Sunday, August 31, 2008
In an almost-forgotten time, my family would all pile into the sky blue and white Chevy 2 (precursor to the Nova), armed with blankets and pillows, and make a beeline to the Arroyo Drive-In Theatre near Cortez. Always a double-feature, usually including a John Wayne film, and frequently $1 a car -- my parents and a carload of kids would arrive before sundown to get a tolerable parking spot. The kids would utilize the playground equipment directly in front of the big screen until the countdown clock appeared and we realized we only had three minutes to run to the snack bar for one of those “Orange Balls” -- a round orange plastic container with a green top with a straw in it, filled with orange soda.
That countdown clock, and most of the other snack bar reminders were produced at Alexander Film Company at its 18 acre “campus” on Nevada Avenue in the north end of Colorado Springs.
“Alexander had a hand in many, if not most, of the intermission announcements clips that drive-in fans remember so fondly – not to mention the countdown clocks that let moviegoers know when the film was due to start, the warnings to remove speakers before driving away, the request that they dim their lights until exiting the theater,” wrote Mark Wolfe in the most recent edition of “Colorado Heritage,” produced by the Colorado Historical Society.
“At the company’s peak in the mid-1950s, as many as 2,700 advertisers were using Alexander’s products. The company distributed the ads to 2,500 theaters nationwide, where they were seen by about 10 million people every week,” says Wolfe.
Today Alexander Film Company exists as Alexander Film and Video Services.
“Over the last couple of decades our primary business has been with film and tape transfers, duplications, and replications. But we have recently resurrected our video production department with the hire of an award winning production team and the purchase of new state-of-the-art equipment,” according to the surviving company’s web site.
The company employed 300 people in 1928 when they built offices at 3200 N. Nevada and many of the other buildings on the 18-acre site. They moved the business from an Englewood site that they outgrew and the two Alexander brothers, J. Don and Don M. Alexander, even built their own airplanes to control the costs of shipping the trailer films from the centralized location here in the Springs. One of their aircraft is on display at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver.
“In its heyday, Alexander Film Company's lot hosted 32 full size motion picture sets, modern film and audio laboratories, a sound recording department, an art department capable of creating cartoon animation, stop motion, backgrounds and other special movie effects, an engineering department and a full service print shop,” according to Alexander Film and Video Service, the surviving company.
“To run this massive complex Alexander employed over 600 people locally and the annual payroll exceeded $2.5 million. A client list included a "who's who" of the nation's leading manufacturers including General Motors, Ford, U.S. Rubber, Philco, and Seven-Up. Regional offices were established in Dallas, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.”.
“The late 1950's saw the remarkable collapse of Alexander Film Co. through the advent of television and the closing of many local theaters throughout the country. What dealt the most crippling blow; however, was the fact that Alexander was a non-union shop which caused them to be "blacklisted" by industry professionals making it impossible for national advertisers to use Alexander produced commercials,” according to company information.
“AFCO was a great place to work during the time I was there,” recalled former employee Sebastian Speranza in article posted on www.driveinworkshop.com. “People were treated kindly and with respect and were really friendly towards one another. I guess starting in the late ‘60s and thereon, things started going downhill … Yes, the drop in drive-ins and TV accounted for the decent of AFCO, but also so many different owners and changes in attitudes and the politics also contributed to its downhill slide. Sad.”
The Arroyo Drive-In closed in 1988 and screen itself was removed in the mid-1990s. The Chevy 2 has been restored by a collector and I still like orange soda and John Wayne movies.
To put a name to it -- we might call it many things.
Chunks of emptiness carry names like Cajon Canyon, McElmo, Hovenweep, the lower Dolores watershed, the Paradox Valley, Outlaw Trail, and (appropriately enough) Disappointment. The vast stretches of canyons and mesas run up the edges of Colorado and Utah. It is remote, water-challenged, and easy to get lost and stay lost there. Even the rivers sometimes run the wrong way.
I, along with a lot of others, thought of that crazed meanness the day Dale Claxton was murdered.
On May 29, 1998 Cortez police officer Claxton was following a water truck that turned out later to be stolen. He had already radioed for backup when the truck pulled over on the edge of city limits and at least one of the three men inside jumped out with a SKS 7.62 mm assault rifle and began firing, eventually unloading the 30 round clip at least once into the squad car and Claxton. The officer was hit 18 times.
The three men immediately ditched the water truck and acquired by gunpoint a flatbed truck leading law enforcement on an intense chase and series of gun battles out into the canyon and mesa country along the Colorado and Utah border.
Before the rampage had ended, two Montezuma County deputies had been wounded, over 300 officers from four states and the National Guard had enlisted in the chase and search.
Police eventually identified three suspects that they were looking for. Alan Pilon, Jason Wayne McVean and Robert Mathew Mason residence yielded evidence the three had practiced as weekend warriors and survivalists in nearby areas. Pilon actually grew up not too far from there near the town of Dove Creek, Colorado.
In June, another shooting occurred involving a San Juan County, Utah, deputy Kelly Bradford, who was shot twice responding to reports of shots being fired at social worker in a remote Utah area. A new manhunt ensued and Robert Mathew Mason’s body was eventually found in that area, apparently dead from a self-inflicted gun administered shortly after the exchange with Bradford. Alan Pilon’s body was discovered nearly 16 months later by a group of hunters in the same general area on the Colorado side of the border.
Longtime cowboy Eric Bayles in San Juan County, Utah finally discovered Jason Wayne McVean’s body, on June 10, 2007.
“Teams of deputies and police officers searched the area and found a rusted AK-47 rifle with magazines holding about 500 rounds of ammunition, five pipe bombs, several bottles with water still in them, some survival food, a jacket, a hat, camouflage gear, amber-colored glasses, a watch that stopped at 6:35 on May 30, 1998 and most importantly, parts of a human skeleton including pieces of a skull and a jawbone with teeth,” according to Hal Mansfield in a June, 2007, article for Crime Magazine.
“The remains turned out to be those of Jason Wayne McVean, one of three fugitives sought for the murder of Cortez, Colo. Police Officer Dale Claxton,” wrote Mansfield.
Still, no one really knows what kind of crazed meanness possessed the three outlaws who killed Officer Claxton. I guess the answers are like everything else out there in the dry, wind-swept canyons, mesas and draws. As I think I mentioned, it is easy to get lost and stay lost out there.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
I am not sure we are as tough and rugged around here as previous residents of days gone by. But I think we might have improved on the intelligence front. Let me give you an example.
The Cripple Creek Times reported the peculiar case of J. B. Blankenship’s confrontation with a bear in its Jan. 3, 1915, edition.
“The cunning of man prevailed over the natural instinct of the beast yesterday when J.B. Blankenship, ‘the Texas Scout,’ of Florissant, engaged in a personal encounter with a bear in the hills near the outskirts of Teller County,” the report offered.
“While in the clutches of the animal, Blankenship reached to his pocket and procured a knife with which he dealt a well-directed blow in the region of the bear’s heart. The big beast relaxed its hold and fell to the ground with a thud.”
According to A.E. Colclessor, a road overseer from Florissant and witness to at least part of the scrap, the bear had been caught in a trap and the ‘Texas Scout’ thought it was too badly crippled to be dangerous. He sprung the trap. When he did, the hairy beast leaped to his feet and seized Blankenship in a massive ‘bear hug.’
“Blankenship struggled to free himself — but to no avail. The grasp of the bear only tightened about him when he attempted to break its hold. The scout managed to get an arm free and reached for his knife. He stabbed the bear near the heart and the fight for supremacy between man and beast was ended.”
