Saturday, August 31, 2019

Beyond mountains, territory of the Utes, and Colorado River

And there were seven Spanish Angels,
At the alter of the Sun.
They were prayin' for the lovers,
In the valley of the gun.
And when the battle stopped,
And the smoke cleared.
There was thunder from the throne.
And seven Spanish angels,
Took another angel home.
__ song writers, Troy Harold Seals, Edward F. Setser

 But what about the buried cannons? 

... half-finished silver mines? ... seventh mythical city? 

By Rob Carrigan,

Growing up on the Dolores River in Southwestern Colorado, my friends and I imagined, in great detail, earlier Spanish conquistadors such as Coronado, out searching our pinion- and juniper-covered hills for the seventh city of gold, or rich mines of La Plata silver.
The  Seven Cities of Gold, also known as the Seven Cities of Cibola, is a myth that was popular in the 16th century and according to legend, the seven cities of gold could be found throughout the pueblos of the New Mexico Territory. The cities were Hawikuh, Halona, Matsaki, Quivira, Kiakima, Cibola, and Kwakina.
Fabulous stories of battle-rushed Spanish explorers, evading Ute marauders, stuffing cannons with gold and silver, and burying those treasures in the local hills — filled our days.
I learned later, of course, that Coronado never made it that far north, and didn't really have very good track record. And much of the real heavy lifting in the Spanish exploration work was accomplished by the 10-man party led by two Franciscan Friars Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante, and guided somewhat, by Ute friendlies through the area in 1776.
But what about the buried cannons? The half-finished silver mines? And the seventh mythical city?
Coronado was severely disappointed by the lack of gold, but wrote that, "As far as I can tell, these Indians worship water, because it makes the corn grow and sustains their life."
About the pueblo, he reported that, although they are not decorated with turquoises, nor made of lime or good bricks, nevertheless they are very good houses, with three, four, and five stories, where there are very good apartments ... and some very good rooms underground, Kivas, paved, which are made for winter and have something like hot baths."
Others early Colorado explorers, like Antonio de Valverde, and Pedro de Villasur had similar results as Coronado did, to the east and south.
"Pushing beyond El Quarteledjo, Villasur's part explored the South Platte, which he named the Rio Jesus y Maria. They camped near junction of the North and South Platte' where the Pawnees, encouraged by the French, surprised the camp at dawn, killing Villasur and all but 13 of his party," according to "The Historical Atlas of Colorado,"  written by Thomas J. Noel, Paul F. Mahoney, and Richard E. Stevens.
In 1739, the brothers Paul and Pierre Mallet led the first recorded French expedition into Colorado.  This was the earliest known crossing of the Great Plains from the Missouri River to Santa Fe, the Atlas reported.
"Threatened by French Excursions  into the Southwest, Spain pursued further exploration and settlement."
 "Juan Antonio María de Rivera (1738–?) was a Spaniard and the first Euro-American to intensively explore the territory that eventually became the state of Colorado. In 1765 he made two trips into western Colorado from New Mexico, traveling as far as the Gunnison River in Delta County. Along the way he interacted extensively with Ute- and Paiute-speaking Native Americans. His journals are the first detailed descriptions of these peoples."
Rivera’s travels have been summarized in the Spanish Exploration of Western Colorado, and according to recent writings of Steven G. Baker, of Colorado Enclopedia.
"The Spanish colony of New Mexico was founded in 1598, and its residents laid the very foundation of Colorado’s history. These peoples’ explorations and interactions with Native Americans characterize the earliest documented accounts of the Centennial State. Until the Mexican War for Independence in 1821, Colorado was part of the extensive Spanish territories governed by the colony.
"Rivera is suspected to have come to New Mexico from New Spain as part of the retinue of governor Don Tomás Vélez Cachupín, who began his second term as governor in 1762. While he does not appear to have been highly educated or a formally trained engineer, as some writers have indicated, the specific mining terms Rivera used in his journals suggest that he may have had some practical mining experience in New Spain," according to Baker.
