Saturday, October 25, 2008

Teller Institute tests relationship


The tendrils of relationship reach across mountains and states, names and people, and things seemingly unrelated. Perhaps there is a connection after all.
A 160 parcel of land in Grand Junction, once owned by the federal government, served for nearly 25 years as the Teller Institute, an off-reservation Indian boarding school. It was informally called the Teller Institute for Congressman Henry M. Teller, who promoted the enabling legislation in Congress -- the same Henry Teller that Teller county was named for.
Construction began on the school in 1885 and according to Ben Fogelberg, of the Colorado Historical Society in a recent article in Colorado Heritage, “was originally built for children and young adults from the Uintah and Ouray reservations in Utah and the Southern and Ute Mountian Ute reservations in Colorado.”
By the turn of the century in 1900, nearly 200 students per year enrolled there and Ute, Navajo, Papago, Moquis, Shoshone, Tonto, Coyoteno, Pima, Hopi, Jicarilla Apache and other tribes were all represented.
“The facility embodied the federal goal to assimilate native people into American society through English language and vocational instruction in a setting far removed from tribal culture,” wrote Fogelberg.
Early accounts of poor living conditions, severe discipline and abuse cost the school support from the Ute families that it was originally built for, and by 1893, less than 14 percent of the students there belonged to a Ute tribe, according to historian Donald MacKendrick.
“In practical terms, fitting American Indian students for citizenship meant giving them the equivalent of an eighth-grade education emphasizing vocational skills – farming, blacksmithing, tailoring, domestic chores – over academic subjects other than English. In Grand Junction, pupils learned ‘enough English to transact the business of common life’ and made a staggering array of marketable products, from neckties and napkins to bridles and butter,” Fogelberg wrote.
The Indian school educated Native Americans from 1886 until 1911 and in addition to the many trades perfected there, athletics was held in high regard with football teams, baseball and track in the forefront. The experience of two other American Indians, Jim Thorpe and Lewis Tewanima, who became national heroes after attending a similar boarding school environment in Pennsylvania, was considered remarkable but possible here as well.
The students, both male and female, were instructed in the fine arts with various bands, orchestras, and wore fine fashionable clothing fitting of high culture.
The Federal Government decided to return Native American students to their homes for their education and the boarding school was closed in 1911, its assets were liquidated and the land given to the State of Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
“After the buildings had been vacant for several years, the State opened a training school in 1921, known as the State Home for Mental Defectives, to serve ‘handicapped and retarded students.’ The name was later changed to the State Home and Training School. By the 1960s, upwards of 800 people lived at the State Home, were some went to school and others worked on a diary farm within the plot of land owned by the state. The name of the facility was changed to the Grand Junction Regional Center in the 1970s,” says the Colorado Department of Human Services on its website.
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Simpson is local version of Forrest Gump


“Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told,” according Henry David Thoreau. “And it depends chiefly on the story-teller or historian whether that is interesting or not.”
That is why it’s my fault if this fellow’s local life doesn’t reach out and grab you.
Start pulling on one of the many threads of Tri-lakes history that connect Bill Simpson to the area’s past and the whole fabric unravels in front of you.
From his father’s exploits tracking down the mountain lion “Ol’ Disappearance,” in the 1920’s to the growth of today, Simpson has seen it all and been involved in most of it.
His dad ran the ice house operation on Monument Lake that harvested ice to cool rail cars before refrigeration. He recalls area motorist suffering frequent flat tires for years in the mid 1940s after the large warehouse was blown apart in a wind storm scattering shingle nails and other debris everywhere.
He was in the last class to graduate from “Big Red” in 1957. That building now serves as the administration building for District 38. He is also able to tell you the exact location of the last five Monument Post Offices, as his mother served as Post Master at most of them.
Among his fondest memories is his time spent out at the Monument Nursery and the sign shop there.
“I worked over there pulling weeds and picked up pine cones by the bushel,” he said.
The nursery would let the cones dry out and then put them in a big tumbler that looked like the drum that produces Colorado Lottery winning numbers. The loose seed were planted, grown locally, and then shipped around the country.
“White Fir cones were the most lucrative,” he said because they only produced cones in the very tip-top of the trees.
“We were paid $4 or $5 per bushel for White Fur. That was a lot of money back then.”
One technique involved finding and raiding a squirrel’s cache. You could take half and leave half of the cache with no negative effects on the squirrel, he said.
“Sometimes a cache would have five or six bushel in there.”
Yes, Simpson has witnessed change and participated.
“I have seen a lot of change. One of the major ones was when the Academy arrived. I worked out there in ’55 and ’56 when they were building part of it,” he said.
“Being in the construction business, I haven’t fought it. I have been a part of it.”

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Wind storm of the century


Almost anyone who has lived in Colorado for more than a year probably has a “worst storm” story. But as noted with many less-than-promised weather conditions, ‘blizzard’ is a relative term. No one is disputing a severe storm that appeared on November, 21, 1900 claim and in fact, it has been considered “The worst storm in Colorado Springs history,” by some for more than 100 years now.
“Any resident of Colorado Springs November 21, 1900 will never forget that day,” according to an article written by Edwin and Nancy Bathke for the Pikes Peak Westerners Posse. “A day and night of terror. No words can ever describe it; no pen can picture what the people of this city have known for the last 24 hours. At the present writing the wind has been blowing a gale that disorganized the city for more than 10 hours. We are shut off from communication with every other place, and people are huddled in their homes, praying that the calamity will not overtake them.”
The Bathkes pulled such a description out of one of the few newspapers that were able to print the following day. The Evening Telegraph was unable to get out an issue at all but Gazette produced limited copies under most unfavorable circumstances.
Damage was reported in every section of the city. Telegraph, telephone, light and power poles were blown down all over the city. At least eight separate fires broke out around the city destroying El Paso Ice and Coal Co.’s building, Electric Light Company’s powerhouse, Smith Green House and Shields-Morely Grocery, among other buildings.
“On Tejon Street there was an indescribable scene. The businessmen were scurrying everywhere, trying to stay the damage. The iron roofing curled and tore off, landing in great heaps and littering the streets,” wrote the Bathkes.
“The six largest churches in the city suffered only nominal damage. The First Presbyterian, the stone coping on the west gable roof was torn away. Precautionary measures taken limited the losses. At the First Baptist Church the $1,000 stained glass window in the west was saved with great difficulty by stays erected in the interior. At St Mary’s Catholic Church, Father Bender hired carpenters to place stays across the west transept windows, thus saving the $1,200 memorial window.”
Other buildings were not so lucky. The Board of Brokers Building lost its roof on Tejon Street. The Exchange National Bank building was severely damaged by the flying debris. El Paso Bank block’s entire roof was gone and the skylights at the Mining Exchange building caved in. It blew all the windows out on the Giddings block.
Street cars were blown off the tracks in the Broadmoor area. At the roasting plant for the Standard Smelting Co., the sides of the building were torn away and the great smoke stack there was torn off its foundation. The Antler’s Livery barn caught fire five different times during the wind storm. Many trees were toppled throughout the city.
At Colorado College, the weather bureau registered wind at 82 miles per hour until the weather vane spun around so much that it became overheated and melted away.
Wind speed has rarely been recorded at over 65 miles and hour in the same area since.
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One of the lowest crime rates in the country