Blankenship received two broken ribs as a result of this encounter, the Times reported, and he was taken to the office of a physician where his injuries were attended.
The ‘scout’ was apparently was big enough to go bear hunting with a switch (or at least a sharp knife) but here is the part that makes me question the big fellow’s mental capacity. The Times recalled the bear incident was not this character’s first run-in with a dangerous beast.
“A few years ago, Blankenship went into the haunt of a mountain lion and captured the animal alive.”
I don’t think it appropriate to let loose even a crippled bruin from a trap but you can hardly expect a personality willing to wrestle mountain lions on their own turf to come to such a realization.
So much for learning from your mistakes.
For years, Oscar Lampman took care of the dead in Cripple Creek. And it is a wonder more ghost don't hover around 300 E. Bennett, the one-time base of operation of the basement undertaker.
Legend says it was here, in his funeral parlor, where Pearl DeVere's sister, coming to collect Pearl's body, noted the dyed auburn hair and found out her sister was no dressmaker but, instead, employed as madame at the Old Homestead brothel. The high-minded sister turned tail and caught the first train back East.
"Cripple Creek can bury its own dead," editorialized The Cripple Creek Times then. Indeed, and let he [or she] who is without sin, cast the first stone.
It was here that gold mining magnate Sam Strong's body lay, with much of his hard head blown away from a shotgun blast.
Countless other bodies, their owners whom suffered the violent deaths of violent times, underwent embalming in the lower level of the building.
Also for years, the Manhattan Barber Shop, with eight porcelain tubs for baths, occupied the first floor, and you would think some of the hanger-on, hang-around crowd would hang at such a popular place - even in an afterlife.
But oddly enough, a comforting ghost apparently haunts the premises of the old Fairley Bros. & Lampman Building.
A lilted voice, singing high in the scales and steeped in the accent of the Emerald Isle, a faint wisp of rose-scented perfume, the clackety-clack of old manual typewriter, are offered as evidence of the presence of "Maggie."
Stories of Maggie have swirled at least since the 1960s.
Noted Western artist Charles Frizzell, who ran an art gallery in the building then, and Katherine Hartz, who had the Sarsaparilla Saloon in the building beginning in 1968 and eventually purchased it, both related stories for Chas S. Clifton's 1983 book, "Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek."
"That was during the good old hippie days and a lot of people coming through town would be looking for a place to 'crash' for the night," Frizzell is quoted in Clifton's book.
But when the Frizzell's allowed visitors to stay in unused portions of the upper two floors, ghostly commotion centered in what used to be a ballroom on the third floor usually quickly drove away "crashers" before a second night.
"At times, Frizzell says, mysterious blue lights danced down to the second floor, the living quarters. He and his wife tried to stop them by shutting the twin doors on the staircase, but someone else seemed to want that door open," wrote Clifton.
He quotes Frizzell: "We would tie them shut with a twisted coat hanger because we could not lock them. We could go downstairs in the gallery and know there was no one upstairs, but we'd come back and find the hangers untied and the doors open."
Hartz had an even more finite visit from Maggie.
Also from Clifton's book quoting Katherine Hartz: "I was walking down the hall on the second floor. As I walked I heard sounds like someone was upstairs with high heels on, walking above me. I realized that in order to do so, whoever it was had to be walking through the walls upstairs."
According to the account, when she investigated, she encountered a woman in her late 20s or early 30s, tall, good-looking brunette, with her hair in a "Gibson Girl" roll, wearing a white shirtwaist, ankle-length dark brown print skirt and high-heeled boots.
Later, in the 1970s, having trouble with small unexpected electric bills and reports form police and nearby shop owners of late night lighting of the upstairs rooms, the
Hartz expected to find evidence of squatters but found instead, the building locked and undisturbed with electricity turned off at the fuse box.
But even after the advent of gaming and the building's conversion to Colorado Grande Casino, the sightings have continued.
"Some have reported that singing and dancing is sometimes heard emanating from the old ballroom, as well as the sounds of Maggie's lilting soprano voice heard singing an Irish accented concertina," reports "Legends of America Newsletter" owner and editor Kathy Weiser.
"At the casino, security guards have often reported seeing
Maggie along with a gentleman friend playing the slot machines after hours. She has also been caught on tape by the security cameras. However, after being viewed and stowed away, the tapes mysteriously vanished," reports Weiser.
Today, a café named in honor of Maggie resides in the building along with the casino.
Over the many years, tenants in the building in addition to those previously mentioned - included The Central Drug
Store on the northwest corner of the first floor. The upstairs on the second floor was occupied mostly by professionals with five attorneys and four doctors leasing space in 1902 and 1903.
"On the third floor, B.P.O.E. 316 - a very influential organization in the city - had their meeting hall [the location of the ballroom]. The Elks were pleased to lease this space, but they were looking for a permanent home.
They found this in 1911 when the Elks purchased The Gold Mining Exchange Building," according to "Cripple Creek: City of Influence," a 1994 book by Brian Levine.
Perhaps Maggie, and other ghostly friends never noticed the party had relocated.
Sometimes, I miss the old days. The language, the style, the courtesy — they really knew how to write obituaries in the old days — pure poetry.
In an effort to avoid offending any ancestral sensibilities, I’ll use a writing about one of my own distant relatives by way of example. But rest assured, the poetic style extended across the spectrum and down through the social strata.
The death of Joseph Kellogg, Sr. was reported in the Routt County Courier on November 4, 1909, under a headline that read in part, “Pioneer ... Pays the Last Great Debt to His Maker -- Peacefully Pass Away.”
But it gets better.
“The human machine, like the mechanical one, must wear out in time, and so it not with surprise, but with sincere regret, the community will learn one of its earliest pioneers. ...” says the front page obit with no byline.
Other details offered are, “Without sickness of any kind, but growing feebler day by day, he passed peacefully to the final rest last night.”
And as a matter of commentary, “Mr. Kellogg has been a man of excellent habits, a sturdy workman , and as such, perhaps the most trying time of his life has been the last few years when his failing strength and sight has forced idleness upon him. He has been an excellent father and in his failing years he has received the kindest of attention at the hands of his sons.”
A few years later, his son, Joseph E. Kellogg’s death was reported in another paper but with the same flowery language and descriptions.
“In all his dealings he was absolutely square and was known far and wide for his great honesty,” noted the Craig Empire.
“Peacefully he pursued his chosen lines of usefulness, with diligence in his work, with consideration for the rights and feeling of others while protecting his own, with studious devotion to the welfare of his country and state, and a deep serviceable interest in the larger concerns of his country, and giving aid of his active support and the stimulus of his example in behalf of every good enterprise, the life of this good man added materially to the wealth and property of the people around him and the elevation of their moral and intellectual standard, and has secured for him in return an everlasting memory of esteem and good will.”
Maybe our own modern obituary should share such language and style and courtesy. Such poetry.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sutton's Law is related to legendary 1930s outlaw Willie Sutton's often quoted (and probably falsely attributed) response to a reporter who asked why he robbed banks.
"Because that's where the money is."
I have often wondered why that law didn't seem to apply for the "Wild Bunch" and the Cripple Creek District.
As a kid growing up in southwestern Colorado, nearly every wide spot in the road down there claimed some connection to the heralded outlaws. With the gang holding up the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, robbing the train at Stoner, holing up at Dunton Hot Springs, and several associated robberies in the Grand Junction, Delta and Vernal, Utah, areas, in addition to Harry "Sundance" Longabaugh's stint working on his uncle's ranch near Cortez as just some of the historically possible links - the stories were difficult to dispute.
