Thursday, July 31, 2008

No excuses, perhaps understanding

Bad is never good, until worse happens.
Difficult times are relative. In order to grasp how a particular attitude may have developed, it is important to know the history surrounding it. The history offers no excuses, but perhaps understanding.
“I was about ten years old when the Utes were moved to western Colorado,” wrote Margaret Benn, longtime Douglas County resident and historian in the early 1960s. “So, as a youngster on the ranch, I had several personal experiences that made me very sad to think I was not big enough to kill an Indian. In fact I will confess I was 35 or 40 years old before that desire finally faded entirely out of my mind.”
From 1860 to 1875, families living in the settlements near Glen Grove School on Upper West Plum Creek in Douglas County were compelled to protect their own scalps if they wished to continue wearing them, according to Benn’s letters.
“They formed the practice of keeping each other posted on the temper and location of all Indians, who might be roving the hills. Any sign of danger in any region was quickly communicated to others,’ she said,
“But settlers did not live in terror, as many imagined they did. They could cope with the primitive, elemental savagery of pioneer life in pretty much the same spirit of native birds who sang and nested happily, even though the hawks and eagles constantly soared overhead.”
Benn had come to Colorado from Missouri at the tender age of three and her family settled near an uncle’s homestead on Spring Creek.
“My Uncle George (Dakan) had helped build Fort Washington and was a member of the cavalry troop under Captain John A. Koontz. Very naturally, I grew up in that neighborhood, from early childhood to maturity among the original settlers, I heard their experiences often told and retold, by the men, women and children that made Fort Washington their haven of refuge,” Benn wrote.
Today, although there are no visible remains of the log stockade that enclosed a homestead cabin and a large well near Larkspur, the Ben Quick ranch, which was built later in 1885, marks the spot of Fort Washington. The site has been on the National Register of historic places since 1974.
“And when my family took up life in that community, the Ute Indians still roamed the hills and valleys for many miles both north and south of us. The east slope of the mountains from near where Fort Collins now stands, to Canon City was their home and their original hunting grounds,” according to Benn’s letters.


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