Friday, October 30, 2020

Love newspapers — and miss them

 Last decade in decline has been difficult

By Rob Carrigan,

For the greater part of the last fifty years, I earned a living in the Newspaper business — much of it in Colorado. It was a good life, but it seems it may have had a time stamp on it. Several years ago, I knew we were in trouble when a longtime friend mentioned that he taught journalism in a crowd introduction, and folks there laughed, and one said, "That is sort of like teaching coal mining."

Since the beginning of 2009, the United States has seen a number of major metropolitan dailies shuttered or drastically pruned after no buyers emerged, including the Rocky Mountain News, which closed in February that year, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reduced to a bare-bones Internet operation.

I was working for the Colorado Press Association at its annual convention, the night John Temple announced the demise of the Rocky.

Overall, the industry continues to shrink, with Editor & Publisher’s DataBook listing 126 fewer daily papers in 2014 than in 2004. 

San Francisco Chronicle narrowly averted closure when employees made steep concessions. In Detroit, both newspapers, Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, slashed home delivery to three days a week, while prodding readers to visit the newspapers' Internet sites on other days. In Tucson, Arizona, the state's oldest newspaper, the Tucson Citizen, said it would cease publishing on March 21, 2009, when parent Gannett Company failed to find a buyer. I can't tell you how many smaller weeklies and other smaller publications we have lost in the last decade, but it is a lot.

I love papers — and miss them — But, I am not sure what we might have done to stop the slide.

During the early period in the American Revolution, around thirty newspapers were published throughout the American colonies. Then they made a living from political currents and often represented a particular political cause. The idea of 'objective' journalism didn't develop until the railroads, telegraph lines, and such —forced a "just the facts" approach after the American Civil War.  After the 1830s, the mass-circulation developed and during 1990s, newspaper circulation was at its highest. 

I remember that peak, and consider it fondly.

Photo Information:

 1. Inside the Rocky Mountain Newsroom (RMN) in 1902.

2. Newspaper shaft that elevated recently-printed copies of RMN from pressroom to offices above.

3. Outside the Denver Republican in the 1920s.

4. Denver newsies with the daily miracle circa 1915.

5. Reading room at the Denver Public Library, cuspidors and all, in the early 20th Century.

6. Paperboy in Denver about 1915.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Temperance, an out-spoken Democrat, in the General's paper

Scalped Judge Baldwin lives on in booze debate

By Rob Carrigan,

General William Jackson Palmer founded a newspaper and printing business at about the same time as he founded the city of Colorado Springs.

The publication began as Out West, beginning March 23, 1872, but failed shortly afterward. Undaunted, the company relaunched as The Colorado Springs Gazette, and the first issue was published on January 4, 1873. 

Among the liveliest early debates carried on in the Palmer-founded city, in the paper the General financed, was the subject of temperance and the unlikely discussion of Judge W.H. Baldwin's life and times. The two-sided discussion carried on, even long after the Judge was gone, according to historian Marshall Sprague, in "Newport in the Rockies."

"... Judge W.H. Baldwin, one of the celebrities of the mountain West, who stumbled into a shallow well and drowned at Green and Stitzer's Slaughter House. The fame of Judge Baldwin (the "judge" derived from the fact that he judged sheep once at a Colorado Territory fair) was many-faceted. He had been scalped  by Indians in South America and shot twice by Arapaho Indians near Monument Creek (the Arapahos would have scalped him if he hadn't been scalped already.) He had never been seen even slightly sober. Last, but not least, he was El Paso County's only outspoken Democrat, fond of haranguing staunch Republicans like (Major Henry) McAllister and (Gen. William) Jackson on the rights of man and Jeffersonian democracy," wrote Sprague.

"Judge Baldwin's untimely death at age forty-six should have ended his career, but it didn't. The oratorical toper lived on as an object lesson which kept the town in a state of division for years," he wrote. "The issue was the General's liquor ban, championed by the editor of Palmer's Gazette, J. Elsom Liller."

"When Palmer told him (Liller) to uphold liquor ban in the deeds of the Colorado Springs Company, he took the General at his word and backed the ban editorially with every ounce of his limited strength, come hell or high water and let the chips fall where they may."

