Miles Maryott was well known in his time as both a skilled artist and a nationally recognized marksman. The Fort Collins newspapers proudly mentioned that he had local connections any time he received an honor, even when he wasn’t living in the area. That was, until the day he shot his best friend.
Miles Maryott first came to Fort Collins to play ball. He was second baseman for the “Fort Collins nine” (which was just another way of saying the Fort Collins baseball team). The Maryotts lived in Nebraska, but in November of 1885, Miles’ older sister Clara was married to Clinton Loveland (not related to William Loveland for whom the city was named). Clint was a carpenter and he found work in Fort Collins. The couple moved out soon after getting married (along with Clint’s parents, Joseph and Martha Loveland). Miles joined them in 1897 to play ball with the Standard Base Ball Club of Fort Collins. It seems that Miles only stayed on for one year, however, and by the 1900 census he is listed as living in Fairview, Nebraska, with his parents and younger brother, Merton.
Miles had other interests in addition to baseball. He was a prolific painter despite never receiving any training. He loved to paint wildlife and in 1899, he sold a painting of teals in flight for $100 (which would be equivalent to about $2800 today). The Omaha World-Herald mentioned the sale and the Fort Collins Weekly Courier republished the article, adding mention that Miles Maryott had many friends in Fort Collins and that his sister, Clara, was a local resident. (In other words, after only having lived here a year, folks were still very proud of their association with the man.)
Miles was also a taxidermist and at one point he was hired by the government to document bird migrations. He was even given permission to shoot and mount a bald eagle. And ornithologists were known to ask for his help in searching for rare birds.
Miles came back to Fort Collins in 1906 to play ball again. In June, the Elks played the Firemen on Durkee Field (at the Colorado Agricultural College, now CSU), beating them soundly. Miles was the second baseman on the Elks team. In August, he and Frank Gifford headed down to Denver for a trap shooting contest in which Miles acquitted himself quite well. The town held its own trap shooting contest in October and Miles offered up one of his paintings as a reward to the “best lady shooter”. (I believe that means the best woman shooter, not the best shooter of women.)
By this point, younger brother Merton had also moved to Fort Collins. The 1906 City Directory lists both Miles and Merton as clerks with the J. V. Barker Mercantile Company. They lived together at 300 S. Meldrum (about where the entrance to the northwest parking lot for the Old Town Post Office is today).
On March 12, 1907, Miles Maryott left Fort Collins to take a position with the Peters Powder and Cartridge Company as a traveling salesman and demonstrator. The Fort Collins Courier states that, “Mr. Maryott is one of the best shots in the west and the Peters company has been trying for months to secure his services.” It’s possible that he was more inclined to finally accept the offer after he twisted his ankle during a baseball game, which put an end to his baseball career.
Unfortunately, it appears that Miles brief time with the Powder and Cartidge Company led to parties and excessive drinking. At least, some biographies that I happened upon asserted that this was when Miles’ drinking problem began. It’s hard to tell about something like that because, unless something extraordinary happens as a result of the drinking, the newspapers tend to not mention such details.
Nonetheless, Miles did quite well in the tournaments, leading one Fort Collins Courier headline to read, “Fort Collins Man is Among Crack Shooters.”
On July 19, 1907, Acel Maryott, Miles’ father, passed away at the age of 71. Somehow, there was a miscommunication in the telegram that Miles received and he traveled back to Fort Collins believing the funeral was to be held here, rather than in Cozad, Nebraska where his parents lived. Because of this he missed the funeral. Miles mother, Emily Herrick Maryott, moved to Fort Collins after her husband’s passing. She lived with Merton at 300 S. Meldrum. Clara Loveland moved in with her mother and brother that year also while her husband, C. J. Loveland, was in Montana for a job. By February 1908, Miles’ cousin, George C. Maryott, had decided to move from Nevada to Fort Collins. And eventually brother Fred and family moved here as well.
Miles was applauded in the Fort Collins Courier on April 8, 1908, for a painting he had just completed of wild ducks in flight. The journalist wrote, “The coloring of the picture is exquisite. The blue sky, the pond of water with its reedy banks and the varied tints of red winged teal are beautifully reproduced. The canvas is a large one and shows off well under proper light.”