Had enough name calling, charges and counter charges, political attacks and misinformation? No, I didn't think so. The following sound bytes and quotes from past political seasons should help you fill in the blanks.

"The truth, which is what elections are all about, is that the tax burden of the middle class has gone up while the tax burden of the middle class has gone down."--John Kerry, quoted by the Associated Press, Aug. 25, 2004.

"I'm hopeful. I know there is a lot of ambition in Washington, obviously. But I hope the ambitious realize that they are more likely to succeed with success as opposed to failure." -George W. Bush, Jan. 2001

"I've coined new words, like, misunderstanding and Hispanically." -George W. Bush, speaking at the Radio & Television Correspondents dinner, March 29, 2001

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know." —Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

When Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) told Rep. Peter Stark (D-Calif.) to "shut up" amid a dispute over legislation, Stark had this to say: "You think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp? Come on, come over here and make me, I dare you…You little fruitcake. You little fruitcake. I said you are a fruitcake."


"I'm not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the president."
— Hilary Clinton commenting on the release of subpoenaed documents.

"That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it,"
— Democratic congressional candidate in Texas.

"We are ready for an unforeseen event that may or may not occur."
— former Vice President Al Gore

"I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix,"
— former Vice President Dan Quayle

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."
— former President Bill Clinton

"It isn't pollution that is harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."
— former Vice President Al Gore

Plus one of my favorite:
"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
— Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.

But perhaps my alltime favorite political quote, which gets to the very essence of politics, follows.

When Earl Long swept an election in Louisiana and his opponent cried foul when he received only 3 votes in an entire parish and observed that he had more than 3 personal friends in that parish; old Earl opined, “That’s politics for you. One day you got friends, the next day you ain’t.”
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Build your own roads


A number of historians claim that Spencer Penrose was so impressed with the first automobiles ability to climb a new road up the Ute Pass that he decided then and there to build the Pikes Peak highway.
“Colorado’s roads were an abomination all through that pioneer motoring period. As late as 1912, only a handful of tourists dared to risk their cars on visit to the Springs,” wrote Marshall Sprague in his 1971 book “One Hundred Plus: A Centennial Story of Colorado Springs.”
“A year later, car traffic increased with the opening of the new Lincoln Highway up Ute Pass. Penrose was so impressed with the ease the huffing Reos and Olds and Wintons climbed the pass without blowing up that he decided an auto road to the top of Pikes Peak was both feasible and dramatic enough to make news,” wrote Sprague.
“He was encouraged in this view on July 17, 1913 when two Denver daredevils, H. Brown and J.F. Bradley, drove a Buick Bearcat to the summit in four hours — the first car to go all the way.”
Upon learning of these successes, Penrose and several friends decided to seek permission from the U.S Department of Agriculture to build a highway to the top of the Peak along an existing horse carriage road that had been used at least since 1889.
He was reportedly warned that it could cost as much as $25,000 and was not likely to be profitable in that it would compete with the Cog Railway.
Penrose proceeded anyway on the road in 1915 and it ended up costing nearly a quarter of million dollars of his own money.
The road up Ute Pass was accelerated as much of the highway construction in Colorado near the turn of the century by use of convict labor beginning in 1905.
“Convicts built many of the first paved roads … including the State Highway from Pueblo to Leadville and the scenic highways in Big Thompson, Boulder, Colorado River and St. Vrain canyons, and the Ute Pass Road connecting Colorado Springs to Leadville,” says the “Historical Atlas of Colorado (1993),” by Thomas Noel, Paul Mahoney, and Richard Stevens.
“At first many felt that the wealthy who owned autos should build their own roads, as millionaire Spencer Penrose did,” notes the Atlas. “Penrose, who bought a new car each year, constructed a highway to the top of Pikes Peak as the ultimate challenge for motor cars.”
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Things you can count on


