Saturday, August 27, 2016

Nationally registered barn remains as a last vestige of local homesteading era

"Last winter I tried to talk Jesse into leaving. Not anymore. I've grown to cherish the freedom, the openness of this land, the wall I plastered, the trees I planted. I can see God using me. Homesteading, building a community with people I care about..."
 ___ Catherine Richmond, author

Midwest three-portal barn evolved from the earliest and most basic form of barns in the United States, the crib barn

By Rob Carrigan,

Back then ... and for years afterward, living and working a local homestead was a difficult existence.

Getting the barn up. Taking care of the stock, growing what you can, and most of the time —just surviving. Perhaps that is just one of the reasons that the local barn shows up Colorado Historical Register. The land can provide you with a living — but it can also turn on you. It eventually did on J.G. Evans.

"The J.G. Evans Barn is located in the Platte-Arkansas Divide in the Black Forest area of El Paso County. The area is mostly rolling, grassy hills with sporadic ponderosa pine trees dotting the landscape. Standing in the middle of Hodgen Road, facing north, one sees the front of the barn with the large wagon entrance. To the west is a small grassy hill that has protected it from wind and snow for many years. To the east, a windmill, which is missing its blades, and a stock tank made of corrugated metal lay a few feet from the side of the barn. North and east of the barn the land slopes into a small drainage area. A new housing development under construction is further north and east of the drainage, just above the floodplain. Turning around and facing south, one sees the original John G. Evans ranch complex," according to National Register of Historic Places Registration Form and written by Kimberly Henderson and Michelle Van Heukelem, Archaeology Graduate students from University of Denver, in November of 2003.

Inside, three adjoining bays with hand-hewn beam H-frame construction in the central bay and other lumber in the barn displays circular saw marks and cut nails. Flanking the central bay on the left side is a series of rooms. Each room has a wooden trough or manger for feed. Flanking the central bay on the right are more rooms; however, the troughs rest much higher than the other side indicating use by taller animals such as horses instead of cattle. Also located on the east side toward the front of he barn is an enclosed room lined with corrugated tin sheeting. It is thought that this room was used for grain storage. The shed extension is an open area with an opening to the tin-lined room. The second story of the barn contains a large open hayloft. The floor only extends halfway across the main barn section. Hand-hewn beams make up the floor of the loft and in between each of these beams are remnants of concrete mortar and straw used to keep rodents out.

"The John G. Evans Barn is significant ... as one of the last remaining barns representing the earliest period of settlement and development in the Black Forest community of El Paso County.

Associated with one of the county’s pioneer ranches, it is also one of the earliest barns built in the area displaying construction techniques that are characteristic of the Black Forest homestead era (1860s-1930s). The barn exhibits elements of late 19th/early 20th century Midwest three-portal barns in its three bays, broken gable roof, timber framing, and hand-hewn logs," says the registration form.

The Midwest three-portal barn evolved from the earliest and most basic form of barns in the United States, the crib barn. The J.G. Evans Barn represents this evolution in its hand-hewn log and timber framing on the interior, which is covered with plank and board and batten on the exterior. Though commonly found in the south central United States, Evans had family from Kentucky and grew up in Kansas, both areas where he would have been exposed to this type of barn. The barns and other outbuildings that remain standing in the Black Forest vicinity seem to have influences not only from the middle and eastern United States, but also from European inspirations.

"Many people of European descent settled in this area, contributing to a wide variety of architectural  styles and forms. The sloping, broken gable roof and three bay design of the John G. Evans Barn is characteristic of the barns that used to cover the Black Forest region. It is one of a few remaining original buildings in the region. The original materials, including unpainted wooden siding, hand-hewn boards and posts, uncut foundation stones and concrete mortar contribute to the construction of the building. The tin lined room and granary bins of unequal heights are characteristic of the distinctive utilization of barns in an area that employed a variety of agricultural production.

The barn displays a moderately high degree of physical integrity and has had no modifications to the original structure that are evident or documented. The barn is no longer in use in the current agricultural community in terms of an active animal facility, but does remain a local landmark for the residents of the area," reported United State Department of the Interior National Park Service, which approves registration.

The Platte-Arkansas Divide, where the town of Table Rock was once located, is an unusual area; raised slightly above the surrounding landscape, it is wetter and colder than the plains around it. Early settlers to the area grew crops like potatoes, alfalfa, oats, wheat, rye, millet, and corn, all of which need only a short growing season. Enough water was available to these farmers from the 20 inches of annual rainfall, high ground water, and natural springs that irrigation was unnecessary.

