Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pioneers 'fort' up near Monument


Certainly there were many smaller forts developed in the wilds of Colorado in addition to the major landmarks. Their use, very similar to the larger outposts, was – protection, a place to meet, trade and socialization.

“The first settlers had to be alert at all times for Indians,” wrote Lucile Lavelett in her 1975 book “Through the Years at Monument, Colorado.”

“A circular stone fort was built on the McShane ranch. It was twelve feet in diameter with stonewalls two feet thick and a roof of logs. Earth covered the logs to prevent the Indians from setting the roof on fire. There were five portholes of which four of them had sliding blocks of stone to close them. The fifth porthole was really a window. It gave the only light and faced the McShane house. From this porthole the families could see if any Indians were creeping up on the house. An underground passage led from the house to the fort.”

Other precautions were taken, says Lavelett.

“Everyday a man rode out to the high hill just north and West of the fort to be on the lookout for Indians. This hill is still called ‘Look-Out.’ When the look-out man saw Indians in the distance he would inform the people, then they would all hurry to the McShane fort.”

Several families would ‘fort up’ at McShane’s for extended time.

Isabella Trigg and her brother Jack Martin were among the early pioneers to live there, wrote Lavelett.

“She saved the life of one of Jacob Guire’s children from an Indian one day. Several families had been at the fort for several days for protection from the Indians. It had been quiet and peaceful for a day, so the boy was let out to play. Isabella Trigg looked out and saw an Indian riding over the hill. She dashed out grabbed the boy, pushed him into the fort, and slammed the porthole shut just as the Indian threw his tomahawk, with the tomahawk embedding in the heavy timber.”

In February of 1950, the Zebulon Pike and Kinnickinnik Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated a historical marker on Highway 105 between Monument and Palmer Lake and the fort lies 610 feet to the South.

“Old stone fort built at the pioneer home of David McShane, constructed as a defense against Arapahoe and Cheyenne raiders. It was used in 1865 to 1868 as a refuge by the following pioneer families: The Guires, Browns, Jacksons, Shielders, Chandlers, McShanes, Oldhams, Teachouts, Davidsons, Walkers, Demasters, Roberts, Watkins, Faulkners, Simpsons, Weltys.”

David McShane later became postmaster for Monument in 1869 and a prominent contractor in the area; He worked on such high-profile local projects as the creation of Monument Lake and Prospect Lake in Colorado Springs.

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Photo: Old fort, protection against Indians (1866) Monument, Colo. Gazette Telegraph. Fred Baker, photographer, Taken between 1920 to 1930.

The circular rock fort in Monument, El Paso County, Colorado, has a wooden frame window. Built by A. David McShane in 1866, it is 12 feet in diameter, and had a underground passage to the nearby house. It was used to defend the family and neighbors during Arapahoe and Cheyenne raids.

Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library

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Please click on following for related stories:

• No excuses, perhaps understanding.

• Hold the fort and pass the ammunition.

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