Judge Joseph E. Ferguson was born in Iowa in 1867 and eventually ended up moving to Victor in 1899. This is his history.

Meet Joseph E. Ferguson

Joseph E. Ferguson was born in Magnolia Iowa on January 27th, 1867. He was the 7th of 12 children, the family had 7 sons and 5 daughters. His parents were William and Susan McFeeley, both born in Ireland. They relocated to Iowa in 1858, William was both a blacksmith and a farmer. Joseph worked on his parents’ farm in the summer months and went to school in the winters. He earned money for his college courses and entered at the age of 24. He attended public school in Magnolia and Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames Iowa.

Joseph began working as a surveyor for 2 years, he was formally trained as a civil engineer. He was elected the County Surveyor in 1893 and then he was re elected. After working as a surveyor, he was admitted to the Bar of Iowa. In 1894 he entered the law office of Senator L.R. Bolter. He was admitted to practice at the Supreme Court of Iowa in May, 1897.

Judge Joseph Ferguson

Joseph came to Colorado in July 1897 and lived in Boulder, Denver and Aspen. He came to Victor Colorado in May 1899. His first year in Victor, he was the civil engineer in charge of the Pueblo Sub. Tract. and Lighting Company, a power plant. In 1898 he was admitted to practice law at the Supreme Court of Colorado. Also in 1898, he married Lillian Heilman and they had 2 children, Josephine and James E. Ferguson.

Josephine was born in their cabin at 423 South 5th Street, Victor. 2 years later James was born. The second floor to the cabin was built in 1902. Their brother Bill was born in Colorado Springs in 1910. Josephine and James went to school in Colorado Springs. Josephine died when she was only 14, and James was 12 at the time.

When James was 5 they moved to 415 Victor Avenue (which is now Kat House Liquors). Joseph and his partner Huff had their law offices in the Victor Hotel across the street in rooms 304-306. Read the essay below that James wrote about living in Victor as a kid during the golden days »

In July 1900 Joseph entered his own law practice and became a leader in his profession. In April 1903 he was elected Democratic City Attorney of Victor. He served for 2 years, then re-elected in 1907 for another 2 years.

Joseph was a member of Woodmen of the World and the Knights of Columbus. In 1906 he was elected District Attorney of the 4th Judicial District by 756 votes. In the same election the District went Republican by over 1800 votes. In the fall of 1908 he was again elected District Attorney. He took office in January 1909 when he was 41. He formed a partnership with Huff, who was the City Attorney for Victor for 4 years.

Joseph fearlessly performed his duties. His election brought conditions in the gold camp to a crisis. He was a staunch opponent of gambling and the District’s criminal element. It was a battle to the finish between he on one side and saloons and gamblers on the other. After the election, the local criminal element sent their ambassador with an offer of $10,000 in the early 1900s (over 4 times the DA’s salary) to lay off the syndicate. The group would select a minor gambling den or other place of crime as a token prosecution could be accomplished.

Joseph promptly took the “ambassador” by his coat collar and the seat of his pants and kicked him down the stairs. He plunged into battle even before he entered his new office, before the local newspapers announced his installation of his new position. “The fight drove him to his grave,” his friends say, “he broke up gambling and other evils.”

Joseph announced his candidacy for District Judge at the age of 45. Since he had fought the criminal elements as District Attorney, he thought it would be even better to be a judge. He chose Cripple Creek because it was “a hot bed of crime”. Joseph was not happy with the decisions on the bench. His deputy sought the District Attorney post.

Joseph had the law-abiding element behind him. It was a staunch republican area and he was the only democrat to be elected. After a late supper at the Alamo Hotel in Colorado Springs, on the Friday night prior to the election, he suddenly became ill and died a few days later. His family doctor went to Colorado Springs on Saturday, but nothing could be done. He died on September 8th, 1912 at the age of only 45.

His wife Lillian was called and was with him when he died. Joseph had no bad symptoms until the end, then collapsed. His family said there were traces of poison in his autopsy, but he had vomited so much it wasn’t conclusive. He was diagnosed as having hemorrhagic pancreatitis.

Joseph had many attacks of indigestion and nausea in the past months, but his family thinks the lawless element tried to bribe him as a prosecutor, and feared the combination of Joseph on the bench with a prosecuting attorney, so the “lawless” took action.

The funeral was held Tuesday the 9th at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs. The news spread rapidly, Joseph was described as being “at the height of his esteem in which he was held”. Many of his opponents were the first to call in sympathy. Other district judges regarded him as the best attorney in the State.

Joseph died during his campaign for District Judge in 1912. The Ferguson family remained in the District several years after Joseph’s death. His friends said Joseph was under a fierce strain in his last year in the fight in Cripple Creek. He put a lid down on gambling and the “sporting element,” and it was a bitter fight. It was an uphill struggle for him in politics for a very long time.

Conventional Teller County challenged his party affiliation and his loyalty. Threats were made against his life, but not in the recent time before his death. Joseph’s 3 children were ages 2-12 at the time of his death. Joseph was described as having “the rightest principles, morality, and brought new dignity to his office.”

1900 Census with Ferguson Family

See Lines 66-69 (click to enlarge)

Ferguson Family in 1900 Census

Additional Photos

Owner of Ferguson House Sees Apparition of the Judge

In the oldest standing house in Victor, Colorado, built in 1892, I was taking a nap on a sunny afternoon in the upstairs master bedroom. I hadn’t yet researched the cabin; this was in the 1990s at the beginning of its restoration.

