Sunday, September 25, 2016

Potato key from Inca Empire, to Ireland, to Divide country


Special trains would bring visitors from near and far to the Monument Potato Bake in 1892.

Photo 2:

Beef, pork, lamb,  and much were a huge draw for the 1892 Monument Potato Bake.

Photo 3:

As many as 60 wagon loads a day could be seen in Monument during harvest.

Photo 4:

One potato might weigh as much as 3.25 pounds in the heyday of harvest.

For Decades, early October was Potato Bake time in Monument

Potato Bake Day in Monument was celebrated every year for decades in the early history of Monument, just about this time of year, in the first few weeks in October usually. The event helped put Monument and the Divide Country on the map nationally, and established the area's reputation as a top producer in Colorado and surrounding states.
"Yesterday was big day for Monument for the annual Potato Bake," wrote the Oct. 11, 1890 Colorado Springs Herald. "Fully 1500 people came from all parts near and far to enjoy the hospitality. The Mt. Herman band furnished the music for the occasion. The menu was two roast beefs, four roast sheep, two roast hogs, and fifty bushels of potatoes, plenty of home-made bread, butter, cakes, pies, and coffee."
Local historian Lucille Lavelett noted that all this was free as farmers and merchants donated everything, and a committee of men dug the pits, baked the potatoes, and roasted the meat.
"It was held West of the Rio Grande tracks and East of Monument Lake.  In the afternoon there was horseshoe pitching, tugs of war, and a baseball game. At night, a dance in Walker Hall finished the day," Lavelett said.
All in celebration of the remarkable plant that can grow in tremendous range of climates and altitudes and produce more than any other staple crop. The potato, of course, is so basic, it is possible for people to live on them alone. It has changed the arc of history from the rise of the Inca Empire in Peru, to the Potato Wars in Europe of the 17th and 18th centuries, and on to "Great Hunger" in the middle of the 19th century Ireland.
"The Divide potatoes were known as the best potatoes in the country. It was the chief industry," writes Lavelett. "In 1877, the greatest number of potatoes raised to the acre were 25,000 pounds by Paton Wilson. The average number of pounds were from 4 to 6 thousand per acre. In 1875, potatoes sold for 75 cents a hundred. One potato would weigh 3 and quarter pounds ... At potato harvest time, it wasn't uncommon to see 60 wagon loads of potatoes in a day coming in from Table Rock and Gwillimville areas to be stored in Walker's large potato cellar, or to be shipped out. At first Denver and Colorado Springs were the only markets for the Divide potatoes, but Monument soon became a permanent shipping point," Lavelett said.
By 1889, Monument was shipping as many as 380 rail cars of champion potatoes to Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Ans special trains were arranged with railroads to bring people to the Bake.
Unfortunately, a blight, thought to have been caused by abundant wild rose bushes locally, eventually took a toll on the big potato crops, and like "Gorta Mor," or Great Hunger, in Ireland, completely changed the local agricultural picture.
In Ireland's case, more than three million people were entirely dependent on the potato, and the failure of the crop left them destitute. Of a better  fortune, the Palmer Divide Country also had rye, and oats, and corn growing.  Local sawmill's blade whirred.  Dairies produced milk, cream, butter and cheese. Beef cattle proliferated.
Monument moved on from the potatoes, though the Bake was still an annual occurrence as late as 1917.
Ah, the Irish moved on as well.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sun also rises over rusty, old, orange, steam shovels

Photo 1 Information:
Steve Berry operates the 1927 Osgood Steam Shovel at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry during Reynolds Ranch Restoration Day as I “fire” in the background, behind a camera. Photo by Rob Carrigan
Western Museum of Mining, Industry history lives

Photo 2 information:
Sunrise, Wyoming, in its heyday during 1930s. Courtesy photo.
__ Story by Rob Carrigan
Acting as the fireman on the old, orange-rust-colored Osgood Steam shovel during the recent Reynolds Ranch Restoration Day at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, I was reminded of a time many years ago, when I first visited the town of Sunrise, Wyo.