Then there is the haunting photograph of the five dapperly dressed fellows at the turn of the century, three seated, two standing behind. From left to right: Harry A. Longabaugh, a.k.a. "The Sundance Kid," William Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, a.k.a. "The Tall Texan", Harvey Logan, a.k.a. "Kid Curry" and Robert Leroy Parker, a.k.a. "Butch Cassidy." The photo was taken Nov. 21, 1900, at John Swartz's studio in Fort Worth, Texas, near the Hell's Half Acre section of town the gang was known to frequent, and probably has appeared on more "wanted" posters than any photo in the last century.
But the outfit is given credit for robbing trains, mines, banks and other businesses all over the West - Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Oregon. And their height of operation corresponds perfectly with the Cripple Creek District's heyday. Why didn't the "Wild Bunch" knock over any easy targets in the wild district?
It was where the money was.
Maybe the answer was Love.
According to the information submitted to the Colorado Archives by the Pikes Peak Genealogical Society and posted by USGenWeb, "Love was the last community to officially debut in the Cripple Creek District, acquiring a post office in 1894."
Research by Jan MacKell at first indicated, that village located at the far east end of the district was made up of ranchers, a few miners, sawmill workers and maybe dairy workers. But, notes the archive project, "Love was remote enough, however, that members of outlaw Butch Cassidy's notorious Wild Bunch also felt secure in procuring a hideout there shortly after the community was founded."
Not only is that possible, I would guess, with the amount of money flowing around these parts at that time, it would be silly for an outlaw not to locate nearby.
But Parker, Longabaugh, Logan and the others, for whom history has had a devil of a time keeping track of anyway, likely were among the neighbors next door. But we may never know because Butch might have been going by George Cassidy, Tom Gillis, James Ryan, Santiago Ryan, Santiago Maxwell, J.P. Maxwell, James Lowe, Santiago Lowe, George Ingerfield. And Sundance maybe he took up the name Harry Alonzo, Harry Place, Enrique Brown, H.A. Brown, Frank Smith, J.E. Ebaugh, J.E. Thibadoe, Frank Jones, Frank Bozeman, Harry Brown or Frank Boyd.
If you do something of historic significance, make sure the chroniclers get you name down correctly. Otherwise you may suffer the fate of “Wild Bill.”
“During the summer of 1868, Indians caused a good deal of unrest in the Pike’s Peak region, and in late August, a group of them came to the Teachout ranch, looked over the livestock, and then left. After the incident, Harlow (Teachout) was concerned for the safety of his horses and put them to graze only for the night, keeping them in the coral by his stone barn during the day,” wrote John and Betsy Kitch in their 1970 book “Woodmen Valley: Stage Stop to Suburb.”
On the first morning in September that fall, Harlow and his hired hand made it out to the pasture just in time to see a group of braves driving off most of the 300 horses the Teachout brothers had brought from Nevada that spring.
“The two unarmed men, who could do nothing to stop the Indians, returned to the house and sent word to the brothers in Monument,” the Kitchs said.
“The next morning, Harlow, his brothers, and some forty friends started off to find the horses, following a clear trail of perhaps 150 head nearly to the Kansas border, but each day saw them farther behind. Finally the men gave up the chase and turned homeward.”
On the way home, 15 members of the party were attacked by another band of Indians about 25 miles east of Colorado City. The men were able to hole up near a bluff and hold off the attack, but had little food and no water.
“A young man known only as “Wild Bill” volunteered to seek help, and on the fastest horse available, he rode through the fusillade of shots from surrounding Indians. At daybreak, Teachout and his companions were surprised to see no sign of Indians, and ‘Wild Bill’ soon arrived with help. He had been lucky enough to find a group if Denver area men near the Bijou Basin, east of Black Forest,” according to Kitchs.
Another account appears in Loren Whittemore’s 1967 book “An Illustrated History of Ranching in the Pikes Peak Area.”
In Whittemore’s version, there seems to be some question on whether or not the attackers were really marauding Arapahos or Cheyennes.
“Miraculously, he ran the gauntlet of arrows and bullets, and disappeared into the West. The hostiles understood that reinforcements would soon be on the way, so after fighting for a short time, disappeared in the opposite direction. Some of the participants felt that not all of the hostiles were Indians, for as the battle began, one was heard to call out with an oath in perfect English, ‘You have been spoiling for a fight! Why don’t you pitch in!’” wrote Whittemore.
“The volunteer who rode out presents a rather interesting individual. Early writings about the region speak of him as ‘Texas Bill’ or ‘Indian Bill’ and ‘Wild Bill,’ but none record his last name.”
They do, however, record the name of the man who owned the horse he rode out on as Dow Simpson.
A few years later, Bill was reportedly working with some cattle in the Fountain area and became troubled by a disagreeable heifer. In a fit of anger, he threw a rock at her and by some freak circumstance; the stone stuck the animal in a manner that it killed the heifer. Bill was arrested for the killing.
“On the trip back to town the story tells that there were some obstacles across the road. As the sheriff got out of the spring wagon to remove them, a shot rang out from some nearby trees, killing Bill. There is no record of any investigation and the matter was left at that. The moral seems to be that a prize heifer in those days was of more worth than a man,” according to Whittemore.
Apparently his heroic ride, not unlike his last name, was all but forgotten.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, however, the government did see fit to reimburse the Teachout brothers for the loss of their horses.
Confederate guerrillas and the state of Colorado is not a combination that instantly comes to mind when you are putting two and two together. But the Adolph Guirand ranch between Hartsel and Fairplay played prominently in the only known Colorado Confederate guerrilla "attack."
Guirand, unaware that Jim Reynolds and seven other men were in fact raiders planning to rob Colorado mining interests in an effort to help finance the Confederacy, offered the travelers a place to stay and warm meal at dinner and breakfast. The next day, however, the raiders robbed him of his horses and cash and raped his wife, according to Ken Jessen in his 1986 book, "Colorado Gunsmoke."
A bit later they also robbed the McLaughlin stage station after taking a local mining manager hostage and continued on a thieving and violent rampage on toward what is present-day Conifer. Word of their plunderous deeds eventually reached Denver. A cavalry unit, commanded by a Captain Maynard, set out to chase the rebels after some delay. Additionally a posse from the Breckenridge area was raised and pursued the raiders, as well.
Gunfire was exchanged between the Breckenridge posse and guerrillas on the north fork of the South Platte River near what was then known as Kenosha House.
One of the rebel band, Owen Singleterry, was killed in the exchange and the rest were dispersed without most of their equipment.
"Dr. Cooper, a member of the posse, cut off Singleterry's head and took it into Fairplay. This grizzly reminder of the Reynold's gang was preserved in alcohol and remained in Fairplay for a number of years," wrote Jessen.
Reynolds and two other raiders escaped into New Mexico. Five others of the party were captured, tried in Denver and then, enroute to Fort Lyons in the company of Company A, 3rd Regiment of the Colorado Cavalry, were killed under mysterious circumstances near Russeville on Upper Cherry Creek.
But that is not the end to the story. After being shot trying to steal a horse in Taos, N.M., according to Legends of America.com, Jim Reynolds gave a deathbed account of burying treasure from his bands looting spree in South Park to another outlaw, Albert Brown, and drew a map identifying the location of that treasure.
"When they arrived at the site, they were disappointed to find that a forest fire had destroyed many landmarks.
While they found an old white hat that supposedly belonged to the decapitated Singleterry, a headless skeleton, and horse bones in a swamp, they were unable to find the rocked-in prospect hole. Brown and his partners made three more attempts to find the treasure, but finally gave up and returned home. Albert Brown later died in a drunken brawl in Laramie City, Wyoming Territory," says Legends of America. Com.
