Friday, December 28, 2012

Rare Photo of the North Side Gang Leader and Hit Man

Front row, third left: Dean O'Banion - Leader North Side Gang
Front row, sixth left: Leland Varain (AKA Diamond Jack, Two Gun Louis)
Following is an extract from Hidden History of Denver
For many years, Leland Varain had been a hit man for the North Side Gang in Chicago. When the leader of the gang, Dean O’Banion, was shot to death by rival gang members in his florist shop on November 24, 1924, Varain wanted immediate payback. He was incensed and demanded retribution. The new boss of the North Street Gang, Hymie Weiss, took control of the situation and told Varain to leave town for a while. The next time we hear of Varain, he is living at his ranch at Jarre Canyon, close to Sedalia, just south of Denver.

When Varain fled Illinois, he was wanted in connection with the theft of $50,000 worth of diamonds. When word spread that he was living at his ranch in Sedalia, and was in Castle Rock on business, Sheriff McKissack of Castle Rock went to investigate. The sheriff approached Varain, who brazenly denied being the gang member. McKissack appeared to be satisfied with the answer and went on his way. The following week, when the charges in Chicago were dropped, Varain gave an interview to the Denver Post, and a photograph was taken. When the sheriff saw the newspaper article and photograph, he knew that he had been duped. The Post reported the following:
Alterie, a hijacker, union strong-arm, and killer, was well known in Denver. He owned a ranch in Jarre Canyon near Sedalia, and was often seen strutting around the city when he was in Colorado. He posed a striking figure in his huge white Stetson, diamond-littered cufflinks and belt buckle, and expensive, custom made cowboy boots. His cream colored automobile had a gigantic set of bullhorns attached to the hood. He was fond of saying that although his livelihood was in Chicago, his heart belonged to the West; he was more at home on a bucking bronco than in a touring car, and preferred wrestling unruly steers to fellow gangster.