Alferd Packer and The Packer Party Timeline
Culled from these sitesThe Ballad of Alferd Packer
The Other Side Of The Coin
The Story of Alferd E. Packer
The Alfred Packer Collection
So What If It Isn't True? (The Denver Post, July 26, 1989)
Alferd Packer, Cañon City Public Library
Alferd Packer, the Colorado Cannibal
A Packer Chronology
SAGUACHE CHRONICLE - FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 1883
SOLVING THE AMERICAN WEST'S GREATEST MYSTERY: Was Alferd Packer Innocent of Murder?
|November 21, 1842||Allegheny County, Pennsylvania||Alfred Packer was born, a nephew of Asa Packer. He grew up to be a shoemaker and a printer's apprentice.|
|April 22, 1862||Minnesota||Enlisted in the 16th U.S. Infantry of Minnesota|
|December 29, 1862||Ft. Ontario, NY||Mustered out of service in Ft. Ontario, New York due to epilepsy|
|April 25, 1863||Iowa||Enlisted in the 8th Regiment, Iowa Cavalry|
|June 10, 1863||Cleveland, TN||Mustered out of service in Cleveland, Tennessee due to epilepsy|
|1863 - 1873||Westward||He worked as a hunter, a trapper, a guide, a ranch hand, and as a miner in Colorado. He went from job to job, not staying in one place for any substantial period of time. His traveling between jobs led him to Salt Lake City, Utah. He tried many different jobs in Salt Lake City, and also spent some time in jail there for counterfeiting money. When Packer was released he heard of a group of prospectors planning to travel to Breckenridge, Colorado.|
|November 8, 1873||Bingham Mine, Utah||Packer met up with the miners some 25 miles out of Salt Lake City and volunteered to be their guide, claiming he knew the Colorado Territory well.|
|December 6, 1873, four weeks later||Provo, Utah||Packer and his men arrived at Provo for provisions. Nutter joins the party here, having heard of rich gold strike in Colorado Territory. Records indicate that Packer left Provo with 20 men. The 21 men:
When it became evident that Packer was lost, and thus, a fraud of a guide, Nutter took over as guide until the party reached Chief Ouray's camp.
|January 21, 1874||Camp of Ute Chief Ouray||Delta, CO - The men arrive and meet Chief Ouray. Records indicate that all 21 men from the Provo party arrive at the camp, but the party splits up. Chief Ouray tells the men not to brave the winter, for the snows are deep and the climate harsh.|
|January 28, 1874||Camp of Ute Chief Ouray||According to Packer's 1897 confession, Lutzenheiser and four other men leave for Los Pinos Indian Agency just one week after arriving at camp, against Ouray's advice. Nutter is not with them, as he stayed at camp until spring. Cabazon's location is not known.|
|February 2, 1874||Camp of Ute Chief Ouray||Lutzenheiser and his men are taken to a cattle camp by a cattle rancher who found them after hearing a gunshot and finding Lutzenheiser's tracks. That cattle camp is now Gunnison. According to Packer's 1897 confession, Lutzenheiser and his men head out once more for Los Pinos Indian Agency once they get well. This is the same story Tracy mentioned in 1883.|
|February 9, 1874||Camp of Ute Chief Ouray||Packer and his men take off, against Ouray's advice. Nutter and Montgomery, who were out trapping, would be the last to see five of these these men alive.|
|San Juan Mountains||The miners get stuck there, engulfed in a furious blizzard. Swan is the first to die, according to the 1874 confession. The miners, finding themselves short of food, decide to eat Swan. Miller cuts up the body and cooks the various parts. The miners eat.|
|Slumgullion Pass||According to the 1883 confession, Swan asks Packer to see if he can see Breckenridge from the top of the pass. Packer tells the other miners not to eat each other. When he returns the next day, four of the five other miners are dead. Bell arrives and suggests that he and Packer live off the corpses and make their way to civilization. Packer doesn't feel like playing along, as he didn't kill any of the miners, but Bell threatens him. They face off. Packer stabs Bell with a knife as Bell charges, then shoots him. Eventually Bell dies.|
|April 2, 1874||Camp of Ute Chief Ouray||Preston Nutter and Dr. Cooper leave Ouray's camp, bound for Los Pinos. Packer leaves his own camp at about this time.|
|April 16, 1874||Los Pinos Indian Agency||Packer arrives at Los Pinos Indian Agency. So do Nutter and Cooper. So does Herman Lueders, an Indian agent at Los Pinos, with a herd of government cattle. Lueders was at a dinner table with Packer and Chief Ouray when the Indian with "a wink" asked Lueders, in Spanish, if he thought Packer was enjoying "this living as well as he did eating his comrades?" Packer tells the agents that once the storm hit, he set up camp while the others went forward in search of food. He said they never returned, and he subsequently headed out for Los Pinos. This, then, is the unofficial coonfession. As such, if they left him and didn't return, he couldn't have taken any of their money. Yet, he had money enough for whiskey and other delights when he got to Saguache, so that confession had to go.|