At a hardware store where I once worked, we would inventory every single nut, bolt, screw and pipe fitting during the week between Christmas and New Years.
“There is over 40,000 common items of hardware in the modern hardware line,” went the speech from Merton Taylor, owner of Taylor Hardware. Merton tried to carry all of those items. And by Golly, we were going to count every single one of them, accurately, in all three buildings. Two of the buildings were two-stories and half-a-block long. The third was a track warehouse that stretched for a football field length along Railroad Avenue.
I was one of the regular employees but we would usually hire extra help during this massive inventory undertaking. High school kids would be camped in front of nail bins, pulling out 16 penny cement coat nails from CF&I Steel, weighing them, cleaning the bottom of the bin with a sponge and bucket of soapy water and then replacing them and dropping a paper tag with the counted weight. Then on to tackle the next bin of 20-penny cement coat.
A similar process occurred at the 10,11,12,14, 16, 20 gauge smooth black wire, and then the galvanized, and on to the chicken wire, hog fence and woven wire. We measured the joints of 1/2”, 3/4”, 1”... up to 2” galvanized and black pipe. We counted the bell reducers and 45-degree elbows. We weighed the fender washers, flat headed stove bolts, Mile High Grass Seed Mix, and 1/2” sisal rope. We separated and counted 80, 100, 120 grit sand paper and galvanized, black and aluminum stove pipe.
In the track warehouse and the two-story building we called the shop, there was no heat and we would usually work in two-person teams of a “caller” and a “writer.” The writer would be positioned in front a “torpedo” propane heater to keep his or her hands warm enough to continue writing as the caller would wade through the sometimes preweighed, precounted items calling the secret cost code.
And secret code it was. Merton, who had been in Naval Intelligence in the Philippines during World War II had devised a complex transference of numbers, letters, blocks and blind alleys that took two or three years and continuous practice to figure out how to read. I worked there seven years so I eventually became one of the elite group of “readers.” Which basically involved not only deciphering the complex code, but being able to read a seventy-five-year-old, semi-blind, hardware store owner’s shaky handwriting done with a number one black or red grease pencil.
Math skills were also required in that all the called items and their cost had to be “extended” which sometimes meant figuring out that were four squares per roll of asphalt rolled roofing, at $7 per square, times 400 rolls of red and 200 roles of green and so on.
At first I really hated working at the hardware store during inventory week in the week between Christmas and New Years. But later, I got to a point where I really enjoyed “knowing the code,” understanding what each of 40,000 common hardware item’s name was, comprehending that roofing is sold by the square, and being a master at “extension.” Inventory was a process involving various stages of personal enlightenment.
Today bar codes at the register and handheld scanners have replaced most of that process. I know it is faster. But, for things you can count on, I still sort of miss that week (in the old hardware store) between Christmas and New Years.
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You know more than myself




It is close enough to St. Paddy’s day to relay the ancient Irish yarn of the old crow teaching the younger crow. I first heard the story as it was retold by Conrad Bladey from his Black Box of Irish stories and has its orgins in 18th century Ireland.
There was an old crow long ago, and he made a nest. After a time, only one of his brood remained with him.
One day the old crow took the young one out into the field to teach him how to fly.
When the young crow had learned how to fly and was able to go to any part of Ireland, the old crow said, “I think that you are able to fly anywhere now and make your living by yourself. Before you go, I want to give you a little advice that will protect you from danger, as it has protected myself.”
“Tell it to me,” said the young crow. “If you are ever in a potato field or cornfield and see a man coming toward you with something under his arm or in his hand, fly off immediately, fearing he may have a gun and may shoot you” “I understand,” said the young crow. “Another bit of advice to you,” said the old crow. “If you see a man bending down as he comes toward you in the field or on the road, fly off as fast as you can, for he will be picking up a stone to throw at you. If he has nothing under his arm and if he doesn’t bend down, you’re safe.” “That’s all very well,” said the young crow, “but what if he has a stone in his pocket?” “Off you go,” said the old crow.
 “You know more than myself!”
Such is true of the Irish in the mines of Colorado and particularly Teller County.
Somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of local residents claim Irish ancestry. Perhaps, some of them have their own stories to tell.
I can however relay a few stories with links to my own Celtic mining family.
As starter fuel, now the story of “Powder Keg Carrigan of the infamous, or depending on who you speak with, famous Molly Maguires. This story is from the Archives of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, by Cleveland Moffett, McClure's Magazine, 1894, pp. 90-100. This story relays how “Powder Keg” acquired his moniker, among other things.
“Some years before, while working in a mine at Beckville, he had come into the slope one cold morning when the men were crowding around a huge salamander heaped with burning coals. He carried on his shoulder a keg of powder, and, seeing that there was no place for him at the fire, he leaned over the circle formed by his comfortable comrades, and, placing the keg of powder on the red-hot coals, remarked coolly:
"As long as you boys won't move, I'll have to make a place for myself."
The men scattered in terror right and left, whereupon Carrigan coolly lifted the keg of powder off the salamander, sat down upon it, lit his pipe, and began smoking.”
According to Pinkerton Detective Agency records, "Powder Keg" himself was the man at whose instigation the murder of police officer Franklin B. Yost had been committed.
“Carrigan explained to him that they had killed the wrong man, his grievance having been not against Yost, but against another policeman, Bernard McCarron, who had aroused "Powder Keg's" enmity years before by frequently arresting him for disorderly conduct. Carrigan nursed the memory of this treatment, and when he had became a body-master at once proceeded to arrange for the killing of McCarron. Having applied to Alexander Campbell, the body-master of Landsford, Carbon County, as was customary, for two men to do a " clean job," he brought the men to a retired spot on McCarron's beat. Later in the night, when a policeman passed by, the two men shot him, according to orders, and then started for their homes. But on that night McCarron had exchanged beats with Yost, who accordingly came to a violent death, although neither the Mollys nor anyone else in the region had any but kind feelings toward him.
Carrigan showed detective James McParland, who under cover and using the assumed name McKenna, was told of the revolver, a weapon of thirty-two caliber, with which the policeman had been killed, and explained that it had been borrowed from a Molly named Roarity by the two men, Hugh McGehan and James Doyle, who with others had done the murder. McGehan was the man who-fired the fatal shot. McKenna (a.k.a. McParland ) secured the names of every man concerned in the crime, and ultimately, on his evidence, it was punished by the hanging, in Pottsville, of Hugh McGehan, Thomas Duffy, James Roarity, James Carl, and James Doyle.”
Carrigan somehow was able to escape the rope and as result, relayed his story to other Mollys.
But let’s get back to your own story. “Tell it to me.” said the young crow.
“Off you go,” said the old crow. “You know more than myself !”

