Sunday, September 25, 2016

Potato key from Inca Empire, to Ireland, to Divide country


Special trains would bring visitors from near and far to the Monument Potato Bake in 1892.

Photo 2:

Beef, pork, lamb,  and much were a huge draw for the 1892 Monument Potato Bake.

Photo 3:

As many as 60 wagon loads a day could be seen in Monument during harvest.

Photo 4:

One potato might weigh as much as 3.25 pounds in the heyday of harvest.

For Decades, early October was Potato Bake time in Monument

By Rob Carrigan,

Potato Bake Day in Monument was celebrated every year for decades in the early history of Monument, just about this time of year, in the first few weeks in October usually. The event helped put Monument and the Divide Country on the map nationally, and established the area's reputation as a top producer in Colorado and surrounding states.
"Yesterday was big day for Monument for the annual Potato Bake," wrote the Oct. 11, 1890 Colorado Springs Herald. "Fully 1500 people came from all parts near and far to enjoy the hospitality. The Mt. Herman band furnished the music for the occasion. The menu was two roast beefs, four roast sheep, two roast hogs, and fifty bushels of potatoes, plenty of home-made bread, butter, cakes, pies, and coffee."
Local historian Lucille Lavelett noted that all this was free as farmers and merchants donated everything, and a committee of men dug the pits, baked the potatoes, and roasted the meat.
"It was held West of the Rio Grande tracks and East of Monument Lake.  In the afternoon there was horseshoe pitching, tugs of war, and a baseball game. At night, a dance in Walker Hall finished the day," Lavelett said.
All in celebration of the remarkable plant that can grow in tremendous range of climates and altitudes and produce more than any other staple crop. The potato, of course, is so basic, it is possible for people to live on them alone. It has changed the arc of history from the rise of the Inca Empire in Peru, to the Potato Wars in Europe of the 17th and 18th centuries, and on to "Great Hunger" in the middle of the 19th century Ireland.
"The Divide potatoes were known as the best potatoes in the country. It was the chief industry," writes Lavelett. "In 1877, the greatest number of potatoes raised to the acre were 25,000 pounds by Paton Wilson. The average number of pounds were from 4 to 6 thousand per acre. In 1875, potatoes sold for 75 cents a hundred. One potato would weigh 3 and quarter pounds ... At potato harvest time, it wasn't uncommon to see 60 wagon loads of potatoes in a day coming in from Table Rock and Gwillimville areas to be stored in Walker's large potato cellar, or to be shipped out. At first Denver and Colorado Springs were the only markets for the Divide potatoes, but Monument soon became a permanent shipping point," Lavelett said.
By 1889, Monument was shipping as many as 380 rail cars of champion potatoes to Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. And special trains were arranged with railroads to bring people to the Bake.
Unfortunately, a blight, thought to have been caused by abundant wild rose bushes locally, eventually took a toll on the big potato crops, and like "Gorta Mor," or Great Hunger, in Ireland, completely changed the local agricultural picture.
In Ireland's case, more than three million people were entirely dependent on the potato, and the failure of the crop left them destitute. Of a better  fortune, the Palmer Divide Country also had rye, and oats, and corn growing.  Local sawmill's blade whirred.  Dairies produced milk, cream, butter and cheese. Beef cattle proliferated.
Monument moved on from the potatoes, though the Bake was still an annual occurrence as late as 1917.
Ah, the Irish moved on as well.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sun also rises over rusty, old, orange, steam shovels

Photo 1 Information:
Steve Berry operates the 1927 Osgood Steam Shovel at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry during Reynolds Ranch Restoration Day as I “fire” in the background, behind a camera. Photo by Rob Carrigan
Western Museum of Mining, Industry history lives

Photo 2 information:
Sunrise, Wyoming, in its heyday during 1930s. Courtesy photo.
__ Story by Rob Carrigan,
Acting as the fireman on the old, orange-rust-colored Osgood Steam shovel during the recent Reynolds Ranch Restoration Day at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, I was reminded of a time many years ago, when I first visited the town of Sunrise, Wyo.

Orange houses, orange buildings, even orange trees . . . Sunrise was aptly named, looking like the picture of an orange fireball sun.

Colorado Fuel and Iron hoped to make Sunrise a model company town back in 1904, when it bought the entire Sunrise Mine from Charles A. Guernsey, namesake of nearby town Guernsey, Wyo. Guernsey founded the Wyoming Railway and Iron Company in 1898.

I was the editor of Guernsey Gazette and Lingle Guide for a time in the mid-1980s in Lingle and Guernsey, Wyo. The two tiny papers covered those towns in eastern Wyoming, and several other nearby towns including Fort Laramie, Hartsville and Sunrise.

In the 1880s, the area around what would become Sunrise, was an important area in the mining of copper. Colorado Fuel and Iron, in the early 1900s, built company-owned houses, boarding houses, depots, a school, churches, shops, and other structures.