Orange houses, orange buildings, even orange trees . . . Sunrise was aptly named, looking like the picture of an orange fireball sun.

Colorado Fuel and Iron hoped to make Sunrise a model company town back in 1904, when it bought the entire Sunrise Mine from Charles A. Guernsey, namesake of nearby town Guernsey, Wyo. Guernsey founded the Wyoming Railway and Iron Company in 1898.

I was the editor of Guernsey Gazette and Lingle Guide for a time in the mid-1980s in Lingle and Guernsey, Wyo. The two tiny papers covered those towns in eastern Wyoming, and several other nearby towns including Fort Laramie, Hartsville and Sunrise.

In the 1880s, the area around what would become Sunrise, was an important area in the mining of copper. Colorado Fuel and Iron, in the early 1900s, built company-owned houses, boarding houses, depots, a school, churches, shops, and other structures.

In response to the Ludlow Massacre here in southern Colorado, further improvements came to the town in the 1910s and ’20s in the form of better brick housing, a YMCA building, parks, a playground, better utility systems, a hospital, and other improvements. By 1928, the mine employed 547.

Sunrise properties were initially strip mined, and then mined using a glory-hole method. In 1930, underground block-caving mining was started, and by World War II all mining was underground.

Ore mined was partially processed on site and then sent to Colorado Fuel and Iron mills in Pueblo.

Because of decreasing ore quality and problems in the domestic steel market, the town and mine were closed by C.F. & I. in 1980.

Over the lifetime of the mine, 40 million tons of iron ore were produced, more than any other C.F. & I. mine. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

As a kid, working in a hardware store in Dolores, Colo., I unloaded countless C.F. & I. trucks of smooth box nails, bailing wire and rolled fencing that probably utilized hematite mined from that very same Sunrise mine.

But back to the Osgood Shovel (originally steam, now running on compressed air) at the Museum on North Gate Boulevard.

Jeff Tapparo, on WMMI’s board of directors, and also at the shovel's controls from time to time, convinced me I should give it a try.

The shovel is one of the museum’s most popular attractions. Shovels like the Osgood have been tasked at building the Panama Canal, unearthing gold in mining districts of the Yukon – and in the case of this particular shovel, digging glory holes in Sunrise.

The C.F. & I. letters can still be seen on its side panels, if you look hard enough.

During the Reynolds Ranch Restoration Day, officials gave us clues about upcoming projects like eventually getting a mine hoist and headframe operating again.

They paraded antique cars, tractors and Caterpillars and showed us demonstrations in the large and detailed blacksmith shop at the back of the property.

They provided tours of the Reynolds Ranch House and demonstrated hit-and-miss steam engines in action. The museum, with its fully operational stamp mill, interior and exterior mining exhibits, is always a pleasure and wonder to behold.

The place takes you back in time. It is worth the visit . . . even if you aren't a rusty old Colorado relic like me (or the 1927 Osgood Shovel), from a Sunrise long past.

Photo 3 Information:
Executive Director Rick Sauers explains future plans to get a hoist in operation at the museum. Photos by Rob Carrigan.

Color, texture and flavor of Cripple Creek

Photo Information: The double-spiral, cantilevered staircase in the main building of the museum offers a rare look of late Victorian woodwork craftsmanship and provides access to all three of the former depots floors. It is supported by exterior walls.  

