Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Once in a Blue Moon" Fear


One more post before the new year and I was feeling sort of poetic ...

The beginning starts with the end.
Up against the wall.
Every year it is the same,
So many memories,
can’t remember them all.
The calendar rolls at the call of my name,
Swimming in the shadows of the sandstone cliff,
deep, brownish water and slow-moving current.
Into the shallows, down around the bend.
Proud moments and comfort.
Smiles with a gift.
The picture has my history.
My daughter performs with skill.
The youngest wakes from slumber,
hamburgers on the grill.
The dogs remain silent, as the buck stands still.
I saw their face before they died,
Their eyes, they told the story.
“Tempus fugit, son”
— in Latin, “momento mori.”
The end – of the day, the week, the month, the year,
At the end of decade, “Once in a blue moon” fear.
The beginning starts with the end.
Skirt around the wall.
So many memories,
can’t remember them all.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas to you and yours


There is a long-standing Irish tradition that, just before Christmas, you start cleaning out everything. Give everything a good scrubbing. Clear the clutter. Sweep out the carriage house and the front walks. Clean the barn. Paint or whitewash the outbuildings. Mop the floors. Change the curtains. Wash all the linens. Make sure the windows are spotless.
Some say it is to make ready for the Christ child, the new-born king. Some pass it off as preparing for Father Christmas.
The Sioux tribe has a custom, though not necessarily exclusive to this time of year, of calling over all their friends and perhaps a few enemies, and giving away most of their belongings. Just start handing stuff out, the more valued the possessions, the better the person holding the giveaway is reported to feel.
Ben Franklin asked the question “How many observe Christ’s birthday? How few his precepts? O ’tis easier to keep Holidays than commandments.”
In the interest of cleaning things out and giving things away, I have tabbed a few holiday related posts.
May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.
Nollaig faoi shéan is faoi shonas duit.'
A prosperous and happy Christmas to you.
###
Please click on the following for Holiday-related stories.
Bing Irish Bowie at Christmas
• Yule log warms through the ages
• Christmas is for everyone, even the dog
• Christmas at Taylor Hardware
• Paper boy in the Christmas card
• Things you can count on

Friday, December 18, 2009

A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine


Ask the devil whose side she's on. Evil, I guess, resides in all of our souls. That truth was illustrated in the summer of 1904, when all hell broke loose in the form of the Cripple Creek labor wars.
“Most devilish deed ever committed by any human beings,” screamed the Cripple Creek Times on June 7, 1904.
“The cause of the deaths and injuries was an infernal machine or a lot of dynamite which was exploded by some fiend under the platform of the F. & C.C. (Florissant and Cripple Creek Railroad) depot at Independence, while the men were waiting upon the platform for the train that was to carry them to their homes in Goldfield, Victor and Cripple Creek.”
The terrorist attack ended the lives of 13 non-union miners in Independence, on Bull Hill between Victor and Altman, and another 14 men waiting at the platform were gravely injured. The same issue of the newspaper carried a story about two killed, and many injured, in a riot in Victor, as well as government ordered closing of the saloons in Cripple Creek, searches of the Union Halls, and new sheriff and corner appointed for Teller County after forced resignations. Sheriff Henry Robinson was under intense pressure to resign, according to the Times.
“When the Sheriff was first approached about resigning he refused, but after seeing a rope, which was thrown at his feat, and being informed that the great crowd of angry and determined men who thronged the street outside the building, were anxious to receive him and the rope, he changed his mind, and attached his name to the written resignation.”
By the next morning’s paper, martial law had been declared and by Thursday violence flashed here and there all over the district.
The printing plant of the Victor Record, which less than a year previous, had been forced to close at the hand of Colorado Adjutant General Sherman Bell, was destroyed while the employees were held at gunpoint. The Record, considered a Western Federation of Miners (W.F.M.) mouthpiece, was still smarting from the previous closing in which Bell ordered45 armed militiamen to haul off editor George Kyner and four employees. This time Bell publicly denied any responsibility.
“I had not heard of the damnable outrage done at the Record office. It certainly was not sanctioned by anyone in authority. It was un-American and perpetrators should be punished to the full extent of the law. I cannot express myself sufficiently strong in condemnation. I shall personally investigate this matter and see the guilty parties are punished,” Bell issued in a statement to the Times.
The plant, worth $15,000 at the time, suffered about $8,000 worth of damage, according to Kyner and reported in the Times. The telephone, typewriter, linotype machines, presses and forms were completely demolished.
Eight men, armed with Winchesters and revolvers ordered the men working in the office to “line up and hold aloft their hands. The command was immediately complied with and then work of the destruction started,” said the report.
An editorial on Friday’s Times noted that “If the policy of the Record was obnoxious, a way might have been found for the proper and sensible remedy without resort to an act of vandalism such as that employed.”
This period, labeled “The Black Time” by Cripple Creek historian Marshall Sprague in his book “Money Mountain,” resulted in 225 W.F.M members being deported on one-way trains out of the district.
“The dynamiting of the Independence depot was the ghastly event that made it possible for the mine owners to drive the W.F.M. out of the Cripple Creek and Colorado for good,” wrote Sprague.
###
Independence, 1896. According to caption, "Horses are facing Vindicator Mine. Gold ore hauled from Ruby Mine (near Orpha May) to Beaver Park Stamp Mill, Love, Co (now Beaver Valley Ranch.) Stamp mill owned by Jenkins & Hemenway of Colorado Springs. 5 mile haul." Photo from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/
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Please see other related stories
• Mad Bomber of Cripple Creek
• Big Bill Haywood

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Building railroads and keeping secrets


Love, pain and money cannot be kept a secret. They soon betray themselves.
But building a railroad? Maybe it is possible — at least long enough to get the job done.
In June of 1887, J.J. Hagerman, president of the Colorado Midland, announced that regular passenger trains would soon be running between Colorado Springs and Buena Vista.
He had one fairly large problem, however.
“He had bought a site for the Midland station near the Santa Fe tracks, but he had no means of getting his trains directly from the Midland’s eastern end of the track, near the D. & R.G’s (Denver & Rio Grande’s Railroads) line, to his depot’s location,” notes John J. Lipsey in a historic paper published by the Denver Westerners in January of 1962.
“On Aug. 15, 1887, Hagerman wrote to one of the Midland’s directors (Busk) in New York: ‘I tried to make arrangements with Evans for use of the street (Moreno Avenue) occupied by the D. T. & G. (Denver, Texas and Gulf Railroad) across this town and made him a liberal offer, but in vain. Therefore we had to ‘jump’ him.”’
“Jumping,” in railroad terms of the times, was the practice of — when negotiation and law suits were determined to take too long, or not likely to succeed — laying track in the middle of the night. Tracks were installed before a court could grant an injunction prohibiting the action. Once the track was down, it seemed to settle the matter and was rarely ripped up.
Hageman had tried to get Dr. John Evans, M.D., president of the Denver, Texas, and Gulf Railroad (one of the predecessors of the Colorado and Southern), to allow the Midland to use the D .T. & G. tracks or to lay a Midland Track on Moreno Avenue. At that time, the area was then used as a yard by C. & S.
At the crux of the matter was regionalism. The Colorado Midland was a Colorado Springs railroad. The D.T. &G. was a Denver outfit that diverted mountain traffic to Denver and away from Colorado Springs. Evans, former Governor of Colorado and founder of the Colorado Seminary (now the University of Denver), interests were aligned with that effort.
So it is not surprising that the Colorado Springs City Council at the time was willing to help counter.
“Hagerman persuaded them to call a secret meeting of the council on Saturday night, when no court was sitting which would issue an injunction. At this meeting and ordinance was quickly passed granting the Colorado Midland a right-of-way across the city on Moreno Avenue,” wrote Lipsey.
“Hagerman was ready. With no publicity he had assembled men, mules, horses, ties, rails, engines, cars, spikes, plates, switches, tools, food, coffee and lights. Plenty of lights — torches, flares, lanterns, and fuel for bright bonfires. The six blocks of Moreno must have looked like a World’s Fair Midway.”
The moment that the ordinance passed, horse-drawn scrapers began working on the elevations and smoothing a roadbed. Ties were place at measured intervals, rails followed and were bolted together and spiked down. Ballast was added and tamped to secure positioning. Engines pushed forward a supply of ties and rails. Teamsters shouted, rail-toters groaned, sledges rang on spikeheads.
“Before John Evans, a faithful Methodist, was ready for church on the Sunday morning that followed, he must have been notified by his agents that the Midland track was laid on Moreno, and that Midland trains were able to load passengers at the Midland depot and depart for Buena Vista. It was no doubt an unhappy Sabbath for Dr. Evans. No court would sit on Sunday. Neither then, nor later, was he able to undo what Hagerman and the Midland had done that Saturday night. And very probably he regretted his refusal to take money for the right-of-way the Midland got for nothing,” wrote Lipsey.
Building a railroad across town could be kept secret, at least long enough to get the job done.
###