Brown passed on the map before he died to a Detective David J. Cook, In his 1897 book, Cook, quotes Reynold's conversation with Alfred Brown thusly:
"Jim and me buried the treasure the morning before the posse attack on Geneva Gulch. You go up above there a little ways and find where one of our horses mired down in a swamp. On up at the head of the gulch we turned to the right and followed the mountain around a little farther, and just above the head of Deer Creek, we found an old prospect hole at about timberline. There, we placed $40,000 in greenbacks, wrapped in silk oil cloth, and three cans of gold dust. We filled the mouth of the hole up with stones, and ten steps below, struck a butcher knife into a tree about four feet from the ground and broke the handle off, and left it pointing toward the mouth of the hole."
I know of no reports of that treasure ever being found.
Friday, August 22, 2008
I know of at least four places in Colorado called Chipeta Park. All are named after the famous Ute leader Ouray’s wife, Chipeta. There is, of course, the local version in the Ute Pass, which was renamed that in 1927, but spelled slightly different with an extra “i.” City parks in Poncha Springs, Nederland and Montrose also carry the moniker.
Ouray, himself, has more than a few things named after him in the state, among them, the southwestern town and county down in the San Juans. Many label Ouray the last great chief of the Utes, but historian Abbott Fay says it isn’t so.
“Ute Indians roamed the mountains in extended family groups but did, on occasion, elect a spokesman, called ‘Avought Datwdtch’ for each particular band. These representatives were therefore considered leaders only in a vague sense. Certainly Ouray served the purpose on occasion for the Uncompahgre Utes, his own band, but probably had no real leadership over the other four groups,” Fay wrote in “I Never Knew That About Colorado.”
“There were five bands of that tribe here in Colorado, but white military men and politicians liked to deal with Ouray,” according to Fay.
Perhaps Ouray was just in the right places at the right times, and knew the right people, in order to secure such a prominent role in Colorado history.
More than a few historians link him and Kit Carson, as they grew up in New Mexico. He learned to speak both English and Spanish and had additional knowledge of the Jicarilla Apache culture of his father’s family. When the Kit Carson Treaty was breached by silver miners in 1872, Ouray met with Otto Mears, who had begun work on a new toll road in affected areas even before Congress ratified the treaty in April of 1874.
Mears reportedly offered the Utes (represented in this case by Ouray) an annual annuity of $25,000 a year and Ouray himself would also be paid $1,000 per year, to allow relocation again, according to historians John H. Monnett and Michael McCarthy. He was also asked to travel to Washington, on the government’s dime, to meet with the president.
But who was Chipeta? According to the Women of the West Museum in Denver, White Singing Bird, as Chipeta was also known, was born in 1843 and grew up in the south central mountains of Colorado. She married Ouray when she was 16. Press reports commented on her beauty and grace.
She was called Queen of the Utes, though the term was meant in a derogatory way by a Rocky Mountain News reporter who described her presiding over Ute “vermin” in her buckskin.
But then Denver poet Eugene Field wrote a poem dedicated to Chipeta and her role in saving white hostages from Utes after the Meeker Massacre, and an adoring public embraced her for her wisdom, beauty and grace. She became as famous as Ouray.
Today, there are streets, places and organizations all over Colorado and Utah named after Chipeta, writes Dr. Colorado Thomas Noel. Other items share the name as well. For example, the Colorado moth Tricholita chipeta and the potato variety developed by agronomist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
“When Chipeta was a baby, a band of Tabeguache Utes found her crawling in the ruins of a Kiowa Apache village, the only survivor of a savage attack.
The Utes adopted her and raised her as their own. She became a caretaker for Ouray’s son after Ouray’s first wife died. The two became close and married. Ouray and Chipeta were inseparable. It was rare for Ute women to travel with their men, but the two traveled together as Ouray negotiated with whites and other Ute leaders for Ute lands. Ouray received a salary for his role as an interpreter and hunter for the Los Pinos Agency. Other Utes became suspicious and assumed that the money he received was in return for selling off Ute lands.” Noel writes.
But while Ouray was no longer welcome with certain Ute bands, Chipeta was accepted with open arms by everyone, according to Noel.
“The counsel she kept with other Utes became invaluable to Ouray. Soon, Chipeta was giving counsel to visiting chiefs, tribal headmen and U.S. functionaries. She continued in this role for the rest of her life. It was Chipeta who stayed up all night with Ouray as the White River Utes fought with the U.S. Cavalry up north, convincing him not to ride to their aid and thus, preserving what peace the Utes had left. After Ouray died and the Utes were stripped of their remaining Colorado lands, she continued to advocate for her people and for peace.”
The U.S. Government moved the Uncompahgre Utes to the Uintah Reservation in Utah. Ouray himself died in 1880. Three years later, Chipeta remarried and later adopted four children, says Women of West Museum.
“After being banished to Utah, she was forgotten. On the Uintah Reservation, the Utes faced a harsh climate far different than their ancestral homelands in Colorado. They were told to farm, but most of the land wasn’t arable. The government allowed miners and others to trick the Utes and steal land from them. Chipeta survived on government commodities. Then the government subdivided the reservation and took more land away. Yet Chipeta’s spirit wasn’t broken and she still spoke for many Utes. In 1897, her brother McCook represented her opinions in Washington D.C.,” according to Noel.
The public began to notice her again. People sent her gifts. She was invited to Colorado to visit Montrose and the Uncompahgre Plateau.
“President Taft insisted she ride with him on his train to watch the opening of the Gunnison Tunnel. She was once again Queen of the Utes,” Noel said.
She died in 1924 on the reservation in Utah.
“When she died, the city of Montrose insisted she be exhumed from her humble grave in Utah and buried in Montrose in an elaborate ceremony,” Noel said. “Her brother McCook agreed and today, she rests there in her ancestral homeland.”
Chipeta, who had been known to dine with Kit Carson’s family and in the lavish homes of Indian affairs agents, was eulogized in Washington D.C. newspapers and was well-loved.
By Rob Carrigan
Top Photo Information:
Chipeta in a visit to Washington D.C.
Chipeta as an older woman, near Montrose, about the time of completion of the Gunnison Tunnel.
It is hard to think of it now, but maybe a person needed more acquired knowledge, more horse sense if you will, to get stuff back and forth from the mines a hundred years ago. Miners created such fascinating technology as a jig-back tram where a loaded bucket pulls the empty bucket back up the hill. But of course, they relied a lot on animal power.
“When I first came here in 1927, everything was handled with horses and mules,” says muleskinner Adolph Jordan in “The Way It Was, A Historical Narrative of Ouray County,” interviews compiled by David Bachman and Tod Bacigalupi. “Everything was freighted out of the mountains with wagons, two-horse, four horse, and six horse teams, hauling ore off the hills and supplies up to the mines. The small outfits packed the ore out and the supplies in on burros and mules. In the mornings there were quite a few horses and mules going up the street at six o’clock. You could hear the bell ringing, the muleskinners cussing, and the chains jangling. In the evening it would be the same when they came back in.”
Jordan said that a six-horse team had a line for each horse that stopped and started them and turned them right or left. Using that method, a driver could make each horse do different things, a necessary requirement when hauling load up the steep grades.
“When you are going up those switchbacks, the outside wheelhorse has to pull the whole load, sometimes as much as 30 feet. If all the horses pull at the same time, the back wheels of the wagon will go over the side. The horses that worked those big wagons weighed over a ton, maybe 2,300 or 2,400 pounds. You put a little horse in there and he can’t do it. He ain’t got the weight. And you don’t work the wheeler; only when you need them. The wheelers were the horse next to the wagon. The pointers were the middle two horses, and the leaders were the two front horses.”
