Saturday, July 15, 2017

Town's namesake in the thick of forest history

Monument Rock centers the known trail universe

By Rob Carrigan,

If you continue past Limbach Park, across the train tracks on Second Street, take a left on Mitchell Ave. , continue on past the Lake of the Rockies and right on to Mount Herman Road, keep heading west , you are headed the right direction. Monument Rock, for which town of Monument is named, stands amidst Monument Open Space preserve, a symbol of the area’s enduring nature. Extensive trails around the rock cater horseback riding, dog walking, jogging while also serving as a hub to other trail systems.
In “The story behind the Pike National Forest,” by Marion Ritchey Vance and John A. Vance, and on U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service site, history of the Forest Service itself is tied to the anchor of Monument Rock.
“W.T.S. May inherited when he was appointed Superintendent of Forests for Colorado and Utah on August 4, 1898 . On Aug. 8, 1898, Col. May appointed a young man from the Plum Creek Reserve as Forest Ranger in the state of Colorado. William R. Kreutzer thus became the first forest ranger on the Pike National Forest and, reportedly, in the nation. Young Kreutzer knew forests and he took his job seriously.”
His charge from Col. May: “Ride as far as the Almighty will let you, and get control of the fire situation and as much of the mountain country as you possibly can, and keep some sort of a record about it.”
Reforestation became a priority for the new ranger at the turn of the 20th Century.
“A popular image of the Forest Service is that of rangers arriving to protect wooded lands. In the case of the Pike, the job was first to recreate the forest.
“Protection of the Front Range watershed was paramount. That meant re-establishing ground cover as quickly as possible to stem erosion, and preventing further damage,” the Vances wrote.
To cope with such a massive reforestation project, local foresters began experimenting with seed and seedlings. Seedlings proved more effective, but early nurseries yielded little reward for the arduous labor.
The breakthrough came with establishment of a small planting station at the foot of Mount Herman. Officially named the Monument Nursery in 1907, the seedling facility was one of the first in the forest system and the most important in the Rocky Mountains.
Over its 58 years of service, the Monument Nursery produced millions of seedlings annually. By the early 1950s, more than 40,000 acres of denuded lands on the Pike had been replanted with Douglas fir, blue spruce, Engelmann spruce, ponderosa, limber and bristlecone pine.
Monument supplied seedlings to other forests as well and to private farmers for windbreak and erosion control. Similar efforts were occurring nearby, in the Manitou Park area.
Developers like Dr. William Abraham Bell, the founder of Manitou Springs, buddy of Colorado Springs founder of Gen. William Palmer, recognized roads in the forest were important.
Bell, though it is not universally known and talked about, also had development efforts in the early days of what is now Palmer Lake and nearby Monument. Bell’s own efforts, coupled with the efforts of Palmer, led to the donation of Manitou Park to Colorado College.
“Accordingly, Colorado College established the Colorado School of Forestry. In 1937, the Works Progress Administration built a lovely six-building complex at Manitou Park,” wrote Mackell Collins.
On the other side, “During the Great Depression, Monument Nursery was home to one of Colorado’s largest Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps. The Corps was key to the reforestation effort. From 1934 to 1942, CCC crews under Forest Service supervision designed and constructed buildings, fought fires, manned the nurseries and planted seedlings,” Vances noted.Some disagreed with the practices of reforestation.
According to the Denver Republican (June 28, 1908) “…it would behoove the citizens of Colorado Springs to bring an injunction suit against the government, which threatens to plant a million trees per year until 20 million are planted on the Pikes Peak Reserve.”“Water is scarce enough at Colorado Springs at present conditions, but if the government is going to attempt to water 20 million trees in addition to the trees now absorbing water, I can assure the citizens that in 20 years there would only be water for the trees and none for the city. It would increase the water supply of Colorado Springs materially if every tree was cut from Pikes Peak.”
By 1965, with a relatively healthy forest in place, reforestation was no longer a priority for the district office. Nursery operations were moved to Basalt and the facilities converted in the 1970s to the Monument Fire Center. It now serves as base for the elite firefighting crews known as “Monument Hotshots,” says Vance’s story.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Locally, we benefited from "Harvey Girls."