In 1946, the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Colorado Springs Evening Telegraph merged to form the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph. The same year, it was purchased by Raymond C. Hoiles's Freedom Newspapers. 

The Colorado Springs Sun was a broadsheet-format newspaper published in Colorado Springs, and was a daily newspaper that competed with The Gazette-Telegraph until 1986, when Aero, a Freedom division, bought it for $30 million, shut it down, retaining its trademark and naming rights.

The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph name was changed to The Gazette in 1997. The sale of The Gazette to Clarity Media, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Corporation, closed on November 30, 2012. 


Corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Cascade Avenue in 1957 showing the side of the Out West building with sign on the wall and parking lot on the corner. View of buildings and parked cars. Building signs read: "Out West Printing & Stationery Co. Established 1872 / At this location the first stake of Colorado Springs was placed 1871 / Wood & Steel Office Furniture--Filing Systems--Safes--Drafting Supplies--Duplicating Machines 'Everything good for your office' and "The County Supply House of Colorado." Photo from Pike Peak Library District.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Full moon and Irish tradition in "Before Times."

If I don't see you when the bonfires are burning, burning
If I don't see you when we're singing the Gloriana tune
If I've got to see you when it's raining deep inside the forest
I got to see you at the waning of the moon
Said oh, won't you come on back?
Want you to be of good cheer
Come back home on the Celtic New Year

__ Van Morrison

Timing in ancient cycles and preservation of circular stories

By Rob Carrigan,

In Irish folklore, on the Celtic New Year, there is “Very simple game where a child would be blindfolded and a series of saucer/plates were placed on a table in front of them with different objects on each plate/saucer. Whatever saucer/plate they’d dip their finger/hand into, this would predict their fate for the coming year," according Wexford man Michael Fortune in "Irish Central." Fortune has worked for years in collecting such tales, not only for archival purposes but to promote the tradition of storytelling and folklore in the environment where it truly belongs - sitting in your kitchen or living room with a cup of tea in front of you.

“The objects ranged from area to area, however, a ring, clay, and water seem to be the standard three things. Although a fun thing to do there was an underlying dark tone to the game.

“It is interesting to note that ‘emigration’ was a generally accepted fate in the game,” he outlines.

Thomas Cahill, in his wonderful book "How the Irish Saved Civilization" tells the story of how Europe evolved from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era.

"Without Ireland, the transition could not have taken place. Not only did Irish monks and scribes maintain the very record of Western civilization — copying manuscripts of Greek and Latin writers, both pagan and Christian, while libraries and learning on the continent were forever lost — they brought their uniquely Irish world-view to the task."

As Cahill illustrates, so much of the liveliness we associate with medieval culture has its roots in Ireland. When the seeds of culture were replanted on the European continent, it was from Ireland that they were germinated.

Samhain (/ˈsɑːwɪn, ˈsaʊɪn/; Irish: [ˈsˠəuɪnʲ] Scottish Gaelic: [ˈs̪ãũ.ɪɲ]) is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year. Traditionally it is held on 1 November, but with celebrations beginning on the evening of 31 October, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve.
November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. Prior to the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended with the lunar cycles but when the Romans introduced their calendar to the Island, the celebration was shifted to always fall on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which means "end of summer", the Celtic New year.

This is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasadh. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man (where it is called 'Sauin'). Similar festivals are held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands, for example the Brittonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany).

Samhain is believed to have Celtic pagan origins and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. Some Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland are aligned with the sunrise around the time of Samhain. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter.

As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, and there were rituals involving them. Like Beltane, Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the Aos Sí, the 'spirits' or 'fairies', could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. At Samhain, it was believed that they needed to be appeased to ensure the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them.

Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. Divination rituals and games were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the late 19th century, Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer suggested that it was the "Celtic New Year", and this view has been repeated by some other scholars.

In the 9th century, the Western Christian church shifted the date of All Saints' Day to 1 November, while 2 November later became All Souls' Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints'/All Souls' merged into the modern Halloween. Folklorists have used the name 'Samhain' to refer to Gaelic 'Halloween' customs up until the 19th century.

