When we travel through this country of ours we often like to stop at museums and explore the past history of the areas we visit. Thanks to the internet, it is easy to find things of interest wherever you happen to be. I have found it amazing how folks lived 100 or 200 years ago. I try to imagine what it would’ve been like back in those days. What did the landscape look like before settlers? Were buffalo roaming these areas? Did Indians live in this area? What tools were available to build homes? How did the people of this time period survive? What were they thinking about as they lived their lives?
Two nights ago we stopped at the small town of Limon, Colorado. After we set up our RV, I grabbed my laptop and started to see what Limon was all about. It seems that Limon was and still is a hub for railroads and roads in eastern Colorado. An intersection or stop-over for travelers headed west to Denver or East to Kansas City. Limon is a very small town with very few services. Not a destination in Colorado!
As I continued to read on I also found a story of hatred and vengeance that occurred back in November of 1900. A 12 year-old girl by the name of Louise Frost was found raped and murdered from multiple stab wounds at Lake Station just down the road from Limon. From what I have read, a few local men were rounded up for questioning, one of which was a young 16 year-old black male by the name of Preston Porter Jr. Preston worked for the railroad and was picked up in the Denver area about 90 miles west of Limon. At the time there were few black people living in the Colorado area. He was held, put in a sweat box a couple days and told if he didn’t confess to the murder, his father and brother would be hanged along with him. After a week or so of brutal interrogation he relented to the sheriff and signed a confession.
From what I can tell by reading different articles, the Sheriff was supposed to take Preston to a penitentiary where he was to hang, but when they passed through Limon, a crowd of men forcibly removed him from the train when they stopped to get water for the steam locomotive. E.W. Frost, the father of the victim, requested that Preston be burned at the stake in lieu of hanging. A steel track was embedded in the ground at the site of the murder and Preston was chained to it and burned alive in front of about 300 people. From descriptions it sounded like the people that witnessed this horrible event had no regrets for this punishment and they actually waited about 5 hours for more spectators to arrive before burning young Preston alive.
I have a strong feeling that on that November day in 1900 an innocent man was put to a horrible death just because he was black and the people of Limon wanted someone to pay for a crime. There was another white man also located shortly after the murder that was covered in blood.
This is a real part of US history. I try and imagine what this could have been like to live in this time when so little value was thrust upon minority peoples’ lives. How helpless Preston must have felt, how brave he must have been to sacrifice himself to save his father and brother. It was reported that as he burned he asked God to forgive his executioners. There is no memorial in Limon for Preston.
It’s unfortunate and a fact that even today innocent people are wrongly arrested and sent to jail or put to death.
Small towns have big secrets. It is not just the large urban areas. Many glass houses all around the USA. Not much has really changed over the decades.