|Late April, 1874||Saguache||Packer, Cooper, and Nutter go to Saguache, where Packer spends much time and money at Larry Dolan's saloon. The sheriff there begins to suspect Packer of murder, as the rest of his party hasn't arrived. Apparently, several members of the original Provo party were already in Saguache and expressed doubts about Packer's story. In his 1897 confession, Packer says Lutzenheiser and his men were already here while Packer was still at Los Pinos. At the saloon, Packer's story changes with every sip of Dolan's liquor. Packer stopped at Otto Mears' general store to buy a horse. He tendered currency that Mears thought looked suspicious, Mears asked Packer to replace the first money with other bills. Packer brought out a Wells Fargo draft. One of the missing companions had been carrying just such drafts (these days, they're called "checks"). Mears reported this to the authorites, who confront Packer about this - be arrested or help them search for the bodies. Packer opts to lead them to the bodies. Sheriff Wall sets up a search party the next morning to find the bodies - or the survivors. Packer goes with Wall, Nutter, Lueders, and a few others. Lueders says Packer attacked him with a knife, but he delivers Packer to Wall. Lueders gets cramps and is under the impression that Packer tried to poison him. Gen. Adams later tells Lueders that the reason Packer delayed the expedition as long as he could is that he would have killed them once they saw for themselves the conditions of the bodies.
|May 8, 1874||Los Pinos||Indian Agent Gen. Charles Adams took Packer back to Los Pinos for questioning about the matter, and extracted the first of Packer's two conflicting confessions. The order of death, as the first confession has it, is
|August 8, 1874||Saguache||Packer escaped from custody on this day. In his 1883 confession, Packer said he was handed a key made out of a pen knife blade, which means someone helped him escape. Make that at least three people: Otto Mears (yes, the one who turned Packer in), John Lawrence, and Larry Dolan. He said "Dolan was interested in getting me away... Dolan sent a man who said `Larry Dolan sent you a bottle of whiskey and wishes you good luck' and told me of the grub right there. And I left and went into the room. I took off my shackles and went to sleep..." They seem to have done this because Packer's presence was hurting property values and business in Saguache, so they decided to cut their losses by setting him loose.
|August 20, 1874||Slumgullion Pass||John Randolph, sketch artist for Harper's Weekly, is taken to the five bodies near present Lake City. He notifies Hinsdale County Coroner W.F. Ryan, who convenes a coroner's jury and an inquest. The bodies are identified as members of Packer's party. Because the bodies were all together and the men had apparently been killed in their sleep, the coroner decides that Packer had murdered the men, and the motive may have been robbery rather than hunger. The fact that all the bodies were found together may have colored Packer's recollection in the 1883 and 1897 confessions, as he was later to testify that Bell killed the other four miners and was eating one of them when Packer returned.|
|1874 - March 11, 1883||Wyoming||Sometime later, Packer ended up in Wyoming and stayed there for eight years. It was at this time that he used John Shwartze as his name. Jean "Frenchy" Cabazon, one of the original prospecting party found him quite by accident in Fetterman City, Wyoming, near Cheyenne, in March, 1883. Cabazon, who had met Packer from Utah, recognized his laugh, when they were both at a saloon unaware of each other. He alerted the Wyoming authorites, who contacted the Colorado authorities, who came for Packer and brought him back to Colorado.|
|March 13, 1883||Saguache||George Tracy tells the SAGUACHE CHRONICLE that two parties left the Ouray camp: Packer's and another party. The other party followed the Gunnison River while Packer and his party trudged through the mountains. Packer would mention this in his 1897 confession. Tracy also mentions the Winchester rifle which Packer mentions in 1897 - but the Winchester was meant for game.|
|March 16, 1883||Denver, CO.||Packer was taken to Denver, Colorado, and questioned again about the incident. In his second confession, again under Gen. Charles Adams, Packer stuck with his original claim of self-defense, but admitted to stealing the rifle and $70 in cash from the dead men. Packer was charged with the murder of Israel Swan and was taken to Lake City for trial. In this confession, Packer said that about two weeks after leaving camp (around Frebruary 20, 1874), Bell went mad and killed the other four miners while Packer went up to the top of the hill (at Swan's request) to find out whether he could see something from the mountians. Packer returned that evening to find Bell eating a chunk of Miller's thigh. This makes sense, as the butcher knife was found on Miller's thigh (although it is now missing from the collection). Packer killed Bell and lived off the flesh of the five men for six weeks.|
|April 6-13, 1883||Lake City||Packer awaits trial. The trial begins on April 6 and lasts a week. He's tried and convicted of murdering all five men, then sentenced to be hanged. The verdict is appealed.|