Although Rivera has at times been referred to as “Captain” Rivera, there is no evidence that he was a professional military man. The governor, who would certainly have followed current protocols and customs in addressing Rivera, does not refer to him as either “captain” or “don” in his formal instructions to him. The lack of reference to him as “Don Rivera” indicates that Rivera was neither of high birth nor a member of the colony’s more favored elite class.
"During his second term in office, Governor Vélez Cachupín finally succeeded in making peace with the Utes of western Colorado, who gave him permission to search their territory for silver. Cachupín chose Rivera to lead two of these expeditions in 1765, the first in a series of expeditions into western Colorado. The first began in June. Rivera and his men traveled north from Abiquiu, New Mexico, to the Piedra Parada (Standing Rock)—known today as Chimney Rock—near present-day Pagosa Springs, Colorado. From there the party explored southwest Colorado and named several of the region’s rivers, including the Navajo, San Juan, Piedra, Piños (Pine), Florida, Animas, and Dolores Rivers. Near the Animas River they were supposed to meet a Ute man who would show them the way up to silver deposits in the La Plata (San Juan) Mountains; at first the man was nowhere to be found, but the party later met up with him, followed him into the mountains, and conducted an unsuccessful search for silver.
Rivera’s second expedition began in the fall of 1765 with the goal of crossing the Colorado River and investigating rumors of bearded people who supposedly lived on the other side, in the legendary region of Teguayo. It was during this expedition that Rivera left one of the oldest inscriptions in the western United States, carving his name into a cliff face in Roubideau Canyon, southwest of present-day Delta. Rivera exited the canyon and found the Gunnison River, but he never made it to the Colorado—the Utes he met while camping in the Uncompahgre valley told him the route was too dangerous. Rivera made no more entries in his journal once he left the Uncompahgre Valley. His expedition returned to New Mexico in November.
"By the mid-eighteenth century, the New Mexico colony had not grown and prospered like many of the other Spanish colonies farther south in what is now Mexico because, unlike New Spain’s more prosperous colonies, they had not found any silver deposits that could be easily mined. Based on silver specimens they obtained by trading with some Utes, the Spanish suspected silver to be present in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, 200 miles north of Santa Fé. This area was controlled by the Utes and was thus off-limits to the Spaniards, " wrote Steven G. Baker.
"In the 1750s, New Mexico had a bright and capable governor named Tomás Vélez Cachupín, who served two terms (1749–54 and 1762–67). He recognized that the colony would have to make peace with the Utes if it ever hoped to develop silver mines. He knew he could bring about a peaceful relationship if he would allow the Spaniards to begin trading with the Native Americans. If he could gain the Utes’ trust and make peace with them, he might be able to explore the San Juans and find the source of their silver."
Baker also tells of the Teguayo.
"According to an ancient Native American legend, Teguayo (pronounced TewaYO) was an unexplored land far to the north of the colony near a large lake. It was said to be beyond the mountains, the territory of the Utes, and the then-uncharted Colorado River, which was known as the River Tizón. This land was supposedly the home of a variety of Native American people who spoke many different languages," he says.
"These people were said to include a strange kind of white people who grew long beards and looked more like Europeans than Native Americans. The Spanish authorities in New Mexico were afraid that these strange bearded people might be Frenchmen or Russians who were encroaching on their territories. They therefore considered it necessary to find out who these strange people were and to determine if they posed any threat to the colony. The Spaniards could not go to Teguayo, however, until peace had been made with the Utes."

