by Gertrude Tilly, Silvervalle Gazette
(This article covers events that took place five years prior to A Lurker Among The Dead.)
Silvervalle, CO 1865; A new sheriff was recently been elected by the citizens of Raven County and he has reestablish law and order so desperately needed after Sheriff Bloom and his deputy were killed by the Judah Gang. But like many of you, I cannot help but wonder who is Sean Callahan? My first impression of the man, with his stout build and grizzled beard and hair, was that he is an abrasive sort. This did not surprise me, dear reader, since I have encountered his lot while working in our nation’s capital during the War Between the States. There’s something about the nature of military men that make them tight lipped, but through some of my contacts back east, I was able to delve into Sean Callahan’s past, but a fog of mystery shrouds him the further I look into his life.
But what I was able to discover proves to be interesting, dear reader.
Prior to the war, Sean Callahan lived and worked in Buffalo, New York. He joined the police force when he was twenty and patrolled the Queen City’s so called Riverside district. After walking a beat along the frigid banks of the Niagra river for five years he was promoted to detective. As a detective he proved to have a sharp mind and eye for detail that led to the resolution of many heinous crimes. My associates at the Buffalo Morning Express have spoken highly of his services in the Queen City.
When the war broke out in 1861, Callahan signed up with the 9th Calvary of New York state which formed in the county of Chataqua. My sources say that he served with distinction and was well liked by his men. During his service he reached the rank of sergeant. He mustered out in winter of 1862. Strangely there is no account of him returning to the police force in Buffalo, and I have no information as to what he did during this time or even where he lived. As we all know he showed up in the Colorado territory in the fall of 1864 in persuit of the Judah Gang, the motley group of Confederate bushwhackers. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for defeating the Confederates and sparing us from their heinous plans. As I have said before, Sean Callahan is a hero of the Colorado territory.
But what did Sean Callahan do between ‘62 and 64? Where was he? It is as if he simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Rumors linger that he worked for the Pinkerton detective agency in Chicago while others claim he served as President Lincoln’s body guard or personal intelligence agent. And then there are those that claim that Callahan was a part of an elite group of agents that operated behind Confederate lines. A group of saboteurs, spies, and assassins. Sheriff Callahan’s experience with reconnaissance and scouting while in the 9th Calvary would have prepared him for such work. But if any such group operated during the war the Federal government has not made its existence known.
Sheriff Callahan has the experience to serve us all and maintain law and order. But who does he really serve? Is he simply a man of the law that has taken over the position of sheriff out of a sense of duty? A man devoted to law? The evidence I have come across says that that is the reason, but there are rumors of other motivations. Some say he is an agent of the Federal government sent here to here to keep tabs on us all. Others wonder why he would choose a former slave for his deputy? They speculate that an Irish man and a Negro do not have the mental capacity to do the job. But I disagree with such preconceived notions, Callahan has proven his grit time and time again during the war and as a detective.
A few days ago, I finally got a moment of the sheriff’s time and managed to get him to agree to do an interview. I have included it below so you, dear reader, can draw your own conclusions about him sheriff based on the facts rather than the rumors spread by the blowhards in our midst.
Sheriff Callahan: (He scratches his well groomed grizzled beard..) Mr. Anderson and a handful of other residents of the county asked me to run for the position. At the time Mayor Little’s nephew was running unopposed and they feared that if he won he would be a puppet of Mayor Little and give him too much power in town and the county. I wasn’t too interested in going back east, especially after the war, and I’m not keen on the big cities like Denver or San Francisco. Besides I had gotten to know people like Joseph Washington and his kin and some others so Silvervalle seemed like as good a place as any to start the next chapter in my life. I agreed to run because I saw the need for law and order around here. There’s a lot of good folks that fell victim to the Judah Gang and I wanted ensure that something like that wouldn’t occur again.
GT: You won the election by quite a large margin, did you not?
SC: A landslide victory.
GT: That must not have made you very popular with Mayor Little.
SC: (A smirk spreads across his face.) Trust me, the feelings go both ways but I don’t lose sleep over it. We never saw eye to eye even before the election. I’ve dealt with braggarts like him in the past, as long as he stays out of my way things will be fine.
