Colorado Prison Spurs made by John Cox #4307.
John Cox came to Colorado to work in the mines in the Cripple Creek and
Victor mining region. He came from a coal mining region in Iowa to work the
hard rock gold mines near Victor, Colorado.
Mr. Cox was incarcerated two times in the Colorado State Penitentiary. The
first time was for a failed burglary attempt that left at least one man dead
in 1892. Cox was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to ten
years hard labor at the State Prison in Canon City. For this crime he
earned the prisoner number 2893 and spent only about three years in prison.
On June 12, 1895 he was pardoned by the Governor.
The second time John Cox was sent to prison he earned the prisoner number
4307 which has become a notable mark on Colorado Prison Spurs. This is what
happened. Cox and his friends had been drinking all night long. On Sunday
morning April 11, 1897 in an argument over a game of pool Cox shot and
killed his friend, Robert Daily in McElroy and Calls Saloon in Altman,
Colorado (near Victor). Cox had drawn his gun and threatened to shoot when
Daily opened his coat and dared him to shoot. Cox shot and Daily died of a
wound to the heart. Two other men were wounded. When Ed O’Brien, the
Marshall arrived Cox shot at him without success and the Officer returned
fire. Cox was shot in the chest twice and nearly died from those injuries.
Cox was found guilty of first degree murder on July 1 and sent to Canon City
to be hung the week of July 18. The day and time of hanging was up to the
Warden, John Cleghorn. However, Cox was never hung. He received life
without parole from Colorado Governor Adams.
From March 1909 to the spring of 1927 the State Prison had an exceptional
Warden, Thomas J. Tynan who put the prisoners to work and ran the prison to
the benefit of the State and the inmates. He created new prison industries
and built prison infrastructure with the inmate labor. He encouraged the
making of handicrafts which were then sold in the Prison Gift Shop in the
summer months. Trusted inmates could take files and torches to their cells
at night to work on spurs.
John Cox who usually kept to himself would pace the prison yard in deep
conversation with Warden Tynan. Tynan gave the inmates a purpose through
work projects and he encouraged inmates to make crafts that they enjoyed
making. Before that life time prisoners were only allowed to work at their
Cox excelled in spur making and made many of the best spurs produced at the
Colorado State Prison. Tynan excelled at creative solutions and positive
John Cox died on September 22, 1940 and is buried not far from the prison.