|May 16, 1883||Lake City||Because a lynching is feared, Packer is moved from Lake City to Gunnison jail as his appeal proceeds. His execution is stayed.|
|May 19, 1883||Lake City||Hanging Day. Packer was to be hanged between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on this day, but nothing happens.|
|October 30, 1885||Gunnison||Packer appealed his conviction to the Colorado Supreme Court where the verdict was reversed - the events happened before Colorado statehood, and the conviction wasn't retroactive. The "Grandfather" clause.|
|August 2-5, 1886||Gunnison||He was tried again and this time found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in the state penitentiary - eight years for each miner in his party, consecutively. He is considered a model prisoner. He makes and sells watch fobs to visitors, and has a plot of ground where he cultivates flowers. Attorneys take interest in his case and apply for retrials and pardons.|
|August 7, 1897||Cañon City penitentiary||This third confession, this time to the Rocky Mountain News, is a fleshed-out elaboration of the second confession. Here, he mentions Lutzenheiser as the leader of the trapper party, not Cabazon, and that his party had five members. This and the six members of the Packer party account for 11 of the 21 members of the Provo party. Packer said his gun was a Winchester, but he must have forgotten what it actually was. There's evidence to show that it was actually an 1862 Colt Police Model pistol, with five .38 caliber chambers. Three of them still had bullets in them. A Civil War veteran that visited the crime scene stated that Shannon Bell had been shot twice and the other victims were killed with a hatchet. Packer had always maintained that he shot only Bell, no matter what other details of the crime changed over time.|
|January 3, 1900||Cañon City penitentiary||Polly Pry (born Leonel Campbell and later becoming Mrs. Leonel Ross Anthony O’Bryan), sob sister for the Denver Post, having read of Alferd Packer, visits him a few times at the penitentiary and starts a writing campaign asking for Packer's parole, having observed that many murderers and rapists had been pardoned and wondered why a cannibal should not be pardoned. She, then, believed Packer was innocent of the manslaughter charges.|
|January 7, 1901||Cañon City penitentiary||Packer is releaed in 1901, thanks to the efforts of Polly Pry. Governor Charles S. Thomas granted Packer's parole request due to medical conditions - hydrocele (water sacs under the testicles) and Brights' Disease (inflammation of the structures in the kidney that produce urine: the glomeruli and the nephrons). Bonfils and Tammen, owners of The Denver Post and the Sells-Floto Circus, wanted Packer as a sideshow freak, so Thomas allowed Packer to move to Denver and stay there for at least six years and nine months. He went to Denver and spent three months with Ms. Pry, becoming a bodyguard for Bonfils and Tammen for the duration. The Governor didn't want to pardon Packer, because he found Packer full of vengeance in his foul-mouthed language, both in corrrespondence to his relatives (who never got the mail) and in talks with the Governor, and that was reason enough to keep him in prison. But for all that vindictive talk, Packer took no action when he was finally released.|
|Spring, 1901||Sheridan||He didn't like city life, prefering instead to live in the hills, so he left Denver. He builds a small adobe house in the Denver suburb of Sheridan, where he raises chickens and rabbits. He prospects in Deer Creek Canyon, about 20 miles west of Sheridan, and visits Littleton every week for supplies. He gets by on a $25-a-month veteran's pension.|
|1905||Phillipsburg, CO.||Packer moves here after some time at Critchell and lives quietly. Kids gravitate to him, and he becomes a storyteller to them. He becomes a model citizen.|
|April 23, 1907||Littleton, CO.||Died of natural causes - "Senility - trouble & worry" - after being in the care of a Mrs. Van Alstine (or Alderstein).|
A Comparison of the Confessionsthe parts that appear in the movie will be in blue
||Los Pinos Confesson
||1873 Confession as recoreded by Herman Lauter (or Lueders)
||The Order of Death
When not more than fifty miles for Los Pinos, he said, he had been taken ill, and while in that condition he had been deserted by his companions, who left him no provisions but gave him a Winchester rifle with which to kill game if he discovered any.
Old man Swan died first and was eaten by the other five persons, about ten days out from camp.
One day Packer went out to gather dry wood for the fire, and when he returned he found that in his absence the first life had been sacrificed. Lying upon the ground, dead, was the oldest man in the party, Mr. Swan. His skull was fractured and his death had been instantaneous. Around him were congregated the four men remaining, besides himself, who were engaged in cutting up the body. Large pieces and strips were cut from the calves of the legs, thighs and breasts. Swan’s money amounting to several thousand dollars, was divided among the men.
