EXCLUSIVE: Read and Hear Kit Carson III Describe the Fate of the Serial-Killing Espinosas

Robert Leonetti recorded his 1968 interview with Package Carson III on this 5-inch reel audiotape that brother Daniel rediscovered some 52 years later. (Donna J. Leonetti)

What follows is an account of frontier scout Tom Tobin (1823–1904) and his pursuit of the Espinosa household of killers, as informed to and associated by Christopher Package Carson III, a grandson of each Tobin and legendary frontiersman Package Carson (1809–68). The youthful Carson (who was born on June 30, 1883, and died at age 91 on Nov. 28, 1974) shared this account in a Dec. 30, 1968, taped interview with Robert Leonetti, then a graduate pupil at Adams State Faculty in Alamosa, Colo. The unique transcript was by no means revealed. Daniel Sanchez-Leonetti, Robert’s brother, not too long ago listened to the interview and cleaned up the manuscript for publication in Wild West. The editors have made solely minor corrections to syntax and punctuation. Click on right here to take heed to the unique recorded interview.

On Could 1, 1900, Tobin’s 77th birthday, he shared his exploits with then 16-year-old grandson Package whereas the 2 had been out on the lookout for misplaced horses, and the latter by no means forgot his grandfather’s narrative. Tobin was justly heralded as the person who lastly tracked down and killed Felipe Espinosa and nephew José in Colorado Territory in October 1863 (see associated function by Sanchez-Leonetti).

Package Carson III: There have been loads of tales written about Grandfather Tobin, and particularly about him having killed them two desperadoes, the Espinosa brothers. There have been so many tales now that a number of instances fellows got here there to the ranch, situated about 3 miles southwest of Fort Garland [Colo.]. Grandfather Tobin was a buddy of my different grandfather, Package Carson, who was commander of Fort Garland at one time.…There was once fellows that will come to interview him concerning the Espinosa deal, and after they would publish it, they revealed a complete lot of stuff that wasn’t true, issues that he hadn’t informed them in any respect. And he bought so [angry], that was the final [they] got here to interview him. He wouldn’t give them an interview, as a result of they wouldn’t put down what he informed them. They despatched him a replica of their story, and [there] was numerous stuff in there that he hadn’t informed them in any respect, so he stop interviews.

However what I bought from him was proper from him. It occurred this manner: My grandfather used to lift horses and a few cattle, however his passion was racehorses. He used to promote numerous these horses to consumers from New York and Japanese cities…and practice them for polo ponies.…Once we rounded them up within the fall, most of them would are available in by themselves, however this time a bunch of mares and one stallion didn’t are available in. So, the following spring [1900] my brother and I made two or three journeys into the mountains on the lookout for these horses…however we couldn’t discover them, so grandfather and I went out to see if we might discover them. And we had been up Indian Creek, that little creek that comes up into the Sangre de Cristos just some miles above Garland, however the head of it’s between La Veta and Fort Garland. Nicely, we didn’t discover them, and he was 83 years outdated [77] on the time. It was getting late within the night, and he was getting fairly drained. We began again, and I occurred to assume after we had been up on Indian Creek, and I says, “Grandpa, wasn’t it up in right here that you simply killed the Espinosas?”

And he mentioned, “Sure.”

And I mentioned: “The place about? Do you bear in mind?”

He mentioned: “That’s been a very long time in the past, and I don’t know as I might go to the precise spot anymore. Perhaps I might.”

However his eyesight was failing him, and he was getting outdated, and it was getting late within the day.

Tobin had a fame among the many outdated fellas that he…might observe a grasshopper by means of the sagebrush

Robert Leonetti: What time of 12 months was this whenever you had been up on the creek with him?

Carson: That was someday in Could or June. However we stopped, and he confirmed me about the place. He mentioned: “Now Indian Creek goes up right here. Up right here a little bit methods there’s one other creek come into Indian Creek from the north.…[It] was about most likely 2 miles north of the junction of this little creek and Indian Creek.”

Now, that is the best way it had occurred. These two outlaws of the Espinosa brothers [Felipe and Vivián] had come up from New Mexico [Territory], they usually [had] been terrorizing this a part of the nation from New Mexico clear into the South Park right here in Colorado. It was mentioned that they’d killed about 23 [Felipe claimed 32] males on the rampage and had a grudge in opposition to the People. There had [been] so many various tales about it that no person appeared to know simply what it was, however it looks as if it stemmed from the Mexican Conflict. [They] traveled by means of the nation right here, and any white man that they [saw], they’d kill. Posses had been after them for eight years [actually two].…[Scouts] and outdated troopers from Fort Garland been after them, however couldn’t get them. They by no means come out into the open. They only traveled within the mountains from north to south of the Sangre de Cristo Vary. The state had ordered a reward of some say $1,500 and a few say $2,500 for the seize of the Espinosas.

