Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dolores Archeological Project sifts through time

“ my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold - everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment - an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by - I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' it was all I could do to get out the words, 'Yes, wonderful things.”

― Howard Carter, Tomb of Tutankhamen

As a youngster, some of my most vivid memories are surrounded by a pinion- and juniper-tree backdrop and the strange abandoned cities on the green table drained by the Mancos River in southwestern Colorado.
Early in those days, the entire mummified remains of “Ester,” and various other ancient pueblo inhabitants, still were displayed openly in cases at the museum on the rim above Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park.
And, of course, I had read books of archeologists and seen "Curse of the Mummy," and other classic portrayals of the romantic view of the study. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" had not yet appeared. When it did in 1981, it pretty much fell into line with my early world view of what those cats do for a living.
But I don't really think I had really encountered a true, honest-to-goodness archeologist yet.
That is, until that early spring day, in the late 1970s, right there at the nail counter of Taylor Hardware. Personified in the rough-and-tumble image of Professor Bill Lipe. I believe he was there to buy a mop bucket.
As things tended to do back then, he happened to catch Merton Taylor's attention. At that very point, conversations between the two progressed along the lines of wonder and awe, and mystery — twisting and turning, winding here and there, and landing at, what perhaps was already was known as DAP, or the Dolores Archeological Project.
I talked with Professor Bill Lipe recently in a telephone conversation, at his office, now professor emeritus of anthropology at Washington State University.
"Merton Taylor would have come in contact with, either as a child or later in the hardware store, these early archeologists in the area. I’m sure he knew Paul Martin and Al Lancaster, and he very likely knew Arthur Rohn and Joe Ben Wheat," Lipe said about some of those early conversations, of which, I was the proverbial "fly on the wall."
"Paul Martin did extensive excavations in the Ackman-Lowry area near Pleasant View in the summers from 1928 to 1938. The best-known part of this work was his excavations of Lowry Ruin, now a BLM visitor site. He also did important work in some of the earlier sites of the Basketmaker III and Pueblo I periods. In the late 1920s, he worked for the Colorado Historical Society, but then moved to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago about 1930, and spent the rest of his career there. At the end of the 1930s, he shifted his area of study to the 'Mogollon' highlands of west-central New Mexico, where for many years he excavated sites that represented ancestral Pueblo traditions, but ones that differed from those of the 'Anasazi' of the Four Corners area. Martin was one of the best-known archaeologists of his era," Lipe said.
"Al Lancaster was a WW I veteran from Oklahoma who homesteaded near Pleasant View in the 1920s. As time permitted, he started identifying archaeological sites for Paul Martin and then started helping with the excavations. He became very skilled at this and Martin gave him increasing responsibility and employed him full-time directing excavation crews. Lancaster was the field foreman for Martin’s work at Lowry Ruin. In the mid-1930s, he was hired by J.O. Brew of Harvard University to be field foreman for some extensive excavations at Alkali Ridge in SE Utah. And later he served as field foreman for other major excavation projects with Brew at Awatovi in NE Arizona and for Emil Haury of the U. of Arizona at Snaketown in southern Arizona. Between these assignments, Lancaster worked for many years at Mesa Verde National Park, where he helped develop better methods for preserving and stabilizing standing masonry walls in the sites there. He also excavated and stabilized some of the mesa-top sites that visitors see on the 'ruins road' loop at the Park.
"In the late 1950s and earl 1960s, Arthur Rohn excavated the Mug House cliff dwelling on Wetherill Mesa in Mesa Verde National Park, as part of a major National Park Service project funded by the National Geographic Society. Following that, Rohn completed a PhD dissertation at Harvard and became a professor at the University of Illinois, moving later to Wichita State University. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he excavated several open (non-cliff-dwelling) sites in Montezuma County, in the general Goodman Point area," said Lipe.
Merton Taylor may also have known Joe Ben Wheat, a University of Colorado Professor who for a number of years in the 1970s and early 1980s excavated several sites in the Yellow Jacket area of Montezuma County (though not the very large site typically referred to as the Yellow Jacket ruin). Wheat directed University of Colorado field schools at these sites, and a number of young archaeologists received their first field experience there.
"Southwestern Colorado has been an important area for archaeological research for many years, and many of the archaeologists and archaeology students who worked in this area may well have ventured into Taylor Hardware during the years when it was in business, Lipe said.
At the time back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lipe and his colleagues roamed area of the project and stayed locally during the summers.