According to the Farmer's Almanc,  Halloween full Moon hasn’t appeared for everyone in all time zones since 1944.

When you look at the full Moon on Halloween night, it won’t appear blue in color but you’ll be looking at something pretty uncommon. A full Moon on Halloween occurs roughly once every 19 years—a pattern known as the Metonic Cycle. 

This well-known lunar cycle was discovered in 432 BC by the Greek, Meton, of Athens. He determined that after 19 years have elapsed, the phase of the Moon will repeat on the same date. Well , not always. Because of slight variations in the Moon’s orbital period, and the number of leap days that intervene over a 19-year time span, the Metonic Cycle can be accurate only to within a day.

For more than half a century, whenever two full Moons appear in a single month (which happens on average every 2 1/2 to 3 years), the second full Moon is christened a “Blue Moon.”

Any time the Moon is technically “full” on October 31st (as it will be this year), it would also have to be a Blue Moon because the lunar cycle is only 29.5 days long.

There is an alternate definition of a “Blue Moon”—when there are 4 full Moons in a single season, the third is considered a “Blue Moon.

According to astronomers, we will all see a 100%-illuminated Halloween full Moon (after 2020) in the years  2039, 2058, 2077, and 2096 (note the 19-year pattern). The good news is that even if the Moon is a day or two away from 100% full on any particular Halloween, it can still serve the purpose for a spooky backdrop since most people can’t tell the difference between a 98% illuminated Moon and a 100% “full” Moon (Cases in point: November 2, 2029, and October 30, 2031).  

Photo Info: 

Top: Harvest Moon in 2014.

Bottom: Ute "Moon Dance" in Garden of the Gods in 1911.


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Byers-Evans House gives glimpse of history past

Back in time:

Restored house furnished with family's original belongings

By Rob Carrigan,

Built for William N. Byers in 1883, the stately Italianate-style home reflected its owner’s standing in the community. Byers printed Denver’s first newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, on April 23, 1859. As editor, Byers used his paper pulpit to promote Denver and the surrounding region.

Byers became close friends with John Evans, Colorado’s second territorial governor. These men — along with their wives Elizabeth Byers and Margaret Evans — played pivotal roles in Denver’s early growth by helping to establish religious, educational, legal, and social institutions.

William G. Evans, the oldest son of former governor John Evans, bought the home in 1889. William and his wife Cornelia moved in with their two young children, John and Josephine. During the next five years, daughters Margaret and Katharine were born. An important business and civic leader in his own right, William headed the Denver Tramway Company and helped develop the Moffat Tunnel. Piercing the Continental Divide, the 6.2 mile tunnel culminated efforts to link Denver to Colorado’s western slope and solidified the city’s place as the region’s commercial hub.

The Byers-Evans house is operated as a museum by History Colorado and also houses the Center for Colorado Women's History. The Center for Colorado Women’s History focuses on scholarship, research, lectures, tours and exhibits that expand the understanding and collective memory of the history of women in Colorado. Most importantly, the Center is connecting local stories to the broader stories of women’s history worldwide.

"The historic house has been the home to inspiring women since 1883. It has been beautifully restored to the era of 1912-1924 and is furnished with the family's original belongings. Guided house tours weave together the stories of the many women, such as Anne Evans, who lived and worked in the home and the impact of the families on early Denver," according to information from The Center for Colorado Women’s History.



Friday, October 23, 2020

Swept under in prison's broom factory

“It's hard at times, but it makes a kid strong in ways that most people can't understand. Teaches them that even though people are left behind, new ones will inevitable take their place; that every place has something good - and bad - to offer. It makes a kid grow up fast.”
Nicholas Sparks, The Lucky One  



Wyoming Territorial Prison beset by problems from the outset

By Rob Carrigan,

Hard time in the Wyoming Territorial Prison sort of swept some prisoners under a rug of obscurity. But maybe a person who had lost his or her way, needed time crawling in shadows to get there life back on track. It seems to be a ghostly existence.

