Monday, July 31, 2017

Hope we could not see or touch

A whole lot of heartbreak can happen in several years


Update: Mark Redwine, the Vallecito father who was found guilty in the  summer of 2021 for killing his 13-year-old son, Dylan, was sentenced Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, to 48 years in prison.

By Rob Carrigan,

In four and half years, a whole lot can happen unfortunately.

It was a birthday celebration, but a heartbreaking situation never the less, all those years ago in Limbach Park on a cold February night.

A mother clung to last fibers of hope. Her son, (an eighth grade student at Lewis Palmer Middle School) just turned 14 but he wasn’t home to celebrate it with family. Family and friends still dared not say the boy was gone forever.

“Dylan Redwine had a birthday Feb. 6, but instead of having cake and opening presents with his loved ones, his family is still trying to find him after he disappeared without a trace,” we wrote at the time.

Elaine Hatfield Hall (she was still going by the Redwine name then) did not come out and say it then, that her ex-husband Mark Redwine had anything to do with Dylan’s disappearance, but she did say she believed he knew more than he was telling.

“I think those last hours that we can account for Dylan are crucial, I have so many questions and no answers. And everything he is saying is so uncharacteristic of Dylan,” Elaine said then.

National media, in the form of Good Morning America, Nancy Grace and the Dr. Phil Show all wanted to help get the word out about Dylan’s disappearance, she said, but her ex wouldn’t agree and said he could do it at the end of the month instead.

“It really frustrates me because that’s two weeks longer, and we could do it next Wednesday. Cory (Dylan’s older brother) and I are up for that. Whatever it takes to bring Dylan home, we’re there,” she told us. “We need to come together collectively and find Dylan.”

“We have to do something to keep Dylan out there and keep his story and his face out there. I don’t want to hold anymore rallies. I just want him to come home,” she said.

Dylan’s mom told us she had moved from Bayfield to Colorado Springs, and then later to Monument and praised the support of this community. She called it “humbling” at the time.

A spaghetti fundraiser took place at Lewis-Palmer High School and brought in a lot of money, she said, to go toward a reward that was offered then. She said the reward then was at $50,000.

“I have to cling to hope,” Elaine said. “It’s not something that you can touch, it is not something that you can see. It is something you feel. I have hope that Dylan will come home safe.”

Heartbreakingly, part of Dylan’s remains were discovered June 27, 2013. La Plata County Sheriff’s Office names Mark Redwine as “a person of interest” on Aug. 19, 2015, and reclassified Dylan’s death from undetermined, to homicide.

Mark Redwine was arrested in Bellingham Washington July 22, 2017, after a grand jury indictment. He is changed with second degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.

Story and photos by Rob Carrigan

Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't let it come up behind you

Listen now to all the fire precautions


Updated August 25, 2018

By Rob Carrigan,

When I looked at the National Interagency Fire Center’s statistics across the country, nationally, there are 115 large fires being managed under a strategy other than full suppression. That does not include fires within complexes. For Colorado, as of Aug. 25, 2018, there was 10 large fires burning in the state.
Three new large fires were reported yesterday. Firefighters continue to work on the 115 large fires that have burned 2.2 million acres in 14 states.
By their definition, a large incident is a wildfire of 100 acres or more occurring in timber, or a wildfire of 300 acres or more occurring in grass or sage.
“During wildfires, the team also sometimes works with the U.S. Forest Service to deploy mobile monitors in areas where they expect the greatest smoke impacts,” said release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Early in the wildfire season, in early July, drought-plagued Colorado outpaced all other U.S. states when it comes to the number of actively-burning wildfires, according to federal statistics.
Nearly a third of the 47 wildfires actively burning across the country were in Colorado, then, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The state’s 10 actively-burning wildfires don’t include previously-extinguished fires.
Since then, devastating fires in California have increased the pace there.
Triple-digit temperatures are fueling fast-moving, aggressive wildfires across the Golden State at a pace that far out-does that seen at this point in a typical season, fire experts tell TIME. More than 1,000 wildfires have been sparked in a one-week period in July — that’s more than three times the average 250 or 300 that begin each week at this point in the season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. Tens of thousands of more acres have burned across the state this year than at this point in 2017, which was one of the most destructive fire seasons in state history.
"A seemingly never-ending heatwave has put many cities in the state on track to set records in July — and that’s just part of the issue. Each year brings some new heat record in California, and the accumulation of year after year of sweltering summers has created dry grass, brush and millions of dead trees that spread fires at explosive rates. And this summer in particular, heat waves have exacerbated the issue," Time reported in July.
 If you encounter heavy smoke, the Public Health in Colorado, advises you to remain indoors with the windows and doors shut.
“If you live within an area with high levels of smoke in the air, you can determine if the levels are unhealthy by focusing on a landmark five miles away. “If you can no longer see that landmark, the air is unhealthy to breathe,” the Colorado Department of Public Health advises.
And as noted expert on fire behavior Tom Watson says, “With a structure fire you know where your flames are, but in the woods it can move anywhere; it can come right up behind you...”