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Photo Information: James McParland was born in Ireland in 1843 and worked as a stock clerk, farm worker and circus barker before leaving from Liverpool to New York in 1867.  He then lived in Chicago and ran a store selling alcohol. After a fire destroyed his business in 1871, he joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

District couldn't catch a break


Some mining districts just can’t catch a break. Take, for example, the ups, the downs, the sideways movement of fortune as it struggled to avoid a kiss on West Creek.
“In April 1895, Captain George F. Tyler triggered the short lived gold rush of the West Creek Mining District when he sent his son to Denver with ore samples extracted from his ranch between Trout Creek and West Creek,” writes Susan Consola Appleby in her 2001 book “Fading Past: The Story of Douglas County, Colorado.”
The newspapers at the time became big boosters.
“Several persons who were at Cripple Creek when that camp was being developed, say that at the surface of Cripple Creek could not show as much rock that run in gold or that carried as much gold as the camp here. And we know of no one who has examined and has said to the contrary,” read an October story in the Castle Rock Journal.
In early 1896, miners streamed into the area creating the mining camps of Pemberton, West Creek, North West Creek, North Cripple Creek, Ackerman, Trumbull and Given. In a March 16, 1896 election, these camps voted to merge and incorporate as West Creek, Douglas County’s second incorporated town.
About the same time the Rocky Mountain News declared,” Its growth has been as substantial as it has been rapid. Its development will be as permanent as it will be wonderful.”
But lacking the one element needed to sustain growth in a gold camp, namely enough gold, the growing city fizzled to a fraction of its size within a year.
By 1898, the struggling town’s own newspaper, The Mountain Echo complained of its decreasing population near election time.
“Never in the history of the town of West Creek has it been so dead that it could not support two tickets. There are now just thirty-two legal voters in the town and eleven of them are candidates.”
Perhaps sensing its own venerability, the newspaper however tried to fan the dying embers of the gold seeker’s flame with its February 25, 1899 story headlined “MILLIONS IN IT!” and subtitled, “A careful and conservative description of a mining proposition which, when developed, will be on e of the most important in America — A truthful statement of actual facts.”
The article went on to describe in detail what it called the most important proposition in the West Creek District is what is commonly known as the Sand Belt.
The paper was still trying to fan those same embers when it reported in April of 1899, “John Wanamaker, the multi millionaire merchant prince of Philadelphia, has appeared as an operator in the West Creek mining district.”
“A 100-ton concentration mill arrived a day or two ago at Woodland Park station on the Colorado Midland road, and will be shipped to Maintou park, nine miles north of Woodland, where recent developments in the sandstone deposits of that region have attracted attention to the mining of gold.”
The paper said an order for 40,000 feet of lumber was placed for the mill and its capacity was a hundred tons a day. It reportedly was brought from the Black Hills district in South Dakota. Wanamaker purchased five claims in the area for $10,000. Two of those claims were in Teller County and two in Douglas. The mill was half in one county and half in the other.
“The greatest development on any one mine is upon the Primrose, which has a shaft down 125 to 150 feet. Assays as high as $1,500 have been shipped. The values were all in little seams. There is a ledge ten feet wide which averages from $2 to $6 to the ton.”
According to the Mountain Echo, “The manager of the new mill states that if he could get $1.50 a ton profit on the ore treated, he could make it pay for the plant in a few months.”
Maybe that is true, but that kind of profit, and richer deposits of gold, were elusive.
The West Creek area residents eventually abandoned golden hope of a bonanza and turned their concentration to other endeavors.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

The passage of time and Woodmoor


Somewhere about 458 B.C. Aeschylus figured out that “Time brings all things to pass.”
Though announcements involving housing developments and such, have become quite commonplace in Northern El Paso County, I think it is interesting to take a trip back though those passing gates.
One fine spring day 43 years ago, word hit the streets of a large housing project in the Black Forest area.
“Woodmoor has a poetic ring to it. The word is so quiet sounding it could be a rumor. But it isn’t,” wrote Ralph Moore of the Denver Post in a March 22, 1965 article.
Moore noted that owner /developer Steve Arnold, “unpretentious and slight of build, a conservative in many ways, is busy promoting a pretentious 2,000-acre housing and recreational project in the Black Forest east of Monument.”
Arnold, 31, also described as a former Air Force captain who didn’t even play golf, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956, and was a native of Los Angeles.
“Chief among the attractions at Woodmoor is an 18-hole, 7, -150-yard golf course which is hewed out of the forest by craftsmen who had little regard for hooks and slices.”
After graduating from the Naval Academy, Arnold reportedly chose the Air Force and spent his early military career at Lowery Air Force Base in Denver.
“Knowing the Air Force Academy would be located south of Monument, Arnold purchased 60 acres of land in the Black Forest because he thought it might be wise to own land near the AFA,” according to the Post story.
“He spent the 1958-1960 period with a flying squadron and in August, 1960, was transferred to the AFA as a freshman Gymnastics coach.
“Meanwhile, he kept adding to his holdings in the Black Forest, nursing the idea that someday their would be a need for a community in the area for the above-average income group. ‘It was just a belief,’ he says.”
At the time this article appeared, it was reported that Arnold had already sold more than 200 home sites in the price range of $4,000 to $11,000.
“Cranked into the project are plans for riding stables, shopping center near the Monument cutoff plus a motel,” Moore wrote.
J. Pres Maxwell was tabbed to design the golf course and a former assistant pro at Denver’s Pinehurst Country Club, Bob Hansen, was given the nod as the resident pro.
“Membership in the golf club is automatic with the purchase of a home site. Otherwise the price is $75 initiation plus dues. Anyone outside a 35-mile radius, meaning metropolitan Denver, can become a member for $500 with no dues attached,” Moore wrote in the Post.
The development’s front nine was expected to be completed and playable by August and the back nine, to be ready by the spring of 1966.

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The Ratcliff side of the story



In regard to a previous post of mine regarding the Ghost of Gottleib Fluhmann, I recentlty was sent the following communication from a descendant of Benjamin Ratcliff.
"Several Colorado residing descendants of Benjamin Ratcliff report that they have never heard the tale of Gottleib Fluhmann. The references cited seem to be based on exaggerated local commentary and contain inaccurate facts. So without proof, they feel that Benjamin has been unfairly accused of the serious charge of being Gottleib's killer."
"However, in the matter of the Bordenville school board, this is the account from Benjamin's oldest child - and Only son - as told to his grandson: Some time around 1875 Benjamin and his wife moved from Missouri to Park County, Colorado, and established a farm about seven miles from Bordenville. Their son and two daughters were born there. His wife died there in 1882 while the children were still very young. Benjamin raised the kids there until 1895. He had a running battle with the local school board in 1894. He wanted them to provide a summer school program, allow the school books to be loaned out, or set up a school closer to his ranch. He taught his children at home, and wanted some help with that. Winter weather was too bad to make the trip to school. Late in 1894 unsupported gossip spread that incest involving Benjamin and his older daughter spread around the local area. He became enraged. The man most responsible for spreading the gossip was on the school board. Benjamin's temper escalated and he ended up shooting all three members of the board as they met together at the school May 6, 1895. He turned himself in the same day as the shooting. Eight months later, on the evening of February 7, 1896, he became the ninth execution by hanging (out of 45 in the history of the state) at the prison in Canon City. "
The descendant, a Colorado native now living in Westminster, also provided this prison photo of Benjamin Ratcliff.
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Irish loving and fighting


