Photo of Sam Hartman Courtesy Hotchkiss-Crawford museum

The Story of How Sam Hartman Lost His Leg

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The Hartman family, descendants of Daniel Boone, accounted for some of the most influential pioneers in Colorado during the early years of its statehood. Particularly on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, the Hartmans were amongst the first white settlers. Alonzo Hartman was one of the founders of Gunnison, Colorado and brother Sam Hartman is credited with starting the ranching legacy in Delta County.

Recently, I have been learning about these two brothers during my time on the western slope and have found many of their stories fascinating. I have been digging up photographs, old news reports and any other historical information I can find on the internet. In this blog I want to visit one of my favorite stories that I found in a newspaper clipping in the Delta Independent from 1904.

The Story of How Sam Hartman Lost his Leg

As I mentioned this is one of the most interesting Hartman stories I have encountered, and it involves how Sam Hartman lost his leg. Obviously, this had to have been traumatic, but this story in full nicely represents the values and grit required to settle in Western Colorado at the turn of the 20th century. To this day Western Colorado has a true western feel. Ranching and agriculture thrive in the region and these are the stories of what people went through to develop that legacy.

Sam Hartman “Loses Leg by Runaway”

You can read the original article about Sam Hartman’s accident in this clipping from the Delta Independent in 1904, or follow my transcription of the article below. The news clipping below was accessed through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America Project.

How Sam Hartman lost his leg

“Sam Hartman, who lives at Maher and is well known throughout Delta County, had his leg so badly mangled Tuesday afternoon that it had to be taken off.

The accident happened at Mr. Hartman’s ranch at Maher. He had just hitched up a team and was going to the Maher school house to bring his children home from school. The team started and Mr. Hartman reached for the lines and at the same time attempted to get in the buggy when his foot slipped and caught between the spokes in the wheel. Although his leg was frightfully mangled he succeeded in stopping the team and getting in the buggy. He went to the school house and got his children and took them home, when it was found that he was badly hurt.

Dr. Meiklejohn of Hotchkiss was called and found it necessary to amputate the leg about 3 inches above the knee.”

Delta Independent, 1904

The Delta Independent went on to publish a brief update on Hartman’s condition, letting readers know that he was now able to sit up.

Screenshot of newspaper clipping from the 1904 Delta Independent updating readers on the status of Sam Hartman, whose leg was amputated after a runaway.

Sam Hartman who was so badly hurt in a runaway accident recently that his leg had to be amputated is now able to sit up.

Delta Independent, 1904

The Gunnison News-Champion and Tribune shared yet another update when Hartman was soon to be on crutches and getting around again,

Screenshot of newspaper clipping from the Gunnison News-Champion and Tribune updating readers on Sam Hartman's condition following the accident that took his leg.

San Hartman, whose leg was amputated because of injuries received in a runaway, is reported getting along nicely. He will soon be about on crutches,

Gunnison News-Champion and Tribune, 1904

Final Thoughts on the Story of How Hartman lost his Leg

As unique of a story as this seems, injuries, accidents, and illnesses were a regular part of life for the white settlers of Western Colorado. They crossed the unforgiving peaks of the continental divide to make it to the western slope of the Rockies in covered wagons at best, and at worst didn’t make it at all. And while these journeys took place over 100 years ago, the grit it took for white folks to settle in Western Colorado still influences the culture on the western slope today. Sam Hartman reportedly having his leg amputated with a dehorning saw and some mere whiskey for anesthetic is perhaps a perfect example of that very grit.

Today, it’s still fairly easy to notice the cultural divide between the sprawling urban center on the front range of the Rockies and the rural western slope. But what may be less obvious is the impact that settlers like Sam Hartman and other Kings of Cow Country had on the trajectory of that culture. When Sam Hartman brought his cattle to graze in the newly available grasses of the western slope, he brought cowboy culture with him. That cowboy culture still oozes from the rural corners of Western Colorado today, and we have none other than Sam Hartman to thank for that!

Help Preserve Hartman Family History in Colorado!

If you are interesting in helping preserve the history that Sam Hartman and his family brought to Colorado’s western slope, you can donate to the Hartman Castle Preservation Corporation.

Luke Hanna

Luke Hanna is a sociologist, entrepreneur, and a veteran of the US Navy. He was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado where he gained a deep appreciation for nature and all the outdoor activities that come along with it. Luke is co-founder and CEO of Applied Worldwide, a digital content production and consulting company based in the US.