15 – Harry Tracy: The Most Underrated Outlaw…By Far

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

Why Harry Tracy isn’t recognized as the most notorious outlaw of the West is beyond us. His tale borders on pure fiction — not even very realistic fiction. Yet it’s all true. Pictured here is the .45 Colt revolver taken off Harry Tracy in Brown’s Park, CO in 1898. It is believed to be the same one used to escape the Utah State Penitentiary and also likely killed Valentine Hoy – the Brown’s Park posseman.
A Quick Recap:
1897-Tracy escapes Utah State Penitentiary by somehow securing a .45 Colt revolver
1898-Tracy commits his first known murder — a posseman in Brown’s Park, CO (in today’s Moffat County)
1898-He is finally captured and escapes after 2 weeks at the Routt County Jail in Hahns Peak, CO by beating the Sheriff and locking him in a cell
1898-Recaptured the next day near Steamboat Springs, CO, he is sent to the Pitkin County Jail in Aspen, CO
1898-Tracy escapes again a few months later and makes his way to Oregon/Washington
1901-Tracy is arrested after a string of burglaries and sent to Oregon State Penitentiary
1902-As though straight from a Hollywood movie, Tracy and an accomplice grabbed a ladder and a guard for use as a human shield and walked into the prison courtyard guns ablaze. With bullets raining down from the guard towers, they managed to scale the wall and escape while killing six men in the process
1902– Now a nationwide sensation, Tracy soon killed his accomplice (whom he blamed for his initial capture) and was on the run with several posses in pursuit. Tracy unexpectedly stayed in the Oregon/Washington area and happily told everybody exactly who he was! Because of this, posses found and cornered him into several no-win situations only to watch Tracy brazenly shoot and kill his way out.
1902-After months of successfully evading capture, Tracy is seriously wounded and surrounded in a Washington field; he takes his own life.