Saving the Badge Piece of Cripple Creek history

Going, going … the gold badge engraved with the initials of John Muehlhausen, Cripple Creek sheriff from 1908-11, could be gone soon.

By Pat Hill
Posted 4/3/08

Going, going … the gold badge engraved with the initials of John Muehlhausen, Cripple Creek sheriff from 1908-11, could be gone soon. Catalogued by …

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Saving the Badge Piece of Cripple Creek history

Going, going … the gold badge engraved with the initials of John Muehlhausen, Cripple Creek sheriff from 1908-11, could be gone soon.

Posted

Going, going … the gold badge engraved with the initials of John Muehlhausen, Cripple Creek sheriff from 1908-11, could be gone soon.

Catalogued by an auction house in Reno, Nev. with an estimated value of $12,500, the badge represents the county's gold-mining days of the early 1900s.

"I guess I'm putting out a plea to anybody out there who is interested or concerned as I am about keeping a piece of our history here," said Teller County Sheriff Kevin Dougherty.

The badge represents a period that ushered in the Colorado Gold Rush, a time marked by violence, murders and labor wars involving the Western Federation of Miners.

According to information supplied by the auction house, Muehlhausen, a resident of Victor, succeeded Henry Von Puhl, an assayer in Cripple Creek. David Kingston served as Cripple Creek's police chief.

The sheriff's job at the time was hazardous, one of the toughest jobs in the West. Organized crime carried out by mine labor groups, particularly the Western Federation of Miners, made national news as early as 1894.

With huge production of gold beginning to pour from the mines of Cripple Creek, the money from the gold mine brought jobs as well as a miners' union.

After the initial strike, mine owners and some union members were driven from town. To protect themselves, the owners brought in outsiders, financing much of the county's law enforcement.

In 1903, violence again erupted in Cripple Creek and Gov. James Peabody called out the National Guard to protect the populace, with the goal of destroying union power in the gold camps.

This precipitated the Colorado labor wars, which ran over into Idaho and Nevada. Idaho's former governor was murdered by the Western Federation of Miners, and in Goldfield, Nev., mine-union strikers threatened the town.

In Cripple Creek, the miners threatened to lynch Sheriff Henry Robertson if he didn't resign. When

the crowd produced a hangman's noose, Robertson resigned on the spot. Ed Bell succeeded Robertson and served until 1908. Bell, along with the governor and federal troops, is credited with running the federation out of town permanently.

Muehlhausen was elected in 1908 and given the badge engraved with his initials on the front, and on the reverse, the words, "Presented by L. Caro January 21, 1911."

Not much is known about either man. However, the badge represents one of the most tumultuous times in the United States.

The badge is in fine condition, with bright yellow-red gold and blue enameled letters, and is probably the product of Cripple Creek gold and arguably the top lawman's badge from Colorado known today.

"This is Teller County history that I feel shouldn't be bought by some unknown person who has no connection to the county," Dougherty said. "I can't let this slip through. If we could get enough interest in the badge, we could bring it back here. I'd like to see this badge sitting in one of our local museums."

The badge will be listed in the catalogue of Holabird-Kagin Americana in Reno, Nev. Amy Baker, with the auction house, said the badge could be reserved with a down payment and a payment schedule.

"If the badge doesn't sell from the catalogue the price will probably go down in 60 days," Baker said.

For information, call the sheriff's office at 719-687-9652 or the auction house at 775-852-8822.

719-687-3006 | phill@ccnewspapers.com

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