This Week in Colorado History: Strychnine Tragedy

In a great tragedy this week in 1907, a prominent Ouray woman “swallowed a quantity of strychnine, dying a few hours later.” Mrs. Michael Collins was walking along the main street with her husband when she swallowed the poison for unknown reasons, reported “The Colorado Transcript.” Mrs. Collins walked about five blocks in between the time she took the strychnine and when she collapsed. Upon her collapse, her husband assumed she had just fainted and ran for help. A doctor was summoned, but Mrs. Collins regained consciousness only long enough to say that she had taken strychnine before dying.

Her death was shrouded in mystery, according to “The Colorado Transcript.” No one knew of a specific motive for suicide, and indeed the authorities were unsure if the death was actually a suicide. Mrs. Collins was said to be taking a medicine containing strychnine, leaving open the possibility of an accidental death. This theory gained additional traction from the fact that no one could identify a bottle of poison or where the unfortunate woman had purchased the strychnine. On the other hand, Ouray residents reported Mrs. Collins had recently quarreled with her husband, a charge Mr. Collins vigorously denied. Whatever the cause and motive, it was likely to remain a mystery, because no inquest was planned.

The internal revenue bureau reported this week in 1907 that Americans in general, not just Coloradans were “largely increasing their consumption of American bottled beers,” according to “The Colorado Transcript.” Surprisingly, the shift was attributed to the temperance movement, as there was “a growing sentiment that temperance is surer and better promoted by the development of a taste for mild drinks than by prohibitive laws.”

In an issue more relevant for internal revenue, two messengers for the Wells-Fargo Express Company were arrested this week in 1907 for embezzlement. The messengers, who worked between Aspen and Basalt, were charged following the disappearance of “a package containing $2500,” according to “The Colorado Transcript.”

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