Illustration is "Building the Union Pacific, Nebraska, Woodcut by Alfred R. Waud, 1867"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Raise the glass: celebrate Repeal Day


I think I will get up early tomorrow to celebrate Repeal Day.
Seventy-six years ago, on Dec. 5, 1933, Utah became the final state in a three quarters majority needed to ratify the 21st Amendment. Legal booze was back! The 21st amendment repealed the18th, which of course, called for prohibition of alcohol in the United States.
Until last year here in Colorado, if the date fell on a Sunday, you would not have been able to celebrate by buying booze. In April 2008, Colorado lawmakers passed legislation that eliminated the Sunday ban on liquor sales. The law became effective July 1, 2008.
Colorado, like many states, went dry before the 18th Amendment was ratified in 1919 and went into effect in 1920.
According to BeerHistory.com, an amazing 2,520 breweries were operating in the U.S. in 1879. New York City at that time supported 75 breweries. The nation's largest brewery, George Ehret's Hell Gate Brewery, sold only180,152 barrels that year and made only 1.5 percent of the country's beer. Today, Anheuser-Busch makes more than 40 percent of the beer brewed in America.
Total beer production in the U.S. in 1879 was 10,848,194 barrels. According to beer production figures for Colorado in 2006 -- more than double that amount, 23,370,848 barrels, were produced here making it the leading state in the nation for gross production.
Colorado excels in making beer. At least a hundred breweries have called Colorado home.
The first one, Rocky Mountain in Denver, eventually became the Zang Brewing Company and was the largest brewery in the Rockies until prohibition. Only four survived the long dry spell between 1916 and 1934. Of those four, only Adolph Coors is around today. Tivoli, from Denver, Walters from Pueblo, and Schneider, from Trinidad were all gone by the 1970s.
Today, the number of operating breweries in Colorado is fast approaching the 100 count once again.
Beer for breakfast, anyone?
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mystery of murdered miner never solved


“Old men’s prayers for death are lying prayers, in which they abuse old age and long extent of life. But when death draws near, not one is willing to die, and age is no longer a burden to them.” __ Euripides (438 B.C.)


Clement S. Parks lived alone in an old two-story house on South Second Street in Cripple Creek in the winter of 1944. The building had 10 rooms but he kept to only three of them. He had arrived in the mining district in the heyday of 1896 and worked at the Portland for 32 years, but in 1928, his failing vision forced him to retire. His vision continued to falter quickly.
By 1944, as he had aged, he became increasingly more feeble and his sight had slipped so far that he could barely tell daylight from dark. In his eighties, the retired miner came to depend on the kindness and generous nature of his neighbors.
At least twice a week, his neighbor W. R. Thumback, an elderly man himself, would saunter by to help Parks in obtaining food and essentials, and with whatever the blind old man needed.
On the morning of Dec. 28, 1944, when Thumback came calling, his friend’s outside door was unlocked when he entered at 7 a.m. Parks, the harmless, old, blind miner that was not known to have an enemy, was found dead in his bed, shot once through the head.
Thumback had notified Mrs. A. W. Oliver, in charge of the Teller County welfare office, who in turn called A.C. Denman, corner, who went to house immediately and found Park’s body still warm, according to a paper written for the Denver Westerners by Carl F. Mathews in 1962. Mathews was the former superintendent of the Bureau of Identification for Colorado Springs Police Department.
“Sheriff Cecil Markley and Police Chief Steve Playford said they had a murder mystery in which they found no clues. At the end of a day’s work on the case they had no idea who fired the shot,” wrote Mathews.
“Markley said an extensive search failed to reveal the presence of a gun, thus putting the question of suicide out of the question. In the hip pocket of Park’s trousers, which hung at the head of the bed, the officers found a wallet containing $445. The bullet, a .38 caliber, had passed through the man’s head and the officers found it embedded in the wall. The shot had evidently been fired from the direction of the outside door. Parks was not believed to have had any money other than that in his pocket, the officers said, nor anything else of value… They said it would not have been necessary for anyone to kill him to rob him.”
According to reports, both officers said that while Thumback had been questioned at length, no suspicion fell on him. The Sheriff and the Police Chief made a thorough search of the entire building but nothing in fingerprints, tracks other indications had been found that would throw any light on the mystery. Markley said he could find no grounds for supposing that treasure of any kind was hidden in the old building.
A.C. Denman, coroner held an inquest at Law Mortuary in Cripple Creek on Dec. 29 and reached the conclusion that Parks had come to his death by gunshot wound to the head, inflicted by a person or persons unknown, and that his death was felonious.
On Sunday, January 8,1945, Sheriff Markley said “everything is at a standstill,” in efforts to solve the case. According to all subsequent reports, nothing more was ever learned. To this day, there is no clear picture who, or why, someone would choose to shoot a blind, feeble, retired miner, more than eighty-years-old, in the head as he lay in his own bed.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On a flatcar, headed out of the yard


The town had marks of the railroad all over it. But Dolores in the 1970s had been separated from the rails just long enough to have an identity crisis, but not long enough to forget where it came from.
It was as Mark Twain said. “A railroad is like a lie, you have to keep building it to make it stand.”
Galloping Goose #5 was out in the town park over by the marshal’s office on the jail side of the town hall. If you were a skinny runt, you could squeeze into the cab through the loosely chained bus-like doors and pretend.
“Driving that train… Casey Jones you better watch your speed.”
The main highway in and out was called “Railroad Avenue.” Various buildings around town were labeled with left-over monikers such as the ‘track warehouse’ or the D&RG Southern Hotel.
Corrugated tin, painted Denver & Rio Grande yellow, covered the outside of dozens of other buildings, and platforms, built to service freight from boxcars, still appeared in front of about a third of the businesses in town.
The boarded-up section house still stood between the Sixth and Seventh Street out on the highway.
Legions of cub scouts were still able to gather rail spikes, track hardware and telegraph insulators from the rotting ties and weathered poles in Lost Canyon and pack them over across the rusting Fourth Street Bridge back into Dolores. They would end up in a coffee can in someone’s garage or as tent stakes, or sold for scrap at Curt’s Trading Post.
The town of Dolores was born with the railroad in mind.
“In 1889 plans were made by Otto Mears for a railroad running through and around the western flanks of the San Juan Mountains from Ridgway in the north to Durango in the south,” according to the Mountain Studies Institute. “The railroad would tap the riches accumulating in the booming mountain mining towns of Telluride and Rico and the smaller mining camps between the two towns. The 162-mile railroad would, as well, link two segments of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad coming into Durango from the east and into Ouray from the north. The new railroad would be known as the Rio Grande Southern.”
But as we all know, it is important to be near where the action is.
The fledgling settlement of Big Bend, which had been located nearly two miles downriver from present-day Dolores since 1878, basically pulled up stakes and moved to where the rails from Durango entered the Dolores River Valley.
“In 1890 two Big Bend businessmen laid out the town site of Dolores at the mouth of Lost Canyon. The rest of the citizen’s of Big Bend soon followed. By the time the tracks reached Dolores on Thanksgiving Day, 1891, the community of Big Bend was no more,” according to Mountain Studies Institute.
Born as a product of the rails, for 60 years Dolores lived in the shadow of the line, finally waving goodbye from the platform in 1951 when D&RG Southern closed and most of the track was pulled up and sold for scrap.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Only here for the beer, or 'Black Cow.'


