Saturday, September 6, 2008
On Gard, making his mark
Ernest Chapin Gard seemed determined to make his mark on the world, even as young man. Evidence of his talents became manifested in a talent for stringing words together.
Perhaps he was thinking along those lines when in 1880 as a 23-year-old newspaperman, he scratched out his moniker above those of members of the gold-seeking Lawrence Party on Signature Rock in Garden of the Gods.
Signature Rock, standing on the sunny side of the North Gateway in the Garden, contains 600 names, many which are of historic significance.
Gard’s name is right at home there.
Gold’s discovery in the Cripple Creek District precipitated Gard and his partner’s race to become the first newspaper in Cripple Creek. He pulled out all the stops to beat William McRea by four days, publishing the first edition of the Cripple Creek Crusher on Dec. 4, 1891. Descendant of the Crusher and other consolidations, The Cripple Creek Gold Rush still published until 2007 when it became incorporated into Pikes Peak Courier View, of Woodland Park.
Gard, and partner W.S. Neal, celebrated the feat by printing in gilded ink — a layer of gold over the regular ink — for the inaugural edition. McRea, four days late and perhaps more than a dollar short, sported vermilion headlines that said “New Gold Field.”
In general, Gard was noted for not trying to hold anything back.
For example, consider his description in a booklet published by the Town of Palmer Lake in 1894 of one local landmark shortly after it was built.
“Estemere House commands one of the most magnificent views in the Rocky Mountains. The lake and both railroad depots lie beyond it, is plainly visible. To the southeast stretch the plains, on which can be seen the village of Monument, and the bewildering scene is lost in the dim distance where the meeting sky and plain unfolds the siren mirage to the vision on the desert waste; to the east are the fertile farms and pine groves of the rich Divide. To the northeast can be seen the pretty pyramidal buttes of Greenland and Larkspur. To the west are the ‘rock-ribbed’ mountains, lofty and sublime. It is a scene which, when once beheld, can never forgotten.”
When legendary scoundrel, Joseph H. Wolfe, crossed his path in Cripple Creek in his administration and management of the Clarendon Hotel, Gard let loose because he felt Wolfe was attracting too much attention by throwing money around the gaming tables and consorting with shady characters.
“This curious hostelry is run by a red-faced, cock-eyed boob who ought to be back in Missouri flats pulling cockle-burrs out of a cornfield,” wrote Gard in the Crusher in the early 1890s. He proved to be on target when later Wolfe’s efforts to organize one of the only bullfights ever held in the United States at the racetrack at Gillette Flats landed him in jail and fleeing from creditors.
Prior to his founding of the Crusher, Gard was already wielding his wit and pen in the Palmer Lake area, founding the Palmer Lake Herald with his brother J.M. Gard, just before incorporation to the town in 1889. On April 2,1889, he was also elected to a two-year term as trustee on Palmer Lake’s first board.
“The Gards, who came to town early with the Daltons, were always prominent in the affairs of the town. Their newspaper, however was several times on the verge of suspending publication due to lack of funds …” notes Marion Savage Sabin in her 1957 book Palmer Lake: A Historical Narrative.
In addition to his business endeavors in Cripple Creek, Gard also published the Pikes Peak Populist and the Westcreek Gold Brick in 1896. An item in the Weekly Gazette in 1893 also had him leaving for the Cherokee Strip with printing equipment and plans for paper there during the Oklahoma land rush at that time.
And possible mining riches in the Palmer Lake area attracted his attention. He and his brother J.M. Gard were listed as directors on the boards of “The Puzzler” and “The Apex” which never produced and were soon abandoned in 1894.
Some of his finest work was involved in a promotional advertising piece for the town of Palmer Lake in the form of a complex pamphlet created in 1894 entitled “The Gem of the Rockies.”
“Though grandiloquent in tone it is full of real facts about the town – its buildings, its industries, its natural resources, its geological landmarks, and the many alluring features of Glen Park were set forth,” notes Sabin.
Gard continued to be involved in publishing concerns in this area at least until 1897, but after that period, though there is mention of newspaper endeavors in the Leadville area after the turn of the Century, his trail becomes faint.