Cross section of the hanging tree The 92-year old cottonwood where Edgar Vanover met his untimely end was said to have survived another 147 years until 2006 when it was cut down because disease made it unsafe to keep it. This cross section was preserved for several years in Vanover Park. An autopsy showed that the tree was too young to have been the original hanging tree, but what do experts know?

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No jail?  Well . . .

It was 1859.  In June, the Boston Company set up shop on the north side of Clear Creek selling supplies to eager miners headed to the gold fields west of town, and Golden City was born. On the other side of the creek was a saloon partly owned by one Edgar Vanover, a soldier of fortune recently arrived from California by way of Nicaragua. Early in September, a tiff with his partners led Vanover to sell out his interest in the saloon, whereupon he set out to celebrate in alternative establishments.

According to an anonymous account sent to the Rocky Mountain News in nearby Denver, after retiring from salooning on the morning of September 5 and armed with a pistol, Vanover visited several stores in town shooting up at least one establishment and demanding money more or less successfully until he was disarmed. Undeterred, he continued about town armed with a knife threatening various of the citizenry until it was determined that he ought to be arrested. This was accomplished by a substantial group of concerned citizens who, upon apprehending him, carefully considered the circumstances and options and voted unanimously to hang poor Edgar. Which was done forthwith. A substantial cottonwood tree on the north side of the creek is said to have been the instrument of execution, although there is some debate over whether Edgar was suspended from the tree or merely gazed upon it in his last moments.

In a letter to the editor, several of Golden's leading citizens disputed the News' report, opining that 90% of the reputable inhabitants "would repudiate the entire act of the mob that hanged Edgar Vanover." An accurate narrative was promised but never published. Sixty-odd years later, a soberer account proclaimed that although Vanover behaved rambunctiously after selling his share of his saloon, his shooting during the day was playful and intended to do no great harm, and that, indeed, the only malicious shooting was by Edgar's partner and others at Vanover. That the shooters missed their mark gave little reprieve, however. Vanover repaired to a friend's cabin, but surrendered voluntarily when the cabin was surrounded by the mob. A short walk, some last words, and Edgar's already eventful day concluded at the end of a rope.

Vanover was buried just outside the bounds of Golden's first cemetery. Ironically, his remains were probably mingled with those of several of his persecutors when early graves were exhumed in the 1950's and moved from Cemetery Hill a bit north of the park to a mass grave in the successor cemetery that still serves Golden's needs today. Today, the site of Vanover's execution is a popular city park, aptly named Vanover Park.

In 2006, Vanover Park hosted a ceremony with speeches and t-shirts to honor an eight-foot diameter cottonwood tree that had been diagnosed with a terminal disease and scheduled for removal from the park. The tree had long been known locally as the hanging tree, and it was eulugized by dignitaries as the very tree from which William Vanover had been hanged 147 years earlier although an autopsy commissioned by the Golden Landmarks Association later determined that the tree was not old enough to have been the real hanging tree. Golden plans to add a playground and accommodations for future improvements and amenities to the park. In the meantime, the park is a favorite place for wading in the cool waters of Clear Creek, often with a canine companion, and annually serves as the finish line for the Buffalo Bill Days rubber duck race.