That summer, Miles gave several shooting exhibitions during local festivities. It seems that his expert marksmanship was a real crowd pleaser at these events.
But then Miles’ drinking started to get the best of him. On July 1, 1908, he got rip roaring drunk and decided he wanted to go fishing. The fishing trip never happened and instead he ended up shooting his best friend through the shoulder. Here’s the article that was published in the paper that evening.
Miles had drunkenly stumbled up to his friend who was busy at work and asked him to go fishing with him. When William said no, Miles told him that he’d better go or he’d kill him. William continued to decline the offer and Miles shot him, clipping his ear and punching a hole through his shoulder. Clint Loveland was there and saw the whole thing. He tried to get Miles to back down only to have the gun pointed at him.
Miles was horrified at what he had done and proceeded to care for his wounded friend until the police arrived. The officers managed to get William away to the hospital, but when they tried to encourage Miles to come back to town peaceably, he swore that he’d “put daylight through” anyone that attempted to lay hands on him. Several hours later, Miles finally got into his buggy and headed for the hospital where his friend lay. Sheriff McCreery had been keeping his eye on Miles this whole time, even to the point of following behind him as he traveled back. Miles got sick of it and pulled out a .30-30 Winchester which he aimed right at the sheriff.
Maryott made it to the hospital where he rushed in to find his friend. They chatted for awhile and finally Miles allowed himself to be coaxed out of the hospital. He refused to let anyone touch him, and if they looked like they might, he pulled out a large revolver that he had tucked in a pocket. But he willingly got into the sheriff’s surrey. They told him that they were taking him home (on the 300 block of Meldrum), but when he realized that they were actually headed for the jail on Oak Street, he jumped out at Olive and Mason and covered the sheriff with his pistol again. He insisted that he be dropped off at the livery barn and that all of his weapons and ammunition that were still in his buggy be returned to him. Once to the barn, he walked back and forth outside, occasionally brandishing his pistol at the crowd of onlookers that had formed across the street.
The following day, Miles came to his senses and turned himself in to Sheriff McCreery. He pleaded not guilty to one charge of assault with a deadly weapon and one charge of assault with intent to commit murder. His cousin George and brother-in-law Clint posted a $2000 bond for him and he was released until the preliminary examination would take place a week later.
But Miles wasn’t about to go to jail. He split town. The rumors were that he was headed to Boston.
The following year the newspaper reported that George Maryott had come in and paid up on his $1000 of the forfeited bond money. The article briefly recounted the situation the year prior stating that Miles had had three rifles, two revolvers, and a suitcase of ammunition with him on that day.
Miles ended up moving back to Cozad, Nebraska, where his family still had property. His mother joined him a few years later. Apparently his drunken rampages continued. When he’d be thrown in jail, friends and family would bail him out. Sometimes he repay them with a painting, but he rarely paid them their money back.
Miles Maryott was included in the book History of Western Nebraska and Its People, Volume III, a Who’s Who of Nebraska’s early families, published in 1921. The entry focuses on his baseball playing, taxidermy, and marksmanship and stated that he’d acquired 480 acres of land under the provisions of the Kincaid law.
But his struggle with alcoholism must have continued because in 1926, on Thanksgiving eve, Marshal George Albee attempted to arrest him after Miles had borrowed a friend’s car and driven drunkenly through the streets of Oshkosh. A scuffle ensued and in the end, George Albee was dead. Miles claimed he shot the man in self-defense, but the court disagreed and he was sentenced to life in prison. Over 500 residents of Garden County signed a petition to deny any chance of parole. His rampages must have been frequent and frightening for that many people to stand up against him.
Miles continued to paint while in prison, giving his artwork away to friends. He served over ten years of his sentence. At the age of 65, with failing health, he was paroled.
Miles Maryott died in Lincoln, Nebraska on September 20, 1939 and was buried just south of Cozad with his mother.
Fort Collins had been proud to lay claim to Mile Maryott when he was doing well. The papers are full of his achievements in marksmanship and painting. But after the shooting of William Puffenburger, Fort Collins residents appear to have wanted no more to do with the man. He was no longer mentioned in the newspaper. And when I talked to local historians while preparing for this story, none had even heard of him. His memory had been wiped from local history books. It wasn’t until I received an email from Rick Regnier, who had recently purchased an antique gun that once belonged to Miles Maryott, that I heard of the man. Thanks to Rick’s help, and a great deal of digging through old newspapers, I was able to piece together Miles’ story as it related specifically to Fort Collins.