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A bird, a plant, or mountain streams?

Three different takes on how the name developed

By Rob Carrigan,

In the holy trinity of story telling,  the fables of how the Sangre de Cristo mountains were christened drifts across the centuries, though different cultures, and into different languages and traditions. Will C. Febril,  of the Rocky Mountain Herald lays it out this way, as reprinted in Wet Mountain Tribune, June 28, 1912.

"The more popular legend associated with the name of the Sangre de Cristo ( Blood of Christ ) mountains in Colorado is based on the story that the early Spaniards found in this picturesque and beautiful range, springs of crimson colored water. Another legend, also of Spanish origin, is founded on the discovery of a cruciform, red flower , that blooms near timber line . Still another , the newest to me, and associated with Spanish lore, is the legend of a bird, a beautiful songster, with a crimson head and breast. The Sangre de Cristo mountains extending from near Salida, southeast, separating the San Luis and Wet Mountain valleys, both as a range and in the formation of its peaks , some with an elevation of more than 14,000 feet, have a clearness of outline that charms and, delights the tourist," wrote Febril, more than a century ago.
These massive and awe-inspiring mountains, stand out with such distinctness that they may be seen from several branches of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway, as its trains rush through gorges and canons, or cross the timber-lined passes. Seemingly over in sight, it is not strange that, so constant in the vision of the Spanish explorers, that the richest of legend and lore should be connected with their name — Sangre de Cristo.  Febril tells of how he came by the stories.

Bird Legend

"I first heard the bird legend, in the following way, when curator of the state Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado. Once, when in field work for the museum of that society at the State House, I spent a winter s day and night, near timberline, on one of the highest ranges of the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado. I was collecting birds, and a study of these species whose habitat is in the regions where amid the storms and blizzards that sweep the continental crest, they struggle for food and assistance . I was especially interested in the leucostiste, known as rosy finches, and in the vernacular of the trainman and mountaineers, sometimes called the little red snow birds . Returning to the home where I was stopping, after a hard day struggle with the elements and snow bunks, the wife of the mountaineer, on learning the nature of my work, related to me tho interesting legend, also said to to be of Spanish origin, of the Sangre de Cristo bird. She explained that her informant was an old time mining man in the southwest, whose work, and interests had brought- him into frequent contact with Spanish settlements, where he heard the story.
According to the legend, it is associated with the crucifixion. All nature was in sorrow, in which bird life was in sympathy. There was a bird inour-southwest, dull in - color, but a glorious songster. It ceased its song and lowered its head in- grief and shame. When its head was raised it was found that that noble head had become crimson, as well as its throat and breast. The coloration had become that of the crucified Christ, but the glory and beauty of its song remained. Such was the lore attached to it to it by the Spaniards , and they named it the Sangre de Cristo bird. The description us given by my informant would apply to several species.

Flower Story

The flower story of the Sangre de Cristo has heen told by John Shepherd, for many years connected with-the daily press of Denver, and a well known writer on the Rocky Mountain News. He wrote a poem on the Sangre de Cristo , published in the Denver monthly Commonwealth Magazine in the issue of April, 1889, with the following instruction:

In the mountains of Colorado, particularly in the southern range, there blooms far up near timber-line, a beautiful but strange flower which the early Spanish explorers have named Sangre de Cristo, or Blood of Christ. It is a plant ten or twelve inches in height, the leaves of which are arranged about the stalk in the form of a cross, surmounted at the top with a crimson blood-like crest. It invariable attracts the attention of the traveler over the mountains. The range,  known as the Sangre de Cristo derived its name from this flower, which there grows in profusion.

Far up on heights in, regions of the mist.
Where silvery-lakes, by shadowy spectres kissed,
Sleep calmly near eternal banks of snow —
The source of the life, which blooms so sweet below;
Touch'd with the sheen of sunlight, changing skies,
Midst nature's scarce disturbed paradise;
Where hardy pines scarce essay to grow,
And hardier oaks are stunted, weak and low ;
Where mountain gorge and canon, faraway,
Whose darken'd depths do scarce reflect the day,
And distant cascade, leaps some dark abyss,
But scarce disturbs the mighty loneliness;
Where trail of miners leads to hidden wealth.
By nature stored, as if by miser stealth;
There hides this sacred plant, this Blood of Christ,
As  it 'twere, a solmn penitential tryst
Thy crimson crest, like drops of holy blood,
Which from some sacred form had erstwhile flowed,
With emerald foliage cruciform
In glowing sunlight shining soft and warm
Gleams with a humble, solemn beauty there,
Fairest and best of all these flowers so rare;
Blest, brightest emblem of a martyred God
Whose ebbing life-blood stained once earth sod,
The early Spaniards, with religious love
Or inspiration, born of realms above,
Have named thee well; and trailing o'er the slope,
Many a traveler s breast s been filled with hope
And faith he gazing on thy sign of heaven,
And blessing thee for cheer 'thoust given.