Read the "FIG Book"

Slash and mulch site important to 

fire recovery effort four years later


By Rob Carrigan,

Various organizations and volunteers call it the “FIG Book.” And reverent references to it appear everywhere.

“Read the Forestry Information Guide,” suggests Black Forest Together, an organization formed in the wake of the most destructive fire in the state's history that began near Highway 83 and Shoup Road in Black Forest, Colorado around 1 p.m. on June 11, 2013, eventually burning 14,280 acres. 509 homes were said to be destroyed, and two people had died.

Four years after the fire’s start, the “FIG book” is next rung down from religious text in certain circles. And folks who went through the fire may even argue with what should be in the top position, as they still work to clean up, and haul slash away.

“There is a wealth of information available in the 2014-2015 Forestry Information Guide published by the El Paso County Slash-Mulch Program. This book is available at no charge at the Slash-Mulch site at Herring and Shoup Roads,” says Black Forest Together’s information. You can also click to read the Forestry Information Guide on the Black Forest Slash-Mulch website.

What is the Slash-Mulch Site and Program? The FIG Book answers, saying “It is a wildfire mitigation, recycling program made available so that forestry management in the Black Forest is possible.”

The purpose of the Forestry Information Guide is to provide a summarized source of information for use in wildfire mitigation and forest health. The Slash-Mulch Program is a 24-years-old effort , co-sponsored by the El Paso County Environmental Division, the Colorado Forestry Association, the Colorado State Forest Service, and the Black Forest Fire Department, says Jeff DeWitt, one of three current directors. He says nearly 300 volunteers per year work at the site during the season.

The physical location of the site is one block south of Shoup Road on Herring Road, in Black Forest. They accept all parts of trees and bushes (including needles, cones,) eight inches or less in diameter, and six foot long or less. They don’t accept roots, stumps, grass, hay, garden trash, weeds, lumber, plastic, soil, or anything that is not tree or shrub debris.

The site is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., Saturdays 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Slash drop-off closes in mid September (Sept. 10).

Mulch made from grinding the slash, is available from late May through late September (Sept. 23) with a loader available on Saturdays only beginning in late May, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Loader fee is $5 per bucket (approximately 2 cubic yards.) There is a $2 fee charged per load (any size) and donations of non-perishable food for Care & Share and cash donations are appreciated.

DeWitt says that loads come in during the season from all over the County (and in some cases, other counties) and mulch is available while supplies last. The site is operated on Colorado School Section 16, in essence it really belongs to federal government, which gave the land, in trust to Colorado when it became a state in 1876. Today sections are leased or sold by State Land Board. El Paso County Solid Waste Division has a lease of 1.5 acres for the Slash -mulch program.

Pounding, rather than grinding

Running the Yellow Jacket

 The Western Museum of Mining and Industry (WMMI) is home to an actual working stamp mill, the Yellow Jacket, that they fire up during special events a couple times a year. Stamp mills were used to pulverize ore from the mines.

In May, WMMI member Charlie Connell taught a Stamp Mill 101 course for anyone wanting to learn how to run the museum’s historically important Yellow Jacket II Stamp Mill. Included in this course were instructions on safety, how to run the various components such as the stamps themselves, the Wilfley Concentrating Table, and the water flow, how to care for the parts, and other related topics of interest. The museum may be conducting additional courses in the future.

If you’re interested in signing up for similar educational programs, please contact museum director Rick Sauers at or call the museum at 719-488-0880. The Western Museum of Mining & Industry is located at 225 North Gate Boulevard in Colorado Springs (Exit 156 of Interstate 25).

Visit the museum’s website,, to learn more about the museum and its programs.

Photos by Rob Carrigan

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."

The record describes a Harvey House in Cascade in the 1890s

By Rob Carrigan,

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

By Rob Carrigan,

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 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 the Pikes Peak 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.”