This Week in Colorado History: Suspicious Strangers and Teacher Training

Rancher E. Steffan and his wife became local heroes this week in 1906 when they captured an intruder in their home on Saturday, October 27, 1906. The couple had just woken up when “there came a demand for admission from without and a burly stranger with a gun in his hand stepped in and demanded that he be given shelter,” reported “The Colorado Transcript.”

The intruder, George Sheperd, pointed his gun at Mr. Steffan, until Mrs. Steffan distracted the intruder, allowing her husband to grab the gun. Mrs. Steffan also threw the family’s revolver out the door as she did not want Sheperd to use it and was not comfortable with using it herself. She escaped from the house and “ran bare-footed and scantily clad, to the home of Caleb E. Parfet, nearly a quarter of a mile distant,” where she was able to find help.

Meanwhile, Mr. Steffan had been fighting with Sheperd, who used a jar of fruit as an improvised weapon, giving Steffan severe cuts. However, by the time help arrived, Steffan had exhausted the assailant. “The Colorado Transcript” wrote, “Steffan was a well-known athlete in former years, but says he never had such a tough customer to deal with in any previous wrestling match.”

Once he was defeated, Sheperd was tied up until the sheriff arrived. Some proposed a lynching, but “cooler counsel prevailed and Deputy Sheriff Dennis brought the man safely to Golden.” His preliminary hearing only made the case odder, as he gave his name once as Sheperd and once as O’Brian. He also implied he was an escaped convict. The city of Golden bound him over to the district court.

On the same day as the Steffan family had their great adventure, the Jefferson County Teachers’ Association had its semi-annual meeting at Golden High School. More than fifty teachers attended in spite of bad weather during the previous week. In addition to the Jefferson County instructors, Superintendent Potter of Idaho Springs and Superintendent Miller of Fort Collins attended. Addresses included, “Some Characteristics of a Successful Teacher” by Mary D. Finger, “School Discipline” by Dr. Sanford Bell of Colorado University, and one described only as “a source of great inspiration” presented by the deputy superintendent of Colorado. “The Colorado Transcript” held that the meeting was successful due to the efforts of the executive committee, F.M. Montgomery, Bertha Tretfeisen, and Myrtle Songer.

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