If I could figure out how to time travel, I would like to party like it was 1899. The city of Cripple Creek or Victor might be a good place to start.
At that time, Cripple Creek was the fourth largest town in the state. 32,000 people lived in the district and business was booming.
The city directory of 1900 listed 52 stockbrokers, 3 banks, 3 stock exchanges, 10 insurance representatives, 9 jewelers, 49 grocers, 68 saloons and numerous gambling halls and sporting establishments.
But what would the party be like?
Any good revelry, in my humble opinion, finds a great starting point with beer. In this case, you’re talking about the days of Coors as a microbrewer.
In fact, Adolph Coors owned a building in Cripple Creek at the time.
“German born, Coors has been accustomed to the European tradition of breweries owning local pubs to help distribute their product. Coors carried on that tradition in Colorado. As his brewery prospered, he purchased buildings to lease back to prospective saloon owners who, in turn, would sell beer in their establishments,” wrote Brian Levine in Cripple Creek, City of Influence.
The Coors building was at 241-243 E Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek, and he leased the property back to Henry Bunte for his B. B. Saloon.
“Although Adolph Coors did not finance the original construction of this building, Coors purchased it from stock brokers William P. Bonbright and J. Arthur Connell a year after it was built (1896),” according to Levine.
But it seems the most popular brew at the time, among the rising young stockbrokers, mining speculators and bankers, was the stuff served at the Denver Stock Exchange Saloon which is where Bronco Billy’s is today.
E. A. Asmussen, who was also a town trustee, was bartender, owner and when occasion called for it, bouncer. Asmussen contracted with well-known Denver brewers, the Zang Brewing Company and Rocky Mountain Brewery (owned by Zang).
Son of the founder, Phil Zang was the brewery manager for years after the English company Denver United Breweries purchased the company from his father Adolph in 1888. It became one of the largest breweries in the West.
“Adolph became interested in two of the district’s noted gold producers – the Anaconda and the Vindicator – and thus, became financially and politically involved in the Cripple Creek District. After the Anaconda and the Vindicator were absorbed by (A.E.) Carlton interests. Adolph Zang became a shareholder in The Golden Cycle Corporation,” wrote Levine.
Other beers served in the district might have included Tivoli Brewing Company or Union Brewing Company products, which were also two well-known Denver brewers that merged in 1901 (producing where the Auraria Student Union is today, in downtown Denver). In many locations, five-cent (nickel) draws were the going rate, except in the bordellos, where it was markedly more expensive.
If you had a taste for something stronger, of course that was readily available, often labeled affectionately and colorfully, ‘nose paint,’ ‘tonsil varnish,’ ‘tongue oil’ or ‘liquid muscle,’ in the vernacular of the period.
But a fellow didn’t have to drink alcohol exclusively.
The "black cow" or "root beer float" was created on August 19, 1893. Frank J. Wisner, owner of Cripple Creek Brewing in Colorado, served the first root beer float. Inspired by the moonlit view of snow-capped Cow Mountain, Mr. Wisner added a scoop of ice cream to his Myers Avenue Red root beer and began serving it as the "Black Cow Mountain." The name was later shortened to "black cow."
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mean, green, and not too far in between


Green technology is really nothing new with me.
My first car was a ‘green’ 1974 Vega that I bought in 1978 from some friend of my older sister. I paid $750 for it and the purchase included the quadraphonic Pioneer 8-track, AM-FM stereo and Citizen’s Band radio plus a full tank of gas.
The first day I owned it, I backed out of the Dolores High School parking lot in a simulated Rockford Files style peel out and tagged the corner of a parked orange and white Ford Pinto. Fortunately, I didn’t hit the gas tank side of the Pinto or my story could have ended right there. The incident foretold of a violent future of bent fenders, broken glass, twisted sheet metal and dinged paint jobs that was to be that car’s legacy.
Before retiring its services, (It was still running when I sold it for $300 to some ‘bigger fool’ that was going fix it up) I think we attributed seven real accidents – not to mention dozens of ditch drives, near misses, killed animals and true cliff hangers. By my definition at the time, a ‘real accident’ would involve a report to the authorities.
“The 1974 Chevrolet Vega concentrated on cosmetic extras in a period when gas shortages and high car insurance rates were spelling the end of performance as a selling point,” wrote the editors of Consumer Guide in “How Stuff Works.”
Lack of performance was a constant theme regarding the Vega and other vehicles of the era. Not many had good things to say about Detroit’s offerings of the period. Here in the Rockies, it was no different, as evident in comments such as this by Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen’s recent missive on the auto industry.
“The newest car I've ever owned was a 1974 Chevrolet Vega that I bought in 1976. Early in 1977, it burned up in front of the Kremmling post office because the cigarette lighter stuck, overheated, and ignited the dashboard,” wrote Quillen.
In an unfortunate failure in long-term testing of engineering, the aluminum block in the beast, the first of its kind, was brought to production in only two years. Reynolds Metal Co. came up with an alloy called A-390, composed of 77 percent aluminum, 17 percent silicon, 4 percent copper, 1 percent iron, and traces of phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and titanium. The A-390 alloy was suitable for faster production diecasting which made the Vega block $8 less expensive to manufacture than other aluminum engines. Less expensive with good reason, the 85-horsepower engine with a two-barrel carburetor would start burning oil like a Kuwaiti pipeline terrorist after about 30,000 miles.
But despite such a poor reputation, a lot of them were produced. In 1974, it was among the top ten best selling cars in America and 450,000 of that model year hit the blacktop on U.S. highways.
The Vega was also the first American car to use the structural aluminum for bumpers. It had a huge front bumper, beginning in 1974, when new federal impact rules kicked in. The new standards forced a slight redesign to soften the front by sloping the metal grill with cooling slots, similar to the Camaro.
In my particular case, the huge front bumper was the car’s saving grace.
My ‘so-called’ friends were known to drive it over retaining walls in Rico, through the ditches of Lebanon, and the fires of the Pump Pasture. I myself, had executed a silver fox at the top of the hill on the way to Cortez and put it into a 360 spin to avoid elk out on the Ridge. My next door neighbor in Dolores ran into the back of it at a stoplight in Cortez. A driver in New Mexico, (with no insurance, I might add) jacked it up down on the border. Air band concerts took place on the hood as music from the soundtrack of the movie FM blared from the speakers inside.
"It's alright if you love me. It's alright if you don't. I'm not afraid of you running away from me, honey. I get the feeling you won't," sang Tom Petty . Break down, car. Go ahead and give it to me.
Sometimes I would pound them out, and spray gray primer over them. Sometimes I would buy replacement fender that was painted black. Some I would patch with “Bondo.” Some I would just leave for artistic effect in the sculpture it became.
But it survived. The dents and damage added character, if not style.
When I hit the fox, for instance, a passenger who claimed to know what he was doing, tried to skin it in hopes of salvaging the hide. Unsuccessful, the car wore the foxtail on CB antenna for months.
The floor in the back seat was frequently obscured by empty Coors bottles. In place of the gear-shift knob, I had drilled a hole and tapped out threads to place a 14-ball.
I have to say I very much enjoyed my own tenure and the interesting quirks involved with Vega ownership. I am proud to note that I owned a ‘green’ car, 20 years before it was ‘in thing’ to do. All you hybrid drivers and bio-diesel jockies perhaps have nothing on me. But where can I get bumper like that for my Subaru.
“Now, fill up the oil, and check the gas.”
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Here for the summer, then gone for good