It was very dangerous as well, if you didn’t know how to control your horses.
“They used to buy a lot of those big, old draft studs — stallions from the east. They were cranky. When you were driving them up the mountain and stopped to water them, you had to unhook the outside tugs on the wheelers so they could turn and get a drink from the trough. Sometimes one of those studs would grab the other one by the neck, and they would take the whole wagon over the hill. Kill them all. You could still see the wheels down in the creek a couple of years ago.”
And then there was the possibility of getting caught in a snow slide.
“I’ve had mules knocked down by the slides many times, but they usually get up on their own. They are stronger you know.” Jordan said.
“One time I was bringing some machinery down from the old U. S. Mill with a string of four mules. A slide about three or four feet thick and a hundred yards wide came down, and that thing knocked three of those mules’ feet out from under them. They rode on top of that slide down about a hundred yards. They was abouncing up and down; it looked like they were going up ten feet sometimes. It had skinned up their legs a little bit, but if they had gotten under it, the slide would have ground them up and killed them. But it threw them up in the air, and they lit on top of the snow. The lead rope was broken free. We always kept rotten pigtails on the packsaddles so if something did happen, they would break pretty easily. I went down, got the mules on their feet, straightened up the packsaddles, and led them up. They didn’t make hardly a dent in the snow where the slide had run. It was packed that hard. Yeah, them snow slides, they will do some freakish things.”
Horsepower and four-wheel drive is clearly not what it once was.
“Fire is the most tolerable third party,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in 1853. But apparently several contrary aspects weren’t considered out there in the woods near Walden Pond.
Case in point: The following story points out a negative ramification of careless administration. Pardon my junior high sense of humor.
Under the heading of “Burning butt starts fire in outdoor toilet,” ran the recent Associated Press story about a fire near Jackson Hole ski area in Wyoming.
“Plastic fixtures melted in the mid-mountain mens room at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, but the fire did not spread beyond the toilet pit,” according to The Associated Press.
Apparently someone pitched a cigarette in the facility that can only be reached by snow machine or on skis.
“The fire smoldered overnight before ski patrollers tried to put it out by dumping snow down the toilet. Firefighters arrived around 10 a.m. and began dumping 5-gallon jugs of water down.”
The fire took several hours to put out and the toilet uses a compost system. Signs in the facility clearly warn people not to throw cigarettes down it.
“It was too hot to be sitting on the toilet, that’s for sure,” AP quoted Teton Village Fire Chief Watt Hyer.
In a somewhat related matter, the family of country music legend Johnny Cash have successfully blocked an attempt to use his hit song “Ring of Fire” to promote hemorrhoid relief products.
According to the Nashville Tennessean, the idea had been backed by Merle Kilgore, who co-wrote the song with Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash.
The BBC News World Edition said he had not intended to upset the family and Kilgore at first thought it was funny because Johnny Cash had often joked about hemorrhoids when introducing the song on stage.
Cash’s daughter Rosanne said the family “would never allow the song to be demeaned like that.”
Both Johnny and June Carter Cash died in 2003.
There is always a question of sensibilities. Different people have different ideas about what is acceptable and what is not. Careful decision s on controversial matters —good and bad — tend to put the decision makers on the hot seat. I think I agree with George Bernard Shaw who wrote in 1903, “The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.”
While playing a friendly game of Monopoly recently, someone tried telling me that the board position of the Short Line Railroad and the “Shortline to Cripple Creek,” were one and the same. I didn’t argue with them but decided to investigate. Following is the result of that investigation.
According to Tivis E. Wilkins in his 1983 book “Short Line To Cripple Creek: The Story of the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railway,” the standard gauge railroad made its way into the near-exclusive narrow-gauge domain of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
“The Short Line utilized proven engineering methods to cut an impressive route to Cripple Creek. So impressive that, when then Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt traversed the route in 1901, he is credited with saying that it was a ‘trip that bankrupts the English Language.’ When the track was removed and the route was converted to the Corley Mountain Highway, an early tourism endeavor that survives today as the famous Gold Camp Road,” says Wilkins’ book.
The game of Monopoly, on the other hand, was invented by a salesman by the name of Charles Darrow, according to “The Authorized Version,” by Maxine Brady, from “The Monopoly Book, Strategy and Tactics,” published by Parker Brothers in 1975.
Darrow was selling heating and engineering equipment before the stock market crash of 1929 but spent most of the early 1930s looking for a job. Darrow took whatever odd jobs he could in order to feed his two young children, his wife and himself.
“To fill his idle hours, and help him forget his worries temporarily, Darrow invented things. Some of them were for fun: other was probably devised in the hopes that they would become profitable. He made jigsaw puzzles: he created a combination bat and ball, which was supposed to be used as a beach toy; he designed an improved pad for recording and scoring bridge games. They were interesting diversions, but no one was willing to pay for them,” wrote Brady.
Darrow constructed the first Monopoly at his kitchen table at his home in Germantown, Pennsylvania one evening in 1930. He sketched out street names from Atlantic City, New Jersey on a round piece of oil clothe that covered the table.
“The streets he chose were all from the same side of the city: between the Inlet and Park Place, along the Boardwalk. ... He included the three railroads that carried the wealthy vacationers to the resort, and the utility companies that service them, as well as the parcels of real estate of varying prices. He wanted a fourth railroad to make his board symmetrical, so he added the Short Line: actually it was a freight-carrying bus company that had a depot in Atlantic City,” Brady writes.
Rough treatment for would-be presidents here in Teller CountyIt has been a long time, but presidential candidates once thought a visit to Teller County was a required stop. Even if the locals were pretty rough on them when they arrived.On a campaign trip for President William McKinley in September of 1900, Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Victor in the hopes of polishing the shine in the gold camp with his candidate’s support for the permanent gold standard. Many Coloradans, however, did not approve of McKinley’s stance and favored instead a bimetallic monetary system and the free coinage of silver.
Newly-formed Teller County in fact had been named in honor of the most ardent supporter of “free silver,” Henry Teller. Teller and 22 other Republicans had walked out of 1896 Republican convention because of McKinley’s selection and his gold affectation.
Most miners in the district leaned toward “free silver” and another of its champions, William Jennings Bryan for president.
“To make matters worse, senators Lodge and Wolcott, outspoken opponents of Bryan, were to accompany Roosevelt.” notes Brian H. Levine, in his 1982 book “Lowell Thomas: Victor: The Man and the Town.”
“Rumblings of trouble were felt up and down Victor Avenue,” according to Levine. “When Roosevelt appeared at 5:15 p.m., he was greeted by cheers, music and pro-Bryanite banners.”
“Democratic hoodlums” interrupted his speech and fight broke out later when Wolcott leaned out the carriage and snatched a Bryan campaign sign away.
“The Republican Marching Club was quickly attacked. Free coinage demonstrators charged Roosevelt. Women and children joined the fight. The Gold Coin Band continued playing patriotic tunes,” writes Levine.
Roosevelt was barely able to scurry to the awaiting Midland train. In fact, he did have his pince-nez knocked from his face he might have been beamed by two-by-four wielded by a Bryan supporter if Danny Sullivan had not intervened. Sullivan reportedly received a red sapphire ring later as a measure of gratitude.
But the close call did not stop Roosevelt from returning to the district in August of 1901 as Vice President. He was welcomed this time in Victor and toured the Portland and Gold Coin mines, power lunched with Irving Howbert, Jimmy Burns, Spencer Penrose and Warren and Harry Woods, and shook thousands of hands at a reception in his honor.