Built in 1872 and restored in 1989, Wyoming Territorial Prison, operated near Laramie from 1873 to 1903. Over 1,000 men and 12 women incarcerated in a span of 30 years. In the early days of the prison, it was only about 10 degrees warmer inside than outside during the winter until a radiator system was installed. Prison was expanded 1889 and notable criminals, including Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy), Clark “the Kid” Pelton, and Ellijah Canary all served time there.

The broom factory was constructed and staffed by inmates beginning 1892. When in full swing of production, the factory could produce as many as 720 brooms a day.

With problems from the outset, including a fire in 1873, and multiple recurrent jailbreaks, nearly a quarter of the inmates escaped because of lack of staff and guard inexperience. Of the 44 prisoners accepted in the first two years of operation, 11 escaped. By 1877 the prison was overcrowded. As the prison filled its reputation worsened, and it became less used, being considered more appropriate for those with light sentences. 

During the 1880s the prison was under capacity, with as few as three prisoners at one time. In 1889, a second cellblock was constructed, expanding capacity to 150 and providing a central kitchen, dining hall, guards' rooms and steam heat. There were at least five cells for female inmates, and several solitary confinement cells. In 1890 Wyoming became a state and the facility was transferred to the new state, which already had planned a new facility in Rawlins. 

Prisoners were transferred to Rawlins in 1901, The prison was closed in 1903 and given to the University of Wyoming. The university operated the property to conduct experiments in livestock breeding until 1989. In 1991 the property opened to the public. In 2004 it was established as Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site.

Without photos of the interior of the original factory, historians relied on inventories of prison equipment taken in 1891 and 1897, as well as other written records and photos of other broom factories, to get an idea of how the Laramie Broom Company operated, according to Teresa Sherwood, original curator of the broom factory, quoted in an Associated Press story by Matt Joyce, more than a decade ago.

She said the factory was run by a lessee, who bid for a state contract to operate the prison's industries. Revenues went toward operating the factory and helping cover other prison expenses, but the inmates were not paid.

Restoring the building proved to be a challenge, because additional barn space tacked on during the livestock years had to be carefully removed without knocking over the original structure, officials said. The project's directors then wrestled with keeping the building's original materials and structure while following modern safety and access codes.



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Elvira campaigns to save Halloween

Colorado Springs iconic character says Covid-19 ruined everything 

By Rob Carrigan,

 According to latest reports, Colorado Springs actress and Halloween icon, Elvira is coming out retirement.

 "If there's a solid reason for staying out of the sun like a vampire, it's Elvira's stunning face," says

"The 69-year-old iconic horror character, real name Cassandra Peterson, debuted a 'Don't Cancel Halloween' video on Tuesday, looking like she hasn't aged a day since creating her alter-ego nearly 40 years ago," notes Garvey. 

Cassandra Peterson was born in Kansas, Sept. 17, 1951, and is an actress better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Peterson graduated from Palmer High School, in Colorado Springs, CO, in 1969.
The video, posted to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark YouTube channel, the Peterson, as Elvira, performs a parody of Madonna's 1983 classic song "Holiday," changing the lyrics to stress the importance of Halloween and her love of trick or treating.
She sings: "I'm the Queen of Halloween/Covid-19 ruined everything/If they cancel Halloween/ cause we're still in quarantine/ It would make me so mad/It would suck/ It would suck so bad."
Several years ago, a Colorado Springs Gazette story by Stephanie Earls noted her retirement.

"After nearly five decades as an entertainer — dancer, singer, actress and, most recognizably, horror icon Elvira — Peterson is stepping away from the limelight to pursue other projects. She’ll take a final bow Oct. 31 at one of her career’s more enduring venues, Knott’s Berry Farm, where’s she’s headlined the Halloween show for 21 of the last 36 years," Earls' story said.

 According to

"While at Palmer High School, she participated in choir. Peterson’s early career was colorful, including stints as a go-go dancer, lead singer of an Italian rock band, and member of the improvisational and sketch comedy troupe The Groundlings. In 1981, she auditioned to be the new host of a Los Angeles-based television program, formerly called Fright Night, that showed low-budget horror films. She won the role and introduced the TV audience to Elvira, who wore a low-cut black gown and black beehive wig and offered sarcastic commentary to accompany the often-campy movies. The newly-revamped show, now called Elvira’s Movie Macabre, became a hit and led to many licensed Elvira products and two movies. Peterson has also acted in other films, including Diamonds are Forever and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Call me the breeze; I keep blowing down the road

"You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down."