So, it occurred that right now these Espinosa brothers had killed a person [Leander Philbrook actually escaped their ambush unharmed and fled to Fort Garland] between La Veta and Fort Garland.…He was coming over into the valley. He was married to a Spanish lady [Philbrook’s passenger, Dolores “Lola” Sánchez of Trinidad, was not his wife]. He was driving a buckboard [buggy] with two mules, and simply as he got here excessive of Indian Creek cross [Sangre de Cristo Pass] into the valley, one of many mules was shot from ambush. After all, the fella couldn’t get any additional. He needed to cease.…They saved the lady captive for 3 or 4 days [actually a matter of hours]. Throughout the day they’d go away whereas she was held captive, however they [would] tie her to a tree till they bought again. Someday she bought unfastened, and she or he began down the street towards Fort Garland.…She met a bunch of troopers on patrol, they usually introduced her right down to Fort Garland. She informed the commander on the fort [Lt. Col. Samuel F. Tappan] her story and gave the situation…in addition to she might.

Colorado Territory man hunter Tom Tobin
Tom Tobin was out trying to find stray horses with grandson Package Carson III when he shared the story of how he introduced the final of the “Bloody Espinosas” to floor. (Historical past Colorado)

Nicely, this commander, he didn’t know what to do, as a result of he’d been making an attempt to get at these fellas a very long time, so he considered Tom Tobin. He despatched after him on the ranch and [said], “Tom, I want you’d go and see if you may get these fellas. We all know they’re on this a part of the nation, and I feel that you simply’re the person that may observe ’em down.”…Tobin had a fame among the many outdated fellas that he…might observe a grasshopper by means of the sagebrush.

He didn’t need to go at the moment. He mentioned he couldn’t depart, as a result of they had been anticipating a child on the home…and he thought he higher not go. However the commander insisted…so he determined to go. He went again to the ranch to alter horses, and the commander on the fort had mentioned that he would give him all the lads and tools that he needed.…However grandfather mentioned: “What would I do with a bunch of troopers? I couldn’t deal with them. Moreover, they’ve been after these fellows for a very long time and haven’t caught them, they usually couldn’t get ’em this time both.” So, he went to the ranch…and a Spanish household working for them on the ranch had a boy [Juan Montoya] about 15 years outdated, and he took this boy with him.

The following morning they began out early, they usually got here to the place the place the buckboard [buggy] was. They took the mule that they didn’t kill with them, these Espinosas. So, Grandfather began to trace ’em, and their tracks had been headed south. Nicely, he adopted the tracks south for a little bit methods [and] figured that they’d backtracked and went north as a substitute. So, he went again to the place he had began.…Nicely, they solely went a couple of mile, possibly 2 miles, north, and being he was a tracker, he figured that he wasn’t very far behind. [When] the tracks bought fairly sizzling, he left the boy with the 2 horses. He informed the boy: “Now, you see the shadow of this tree throughout the gulch, there throughout the creek? When that shadow factors to that time of rocks on the opposite aspect…and I’m not again, you are taking the horses and return to the fort, as a result of I received’t be again.”

So, he went, and the additional he went, the warmer it bought. So, fairly quickly he situated ’em. They’d a little bit fireplace going, a small fireplace.…It was just one brother that was left then. Earlier than that point [the] Espinosa brothers had held up a stagecoach up in South Park, and a few fella had killed one of many Espinosa brothers [Vivián was killed in a shootout with a citizens’ posse]. He killed him, so the opposite one which was left [Felipe] went right down to New Mexico and bought his nephew [José], a boy about 19 or 20 years outdated [actually 14], and he bought to be worse than his uncle.