In most cases, I am just like many other western historians, with my blinders on, pretty much ignoring the idea that women had much to do with the history of the west. Not because I think they didn't.  I am positive they had a key role in the taming of the country that was severely under-reported and assigned less import than what actually occurred. It is just not documented.
A longtime resource, from my hometown in southwestern Colorado identifies the problem precisely, though he was talking about all folk, and legacy in general terms.
"They were working people and left much less documentation and monuments to their existence. Their business deals were done with a handshake and their accomplishments are more likely to be made of hard work and sweat, instead of bricks, stone and newspaper articles. History is much richer when we know the story of the people who built the fancy house on the hill along with the people who lived in it," notes my friend, Ellis Miller.
America's tales about taming the Wild West rarely include women. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, more than 100,000 pioneering young women left home to work as waitresses in restaurants located on train platforms along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.
Locally we benefited from that.
By sketchy accounts, the record describes a Harvey House in Cascade in the 1890s.
"Which I had never heard of, and doesn’t show up in any company documents. With the help of Peter Hansen, editor of Railroad History, and Colorado Midland trainiac Tom VanWormer, we’ve discovered either three or four 'new' Harvey locations in Colorado —which the company ran from 1890-1895, the years the then-troubled Santa Fe owned the Colorado Midland," says Stephen Fried, One Nation Under Fred, a blog about all things Harvey.
"So we can now report there were Harvey Houses and Harvey Girls in: Cascade, Idyllwild and Leadville, and the Cascade house at some point in the early 1890s moved to the Woodland Park depot. This brings the number of Harvey locations in Colorado to 10. Fred had one of his pre-Santa Fe eating houses in Hugo and then beginning in 1879, was in La Junta, Pueblo, Trinidad, Palmer Lake (briefly, a lunchroom from 1899-1902) and then in Colorado Springs. The last Colorado Harvey House, El Otero Hotel in La Junta, closed in 1948," Fried says.
The Harvey House restaurant chain began in Leavenworth, Kansas, after entrepreneur Fred Harvey, left his native England at the age of 15 and found work in New York’s growing restaurant industry. "As the Civil War was brewing, he began working with the railroads, achieving more senior positions as he moved west. Despite his seniority, Harvey never forgot his restaurant roots and, recognizing the poor quality of food for rail travelers, decided to do something about it," says the film documentary, "The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound," by 2013 - Assertion Films, Los Angeles, Calif.
"In 1870, Harvey started a company designed to serve travelers throughout the Southwestern U.S. good food at reasonable prices in clean, elegant restaurants. The women who worked for these restaurants — the Harvey Girls — later became icons, themselves, playing an important role in World War II and helping to transform society's view of women's work," the film describes.
"The Harvey House company left its mark by not only providing work opportunities for women, but by promoting cultural diversity in the workplace. Harvey hired Hispanic and Native American women to be waitresses alongside their Anglo peers," according to the film.
In 1946, MGM turned the Harvey Girls into legend when they released the motion picture musical "The Harvey Girls" starring Judy Garland. This fictional Hollywood movie was the only film, until recently, to touch on their place in history.
"Judy Garland got one of her biggest song hits by accepting a film she didn't really want to do and had started out as another star's project in the first place. "The Harvey Girls (1946)" came about through the kind of happy accidents that only could happen in Hollywood," says Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide, in 2005.
"The story started as a novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams based on the real-life restaurant chain that had helped civilize the West. With waitresses of certified good character, the Harvey houses provided a reliable source of family dining for travelers in the Southwest during the latter part of the 19th century."
Maltin says MGM originally bought rights to the novel in hopes that it would inspire a dramatic film for rising star Lana Turner. Then associate producer Roger Edens saw a tryout performance of Oklahoma! in New Haven. He knew a hit when he saw it and realized that the trailblazing musical probably wouldn't be available to the screen for years (it wasn't filmed until 1955). So he came up with the idea of turning The Harvey Girls into a western musical at MGM, with Judy Garland as a high-spirited waitress. Only Garland wasn't interested," reported Maltin.
"She had wanted to work with Fred Astaire for years and thought a project Arthur Freed was developing for him, "Yolanda and the Thief (1945)", would finally give her the chance. In addition, her husband, Vincente Minnelli was directing it, and the two were trying to work together whenever possible. Edens convinced her that the female lead in Yolanda and the Thief wouldn't be a big enough role for her, and promised that "The Harvey Girls" would be built around her talents.
"It took eight writers to turn The Harvey Girls into a movie, with Samson Raphaelson, who had written some of Ernst Lubitsch's best films, tying them all together. The result was a showcase for Garland's comic, dramatic and musical skills, while also offering juicy supporting roles to deadpan comedienne Virginia O'Brien, sultry Angela Lansbury and a young dancer named Cyd Charisse, who had her first speaking part in the picture."
Best of all was the score by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, which included a tribute to the railroad that helped win the West, "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe." The number was inspired by Garland's hit from "Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)", "The Trolley Song," and like it was almost an instant hit. Garland recorded it on her own, but the top-selling version featured lyricist Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers. It held the number one spot on the hit parade for eight weeks. As was the custom then, MGM released the song to recording companies before the film was even finished. In fact, Bing Crosby's version of it was playing on the radio as director George Sidney drove to MGM to film the number. "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" picked up the Oscar for Best Song, the first of four awards Mercer would receive in that category.
The classic movie depiction probably has little basis in reality, but at least it helped us remembered that the Harvey Girls existed. Their accomplishments though undocumented, I am sure,  were made of hard work and sweat — instead of bricks, stone and newspaper articles.

