Granny’s Halloween Story – published 1994 in Lake City Silver World
Young children growing up in the log cabin of Charles & Cynthia Steele located on a mesa above the Lake Fork north of Lake City were always particularly fascinated when their mother washed the worn wooden floorboards in a certain room of the house.
On those occasions when the boards were moistened, a deep maroon stain would gradually appear on one section of the floor. Over the years Mrs Steele scrubbed and scrubbed in an effort to remove the stain – but to no avail. When those particular boards were wet, the puddle shape of the suspicious maroon stain always returned.
Younger members of the Steele family – including the late Mabel Wright and Betty Wallace, along with their brother Charles, who lives on the upper Rio Grande – were among those who marveled at their mother’s efforts and stared wide-eyed as the oft-told story was recounted of how the odd-shaped stain came to be on the floor.
It wasn’t a pretty story. Ella Moore was the bright and young wife of Newton G Moore, a former freighter who in 1884 purchased the lower of two Lake Fork ranches owned by M.P.Connor.
Mr. Moore planted crops on the ranch property starting in the spring of 1885 and, with his wife, settled into a multi-roomed squared-log house which was located on the property.
Despite the isolation of ranch life on the Lake Fork in the 1880s, Mrs. Moore made friends with neighboring ranchwomen and often attended social events which were held in Lake City.
She was unhappy, however, and in the late spring of 1889 came to Lake City to engage attorney Charles McDougall to commence divorce proceedings.
Mr. Moore accompanied her on one trip to the attorney’s Lake City office in June, 1889, at which time an agreement was prepared for the division of their property.
In a letter which was found addressed to his brother after the ensuing tragedy, Newton Moore wrote that he couldn’t live without his dear wife Ella and that he in fact loved his wife more than his own life.
“Such love,” the Lake City SENTINAL concluded in writing of the incident, “is rather dangerous.” The true events of the ensuing drama would never be fully known, the newspaper continued, “as the lips of both actors in this dreadful drama are forever closed.”
After their visit to the attorney’s office and abrupt departure, nothing more was seen of Mr. or Mrs. Moore for several days. Neighbors became suspicious after noting their absence from routine ranch chores, together with a lack of smoke from the Moore home’s chimneys.
Upon investigation it was found the ranch was deserted: the body of Mrs. Moore, shot through the head and body, was found lying on the bed. She had evidently not died instantly, but instead managed to crawl across the floor to the bed, leaving behind her a bloody trail which puddled and stained the pine wood floor.
Of Mr. Moore there was no sign, only the corpse of Mrs. Moore and the empty house. His body was finally found later in an outlying building where he had fallen after shooting himself through the heart.
Neighbors of the couple and Lake City residents, upon hearing of the tragedy, where aghast. The murder and suicide, according to the SENTINAL represented the most bloody tragedy “that ever occurred in Hinsdale County, the possible exception being that of Packer who killed his companions above Lake City in 1874.”
Newton and Ella Moore were quietly buried in adjoining unmarked graves in the City Cemetery north of Lake City, the locations of which are now unknown.
Charles Steele later settled on the old Moore ranch and moved into the empty squared-log home, in the process acquiring the stained bedroom floor which caused his wife so much work as she scrubbed and scrubbed in the ensuing years.
The stain was still there in 1923 when Mrs. Steele, by then a widow [Mr Steele was moved to a ‘county home’ in 1923 and passed away in 1926], left the ranch and moved with her children to a home on San Juan Avenue in Gunnison.
Newt Moore’s old log cabin once again stood empty and echoing, a silent reminder of a bloody tragedy.
Nothing remains of the old Moore house or the famous bloodstain today.