“The Irish are a fair people: they never speak well of one another.” — Samuel Johnson

“Where there is Irish there’s loving and fighting. And if we stop either, it’s Ireland no more.” — Rudyard Kipling

Like so many things that are labeled Irish, it can be argued whether or not a thing is truly Irish.
Saint Patrick, for example, born in Scotland in about 385 A.D., his father was an Italian official for the Roman government. Story has it that Irish pirates kidnapped him, sold him into slavery, and he later escaped eventually ending up in France where he became a monk. In France, it is said he had a vision suggesting he go back to Ireland to convert the Pagans to Christianity.
The so-called “Pagans” were the Celts and Scandinavians who originally named the island Irlanda and were less pagan than the occupying Romans.
But there are other instances.
“The Irish Elk, Megaloceros, is misnamed, for it is neither exclusively Irish nor is it an elk,” notes the University of California – Berkeley Museum of Paleontology web site and citing S. J. Gould’s 1977 book “The misnamed, mistreated, and misunderstood Irish Elk.”
It is a giant extinct dear, the largest deer species ever, that stood up to seven feet at the shoulders, with antlers spanning up to 12 feet, and ranged all over Europe, Asia and north Africa.
The animal became a lightning rod in evolutionary theory debate in the late 19th and early 20th century as an example of orthogenesis, in which it was postulated that “changes in organisms was due not to natural selection, but to internal directional trends within the linage.”
One more example is necessary — as things Irish should come in threes.
A Claddagh ring is a famous design for rings and door knockers that supposedly traces its origin to the Claddagh village located just outside the old walls of Galway city.
Its pattern shows two hands clasped together around a heart bearing a crown.  The hands symbolize faith, the heart, love, and the crown, loyalty and fidelity. 
It is believed that this ring was derived from the Italian “fede ring” (also know as “faith rings”). 
There are many different stories related to how the design came about.
Some say the design dates to the story of Dagda, the father of the gods (with power enough to make the very sun stand still).  Dagda is said to represent the right hand of the Claddagh ring.  The left hand represents that of Anu (who later became Danu), the ancestral and universal mother of the Celts.  The mythical Beathauile represents the Crown, and the heart represents the hearts of all of mankind, and the element which gives everlasting music to the Gael.
Another story suggests the king of Claddagh, fell madly in love with a peasant woman but was foiled by her lower status. In his turmoil, the king killed himself and had his hands chopped off and placed around his heart as a symbol of his undying love for the peasant woman.
The supposedly true story is of a Galway slave, Richard Joyce, who was captured by Algerian corsairs and sold to a Moorish goldsmith, who taught him the trade.  In 1689, Joyce was given his freedom and he returned to Galway to set up shop in Claddagh, where he eventually designed the ring, or not. Depending on who tells the story.
What is truth? If you are Irish, that is up for discussion, and perhaps is worth fighting over.
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One kind of animal in the hole


It is my understanding that there is very specific reasons that donkeys, rather than horses were used initially in the mining industry. Among those reasons is the innate reaction of each when its ears brush against something unexpected.
A donkey or burro will duck his head with the unexpected brush-up whereas a horse will rear up on its hind legs. Because you can’t have large animals rearing up on hind legs in a mine, thus the animal of choice became donkey and derivatives. The derivatives came in the form of selective breeding to encourage the size and strength of horse but the useful tendency to duck as evident in donkeys. This is where the hybrid, the mule, appeared on the scene.
In the political process, we have of course, the two dominant parties, Republicans and Democrats, represented by Donkeys and Elephants.
Mark Twain had some interesting things to say about Republicans and Democrats.
“I had been accustomed to vote for Republicans more frequently than for Democrats, but was never a Republican and never a Democrat. In the community, I was regarded as a Republican, but I had never so regarded myself. As early as 1865, or ‘66 I had this curious experience: that whereas up to that time I considered myself a Republican, I was converted to no-party independence by the wisdom of a rabid Republican. This was as man who was afterward a United States Senator, and upon whose character rests no blemish that I know of, except that he was the father of the William R. Hearst of today, and therefore grandfather of Yellow Journalism — that calamity of calamities.”
Which is basically saying Mr. Twain saw benefit in straddling the fence. As I do, to some extent —except when comes down to voting in the primaries of recent experience.
In the primaries, of course, you must make some sort of declaration. Either you are for us or you are against us. Either you are Democrat or a Republican, but in area where you are not likely to get elected dog catcher without the proper party affiliation, some races naturally are decided in the primaries by the dominant party’s electors.
Representative government at its best asks voters to make choices. A political science professor I spoke with recently notes that there isn’t a dimes worth of difference between the two parties anyway. “The Republicans are out-promising the Democrats,” he says. So you might as well operate in the dominant one, because that allows you to make more choices and in effect, be a better voter.
I hope, however, you see where I am going with this. Maybe what we are really creating is a process that breeds candidates that are as strong as an elephant but able to keep their head down and won’t rear up on their hind legs when they travel down a mine tunnel. Such a process is rife with danger. Pretty soon there is only one kind animal in the hole. No room for difference of opinion, no diversity, the politics of compromise, and a bunch of elephant-mules running things. In my opinon, that is not really good for voters who need to make choices.
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Blame it on the Russians