___ Photo and story by Rob Carrigan.

District museum gives us a sense of where we came from

Color, and texture, and flavor of Cripple Creek survives because we are reminded of it, over and over again.
The Cripple Creek District Museum has been reminding us of those very things for more than sixty years. History is old news, I guess, but there is nothing wrong with that.
Founded in 1953 by Blevins Davis and Richard Wayne Johnson, the Museum has five historic buildings, two of which are among the oldest commercial structures in town. Blevens Davis was owner of the Cripple Creek Times, and was involved in changing the name of that paper's name to the Gold Rush. The paper was merged into the Courier in 2007.
Davis grew up next to the Harry S. Truman family and was a lifelong friend and White House visitor of Harry, and his wife and daughter. In 1949, Davis purchased the Claremont Estate in Colorado Springs. The mansion, which he renamed Trianon, was sold to the Sisters of St. Francis Seraph in 1952. Woodmen Sanatorium, also in Colorado Springs, was purchased by Davis in July 1950.
His wife, Marguerite Davis, a railroad heiress died in 1948 and wished to have her fortune used for charitable purposes. The Modern Woodmen Sanatorium property and Trianon were sold to the Poor Sisters of St. Francis (Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration) for $1 in 1952. Since that time, the Cripple Creek District Museum has welcomed countless visitors to the "World's Greatest Gold Camp," and given them a glimpse of the thriving, wide-open West of yesteryear.
Current Museum Director Richard Tremayne understands this as well as anyone. He attended High School in Cripple Creek, and has spent much of his life in the district.
He notes, however, the thriving museum continues to show folks, visitors and locals, a thing or two.
If you haven't been to museum for a few years, you might just be surprised. Hardrock Park, for example, dedicated to Jeffrey L. Miller includes cabins saved from demolition in 2003 by Cripple Creek Building Inspector Jeffrey Miller and provided to the museum in 2009.
French Blanche LeCroix' Cabin, from about 1900, is part of the park, and reflects on the women who worked the district as a prostitute on Myers Avenue and later, in the district town of Midway at the Midway Saloon.  She lived in the cabin from 1925 until the early 1950s, when she moved to Victor.
The Miners Cabin, circa 1892, was once home to a tinner, T. Rhinnell, in 1896, and later, harness-maker, Robert Brady and laundress wife lived there, at least the first five years of the last century. It is decorated as miner's home, with a few atypical additions such as a rare bathtub, and 1921 Coleman cookstove No. 2, with its original $12.50 price tag on it.
The old standards, of course remain. The Midland Terminal, used by three different railroads over the course of more than 50 years, survived the 1896 fire, and was in continuous operation from 1895 to 1949, with the last ride of the Midland.
The Trading and Transfer Building, built in 1893, by Albert Carlton, is the oldest wooden commercial building in Cripple Creek. Upstairs, in what was once the living quarters for Carlton and his family, you can soak in some more color, and texture and flavor of what it might have been like to live in the District in those early days. It is an excellent reminder of where we came from. I recommend visiting the place, over and over again.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Town within a town not limited by imagination

"It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination."

