Throwback Thursday: The Tragedy of Roger the Elephant

Painting of Roger from the mural formerly residing on the side of what is now Joyride Brewing Company

Painting of Roger from the mural formerly residing on the side of what is now Joyride Brewing Company

If you hear people talk about the history of Edgewater, you will likely hear something about an elephant named Roger. Though most of Roger’s story took place across Sheridan Boulevard in Denver on the grounds of what was once Manhattan Beach, Roger’s life ended in Edgewater.

Here is the account from the Rocky Mountain News of the events which occurred in July 1891 and can be also found in Judith Allison’s book titled “Edgewater.”

*Warning: the news story below is gruesome*

TERRORIZED ROGER THE BIG ELEPHANT AT MANHATTAN BEACH TAKES HUMAN LIFE. SIX YEAR OLD GEORGE W. EATON STAMPED OUT OF EXISTENCE. THE BRUTE WAS SCARED BY THE BALLOON WHICH WAS ABOUT TO ASCEND. PARTY OF MERRY CHILDREN WERE RIDING ON THE ANIMAL’S BROAD BACK. THE UNFORTUNATE CHILD FELL FROM THE PERCH AND WAS IMMEDIATELY TRODDEN UPON. ONE MASS OF BLOOD AND MANGLED FLESH WAS FOUND AFTER IT HAPPENED. EFFORTS MADE BY THE EXCITED ELEPHANTS KEEPER TO REACH THE LAD. HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE WITNESS THE SICKENING SIGHT AND A PANIC IS CREATED.

At a little after 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon at Manhattan Beach, George W. Eaton, the 6 yr. old son of Pressley Eaton was trampled upon and instantly killed by the elephant “Roger.” The animal had become frightened and broke away from the keeper throwing the boy from his back where the lad was riding with companions. The other children escaped without serious injury. The keeper, wounded and bleeding from a blow from the trunk of the frightened brute, heroically endeavoring to restrain the animal and called to the crowd to keep back and not add to the excitement of the aroused beast. The seat upon which the children sat, began to sway backward and forward like a surf tossed by angry waves. The children began to scream with terror and cry for help. The crowd shouted to the little ones to hold tight. Then one fell to the ground. The elephant towered above the prostrate form. The huge foot of the animal was above the boy’s head. It descended upon the white forehead! A human life was blotted out. There are pale cheeks of women, dashed faces of men, murmurs of horror from all the crowd; but above all can be heard the agonized shrieks of one who with a mother’s quick eye of love has seen that it was her boy. She would fly to his side, but is restrained by those about her.

In the meantime, by the active prodding of his keeper the beast was quieted for a moment and all the children save one slipped from his back. The animal was brought to his knees and the other child, a boy, was taken from the seat. At the first dash of the beast, the great crowd scattered as best they could to places of safety. Men rushed wildly about hardly knowing what to do, and the scene was one of wildest excitement. When it was learned that none of the little ones, save the boy Eaton, had been seriously injured, there were tears of joy and huggings and kissings, until thoughts came of the poor mother, broken hearted, who sat in the shadow of her great grief. And then the faces of all, which had a moment before been lighted up with joy, became very sober. But the terrible strain of excitement was not over. The storm of terror in the beast of the elephant had not abated. It was but a temporary lull. He began to trumpet loudly and to break away from those who held him with hooks and ropes. As the loud sounds of the animal’s bellowing resounded through the grounds, little ones were caught hurriedly up in loving arms and a hurrying and scurrying for refuge was this time made more quickly than before. But the beast was held. The tragedy was over. The little fellow, George W. Eaton, was thrown to the ground, trampled upon and killed in the presence of his father, mother and younger brother, who had brought him to enjoy the sights. The animal was finally secured and the other children removed from his back more scared than hurt.

Marshal McNeil and Deputy Marshal McGuire of Highlands, picked the boy from the ground. A great pool of blood poured from his head and the brains oozed out, making a horrible sight. The lad had been killed instantly. He never knew what happened. The body was removed to the old wooden frame building on the grounds and Coroner Walley notified. John Stafford, brother of the mother Mrs. Eaton, with others induced her to go to her home, after she had recovered sufficiently from her fainting condition to be moved. Mrs. Eaton now lies at her home, 3722 Franklin Street in a critical condition. The shock to her nerves was terrible; no woman could witness a more horrible sight than that of her own child trampled to death before her eyes and she unable to avert the calamity. Her wants are being ministered to by loving hands, but grave fears are entertained for her mental condition. As well might be expected, the poor mother is crazed with grief. The father, Pressley Eaton, is a switchman in the employ of the Union Railway company. For some time he seemed unable to realize what had happened. He remained upon the ground, requested that the coroner be telephoned to and the offices for the dead property attended to. But when the strain became too great and he realized that the boy upon whom he had lavished his affections was gone from him, he burst into a storm of grief that was heartrending. “Oh,” he sobbed, “I can’t believe it. He was such a bright boy, our oldest. How we loved him and how we planned for his future. I don’t know what to do. I can’t realize what has happened. Ten thousand grounds like these couldn’t pay us for his loss.”

Mr. Conklin, the manager of the zoo in Central Park, who says he has known the beast Roger for fifteen years. The big animal was in his charge for five years. He has never known Roger to become alarmed before and says the elephant is of the kindest disposition.

It was also reported that Roger the Elephant was shot and killed across from Sloan’s Lake in Edgewater. Rumors are that he was buried in swampland at the northeast corner of 20th and Depew. When the property at 20th and Depew is finally redeveloped, we will be waiting to see if Roger’s bones will be found.

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Is this where Roger is buried?

 

Sources

  • Edgewater: Four Score by Judith Allison (1979)
  • Edgewater Colorado: A Centennial Celebration by Celora Jean Jones and Connie Jo Fox (2001)

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