If you would like to learn more about Miles Maryott, there is a book that has been written about him entitled Miles Maryott: His Life and Times, by S. A. Sullivan. I haven’t read the book. Neither our local history archive nor our local libraries have any copies of it. (Another testimony to the fact that Miles’ residency has been wiped from the Fort Collins history books.) But based on the information I have found about Miles online, I suspect that much of his life in Fort Collins had yet to be uncovered until today.
I want to send out a huge thank you to Rick Regnier for introducing me to Miles Maryott. Rick bought a .22 caliber rifle with Miles Maryott’s name on it. (See the photo at top, which is also thanks to Rick as is the image of “The World of Shooting” bulletin.) In researching the provenance of the rifle, he came upon mention a situation that took place in Fort Collins in 1908. But, unable to find any more leads, he contacted me by email to see if I could dig up any information. In doing so, I discovered all sorts of connections to other well known notables of Fort Collins and became eager to learn more. It’s entirely thanks to Rick that I discovered Miles and was set on the road of discovery to learn more. Thank you, Rick!!!
There is a bit of a discrepancy on when Miles first came out to Fort Collins. According to the History of Western Nebraska and Its People, Volume III, Miles didn’t play for the Fort Collins team until 1898, having played for the Mankato, Minnesota team in 1895-6 and the Galesburg, Illinois team in 1897. But the August 10, 1899 Fort Collins Weekly Courier mentions Miles and states that he had been a player for the Fort Collins team three years previous. I suspect both are wrong, however, because another article, found in the Glenwood Post and Weekly Ledger, dated August 21, 1897, states that the local team, the Napiers, beat the Ft. Collins team, and it lists the players, including Maryott in the list as second baseman.
I used this inflation calculator to determine how much $100 in 1899 would be equivalent to today.
The article which mentions the sale of the picture of the teals in flight was from the August 10, 1899 Fort Collins Weekly Courier, which I accessed through ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.org.
Information on Miles Maryott’s taxidermy and bird expertise came from askART.com.
Biographies that I used as background for this article include one from the Nebraska.tv, one that was found on FindaGrave.com, and his entry in the History of Western Nebraska and Its People, Volume III.
The artwork by Miles Maryott in the MONA collection can all be viewed online.
Newspaper articles which were referenced for this article — all found through Colorado Historic Newspapers online:
- The Fort Collins Weekly Courier article that referenced the Omaha World-Herald was dated August 10, 1899.
- Maryott playing as 2nd baseman with the Elks on Durkee Field came from the June 20, 1906 Fort Collins Weekly Courier.
- Frank Gifford and Miles Maryott heading off to Denver for a trap shooting contest was mentioned in the August 22, 1906 Fort Collins Weekly Courier, with the added comments on August 29th that they both did well there.
- The October 10, 1906 Fort Collins Weekly Courier listed all of the prizes available for the trap shooting contest in Fort Collins, including the mention of Miles’ contribution of a painting as a prize.
- The March 13, 1907 Fort Collins Courier told of Miles procurement of the job with Peters Powder and Cartridge Company.
- The June 26, 1907 Fort Collins Courier also mentioned Miles coming in 2nd in the Chicago tournament.
- Miscommunication regarding where Asahel Maryott’s funeral was to be held is described in the July 31, 1907 Fort Collins Courier.
- “Fort Collins Man Among Crack Shooters,” Fort Collins Courier, June 19, 1907.
- Information on Miles turning himself in and being released on bond can be found in the Fort Collins Weekly Courier from July 8, 1908. There (in a separate article) you will also find the incredibly detailed story of his behavior following the shooting and his refusal to go to jail.
- The July 15, 1908 Fort Collins Weekly Courier describes the forfeiture of the $2000 bond when Miles failed to show up for the trial.
- Miles Maryott’s death and burial information is from Rick Regnier, who got it from the Lincoln Star, September 20, 1939.
Wonderful info. I recently acquired a Maryott painting unlike any that I have seen in my research of his work. Your info provides a great background on this artist. Again, thank you.