__ Script opener from "The Twilight Zone."

In Monument, it is an area known as Maguireville, and in an instant, the town within a town can transport you to the storied West, or to a high-tech sawmill with a philanthropic mission.
Thursday, last week, Jim Maguire and his cronies had the sawmill running, the oxen teams pulling, the stories flying —all in the shadow of the windmill and in the reflection of the lake.
This time, he plans to build a jail house in the mythical burg near the intersection of State Highway 105 and Knollwood Blvd., with the slab lumber cut from salvaged trees of the Black Forest fire.
In October of 2013, Bob Olson, who lived in the Black Forest area himself, first set up his modern answer on Jim Maguire's property on State Highway 105 in Monument, in the form of his WoodMizer portable sawmill.
The mill looks something like a big bandsaw and automates some of the complicated setup with its high-tech operation. Logs from a house lot down on Old Ranch Road, areas in the burn area, and locations in Woodmoor, as well other areas, all contributed to this week's cut and mill process.
The Maguire property milling operation was abuzz all week.
For his part, Jim Maguire with help from his many friends, built a stage stop log cabin 18 feet by 16 feet, dedicated to recalling the losses suffered by some in the Black Forest Fire. Some salvageable, but slightly burned logs, originated in the burn area and 44 timbers, seven inches by 10 inches, were milled for the structure.
"This place is part of an old homestead," said Maguire at the time. "And a stage at one time was the only way of getting here before the rails."
Since that time, the little town has added, at least, a covered bridge, a mine (complete with shaft, ore cart and tailings dump), a teepee, and multiple antique items of interest in the vast barns, equipment, horse-drawn hearse, rail cars and outbuildings.
Of course, the Oxen were involved as well.
Jim Maguire offers up one of his trademark introductions:
"We are twins," Maguire says, arm around Rollie Johnson. "I'm the old, ugly one. He's the rich handsome one."
Rollie and Paula Johnson, with the help of their hired hand of at least a decade, Dulces Granados, have been doing just that, since 2006 at Three Eagles Ranch, just over the Douglas County line near Monument. The ranch is one of the few western ranches that raise American Milking Devon Oxen.
Rollie Johnson, CEO for a group of more than 50 radio stations all over the country, showed his prowess at hooking log chokers Thursday in Monument, as Davy and Dandy, and Grant and Garfield, skidded logs across the field. The teams weigh in at about 2,000 pounds each.
Next month, the Johnsons are taking two teams to Bernalillo, New Mexico, for three days filming in Netflix-produced 1800s western.
Written, directed and executive produced by Scott Frank, Godless is a Western set in an 1800s New Mexico mining town. The project, which is currently casting, is set to film in Santa Fe and other locations nearby New Mexico.
The Johnson's oxen will provide historic context.
The breed is now extinct in England and were down to just a handful in the United States until about 30 years ago. Efforts by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and others have been able to increase the American herd to about 600 animals, mostly in New England states.
"Three Eagles Ranch began its herd in 2006 when it purchased a cow from Missouri. A bull, nicknamed Jesse James, was purchased from Washington's Birthplace Farm near Williamsburg. The first trained oxen team — Clark and Coolidge — was sold to Bent's Old Fort at La Junta along the Santa Fe Trail and can be viewed at historical presentations at that site. Today's second trained team from Three Eagles — Calvin and Chester — were born in 2008 and are still growing and live the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, Colo. A third pair, Ike and Earl, went to Arizona to be used in an experiment to prepare equipment that can be easily replicated in rural Africa.
In the meantime, the sawmill at Maguireville hums and screeches. Oxen drag logs, the old-fashioned way down the road. Buildings from at least a century past spring up from the ashes like a phoenix. The town within a town draws from its owner and friends — an unlimited imagination.


Photo Information:
Hooking chokers on an "old-fashioned" log skidder, Rollie Johnson and Dulces Granados, drag timbers to the upstart sawmill in Maguireville, today. American Milking Devon Oxen teams, David and Dandridge, and Grant and Garfield, make the process look easy ... Well, as easy as keeping four 2,000-pound draft animals headed in the right direction can be.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Nationally registered barn remains as a last vestige of local homesteading era

"Last winter I tried to talk Jesse into leaving. Not anymore. I've grown to cherish the freedom, the openness of this land, the wall I plastered, the trees I planted. I can see God using me. Homesteading, building a community with people I care about..."
 ___ Catherine Richmond, author

Back then ... and for years afterward, living and working a local homestead was a difficult existence.

Getting the barn up. Taking care of the stock, growing what you can, and most of the time —just surviving. Perhaps that is just one of the reasons that the local barn shows up Colorado Historical Register. The land can provide you with a living — but it can also turn on you. It eventually did on J.G. Evans.

"The J.G. Evans Barn is located in the Platte-Arkansas Divide in the Black Forest area of El Paso County. The area is mostly rolling, grassy hills with sporadic ponderosa pine trees dotting the landscape. Standing in the middle of Hodgen Road, facing north, one sees the front of the barn with the large wagon entrance. To the west is a small grassy hill that has protected it from wind and snow for many years. To the east, a windmill, which is missing its blades, and a stock tank made of corrugated metal lay a few feet from the side of the barn. North and east of the barn the land slopes into a small drainage area. A new housing development under construction is further north and east of the drainage, just above the floodplain. Turning around and facing south, one sees the original John G. Evans ranch complex," according to National Register of Historic Places Registration Form and written by Kimberly Henderson and Michelle Van Heukelem, Archaeology Graduate students from University of Denver, in November of 2003.