"The Cline house we used as a base for our camp on the Dolores Project, my understanding is that it was a farmhouse, and not part of the McPhee community. We used it for office space and for cooking meals, but the members of the WSU excavation team lived in tents. It was a single story frame house with probably two bedrooms. There was also a functioning well, and that was useful. I don’t think I ever met any of the Clines, so I’m not sure of the name of the Cline family that lived in this house," he said.
"Another house that was left standing and was used to some extent by the Dolores Project was the Periman place. This was a two-story home made of concrete blocks cast to look like stone. There is information about it in the small book “River of Sorrows” that documented some of the historical sites and the history of the reservoir area," he said.
Longtime local musician and history buff Ellis Miller remembers those days.
"I returned to Dolores in June of 1979 after a long absence," Miller said,
"V.T. Boyd was mayor of Dolores, as well as owner of a couple of businesses including the restaurant formerly known as the Italian Cowboy and Shadow Mountain before that. It adjoined the Del Rio Hotel on the east. Prior to the beginning of construction on the dam project he expanded the restaurant to include a saloon, utilizing the vacant lot next door and called the whole enterprise the Sawmill Run. The saloon opened in June of 1979 and I was the first one to play there," he said
"The saloon was reminiscent of an old west saloon with a long bar, sawdust on the floor and a bandstand and dance floor at the far end. Shelled peanuts were served at the bar and on the tables with the expectation that the shells would be thrown on the floor to mingle with the sawdust. V.T. kept lots of cash on hand and would cash the dam worker’s paychecks with the certainty that they would spend a good amount at the establishment and that the dam workers would become a reliable customer base. He was correct on both counts. The Sawmill run did a roaring business with patronage from both the dam workers and locals," according to Miller.
"The Hollywood Bar, the long time local institution was down the street from the Sawmill Run. I called the distance between the two, the hundred foot mile. The Hollywood did a booming business as well. The Sawmill was geared more toward entertainment and the Hollywood was more about shooting pool and solving the problems of the world, and both were about serious drinking. Patrons would usually fit into one of several groups: The home guard – cowboys, loggers and other locals, the Archeologists and the dam workers. People would meander up and down the street as moods dictated and the money flowed freely. While it was not too hard to arrange a fist fight between the various factions (and there were a few), most of the time everyone got along well," he said.
"I was also on the Town Board during the early 1980s. The major federal force through the process was the BLM. A unique aspect of the Dolores Project is that there was to be no private land adjoining the Lake or in the river valley downstream from the dam to the Bradfield Bridge. Therefore imminent domain came to play both in acquiring the land for the lake, the area surrounding it and downstream from the dam. I don’t know the particulars, but there were a couple pieces of property that the BLM was not able to acquire. One was up House Creek, owned by Eldon Zwicker and there was a 20-acre parcel in the river bottom about half way between the dam and the Bradfield Bridge. There were also a couple of properties on the downstream end of Dolores that were actually condemned but somehow got returned to the owners. One was the house on the hill by the sewer plant and the other was the old Porter place. The old Dolores Cemetery was preserved," Miller said.
"The BLM went out of their way to work with the Dolores Town Board. Joe Rowell Park is the result of a joint effort between the Town and the BLM. The BLM filled and graded the area which opened the door for the Town to secure funding from the Department of Local Affairs to put in the irrigation system, grass etc. Corky McClain expressed concern that during low water the area below the bridge would become an unsightly mud flat. The BLM agreed to construct the ponds that are there now with the bypass channel for the river.
"The sewer plant was one of the more challenging issues. No one wanted it where it is but the choices were the current location or to pump the sewage to the top of the hill which would have been cost prohibitive. And so, the lesser of two undesirable possibilities – just like politics," he said.
I asked him if he thought DAP and the Dam project changed the place and how.
"It seems to me the Dam project and the DAP were part of several factors leading a general opening of the area in the 80s and 90s. Dolores and SW Colorado in general were 'discovered.' Recreational property along the Dolores River and near the National Forest and BLM land increased in value as people of means built second homes. There were also the folks who wanted to move from urban areas in California, Texas etc to raise their families in a safer, rural, more family friendly place.
There were some impacts more specifically related to the Dam project, he said, and impacts were multi-pronged.
1. The Forest Service and BLM increased their presence in the area which brought a number of permanent, high paying jobs.
2. Agriculture became easier and more lucrative for farmers who were able to access Dolores Water Conservancy District water and dry farm crops (beans and wheat) were abdicated in favor of irrigated crops – mostly hay.
3. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe was able to utilize water rights granted by treaty leading to a large farming enterprise on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.