The cabin has unique square windows on the second floor which are tilted on one corner so they look like diamonds, not squares. This is not often seen, but there are a couple of other houses in Victor that have these diamond windows, and one house in Cripple Creek.

I was half asleep and half awake, this is the normal state of when people are usually vulnerable to seeing “spirits,” when they’re not doing some other type of activity so their focus is on what they’re seeing, and in my case, also hearing.

I saw a vision of a tall man standing by my bed looking out the diamond window. He was so close to me I could only see his cashmere Victorian jacket, and it was such a clear vision I could see the curly white threads woven into the cashmere wool in detail. I couldn’t see his head because he was so close and I didn’t look up at it. Years later, one of his descendants, whom I located online, visited the cabin. She had done many years of research on the Fergusons and gave me a photo of Joseph’s brother, Thomas, but had none of Joseph. She told me Joseph was 6’2″ and 220 pounds, proving the fact my vision was a very tall man and since I was laying down all I could see was his jacket at eye level.

He said “someone is coming” and disappeared. As soon as he said that the power company truck was turning up the alley, which is the only way to get into the cabin driveway, from Lawrence Street. At that time the power company was still reading electric meters, which is attached to the north wall of the cabin. They drove in, read the meter and left.

Since my cabin visits are erratic, I had no way of knowing when or what day they read the meter. I don’t even remember being there at any time they would show up.

His “spirit” did not frighten me, I felt comforted and protected in his presence. I went on with my visit as normal, nothing else happened, so I just figured it was a dream and forgot about it.

It wasn’t until years later my husband and I were tearing out the walls to install insulation and drywall, where there appeared, along with horse hair of all things, perfectly intact old newspapers from the early 1900s, 1940s and 1970s. We assumed they were used for insulation, most were nailed inside the walls. So we carefully removed them so as not to damage them.

We were surprised that they were still in good shape and readable. In fact, the early 1900’s newspapers were in better shape than the 1940s. Later found out they used linen in the older newspapers, just paper in the 1940s, probably because of war shortages.

This must have been right after 9/11, so we decided to do the same thing when we were working on the walls. We took a current newspaper from 9/11, with the disastrous headlines and photos, and put it inside the walls for the next owners to find.

There were the Victor Daily Record, Cripple Creek Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Teller County Times and, strangely, newspapers from Missouri.

Not sure who saw this first, but there were tiny printed labels on a few newspapers that said “Ferguson 423 S. 5th St.” Also, some with “Ferguson” and “Huff” penciled in on the top or side of the newspapers in script. Another find was a large empty manila package cover addressed to “Mr. Joseph Ferguson 423 S. 5th Street” from “Aspen Dry Goods” in Aspen, Colorado. There is still an Aspen Dry Goods store in Aspen.

So here began my years of research into the Fergusons, who obviously lived in our cabin and left their newspapers inside the walls for warmth. I am still researching them, there is new information on the internet constantly and it took me years just to find a photo of Judge Joseph Ferguson.

I was able to locate a photo of his family inside their Cripple Creek house, with Miss Josephine, his daughter, at the upright piano who, sadly, must have died shortly after that photo was taken at the young age of 14 (see photo, below).

So here is the story of Judge Joseph Ferguson who lived in our cabin, then moved to Cripple Creek, then moved to Colorado Springs and his family is now buried in Evergreen Cemetery together in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

I have to say here that the reason I think I felt so comfortable and protected when I saw the Judge in the cabin is because I later found out he and I are very much alike. He was pro-miner, anti-gambling and anti “night life that happens in many mining towns in the west,” according to one old article.

From all my research, he was an upstanding, honest and decent family man. Unfortunately, this caused him to have many enemies, like mine owners and, probably, saloon owners. This could have been the cause of his early demise at the age of 45, according to his descendants, who stated that there was “poison found in his system during his autopsy.”

This is still an unsolved mystery but I hope to solve this soon.

Judge Ferguson Family in the Cripple Creek Living Room

Cripple Creek house, Ferguson residence
Josephine at piano, family behind

Remembrances of Childhood by James Ferguson,

Son of Judge Joseph E. Ferguson

“My sister (Josephine) was born in a log cabin on South Fifth Street in March, 1900. Two years later I was born and my parents added two small upstairs bedrooms. The cabin still stands, although the street has been closed for many years.

When I was about five years of age, they traded the log cabin for a brick business building with living quarters on the second floor. The railroad was behind this building and farther back a gold mine was in operation. An abandoned prospect hole was at the edge of our property with a wood ladder attached to the timbers. It goes without saying that my parents did not know that I had explored it thoroughly.

My brother Bill (Joseph William) was born in Colorado Springs in 1910. Mother had not been feeling well and Josephine and I attended school in Colorado Springs that year.

We both had the measles and mother’s youngest sister, Aunt Kate, took care of us. We were privileged to visit her ranch at Woodland Park during summer vacations. Uncle Ed was in bad health and Aunt Kate helped with the work as well as took care of her three children and the house.

My grandmother Hielman died when I was six. Uncle Ed passed away when I was eight. My father died when I was ten and Josephine when I was twelve. I spent part of the summer at Aunt Kate’s when I was fourteen. Mother was attending Teachers College in Greeley and I went to Greeley mid-summer. There was a funeral wreath on the door of the house. I had acquired a deep seated belief that tragedy would strike every two years and here was apparent proof that this was true! I was so relieved to find that mother had moved a few days before.”

Experience art with a history!

Come visit us in beautiful Victor.