By Rob Carrigan,

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Uniquely tied to Colorado and Fourth of July

Celebrate Independence: 

We have a long history of doing it right

I know the rest of the country is entitled to celebrate Independence Day but there seems to be something uniquely tied to Colorado and Fourth of July, in my mind.

Maybe it is just fond recollections from July Fourths of the past, in places like Telluride, and Monument, and Dolores, and up here in Teller County.

Legendary celebrations have been held here and after all, we are the Centennial State.

Congress had approved Colorado admission to statehood in March of 1875 and laid out provisions and conditions of statehood but it wasn’t until August 1, 1876, when President Ulysses Grant ratified admission. Communities all over the state had already begun celebrating, and really, have never slowed down.

In Denver in 1890, in celebration of the Fourth and the completion of the Capitol building, reportedly five miles of tables were set up for the barbecue attended by over 60,000.

“There were no greedy gluttonous displays, but every man, woman, and child clamored for food until they had their fill. Just think of it! Three hundred and fifty sheep, 75 calves, 237 fat steers, 13,000 loaves of bread, 3,000 pounds of cheese, 10 barrels of pickles, not to mention a 1,000 gallons of lemonade,” itemized the Rocky Mountain News at the time. “The run on the beer saloons was unprecedented.”

During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from British rule. After voting for independence, Congress turned its efforts to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its main scribe. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4.

A day earlier, John Adams, brewer and maltster whose product would have come in handy in modern celebrations, had written to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Adams's prediction was, of course, off slightly. Americans celebrated independence on July 4 right from the beginning, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.

Historians have long disputed whether members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly perceived.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, James Monroe, another Founding Father who was elected as President, also died on July 4, 1831. He was the third President in a row who died on the anniversary of independence. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872; so far he is the only U.S. President to have been born on Independence Day.

When Colorado was gearing up for statehood, the editor of the Del Norte Prospector had this to say about 38th state’s admission to the union.

“And when the Centennial shall come again. Colorado will be among the fairest of the sisters; her hillsides will have become beautiful under the joint ministry of nature and art: her mountaintops glorified by the sunlight of freedom: and all the bright blessings of civilization and religious liberty will shimmer around her pathway in a golden shower,”

On July 4, 1891, W.S. Stratton was prospecting on the side of Battle Mountain in what was to become Teller County. Based on geology, he reasoned rich ore could be found there. As he searched for gold, Stratton could hear shots fired into the air as miners began their celebration of the Fourth of July. That day, Stratton found and staked out the Washington and the Independence claims.

That claim, and other subsequent moves, made him tremendously wealthy. “He would eventually own one-fifth of the mining land in Cripple Creek and Victor,” writes historian Tom Stockman.

When I was a youngster, growing up in the little town of Dolores, in southwestern Colorado, we stretched back at least 200 years for things to celebrate in the summer of 1976, and every year after, because of our own discovery by Franciscan monks dispatched out of Santa Fe, about the same time as the Declaration of Independence.