___ C. S. Lewis

Adjust your sails for a change in direction 

By Rob Carrigan,
The closer to the edge, the more the wind blows. Most of the time, I try to "be the wind." Living in Wyoming as I did, and later on the Palmer Divide, one becomes accustomed that particular natural phenomena. Sort of like Evel Knievel, I learned to love the feeling of fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair. Even when there was more of it. 
The Palmer Divide wind could be dangerous and destructive. Wind blow-ups — legendary.

Traveling south out of downtown Denver and  over the Palmer Divide, the elevation increases by more than 2,000 feet.

"When the wind rocks this ridge out of the north, snow amounts can be huge compared to other locations," says CBS Denver.

"A north wind is an upslope flow for the Palmer Divide, which helps to enhance precipitation."

Twice during the half century of ice harvesting on the lake in Monument, high winds destroyed the ice houses where the blocks where stored. 

Once, on Dec. 31, 1909, a 75- to 100-mile-an-hour west wind destroyed the icehouses on the day before the harvest was to start. The structures were rebuilt. Then, again, in 1943, another west wind blew down the icehouses, heavy timbers and all. It was reported that 2” x 4”s from the icehouse were embedded in the side wall of a house on Second Street. Photo above at top is the second Doyle icehouse, about 1930. The second photo is of the first icehouse on Monument Lake.

“A god-awful strong wind came through this part of the country and it blew parts and pieces all over the place,” recalls Bill Simpson. “For years afterward, anytime someone had a flat tire where they picked up a nail or chunk of metal, they would turn the blame to those icehouses.”

The high winds came before, of course,  to Monument on Jan. 4, 1916.

Workers dressed in winter clothes pose on a Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company truck in Monument in El Paso County.  Wires, equipment, and a lamp hang from the truck with a sign reading: "American Telephone and Telegraph Co. and Associated Companies, Long Distance Telephone, Bell System." A worker hangs from a telephone pole in the distance in these Colorado Historical Society photos from  Mountain States Telephone collection.

View of broken utility poles in a field in Monument, with telephone wires are draped on the ground, shows a barbed wire fence and open field.

In the same storm, a Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Company railroad car tipped over on the embankment in Monument. The Monument train depot is in the distance. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Safety first: beware gases, falls, assassination

“A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” ___ Proverbs 22:3

 Not all the danger was in the mine

By Rob Carrigan,

Since the beginning of time, we have been concerned for our own safety. It was no different for miners and others in Victor, Colo. in 1904, as evident in pages of the Victor Daily Record at the time.

Those folks seemed to have a lot to be concerned about. 

Jan. 18, 1904, in the Record:

"Overcome by four gases caused by blast made a few minutes before Edward Oatman, a well known  leaser residing at 414 Firth Street, this city, while coming up the ladderway on block 5 shaft of the Ajax property at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon suddenly became unconscious and missing his grip on the landing dropped  a distance of twelve feet into the shaft to the bottom. He accompanied by his partner in the lease, W.A. Huntley, the well-known barber, had been working on the property for the greater part of the day and after making the blast determined to take samples of the ore loosened by the round of shots."

The daily paper continues.

"According to their determination the two men at 2:45 o'clock climbed down the ladderway and after remaining at the bottom for 15 minutes in which they obtained the desired samples they started to the surface Oatman in the lead and Huntley following closely. While in the drift both men remarked about the gas arising therefrom and just before making their accent Huntley asked Oatman if the gases had bothered him whereupon Oatman relied in the negative."

"According to Huntley Oatman had just reached the landing twelve feet from the station when he suddenly let go of his hold on the ladder and fell backward into space. Huntley tried to break the fall , but Oatman who is a heavy man was not to be caught and with a heavy thud hit the bottom of the shaft. Huntley called to his partner several times, but without a response, and fearing that death had resulted from the fall he climbed to the surface and the assistance of W.C. Miller and the boss on the McDonald lease on block 4 of the property, were summoned. The two latter men descended to the bottom ad not finding Oatman anywhere started back into the drift where they found him in an unconscious condition on the newly made pile of muck. He evidently wandered there in an effort for fresh air. As soon as the men reached the stope where Oatman was found they applied the air and dragging him under the pipe revived him considerably otherwise death would have probably ensued."

