Constable Lewis to be honored by the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial

Head Stone of Robert G. Lewis Constable of Hotchkiss, CO November 21, 1898

Courage to Stand:

The Story of Constable Lewis

by Kathy D. Browning

Both Robert G. Lewis and his wife, Sarah “Minerva” Frady Lewis, were among the early pioneers of Hotchkiss, Colorado. Robert and Minerva arrived separately in 1883. They met, fell in love and married Jan. 1, 1884.

One significant November morning at the Lewis home one can imagine a busy atmosphere with Minerva preparing breakfast and helping her children get ready for school. Robert and Minerva had two children, daughter, Edna and son, Charlie. The year was 1898 and the day was Monday, the 21st. Lewis was co-proprietor of the American Livery Barn. He had a second job as the Hotchkiss Constable. The morning probably seemed liked so many others. That would change in a few hours. One hopes it was a morning of smiles among the small family. Lewis left to go to his livery barn and start his work day.

His afternoon would soon be interrupted. Newspaper accounts from that day do not say how Lewis learned of a dangerous situation happening on Main Street. He must have left in a hurry, because he did not take his gun. L.A. Harrison and R.T. Fluke were involved in an ongoing disagreement over some lots in town. Harrison decided to take matters into his own hands. Both men were blacksmiths and Harrison knew he would find Fluke at his forge. Harrison arrived armed with a shotgun. He wasn’t interested in more discussion. He wanted to settle the matter with Fluke in a gunfight. Harrison marched Fluke down the street. The two men were heading to Fluke’s home where his firearm was located.

It was just after one o’clock that Monday afternoon. The North Fork Times account of what happened says Constable Lewis stepped in between Harrison and Fluke. Lewis told Harrison to give him his rifle. Lewis reached into his coat pocket. If he was reaching for his gun, it wasn’t there. Harrison took that as his cue to shoot Constable Lewis in the throat. Lewis fell to the street never to rise again. The coroner would report the next morning that Lewis died instantly.

Fluke took off running to reach his home. Harrison tried to reload his weapon to shoot Fluke, but the shell ejector on his shotgun jammed. He couldn’t shoot Fluke who made it safely inside his home and no doubt armed himself with his own weapon. Witnesses stated Harrison walked out of town 20 minutes after the shooting. He hid in the hills above Hotchkiss alluding a posse. Delta County Sheriff George G. Smith investigated the murder of Constable Lewis. Harrison decided to give himself up two days later and sent word to Sheriff Smith, who peaceably arrested Harrison at Leroux Creek.

On Nov. 26, the case of the People vs. L.A. Harrison began with a list of witnesses to be subpoenaed. Harrison was held in the Gunnison jail to await trial in the Delta District Court on Feb. 14, 1899. For what ever reason Harrison was set free on Valentine’s Day. Free to return to his Hotchkiss home. No court records of the brief trial exist, and it’s a mystery how a man could force another man at gunpoint down Main Street, kill the Hotchkiss Constable, and attempt to reload his weapon to shoot his intended victim and then not be found guilty. What did Fluke and his family think about the verdict? How safe did he feel living and working in Hotchkiss?

Robert G. Lewis’ widow and two children were now without him. Minerva would never remarry.

The Nov. 24, 1898 North Fork Times reported on the shooting of Constable Lewis, capture of L.A. Harrison, the obituary for the husband and father and a display ad for his livery barn. Robert’s obituary stated he “was a responsible citizen and an excellent neighbor. He was quick to resent a wrong and courageous in his official capacity. He was a man without fear.” Robert certainly wasted no time in stepping in between Harrison and Fluke. Lewis had the courage to save Fluke even though it cost him his life. Robert Lewis died just four days after his 47th birthday.

Minerva remained in Hotchkiss until 1913 when she joined her daughter in California. Sarah Minerva Lewis, 72, died Sunday, Feb. 5, 1928 and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Her obituary stated she “was a good woman and had many friends here.”

Robert G. Lewis is buried at Riverside Cemetery above Hotchkiss. His tombstone makes no mention of his birthdate or the day he died, nor that he was a constable, businessman, husband and father. It simply states, “R. G. Lewis, Co. D. 145th PA. INF.”  In 1865, at just 14 years of age, Lewis traveled from his birthplace in Virginia and joined the Union Army Company D with the 145th Pennsylvania Infantry. Robert G. Lewis lived a life of courage from beginning to end.

On October 11, 2017, the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial Committee approved adding the name of Hotchkiss Constable Robert G. Lewis to the memorial. The memorial ceremony will take place Friday, May 4, 2018 at 10 a. m., at Camp George West in Golden. Family members of Constable Lewis and members of the Hotchkiss Marshal’s Office are invited to attend the event.

(This correspondent wishes to acknowledge the invaluable help of the late Mary Lou Snell who compiled the genealogical history for the Frady Family. Robert G. Lewis married Sarah Minerva Frady; thanks to Snell’s daughter and Lewis’ great-great-niece Pam Woods for providing documents and photographs including a copy of The North Fork Times dated Nov. 24, 1898; Duane Freeman, author of the excellently researched and detailed “Sheriffs of Delta County Colorado And Related Stories.” His book contains excerpts from the writings of Sheriff George Smith about the shooting, capture of L.A. Harrison and notes on the court dates. It was his book that alerted Keith Dameron, historian for the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial, of the death of Constable Lewis; Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee who told Duane Freeman of Constable Lewis and began the process for Lewis’ story to be written; Jim Wetzel at the Delta County Museum for research and copies of microfilm of The Delta Independent and The Delta Laborer; co-curators Chuck Farmer and Kathy McKee at Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum; Nicole Becwar, Technical Services Librarian & Archivist at Western State Colorado University; Betsy at Gunnison County Combined Court Offices; and Kim at Delta County Combined Court.)

To view photographs of the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial from May 2017 visit:

Photos by the Colorado State Patrol