The tall grasses native to the area also supported large herds of cattle and horses. It is noted in the book, Growing Up in Black Forest, that “Black Forest was called the Colorado Pinery and Land Co. in 1885. ... Albert Steppler found old papers indicating the Table Rock area was also forested, until the wagons came west and cleared the fertile land for farming,” wrote Vera Rusk Ellet in her 1990 book "Growing Up in the Black Forest."

John G. Evans would have been one of those that came west, having built his barn in 1885, when the Table Rock community was established. Black Forest was not the common name of the area until after World War I, when developers came to the area.

Potatoes were the main crop in the Divide area when the barn was built. They were considered to be the best cash crop and by the mid-1890s farmers planted over 20,000 acres of potatoes. Over planting and blight hurt the market, but a few farms were able to maintain prize winning potato crops well into the 1900s, wrote Elaine Freed in her 1984 report, "Historic Sites and Structures: El Paso, Colorado. El Paso Land Use Dept., Colorado."

Raising cattle was a fundamental part of the subsistence of early settler in the Black Forest area and still is today. Dairy cows seemed to have been most important during the early settlement Almost every homestead had their own cow to produce milk and butter for the family and to sell. Storage in the barn is evident from the granary bins and other storage areas found on both the north and south ends of the barn. The barn was once part of an extensive property, which boasted 1750 acres, a good amount of land upon which to have a large herd of cattle.

"John Evans was a native of Iowa. His father was born in Kentucky and his mother in Pennsylvania. Mr. Evans spent most of his childhood in Wyandotte County, Kansas and eventually moved to Table Rock in 1884. Evans built his ranch from local wood cut by his own sawmill, and continued to improve his land by adding a stage stop for travel between the Denver and Rio Grande and the Colorado & Southern Railroads that traveled through Monument and Eastonville, according to Judy Von Ahelfeldt in her 1979 book "Thunder, Sun and Snow: A History of Colorado’s Black Forest."

He also built the Fairview School, located up the hill from his ranch house said Kathryn Peterson, in a personal communication in 2003. The local schoolteacher, Lillie Barrett, lived in an upstairs bedroom of his house.

"As his wealth increased, he continued to add land to his original 160-acre homestead, reaching a total of seventeen hundred and fifty acres. As his holdings increased, his ranch, was at one time, thought to be one of the “most valuable in his section of the state,” according to Wilber Fiske Stone's 1919 History of Colorado.

In 1884, Evans married his cousin, Elvina C. Evans of Missouri. They were married for twenty-nine years before she died, leaving Evans alone on the ranch. They never had any children, but nonetheless, were well known in the community. Mrs. Evans was especially important, for it has been said that the entire community would wait for her sign to plant the crops each year, according to Kathryn Peterson, in personal communication in 2003. Additionally, Evans gave much of his time to his duties as chairman of the committee for Table Rock in putting his town “over the top in Liberty Loan, Red Cross, and Young Men’s Christian Association campaigns,” wrote Stone.

"He was a Knight of Pythias at a Colorado Springs Lodge. In addition to his agricultural contributions, Evans led a life active in community affairs before passing away."

Lucille Lavelett, in her 1979 book "Monument's Faded Neighbor Communities and its Folk Lore," describes it in the following.

"The house was on the south side of the road and the barns on the north. Mr. Evans lived on his ranch until his death, during one of Colorado's blizzards, November 19, 1913. Mr. Evans had tried to get to the house from the barn, fell, and was frozen to death."

He is buried in the Monument Cemetery, and on his tombstone it reads, "He arose on the wings of a storm."

After Evans’ death, the ranch was sold in 1932 to C.C. and Ruby Klose, who lived there for approximately ten years before it was sold to Kirby W. and Florence Peterson from Canada. After their deaths, the Peterson family divided the land and sold it to various people. Among those was Clarence Thurston McLaughlin, a wealthy oilman, rancher, and philanthropist from Texas. McLaughlin integrated his portion of the Evans Ranch into the Shamrock Ranch to the southwest. After McLaughlin died, the property was sold to a person named Farrar. The property then passed through a succession of owners before the current owner, Georg Kuhnke, purchased a number of acres, including the barn. The ranch house and other associated buildings across Hodgen Road are presently on thirty acres of land in section 29 owned by another (unrelated) Peterson family, through which much of this history has been discovered.