4. The outdoor recreation and tourism industries in the area have experienced steady growth since the project albeit not as rapidly as many had hoped.
"In my opinion a more subtle but profound impact of the Dam project and the DAP was the elevation of the awareness of the archeology in the area. The 'Indian ruins' at Mesa Verde were often perceived more as a novelty or a side trip. The archeology that was done pursuant to the Dolores Project along with the building of the Anasazi Heritage Center provided a new dimension to perceptions of the importance of the Four Corners area as a world class archeological destination," Miller says.
I asked him if it altered where we were headed.
"I don't think it altered where we were going as much as accelerated where we were going. Conversations of damming the Dolores River for a major irrigation project began in the late 1800s in the context of the first efforts to provide irrigation water to the Montezuma Valley. The area had been a recreation destination and the Dam enhanced the recreation experience. Agriculture had been a major component in the local economy and the Dam made it possible to farm more effectively and lucratively. The tourist / service industry didn't begin with the Dam project but was enhanced by it. There are other examples. Mining and logging have experienced significant changes that impacted the economics of the area, however, those changes had nothing to do with the Dam," according to Miller.
"The long term effects were not transformative. Instead the changes have been more subtle than perhaps was expected. Big picture, I think most would agree that the economy and quality of life were enhanced by the project in a slow and steady manner,"
A hundred years from now, what will be the legacy of the work that was done?
"That is a tough one, given the complexity of our times, rapidity of technological advancement and that sort of thing. My father once told me that if there was ever a 'shootin' war in this country" it would be over water. Water is often taken for granted, but can also be the source of huge political and economic power. In a worst case scenario, he who controls the water has the power of life and death over what and who resides downstream. The majority of water resting in McPhee Reservoir is owned by downstream entities, municipalities etc in Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. Water law is complex and hard to interpret. The Colorado River Compact which is the basis for allocation of water in the Colorado River drainage favors upstream states. Since the compact was written, the populations of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix have expanded exponentially as has the demand for water. Therefore the Colorado River Compact is frequently challenged and efforts are usually afoot to rewrite it or do away with it altogether. We can see the conflict over the water intensifying now and it promises to escalate," Miller notes.
"I don't plan to be around in a hundred years but it will be interesting to see if dear old Dad called it correctly, " Miller said.
LouAnn Jacobson, Retired Manager, Anasazi Heritage Center and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, also helped me understand the impacts of the project.
I asked her to describe the significance of that work, and the connection to the DAP in general?
"The DAP was one of the largest, for a long time, the largest (might still be—I’m not sure), archaeological projects in the US. It was one of the first to emphasize careful maintenance of the provenience of excavated materials. As a result, it is extremely valuable for researchers," she said.
"I wasn’t in SW Colorado during the height of the DAP but many of the DAP archaeologists stayed in the area; some becoming well-known, cutting edge archaeologists; others stayed because they loved the area and established themselves in other careers," Jacobson said.
"For a long time the AHC had a massive collection of sports trophies from the many DAP teams that participated in community sports leagues. There were so many archaeologists associated with the DAP that every year there were multiple DAP teams. The trophies took up a lot of valuable space and had no special significance to the AHC mission/scope of collections so we offered them to any DAP person who wanted one. Some folks raised quite a ruckus about this because they thought the trophies were a part of DAP history, but ultimately the trophy collection was culled down to a few representative examples."
"Initially, the Anasazi Heritage Center (AHC) was developed to be the curation facility for the DAP. Local citizens wanted to make sure that the collections stayed in SW Colorado rather than being moved to the University of Colorado, Washington State University, or some other far away location," she said.
"The AHC is a user friendly museum and interpretive center with exhibits and information about the archaeology and history of SW Colorado, the Ancestral Puebloan lifestyle, and relationship between the Ancestral Puebloans and Pueblo people today. The AHC is the primary curation facility for the DAP collections and the AHC continues to make the DAP collection available for research. The AHC library began as a reference library for DAP archaeologists and continues to be a reference source for professional and avocational archeologists, educators, volunteers, and the general public. The complete 19-volume final report from the Dolores Archaeological Program (1978-84) is available, as are numerous technical reports and the original unedited field reports," she said.
Also, Jacobson recommends the following site for information about the collections there:

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was established in 2000 to protect cultural and natural resources on a landscape scale. More than 6,000 archaeological sites have been recorded in the Monument—which has the highest known density of sites in the United States. The Monument is primarily undeveloped back country and provides an opportunity for visitors to explore this outdoor museum on their own.
One of the noteworthy accomplishments and attributes of the Dolores Project, according to Lipe, was the fact that it was one of the first fully computerized. There is a wealth of precise data as result. The former 'Apple Barn' was once a big spacious building at the figurative center of the project where people writing the reports collected, and artifacts were stored for a time.
I recall the large crates and ladders, and surrounding orchards, peacocks and farm animals from a time before the project. And my mother picking apples for Everette Tibbits. Later, documentation, explanation and presentation of the massive project had a profound impact me personally. I continue down that, winding path, first hinted at in those barely-remembered conversations of long ago.

More to come...

Training of a generation of Archeologists.


Photo information: Clearing and mapping the floor of a large pithouse dating to the AD 800s. Paper tags indicate where artifacts were found on the floor. Photo courtesy of William Lipe.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Local history needs a dirty woman

There is no way that either Pink Floyd, or Black Sabbath, were wandering around the Pikes Peak area in the '60s and '70s, but if they were, they would have found a "Dirty Woman." That would be the 1860s and 1870s, of course, and this "Dirty Woman" is not the kind they write gritty, dark-sided rock anthems about.
Local historian Jack Anthony tells the story this way in his History Trail Run.
"About two miles north of Pring Station we cross over a unassuming creek called Dirty Woman Creek. Originally named Dirty Woman Gulch in 1861, this branch of Monument Creek gained the name “Dirty Woman Creek” thanks to a lady who lived in a shack along the creek," he writes.
One local source even claims that part of the woman's shack survives near the turnoff to Mount Herman and Mitchell Roads.
"The Dirty Woman received her name from soldiers who traveled back and forth though the region in the 1860’s. The ‘Dirty Woman’ didn’t exactly keep herself, her property and children very clean; thus, the name ‘Dirty Woman’ stuck. She tended goats, chickens, cats, dogs, and other animals on her ranch and in her house! The ‘Dirty Woman” also made butter by trampling the cream with her bare feet! Perhaps ‘Dirty Woman’ brand butter was wee bit gritty," Anthony notes.
Lucille Lavelett version of the story of Dirty Woman, in her 1975 book "Through the Years at Monument Colorado," goes this way.
"Dirty Woman Gulch as it was named in the 1870s and later called Dirty Woman Creek, is the first creek crossed when entering Monument from the South. It is South of the Monument School and is a branch of the Monument Creek. In the 1870s, the school was built near the gulch. Near the stream lived a woman in a shack. The woman kept goats, chickens, cats, dogs and other animals and did not keep it, or herself very clean, so in speaking, the kids called it Dirty Woman Gulch and still is known by that name."
Others weighed in on the tale. From the diary of Mrs. Byron N. Sanford, December 27, 1861:
“Last night we stopped at what is called ‘Dirty Woman Ranch’ and really it could have no more appropriate name. Minnie and I go into the house and cook meals when we can. As we entered the door of this place the woman was pelting something with a broomstick. A young pig had wandered into the kitchen and got his head fast in a cream jar. It fitted pretty close and in frantic efforts to get loose, rolled over and over on the floor, while the youngsters who swarmed, it seemed, scampered under the beds as the mother pounded and yelled until, at last, the jar and pig rolled out into the yard. We gave the youngsters some cookies as they gaped at us in wonder, paid the ‘Dirty Woman’ for her trouble and returned to camp.”
"Remember the Teachout’s stagecoach stop," Anthony writes, "As stage coaches traveled north to Denver their next stop would be near the “Dirty Woman’s” place. The stagecoach drivers called it the ‘Dirty Woman’ stop. Perhaps you can pause as you cross her creek, look southwest and imagine the ‘Dirty Woman’ and her kids cheering you on as you trod north," says Anthony.
But, it appears, she wasn't the only "Dirty Woman" in the area at the time.
"It wasn’t long before Florissant became a very profitable town bringing in blacksmiths, livestock, a sawmill, and of course the doctoring services of Nancy Ann Roberts. Nancy Ann Roberts was known as “Dirty Woman” for her harsh demeanor and foul mouth. She wore a dirt-crusted dress, smoked a corncob pipe and swore like a man. She would offer her services as midwife and herbalist whenever they were needed. In addition to her doctoring services she built, owned, and operated the local sawmill on her land, Dirty Woman Ranch," notes a history of homesteaders and settlers in the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument history information.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Air show mishaps are no strangers to Colorado

Watching the crash landing of one of the Thunderbirds a few weeks ago, and with the death of Blue Angel Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, from Durango, on the same day, I couldn’t help but recall other air show mishaps with links to Colorado.

Since the advent of airplanes, stretching nearly back to the Wright brothers, there have been air shows in Colorado. And almost since then, distinctively in Colorado, there have been air show disasters.

Ralph Johnstone, who was trained by the Wright Brothers at Wright Flying School, established the pattern when he dropped from the sky to his death in front of thousands of spectators at Overland Park in Denver in 1910.