Shepherd's poem is also credited, in a little different form, published in the May, 1883 of the Grand Army Magazine of Denver, when Will Visscher was its editor.

Crimson water tale

The old water legend is equally interesting in its religious signification and lore.
Narrated in brief, a party of early Spanish explorers, who are said to have discovered these mountains, and when in that range, came upon springs of water, colored crimson, percolating through porous red rock.
Hence, the name Sangre de Cristo Mountains .
This is the common story—linked with geology.
But what significance should be given to the Sangre de Cristo bird? May not ornithology claim something as to the origin of the name of these mountains? The Sangre de Cristo flower may be able the botanist to set forth a still further calm. When the three legends are considered, the question may as well be asked: Was the inspiration that named this beautiful range suggested by a bird, flower, or crimson water?

Photo Info:
The Sangre de Cristo mountain range rises above the dunes. Photo by Steve Peterson, Rocky Mountain News. 2007.

Friday, August 23, 2019

No level ground for imaginative newspaper in mining camp

Pack rats, snow slides, and 

silver bust spell the end for the Pine Cone

By Rob Carrigan,

Imaginative newspaperman George S. Irwin and his printer devil business partner George Root arrived pretty close to the beginnings of White Pine, Colorado. It proved to be a pretty precarious existence right from the start, with avalanche "runs" and aggressive pack rats.
But the two carried on and survived and published for more than 10 years in the harsh surroundings in the remote Gunnison County camp.
That is, until the Silver Panic and Crash of 1893, and simultaneously Irwin was sentenced to 15 months in prison, for what he called a minor infraction of postal laws related to mailing the paper.
"By 1883, White Pine had a post office, the White Pine Cone newspaper, daily stages arriving from Monarch and Sargents and 1,000 miners in the camp and nearby hills. The Horseshoe Saloon, twenty-five by fifty feet and containing a pool table and five round tables for gambling, was the center of attraction in the camp," wrote Duane Vandenbusche, in "Colorado Central Magazine," in 2011.
As far as the aggressive pack rats, the two Georges, (Irwin and Root) explained their troubles accordingly:
The two newspaper men spent their first night in the lean-to adjoining the log cabin where the paper would be printed.
"The rats were big, noisy and bold and banging a shoe on the floor only made them more active.  So Root grabbed his Wesson .44 carbine from the bunk post and handed it to Irwin below him. The editor hearing a crunching sound and blazed away, and "no more was heard save for strong men struggling for the word."
In the morning Root pried up some floor boards and found a cache of objects belonging to the previous occupants, among them trunk straps, neckties, dish rags, slippers, forks and spoons."
"When the Pine Cone printed its last edition, after 10 years of lively existence, the furry thieves had made away with all they could carry or drag except the type lice."
The location of White Pine was not desirable, Vandenbusche wrote.
George Root declared: “There was scarcely enough level ground in the camp for more than six or seven town lots. The back yards of the lots on the west side of Main Street were from 50 to 75 feet higher than at street level, while the rear of those on the east side were from ten to 40 feet lower in the front.” Main Street was three quarters of a mile long and “not quite as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.” Huge boulders dotted Main Street, and stages had to run a slalom course to avoid them. George Root summed up White Pine’s location: “As the mines could not be brought any closer, the town was started as near the mines as practicable.”
But survival was possible.
"White Pine suffered an agonizing famine this week," the paper noted one particularly rough week. "For two whole days there was not a drop of whiskey in town. Nothing but a liberal supply of peach  brandy and bottled beer prevented a panic."
Of avalanches, the spring of 1884 was particularly bad.
"At Woodstock, over the mountain from White Pine,  one of these slides swept away a little railroad station at the time when people were waiting for the train. Carried away and smothered were fourteen, including Mr. Doyle and his four children. In addition to the station, many other buildings were destroyed, boarding house, telegraph shack, and many cabins.  The same day, another avalanche hit the workings of the Magna Charta tunnel and swept away most of the related buildings. The Cone, of course carried the story:
"The wind blew a veritable hurricane, driving the snow with hurricane force. Tom Farell and  Terry Hughes, employees of the Magna Charta went to work as usual. They were in the blacksmith shop when about eight o'clock, a huge snow slide came down Granite Mountain with a deafening roar, striking the shop with fearful impact. Mr. Hughes was driven though a partition and then carried out the end of the shop and thrown about fifty feet down the mountain side. Fortunately, he landed in a bed of soft snow and soon extricated himself. Seeing nothing of Farell, he gave the alarm and some twenty or more men hurried to the scene of the accident and began searching for him.  A few minutes later they found him imprisoned under the roof of the shop, but the combined efforts of the men to raise the roof were futile until it was broken into pieces. Farell was unconscious when taken out but recovered after time. Examination showed, other than a few bruises, he was alright."
The rescue party had just returned to town, when a second, larger slide went through and wiped away the remaining buildings of Magna Charta mining operation. It was rebuilt, but suffered another devastating slide about 15 years later, which did not spare several unlucky miners or any of the buildings.
The Pine Cone, of course, had been swept away by that time as well, and could no longer report on it.