Some folks blame the Russians for the end of the fur trade in the Tri-Lakes area.
“In 1946 the fox farms were a good thriving business,” wrote Lucille Lavelett. “The United States made a trade agreement with Russia; Russia traded their furs to the U.S. for a metal we had, to be used to harden steel. The fur market soon became flooded with Russian furs. There was no sale for U.S. furs, and all the fur farmers had to get out of the business.”
In “Monument’s Faded Neighbor Communities and Its Folk Lore,” Lavelett noted that an area off of Baptist Road was once one of the largest and best fox farms in the west. The farm, established by a man by the name of Shelby in the 1930s, was first managed by Dave Gibbs. Gibbs later owned his own fox operation east of Monument on Highway 105.
Famous fur farmers flourished all over the Tri-Lakes area in the middle part of the last century. Jack Duckels, Colorado’s largest mink rancher during the height of the state’s fur industry in the 1960s, got his start in the Palmer Lake area.
“Duckels first raised turkeys and foxes near Palmer Lake in the 1920s. In 1932, he brought three pairs of foxes to today’s First Avenue and Havana Street – far enough away from Denver, he supposed, not to bother anyone with the smell,” according William J. Convery in a recent edition of Colorado Heritage, the state historical society’s magazine.
“To supplement his thriving fox business, Duckels added mink in 1933. The small sideline eventually eclipsed all other operations on his ranch. By 1961, the Aurora rancher employed twenty full-time hands to help feed the daily ration of some 15,000 pounds of meat byproducts, fish, cereal and fresh horsemeat to his 20,000 hungry charges,” Convery said.
According to Lavelett, the Baptist Road fox farm had eight units of fenced pens that accommodated 3,500 breeding foxes. “In 1937, the farm shipped 200,000 furs to eastern markets.”
Other factors might share some of the blame for the collapse of the fur industry here. Rising social criticism (Doris Day, the star of “A Touch of Mink”, turned animal rights activist led the Hollywood charge), the sluggish economy, and the advent of synthetic fur all were factors. But many blame the Russians.
“The rise of foreign competition ironically demonstrated how domestic fur producers had sown the seeds of their own demise. In the heady days of the 1950s and early 1960s, American fur farmers had gladly supplied foreign breeders, trained those breeders’ interns, and sold them breeding stock. Jack Duckels, for one, made extensive business contacts in Japan, Norway, and the Soviet Union. In the 1960s he traveled to Soviet trade shows and invited Russian merchandisers back to the United States to tour his own farm. Shadowed by FBI agents, the Soviets learned the ins and outs of mink ranching and signed lucrative contracts to buy Duckel’s brood minks,” wrote Convery.

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Remembering beacon light

Blogger's note: This and the following comment was originally written as newspaper column in 2007.

“Be as a tower firmly set; Shakes not its top for any blast that blows.” __Dante Alighieri

It is often true that you don’t miss something until it is gone. Sometimes you don’t even miss it then. That may the case with the beacon light, of Beacon Lite Road fame, here in Monument.
I received fascinating copies of undated newspaper photos about the Beacon from reader Marianne Zagorski of Palmer Lake, and ever since that time I have been trying to nail down additional details and information. Perhaps you can help?
Zagorski, who has lived in Palmer Lake since the 1960s, says she thinks the tower was taken down in the early 1980s.
“As you’re coming up a long upslope on I-25 from Greenland, look for the beacon light on the right. Turn before you go west to Palmer Lake,” was directions she provided me but I have heard from other sources that it was roughly near where the two existing cell towers are today.
The captions from the photos were the attention getters.
“Aviation hazard – Two members of “C” Company, 4th Engineer Battalion from Fort Carson prepare to demolish a 110 foot tower Wednesday by climbing its base and planting explosive charges. The structure, considered a hazard to aviation, was destroyed as part of a military exercise,” read the cutline that apparently appeared in the Gazette Telegraph, crediting John Morgan with taking the photo.
“Going, going, gone. A little plastic explosive went a long way as a 110-foot tower was demolished in an exercise at Fort Carson. The tower was obtained in Monument and reassembled for a film by the British Broadcasting Company in April. With the film completed, the tower was no longer needed, so members of the 4th Engineer battalion ‘disassembled’ it in their own inimitable way,” read additional caption that appeared on a different page.
“By then we lived opposite the beacon and were disappointed and insulted by this use of it. Such a waste,” noted Zagorski.
Longtime area resident Dorothy Sibell recalled that the tower was removed using a helicopter but was at a loss to give a definitive date. Others recalled it was originally used as a marker to help locate an early airstrip in the area.
Other than that, it is all I have. Any additional information, stories and other recollections would be greatly appreciated. I would like to find a definitive date and know a little more about the film in which it appeared. I am also curious about when it was constructed and for what use.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dr. Thompson, I presume