When I came back to camp after being gone nearly all day I found the redheaded man [Bell] who acted crazy in the morning sitting near the fire roasting a piece of meat which he had cut out of the leg of the german butcher [Miller] the latters body was lying the furthest off from the fire down the stream, his skull was crushed in with the hatchet. The other three men were lying near the fire, they were cut in the forehead with the hatchet. Some had two, some three, cuts. I came within a rod of the fire.
As I neared the camp on my return I was confronted by a terrible sight. As I came near I saw no one but Bell. I spoke to him, and then, with the look of a terrible maniac, his eyes glaring and burning fearfully, he grabbed a hatchet and started for me, whereupon I raised my Winchester and shot him. The report from the rifle did not arouse the camp, so I hastened to the campfire and found my comrades dead. In looking about I saw a piece of flesh on the fire, which Bell had cut from Miller's leg. I took this flesh from the fire and lay it to one side, after which I covered the bodies of my dead comrades. I remained here with them during the night.
Four or five days afterwards Humphrey died and was also eaten. He had about one hundred and thirty three dollars. I found the pocket-book and took the money.
In two days the party was again out of food, and it was decided by three of the survivors that Miller, a young man, well built and stout, should be the next to go. Packer confessed that Miller was chosen because of the great amount of soft flesh he carried. Miller was killed with a hatchet while stooping for a stick of wood. His body was dissected and the best parts eaten.
Some time afterwards while I was carrying wood, the Butcher [Miller] was killed, as the other two told me, accidentally, and he was eaten.
Bell shot "California" [Noon] with Swan's gun.
Noon followed in the same way, leaving only Packer and Bell. After living several days on roots, they reached a huge lake, which was skirted on one side by an extensive grove of hemlock trees.
I killed Bell. I shot him, covered up the remains, and took a large piece along.
One day while camped in this grove, Bell arose, seized his rifle and exclaimed, “I can’t stand this any longer, one of us must make food for the other right here.” He clubbed his gun and endeavored to strike Packer. The latter always on the alert, parried the blow and the rifle was broken by striking a tree. Packer then struck Bell with a hatchet and killed him. He was alone, and had no fear of death except by starvation. Cutting up the body of his companion, he ate as much as he could then packed away considerable of the flesh about him for future use.
When the man saw me, he got up with his hatchet towards me. When I shot him sideways through the belly, he fell on his face and the hatchet fell forwards. I grabbed it and hit him in the top of the head.
He regained his health and started for Los Pinos where he arrived after several days of weary tramping, his only food being roots and a rabbits which he had killed.
I then traveled fourteen days into the "Agency." Bell wanted to kill me. He struck at me with his rifle, struck a tree and broke his gun.
He resumed his tramp, the sole survivor of a party of six, and in time from the top of a hill, he espied the buildings of the Los Pinos agency close at hand. He threw away the human flesh he still had and arrived at the agency safe and sound. He acknowledged that he had grown quite fond of human flesh, and coolly said that he found the breasts of men the sweetest meat he had ever tasted.
I camped that night at the fire and sat up all night. The next morning I followed my tracks up the mountain but I could not make it. The snow was too deep and I came back. I went sideways into a piece of pine timber, set up two sticks, and covered it with pine boughs and then made a shelter about three feet high. This was my camp until I came out. I went back to the fire, covered the men up and fetched to the camp the piece of meat that was near the fire. I made a new fire near my camp and cooked the piece of meat and ate it. I tried to get away every day but could not, so I lived off the flesh of these men, the bigger part of the 60 days I was out. Then the snow began to have a crust and I started out up the creek to a place where a big slide seemed to come down the mountian of yellowish clay.
In the morning I moved about 1,000 yards below, where there was a grove of pine trees. Eventually the weather began to moderate and I wandered around seeking rose buds for food, when all of a sudden I was confronted by the Los Pinos agency.
In this account, Swan's, Humphrey's, and Miller's bodies are eaten. Nothing is said of Noon's body. Lueder's account of the examination of the bodies verifies that Swan, Humphrey, and Miller were eaten, meaning Noon and Bell were not eaten, and thus were the two bodies still under blankets. Miller, being young and strong, would have put up the greatest struggle, which is also in Lueder's account. Swan, being the oldest, would indeed die first. Noon, being 16 years old at the time, would easily be under Bell's sway, so he went along with Bell, who said Miller died by accident.
In this account, Swan was killed when Packer was away gathering wood. Miller's body is eaten after lots are cast and he was killed. Humphrey is killed by lot and eaten as well.
This account says that Miller's body was the farthest away, so it is the headless one. Thus, Swan's and Humphrey's bodies were the two bodies without blankets and certain pieces of flesh, including breasts, thighs, and calves.
Here, Packer mentions the Winchester once again, the one he said his mates gave him for small game while they went off, the one the Lutzenheiser party said beloged to another man. It's been proved, though, that it was a Colt pistol that killed Bell, not a Winchester rifle.
||What evidence showed up to make him change his story?