So, Grandfather had a muzzleloading rifle—you realize, a Hawken rifle…that you simply used to should pour the powder in after which ram the bullet in and put a cap on the tube earlier than you may shoot. So, he put two bullets in his mouth, and he snuck up behind a fallen tree. He needed to get shut as a result of them rifles didn’t carry so far as our trendy rifles do. And one shot, and should you missed, you was a goner. So, he snuck behind this log, and the uncle, the outdated man [Felipe], was cooking some meat on this campfire. [They] killed some animal [a stolen ox], they usually had a number of the meat hung up on the willows to dry. The younger fellow [José] was off a little bit methods, caring for the horses, one thing. And Grandfather bought inside vary, and he mentioned this outdated fella was like an animal. He might sense hazard. He hadn’t seen grandfather or heard him, however Grandfather mentioned he’d stoop over to stir his meat. However he’d straighten up proper fast and at all times attain for his revolver, however he didn’t take it out of his scabbard in any respect. Then he’d go forward along with his meal. Grandfather didn’t need to shoot him till he bought the 2 of them collectively.

Fairly quickly the younger fella got here, and he began to unpack some sacks that they’d, they usually had been speaking, however Grandfather was too far to listen to simply what they had been saying. However he might have understood ’em, as a result of he [could] speak Spanish.…So he bought prepared, and the outdated man stooped over once more to handle his meat, and the younger fella dumped one thing out of his sack. And Grandfather took a crack, and the outdated man pitched over into the hearth, however he wasn’t useless. He rolled out of the hearth. It solely singed his whiskers.…Grandfather mentioned he had by no means seen a extra horrible wanting factor than that outdated man. Most likely hadn’t had a shower in years or shaved or something. He was soiled, and his fingernails had been so lengthy that they curled over his fingers. However anyhow, he cracked down on the outdated man.…The younger fella began to run, and Grandfather known as to him in Spanish and informed him to cease, and he stopped lengthy sufficient to fireplace his revolver at Grandfather, however he missed, and he began to run once more. Simply as he bought to the sting of the timber, Grandfather cracked down on him, and he went down. So, Grandfather walked over to the hearth. The outdated man was laying on his again. He wasn’t useless, however he had his revolver in his hand, and he waved [it] over his face a couple of times and mentioned, “Rattling the People.” He didn’t know who shot him. He hadn’t seen anyone. After which Grandfather went over to the younger one, the nephew, and he was useless. He broke his again.…

Grandfather got here again to the camp and questioned what he ought to do. He couldn’t take the our bodies to Fort Garland. He needed to take some proof, and he solely had the 2 horses, and it was a protracted methods [to the fort]. So, he took his looking knife and reduce off the outdated man’s head after which went and reduce [off] the younger one’s head…and put them in a sack that the younger one had emptied [and] walked over to the place the horses had been. And when he bought there, the horses had been there, however the boy…had taken off afoot and had hidden in some rocks. However he lastly discovered him and tied the heads on behind the saddle.

the commander says, ‘Tom did you’ve any luck?’ and Grandfather went behind the door and picked up a sack and dumped the heads out. He mentioned a number of the girls fainted…[and] males turned inexperienced

[Grandfather] got here to the fort…and there was an orderly within the commandant’s workplace, however all of the officers [and their wives] had gone down the street towards San Luis for a [ride].…So he despatched the orderly after them. They usually all got here in, and the commander says, “Tom did you’ve any luck?” and Grandfather went behind the door and picked up a sack and dumped the heads out. He mentioned a number of the girls fainted…[and] males turned inexperienced.…The commander says to the orderly, “You’re taking this stuff out of right here and bury ’em someplace.”

So Grandfather went residence. And see, when he went after these fellas, he didn’t know that there’d been a reward supplied by the state [territory]. And the explanation he went was like all these old-timers carried out. He carried out it for humanity sake and to guard mankind that these fellas had been killing all around the valley, everywhere.…When [he] bought to the house, the newborn he was anticipating was already there.…

After he realized there was a reward out for ’em, he didn’t declare it till a couple of years later. He put in a declare to the state, and the Legislature hopped forwards and backwards, they usually didn’t haven’t any funds for [those] issues.…Finally they paid him [$500 from Territorial Governor Edward Moody McCook, followed 30 years later by $1,000 from Governor Davis Hanson Waite].

Leonetti: And it was speculated to be a reward of $1,500 to $2,500?