Unfortunately, accidents were not few and far between in the mines of district in those days and the stories did not always have positive endings.

May 24, 1904, in the Record:

"Robert J. Orr, 42 years of age and single, stepped off bucket at the 300 foot level at the Jack Pot mine at 12:35 o'clock yesterday afternoon and dropped to the bottom of the shaft, a distance of 186 feet to his instant death."

"Deceased had been a resident of Cripple Creek for the past ten or twelve years and was well known and highly respected. He has mined nearly all the time he has lived here. "

The paper explained what happened when the men, returning to work after lunch were descending in the Morning Glory cage to the 700 foot level.

"The Bucket stopped off at the 300 foot level and (two miners) Wilcox and Hutchinson got off. Buiderbeck (riding with victim Orr in the cage) had turned partially from Orr and was reaching for the bell cord to ring to descend. Mr. Orr must have thought he was at the bottom of the shaft and he stepped off the bucket and fell feet foremost to the bottom hitting the bottom of the shaft on his feet. His left side was crushed and nearly every bone in his body was broken. Death was instantaneous. The other three men saw him fall and could see the body for 100 feet. It was upright, and his arms were outspread. They descended immediately and had him hauled to the surface in less than five minutes time. He was dead when the men reached him."

But accidents were not the only dangers in district. Labor and management were at odds (or really, at war) and even the Postmaster might be targeted for simple acts or possible testimony.  Several years later, the various parties were still sorting it out.

May 17, 1906, in the Record:

"The exclusive announcement in the The Record yesterday morning to the effect the rumors were afloat that Postmaster D.M. Sullivan was the victim of a heinous plot of assassination brought to the people of the district to the full realization of the length to which men may go in their insane greed for power and money. It also brought many to the side of Sullivan, who swore eternal revenge should such a crime be perpetrated. The announcement of the plot in the Record, however unquestionably frustrated the carrying out of any such murder, if one had been planned or calculated. Sheriff Edward Bell about Two o'clock yesterday afternoon sent Deputy Sheriff Harley Keegan to the Postmaster Sullivan at the postoffice and offered to give him any protection: to supply a deputy as his special body guard both day and night, if he had any fear of personal violence."

Sullivan said to Keegan: "I have not the least fear. I do not carry any guns or any other weapons save those furnished by nature. I am amply able to care for myself, and should I be killed it will be the work of some cur shooting me in the back. You can go back to Mr. Bell and thank him for his offer for protection, but I do not need it. You may also tell Mr. Bell that the man who said I would be under the sod before the Grand Jury would be called next week was no one else than Sheriff Bell himself."

Photo Information: The Miner’s Union Hall in Victor, Colorado in 1904.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Coast to coast coverage of conflagration

News of devastating Victor fire travels fast

 By Rob Carrigan,

As the town of Victor, Colo., approached the summer's and century's end in the fall of 1899, fire ripped through the prosperous mining village sparing almost no one (millionaires and bums alike) from some form of property damage. Not only did the fire spread quickly and burn out of control that afternoon, but news of the devastation traveled nearly as fast — from coast to coast.

The lead in the New York Times the next day was datelined Aug. 21, and originated out of Cripple Creek.

"Fire has entirely destroyed the business portion of the city of Victor, causing a loss estimated at $2,000,000. Beginning shortly after noon, the fire raged until night, consuming everything its own way. It had its origin, it is thought, in the Merchants' Cafe, adjoining the Bank of Victor. A strong wind from the south fanned the flames, and in a few minutes all the surrounding houses were afire."

 Headines in the San Francisco Call screamed:

 "A Conflagration at Victor Causes a Loss Estimated at $2,000,000"

and "SCENE OF TERROR," as well as,

"All the Principal Business Houses Are Consumed and Many Destroyed by Dynamite"

In a 'Special Dispatch to The Call' was similar, and probably originated from the same source.