Photo Information: The J.G. Evans Barn has been restored somewhat in recent years, but still bears the marks of more than century agricultural use here on the Divide.

___ By Rob Carrigan

Saturday, August 13, 2016

History along ‘the back way’ and how forest developed

The breakthrough came with establishment of a small planting station at the foot of Mount Herman

By Rob Carrigan,

When I lived down in the shadow of Pikes Peak, one of the local connections I found myself most drawn to was the Rampart Range area of the Pike National Forest. Maybe it is the forest itself, or the two newspapers that I once ran back and forth between, or the sense of history between them.
Because of my connections to Woodland Park and Monument, a favorite summertime travel was the crow-flyish, rough gravel roads connecting them. You can cut off 20 or 30 miles, but add 15 or 20 minutes, by driving “the back way.”
It is also interesting to me how things might have developed differently, with different developers, over time, and different timing.
Jan Mackell Collins notes in her new book “Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County” that perhaps the roads tell some of the story. Same for the developers like Dr. William Abraham Bell, the founder of Manitou Springs, buddy of Colorado Springs founder of Gen. William Palmer.
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.
“In 1873, Bell built a three-story hotel and some cabins made from tents with wood floors (in what was then known as Bergen’s Park). Soon, wealthy families from the East and even Europe began visiting the park,” writes Mackell Collins.
“Within a year, a wagon road was planned from Bergen’s Park that would lead east to the town of Monument, in El Paso County and west to the city of Fairplay in Park County,” she said.
“Even as plans for the road were delayed, Bell next developed a trout hatchery. The hatchery ran successfully as late as 1890.
“When Bell discovered there was already another place in Colorado called Bergen Park in 1875, he changed the name to Manitou Park.”
But, of course, there have been other brushes with history in the “in between area.”
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 there.
“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.
“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.
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 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 “hotshots,” says Vance’s story.
The Forest Services, Colorado State Forest Service and Pike National Forest, continue to use the structures in, and around Manitou Park. The roads between the two areas on “the back way” are passable, most days.

Photo Information:
Photo 1:
Civilian Conservation Corps crews from the Monument  camp working on Mount Herman Road during the 1930s. 

Photo 2:
The CCC Camp nursery in Monument in the early days.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Looking for the fountain of lake's youth?

"Whole valley was radiant with flowers; blue, yellow, pink, white, scarlet and purple, vying with each other in splendor."

By Rob Carrigan,

Dr. Edwin James, a botanist with Maj. Stephen H. Long's 1820 expedition and the first to climb Pikes Peak, also recognized the Colorado Blue Columbines in the area around what later became Palmer Lake.
Then in 1843, Lt. John Fremont noted that the flowers near the "dividing ridge" made a "mountain garden" as the "whole valley was radiant with flowers; blue, yellow, pink, white, scarlet and purple, vying with each other in splendor."
The railroads came through in the 1870s and flowers served as a summertime attraction for tourist from all over.
One of the interesting aspects of Palmer Lake's unique history, to me at least, is its use by the railroads to re-water the steam locomotives of the early days of railroads. As a connoisseur of old photos, I have been fascinated by photos of Palmer Lake showing the fountain in the very early days.
I also remember a Palmer Lake Historical project bearing fruit in 1998 in the form of fountain in the lake.
The June 2, 1998 edition of the Tribune told the tale.
"Once again, Palmer Lake has a fountain, the Palmer Lake Historical Society bought and installed the fountain which will serve two purposes," wrote my friend Jeremy Bangs at the time.
"The fountain is meant to resemble one that was on the lake when it was owned by the railroads. Pipes from the town's upper reservoir once fed Palmer Lake with water and the gravity pressure of the water flow formed a large fountain at the south end of the lake."
Bangs said the new fountain was placed in a different location and didn't throw water as high as the original, but it would aerate the lake's contents, making them more hospitable for fish and other aquatic wildlife.
I don't know for a fact, but I assume the fountain was victim of time and drought that followed.
The lake completely dried up by July 2012 because of drought and water management changes.
In December 2014, the Awake Palmer Lake restoration group began dirt work to clear several feet of sediment from the north end of the Lake, exposing the top of the clay (benzonite) layer and filling the southern marsh with dirt. This served to resort the lake to its historical proportions and also to make it more sustainable for the future.
The volunteer group, at the same time, was working on a plan to have Palmer Lake refilled with water by spring of 2014. Palmer Lake's refill involved a court case involving water rights that the town of Palmer Lake  said it was granted in the late 1950s. Town leaders in neighboring Monument have objected to Palmer Lake's request. A state Water Court decision is expected to to determine that.
Meanwhile, in early December 2014, an extensive dirt work project restored the Lake, close to its historical proportions.
In mid-December, 2014 received word that  a Great Outdoors of Colorado (GOCO) grant of matching funds to total $350k had been awarded to be used to build a footbridge and recreational park around the lake and an the west side of the railroad tracks.
In February 2015, an agreement was reached with the town on Monument, as well as other communities, which allows the town of Palmer Lake to exercise senior railroad rights for the purpose of filling and maintaining the lake.
After the wettest May in over 70 years in 2015,  rains and spring activity filled the lake, to almost eight feet on the north end.
Also after June 24, 2015, Palmer Lake water supervisor Steve Orcutt began sending almost six ac/ft of water into the lake. Palmer Lake's industrial water rights were changed to residential, the town now fills the lake with up to 8.4 acre feet per month, and up to 67 acre feet per year. Drinking and household water needs still have top priority over recreational and aesthetic uses.