Inside, three adjoining bays with hand-hewn beam H-frame construction in the central bay and other lumber in the barn displays circular saw marks and cut nails. Flanking the central bay on the left side is a series of rooms. Each room has a wooden trough or manger for feed. Flanking the central bay on the right are more rooms; however, the troughs rest much higher than the other side indicating use by taller animals such as horses instead of cattle. Also located on the east side toward the front of he barn is an enclosed room lined with corrugated tin sheeting. It is thought that this room was used for grain storage. The shed extension is an open area with an opening to the tin-lined room. The second story of the barn contains a large open hayloft. The floor only extends halfway across the main barn section. Hand-hewn beams make up the floor of the loft and in between each of these beams are remnants of concrete mortar and straw used to keep rodents out.

"The John G. Evans Barn is significant ... as one of the last remaining barns representing the earliest period of settlement and development in the Black Forest community of El Paso County.

Associated with one of the county’s pioneer ranches, it is also one of the earliest barns built in the area displaying construction techniques that are characteristic of the Black Forest homestead era (1860s-1930s). The barn exhibits elements of late 19th/early 20th century Midwest three-portal barns in its three bays, broken gable roof, timber framing, and hand-hewn logs," says the registration form.

The Midwest three-portal barn evolved from the earliest and most basic form of barns in the United States, the crib barn. The J.G. Evans Barn represents this evolution in its hand-hewn log and timber framing on the interior, which is covered with plank and board and batten on the exterior. Though commonly found in the south central United States, Evans had family from Kentucky and grew up in Kansas, both areas where he would have been exposed to this type of barn. The barns and other outbuildings that remain standing in the Black Forest vicinity seem to have influences not only from the middle and eastern United States, but also from European inspirations.

"Many people of European descent settled in this area, contributing to a wide variety of architectural  styles and forms. The sloping, broken gable roof and three bay design of the John G. Evans Barn is characteristic of the barns that used to cover the Black Forest region. It is one of a few remaining original buildings in the region. The original materials, including unpainted wooden siding, hand-hewn boards and posts, uncut foundation stones and concrete mortar contribute to the construction of the building. The tin lined room and granary bins of unequal heights are characteristic of the distinctive utilization of barns in an area that employed a variety of agricultural production.

The barn displays a moderately high degree of physical integrity and has had no modifications to the original structure that are evident or documented. The barn is no longer in use in the current agricultural community in terms of an active animal facility, but does remain a local landmark for the residents of the area," reported United State Department of the Interior National Park Service, which approves registration.

The Platte-Arkansas Divide, where the town of Table Rock was once located, is an unusual area; raised slightly above the surrounding landscape, it is wetter and colder than the plains around it. Early settlers to the area grew crops like potatoes, alfalfa, oats, wheat, rye, millet, and corn, all of which need only a short growing season. Enough water was available to these farmers from the 20 inches of annual rainfall, high ground water, and natural springs that irrigation was unnecessary.

The tall grasses native to the area also supported large herds of cattle and horses. It is noted in the book, Growing Up in Black Forest, that “Black Forest was called the Colorado Pinery and Land Co. in 1885. ... Albert Steppler found old papers indicating the Table Rock area was also forested, until the wagons came west and cleared the fertile land for farming,” wrote Vera Rusk Ellet in her 1990 book "Growing Up in the Black Forest."

John G. Evans would have been one of those that came west, having built his barn in 1885, when the Table Rock community was established. Black Forest was not the common name of the area until after World War I, when developers came to the area.

Potatoes were the main crop in the Divide area when the barn was built. They were considered to be the best cash crop and by the mid-1890s farmers planted over 20,000 acres of potatoes. Over planting and blight hurt the market, but a few farms were able to maintain prize winning potato crops well into the 1900s, wrote Elaine Freed in her 1984 report, "Historic Sites and Structures: El Paso, Colorado. El Paso Land Use Dept., Colorado."

