Historic murder near Greenland
Greek philosopher Seneca said a sword never kills anybody; it’s a tool in the killer’s hand. It turns out that the same can be said of Spencer V. Dicks’ revolver.
Greenland looks all-the-world like a peaceful big meadow, but one August evening, near the turn of the century, the road about midway between I.J. Noe’s place and the town itself took a turn toward violence.
“The people of Douglas County were startled this week by a cold-blooded murder which occurred in the county road a mile west of Greenland about 7 o’clock Sunday evening,” reported the August 31, 1900, edition of the Castle Rock Journal. “The victim was Orville Minor and his slayer was Spencer V. Dicks. Both were young men about 23 years of age. The killing was the result of unreasonable jealousy and was apparently deliberately planned. Love for a 16-year-old girl was at the bottom of the whole affair.”
The complicated twists and turns of the various relationships leading up to the brutal outcome are bit hard to follow, but the Castle Rock Journal, at the time at least, was willing to give it a shot.
“Dicks had for several months been engaged to marry Miss Minnie Hutchinson, the daughter of C.E. Hutchinson, a respected citizen of this county. The young man formerly worked as a farm hand for J.C. Babcock, a brother-in-law of Miss Hutchinson, with whom she now makes her home, but six months ago left there and commenced working for Charles Allis on a ranch east of Palmer Lake. His attentions to the young lady did not begin in earnest until after he had gone to the Allis ranch to live,” the Journal said.
“Orville Minor was a brother-in-law of Miss Hutchinson’s brother, Rollie Hutchinson having married Miss Catherine Minor. He had been for quite a time been employed at the Greenland farm, leaving there a week ago Monday. He worked at the Charles Brand ranch a couple of days and then went to the C.E. Hutchinson ranch, of which Rollie Hutchinson now has charge. There Miss Dora Van Epps, to whom Minor was engaged, was visiting, and it was only Sunday that Miss Van Epps returned to Castle Rock. By some it is claimed that Minor, notwithstanding his engagement, had been endeavoring to win the affections of Miss Hutchinson, although this seems doubtful, considering the fact that his own wedding day was set for the early part of next month.”
Anyway, Minor, who was to visit Babcock’s ranch that fateful Sunday, apparently innocently enough was asked to take Miss Hutchinson into Greenland by buggy before the arrival of Dicks, whom she was expecting.
When Dicks did arrive, and after a short exchange with the two in the buggy, he went on to the Babcock place and spoke angrily with Miss Hutchinson’s sister, Mrs. Babcock, telling her, according to the paper’s account, that “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
After riding once again toward the couple in the buggy headed toward Greenland, Dicks met Minor and the girl about midway between Noe’s place and the town, where the road dropped into a deep valley.
“Minnie I didn’t think this of you!” he reportedly remarked.
“Minor started to explain that he intended no harm, and went on to say, ‘I am expecting to be married myself a week from Monday.’ Dicks replied, ‘I don’t know whether you will or not,’ and pulling a gun, fired directly at Minor and aimed a second shot at Miss Hutchinson. He then rode away rapidly towards Greenland.”
According to the newspaper account, “Minor, when shot, rose up from the buggy seat and fell over in the road, dead. The girl thought she was also shot, although she was uninjured, the bullet having struck a steel stay in her corset and glanced off.”
Apparently Dicks headed south after the shooting.
“He stopped at Sugar City,” reported the Journal. “Where he had his mustache removed and his long hair cut. He then started for Rocky Ford, still riding the horse he had taken from Mr. Allis. At Sugar City he secured a newspaper, and from it first learned that his bullet had not killed Miss Hutchinson. It was then that he resolved to surrender rather than lead a hunted life for the rest of his days.”
Dicks surrendered the following Wednesday in Rocky Ford to Douglas County Sheriff Hoffman after sending a telegraph saying he would do so.
“Dicks says he is going to fight for a light sentence. He claims that he shot Minor because the latter had been talking about his girl,” the Journal also reported.