Try to remember because it is important. That’s what I’ve been telling myself about conversations I had more than 30 years ago, places that we went to, and people I knew then.
In the conversations, stories of the past rolled off their tongues and took me back to times and places long since disappeared. The world was changing – markedly, even then. But not so much as it had already changed.
We were trying to put plastic storm windows on the outside of the old house, the kind you stretched and then tacked in place with the little wooden strips. That’s how the topic came up – the old house.
Merton Taylor had moved it from the abandoned lumber town of McPhee, and he and Cecil had lived in it for years ever since. I, of course, had heard many accounts of McPhee. But then, they began to take on new meaning with the understanding that area would all be under water in a few years.
At the turn of the century, after the Rio Grande Southern Railroad arrived in the area and Edgar Biggs of the New Mexico Lumber Company began buying up cutting rights to newly accessible timber that now could be shipped somewhere, it was only a matter of time before all ‘woodcutting hell’ broke out in the forests north of Dolores.
“Biggs hired Arthur Ridgway to survey the region for its timber potential. Ridgway’s report estimated that 210 square miles or 134,400 acres of prime western yellow pine were available in the area. He proposed that Biggs construct a sixty-five mile logging railroad with which to harvest close to 135,000 narrow gauge carloads of lumber,” according Frontiers in Transition: A history of Southwestern Colorado. The book was developed for Bureau of Land Management’s Cultural Resource Series and written by Paul M. O’Rourke in 1980.
Biggs, who had worked with C.D. McPhee and J.J. McGinnity of the New Mexico Lumber Company at operations in Pagosa Springs and Lumberton, New Mexico, had planned to harvest the timber north of Dolores without the new Mexico Lumber Company backing. “McPhee caught wind of Biggs plan however, and purchased the Denver-based lumber company which Biggs had hoped would finance the operation. Although Biggs remained affiliated with New Mexico Lumber until 1917, McPhee and McGinnity, after their coup of 1907, took charge of operations in the Dolores River Valley.”
By 1913, they had amassed rights for cutting nearly 90 million board feet of lumber in the area. With another huge purchase of rights in 1924, the company made plans to build a mill town about four miles north of Dolores.
“The town of McPhee was only part of the company’s expansive lumber monopoly,” writes Lisa Mausolf in her book The River of Sorrows: The History of the Lower Dolores River Valley. “During its peak in 1927 McPhee and McGinnity had five lumberyards in Denver, five in San Luis Valley and five on Moffat Road with 25 branches in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.”
The company originally looked at placing the mill in or near the town of Dolores but local opposition forced them to look elsewhere. That is how they arrived at the 800-acre site of the old Charlie Johnson homestead.
“The town site was originally known as Ventura. It was also temporarily called Escalante. McPhee was situated on the alleged spot where in 1776 Father (Silvestre Velez de) Escalante stopped for several weeks beside a stream he called the Dolores River. The town was given its final name after an influential visit to the site by William McPhee in 1924,” wrote Mausolf.
By 1925, the mill at McPhee was producing 61 percent of all lumber in the entire state, more than 27,445.360 board feet.
The mill itself covered a city block with a three-story main building, three-acre pond planing mill and box factory.
The town had 1,400 people living there, with a school for 500 enrolled students, company store complete with its own ‘picture show,” church, boarding houses and restaurants. It was connected to logging camps via 60 miles of logging railroad.
“The majority of the Anglo employee housed contained five rooms… The houses were simple rectangles capped by broad gable, with front and rear porches and painted dividing. In many cases the rear porch was screened for an additional sleeping area. Rent was $10 a month and was deducted automatically from wages. Electricity was provided by the company, as was running water. Sewers were connected to the superintendents’, doctors and some of the larger homes. The rest of the town had outdoor privies,” says Mausolf in her book.
“A separate area ¾ of a mile away from the Anglo community was reserved for the Mexican-American employees. This so-called ‘Mexican town,’ ‘Chihuahua’ or ‘Chilitown’ consisted of two rows of small houses of unfinished lumber, spaced at 15-feet intervals… Rent averaged about $2 per month.”
By 1945, the timber was all but gone, and the dismantling of a town had begun. The houses were sold at average cost of $100 to $125 but they had to be moved. It reportedly would take two days to jack one up and a day to move it.
Houses ended up in Dolores, Dove Creek and out at Lebanon.
Merton and Wilson Brumley bought several of them, relocated to 17th Street and Merton lived there the rest of his life. The superintendent’s house was moved out on Summit Ridge in the late 1970s and Evelyn Royce lived there for years. Dr. Speck’s office was moved to Cortez where it served as his office and then his son’s until 1968. The Catholic Church at McPhee ended up out in Dove Creek.
The town had lasted only 24 years.
The Bureau of Land Management purchased the old town site property to begin preparing for the McPhee Reservoir project from Fred and Margaret Sheperd who bought it in 1948 in the waning days of lumber production.
Today, I try to picture in my mind's eye what the area looked like before it was submerged under hundreds of feet of reservoir water. I try to remember the conversations of those who had been there and peer through the film-covered windows of times past.
I think it is important.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eustache Carriere's La Grand Montagne


Sometimes in history, it is difficult to get noticed. No credit where, perhaps, credit is due.
Colorado historians, in general, give recognition for the first discovery of gold in Colorado to a group of California-bound members of the Cherokee tribe from Georgia, and specifically Louis Ralston. That group was unimpressed enough with their findings that they continued on to the California gold fields. They kept track of their discovery, however, and rumors of it swirled around for years. Then, in 1858, William “Green” Russell, who had connections to the Cherokee tribe and had heard of the initial strike, organized a group of prospectors and began a search that eventually ended up near the mouth of Dry Creek on the South Platte River in what is now Englewood. Here they found a significant amount of gold in a placer, and with a little advertisement in the form of guide books, word of mouth, and tall tales, by 1859 the “Pikes Peak Gold Rush” was on.
But poor Eustache Carriere, nobody really remembers those nuggets he staggered into Taos with, back in the mid-1830s. They didn’t give him respect then, and he is lucky if he even gets a footnote today when we talk about the history of gold discovery in Colorado.
Born in Quebec, a native of La Rivifcre du Chene, the son of
Baptiste and Marie (Lajeunesse) Carriere. He married at Florissant,
Missouri, January 3, 1820, Josette Therese Jusseaume, daughter of
Rene Jusseaume, the Indian interpreter.
By 1812, Carriere began working for Manuel Lisa, according to the Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography by Dan L. Tharp.
“He was reputed to have discovered gold in the Rocky Mountains in 1835, this believed later by some to be the original Colorado gold strike.”
But that is about the extent of his 15 words of fame. Manuel Lisa, on the other hand ¬ his boss for a time, is recognized as the founder of Fort Lisa on the Bighorn River in Montana, president of the Missouri Fur Company of St. Louis, sub-agent for all the Indian tribes on the upper Missouri, and pal to William Clark.
While working for Lisa, he was attached to a hunting party that ended up in the mountains of Colorado. Carriere, who according to lore had a history of being a bit of a straggler, remained behind when the hunting party set out for Taos without him.
“He was confident he could overtake his companions within a short time,” wrote Nolie Mumey in a paper for the Denver Westerners in August of 1961. “He took a long look at La Grand Montagne, as a fix on his bearings, and thought he could take a short route and overtake them. While walking along the bank of a stream, he saw a shinny pebble in the sand, which he picked up and examined. Quickly realizing that it was pure gold, he made a further search and was rewarded with a large number of gold nuggets which he put in his trap-sac. He became lost and confused in his directions. He thought his companions would wait for him or send someone back to find him. All this they did, but he was not found.”
Because it was late in the fall, Carriere knew he couldn’t wait around forever, and burdened by the weight of the gold, he decided to keep only a few, hide the rest, and come back for them later. He then made his way through the San Luis Valley to the Rio Grande and on to Taos to meet up with his original party.
“He tried to explain his tardy arrival by showing them the nuggets he had retained and telling them he had become lost while searching the stream,” wrote Mumey.
“His companions made fun of him and said that he had the nuggets in his trap-sac for years, or that he must have obtained them from a party of Utes, or that his absence could be explained by being in the company of some young squaw.”
However, they were intrigued enough by the nuggets to help him organize a trip in the spring guided by Carriere back to La Grand Montagne.
That spring, the searching party of trappers-turned-prospectors failed to locate the bonanza Carriere said he had seen the previous fall.
“Members of the party became angry, cursing and threatening him. They held a meeting, called him a liar and an imposter, and said they thought he was deliberately deceiving them as to the exact location of the gold. They decided to tie him to a tree and give him a whipping, which they did, then returned to their hunting grounds,” says Mumey in her paper.
After the failed gold hunting trip, Carriere was treated as an outcast, fool, or worse, and shunned by many in the trapping community. Eventually, burdened by hearing loss and years of loneliness, he lived out his old age in a log cabin built by Madame M.B. Chauteu in the woods north of Theresa’s Seminary, where 10th Street runs between Pennsylvania and Washington Avenues in Kansas City, and later moved on to St. Genevieve, Missouri, and eventually died there at the age of 90.
By the time of his death, the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 had come and went. The rush of the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp” at Cripple Creek was creeping up on the horizon, and years of production from that district, and other gold discoveries in the San Juans have proven, over and over again, that Carriere had been right all along.
The mountain he called his La Grand Montagne has never since been positively identified. It just possibly could be Pikes Peak.


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Saturday, October 24, 2009

We communists, taking root and blossoming


“We communists are like seeds and the people are like the soil. Wherever we go, we must unite with the people, take root and blossom among them.” Mao Tse-Tung, 1966.