Raising cattle was a fundamental part of the subsistence of early settler in the Black Forest area and still is today. Dairy cows seemed to have been most important during the early settlement Almost every homestead had their own cow to produce milk and butter for the family and to sell. Storage in the barn is evident from the granary bins and other storage areas found on both the north and south ends of the barn. The barn was once part of an extensive property, which boasted 1750 acres, a good amount of land upon which to have a large herd of cattle.

"John Evans was a native of Iowa. His father was born in Kentucky and his mother in Pennsylvania. Mr. Evans spent most of his childhood in Wyandotte County, Kansas and eventually moved to Table Rock in 1884. Evans built his ranch from local wood cut by his own sawmill, and continued to improve his land by adding a stage stop for travel between the Denver and Rio Grande and the Colorado & Southern Railroads that traveled through Monument and Eastonville, according to Judy Von Ahelfeldt in her 1979 book "Thunder, Sun and Snow: A History of Colorado’s Black Forest."

He also built the Fairview School, located up the hill from his ranch house said Kathryn Peterson, in a personal communication in 2003. The local schoolteacher, Lillie Barrett, lived in an upstairs bedroom of his house.

"As his wealth increased, he continued to add land to his original 160-acre homestead, reaching a total of seventeen hundred and fifty acres. As his holdings increased, his ranch, was at one time, thought to be one of the “most valuable in his section of the state,” according to Wilber Fiske Stone's 1919 History of Colorado.

In 1884, Evans married his cousin, Elvina C. Evans of Missouri. They were married for twenty-nine years before she died, leaving Evans alone on the ranch. They never had any children, but nonetheless, were well known in the community. Mrs. Evans was especially important, for it has been said that the entire community would wait for her sign to plant the crops each year, according to Kathryn Peterson, in personal communication in 2003. Additionally, Evans gave much of his time to his duties as chairman of the committee for Table Rock in putting his town “over the top in Liberty Loan, Red Cross, and Young Men’s Christian Association campaigns,” wrote Stone.

"He was a Knight of Pythias at a Colorado Springs Lodge. In addition to his agricultural contributions, Evans led a life active in community affairs before passing away."

Lucille Lavelett, in her 1979 book "Monument's Faded Neighbor Communities and its Folk Lore," describes it in the following.

"The house was on the south side of the road and the barns on the north. Mr. Evans lived on his ranch until his death, during one of Colorado's blizzards, November 19, 1913. Mr. Evans had tried to get to the house from the barn, fell, and was frozen to death."

He is buried in the Monument Cemetery, and on his tombstone it reads, "He arose on the wings of a storm."

After Evans’ death, the ranch was sold in 1932 to C.C. and Ruby Klose, who lived there for approximately ten years before it was sold to Kirby W. and Florence Peterson from Canada. After their deaths, the Peterson family divided the land and sold it to various people. Among those was Clarence Thurston McLaughlin, a wealthy oilman, rancher, and philanthropist from Texas. McLaughlin integrated his portion of the Evans Ranch into the Shamrock Ranch to the southwest. After McLaughlin died, the property was sold to a person named Farrar. The property then passed through a succession of owners before the current owner, Georg Kuhnke, purchased a number of acres, including the barn. The ranch house and other associated buildings across Hodgen Road are presently on thirty acres of land in section 29 owned by another (unrelated) Peterson family, through which much of this history has been discovered.

Photo Information: The J.G. Evans Barn has been restored somewhat in recent years, but still bears the marks of more than century agricultural use here on the Divide.

___ By Rob Carrigan

Saturday, August 13, 2016

History along ‘the back way’ and how forest developed

One of the local connections I find myself most drawn to is the Rampart Range area of the Pike National Forest. Maybe it is the forest itself, or the two newspapers that I run back and forth between, or the sense of history between them.

Because of my connections to Woodland Park and Monument, a favorite summertime travel is the crow-flyish, rough gravel roads connecting them. You can cut off 20 or 30 miles, but add 15 or 20 minutes, by driving “the back way.”

It is also interesting to me how things might have developed differently, with different developers, over time, and different timing.