The $500 worth of gold that the Vice President mined himself at the Gold Coin was sacked and presented to him as a present.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Ralph L, Carr cut his teeth in the news game in the rough and tumble streets of turn-of-the-century Cripple Creek. At the same time, he matched wits with friendly competition and rivalry of the caliber of Lowell Thomas. You would think that the publishing business would have been his legacy.
Carr became more famous for his politics.
But it didn’t affect his friendship with world-renowned newsman Lowell Thomas. The two were steadfast buds up until Carr’s Death in 1950. They became pals in their days as rival newspaper editors, covering much of the same news.
Carr edited a rival paper in Cripple Creek, The Times, at the same time Thomas was at the Victor Record and News.
But, between 1939-1943 Colorado had one of the most courageous and independent governors ever to be elected, by many accounts. Ralph Lawrence Carr was born in Rosita, Colorado and educated in the Cripple Creek school system. After receiving his LLB from the University of Colorado, Carr moved to Victor, Trinidad, and then Antonito where he practiced law and became a publisher. Carr served as a county attorney of Conejos County, and then as Colorado Assistant Attorney General. The apex of his legal career occurred when he became a United States District Attorney. As a Republican, Carr lost this influential post when the Democratic "New Dealers" began to dominate national politics. Despite this loss he was able to stay in the public eye by becoming a powerful and prominent water/irrigation lawyer.
In 1939 a struggling Republican Party supported Carr as their gubernatorial candidate, and won. Within the first half-hour of his term, Carr proposed a plan for a balanced budget by transferring state income taxes from public schools to the state's general fund. These immediate fiscal measures helped to save our state from imminent bankruptcy. Also due to Carr's leadership, the Legislature passed the State Reorganization Act, which greatly increased the efficiency of state government. As a result, Carr is one of the few governors known for making the Colorado bureaucracy more operative.
While Carr's policies were aimed at dismantling the expensive bureaucracy of the New Deal, Carr still supported Roosevelt's foreign policy and favored American entrance into World War II after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The war with Japan initiated a chain of events that bred discrimination and intolerance toward Japanese-Americans. In 1942 an estimated 120,000 Japanese-Americans were stripped of their property and possessions. These displaced citizens were resettled in land-locked states by the War Relocation Authority so that the supposed "yellow peril" could be contained. The question on many Coloradoans' minds was not whether American citizens of Japanese decent should be stripped of their rights and put in internment camps, but where the camps should be. The overwhelming opinion of the populace was typified by a series of highway billboards proclaiming, "Japs keep going."
In other states, the Governors took aggressive stances against allowing relocation camps in their States.
The Governor of Wyoming went as far as saying:
“There will be Japs hanging from every pine tree.” If the Federal Government tried to relocate West Coast Japanese Americans there.
One of the few voices of reason during wartime was Governor Carr, who continued to treat the Japanese-Americans with respect and sought to help them keep their American citizenship. He sacrificed his political career to bravely confront the often-dark side of human nature.
At one time, the New York Times consider him as being on the path to become president of the United States.
"If you harm them, you must harm me. I was brought up in a small town where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it because it threatened the happiness of you and you and you." Carr's selfless devotion to all Americans, while destroying his hopes for a senate seat, did in the end become extolled as, "a small voice but a strong voice."
A new book: The principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story by 9News reporter Adam Schrager, has brought new attention to the forgotten hero and as recently as April, they renamed U.S Hwy 285 from Denver to the New Mexico state line the “Ralph Carr Memorial Highway.”
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
(January, 2005) A rosin-covered roped tied my right hand to the 1600-pound bull. I straddled the animal and squeezed my knees hard into the indentions in muscle structure of its massive shoulders. Two men, John Tillotson and Grant Schultz, wearing dusty cowboy hats and the regular gear, explained to me what I must do to survive. Though I had met neither of them prior to that night, I sort of trusted them. Had to: they had been in the same position minutes before and I sure didn’t know what I was doing.
Lord knows it wasn’t for the money involved.
I paid $10 for ticket to ride and might have cleared $70 or $80 after gas and food was considered, even if I did win something. That was not likely.
More than twenty years ago I rode a bull for the first time at legendary bareback rider Bruce Ford’s arena in Kersey Colorado.
Earlier this month, when the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs closed indefinitely, just as National Western Stock Show was gearing up for its annual run, Bruce Ford was quoted in a Denver Post story by Kevin Simpson.
“Rodeo is making money now, and it’s kind of detracting from what rodeo is all about, ... an American pie kind of deal,” said Ford
And yet, officials say the Hall of Fame and Museum had suffered financially for the past two years prior to closing. According to most reports, the attraction has more than 50,000 visitors a year.
“To some, rodeo is a sport. To others, it’s a business. But to most competitors, rodeo is simply a way of life,” notes the PRCA web site at http://prorodeo.org/hof/.
Way of life or not, it is changing. There is more rodeo on TV, more fans, more rodeos, more prize money, more, more. More than a half million people a year attend the National Western. The PRCA sanctions more than 700 rodeos in the United States and Canada. But is more, better?
I don’t know. But I think you need to ask some cowboys. Not me, but some real ones.
The bull I was to ride was one of the last ones in the chutes. Someone else who hadn’t ridden very much wanted the one they picked out for me — but one of Ford’s employees told them it was mine.
They got the big red animal in one of the four chutes with a little help from an electronic cattle prod. I could see steam coming up off the back of the bull. Tillotson told me to put my foot between its shoulders and move it around a little, then slowly ease down on to its back. He and Schultz helped put more rosin on a rope and glove they loaned me and explained how to wrap the rope around my hand. So there I was, strapped like a backpack on a beast 10 times my size.
Tillotson asked, “Are you ready?”
“I guess,” I answered nervously and gave them the signal to open the gate.
The bull went the opposite way they told me it would. I handled that fine but then it tried to throw me backwards twice and forwards once. I was off before I knew what was going on. I saw Tillotson coming out to get me after going over the bull’s head. He told me later, only half jokingly, if the bull came after him he was going to hold me in front.
A couple of cowboys chased the animal through the gates and it was over. I had ridden my bull, maybe only for a few seconds, but nevertheless, a ride. It’s something I can still talk about twenty years later. And the money had no bearing on it all.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Life is for one generation. A good name (or a bad one) is forever. The area known as “the Divide” has a historically strong name or reputation for inclement Colorado weather. The May snowstorm last year serves as a reminder that at almost any time of year, we might be able to expect frosty conditions.
Recall recent history with the blizzard of October of 1997 when nearly 300 people needed refuge from the storm and spent most of the weekend in the Falcon Inn and the Monument Town Hall. Rescue workers worked non-stop for days and some nearby areas spent the next week digging out.
But it has carried that reputation for a long time.
Lee Whiteley’s excellent 1999 book, “The Cherokee Trail, Bent’s Old Fort to Fort Bridger,” considers the unpredictability of weather here as it related to early pioneers traveling the Cherokee Trail through “the Pinery” or Black Forest as it is known today.
“Bad weather conditions were a real problem for trail travelers. Although most of the travel through eastern Colorado was during the spring and summer months, violent storms could occur at any time,” he wrote.
As early as 1842, Rufus Sage noted the same problem. “The country hearabouts … is much subject to storms of rain, hail, snow, and wind, - and it is rarely a person can pass through it without being caught by a storm of some kind.”
And get caught, they did.
Capt. Randolph B. Marcy’s expedition through the area in 1858 is a well-known example.