"Father Fray Francisco Atanasio awoke somewhat improved, and in order to change terrain and climate rather than to make progress, we set out from the camp and Rio de San Lázaro toward the northwest. We traveled a little more than a league, swung west by west-northwest, and went five leagues through leafy forests and good pastures. Then we turned west, traveled two and a half leagues through a chamise thicket with little pasturage, went a quarter of a league to the north, crossed Rio de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, and camped on its north bank. This river rises on the north slope of the Sierra de la Plata, and runs southwest to this place, where it makes a sharp turn. It is a little smaller than the Rio del Norte in this season. - Today a little more than eight and a half leagues," wrote Francisco Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, on August 12, 1776.

"We remained in camp, partly so that the Father might improve a little and be able to go forward, and partly to observe the latitude of this site and meadow of the Rio de los Dolores where we were. An observation was made by the sun and we found we were in 38° and 13 1/2' north latitude. Here there is everything needed for the establishment and maintenance of a good settlement in the way of irrigable lands, pastures, timber and firewood. On an elevation on the south bank of the river in ancient times there was a small settlement of the same form as those of the Indians of New Mexico, as is shown by the ruins which we purposely examined. Father Fray Francisco Atanasio felt better, and we decided to continue our journey next day," Escalante writes August 13, 1776.

As noted, Colorado has a unique relationship with Independence, and we have a long history of doing it right.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A million dollars, still right there in the ground?

Boom, bust, before the boom, and then the bust

By Rob Carrigan,

The highest-ever recorded national average price a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $4.114, recorded by AAA, on July 17, 2008. The average price last week was $2.265, for the same fuel, according to the same source. As consumers, we are now cruising on low gas prices. While much of the oil and gas industry has survived an especially tough few years with weak demand and low prices.

But fortune has come and gone before.

Locally, it brings to mind the idea that we once had our “gusher” in this area, and along with it, our own “oil and gas patch.”

“The first whispers of oil in Old Colorado City were heard as early as the 1880s and were ephemeral and delicate but insistent,” wrote Inez Hunt in the first Occasional Papers produced by the Pikes Peak Posse in 1979.

“The oil wealth that poured out in Florence, Colorado, encouraged dreamers to try their luck. Along Oil Creek, near Canyon City, there were occasional small holes which seeped a smelly but tantalizing black trickle of crude into the stream.”

Perhaps being fanned by a hopeful newspaper editor in old Colorado City, the flames of oil passion spread like a gasoline fire as The Iris newspaper in that town reported that 48 prominent citizens had already purchased stock, leases had been signed, and drilling was set to start immediately.

“The year of 1894 seemed to be one of destiny to the oil promoters. Operations of the first well began officially on March 18. The well was named the Iris Well No. 1, to honor one of the most loyal supporters of the project, W.P. Epperson. Epperson was an important civic leader, editor, and owner of the Iris, a man well-educated from Illinois. He held the position of police judge and also took special interest in the fire department. As the owner and editor of The Iris, he was able to see that the city was kept informed of the front-page action at the drilling site. He was soon appointed manager of the project. He was a born promoter,” wrote Hunt.

Epperson even had his own house plumbed to use the natural gas produced in Iris Well No. 1, and Iris Well No. 2.

“Prosperity was in sight for the city, the belief was strong that property owners, the stock owners, everyone would profit. Premature predictions that gas would be sold to future mining mills to roast Cripple Creek ores were conjured up again. Also there was talk of a railroad between Cripple Creek and Colorado City by way of Bear Creek. The oil company no longer begged for buyers of stock. It planned to sell only enough to pay for maintenance; the profits would be divided by fewer people.”

Though Epperson was able to produce enough natural gas to run his own home heating and cooking needs, investors eventually became disinterested when no oil was produced.

“Hard luck dogged Epperson. He tried to persuade the investors to allow him to drill up near the Trenton limestone strata. The investors were growing tired of feeding money into seemingly endless maws of wells that produced only paper certificates,” Hunts paper says.

Epperson never completely gave up on the possibility of striking it rich in the oil business, but eventually chased other projects including mining interests, a trunk and harness store, and other ventures.

His final comment in The Iris, before he moved on to Utah 1909 was, “There is a million dollars, still in there.”