Jan Mackell Collins notes in her new book “Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County” that perhaps the roads tell some of the story. Same for the developers like Dr. William Abraham Bell, the founder of Manitou Springs, buddy of Colorado Springs founder of Gen. William Palmer.

Bell, though it is not universally known and talked about, also had development efforts in the early days of what is now Palmer Lake and nearby Monument.

“In 1873, Bell built a three-story hotel and some cabins made from tents with wood floors (in what was then known as Bergen’s Park).  Soon, wealthy families from the East and even Europe began visiting the park,” writes Mackell Collins.

“Within a year, a wagon road was planned from Bergen’s Park that would lead east to the town of Monument, in El Paso County and west to the city of Fairplay in Park County,” she said.

“Even as plans for the road were delayed, Bell next developed a trout hatchery. The hatchery ran successfully as late as 1890.

“When Bell discovered there was already another place in Colorado called Bergen Park in 1875, he changed the name to Manitou Park.”

But, of course, there have been other brushes with history in the “in between area.”

In “The story behind the Pike National Forest,” by Marion Ritchey Vance and John A. Vance, and on U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service site, history of the Forest Service itself is tied there.

“On Aug. 8, 1898, Col. May appointed a young man from the Plum Creek Reserve as Forest Ranger in the state of Colorado. William R. Kreutzer thus became the first forest ranger on the Pike National Forest and, reportedly, in the nation. Young Kreutzer knew forests and he took his job seriously.”

His charge from Col. May: “Ride as far as the Almighty will let you, and get control of the fire situation and as much of the mountain country as you possibly can, and keep some sort of a record about it.”

Reforestation became a priority for the new ranger.

“A popular image of the Forest Service is that of rangers arriving to protect wooded lands. In the case of the Pike, the job was first to recreate the forest.

“Protection of the Front Range watershed was paramount. That meant re-establishing ground cover as quickly as possible to stem erosion, and preventing further damage,” the Vances wrote.

To cope with such a massive reforestation project, local foresters began experimenting with seed and seedlings. Seedlings proved more effective, but early nurseries yielded little reward for the arduous labor.

The breakthrough came with establishment of a small planting station at the foot of Mount Herman. Officially named the Monument Nursery in 1907, the seedling facility was one of the first in the forest system and the most important in the Rocky Mountains.

Over its 58 years of service, the Monument Nursery produced millions of seedlings annually. By the early 1950s, more than 40,000 acres of denuded lands on the Pike had been replanted with Douglas fir, blue spruce, Engelmann spruce, ponderosa, limber and bristlecone pine.

Monument supplied seedlings to other forests as well and to private farmers for windbreak and erosion control. Similar efforts were occurring nearby, in the Manitou Park area.

Bell’s own efforts, coupled with the efforts of Palmer, led to the donation of Manitou Park to Colorado College.

“Accordingly, Colorado College established the Colorado School of Forestry. In 1937, the Works Progress Administration built a lovely six-building complex at Manitou Park,” wrote Mackell Collins.

On the other side, “During the Great Depression, Monument Nursery was home to one of Colorado’s largest Civilian Conservation Corps camps. The Corps was key to the reforestation effort. From 1934 to 1942, CCC crews under Forest Service supervision designed and constructed buildings, fought fires, manned the nurseries and planted seedlings,” Vances noted.
Some disagreed with the practices of reforestation.

According to the Denver Republican (June 28, 1908) “…it would behoove the citizens of Colorado Springs to bring an injunction suit against the government, which threatens to plant a million trees per year until 20 million are planted on the Pikes Peak Reserve.”
“Water is scarce enough at Colorado Springs at present conditions, but if the government is going to attempt to water 20 million trees in addition to the trees now absorbing water, I can assure the citizens that in 20 years there would only be water for the trees and none for the city. It would increase the water supply of Colorado Springs materially if every tree was cut from Pikes Peak.”

By 1965, with a relatively healthy forest in place, reforestation was no longer a priority for the district office. Nursery operations were moved to Basalt and the facilities converted in the 1970s to the Monument Fire Center. It now serves as base for the elite firefighting crews known as “hotshots,” says Vance’s story.