Arch Hoxsey, the other half of the “Stardust Twins” as he and Johnstone were known for their exploits in Wright Exhibition Flying Team, was killed in a very similar crash about a month later on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles while trying set the altitude record.

Just a few hours before taking off in that effort, Hoxsey had telegrammed his condolences to the family John Bevins Moisant, who died in air crash near New Orleans the day before.

Flying was hazardous in those early days. And it was still deadly 40 years later.

“Flagler, Colo. – As the single-engine plane roared toward the crowd, Lyle Stone saw his parents each grab two children under their arms, jump off the low airfield fence, and run as fast as they could. Moments later, virtually everyone left on the fence was killed as the plane cut through the crowd like scythe. Twenty were killed including the pilot,” according to Kit Miniclier of the Denver Post in an article commemorating the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. Of the 20 victims, 13 were children.

“Rhynold Fager remembers seeing a friend on her knees, dying, impaled by a propeller blade. Charlie Keller, whose wife and two children were killed that day, was able to identify his wife’s remains only by a birthmark on her leg.”

Today, a granite memorial with the names of those killed on Sept. 15, 1951, rests in a park across Interstate 70 from the airfield.

William Barker, a Denver Post reporter who was covering the event at the time, described it this way in the Post and the weekly Flagler News the next day:

“The plane crashed into the stunned mass of spectators from an altitude of less than 200 feet, cutting a bloody swath and strewing gasoline-drenched wreckage over a 150-yard area.

“The chaos that followed is beyond description . . . it was like the end of the world. Bodies were everywhere. The blood was everywhere too,” wrote Barker in 1951.

“I stopped as the scene ravaged my senses. Cars crushed. Bodies . . . and parts of bodies. Blood on staring faces. People milling like sheep around the fallen. Voices rising and falling oddly, without hysteria. Without panic. Stunned. Too stunned yet to believe what we were all seeing.”

Flagler, a town of only 600, had a hospital, but only two doctors, John C. Straub and William L. McBride. McBride, it was said, had delivered nine of the 13 children killed in the disaster. Medical personnel from miles around soon arrived to help out.

Though it was the worst, the Flagler incident was not Colorado’s last air show mishap.

In June of 1997, and Korean War-era F-86 fighter jet performing before a crowd estimated at 50,000 at air show in Broomfield, crashed in a massive fireball after failing to pull out of a steep dive.

Retired Col. “Smiling Jack” Rosamond, 63, the pilot of jet was the only casualty when the plane plowed into the ground 300 yards from the nearest spectators.

In October of 2000, again it was only the pilot killed, when the Russian-made Sukhoi 26X, spun out of control at the Telluride airport during an air show, crashed near the runway and burst into flames, killing pilot Kent Pfleider, of Grand Junction.

__ Rob Carrigan  

Photo information: 
1. A memorial in Flagler, Colo., reminds us of the 20 killed at an airshow on Sept. 15, 1951. 

2. Denver doctor bending over and trying to save Ralph Johnstone on Nov. 17, 1910. He was the first American pilot to die in an airplane crash.

Whiskey and water: Can’t fight over either without history

One of the universal truths of living in the West is the idea that “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.”

An important distinction that needs to be noted is that you can’t make whiskey without a lot of water. And some folks won’t drink it without ice.

Also, you can’t fight over water without history.

Sam Hackett was described in Marion Savage Sabin’s 1957 book, “Palmer Lake: A Historical Narrative,” as a young Scotch-Irishman looking for a way to get up in the world.

“There was a very odd thing about Sam Hackett, ” wrote Sabin. “His was an unmistakably Irish physiognomy and his rich, deep brogue matched his face — yet there was little or nothing of Irish in his inner makeup. The genial gift of gab had been left entirely out of his composition; he was taciturn and cautious, like a Scotchman. His humor — few guessed he had any — was the sly, self-contained sort and his habitual aspect was dour. He was frugal and a confirmed woman-hater. Yet he was never a mean man and stories are told of his generosity to visitors and harvest hands in later years.”

Hackett worked, ate and slept at the railroad section house managed by Camillus Weiss. Among his early duties there was pumping water from Palmer Lake for the engines. Because of his general standoffishness and other reasons related to economics, he eventually decided to reside elsewhere.

“He went some distance away to the west of the railroad, nearer the mountains, and made himself a dug-out. It was just a hole in the ground, a low mound set in a hillside. The entrance which faced south, was held up by logs; and a few pine planks hewn in the woods, chipped out by himself and secured overhead in his cave, kept the roof from falling in…” according to Sabin.

At the time of her writing in the 1950s, the ruin of that abode could still be seen on the very edge of the field to west of the Little Log Church.