“This is a locality which is very subject to severe storms, and it is here that I encountered the most severe snow-storm that I have ever known, on the first day of May, 1858. I would advise travelers to hasten past this spot as rapidly as possible during the winter and spring months, as a storm might prove very serious here,” Marcy wrote and Whiteley include that account in his book.
“It was a mild and pleasant spring day, with no appearance of bad weather, but as night approached it became cloudy, and about dark a snow storm set in accompanied by a violent gale of wind from the north, which increased until it became a perfect tempest, and continued without cessation for sixty hours.”
Charles Michael Fagan, a muleskinner with that expedition, froze to death in that storm trying to recover horses and mules spooked by the severe weather. His grave on the trail at the base of Point of Rocks became a landmark for generations that followed.
Fagan was not the only one to lose their life in a severe storm on “the Divide.”
Mrs. A.C. Hunt wrote the following on June 25, 1859 in her journal.
“Traveled 15 miles to a pine forest – very beautiful but sad from number of graves here – 8 are in view of persons who have frozen to death, one as late as June Third, ’59. The changes are so sudden even in the summer that from being warm it will be so cold as to benumb the body before fire can be made to warm it.”
Everyone needs to dream: track engineers, land speculators, town planners, and folks determined to find a shorter, easier route. Word of such a dream swirled around at the turn of the last century in the form of a new railroad line, to be built by the Colorado & Southern that was to snake its way up the south fork of the Platte River on western edge of Douglas County. Optimism ran rampant.
“That the line will become a part of one of the greatest trunk system s in country there can be but little doubt. For over a week the presidents of the Colorado & Southern, Colorado Midland, Rio Grande Western and Denver & Southwestern railroads have been in secret conference at New York, considering, it is said, the formation a new trans-continental line, in which the Burlington, also, will have a hand,” suggested the March 24, 1900, edition of the West Creek Mining News.
The line was to substantially reduce the distance between Cripple Creek and Denver as well as fuel consumption because of reduced grade.
“From Leadville to Salt Lake the distance by the Midland is few mile shorter than by the Rio Grande, but by the projected new line to Los Angeles, the distance to salt water will be greatly reduced. Altogether the little stretch of track now being built along the western edge of Douglas County seems destined to become a very important link in American railroading,” read the Mining News.
“From Denver to South Platte station, the distance is 29 miles. From there to Horse Creek to Lake George is about 25 miles, making Lake George 69 miles from Denver. From Lake George to Denver by the present route of the Colorado Midland is 120 miles. The difference in the two routes is not alone the 51 miles of track saved, but also the avoidance of the heavy climbs over two divides, Palmer Lake and Ute Pass, both of which are very expensive in time and fuel.”
The Mining News followed the progress of the proposed line extension later in 1900.
“The long-talked-of railroad is at last a reality. All this week work of construction has been in progress between South Platte and Nighthawk on what will undoubtedly be a through line from Denver to Cripple Creek,” read the paper upon those developments, though it did note a hitch.
“A slight impediment in the Colorado & Southern’s plans came Wednesday when the Denver Power & Irrigation company swore out an injunction preventing the railroad from interfering with the latter’s rights on the quarter section where it proposes to construct a dam. As the rails had already been laid through the greater part of this piece of land, and as the railroad was not enjoined from working on other parts of the proposed route, the interference amounts to little. The only result of the Power Company’s complaint thus far has been to spur the railroad constructors to greater haste in their work,” wrote the Mining News.
Susan Conola Appleby, in her 2001 book, Fading Past, noted that other factors had a hand in its ultimate demise.
“However, On May 3, 1900, before the railroad advance much further toward completing the line to Cripple Creek, a flood immersed the area,” she wrote.
The flood, according to the Denver Republican, “descended like a tidal wave fourteen feet high, ruining roads, destroying buildings and floating away everything portable in its place.”
Appleby says it was the lawsuit over disputed land that put the final nail in the line’s coffin.
“Ultimately, (Walter) Cheeseman and the Denver Union Water Company retained control over the disputed area, and the railroad scrapped its mountain route to Cripple Creek and instead took over the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railway, which previously built a standard gauge line to the booming mountain town,” Appleby wrote.
“Local legend makers would like us to believe that the original cowboy hat was created while John B. Stetson was camped along Monument Creek near the present day location of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association building. That cannot be substantiated,” writes Loren R. Whittemore in “An Illustrated History of Ranching in the Pikes Peak Region.
The story is that John Stetson and companions, seeking benefits of a drier climate hunted in the area in the early 1860s. According to the legend, he tried to impress his hunting buddies by showing them how he could make clothe out of fur without weaving. He created an unusually large-brimmed hat with a high crown that he wore the rest of the trip and grew quite fond of. The hats benefits included an insulating pocket of air, the ability to carry water if needed, and extra protection for western weather.
Later, when he returned to Philadelphia, he began making and selling the hats and the rest, I guess, is history.
“In 1865, with $100, John B. Stetson rented a small room, bought tools he needed, bought $10 worth of fur and the John B. Stetson Hat Company was born. A year later the “Hat of the West” or the now famous “Boss of the Plains” hat was born and the name Stetson was on its way to becoming the mark of quality, durability, innovation and beauty,” according to the company’s web site.
An alternate version of the story holds that hat of that style was already being produced at Christy’s Hats from Frampton Cotrerell in Bristol, England.
“The main business was trading with the West Indies, making large brimmed felt hats for slaves harvesting sugar cane in the rainy season,” according to Wikipedia.
Christy’s, which owned the patent and Stetson, took the battle to the courts. Christy’s won that battle but apparently lost the war. By 1886 Stetson’s hat company was the largest in the world.
The authentic Stetson hat still enjoys widespread popularity in a great number of local and international venues and traditions. A flat-brimmed Stetson is included in the official uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Red Serge. The hat replaced pith helmets that were worn until that time.
Locally, the receipt of a “Senior Stetson” at Colorado School of Mines has marked the beginning of the last year for engineers since 1905. The tradition originated for freshly graduated engineers to avoid having a clean hat that marked them as “greenhorns” in the mining industry.
Stetson Hat Company continues to make hats in their factory in Garland, Texas and the hats are among the most well known in the world.
Labeled at the time as the “microphone scandal,” one of the most bizarre interactions between the press and historic Colorado politicians occurred during the administration of Teller Ammons.
Ammons, the youngest man ever to become Governor of Colorado (elected at age 39), shared some similarities with Teller County. Namely, both the governor, and the county, were named in honor of the same man — legendary U.S. Senator Henry Teller.
Henry M. Teller had been a close and respected friend of Teller Ammons father, Ellias M. Ammons. The senior Ammons was also Governor of Colorado from 1912 to 1914.
Teller Ammons, interestingly enough, had other Teller County connections in that, when he tried to get reelected for a second term, he lost his bid to another Teller County political legend, Ralph L. Carr, a onetime newspaper editor in the Cripple Creek and Victor mining district.
Teller Ammons was raised and educated in rural Douglas County on his father’s cattle ranch. Prior to his political career which began with his election to the state senate in 1930, he had worked in the newspaper industry in Denver, as well. In 1936, he was elected as a Democrat, to serve in the highest office in the state.
“The most publicized aspect of his administration was the “microphone scandal,” according his biographers at the Colorado State Archives, James O. Chipman and Erin McDanal. This investigation resulted in the conviction of a Denver Post reporter, a private detective and an attorney on a charge of eaves-dropping on the governor.
“In December, 1936, shortly before Ammons took office, Jack H. Gilmore, a private detective, and newspaperman Walden E. Sweet placed microphones in Ammon’s soon-to-be occupied statehouse suite. Both were reportedly in the service of Earl H. Ellis, an attorney. They later held their motive was a quest for information to prove wrongdoing among high state officials, although they ultimately uncovered very little,” says the state archives.
