From the Museum Archives: The shocking murder of John Jarvie, Browns Park’s most revered man
Born in Scotland in 1844, John Jarvie somehow made his way to Rock Springs, Wyoming, where he owned a saloon for several years. John married in 1880 and moved his new bride to the Utah side of Browns Park on the north bank of the Green River. Spotting opportunity, he opened a general store/trading post and provided a ferry crossing.
As the only store for 70 miles, along with a post office and the only ferry crossing in Browns Park, Jarvie’s place quickly became a hub for nearly every resident and passerby for miles, good or bad. Located directly on the Outlaw Trail, Butch Cassidy, Elza Lay, Matt Warner and several other nefarious types are known to have spent considerable time at Jarvie’s place.
John Jarvie, however, was loved by nearly everybody. He would challenge local children to foot races and always had candy on hand. He loved chess and his organ-playing was in demand at parties. It’s no stretch to say that John Jarvie was the area’s most widely-admired citizen. Ann Bassett, perhaps the best known resident of Browns Park, once said of Jarvie, “Next to my father, I think he was the person near perfect”.
In July of 1909, two men stopped at the Jarvie place where John proceeded to make them dinner. Instead of a thanks, they lead John at gunpoint to his safe where all they found was a $100 bill. John made a mad dash out the door, but as he ran two shots were fired. John Jarvie was dead. The men drug John’s body down to the river where they tied him into a rowboat and set him adrift down the Green River.
The next day one of John’s sons stopped-in for a visit only to find the store and house ransacked. The two men had stolen as much as they could before making their getaway. His son noticed the drag marks full of blood pointing towards the river and a manhunt was immediately underway.
The killers, now known to be George Hood and Bill McKinley, made their way to Rock Springs where they boarded the train and made their escape. Despite a $1,000 reward, the trail soon went cold and the search was called off. One of John’s sons, however, continued the pursuit.
Jimmy Jarvie eventually tracked the killers to a town in Idaho, but they somehow caught wind of his presence. Soon after arriving, Jimmy was pushed out the window of his 2nd floor room. He died instantly. The killers were never apprehended.
John Jarvie’s body was not discovered until 8 days after his murder. It was found by one of his sons 25 miles downstream near the Gates of Lodore. He was buried in the nearby Lodore cemetery where his grave can still be seen today.
Paul Knowles is assistant director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. To learn more, drop by the Museum of Northwest Colorado at 590 Yampa Ave., or visit the museum’s Facebook page, facebook.com/MuseumNorthwestColorado.
Imagine that there’s a town next to a raging river, with a waterfall just five minutes downstream. One day, the residents of this town notice people caught in the river and many are going right over the waterfall’s edge. What can the townspeople do to save these people?