In order to augment the amount of water available in Palmer Lake to use to fill the 12 or so daily train engines that required water to push over the hump, Weiss, as the section boss for railroad, asked Hackett to dig a ditch.

The ditch diverted water from Monument Creek by use of a small dam and reservoir and solved the water problem for the railroad at the time.

“On Dec. 29, 1882, Samuel Hackett filed, in the Office of Clerk and Recorder of El Paso County, an affidavit describing his ditch and claiming water rights for domestic, mechanical and irrigation purposes,” wrote Lloyd McFarling in footnotes to Sabin’s book in December of 1956.

“He said the ditch was constructed about the year 1872. Two other ditches were also important in establishing water rights, which were later acquired by the Town of Palmer Lake. One was the Anchor Ditch, dug in 1867, and the other was the Monument Ditch, dug in 1868 and enlarged in 1875. These ditches were downstream from the Hackett Ditch. Their headgates were within the limits of the town as established at the time of incorporation in 1889,” wrote McFarling.

In time, Hackett eventually left the employ of the railroad, purchased Weiss’ property and turned to raising potatoes. His prowess at that activity helped create an industry — and a dominant one at that — in this area for several years and earned him the title “the potato king.”

He became very prosperous. Much of his success in the potato farming business, however, was heavily reliant on his ability to irrigate. His irrigation, of course, relied mostly on the Hackett Ditch.
Water was also on the minds of the founders of Monument.

“The citizens of Monument were very concerned about water for their community,” wrote Lucille Lavelett in “Through the Years at Monument, Colorado.”

“For several years, each family had dug a well in their back yard with hand-drawn buckets to bring the water to the top. In the early 1880s, the citizens had civic progress and created a bonded debt. It was small at first, but it grew and was cared for, extended and kept alive for 20 years until the interest payments exceeded the principal more than 50 percent,” she wrote.

“Old records show a ditch was being promoted by a stock company in 1874 to bring water into Monument for irrigation. News reports were that the ditch was partly dug in 1875. Apparently it was abandoned within a few years,” Lavelett said.

But in September of 1881, the Monument Town Council took another run at it by calling a special election for issuing bonds to bring water into town.

By November, the council passed a resolution issuing $2,500 worth bonds dating Jan. 2, 1882, and by March, George Newbrough was awarded a contract for construction of a ditch for $1,650 and soon other contracts were made for installing a flume in the upper end of the ditch, and for building bridges.

“On March 27, 1884, Charles D. Ford and Henry Limbach were appointed to make a plan and have the ditch recorded. On May 22, 1885, a plat and statement of the priority of the Monument ditch was recorded in book 60, pages 35 and 36. The ditch ran in an easterly direction from a point on Monument Creek about two miles northwest of Monument and within the present limits of Palmer Lake, to a reservoir in the southwest quarter of Section 11, then turned southwest to another reservoir in the northwest quarter of Section 14,” Lavelett wrote.

By 1892, according to photographs recorded, water began flowing through the pipes for the first time from Monument Reservoir. Ed Limbach, (Henry’s oldest son) was described as the engineer of that project.
Of course, there were many other important water events in the next 100 years, or so, but following are some highlights.

  • Monument Lake Dam was authorized by an act of the General Assembly of the state of Colorado approved April 16, 1891, for the purposes of flood control and irrigation. It was one of three built by the state of Colorado in 1893. Since that time, one dam has been taken over by a water district, one has been breached and one remains in disrepair (Monument).

  • April 7, 1899, the Legislature adopted an enactment under the provisions of which the Board of County Commissioners of any county in which a state reservoir was situated were charged with the duty of controlling and maintaining the same without expense to the state and providing for the storage of water as contemplated by the statute authorizing its construction and also for its distribution under the direction of the water commissioners for the district in which the reservoir may be situated. El Paso County government was given an unfunded mandate to control and maintain the dam.

  • On June 7, 1937, the Colorado State Legislature authorized the governor to execute a deed of conveyance to the Board of Trustees of the town of Monument of all the interest of the state of Colorado in and to the land  under the reservoir.  The act authorizes and directs only the conveyance of the right, title and interest of the state in the land and makes no reference of any kind to the dam structure itself or the right to store water in the reservoir.

Flash forward to the turn of the next century.

Betty Konarski, chair of the Monument Lake Preservation Committee at the time, describes what happened then, and the process to save the lake.

“I got involved in 1999 when the state engineer notified the town of Monument that it was going to ‘poke a hole in the dam’ because it was leaking and the town would have to pay the approximately $2 billion to do it,” she said.