Dolores seemed like an unlikely place to harbor communist ideals or to produce a Marxist model for utopian cooperation and advancement. But right there it was. Evidence, plain as the nose on you face.
It started out innocent enough. Lynn Leavell had a simple wish. He hoped that one day, all the neighborhood kids would enjoy basketball.
Not just watching it on TV, or playing under the tyrannical guidance of an oppressive coach in gym class or after school — but in the freedom of someone’s own back yard. His — for example.
So, despite only being 9 or 10-years-old, and of limited resources and abilities, he set out to make that happen.
To set the record straight, Lynn was generally a capitalist. He had strong beliefs in the monetary system, the exchange of goods and services, the advancement of a man (or woman) by hard work, and careful administration and application of the fruits of that toil.
But it was like that well-worn Polish joke, “What’s the difference between capitalism and communism? Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man; Communism is the reverse.”
The first step was to convince his dad, who worked out at the sawmill at the time (or maybe it was his mom for she worked out there as well,) to bring home a big old pole. It had to be one tall enough and sturdy enough to hang a backboard from.
The pole appeared one day finally, without fanfare, and was deposited right there at the edge of the yard, parallel with Mary Ruth Major’s fence.
And what a knarly-looking monster it was? It was straight and tall, without bends, curves, irregularities or deviation regarding its reach toward the sky. But man, it was not pretty.
Every six to ten inches, all the way up and all the way around, little nubs, where once a small limb had hastily been trimmed with a chainsaw, protruded slightly from the pole. Some were smashed down flat. Others, the size a man’s thumb, needed the attention of additional sawmilling.
Not to be discouraged, Lynn set work with a hand saw and in some instances a hammer, or wood rasp, and occasionally even a hack saw, in his efforts to smooth over the problem protrusions.
His efforts were rewarded with a passably-smooth pole that was eventually raised, part of it submerged in a deep hole, and set with concrete out in the back of the back yard, near where the old shed used to be, but with plenty of space all the way around. Most of the time a basketball would fall within the confines of Leavell property, no matter how errant a shot.
Time passed and indeed, the neighbor kids did find the wooden backboard at regulation height upon the great knobby pole, to be quite satisfactory. Hours were wiled away after school, on weekends, vacations and during the summers. So much so, that a big brown hole was worn into the lawn and endless contests of H-O-R-S-E, Around the World, one on one, two on two, two on one, and whatever variation you could think of, would occur at all times of day. Every so often, a player, or the game’s host, would pause temporarily and the saw would be summoned to deal with the as-yet-untouched, but never the less still dangerous, knot on the pole.
The games and the yard itself developed a unique, or perhaps unheard of, quality of fairness and equality. Players of awesome ability were matched against those of mediocre, or even sub-par ability with little or no ill effect. Young men played side-by-side with young women. Men against boys. Brother versus sister. Good opposed evil, and so on.
That is where the reference to communism surfaced that I warned you about. Communism, pure and simple, blossoming right there in the soil of Leavell’s back yard on Seventh Street and Hillside Avenue in Dolores, Colorado.
Communism — in its distilled state … disproving Will Rogers often repeated remark, “Communism is like prohibition. It is a good idea but it won’t work.” Or lying bare the idea that a cow of many, is well milked and badly fed.
But old Karl Marx couldn’t have set it up any more perfectly. For in that back yard emerged a genuine model, the real deal.
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
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Other Related Stories
A missed thankyou
Picture

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Badly mangled miner haunts Dunn Building


It is easy to dismiss the idea of a ghost or spirit in the light of day.
Alone, under the stars or in the dim lighting of an ancient building, among the night sounds of creaky floors, unknown varmints, sagging ceilings and the frightening history of a once violent 100-year-old mining camp, it can be an entirely different deal.
Maybe it is that sudden unexplained draft in the room, or the feeling of not being alone, or the dog’s low growl and raised hair on her back. Or perhaps the fleeting image (at least you think you saw it) of young girl, dressed in the old fashioned garb and saddest of looks, at the foot of the stairs -- that convinces you to reconsider.
The Dunn Building, at 213 Victor Avenue, in Victor, Colorado, has all the pre-described elements that might make such a statement.
The building was once the prosperous business address of one Thomas F. Dunn, undertaker, who also lived with his wife in the upstairs apartments above the busy funeral parlor. By some accounts, Dunn was an artist at patching up bodies that had been shot, stabbed, dynamited, buried in ruble, fallen from great heights, entangled in machinery, or otherwise twisted and torn in rigors of the gold camp mines, saloons and brothels.
But death eventually catches up to us all, and T.F. Dunn passed from this world before the turn of the century. As surely as we all will pass some time.
Mrs. Dunn, surviving her husband by many years, of course was left to cope. To do so, she converted the upstairs apartments into a boarding house taking on tenants.
In the 1983 book “Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek,” by Chas Clifton, then owner of the Dunn building Skip Phillips is quoted, “I love my ghosts,” and says he has felt Mrs. Dunn presence and referred to her as his caretaker.
“Not only does ‘Mrs. Dunn’ manifest as the usual footsteps, Phillips says but an earlier tenant is said to have seen a women dressed in black leaning over his bed upstairs in what had been one of Mrs. Dunn’s eleven rental rooms. The man also told Phillips of a ‘crying’ sound in the building all the time,” according to Clifton’s book.
“Phillips tells how he and other persons have felt ‘watched’ in particular parts of the building, especially around the rear door, and where the stairway comes up from the basement, a point he jocularly refers to as the ‘haunted stairwell.’ Several psychics have told him that ‘something really sad’ happened in an upstairs bedroom, others that they could feel the concentrated essence of sorrow distilled from all the mourners who visited the undertaker decades ago.”
But perhaps it had something to do with Thomas F. Dunn actions before his own death. For that, has become a legendary tale in the district.
“For the longest time, people just assumed the spirits of those bitterly departed that once went in and out of the funeral parlor were responsible for the goings-on in the Dunn building. Until 1899, that is, when a man who had been one of Mr. Dunn’s assistants spoke up about a disturbing incident that took place in the funeral home in 1893,” wrote Dan Asfar in his 2006 book “Ghost Stories of Colorado.”
“According to this man’s story, it happened while Dunn was working on the corpse of a miner who had been badly mutilated in a cave in. He had just begun preparing the miner for burial when the supposed cadaver suddenly twitched on the embalming table. A moment later, the badly bleeding body came to tortured life; one of its hands darted out to grab the startled mortician while the other reached up to feel the remnants of its mangled face. It was an undertaker’s nightmare come true: the dead man at the table wasn’t quite dead yet,” writes Asfar.
“The realization hit the mortician, his assistant and supposed-to-be dead miner with equal force. As Dunn took a few horrified steps backward, the man on the table let out a blood-curdling wail and tried to sit up. Although the miner did manage to get up, it quickly became obvious he didn’t know which way to go; he couldn’t see a thing through his one remaining eye.”
According to legend. Dunn and his assistant administered morphine to quiet the man, and upon evaluation and consideration of what a doctor might be able to do for the man, more morphine was used to put him to his final rest.
“Dunn himself administered the lethal injection and hardly waited at all before resuming his work on the miner. The young assistant couldn’t help noticing that the miner was still producing a faint pulse while he was being prepared for burial,” according to Asfar’s account.
It is said that the badly mangled miner’s spirit haunts the Dunn Building to this day.
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For more Ghosts, see following links:
Ghost Hang out at the old school
Gottlieb Fluhmann's Ghost
Maggie and other ghosts in the building

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To use a rather crude expression


These guys go way back with me, almost as far as I can remember -- to use a rather crude expression, longer than a whore’s dream.
There are bad things and good things about longtime friends.
The bad thing is, they will never change.
The good thing is, well -- they will never change.
To paraphrase one of our former coaches, Edsel Page, while running plays as the ‘hamburger squad’ in the ‘hammer’ formation under assistant coach Brian Tobin,
“Screw around, screw around, that’s all you guys do.”
He had a point, but it was probably a mistake to be so mad about it. Sign of weakness, you know, showing us how to get to you.
“Let’s see what happens if we run a “Statue of Liberty play,” was Tobin answer in the next huddle.
Henry Adams said, “One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possible.”
I can count higher than that. Sometimes, it is a wonder how we manage to be so fortunate.
God, save me from my friends – I can protect myself from my enemies.
And from Mark Twain, “The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right.”
Ah, who needs them? I’m seldom wrong.
To lift another vague expression -- Aim low boys, they are riding Shetlands.
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shining on Colorado's golden dome



