Alferd Packer, a Cannibal, was born in Allegheny County, PA., January 21st, 1842. He was by occupation, a shoemaker. At the age of 20, he enlisted in the Union Army, April 22nd, 1862, at Winona, Minnesota, and was honorably discharged December 29th, 1862, at Fort Ontario, New York, due to disability. He went west working at his trade and engaged in prospecting.
On November 8th, 1873, as a guide for a party of 21 men, he left Bingham Canyon, Utah to go to the gold fields of the Colorado Territory. Part of their food supply was accidentally lost crossing a river on a raft. A most severe winter made travel extremely hazardous. The food ran out. Late in January of 1874 they found shelter and food at Chief Ouray's camp near Montrose, Colorado. On February 9th, Packer and five companions left the camp, contrary to the advice of Ouray.
Packer arrived alone at the Los Pinos Indian Agency, near Saguache, Colorado on April 16th, 1874. He was fat and had plenty of money. His conduct invited suspicion and questioning by Otto Mears and General Adams. Packer broke down and made two confessions. He admitted that he had lived off the flesh of his five companions the bigger part of the sixty days he was lost between Lake San Cristobal and the Los Pinos Agency.
The five bodies were found. Packer was placed in a dungeon in Saguache, but made good his escape through the aid of an accomplice on August 8th, 1874. He was arrested eight years later near Fort Fetterman, Wyoming, March 11th, 1883. He was tried in Lake City, Colorado, April 6th-13th, 1883, found guilty and sentenced to death.
The Lynch Mob was ready to take over. To prevent this, Packer was moved during the night to the Gunnison jail, where he remained for three years. His case was appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court and reversed on October 30th, 1885 (8 Colo. 361, 8 Pac. 564) due to a technicality, because he was charged after a Territorial law, but tried under a State law. The second trial was held in Gunnison, Colorado, August 2nd-5th, 1886. The jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter for each of the five victims, or a total of forty years.
Packer served in the penitentiary at Canon City, Colorado from 1886-1901. Sob sister Polly Pry of The Denver Post, and lawyer Wm. W. "Plug Hat" Anderson were given the task of getting Packer paroled. "Plug Hat" came up with the proposition that the offense, having occurred on an Indian Reservation, the trial should have been in a Federal court and not a State court. There appears to be merit to this theory.
Bonfils and Tammen, owners of The Denver Post and the Sells-Floto Circus, wanted Packer as a sideshow freak. Governor Charles S. Thomas sent to Salt Lake City for ex-Gunnison County sheriff, Doc Shores. Doc told of intercepting Packer's mail. Doc testified that Al was filthy, vulgar, selfish, and to sum it up, a disgrace to the human race. The Post was winning the fight, but the Governor had an ace up his sleeve. On January 10th, 1901, Packer signed a parole agreement that provided, "He (Packer) shall proceed at once to Denver, and there remain, if practicable, for a period of at least six years and nine months from this date."
Packer had earned about $1,500 making hair rope and hair bridles while a prisoner. He paid "Plug Hat" a fee of twenty-five dollars. Bon and Tam demanded half of the fee. An argument developed in Bonfils' office. Present were Bonfils, Tammen, Polly Pry and Anderson. Bonfils struck Anderson across the face. Anderson went across the street, got his gun and returned to the office, entered without knocking and shot Bonfils in the neck and chest and Tammen in the shoulder and chest. Both ducked under Polly's full skirt. Anderson had fired four times and had one shot left in his gun. He was waiting to use that last bullet. Bonfils raised Polly's skirt to see what was going on. Anderson noticed that Bonfils was shaking like a leaf and that he was dripping wet. This struck Anderson's funny bone, and he jumped up and down and rocked with laughter. That laughter saved the lives of the owners of The Post.
Anderson was tried three times for the crime of assault with the intent to murder. The first trial started April 19th, 1900 and lasted nine days. The jury disagreed and was discharged. The same result was produced after a nine-day trial on August 2nd, 1901. The third trial started November 12th, 1901, and four days later the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty."
The defense attorney, Col. John G. Taylor, made the statement, "I believe that The Denver Times was fairer to us than any other paper. The tone all the way through showed the facts exactly as they were, and I desire to give due credit to the stand the paper took in the matter." The trial judge said to Anderson: "Your motive was admirable, but your marksmanship was abominable."
Packer died April 23rd, 1907 and is buried in Littleton, Colorado. Thousands of tourists visit his grave every summer.
Gene Fowler, Ralph Carr, Herndon Davis, and Fred Mazzulla popularized the Packer Story. The four men organized "The Packer Club". For one dollar fifty, one could buy a Packer sandwich along with an official membership card. The card read: "They was siven Dimmycrats in Hinsdale County, but you, yah voracious, man-eatin' son of a bitch, yah eat five of thim!" At the bottom of the membership charter form it continued: "I agrees to eliminat five Nu Deal Dimmycrats witch makes me a mimber of th' Packer Club of Colorado". Even official "Execution Of Alferd Packer" invitations were drafted and signed by the sheriff of Hinsdale County.