“Ammons had been puzzled because the names of his appointees were appearing in the Denver Post before the appointees, themselves had been notified.”
That and a tip from someone led to the office being searched and the discovery of two microphones and wiring leading down the ventilator shafts to an apartment belonging to attorney five blocks away. A grand jury indicted the three men responsible for the bugging of the office. They were convicted on eavesdropping charges and the attorney was disbarred.
Even after extensive review in the press, the recordings really turned up no negative information against the Governor.
“I don’t know to this day what they were trying to get on me,” Ammons noted at the time according to the archives. “It was embarrassing to a lot of people, but the worst thing was that my mother said ‘I didn’t know Teller used that kind of language.’”
Friday, August 15, 2008
My dad, a life-long resident of the state and currently living in the southwestern corner, swears that there are wolverines in Colorado. Not only that, but he also claims he has spotted the beast twice in the last few years.
“From an official standpoint,” notes Tyler Baskfield, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, “ They do not exist here in the state.”
“There are reported sightings throughout the state – mostly at higher elevations,” Baskfield acknowledges. The animals are difficult to document because “they roam 60 or so miles a day, that makes it hard to keep up with them.”
Not far from here, in February of 1966, came the report of the slaying of wolverine, at that time, the first verified in Colorado in more than 25 years.
“The animal was shot Friday by Roy Goecker of 4900 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton, a professional guide, while he was hunting mountain lions along Pine Creek near Rampart Range in Douglas County,” wrote Al Nakkula of the Rocky Mountain News more than 40 years ago.
“Goecker told game officials his three hunting dogs came across the scent of the wolverine and pursued it into a rocky draw where the animal was cornered in deep snow. The guide said he was compelled to shoot the wolverine because of the known ferocious nature of the animal, to save his dogs.”
Nakkula’s Rocky Mountain News story at the time cited Herman Schultz, a wildlife conservation officer for the State Game, Fish and Parks Department, as saying the that the wolverine easily could have destroyed Goecker’s hunting dogs.
“He estimated the brown-black wolverine, a female about three feet long and weighing 21 pounds, was about 20 years old. Although the animal still had long sharp claws, her normal large fangs were nearly worn down to the gums because of age,” the report said.
According to San Francisco State University Department of Geography, the species officially named Gulo Gulo, but commonly known as wolverine, glutton, skunk bear, Indian devil, and carcajou, is a fairly elusive critter.
“Basic information on wolverine habitat relationships is almost non-existent,” says the University’s web site. “They generally inhabit areas above timberline, oftentimes preferring lower-elevation forests during winter. Wolverines occur in such low numbers across most of their remote habitat, and are so mobile; that it has been is extremely difficult to study them.”
“Healthy populations of wolverines appear to exist in Montana and Idaho, but scientists have been unable to locate populations in other plausible mountain locations, such as southwest Colorado or the Cascades of Washington,” says San Francisco State University’s site, “They have evaded trap and camera in California for over 75 years.”
The Department of Geography at Michigan State University (Wolverines) notes that extensive scientific efforts in California and Michigan have failed to prove that they still inhabit those states.
“Since 1979 Colorado wildlife officers have investigated more than 100 sightings and snow tracks, but by the time they return with a camera, the tracks have invariably drifted over. The closest they’ve come to a real wolverine was in 1982, when they nabbed an escapee from a Colorado Springs zoo who had gotten himself hopelessly tangled in a Denver window well,” according the Michigan State University’s Department of Geography web site.
Nothing is more dangerous than a holdover from times past. Refusing to change, such a relic is bound and determined to do things the way they always have, according to his or her own rules and will not go peacefully into the here and now. Which brings our story to the noble life and violent times of Old Mose, ‘King of the Colorado Grizzly Bears.’
In the area surrounding Black Mountain, west of Guffey in Park County, the 1,130-pound ‘Mose,’ the last known grizzly bear recorded in the South Park area, preyed on so many cattle that ranchers set and left standing a $500 reward for his hide for over 35 years. The bear, with its signature missing toes on its back paws, was credited with killing at least three men and over 800 cattle.
In 1884, Jake Radcliff and two other hunters by the surnames of Seymour and Cory went hunting for deadly bruin, but Radcliff finished the hunt on the wrong end a bear claw. His companions were able to get him back to a ranch house and call for a doctor. But when the Doc tried to transport Radcliff’s mauled body to Fairplay, he expired enroute. Two other cowboys and ‘would be hunters’ trying to collect the reward also became the ‘hunted’ according to legends of the day.
“In 1904 a bear hunter from Idaho came after the famous Mose,” notes Virginia McConnell Simmons in the 1966 book “Bayou Salado: The Story of South Park.”
“Together with a local rancher and their hunting dogs, they finally brought Old Mose to bay after two months. It took six shots then to kill him. When the carcass was cut up, it was discovered that nearly one hundred bullets had found their mark in the old rogue’s body,” wrote Simmons.
Jack Bell, recounted the story of the great bear’s death in a famous piece for “Outdoor Life” in 1904.
“He died befitting his rank and lay down in his last sleep with imposing grandeur. Just think, after being shot through and through times without number, baited with every device and cunning known to trapper; chased by demon posses of cowboys an ranchers bent on his extermination, and in all this he has met them with superior generalship, cunning unexcelled, knowledge supreme.”
The four dogs used by professional bear hunter J.W. Anthony (who had killed at least 40 bears prior to tackling the Old Mose case) were apparently an oddity and object of curiosity to the bear that had eluded hunters and trappers for nearly four decades.
“His taking away is due solely to the years of training of a pack of incomparable bear dogs, who know their quarry, his habits, mode of attack, retreat, as well as this animal itself. He was handicapped by this band of intelligent trainers and knew not their circling, pinching, running away tactics. All this was new to the old monarch — the talk of the dogs brought him to a standstill with wonder and amazement. He did not even strike at them, but sat and seemed to ponder and try to unravel and untried quality that he never before been called upon to meet. So he sat and looked and looked, without a growl or even a passing of the murderous paws,” according to Bell’s magazine account.
As the dogs preoccupied the bear, Anthony shot him with a .30-40 carbine — at least six times, in the jowl, the left shoulder, the face, through the shoulder, and the shoulder again, and perhaps again.
Anthony was then forced to reload.
“Looking steadfastly at the man refilling the magazine of his rifle for a few seconds, he at last made up his mind that it would be policy to first kill him and then pursue his uninterrupted analysis of these strange dogs that had the courage to snap at him and tear bunches of fur from his incomparable coat. Slowly he started toward the hunter, never leaving the awkward slow walk of his species. His eyes burned as with fire, and his coming was terrorizing to any but the seasoned bear killer. When at about sixty-two feet away he lowered his head with an unsounded challenge, and as his head was bending low, the hunter drew a bead at the point between the ears, and taking a long breath, gently began pressing the trigger. Slowly as the mountain pine begins to fall under the woodman’s axe, Old Mose, the terror of all, man and beast alike, began to settle down. Slowly, slowly and with neither sound nor quiver, the massive king gave up his life as he had lived it, in blood and violence. He met his death with honor, willing to the last to measure his great strength and cunning in mortal combat with that of the hunter, who dared to stand before him and dispute his reign,” Jack Bell wrote.
And so ends our story. Last year, after several years of fundraising by the Adams State College Alumni Association and ASC Grizzly Club, the Grizzly Courtyard project was completed in Alamosa. The crowning glory of the project is a 12-foot bronze statue of Old Mose, the most dreaded grizzly bear in the entire United States.