Anna Blythe Speas

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Anna Blythe Speas
Born c. 1869
Boulder, Colorado
Died July 6, 1898 (aged 28)
Denver, Colorado
Cause of death

Internal abscess
Pneumonia

Alcoholism
Resting place Fairmount Cemetery in Denver
Residence

Park County, Colorado

Denver, Colorado
Occupation

Housewife with short, tragic life

Cleared of accessory to murder
Spouse(s) Sam Speas (married 1886-1894, divorced)
Children Three infant deaths
Parent(s) Mary Jane Blythe (mother)

Anna Blythe Speas (c. 1869 - July 6, 1898) was a young woman whose life story and early death became a subject of legend in the small community of Como in Park County in central Colorado.

Background

In 1884, the teenaged Anna Blythe met Sam Speas, a young railroad employee who lived at the boardinghouse in Boulder, Colorado, which was owned by Anna's mother, Mary Jane Blythe, and operated by Anna's sister and brother-in-law, Nellie and Joe McCabe. Sometimes called the "Belle of Boulder", Anna was tall and shapely and had wavy black hair and aquamarine eyes. Many young men in Boulder sought to court her. At seventeen on September 30, 1886, Anna married Sam Speas in Boulder; he was eleven years her senior. After a number of months, the young couple moved to Como, where Speas was promoted to engineer of the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad, which was sold at foreclosure proceedings in 1889 to the Denver, Leadville and Gunnison Railway. Speas was often away from home on railroad business. As a housewife, Anna may have had difficulty adjusting to Como and turned to alcohol. The couple had three babies, all of whom died shortly after birth and are interred with a common marker at the Como Cemetery.[1]

Life of unrest and tragedy

In 1894, Anna and another woman, Lillian Kennedy Robinson, were charged as accessories to the shooting death of Town Marshal Adolph E. Cook of Como. At the time of the murder, Anna was at the residence of Levi J. Streeter, a single man and a shoemaker. A loud party was underway. Neither woman was accompanied by her husband. Robinson was divorced during the trial and reverted to the name Kennedy.[2] Streeter was subsequently found guilty of the crime, but the women were acquitted in the trial held in the county seat of Fairplay, Colorado. Streeter claimed that he thought Cook was a robber and an intruder, and he therefore fired three shots at the marshal and then beat his skull with the handle of the revolver. Streeter was sentenced to be hanged in June 1894 at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City. The sentence was reduced to life imprisonment at hard labor, but he died not long afterwards in 1896.[1]

Speas provided legal counsel for his wife but shortly thereafter the two divorced on grounds of Anna's cruelty and alcoholism. Anna moved away from Como, never to return. After a time in Boulder, she spent the last years of her life in Denver, where she lived in a shack with an African American, Andrew Lyles. Her mother had begged her to return to Boulder, but she refused. On July 5, 1898, neighbors reported that Lyles severely beat Anna. Lyles and another man living at the house, John C. Motley, were arrested and charged with Anna's murder. But the autopsy report cites an internal abscess, pneumonia, and alcoholism as the cause of death, not the beating. Lyles, meanwhile, was immediately rearrested for criminal assault on a six-year-old girl.[1]

Aftermath

A year after the divorce, Sam Speas married Ellen O'Leary, who worked at the Pacific Hotel, since the Como Eating House and Bed and Breakfast. Their three sons also became railroad engineers. Speas' granddaughter, Margaret Coel, wrote a book on his life, Goin' Railroading.[1]

Anna Blythe Speas is buried in an unmarked grave in Fairmount Cemetery in Denver.[1]

On May 13, 2011, Marshal Adolph Cook was inducted into the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. Earlier in 1999, he was inducted into the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial. He is the only law enforcement officer from Park County to qualify for the posthumous honors.[1]

In 2012, the journalist Laura King Van Dusen of Como, who writes for The Flume, the newspaper in Fairplay, won first place for "Best Feature Story" from the Colorado Press Association. for her article on Anna Blythe Speas.[3]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Laura King Van Dusen, "The Short, Tragic Life of Anna Blythe Speas: Belle of Boulder, Suspected Criminal in Como, Dead in Denver at Twenty-eight", Historic Tales from Park County: Parked in the Past (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2013), ISBN 978-1-62619-161-7, pp. 113-125.
  2. ^ "Town Marshal Cook Instantly Killed by L.J. Streeter at Como" (PDF). the Flume of Fairplay, Colorado, April 12, 1894, pp. 1-2. Retrieved February 14, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Arkansas Valley Publishing garners 17 Colorado Press Association awards: The Flume". The Mountain Mail, Salida, Colorado. Retrieved February 14, 2014. 
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