The Days of Colorado Grant in Sparta
In the year 1907 on a cold rainy day in October, a wagon show drove into Sparta and stopped in from of the old red schoolhouse. It was the Colorado Grant Wild West Show. His advance men had engaged a lot opposite the school from a Mr. Robinson and on account of the ground being wet, Mr. Robinson refused to let them in at first, but the driver of the lead wagon called back to send the general up.
There was one wagon of about 15 in the troop with about 30 ponies driven on foot. It was built something like a paneled truck or an old time hearse with sleeping quarters and windows, so one could see out. Well, out came a very tall man with leather boots, chamois strapped on his legs, two pistols buckled on his sides, a red bandana tied around his neck and a western hat on his head. He looked to be over six feet tall, and slowly walked up to where Robinson stood at the gate. Robinson told him on account of the wetness of the ground he did not want him to enter. The man was Colorado Grant, and he told Robinson he would spread straw and not hurt the ground and also that he could make contracts but he could not make weather. So with that, he ordered the gate open, and “drive in boys.”
Colorado tied up for a few days on account of the weather, and was planning on moving south, but there was a farm for sale in old Sparta, and he decided to buy it from Morton Baker, consisting of 100 acres, and also bought another farm across the road of 100 acres belonging to Jim Wood. (Today this 200 acres belongs to three different people. The first tract now belongs to the Bond Brothers, Jimmy and Ralph. The second tract is split: Charley Young has the lower part, and Johnny and Florin Tackett have the upper part. The farm was known as the Owen County side and the Gallatin County side.) Wain Samuel’s great grandfather first owned it in 1850.
Colorado proved to be quite a colorful character with long hair down to his shoulders and his western outfit. He could jig dance, play the violin, and the banjo. He had another man with him named Red Derrington who was a comedian. He could play the banjo and was a wonderful tap dancer. Colorado also had a beautiful palomino horse named Keno that was trained to do tricks, such as pick cards off a rack that had numbers from one to ten, and he could select the number from the audience that they would call out to him. Colorado and Jim Dalton, a rough rider could also do tricks, such as riding and lassoing while the horses were running around the show arena at full speed. Colorado’s wife was a beautiful woman and rode a beautiful black mare named Topsy. She was an expert with the rifle and many shooting stunts were performed by Mrs. Grant. There were also 12 ponies with red tassels on their heads that would parade around the ring and perform numerous stunts at the command of Colorado. It was a real treat for the boys and girls to watch the training in the spring before he went on the road with his show. The young boys and girls were always welcome to come into the tent and watch the performance when training.
In the fall of 1911 he was working his way home and was showing at Taylorsville, Kentucky when a man by the name of John Truax was drinking and caused a disturbance, and Colorado put him out. After the show the man came back while Colorado was dressing. He had taken off his guns when the man called to him. He walked out of his dressing room unarmed. The man had a pistol aimed at Colorado, but Colorado grabbed the gun and threw him to the ground. While they were wrestling, the man was able to turn the gun and shoot Colorado through the heart. It was a sad ending for such a wonderful showman.
His body was brought back to Sparta and buried in the Owenton Cemetery without a marker. There is a movement in Sparta to buy a marker for his grave. It is hoped the public will finance the project. Everyone who witnessed the return of the show to Sparta would never forget the little ponies walking along with their heads down as if knowing their master had gone. People could not hold back their tears and everyone was weeping. At the time of this terrible tragedy I was 13 years old, and it made an impression on me that I will never forget.
By J. L. Samuel, Sparta.