GT: I see. And what about your deputy, Joseph Washington? He’s rather young and-
GT: I was not trying-
SC: (A frown slips across his lips and he shakes his head like a disapproving father.) I chose him because he did a tremendous job aiding me against the Judah Gang. He’s got grit, unlike some men around here. And he’s smarter than most folks give him credit for. That’s why I chose him, and anyone that has a problem with him has to answer to me. Understand?
GT: (I cannot help but shift uncomfortably while he looks at me.) Yes, of course. I hope to speak with him as well.
SC: Got any more questions or are we done here?
GT: You served the Union in the war, correct?
SC: Yes, I served in the 9th Calvary.
GT: You served only one tour in the war, but there are rumors you were an agent for the Union operating behind enemy lines as a spy or assassin. Some say you even played a part in the stopping John Wilkes-Booth from assassinating President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater.
SC: (Scowls at me, his pale blue eyes blazing like a wildfire.) I thought you were a serious journalist, Ms. Tilly. Don’t waste my time with questions based on rumor and speculation.
To be honest, dear reader, his reaction made me feel rather unsettled.. There was an edge to his gravely voice and glint in his eyes that disuaded me from pressing him for an answer. But it is a widely known fact that Sheriff Callahan indeed returned to Washington in April of 1865, weeks prior to the assassination attempt. None of my sources in our nation’s capital have been willing or able to address my inquiries into Sheriff Callahan’s time in the city. He returned to Silvervalle a week after the attempted assassination and has refused to discuss the matter.
GT: My understanding is you were a detective in Buffalo, New York prior to the war. Why would you give that up and serve in the army?
SC: My parents came to this country from Ireland during the great famine. I was just a boy but I have clear memories of the hardships during that time. This nation has provided a lot of good opportunities for my family and myself, despite the bigotry some folks have for the Irish. I felt it was my duty to help preserve the Union.
GT: According to my sources you chose to serve with the 9th Calvary which was based out of Chautauqua county. Why did you chose them instead of one based out of Buffalo?
SC: I grew up there, my grandfather had a farm outside of Jamestown. My mother was a school teacher, and I helped on the farm.
GT: And your own father?
SC: (He frowns and fiddles with some papers on his cluttered desk.) He died in the war with Mexico, I don’t remember much about him to be honest.
GT: I’m sorry, I was not aware-
SC: (shrugs) Next question?
GT: So your grandfather helped your mother raise you?
SC: Yes. My grandfather moved here prior to the famine in the old country. He was a prosperous farmer and he had free men working with him. He also contributed to the development of the surrounding area. The school house was on his property and he helped build it, along with other improvements for the people living there.
GT: Why would your grandfather employ runaway slaves-
SC: (leans forward in his chair and fixes those hard eyes on me.) They were men and women just like you and me. They deserved to live free and not be treated like beasts. My grandfather gave the folks that worked for him an opportunity not only to earn a fair living but an education in the school for themselves and their children. He believed this nation would only prosper if everyone had a chance to better themselves.
GT: Are you close to him?
SC: Yes, I owe a lot to him. Him and my mother taught me the most important lesson of all. He taught me all I know about riding, tracking, and shooting too.
GT: And what lesson is that?
SC: That evil only prospers when good men stand idly by.
GT: What does that mean to you?
SC: That it’s my duty to stand up for those who can’t fight for themselves.
GT: So, is that why you became a detective, a soldier, and now a sheriff?
SC: I reckon so.
GT: Is there any truth to the rumors that your grandfather and mother were involved with the underground railroad? That they helped smuggle run away slaves into upstate New York and even into Canada? And that your mother-
SC: (He slams his fist onto his desk, and his face is twisted with unfathomable rage..) This interview is over!
While his past is still shrouded in mystery, I came away with the strong impression that Sheriff Callahan is driven by a sense of duty to his fellow man. I believe that it will make him a powerful force for law and order here in Raven County. It is men like the sheriff that we need to bring the West into the civilized fold of the Union. Given the turmoil of the Judah Gang and the repercussions of the War Between the States it is a welcomed reprieve to have a man like Sheriff Callahan among us. With him keeping watch over us all, I believe that Silvervalle and all of the county can prosper and become a shining beacon of what Colorado can offer to the rest of the nation.