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Adam Lewy’s adventures in early Southwest Colorado

Helen, Adam, Vivian, Charlie, Mary and Ernest Lewy. Children not shown: Marcella, Marge and Mary. (Montezuma County Historical Society/Courtesy of Phil Hamilton)
Captive, marshal and sheriff, Lewy experienced the rough and tumble life of early Montezuma County

Editor’s note: The following interview was given in Montezuma County in the early 1900s from Adam Lewy to the author of “Progressive Men of Western Colorado,” A. W. Bowen & Co.

“The genial and gracious proprietor of the Clifton House in Cortez who is a pioneer of 1849 was born on December 31, 1848, in Missouri. He is the son of Henderson and Mary Lewy, the former a native of North Carolina and the later of Ohio.

“In 1849, the family with a number of others started across the plains and when they reached the Elk River, nearly all the whole party was massacred by Indians. All of Mr. Lewy’s entire family except himself and one sister were slain. He was taken prisoner, but his sister hid and made her escape. He was then an infant and soon after rescued and was brought to Huerfano County, Colorado, where he was reared to the age of 10 by an aunt with whom he lived except during a second short captivity among the Indians when he was two years old.

“At the age of 10, he returned to Missouri where he remained for three years, then came west again in the employ of the Ketchum & Pugsley Cattle Co., where he remained a number of years. He then moved to San Antonio, Texas, and engaged in herding stock. From 1872 to 1874, he was inspector of live stock at Medicine Lodge. In 1874, he joined the command of Capt. Hull in his chase for the James and the Younger brothers. He was present when Capt. Hull was killed.

“At the close of this engagement, he returned to Huerfano County, Colorado. In 1876, he moved to Silverton, Colorado, and until 1879 ran a pack train of his own between Silverton and Del Norte. After a short residence at Animas and at Durango, he settled in Montezuma County in 1881. He was in the employ of the L.C. Cattle Co., for which he was foreman for five years. In 1889, he was elected Sheriff of the county and at the end of his term was re-elected. He also served twenty-five years as a deputy United States Marshall. He is widely known for his resolution, persistency and courage and is a terror to evil doers.

Courtesy of Fred BlackburnAdam Lewy's homestead in Yellow Jacket.
Courtesy of Fred BlackburnAdam Lewy's homestead in Yellow Jacket.

“Twenty- five miles below Cortez, Mr. Lewy has a fine ranch and a large band of excellent and well-bred horses. In June 1903, he engaged in the hotel business as proprietor of the Clifton House in Cortez and devoted himself strictly to this enterprise. He has a host of friends among the traveling public. On November 18, 1889, in Durango, he was united in marriage with Mary Johnson of Leadville, a daughter of Joseph and Mary Johnson, who were very early settlers in Colorado. Mr. and Mrs. Lewy have six children, Vivian, Ernest, Charles, Helen, Marcella and Grace.”

Prior to his death, Adam Lewy had located his ranch in Yellow Jacket Canyon, where he began building a fine rock house.

“Mr. Lewy was almost instantly killed in an accident when his foot hung in the stirrup of the saddle and his horse, being a fractious one, dragged him to death and over the side of the cliff. This accident occurred in Yellow Jacket Canyon (lower end of Mc Elmo Canyon) on December 10, 1921.

Thank you to Fred Blackburn who furnished photos and offered invaluable help on the article. Phil Hamilton, Great Grandson of Adam and Mary Lewy offered information about the family when asked and furnished photos and information on his great grandparents. Gayle Johnson of the Cortez Cemetery furnished Mr. Lewy’s obituary from historic newspapers.

June Head is Historian of the Montezuma County Historical Society and can be reached at 970-565-3880 for comments or corrections.