Photo 1:
Fountain is visible in this early photo of the lake, looking west.
Photo 2:
This early hand-colored photo shows the fountain and the Santa Fe Depot.
Photo 3:
Looking east, from the tracks, the fountain is shown beyond a steam locomotive.

Photos courtesy of Palmer Lake Historical Society

Lessons learned from the local one-room schoolhouse

Motorized buses, arriving in the 1920s made longer travel distances possible, and one-room schools were soon consolidated in most portions of the United States into multiple classroom schools where classes could be held separately for various grade levels. By World War II, except in the most rural areas, they were gone.  Florissant Schoolhouse survived locally until 1960.
One of the few complete one-room school education compounds in the western United States, the Florissant Schoolhouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. It includes the schoolhouse itself (now Grange #430), cookhouse (at one time the local Library), teacher's residence, and the boys and girl's privies. The Teacherage, for a time served as the Florissant Heritage Museum.
More than 75 volunteers donated more than 4,000 hours to the restoration of the compound in the early 1990s.
"Harold Kaelin, project manager, donated an astounding 1,695 hours, himself according to an article appearing in the May 6, 1994 Rocky Mountain News by Linda Womack.
The first students graced the doors there in 1887 and continued to do so until 1960 when the school closed. A meeting area was added in 1889, along with the coal shed, which eventually became the cookhouse. The teacherage which appeared on the scene a little after the turn of the 20th Century,  was moved to Woodland Park when the school closed.
The Florissant Heritage Foundation received a gaming tax grant in 1992 from the Colorado Historical Society to restore the compound and the teacherage was moved back to its original location.
The school was also used for dances, weddings, church services, funerals, dinners, parties and programs, and polling places, much as it is used today.
The 1953 Florissant school annual had the following poem in it.

Florissant Schoolhouse, founded in 1890.

Florissant School -- Bless its heart,
Wish the devil, Would blow apart,

Its hallowed rooms So green and gray,
Have seen lots of work, and yet some play

Yes O Yes we're sorry to go, But just the same
We wish it would blow.

"In 1960 students got their wish as the old school was closed," notes Bonnie Ann Smith, in her recently compiled book Flo-GeoYears, Florisant and Lake George, Colorado. Teller and Park Counties in Pikes Peak Backyard.

"Betty Burns saved many of the abandoned school books to later start a Florissant Library."

Betty Burns told the Ute Pass Courier in early 2004 that "We wanted to build a nice school on the Park/Teller county line and Lake George said 'no way.' Building a school made sense. Lake George was the far eastern edge of Park and we were the far western edge of Teller but Lake George didn't want it. So they got their charter school and we consolidated with Woodland Park. A small school doesn't give children the opportunities that a larger school can."

When the Florissant Grange obtained a 99-year lease of the old school building in 1960, books were still in what had been the old school library, a small lean-to attached to the north side of the schoolhouse. Later in 1970, a small lending library began in the old lean-to structure, and continued to develop, eventually becoming a branch of the Rampart Library District, located in different locations including the county building that also housed the Florissant Volunteer Fire Department. It then moved back to the schoolhouse and finally on into a new building completed in April of 2004.  Florissant Public Library opened a 6700-square-feet structure at 334 Circle Drive in Florissant, where it continues to reside today.