History - Robert Ford and Walsenburg
"Bob Ford I don't trust: I think he is a sneak; but Charlie Ford is as true as steel."
Born: January 31, 1860
Died: June 8, 1892 ( age 32)
Robert Ford and Governor Crittenden
Robert Ford was an outlaw who shot Jesse James in the back of the head on April 3, 1882. He was born in Ray County, Missouri. His older brother Charles joined the James gang around 1881 with Bob Ford joining later. Robert Ford had already conducted secret talks with Governor Thomas T. Crittenden about capturing or killing Jesse James. He and his brother wanted to collect the $10,000 bounty that Crittenden had offered in a proclamation.
Shooting of Jesse James
At the time of Jesse James' death, Bob & Charley Ford were staying with the Jameses in their house in St. Joseph, Missouri. They were planning to rob a bank in Platte City. After Bob Ford shot James, he and his brother surrendered to authorities. They were charged with murder but were quickly pardoned by Crittenden and given a portion of the reward. The idea that Crittenden had conspired to kill a private citizen upset many people and fed the iconic image of James being a heroic victim (1 ).
Search for the Killer
Frank James began searching for the Ford brothers to avenge his brother's death. Charles moved from town-to-town over the next two years until he finally couldn't take it anymore and committed suicide.
Robert Ford and Nellie Waterson
After his brother's suicide Robert Ford became linked with a dancer/prostitute named Nellie Waterson (usually called Dottie). They joined the Barnum freak show for a couple of years. He then wound up leaving show business and opened a gambling hall & saloon in Walsenburg.
The Creede Exchange
Ford's business prospered, and when a mining boom started in Creede in the late 1880's he and Dottie moved there and opened a two-story structure they named "The Creede Exchange". Ford managed the bar & gambling, while Dottie managed a group of prostitutes (2). Robert & Dottie were asked to leave Creede when Ford became drunk and shot out some lights in town. They resided in Pueblo briefly before being invited back to Creede. A fire had destroyed most of Creede but Ford was able to salvage his baby grand piano and reopen his business in a tent.
Demise of Robert Ford
On June 8, 1892 a grudge-holding Edward O' Kelly entered the tent and shot Ford in the back with a double-barreled shotgun(3).
The Ford Home
320 W. 7th Street
Walsenburg Residence of Robert Ford
1. Trout, Caryin & Engel, Elizebeth, "Robert Ford(1860-1892), Source: The State Historical Society of Missouri, Date Accessed February 14,2017.
2. Weiser, Kathy, "Old West Legends Robert Ford-Jesse James Killer" Source: Legends of America, Date Accessed February 14, 2017.
3. Miller Ruth, "Time-Travler: Robert Ford started gambling hall in Walsenburg" Source: Colorado Community Media,Date Accessed February 14, 2017