It has been said that nature -- with all its overwhelming power -- knows what we need and the doctors know nothing.
Almost from its very beginning, Palmer Lake, a town initially tied to the very idea of being a health destination, has tested that theory.
“Dr. W. Finley Thompson assumed such a prominent leadership role in Palmer Lake during the 1880s that everyone has regarded him as the founder of the town,” writes Daniel W. Edwards in his new book “Dr. William Finley Thompson: Dental Surgeon and Founder of Palmer Lake” that was published in July. Thompson was the town’s first mayor and built area landmark Estamere House (Estemere).
Dr. Thompson himself, in a promotional piece published in the summer of 1884, laid it out pretty clearly.
“The healthfulness for the locality of Palmer Lake is fully recognized by all, and the prominent members of the medical faculty have frequently urged the establishment of a summer and health resort at this point...”
Thompson saw the area being developed in the same manner as European sanitariums in the Alps created for ‘lungers,’ a term often used to describe those suffering from tuberculosis and asthma.
“It is now conclusively proved that dry and rarified atmosphere is wonderfully curative, even in cases of tubercular disease. Colorado is full of people who came here in actually dying condition, who now are enjoying even robust health. Asthmatics are especially benefited in this altitude, and sufferers from this most distressing of all maladies have received permanent relief by residence here … The climate of Palmer Lake (Divide) presents without question, advantages of very superior character…” according Thompson in the promotional flyer.
Marion Savage Sabin, in her1957 book, “Palmer Lake: A Historic Narrative,” makes a similar observation about Thompson’s intentions.
“Here was the very place for a health resort and vacation community of luxurious type and not to be out-done by famous spas he ad visited in Europe. Here in ideal combination were scenic beauty, pure bracing mountain air and warm sunshine, icy springs rich in mineral content, healing pine forests, the seclusion – and at the same time accessibility by rail – which should assure the success of such an undertaking.”
Daniel Edwards notes that, “By May of 1888, he (Dr. Thompson) was actively engaged in making this happen – building a 70-room hotel with attached sanitarium – his last vigorous attempt to develop Palmer Lake.”
Edwards writes that two prominent physicians, experts in the treatment of lung problems, played important roles in that development. Dr. Alfred Tucker-Wise, the medical director for the Swiss Hotel Kursaal in Maloja, and Dr. Charles Denison, professor of diseases of the chest and of climatology at the University of Denver, consulted with Thompson regarding the construction and early operation of hotel.
Thompson also brought in his friend, Thomas Gaddes, a dentist associated with Thompson from his time in London, to become the medical superintendent of the sanitarium at the Rocklands.
Interestingly enough, Gaddes became the first elected Town Physician for Palmer Lake in March 1889, the same year he also obtained his M.D. from the Denver College of Medicine. Later in life, he also received patents for a number of inventions produced in England -- among them a wave mill which generated electricity from ocean waves, an automatic egg boiler, a window sash fastener, and a strainer that worked with a tea or coffee pot.
The dentist/physician combination was fairly common at that time, and in fact, Dr. Thompson, M.D., received his license to practice medicine on April 1, 1890, from the Colorado State Board of Medical Examiners.
“Finley’s hopes for a sanitarium at Palmer Lake were dashed by several factors,” writes Daniel Edwards. “First, not enough money was raised to implement his plan for a main sanitarium building with detached cottage and grounds. Then, Dr. Charles Denison apparently abandoned his support for Finley’s project.”
Two new sanitariums in Colorado Springs (Bellevue and Albert Glockner) apparently didn’t help matters either.
By late summer of 1890, the financial burden of the Rocklands and other ventures compelled Thompson to leave town, basically skipping out owing a lot of people a lot of money. The hotel was never wildly successful and was eventually destroyed by fire in 1920.
Thompson’s personal residence, Estamere, lives on of course, and is considered the ‘crown jewel’ of Palmer Lake, as does the town plat recorded in November of 1883, by Dr. Thompson and Dr. William A. Bell.
Bell was a Manitou Springs physician, director and financial recruiter for Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and developer of Briarhurst Manor, his personal residence.
His Monument Farms organization began buying property in the Palmer Lake area as early as 1870 and had amassed nearly 3,000 acres by the time Thompson showed on the scene. Bell, and his organization, actually realized a healthy profit from land sales in the area.
Just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps there is a distinction between what various doctors know, and don’t know?
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Treehuggers, if only given a chance


Early travelers to Colorado may have been avid treehuggers -- if given half a chance. Today cottonwood groves along area streambeds are a pretty common sight but it wasn’t always the case. The rare occurrence as settlers made their way across the vast prairie was truly a sight for sore eyes and became landmarks on the trail. Big Timbers, on the Arkansas, for example, became a haven for Indian camps and later the site for Bent’s Fort.
“Prairie grass fires killed seedlings, and enormous herds of buffalo trampled and grazed whatever escaped the fires. The water flow in the rivers varied from high spring runoffs after snowmelt in the mountains to periods in late summer when even the Platte River was completely dry. Not only was the drought a severe trial for the trees, the spring runoffs were so powerful that the river bottoms were scoured out, washing away the sand, bars and banks and any young trees growing there,” writes Stuart K. Weir, in his research of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
One early visitor, George Ruxton, noted the lack of foliage on the Arkansas, east of Bent’s Fort.
“Nothing meets the eye but the vast undulating expanse of arid waste; for the buffalo grass, although excellent in quality, never grows higher than two or three inches, and is seldom green in color; being thinly planted, the prairie never looks green and turf-like. Not a tree or shrub is to be seen, except on the creeks, where a narrow stamp of unpicturesque cottonwood occasionally relieves the eye with its verdant foliage,” wrote Ruxton.
When the trees were found and became landmarks, all sorts of history became attached.
One such landmark in Pueblo was known as “The Old Monarch,” and was 380 years old when it was cut down in 1883, according to “Colorado: Visions of an American Landscape,” a 1991 photo book by Kenneth Helphand and Ellen Manchester.
“In 1850 there were 36 persons massacred near this tree by Indians. Fourteen men have been hung from one of its limbs. The first white woman who died in Colorado was buried under its branches,” read text from the back of a historic photo of the tree uncovered by Helphand and Manchester.
Early settlers of Denver and Boulder transplanted cottonwood trees as a domesticating act in order to fight the wildness of their new surroundings.
But General Palmer, in founding of Colorado Springs, took such plantings to a new level.
Palmer had 600 cottonwood trees planted when water was available from city reservoirs in 1872. Palmer employed large crews to maintain the city’s trees and parks and by 1910 the city had created the Department of Forestry.
The cottonwood legacy in Colorado remains fixed.
As Theodore Roosevelt observed, the trees will probably be a part of the fabric of what is Colorado for long time to come.
“From the upper branches of the cottonwood trees overhead – whose shimmering, tremulous leaves are hardly ever quiet, but if the wind stirs at all, rustle and quiver and sigh all day long – comes now and then soft melancholy cooing of the morning dove, whose voice always seems far away,” wrote Roosevelt in Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.
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McClurg, Mesa Verde and the ‘Women's Park’



 

As a youngster, some of my most vivid memories are surrounded by a pinion- and juniper-tree backdrop and the strange abandoned cities on the green table drained by the Mancos River in southwestern Colorado.


In those days, the entire mummified remains of “Ester,” and various other ancient pueblo inhabitants, still were displayed openly in cases at the museum on the rim above Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde was established by Congress on June 29, 1906, nearly 10 years before the National Park Service was created.

Virginia Donagh McClurg, of Colorado Springs, was instrumental in the effort to create the park, and her influence also had a profound effect on local history and the tourist industry in this area.

A former correspondent for the New York Graphic, McClurg became interested in preserving the Mesa Verde area from rampant pothunting as early as 1884 when she visited the mesa under a cavalry escort.

A decade later, “she enlisted the support of the Colorado Federation of Women’s Clubs, published articles and poems and wrote letters to people in high places, including Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt,” according to “Mesa Verde: The First 100 Years.”