In response to the Ludlow Massacre here in southern Colorado, further improvements came to the town in the 1910s and ’20s in the form of better brick housing, a YMCA building, parks, a playground, better utility systems, a hospital, and other improvements. By 1928, the mine employed 547.

Sunrise properties were initially strip mined, and then mined using a glory-hole method. In 1930, underground block-caving mining was started, and by World War II all mining was underground.

Ore mined was partially processed on site and then sent to Colorado Fuel and Iron mills in Pueblo.

Because of decreasing ore quality and problems in the domestic steel market, the town and mine were closed by C.F. & I. in 1980.

Over the lifetime of the mine, 40 million tons of iron ore were produced, more than any other C.F. & I. mine. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

As a kid, working in a hardware store in Dolores, Colo., I unloaded countless C.F. & I. trucks of smooth box nails, bailing wire and rolled fencing that probably utilized hematite mined from that very same Sunrise mine.

But back to the Osgood Shovel (originally steam, now running on compressed air) at the Museum on North Gate Boulevard.

Jeff Tapparo, on WMMI’s board of directors, and also at the shovel's controls from time to time, convinced me I should give it a try.

The shovel is one of the museum’s most popular attractions. Shovels like the Osgood have been tasked at building the Panama Canal, unearthing gold in mining districts of the Yukon – and in the case of this particular shovel, digging glory holes in Sunrise.

The C.F. & I. letters can still be seen on its side panels, if you look hard enough.

During the Reynolds Ranch Restoration Day, officials gave us clues about upcoming projects like eventually getting a mine hoist and headframe operating again.

They paraded antique cars, tractors and Caterpillars and showed us demonstrations in the large and detailed blacksmith shop at the back of the property.

They provided tours of the Reynolds Ranch House and demonstrated hit-and-miss steam engines in action. The museum, with its fully operational stamp mill, interior and exterior mining exhibits, is always a pleasure and wonder to behold.

The place takes you back in time. It is worth the visit . . . even if you aren't a rusty old Colorado relic like me (or the 1927 Osgood Shovel), from a Sunrise long past.

Photo 3 Information:
Executive Director Rick Sauers explains future plans to get a hoist in operation at the museum. Photos by Rob Carrigan.

Color, texture and flavor of Cripple Creek

Photo Information: The double-spiral, cantilevered staircase in the main building of the museum offers a rare look of late Victorian woodwork craftsmanship and provides access to all three of the former depots floors. It is supported by exterior walls.

District museum gives us a sense of where we came from 

By Rob Carrigan, 
Color, and texture, and flavor of Cripple Creek survives because we are reminded of it, over and over again.
The Cripple Creek District Museum has been reminding us of those very things for more than sixty years. History is old news, I guess, but there is nothing wrong with that.
Founded in 1953 by Blevins Davis and Richard Wayne Johnson, the Museum has five historic buildings, two of which are among the oldest commercial structures in town. Blevens Davis was owner of the Cripple Creek Times, and was involved in changing the name of that paper's name to the Gold Rush. The paper was merged into the Courier in 2007.
Davis grew up next to the Harry S. Truman family and was a lifelong friend and White House visitor of Harry, and his wife and daughter. In 1949, Davis purchased the Claremont Estate in Colorado Springs. The mansion, which he renamed Trianon, was sold to the Sisters of St. Francis Seraph in 1952. Woodmen Sanatorium, also in Colorado Springs, was purchased by Davis in July 1950.
His wife, Marguerite Davis, a railroad heiress died in 1948 and wished to have her fortune used for charitable purposes. The Modern Woodmen Sanatorium property and Trianon were sold to the Poor Sisters of St. Francis (Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration) for $1 in 1952. Since that time, the Cripple Creek District Museum has welcomed countless visitors to the "World's Greatest Gold Camp," and given them a glimpse of the thriving, wide-open West of yesteryear.
One-time Museum Director Richard Tremayne understood this as well as anyone. He attended High School in Cripple Creek, and spent much of his life in the district.
He noted, in late 2016 however, the thriving museum continued to show folks, visitors and locals, a thing or two.
If you haven't been to museum for a few years, you might just be surprised. Hardrock Park, for example, dedicated to Jeffrey L. Miller includes cabins saved from demolition in 2003 by Cripple Creek Building Inspector Jeffrey Miller and provided to the museum in 2009.
French Blanche LeCroix' Cabin, from about 1900, is part of the park, and reflects on the women who worked the district as a prostitute on Myers Avenue and later, in the district town of Midway at the Midway Saloon. She lived in the cabin from 1925 until the early 1950s, when she moved to Victor.
The Miners Cabin, circa 1892, was once home to a tinner, T. Rhinnell, in 1896, and later, harness-maker, Robert Brady and laundress wife lived there, at least the first five years of the last century. It is decorated as miner's home, with a few atypical additions such as a rare bathtub, and 1921 Coleman cookstove No. 2, with its original $12.50 price tag on it.
The old standards, of course remain. The Midland Terminal, used by three different railroads over the course of more than 50 years, survived the 1896 fire, and was in continuous operation from 1895 to 1949, with the last ride of the Midland.
The Trading and Transfer Building, built in 1893, by Albert Carlton, is the oldest wooden commercial building in Cripple Creek. Upstairs, in what was once the living quarters for Carlton and his family, you can soak in some more color, and texture and flavor of what it might have been like to live in the District in those early days. It is an excellent reminder of where we came from. I recommend visiting the place, over and over again. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Town within a town not limited by imagination

"It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination."