Every morning, driving into work, I marvel at the golden dome of the capitol when I turn east onto Colfax Avenue from I-25. It is certainly not the highest building in the Denver skyline, but the shiny edifice off to the right stands out as unique, substantive, and respectable. Many mornings, the sun reflecting off the gilded hemisphere is occasion enough for sunglasses.
Gold is an impressive and appropriate material to cover the top of the state’s top government building. The precious metal helped build and pay for much of the ‘Centennial State’s’ growth and expansion.
It called out to the first Argonauts of 1859 and inspired their push for “Pikes Peak or Bust.” Later, the yellow metal made possible ‘the greatest gold camp in the world’ at Cripple Creek and Victor. Money earned in that district, transformed Colorado Springs into a world class tourist destination and paid for city, county and federal buildings all over town. Huge lumps were pulled from Clear Creek and the central mountains near Breckenridge. If California hadn’t beaten us to it by 10 years, we probably would be known as the Golden State.
But the dome wasn’t always golden. In fact the whole building had a bit of a troubled history. Henry Brown, (the same Brown who built another Denver landmark, the Brown Palace Hotel) donated the land for the building a full eight years before statehood in 1868, but because no fundraising was occurring at the time Colorado became a state, he filed a law suit, and put up a wooden fence around the property. The suit went all the way to the United States Supreme Court where Brown’s revocation of the property was rejected. Even so, builders didn’t turn a shovel on the new structure until 1886. And it was slow going for years afterward.
The first contractor encountered cost overruns early on and was replaced. The Detroit architect who designed the building, Elijah Meyers, was fired after two years on the job. The second architect, Pete Gumry, was killed in an explosion of another building. Striking quarry workers slowed construction. The third architect, James Murdoch, resigned after three years. Local architect, F.E. Edbrooke, (who had designed many local buildings including the Brown Palace) finally finished the job. It was Edbrooke who suggested that the dome be gilded with real Colorado gold. But that part of the project didn’t happen until 1908.
The original dome’s copper sheathing turned a dull greenish hue shortly after completion. A donation of 200 ounces of real Colorado gold, produced by the Colorado Mining Association at the urging of San Juan road-builder, newspaper founder, and general all-purpose pioneer, Otto Mears -- finished off the building. Of course, the price of gold wasn’t $1050 an ounce at that time.
It was re-gilded in 1948, again in1980 and once more in 1991.
“Atop the dome is a glass globe four feet in diameter that surrounds a beacon-like light bulb. Originally it was thought that a statue, of the "most beautiful woman in Colorado" was the most appropriate way to adorn the dome. One board member suggested his own daughter and with the female members of the legislature voting for themselves, the board did the politically correct thing and voted down the proposition,” according to virtual tour information at the state’s web site.
This summer, Gov. Bill Ritter announced that plans to repair the golden dome are on hold, at least for now. The cast iron that makes up the bulk of the dome is rusting and crumbling.
“But the state officials say the public is not in any danger. Visitors have not been allowed on the walkway around the dome since a 10-pound piece of cast iron fell off in 2007,” said a June 30, 2009 article by Claire Trageser in the Denver Post.
In the meantime, the dome still garners iconic status in the minds of Colorado residents as evidenced in former Sport Illustrated columnist and ESPN personality Rick Reilly’s recent ‘licking of the dome’ Tuesday of this week. Reilly, a Colorado native, made good on a promise offered up on the Mike Rosen show in April, that if the Rockies made the playoffs, he would “tongue-bathe the capitol dome.”
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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vanished, without a trace


In late September of 1917, Colorado Springs was, for the most part a growing, peaceful, tourist destination bolstered by years of economic vitality related to gold mining in the Cripple Creek mining district and ore processing in Old Colorado City. While some folks were concerned about increasing incidents of influenza, the war in Europe, and other such worldly worries – they became really frightened when a 10-year-old girl vanished, without a trace on September 18, 1917.
“Nellie Ferguson, 10-year-old child, has been reported missing by her parents. She was last seen at the Lowell school yesterday about 3:45 p.m., when she stayed after school and assisted one of the teachers,” according to the Gazette on Sept. 19.
More than 150 men and boys searched all day for the girl in nearly every part of the city, and police officers, opening a full-scale investigation, still, they could not locate Nellie Ferguson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ferguson of 15 West Rio Grande Street.
By September 21, the city was nearly in a panic. A systematic search performed by volunteers from Colorado College, the high School and Lowell School, under the direction of D.G. Johnson, the Commissioner of Public Safety, scoured the surrounding area within, and 5 miles beyond, city limits. Still, no sign of Nellie.
Rewards from most every group and numerous individuals sprang forth: $25 from the Gazette, Teachers, the PTA and the principal at Lowell School contributed. Students from Lowell School raised $17, which was a substantial sum for school children of that time. Later, the city (by decree of the city council) threw in $100 to reward fund. Postcards by the hundreds, with little Nellie Ferguson’s photo, were mailed all over the state.
“A Mr. and Mrs. William Hamman came under suspicion; they were said to be members of the Pillar of Fire religious sect and had roomed at the Ferguson’s for a while. After moving to another house, the Hammans were said to have become very friendly with Nellie.” according to a 1962 paper by Carl Mathews for the Denver Westerners’ Roundup. Mathews served as superintendent of the Bureau of Identification in the Colorado Springs Police Department for 32 years and retired in 1952.
The Pillar of Fire religious sect, founded by Alma Birdwell White, was later connected with Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s in Colorado, though they have since renounced that connection, calling it a mistake.
“On Sept. 20th, they were located in Fountain. That evening, Acting Chief Hugh Harper with officers of the Police Department, and Sheriff Weir, accompanied by a representative of the Gazette, went there and, after two hours of cross examination, the Hammans were permitted to remain in Fountain. However, they were under police surveillance, which was continued after they went to Pueblo. On the 28th, at the instigation of Fred Ferguson, the father of the girl, a warrant was issued and they were arrested and returned. On October 2nd they were to be arraigned on a charge of ‘Contributing to Juvenile Delinquency,’ but I was unable to find any further mention of that angle,” wrote Mathews in 1962.
By late October, a Grand Jury conducting an investigation questioned many witnesses including Mrs. Ferguson and neighbors living near the Ferguson home, but came up with zip, nothing, zilch, nada.
By mid November, the girl’s father had shifted his own focus to Denver thinking that perhaps the girl had been taken by Gypsies, and the Denver Police Department was reportedly working on several clues. Unfortunately, those efforts turned up nothing. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ferguson went to their grave without any real idea what happened to their young daughter. Little Nellie Ferguson was never again seen after completing her helpful chores at Lowell School on the afternoon of September 18, 1917.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where True western symbols came from


“It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.”

___Thomas Jefferson

After recently noting some disagreement about which horse and rider’s likeness might actually grace Wyoming license plates, and commenting on the tendency of our neighbors-to-the-north’s reference to Colorado folks as “greenies,” I have encountered another interesting twist in my tale.

As it turns out, the designer who developed the “Cowboy State’s” plates was actually a “greenie.”

According to three venerated Colorado institutions, the Colorado Historical Society, the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Public Library, which are hosting the Allen True exhibit opening Oct. 2, at all three locations, True designed the bucking bronco and rider on Wyoming license plates.

Allan Tupper True was a prolific muralist, magazine illustrator, and studio painter who produced commissioned works all over the American West including the capitols of Colorado and Missouri, as well as Hoover Dam and Denver’s Civic Center.

“The bucking horse and rider first appeared on Wyoming license plate in 1936,” according to information from University of Wyoming. “That design was developed by the then Secretary of State, Lester C. Hunt (who later became the Governor of Wyoming, and a U.S. Senator) in 1935.”

Hunt commissioned True to do the work. The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Web site confirms that.

“In 1935, Secretary of State Lester Hunt proposed legislation to make changes to the Wyoming license plate design to combat the problem of wide-spread counterfeiting of Wyoming's license plate. Therefore, Secretary Hunt commissioned Mr. Allen T. True of Littleton, Colorado to 'put to paper' his concept for a new license plate design which included the famous Bucking Horse and Rider,” says the state's site.

Though, the University of Wyoming says it was really Hunt who planted the seed.

“It was his idea to use the bucking horse and rider,” according to the University of Wyoming’s official Athletic Site. “The horse and rider he utilized for the license plates differs from the Steamboat image. For plates, Hunt used a photo of a rider named ‘Stub’ Farlow, and a horse called ‘Deadman.’ ‘Deadman’ belonged to the Jackson Hole Frontier Association.”

“This symbol has been a part of the University of Wyoming Athletics Department since the early 1920s, when UW Equipment Manager Deane Hunton obtained a photograph of a cowboy, Guy Holt, riding the world famous bucking horse Steamboat.”

I always thought that perhaps the horse’s name was a reflection on the town in Northern Colorado, but ...