“Once we decided to save the lake, I began digging into the history. Long story short, it would appear that Monument never owned the water in the lake (even in the 1800s when ice was cut and sold along the Front Range or when it leased fishing rights to a sportsman group) and still doesn’t until the state engineer issue is settled,” says Konarski.

“Monument had not annexed land under the lake until a few years ago when we had a drought and were afraid of bears being hunted as they came down to drink, endangering people who lived next to the lake. Then the town annexed the land and posted it for no hunting. The town still doesn’t own the deed to the dam (see Dam Story about legislation). The town has now been in water court for 16 years to get the right to store its own water behind the dam (we pay an annual evaporative loss fee to Colorado Springs Utilities for their allowing us to hold primarily their water behind the dam so as to have a lake).”

And other challenges cropped up in the process.

“Then there was the issue of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse mitigation and what I call the ‘bra’ that we had to put on the dam (a mylar layer under dirt so plants could grow over the west side of the dam for protection for the mouse, but so the roots would not again destabilize the dam structure). The dam, alone, and its redesign to accommodate the sewer pipes coming from Palmer Lake, as well as its reconstruction, have several interesting elements. But the water issue is even more interesting as it fits into the need for renewed focus on potable water for the town and the new water rates.”

In the case of local water, it seems, there is still an opportunity to sit down, perhaps with small bottle of single malt and appropriate glassware, maybe some ice, and discuss history of water in the area. Or at least get the fight started.

___ Rob Carrigan 


Photo information:
1. Monument Lake was threatened by disrepair and other problems at the turn of the Millennium.
2. Monument pioneer Mary Schubarth goes to the well to draw up her bucket of household water in her backyard.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Go ahead and tell your story, but no need for details on entire 300 years

Looking out the front window, across Paradise Circle, I noticed them working on several of the big Ponderosa pine trees in the lot that will eventually be the new Goodwill location in Woodland Park.
The lot was part of the old Paradise Guest Ranch at one time, and has seemed like a dirt-moving school at times in the last 20 years, as McGuiness Realty yielded to Walgreens, and suggestions of bowling alley and other operations have come and gone.
At the Courier, we have on numerous occasions, used the big, beautiful giants as backdrops in our “outdoor studio” when we need to photograph someone in a story for the next week’s paper. Deer, bear, fox, wildflowers, snowstorms, classic cars, and cloud formations have all been subjects over there, as well.
All those years, perhaps as our five-person insert crew took a break or finished up a fist fight, out there on the back platform in the early days, I would wonder about all of the history, those 300-year-old trees had probably seen in their lifetime.
I was wondering again last week, and suggested to Laura Meyers, in bookkeeping, and who had been here off and on, an equal amount of time as myself -- that she should go ask them to cut a round to make a coffee table or something.
She did, and a day or so, later, a beautiful 208-pica (about three feet in normal-people measurements) storyteller round arrived out front, courtesy of Scott Donlon of Tiptop Tree Cultivation.
And what a story. Though we don’t know for sure what it is telling us.
A rectangular spike, perhaps a foot long and three-eighths inch thick is embedded in the tree. It has what looks like links of a chain connected and embedded as well, and it has been in there for awhile because the tree has grown in around it. How long?
“I counted the rings,” said Donlon. “And my best guess is about 1893.”
But the spike and the links were only part. “On the other side, I think those two are bullets, because the saw went right through them, like they were lead,” he said.
I asked him to speculate on what they used for. “Not really sure,” he said. “That was a long time ago, and they could of been doing anything.”
He noted that other trees in that batch had embedded electric insulators and had apparently been used as a makeshift powerline of sorts, one of them perhaps leaking power into the ground and killing the tree slowly from the inside-out.
But the story is not over. Donlon took the downed tree carcass over to Johnny Busby at Buzzsaw Busby’s Chainsaw Art, and Busby says that most of the pieces will be used to make a custom totem pole. Busby does mostly on-site chainsaw art now, at about $100 per foot for custom carving, all over the area.
In fact, he is working on possibly going into the former Andrew’s Candy building, with room for his own work and other artists displayed.
For about 10 years now, he has produced and sold all of his stuff to Bill Fee, at the Nature of  Things, on Manitou Avenue in Manitou Springs, on contract basis. But because Fee’s recent health problems, he has been forced to find new outlets.
Busby says his favorite pieces are eagles, but he does a lot of bears, wolves, Jayhawks, and an occasional bobcat or other animal.  Recently he was working on a custom Wyoming bucking horse and rider. “If I can draw it, I can carve it with a chainsaw,” he says.
Perhaps a piece of that big pine will be reincarnated, and come back to life as bear, or an eagle, or some other beautiful animal or a storyteller.