The Forest Services, Colorado State Forest Service and Pike National Forest, continue to use the structures in, and around Manitou Park.
The roads between the two areas on “the back way” are passable, most days.

___ By Rob Carrigan

Photo Information:
Photo 1:
Civilian Conservation Corps crews from the Monument  camp working on Mount Herman Road during the 1930s. 

Photo 2:
The CCC Camp nursery in Monument in the early days.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Looking for the fountain of lake's youth?

Dr. Edwin James, a botanist with Maj. Stephen H. Long's 1820 expedition and the first to climb Pikes Peak, also recognized the Colorado Blue Columbines in the area around what later became Palmer Lake.
Then in 1843, Lt. John Fremont noted that the flowers near the "dividing ridge" made a "mountain garden" as the "whole valley was radiant with flowers; blue, yellow, pink, white, scarlet and purple, vying with each other in splendor."
The railroads came through in the 1870s and flowers served as a summertime attraction for tourist from all over.
One of the interesting aspects of Palmer Lake's unique history, to me at least, is its use by the railroads to re-water the steam locomotives of the early days of railroads. As a connoisseur of old photos, I have been fascinated by photos of Palmer Lake showing the fountain in the very early days.
I also remember a Palmer Lake Historical project bearing fruit in 1998 in the form of fountain in the lake.
The June 2, 1998 edition of the Tribune told the tale.
"Once again, Palmer Lake has a fountain, the Palmer Lake Historical Society bought and installed the fountain which will serve two purposes," wrote my friend Jeremy Bangs at the time.
"The fountain is meant to resemble one that was on the lake when it was owned by the railroads. Pipes from the town's upper reservoir once fed Palmer Lake with water and the gravity pressure of the water flow formed a large fountain at the south end of the lake."
Bangs said the new fountain was placed in a different location and didn't throw water as high as the original, but it would aerate the lake's contents, making them more hospitable for fish and other aquatic wildlife.
I don't know for a fact, but I assume the fountain was victim of time and drought that followed.
The lake completely dried up by July 2012 because of drought and water management changes.
In December 2014, the Awake Palmer Lake restoration group began dirt work to clear several feet of sediment from the north end of the Lake, exposing the top of the clay (benzonite) layer and filling the southern marsh with dirt. This served to resort the lake to its historical proportions and also to make it more sustainable for the future.
The volunteer group, at the same time, was working on a plan to have Palmer Lake refilled with water by spring of 2014. Palmer Lake's refill involved a court case involving water rights that the town of Palmer Lake  said it was granted in the late 1950s. Town leaders in neighboring Monument have objected to Palmer Lake's request. A state Water Court decision is expected to to determine that.
Meanwhile, in early December 2014, an extensive dirt work project restored the Lake, close to its historical proportions.
In mid-December, 2014 received word that  a Great Outdoors of Colorado (GOCO) grant of matching funds to total $350k had been awarded to be used to build a footbridge and recreational park around the lake and an the west side of the railroad tracks.
In February 2015, an agreement was reached with the town on Monument, as well as other communities, which allows the town of Palmer Lake to exercise senior railroad rights for the purpose of filling and maintaining the lake.
After the wettest May in over 70 years in 2015,  rains and spring activity filled the lake, to almost eight feet on the north end.
Also after June 24, 2015, Palmer Lake water supervisor Steve Orcutt began sending almost six ac/ft of water into the lake. Palmer Lake's industrial water rights were changed to residential, the town now fills the lake with up to 8.4 acre feet per month, and up to 67 acre feet per year. Drinking and household water needs still have top priority over recreational and aesthetic uses.


Photo 1:
Fountain is visible in this early photo of the lake, looking west.
Photo 2:
This early hand-colored photo shows the fountain and the Santa Fe Depot.
Photo 3:
Looking east, from the tracks, the fountain is shown beyond a steam locomotive.

Photos courtesy of Palmer Lake Historical Society