Photo info: Residents of White Pine pose in front of the Turner and Macy Store in 1884. Photo courtesy of the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sadness and music lingers in the mountain air

“It was a hurting tune, resigned, a cry of heartache for all in the world that fell apart. As ash rose black against the brilliant sky, Fire's fiddle cried out for the dead, and for the living who stay behind to say goodbye.”
Kristin Cashore, Fire 

“There is nothing more to be said or to be done tonight, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more miserable ways of our fellowmen.”
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Five Orange Pips  

Haunting strains of the violin rise above the valley

By Rob Carrigan,

By most accounts, a haunting tune hung in the air above mining camp — the tune where melancholy collides with specificity. The characteristics of the music (in argument) combined with details, memories, and images ... related to one’s life or other emotional triggers.
The perception of sad music we know includes other elements beyond any lyrics, or the music by itself.

"High above the mining town of Silver Plume, a rich vein of ore was discovered in the late 1860s by Clifford Griffin," wrote Colorado historian Kenneth Jessen.

This young Englishman was one of the first miners to come to the Silver Plume area. Little was known about him except that his fiancée had been found dead on the eve of their wedding.

Griffin came to the Rocky Mountains to enter the mining business and to forget his sad past."

The young Englishman soon became the wealthiest mine owner in the area. Nothing, however, caused him to forget his fiancée’s untimely death, and he withdrew socially from the other miners and their families.

On the side of the steep mountain near his mine, Griffin constructed a simple cabin. His sole companion was his violin, and after the end of a day’s work, he would stand at the front of his cabin and play.

The sad music would drift down more than a thousand vertical feet into Silver Plume. Miners and their families would come outside to look up to the lonely musician standing by his cabin. Sometimes one of the miners would request a special tune.

After he completed his mountainside recital, the miners would applaud with the sound echoing off the canyon walls.

According to Nathan Abels, who wrote several pieces about the fellow, Griffin ran the Seven Thirty Mine with his brother on Silver Plume Mountain in the 1880s. Legend has it that his fiancée died the day before their wedding and to escape his grief he joined the Colorado gold rush. He lived in a cabin near the mine and played the violin every night to an appreciative audience in the town of Silver Plume below. The story ends tragically when he takes his own life in a grave of his own making after playing his last notes on violin. Over the years, people have asserted that Clifford Griffin can still be heard playing his melancholic solos on summer evenings over Silver Plume.

After leaving his family and Brand Hall estate in England, Clifford continued drifting – searching for contentment and meaningful work. It was said that “although he performed his duties as superintendent of the Seven Thirty Mine with excellence, he showed no enthusiasm,” according to account by historian Maryjoy Martin.