This book was edited by Rose Houk and Faith Marcovecchio with Duane Smith as historical consultant and published by Mesa Verde Museum Association and Fulcrum Publishing.

McClurg also began a lecturing widely (particularly on the Front Range) and even approached the Utes, via Chief Ignacio, in the hopes of leasing the area for her efforts to “let this be the woman’s park.”

McClurg founded the Colorado Cliff Dwelling Association in 1900 and continued to raise money in an effort to preserve the mesa.

“In 1906, with the conservationist Theodore Roosevelt as president, the political climate and public sentiment finally were ripe to achieve The Cliff Dwelling Association’s goals. Unfortunately, at this critical juncture, a large rift opened between the two most influential supporters. Virginia McClurg wanted a state park under control of the women’s group and withdrew her support for a national one at the last hour, while Lucy Peabody maintained her staunch support for a national park.”

Lucy Peabody, as a result, became known as the “Mother of Mesa Verde National Park.”

“When Lucy Peabody won the battle about state vs. federal oversight, Virginia McClurg went home and helped create Manitou Springs,” according to the book.

With stone from various different sites in the southwest corner of the state, a reproduction of a Mesa Verde cliff dwelling was created in Manitou Springs.

From new research, it appears the original ruins, at one time located near my hometown of Dolores, were loaded on rail cars and freighted on to Manitou Springs, where they were reassembled.  

But more about that later. The replica opened there at about the same time as the designation of Mesa Verde as a national park.

__ By Rob Carrigan

Solid Muldoon had its Day


The Solid Muldoon, of Ouray, wasn't as durable as its name suggested, surviving as a weekly newspaper only until 1892, but its spirit will likely live on forever. The name crops up again and again in the west – recently, for example, as one of the ski runs for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics – but it had its Day.
The Solid Muldoon didn't pull its punches. A local historian, Duane A. Smith, records that Col. David Day, a Medal of Honor winner for heroism at Vicksburg, Miss., "had the distinction of having 42 libel suits pending at the same time [in 1900] for his raw and bitter articles in The Solid Muldoon newspaper of Ouray and Durango." Day was known nationwide for his caustic wit, honesty, and bitter sarcasm. His fame even spread to England, where Queen Victoria was said to have read the Muldoon for many years.
Dave Day’s outspokenness was legendary and according to his wife Victoria, “he was not afraid of the devil himself.”
“He became protector, defender, guardian, and spokesman for a generation of southwest Coloradoans. His newspaper was small, but his voice was big, and he covered the San Juans with a steady thunder that lingers to this day,” wrote John H. Monnett and Michael McGarthy in their 1987 book, Colorado Profiles: Men and Women who shaped the Centennial State.
But how did the paper get its unusual name?
The original Solid Muldoon was the name given to a mysterious "prehistoric human body" dug up near Beulah, Colo., in 1877. The 71/2-foot stone man was thought to be the "missing link" between apes and humans. "There can be no question about the genuineness of this piece of statuary," said the Denver Daily Times.
It was later revealed that George Hull, perpetrator of a previous hoax featuring the Cardiff Giant, had spent three years fashioning his second "petrified man," using mortar, rock dust, clay, plaster, ground bones, blood, and meat. He kiln-fired the figure for many days and then buried it.
A few months later, as the celebration of Colorado's year-old statehood approached, the statue was "discovered" by William Conant, who had once worked for the legendary showman P.T. Barnum. News of the find quickly spread to Denver and eventually New York.
The statue was named the Solid Muldoon after William Muldoon, a famous boxer, wrestler and strongman who had been honored in a popular song. Displayed in New York, the "body" attracted large crowds until a business associate of Hull's revealed the hoax to the New York Tribune.
Day, who had apparently met Muldoon in an earlier stint in New York, and despite the fighter never having won a bout, but never taking a dive or quitting, Day had been impressed by his tenacity.
Day, fascinated by the story and the name, called his Ouray paper the Solid Muldoon.
Rudyard Kipling, as famous in England as Whitman was in the United States, later wrote a short story titled "The Solid Muldoon," published in 1890.
Other samples of his caustic wit:
“The doctors have given up all hope of saving the year 1893 and death is expected inside of three days.” (Solid Muldoon, Dec. 29, 1893)
The Muldoon also frequently attacked local mining entrepreneur John R. Curry and others calling him among other things, “a despicable, filthy liar and whiskey bloat,” and “libel on the name of a dog” with the “conscience of Judas Iscariot” and the “appetite and feeling of a hyena without its honor.”
He also famously, a fearlessly took on the rail roads, other newspapers, state and local politicians, and ended up having to publish the paper more than once from a jail cell, according to Monnett and McCarthy.
David Day moved south from Ouray as silver market ebbed, to the more-happening town of Durango and continued on in the publishing business. The Muldoon combined operations with the Durango Herald and latter separated again and became the Durango Democrat. He continued writing almost to the end. When he died in 1914, the Democrat eulogized, “He lived and died a square man. Even his enemies respected him for his integrity.
His Son, Rod Day, took over editorship of the paper.
Of editors and publishers, historically speaking, I feel that we have it pretty good nowadays. As evidence, I offer the following account from Duane Smith’s 1992 book on the history of the Durango Herald provided to me by David Staats, the former managing editor of the southwestern Colorado daily.
“The long standing newspaper rivalry (between the Durango Democrat and Herald) thundered violently over Durango when Rod Day shot and killed the Herald’s city editor, William Wood. The incident was sparked by a series of ‘newspapers exchanges,’ ‘joshing comments’ from each about the other’s violation of prohibition,” according to Smith’s report.
“Monday morning, April 24, 1922, shortly before noon, marked the nadir of Durango’s newspaper history. The published facts depend on which paper one reads, but one or the other of the men prowled Main’s 900 block looking for his antagonist. Their meeting prompted and aggressive attack by one of them upon his rival. Day suffered a broken nose before firing, after which he entered a nearby barbershop, cleaned himself up, and surrendered. The coroner’s jury made no recommendation. Day, however was forced to stand trial in the District Court for murder; he was acquitted.”
Rod Day sold the Democrat in 1924 but helped start another rival paper in Durango in 1930.
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