“Steamboat was born on a ranch between Laramie and Bosler in 1901, and is regarded as one of the greatest bucking horses ever. Hunton traced the photo, and had it made into a logo that was utilized by UW athletic teams. In later years the symbol more closely resembled the logo on the state’s automobile license plates which was a depiction of another horse and rider,” according to UW Athletics.

“Whether it is Steamboat or Deadman on those Cowboy and Cowgirl uniforms, one thing is certain … the bucking-horse-and-rider-logo is one of the nation’s best and most distinctive.”

Maybe so, but it is important to know the 'True' origin of things.

As for the Denver art exhibits, the Denver Public Library will focus on Allen Tupper Trues’ magazine work, the Denver Art Museum will display True’s paintings, and the Colorado History Museum features full-scale murals, studies, photographs, and other objects that True produced over the life of his career. Colorado Public Television will air “Allen True’s West,” at 8 p.m. on Thursday, midnight on Friday and 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4.

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See related story

Once a 'Greenie,' always a 'Greenie.'

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Perfecting the art of getting out of Dodge


"Every dog, we are told, has his day, unless there are more dogs than days."
__ Bat Masterson


Sometimes, a change in scenery is good for you soul, or can save your hide, or it is simply necessary to help clear the air around you. No one understood that better than the legendary gunfighter and Colorado lawman Bat Masterson.
Masterson was a true practitioner of the art (both literally and figuratively) of picking the precise moment to “get out of Dodge.”
As a young man, Masterson worked as an army scout in conflicts with Kiowa and Comanche tribes. His first gunfight occurred in a bar in Sweetwater, Texas.
Melvin A. King, an army corporal, who became jealous and combative upon finding Molly Brennan in the company of one Bat Masterson at the Lady Gay Saloon, began firing upon them.
According to some accounts, Miss Brennan jumped in front of Masterson in hopes of heading off the violence and preventing King from shooting him, but both were hit anyway. As Masterson fell, he shot King, who had paused to cock his pistol. Both King and Molly died of their wounds, and it left Masterson using his cane for the rest of his life.
After serving as a deputy for the city (and later in the famous Dodge City Peace Commission) alongside Wyatt Earp in wild and wooly Dodge City, Kansas, Masterson eventually became Ford County Sheriff. His brother Ed, became City Marshall of Dodge City. Ed was killed in fight with two drunken cowboys outside a saloon in Dodge City in 1878.
Bat Masterson became a deputy U.S. Marshall in 1879 while continuing to serve as county sheriff, but by 1880, after losing a re-election bid for Ford County Sheriff and still despondent from the slaying of his brother, he found it was time to get out of Dodge'.
For the next few years he passed most of his time playing or dealing cards, drinking and chasing women in places like Leadville, Trinidad and Tombstone, Ariz., with his longtime friends, the Earp brothers.
In 1882, he was hired by the city of Trinidad to clean up the town as town marshal and was by most accounts, successful. In the meantime, the Earps, along with 'Doc' John Holiday had managed to get into their legendary trouble at the OK Coral in Tombstone. Finding it necessary to get of town themselves, they ended up in Trinidad. Being an officer of the law at the time of the incident, Wyatt Earp was somewhat protected from legal troubles in Arizona, but Doc Holiday was in danger of being extradited for his role in the shootout. Masterson, according to some reports, was able to help out by having him arrested in Trinidad on trumped-up charges and making sure that trial delays and hearing postponements gummed up Holiday’s extradition back to Arizona. Holiday was however arrested in Denver, but Colorado refused to extradite and he lived out the remaining five years of his life here in Colorado.
Masterson returned to Dodge City several times over the next few years but, but in each case, he seemed to run into some form of trouble there. Visiting in 1881, he stepped off a train and into a gunfight with two men who were badgering his younger brother Jim. The fight was stopped by shotgun-brandishing authorities, and one of the wounded men was taken to the Doctor. Masterson, for his part in the affair, paid a small fine and left on the evening train.
He showed up again in Dodge City in 1883 for the “Dodge City War” that wasn’t. The scrap developed between the town’s saloon keepers and the city authorities but it turned out to be a bunch of hub-bub over nothing. In 1886, he was back in town again and ended up smacking Nellie Spencer’s husband with a pistol and ran off with Nellie.
That relationship, however, was short-lived and by 1891 he owned and managed the Palace Variety Theater in Denver and married actress Emma Walters. He began writing sports columns for George’s Weekly, a sporting newspaper in Denver. He also spent some time managing a gambling hall in Creede (where he reportedly got liquored up on occasion and would walk down the street late at night shooting out business lights and then come back in the morning an pay for the damage).
Denver, started wearing on him as well.
“When a boxing promotion partnership with Otto Floto, sports editor of the Denver Post, ended rancorously, Masterson took up the pen to retaliate against vituperation Floto hurled at him in his columns. The word battle led to a street brawl in July 1900. Bat belabored Floto with his cane and sent him running. Many Denverites viewed the feud as a comic affair, but it grew more serious when Floto and his Post employers imported notorious gunman ‘Whispering Jim’ Smith to deal with Masterson. The two gunfighters never met, but in May 1902 Bat, disgusted with Denver, left town,” wrote R.K DeArment in the June, 2001 edition of “Wild West.”
Masterson spent the rest of his days in New York City, much of the time working as Sports Editor at the New York Morning Telegraph and died at his typewriter in 1921, having just finished his final column.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Once a 'Greenie,' always a 'Greenie.'



When I went to work in Wyoming in the mid 1980s, I was labeled a ‘Greenie’ until I could get my plates changed. That’s what they called Colorado refugees then, (probably still do) and it wasn’t all that affectionate of a term. The basis for the expression resides in Colorado’s mostly green license plates of the period.
Laws of Wyoming, and sideways looks from the locals, pushed me into to trading my green plates in for yellowish-orange colored, bucking-horse-and-rider adorned, numbered-for-the-county you-live-in plates -- within a month or two of taking up residence.
The name of the bronc rider depicted on the “Cowboy State” plates was long forgotten. Depending on whom you talked to, in reality it was either ‘Stub’ Farlow or Guy Holt. But most Wyomingites could tell you the name of the bucking horse. The horse was either ‘Steamboat’ or ‘Deadman.’ And that, once again, depended on which particular story you bought. The ‘Steamboat’ version was dominant.
“The bucking horse and rider first appeared on Wyoming license plate in 1936,” according to information from University of Wyoming. “That design was developed by the then Secretary of State, Lester C. Hunt (who later became the Governor of Wyoming, and a U.S. Senator) in 1935. And today, you can still tell what county a plate was registered in Wyoming by knowing what the number on the left side of the plate (1 through 23, one for each of the state’s 23 counties) designates. A ‘7,’ for example, indicated the car was registered in Goshen County.
Though most passenger car plates are still green in Colorado, the ‘colorful’ label might actually describe your choice in license plates today. Recent Colorado plates might be red, or gold, or maybe even pink. Drivers in this state now can choose from some 150-plus plate preferences. “Respect Life” Columbine inspired plates, Pioneer plates (once requiring proven Colorado ancestry, but since 2007, available for anyone who wants them), Bronco plates, various branches of the service plates, Breast Cancer plates -- there seems to be a plate for just about everyone.
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the first official state license plates appeared in 1913 and were simple black numbers on a white background. For the first three years, those official plates were porcelainized. Green plates didn’t appear until 1950, the same year that ‘colorful’ appeared for the first time. That particular description was dropped in 1956, reappeared in 1958, dropped in 1959 and reappeared in 1973. The outline of the Rocky Mountains first appeared in 1960.
From 1932 until 1958, Colorado used a numbering system (similar to the one employed by Wyoming today) to designate the issuing county. In 1959 the state shifted over to a lettering system that operated along the same lines.
When I first started driving, I think every plate in Montezuma County used the XL designator to identify that county’s plates. Later XN appeared and later still, they shifted to a 3-digit code using UPY and USL. Nearby counties I remember as ZH for Dolores, VV for La Plata, and YX for San Miguel. The letter system was in place until the end of the millennium.
Also, I remember that first set of plates of mine had reflective glass granules in the white paint.
Since 1926, Colorado license plates have been made at Colorado’s oldest prison, the Colorado Territorial Correction Facility in Canon City. Inmates produce roughly 2 million plates a year for cars, trucks, motorcycles and trailers, according to a 2006 story by Andrea Brown in the Colorado Springs Gazette. At the time of that writing, inmates could produce as many as 25,000 plates per day. There were 159 separate versions produced at that time.
Of course in 1975 and 1976, Colorado, being the Centennial State issued special red, white and blue plates with a ’76 insignia on it. But the state returned to the basic white on green version in 1977 (still in use). That version is the one I have on my car right now. In 2000, a screened version displaying white mountains, with gray accents and dark green background, first began appearing and now is the dominant plate on Colorado highways today.
Personally, I prefer my old green-background plates. Once a ‘Greenie,’ always a ‘Greenie,’ I guess.
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We want a name that means something