Photo info: 
The round shows the spike with link attached on the right side and bullet holes and lead fragments on lower left.

Timber! A smaller tree leans to the right as it drops in the lot across Paradise Circle to make way for Goodwill.
Johnny Busby is hard at work last week shaping the image of bucking horse Steamboat, and rider, into a custom piece for a client.

Photos and story by Rob Carrigan

Friday, June 10, 2016

Father of a lot of things, Pring moves to local history forefront

Timing is about right to talk about John William Pring.
I say this because it is close to Fathers Day, and this fellow's local history as the father of Pring Station, the first John Deere Hand Corn Planter, the Colorado draft horse industry for dairies, the beginnings of the gold rush in Cripple Creek, and (with his wife Mary Jane Beer), nine children.
"Pring Station was three miles south of Monument," writes Lucille Lavelett in 1979, in her book Monument's Faded Neighborhood Communities and Its Folklore. "The land was bordered on the east by the Santa Fe railroad, and on the west by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The only public buildings it has were the depot and and the one room school."
In today's world, if my calculations are correct from Second Street in Monument, that puts it right about where the new roundabout is at the intersection of Baptist Road, Wood Carvers, and Old Denver Highway. It is a happening place with the new Forest Lakes development, the new railroad overpass improving access out through Hay and Beaver Creek.
John Pring was able to get a lot done in his lifetime. Apprenticed as a carpenter, and later a contractor and builder in Devonshire, England at 15,  as a young man he built stores, houses, hotels and even became the personal cabinet maker for Queen Victoria.
But by 1871, he had migrated to America, bought the Utility Works in Rock Falls, Illinois which manufactured wooden items, but sold that after two years. By the Centennial year (and statehood for Colorado) he purchased, sight-unseen, a 240 acre tract that was later to become the area around Pring Station.
According to obituary accounts in local papers, "He found the place a barren waste, without, apparently, enough upon it to keep a rabbit alive. Although making up his mind that he had made a most unfortunate trade, he determined to settle here. He at once began to cultivate and improve the land, upon which he engaged in stock-raising and general farming. Since then he has brought the tract under irrigation, built fences around it, and erected substantial farm buildings, so that the place has been made one of the best farms in El Paso County. It is situated fifteen miles north of Colorado Springs, on both the Santa Fe and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroads, at Pring Station, which was named for him. His specialty has been the raising of graded Shorthorns. Prior to his removal to Colorado Springs he engaged in the dairy business and for seven years furnished the milk for the Antlers' hotel, whose bill amounted to more than $18,000. Shipments of milk were made over the Rio Grande road. In addition to this place he owns a farm at Gwillimville, five miles east of Monument, where his son superintends the cultivation of the four hundred and forty acres comprising the estate; and he is also the owner of three other farms in the same vicinity, all of which were improved by himself."
Lavelett said he invented the first hand corn planter and sold his invention to the John Deere Implement Company. I called Archivists at John Deere, an so far, haven't be able to secure the details of that transaction, but  because of relationships with Utility Works (mentioned earlier) and John Deere strategies at the time, it is no surprise. "The money he obtained from selling the invention he used to purchase more land," Lavelett said.
"Since coming to Colorado he has given his attention principally to raising draft-horses, graded stock, and to the dairy business, in which he has been successful. His home is now at No. 318 West Kiowa street, Colorado Springs. When the Cripple Creek excitement began, he was among the first in that district, and is still interested in mines there, owning the Bonnie Nell and Raven Hill, and having an interest in other claims there. In political views he is a Republican. He takes an interest in public affairs, but has always refused to accept public office," obituary accounts said in several local papers in November of 1922, shortly after his death.
Ranches on Hay Creek and Beaver Creek continued to prosper in the last century and at one-time the 1065 acre ranch on Beaver Creek belonging to Barry Hill then, was being considered as a purchase by Town of Monument for water rights.  It is not clear to me from Lavelett's records, but possible, that a railroad tank from Pring Station might have still been in use by Town of Monument as recently as 1979.
"When the railroads stopped using the steam engines and no longer needed the water, the town of Monument bought the water tank and is the tank the town uses it for water storage," she said in 1979. "This storage tank is near the Number Two well near the Lamplight restaurant."


Photo information:

Photo 1: A herd of Elk inspect the new bridge built on the edge of what was once Pring Station.

Photo 2: Three-quarter view of left side of engine, AT&SF locomotive, engine number 3612, engine type 2-8-8-2, from front end, new engine, parts missing. Photographed: Pring (El Paso County), Colorado, 3 miles south of Monument, June 22, 1930, by Otto Perry. Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library.