Kit Carson III, grandson of frontiersman Kit Carson
Years after the headline-grabbing manhunt for the “Bloody Espinosas” Package Carson III posed in his grandfather’s garb, together with the coat a governor of Colorado had introduced Tobin. (Aultman/Trinidad Studio Assortment at Historical past Colorado)

Carson: Fifteen hundred or $2,500. Some mentioned $1,500, others mentioned $2,500.…Some say that he bought $1,500 {dollars}, however, you realize, Grandfather couldn’t learn or write. He might write his identify, however that was all. Now, in the event that they ever paid $1,500 or $2,500 {dollars}, whoever does his correspondence for the state most likely bought the stability of it.…

One time I used to be in Colorado Springs, and I met with the historic society of the Pikes Peak area, they usually had been speaking about Package Carson—my different grandfather. And ultimately somebody introduced up this Espinosa deal, they usually began to ask me about names and dates. I mentioned, “My gosh, I’ve such a poor reminiscence that I don’t bear in mind dates or names both.”

Nicely one in all them mentioned, “Do you bear in mind what time of 12 months it was when your grandfather bought these Espinosas?”

And I mentioned, “Yeah, in October.”

And he says: “What 12 months? Do you do not forget that?”

“Yeah, 1863.”

He says, “Nicely, I believed you didn’t bear in mind dates?”

“Nicely, I’ve purpose for remembering that date.”

And he says, “Why?”

“Nicely, when he bought residence, that child born that day…later grew to become my mom [María Pascualita Tobin]. And so I do not forget that date of her beginning and the 12 months. So, it was October 1863.”

Leonetti: I needed to ask you concerning the outdated man [Felipe] Espinosa. You mentioned he [your grandfather] shot him first, and he rolled over the hearth.…Did he simply die there?

Carson: No, Grandfather seen him wave the revolver previous his face, after which [he] handed away. Grandfather didn’t should shoot him once more, as a result of he seen he was too far gone to do any injury.…He went to see concerning the boy. [When] he bought again…the outdated man was useless.

Leonetti: And also you mentioned they’d nice massive, lengthy fingernails. I might simply think about these soiled lengthy fingernails and large beards.

Carson: Lengthy fingernails, lengthy black beard, and fireplace had singed a part of his [Felipe’s] beard away, so he was an terrible wanting sight.

Leonetti: Had been they in buckskins?

Carson: I suppose they had been in buckskins. Now, numerous individuals say in tales that [have] been written that…some museums has souvenirs.…Some say they saved a diary and the names of the fellas that they killed. Now, inform me, how would these guys maintain a diary after they had been illiterate? [The brothers were actually found with letters and a diary written in fluent Spanish]. They couldn’t write, they couldn’t learn, they usually didn’t know who they [had] killed. Now, they weren’t going to ask a person what his identify was after which kill him. They killed all these fellas from ambush.

Leonetti: Do you assume they, based on your grandpa, killed individuals right here as a result of they’d such a dislike for People?

Carson: That’s proper. As a result of it wasn’t for theft.…[The] males killed, most of them…had been timbermen, prospectors or issues like that. They [Felipe, Vivián and José] couldn’t assume that they’d any cash with them. Moreover, what good would cash do the Espinosas? They didn’t go to city.…They might swoop down on some village…change horses, take what horses these fellas had and provisions. And naturally the Spanish individuals—most of them, not all—they had been in sympathy with the Espinosa brothers, naturally. Lot[s] of them round [Fort] Garland [in] later years, they’d a dislike for my grandfather…on account of [going after the Espinosas.]

Leonetti: Do you bear in mind who the commander was on the time on the fort?

Famed frontiersman Kit Carson
Younger Carson’s namesake and different well-known grandfather, frontiersman Package Carson, was a commander at Fort Garland, Colo., within the wake of the Civil Conflict. Carson III was born in the home his grandfather had used as his headquarters. (Library of Congress)

Carson: No, I don’t bear in mind.…I used to be born in the identical home the place Grandfather [Carson] had his headquarters as commandant of Fort Garland. I used to be born in that very same home.

Leonetti: Throughout the time he was commandant?

Carson: No, Grandfather Carson was commander at Fort Garland in 1852 [actually 1866–67], and I wasn’t born till 1883. However I used to be born in the identical home [in which] he had his headquarters, which remains to be there.

Leonetti: How was your father associated to the unique Package Carson?

Carson: My father was the unique Package Carson’s eldest son. His identify was William.…William married Tom Tobin’s youngest daughter…the one which was born when Grandfather killed the Espinosas.

Leonetti: And that was your mom?

Carson: My mom. WW

Writer Daniel Sanchez-Leonetti, whose hometown is Trinidad, Colo., discovered the 5-inch reel audiotape of the interview brother Robert recorded in 1968 with Package Carson III in Robert’s shed, the place it had lain undisturbed for 52 years.


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