Related stories
"God hates a coward, yet there are several of them engineering so called newspapers." __David Frakes Day

It is probably no surprise that one of my favorite newspaper characters is the legendary Colorado nuisance David F. Day. Afterall, how can you dislike a guy that is able to accumulate 42 separate lawsuits in his lifetime, despite entering the publishing game late by most standards, after his 30th birthday.
But one of his most endearing and enduring qualities was his ability to pick a newspaper name. As evidence, I submit “The Solid Muldoon.”
Longtime Colorado publisher and newspaper association manager Ed Bemis traced the origins of the name.
“In the July, 1939, Colorado Editor appears a full explanation of how the paper was named. The story’s documentation and authenticity would appear to be irrefutable. But in 1939 the story did not entirely settle all speculation on the intriguing historic puzzle – nor will its reprinting now,” wrote Bemis as he referenced the 1935 piece written by D.B. (“Bing”) McGue of Durango.
“I have known the Day family since my grade school days. When a kid, I shoved about a quarter million sheets of paper into the maws of a cylinder press that produced Col. David F. Day’s Durango Democrat – into the maws of the same old Cranston cylinder that Jesse Jones used when he was at Mancos. And some years later I again was employed by Rod S. Day, who succeeded to the management of the Democrat upon the death of his father,” says McGues account.
“As associate editor under Rod, I had the opportunity to scan the files of the Solid Muldoon, and often was regaled with stories of stirring events of early Ouray, and its picturesque characters.”
The Solid Muldoon was the first newspaper published in Ouray. It was started by two partners – Col. David Frakes Day and Gerald Lecker, in the late 1870s. The latter afterwards became clerk of the federal court at Salt Lake City, Utah. McGue said his statement was corroborated at its writing by Rod S. Day.
“With appearance of the Solid Muldoon it quickly gained favor. Its circulation, at its peak, was several thousand copies weekly, and it was one of the most thoroughly read and most sought-after newspapers in the West. Among the early-day printers who worked for Colonel Day when Rod was still a youngster was one Kelley. Now there were many Kelleys in Ouray at that time. To distinguish Printer Kelley from Hardrock, War Horse, Dynamite, Power jack and numerous other Kelleys, he was called Muldoon,” according to the printer McGue.
“And there was Little Muldoon, and the late Wil Vincent Tufford of Clinton, Iowa, secretary-treasurer of the Inland Daily Press association, who was employed by Colonel Day in 1880-81. Whence came the name for the Ouray Publication?”
Here is what Mrs. Victoria S. Day, widow of Colonel Day, has to say:
“The Colonel, as a young man, was a great admirer of the late William Muldoon, the grand old man of sports who died a few years ago, whom he regarded as the world’s greatest athlete and an honest man.
“When it came to selecting a name for Ouray’s first newspaper, Gerald Lecker, the colonel’s partner, said, ‘Dave, give the baby a name.’
“Running his hand over a saber-scarred cheek – a scar that had won for him as boy of 16, the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the Civil War – the colonel gazed contemplatively at the towering mountains surrounding the town of Ouray. Suddenly, he turned and squirted a stream of tobacco juice toward the sawdust –filled box in the corner of the room.
“Said he: ‘We want a name that means something – solid, and as honest as – well, as honest as Bill Muldoon. Sure, that’s it, Solid Muldoon.”
Mrs. Victoria S. Day who according to McGue, “all newsmen called her ‘Mother’ Day,” at the time of that writing, she was 88 years old, lived with her youngest son George Vest Day, at Bondad near Durango “and was decidedly spry.”
Rod Day sold the Morning Democrat, founded in 1891 by his father, to George Lane and John B. O’Rourke, both lawyers. After a year or two, they sold out to J. H. McDevitt, publisher of the Durango Evening Herald, who consolidated the two publications into the Herald Democrat. It later became the Durango Herald of today.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tools in the holster and tell-tale choice


“The difficulty in life is the choice.”
__ George Moore, 1900

It is said that you can tell a lot about somebody by the choices they make. Favorite Beatle, Fat Tire beer in the cooler or Miller High Life in Fridge, plain or peanut, Ford Ranger or Subaru Outback – it all gives a bit of insight.
What then, can we learn from a particular preference in firearm?
Men of violence, of course, sometimes choose paths that make the firearm necessary in the first place. But once headed down that path, what compels them to shove a particular tool in the holster?
The Samuel Colt Co., in 1873 developed Peacemaker model and it became an immediate hit here in what was the “Wild West.”
“It was originally produced in .45 caliber, with a 7 ½ inch barrel, for Ordinance issue to troops. Custer’s Seventh Cavalry troopers each carried one of these weapons with 18 rounds of ammunition in addition to his Springfield .45-70 single shot,” wrote Robert B. Cormack, in a paper for the Denver Westerners Monthly Roundup in 1962.
Part of its popularity was the result of genius of forethought by Colt in chambering this six-shooter for the same cartridges used in the Winchester Model ’73.
The ‘hog leg,’ or ‘plow handle’ and even sometimes called a ‘cutter’ was the first large revolver to use self-exploding, center fire cartridges.
“Bat Masterson’s favorite Colt was a .45 cal. single action with a stubby 4 ¾ inch barrel. Wyatt Earp usually wore two of this caliber. The left one won was a ‘Peacemaker’ with a 7 ½ inch barrel, the right had a 12 inch barrel. Known as a ‘Buntline Special,’ this Colt had been made to order and presented to him. According to the testimony of his friends, Doc Holliday definitely did not lug a shotgun everywhere with him. His pet was a nickel-plated .38 double action Colt, though on many occasions he was known to carry additional artillery. Billy the Kid had small hands, and therefore preferred his .41 Colt double-action Colt to the .44-40 he sometimes used. Butch Cassidy favored the Frontier.44-40 colt with a 7 ½ inch barrel. Wild Bill Hickock gained his fame with two 1851 Colt Navy .36s with ivory grips. He retained his fame with two ‘Peacemakers’ and died with a Smith & Wesson tip-up .32 rim-fire revolver in his pocket,” wrote Cormack.
Perhaps one of the most interesting elements of the times, was how commonplace the option of packing a piece was.
After all, when the McCarty gang, buddies of Butch Cassidy, decided to rob the Farmers & Merchant Bank in Delta and a bank teller started yelling for help and was shot and killed by Fred McCarty, it was the owner of the hardware store who came to the rescue.
“Ray Simpson, junior owner of the hardware store of W.G. Simpson & Son was cleaning his Sharps .44 caliber rifle at the time of the bank robbery. The hardware store was directly across Main Street from the bank. Simpson was thirty-one, a tall and slender man. He loved to hunt and was a crack shot. He was quiet, cool and calm,” notes Ken Jessen in his 1986 book “Colorado Gunsmoke.”
“Upon hearing the two shots from the interior of the bank, Simpson quickly pulled the lever down on his Sharps to drop the breech block. He inserted a shell and grabbed several more as he ran out of the store … Just then, he saw the outlaws coming at full gallop down the alley. Simpson fired from the hip at the man in the rear, Bill McCarty. The entire top of Bill’s head was blown off, and his brains ended up some twenty feet from where he fell from his horse. Simpson dropped the breech block again to insert another shell,” Jessen wrote.
“In the meantime, young Fred McCarty pulled up to see if could help his fallen father. Fred was nearly a block away from Simpson, but that moment of hesitation gave Simpson a clear shot. The bullet from Simpson’s rifle hit Fred in the base of the skull, then came out his forehead. Tom McCarty did not slow to see what happened to his brother or his nephew, but continued to ride hard. Money from the robbery was scattered in all directions in the street.” according to Jessen.
Simpson fired again, and then once more at Tom McCarty but missed each time, hitting instead a riderless horse.
Later Tom McCarty sent letters for months to Simpson, threatening to avenge the killing of his brother and nephew.
Simpson eventually made the choice to leave Delta and move to California. Tom McCarty is said to have hid out in the Paradox Valley for some time after the robbery but eventually left the area also, possibly ending up in Oregon, Alaska or Montana.
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