__ Script opener from "The Twilight Zone."

Maguireville abuzz with yesteryear's imagination

 By Rob Carrigan,

In Monument, it is an area known as Maguireville, and in an instant, the town within a town can transport you to the storied West, or to a high-tech sawmill with a philanthropic mission.
Thursday, last week, Jim Maguire and his cronies had the sawmill running, the oxen teams pulling, the stories flying —all in the shadow of the windmill and in the reflection of the lake.
This time, he plans to build a jail house in the mythical burg near the intersection of State Highway 105 and Knollwood Blvd., with the slab lumber cut from salvaged trees of the Black Forest fire.
In October of 2013, Bob Olson, who lived in the Black Forest area himself, first set up his modern answer on Jim Maguire's property on State Highway 105 in Monument, in the form of his WoodMizer portable sawmill.
The mill looks something like a big bandsaw and automates some of the complicated setup with its high-tech operation. Logs from a house lot down on Old Ranch Road, areas in the burn area, and locations in Woodmoor, as well other areas, all contributed to this week's cut and mill process.
The Maguire property milling operation was abuzz all week.
For his part, Jim Maguire with help from his many friends, built a stage stop log cabin 18 feet by 16 feet, dedicated to recalling the losses suffered by some in the Black Forest Fire. Some salvageable, but slightly burned logs, originated in the burn area and 44 timbers, seven inches by 10 inches, were milled for the structure.
"This place is part of an old homestead," said Maguire at the time. "And a stage at one time was the only way of getting here before the rails."
Since that time, the little town has added, at least, a covered bridge, a mine (complete with shaft, ore cart and tailings dump), a teepee, and multiple antique items of interest in the vast barns, equipment, horse-drawn hearse, rail cars and outbuildings.
Of course, the Oxen were involved as well.
Jim Maguire offers up one of his trademark introductions:
"We are twins," Maguire says, arm around Rollie Johnson. "I'm the old, ugly one. He's the rich handsome one."
Rollie and Paula Johnson, with the help of their hired hand of at least a decade, Dulces Granados, have been doing just that, since 2006 at Three Eagles Ranch, just over the Douglas County line near Monument. The ranch is one of the few western ranches that raise American Milking Devon Oxen.
Rollie Johnson, CEO for a group of more than 50 radio stations all over the country, showed his prowess at hooking log chokers Thursday in Monument, as Davy and Dandy, and Grant and Garfield, skidded logs across the field. The teams weigh in at about 2,000 pounds each.
Next month, the Johnsons are taking two teams to Bernalillo, New Mexico, for three days filming in Netflix-produced 1800s western.
Written, directed and executive produced by Scott Frank, Godless is a Western set in an 1800s New Mexico mining town. The project, which is currently casting, is set to film in Santa Fe and other locations nearby New Mexico.
The Johnson's oxen will provide historic context.
The breed is now extinct in England and were down to just a handful in the United States until about 30 years ago. Efforts by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and others have been able to increase the American herd to about 600 animals, mostly in New England states.
"Three Eagles Ranch began its herd in 2006 when it purchased a cow from Missouri. A bull, nicknamed Jesse James, was purchased from Washington's Birthplace Farm near Williamsburg. The first trained oxen team — Clark and Coolidge — was sold to Bent's Old Fort at La Junta along the Santa Fe Trail and can be viewed at historical presentations at that site. Today's second trained team from Three Eagles — Calvin and Chester — were born in 2008 and are still growing and live the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, Colo. A third pair, Ike and Earl, went to Arizona to be used in an experiment to prepare equipment that can be easily replicated in rural Africa.
In the meantime, the sawmill at Maguireville hums and screeches. Oxen drag logs, the old-fashioned way down the road. Buildings from at least a century past spring up from the ashes like a phoenix. The town within a town draws from its owner and friends — an unlimited imagination.


Photo Information:

Hooking chokers on an "old-fashioned" log skidder, Rollie Johnson and Dulces Granados, drag timbers to the upstart sawmill in Maguireville, today. American Milking Devon Oxen teams, David and Dandridge, and Grant and Garfield, make the process look easy ... Well, as easy as keeping four 2,000-pound draft animals headed in the right direction can be.