wearing a
Great Coat with Dragoon buttons on it and have NO idea where he came from or
who he was. His remains are going to be buried in the military cemetery in
Grand Junction, Colorado.

So how can I take something like this and go with it and come out finding
the living family and talking with them on the phone and sitting and
laughing about everything. Jill is calling Alaska to talk to her brother to
look in the Bible to see if anything is mentioned in James Bible about his
mother and there was nothing.

So the family left IA with the hopes of finding gold when the silver boom
hit Leadville and sister robs stages and the family now has money but where
was the husband while his wife is 17 miles away from Leadville robbing the
stage? The family moves on and works gold mines in Alaska and they are
still in Alaska mining for gold this very day.

It was a very fun and exciting journey and took my mind off myself and gave
me a project to tackle and I am proud that I was able to find a living
member of Jane's family.

I just have no place to start on the remains now. It is an unmarked grave
along the old stage coach road.. oh!! and it did occur to me that maybe
Jane had help and this was her help but there was nothing in the newspapers
about the robbery. Ben Kirkham was so ashamed of what his wife did that he
did not have her body brought back into town for burial in the local
cemetery, he buried her where she was shot. I checked two counties for
something in the newspapers and there was nothing. That seemed really
strange to me. The only thing that I was not able to prove was Tom Harris
was a US Marshall and if Tom was related to Jane then Tom could have been
leaking the information of the gold shipments and when it all came together
everyone was ducking their heads and hiding and no news would be better for

The story of my skeleton and how I located a family that it didn't belong

It was a fun summer doing this research.


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