Oh! I would love to see a photo of it.
Good Afternoon, Mr. Patton.
My name is David York and I live in Denver having moved here from Nebraska in ‘85. Miles Maryott’s family were residents of the town where I grew up, Cozad.
From my knowledge there were just two Maryott paintings in Cozad though there may be three ad one hangs in the Henri Museum along with a painting(s) by Robert Henri anther Cozad artist who was born in Cozad (founder, John J. Cozad was his father) though the family left in the middle of the night after Henri’s father shot and killed a man.
My apologies for my long way around to ask you if I could see a photo of your Maryott painting?
Thank you for considering my request, it’s 100% out of curiosity.
The other man in the photo of Miles being released from the Nebraska state prison is the warden, Joseph O’Grady. He was my grandfather. Apparently Miles and Joe became friends while Miles was in prison and he gifted my grandfather four paintings. I have three of them.
It seems like, as long as he wasn’t drunk, Miles was a really, really nice guy. That’s neat that he was friends with Joe.
Hello, Meg! I’m a freelance writer and journalist based in Chicago, and I believe I may have stumbled upon an old newspaper clipping that might help Rick with the provenance of the engraved rifle. If you shoot me an email, I’d be happy to send it along so you can pass it to Rick. Thanks!
My grandfather was also a warden in the prison during the time Miles was incarcerated. My grandfather gave Miles art supplies while he was there. Miles gave my grandfather 5 paintings I believe and I have one of them. The paintings were always in my grandparents home until they passed away,
What a neat connection!
Great story. Minor correction: MANKATO, MN
Thanks for the correction! I’ve updated that in the story.
I volenteer at the Robert Henri Museum in Cozad Nebraska and we have several of his paintings.Miles Maryott is one of my favorite subjects when I am giving a tour,he was such a colorful character.
Hi Doris. Yes! He really was. He was an incredibly talented man. And from the stories I’ve heard, it sounds like he was a lot of fun to be around. … until he got really drunk.
What I know about Miles Maryott isn’t very much but I was best friends of his grand nephew John Scott Maryott for over 40 years. We grew up in Los Angeles, and Scott’s father John was Miles nephew and I had been told stories of Miles throughout the years by John and Scott. John wore a chain around his neck with what looked like a coin or medallion hanging from the chain. That was a medal given to Miles for his expert shooting. I don’t remember for sure but I believe it was a National Championship first place medal for marksmanship. I also heard that Miles was part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show or at least competed in one of the shows shooting competitions.
There were a few collectables from Uncle Miles in the Maryott home. On the wall in the living room was a painting of a man, looked to be an oil painting, and the man had a very Cavalier look in my opinion. Dark background,, hat and red mustache almost like a musketeer of royal guards. There were Native American buckskin and beaded shirt and moccasins that were absolutley beautiful. There was a short blunderbuss rifle and a prototype. 22 cal. rifle that was given to Miles by one of the big firearm companies, either Remington or Winchester or?? With no serial numhers but Miles initials in the butt stock behind the end plate.
John, John “Scott”‘s father and mother died 20 or so years ago and John Scott , who was like a brother to me from the time we met when I was 9 years old and he was 13 years old. I actually saved his life on two separate occasions during our friendship only to have him choose to take the side of a lady that was betraying me and trying to ruin my name and life and he knew she was lying and he gave up a nearly 45 year friendship and all the great times and adventures that I could write a book about. Scott died last year at age 61. I believe his older brother Randall ended up with the artifacts of Miles. I haven’t spoken to Randy in many years.
Miles Maryott definitely was a legendary character of the end of the Wild West. The fact that drinking was his downfall is something that was passed down through the family because John and John Scott both had bad drinking problems that took its toll on both men and caused lots of problems in their individual and family lives. Very sad.
Wow! Thanks for sharing your story, Ken.
You mention Miles cousin paid $2,000 to bail him out. My Grandfather George Maryott lived in Fort Collins about the time of that event. He could have been the George later mentioned in the story. Miles is a legend in our family. My Maryott aunts mentioned him many times.
BYW, one of the photos in your collection is of George C Maryott.
One of the photos here or on Ancestry? (The Ancestry photos were all just linked to. They were uploaded by someone else.)