For nearly twenty years David Smith, one of western Colorado’s most active and enterprising business men and public-spirited citizens, has been a resident of the state, and for about seventeen has lived in the neighborhood of Meeker. During all this time he has been prominent in the business and public life of the community of his home, and to every undertaking for its advancement he has contributed essentially and substantially, his helping hand being strongly felt in many phases of the industrial and mercantile activity of the section.
David Smith is a native of Scotland, born in Fifeshire on January 22, 1854. His parents, Andrew and Ann (Durie) Smith, were natives of Scotland. The father was a busy contractor and builder and also held public office as an inspector and collector. He died in 1898 and the mother in 1903. Their son David obtained his education in a common school, and leaving while yet a youth became a bookkeeper and cashier in the office of a distillery. After a service of some years in this capacity he began to study brewing practically in the distillery and prosecuted his study of the business a number of years. In 1885 he came to the United States and, impelled by the promise of favorable opportunities for business of all kinds in the West, located at Fort Lupton, this state. Here he purchased railroad land, which he sold after farming it for awhile. In the fall of 1887 he moved to Meeker and located a ranch six miles south of the town on what is commonly known as Strawberry. On this ranch he became extensively engaged in the sheep industry as a member of the Robinson-Smith Sheep Company. He preempted one hundred and sixty acres and made extensive improvements, then in 1891 sold the place and bought the one he now owns in the vicinity of Meeker. This also contains one hundred and sixty acres, and on it hay, grain and hardy vegetables are produced with success and profit. The land is well watered from the Town ditch, which Mr. Smith owns. Having a commercial turn of mind, since 1888 he has been prominent in the lumber business, and since 1889 with the sawmill industry, his enterprise in the latter being the first one started in Rio Blanco county. He also has valuable interests in the oil trade and in coal fields. By his efforts the lumber company in which he is interested has so prospered and progressed that it is equipped to meet all demands for first-class material. The name under which it trades is the D. Smith Lumber Company. He was also for some time assistant cashier of the Bank of Meeker and occupied this position at the time of the robbery of the institution on October 13, 1896. The robbers fired two shots at him, but he escaped without injury. He has been active in the fraternal life of the community, being connected with the Masonic order and the Woodmen of the World; and in the spirit of progress and development in the community he has been one of the valued inspirations. On March 5, 1891, he was married to Miss Mary Allsebrook, and their home has been brightened and blessed with six children, Andrew L., Dorothy H., Allan D., David H., Colin A. and Isabel L. Mr. Smith has in a marked degree the confidence and esteem of the business and social life of the county and adjacent territory, and is generally accounted one of the best citizens and representative men on the Western slope.
Colorado Citizens Decline to Tolerate the Thug
Rather Slow Getting in Action
But Do Good Work When They Open Fire—
The Sudden Death at Meeker of Three Would-Be Bank Robbers Who Were Daring to the Point of Recklessness—
Only Mistake of the Citizens Was in Calling for Surrender.
Denver, Oct. 16.—According to the later [advances] from Meeker, Colo., which is ninety miles from the nearest telegraph office, the three men who were killed there after robbing the bank have not been identified. The one who lived two hours after being shot gave names which are believed to be fictitious.
It is believed that one of the robbers is Thomas McCarthy, who aided in robbing banks at Telluride and Delta. Those killed and wounded in the battle between the citizens and the robbers follow: The dead are: Charles Jones, leader of the bandits, aged 45, shot through the lungs and chest; William Smith, robber, aged 21, riddled through the lungs and chest, shot through the heart and a number of other wounds, any of which would have been mortal; George Harris, robber, aged 35, shot through the lungs and chest. The wounded are: W. H. Clark, game warden, bullet in the right breast, not fatal; Victor Dikeman, shot through the arm; C. A. Booth, scalp wound; W. P. Herrick, finger shot off.
Thugs Were Reckless to Foolishness
The robbery was one of the most daring ever perpetrated in the west, occurring as it did in broad daylight and at a time when there were twenty or more people in plain sight. George Rooney, clerk of the Meeker hotel, had stepped into the bank, which is located in the general mercantile store of J. W. Hugus, to make a deposit, and stood talking to Assistant Cashier David Smith. As he turned to leave he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, and glancing up was looking into the muzzle of a revolver. The man with the revolver commanded “Hands up!” At the same instant two shots rang out, and two bullets whizzed by the head of the assistant cashier — David Smith — who threw up his hands. In the meantime the two other robbers had covered the crowd in the store, compelling them to assemble in the centre (sic) of the room, and guarding both doorways.
Wanted the Safe Opened Quickly
Then Cashier Moulton was called, and one of the men said to him: “Open the safe and be quick about it.” At the point of his gun he was conducted to the safe, which he opened, and the contents of the drawer, $700, were emptied into a sack the robbers had brought with them. Not a word was spoken, the robbers going about their business with a deliberation that was astounding under the circumstances.
After getting the money in the till they quietly gathered in all of the firearms in the place, helped themselves to the cartridges, and then the leader addressed the crowd, bank officials, employes (sic) of the store, and customers who happened to be in the place, saying their horses were standing hitched outside the rear door, which opens on a side street, and that for their own sake they would request all to go outside with them. The crowd filed through the doorway, followed by the robbers.
Something Was Going on Outside
The robbers were not aware that the place was surrounded until all were out. The crowd that they had driven from the store broke and ran for cover. The citizens of the town had been warned by the two shots fired in the store, and arming themselves to the teeth surrounded the bank and quietly awaited the appearance of the robbers.
Deputy Game Warden W. H. Clark noticed that the three horses were fastened at the rear door and surmising that the robbers would leave by that route, took up his station a short distance from the back door, and centered more men at this place than any other, not neglecting, however, to keep the front door just as well watched. When the robbers saw that they were cornered Charles Jones raised a rifle he had taken from the store and fired at Clark. The bandits were commanded to hold up their hands, but answered with a fusillade of shots in a dozen different directions.
Tardy, but They Got ‘Em
Jones and Smith fell to the ground, literally riddled with bullets. They had been killed in the act of firing. Harris, mortally wounded, and still staggering, continued the battle until he fell. The dead men were removed to an undertaking establishment, where an inquest was held, rendering a verdict of justifiable homicide. The money was all recovered.
A description of the robbers follows: Jones, would weigh 160; black hair, slightly bald in front, right leg about one and a half inches shorter than left; about 5 feet 8 inches in height. Harris had a fine physique, weight 180, light hair, sandy beard and mustache. Smith, smooth face, height 5 feet 7 inches.
McCarthys Are a Bad Gang
It is believed here that the robbers were members of the McCarthy gang that committed several daring train and bank robberies in Montana, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. It is also supposed that the man who robbed David H. Moffat, president of the First National bank of this city, of $21,000 in 1889, was a member of this gang. The McCarthys formerly lived in an out-of-the-way place in Oregon, where they were regarded as wealthy ranchmen. In an attempt to rob the bank at Delta, Colo., about a year ago, John McCarthy and his son were killed, but Tom McCarthy escaped.
Waterloo Daily Courier
October 16, 1896
Waterloo Daily Courier, 16 Oct 1896 – PDF copy of Page 2
Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado, p. 36-7. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.