Many tales circulate about the town of Silver Plume itself. One involves its naming. According to records and legends, Louis Dupuy, the owner of the Hotel De Paris, was also a newspaper editor for the town. When miners from Silver Plume brought him samples of the town's ore and asked him what they should name the small camp, he allegedly wrote a short poem on the spot:

Knights today are miners bold,

Who delve in deep mines' gloom,

To honor men who dig for gold,

For ladies whom their arms enfold,

We'll name the town Silver Plume!

According to legend, Griffin spent time state of New York, where he was raised. Griffin became engaged in New York, but his fiancé tragically, and mysteriously, died the night before their wedding. Her death was contributed to unnameable "natural causes", and to escape the painful memories of his beloved, he moved to Colorado with his brother, who eventually became the owner of the 7:30 Mine (so named because their day shift started a generous hour later than the other mines, who started at 6:30 AM). Clifford became the manager of the 7:30, and was much loved by his miners for his kindness.

Also according to local lore, every Christmas he bought all his miners a goose for their families, and every Fourth of July, he paid off every bar between Silver Plume and current-day Bakerville 4 miles (6 km) to the west, so his miners could enjoy their holiday without spending their family's money. Not only did he take care of his miners, every evening he provided them with entertainment as well. Since he could not bear the daily sight of his men with their wives and families after his tragedy, he spent a great deal of time near the entrance to the 7:30, which sits about 1,500 feet (460 m) above the town of Silver Plume. Every evening he would sit near the edge of a nearby cliff and play his violin. With incredible acoustics of the valley, the entire town could step outside and listen to his concerts. According to local legend, one evening, after a particularly beautiful recital, the residents heard a gunshot. Assuming the worst, the miners of the 7:30 raced up the trail to the entrance, and there they found Clifford Griffin, shot through the heart, in a grave he'd dug himself. A note in the nearby Manager's Office told the tale. It asked the residents of Silver Plume to leave him where he lay, because that's where he'd experienced the most happiness since his wife died. Not only did they follow his request, the town erected a 10-foot-tall Gunnison Granite monument in his honor, directly on top of his grave site. The monument can still be seen today, on the cliffs directly in front of the 7:30 Mine.

Author Jenny Griffin, (no relation) writes of the story:

"There’s the obelisk grave of Clifford Griffin, set on a scenic mountain ridge 1500 feet above Silver Plume. Born in Shropshire, England at Brand Estate in 1847, Griffin was the son of Alfred Griffin Esquire. He was known to be something of a searcher, restless, and attracted to nature. Though he had envisioned studying poetry at university, he had been dissuaded by his father.

Griffin left England and headed to Colorado and the mining boom in part to escape grief and loss. He lost his fiance the night before their intended wedding, her death wrenching and unexpected. Griffin’s brother, Heneage Griffin, owned the eponymous Seven-Thirty Mine in Silver Plume, named explicitly for the start of its shift time. Clifford Griffin was hired as superintendent of the mine. And while mining proved financially enriching, happiness continued to elude Griffin. A skilled violinist, he was said to have mourned his fiance by playing violin music each evening from the front stoop of his cabin, set high above Silver Plume amid sharp canyons, right next to the mine. Townspeople below would listen each evening, lingering outdoors in fading light to enjoy his impromptu concerts. Until one night the music stopped. Griffin dropped his violin and shot himself next to a neatly prepared stone grave. A suicide note specified his intent to be buried there. His grieving family installed a plaque, commemorating his life and death in 1887.

Town lore persists that Griffin’s music can be heard faintly over Silver Plume’s hills on summer evenings.

Photo Info:

1. Griffin Memorial on Silver Plume Mountain near Silver Plume (Clear Creek County), Colorado. Photo by Thomas Noel (Dr. Colorado) The monument marks the grave of Clifford Griffin, the co-owner of the Seven-Thirty Mine. On June 19, 1887 Griffin committed suicide and shot himself in a grave he had dug. His brother, Heneage Griffin, erected this monument. The monument reads, "Clifford Griffin Son of Alfred Griffin ESQ, of Brand Hall, Shropshire, England Born July 2, 1847. Died June 19, 1887. And in Consideration of His Own Request Buried Near This Spot."

2. A photo or line drawing reportedly of Clifford Griffin high above Silver Plume.