"Fire has utterly destroyed the business portion of the city of Victor, causing a loss estimated at $2,000,000. Beginning shortly after noon the fire raged until evening, consuming everything in its way. 

"It had its origin, it is thought, in the Merchants' Cafe, adjoining the Bank of Victor, on the corner of Third street and Victor avenue. A strong wind from the south fanned the flames and in a few minutes all the surrounding houses were afire. Help was summoned from Cripple Creek, but the town had been built in the early days of the camp and was of pine timber for the most part, and burned like paper. "

The Call continued:

"Efforts were made to stop the progress of the flames by blowing up buildings in their path by means of dynamite, and all afternoon the hills have roared with the explosions, but the effort was in vain. The fire claimed the Bank of Victor, the post office on the corner opposite, crossed Third street and followed the row of blocks between Third and Fourth streets to the north, taking the Victor Banking Company, the Western Union Telegraph Company's office and the office of the Colorado Telephone Company, the Hotel Victor, on the opposite side of Fourth street, and the three great shaft houses of the Gold Coin Mining Company and its ore bins, among the largest in the Cripple Creek district. 

"From there the flames were swept northward by the half hurricane which was blowing, and never stopped until they had taken the Florence and Cripple Creek depot and the fine new depot of the Midland Terminal road, at the head of Fourth street. All the buildings between these are a total loss, with practically all their contents, for the flames were so rapid in their progress that nothing could be saved. The scenes of the great Cripple Creek conflagration were duplicated. Hurrying before the roaring flames went men, women and children, carrying what they could snatch from the flames, racing for their lives."

The Call account noted the use of explosives to fight the fire.

"The crash of buildings torn asunder by dynamite and the crackle of the flames as they consumed the dry buildings hastened their flight, and the pall of smoke added a terror to the spectacle."

A special train was placed at the command of this city by the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad, and three companies of firemen, with apparatus, were rushed to the scene.

"They worked all afternoon in a vain endeavor to stay the march of the flames. The residence portion of the city has suffered comparatively little, but the business portion is paralyzed and suffering is bound to follow. The burned area may be roughly designated as the space between the head of Fourth street and Victor avenue, extending from the Gold Coin mine buildings on the west to a point near Second street, and down Third street almost to Diamond avenue. The fire was gotten under control this evening. Conservative estimates place the loss at $2,500,000," said the Call's report.

"The first house was built in Victor in October, 1893. In July of the following year the city was incorporated, and five years later it contained 10.000 people. That is about the population now. "

The heaviest losses were, according to special dispatch of the San Francisco Call: 

• Gold Coin mine, consisting of shaft, ore houses and machinery, $100,000

• Woods Investment Company, $100,000

• J. B. Cunnigham, $75,000

• Morrell Hardware Company, $20,000

•  Florence and Cripple Creek Railway, $25,000

• Tomklns Hardware Company. $25,000

•  A. B. Bumstead, $20,000

•  Mayor Robert Donnelly, $25,000

• Ketter & Co., $20,000

•  I. Ampeter Clothing Company, $15,000

•  George E. Simonton, drugs, $12,000

•  George Bockfinger. $7,000

• J. J. Trenchard, $10,000

•  William Sexton, $10,000

• Victor Banking Company. $5000: Bank of Victor, $5000

•  Daily Record. $7000

• Evening Times, $5000

•  Colorado Trading and Transfer Company, $20,000

• Victor Supply Company, $25,000

• Gardner Mercantile Company. $20,000

•  Midland Terminal Railway $75,000

•  Jim Durey, $10,000

• Arthur Reynolds. $30,000

• Stebbins & Co., $16,000

• Shilling Dry Goods Company, $16,000

Andrew James Harlan photographed the fires, as did others:

"The fire is reported to have destroyed 14 blocks in four hours; a single portion of brick wall & smoke from smoldering remains are in background. Shows mines and mine dumps, distant background hillsides, and people examining remains of fire debris at center right."

 Other historic information differ on some of the details and blames the fire on other ignition points in different locations.

"But Victor’s grand heydays would be dampened on August 21, 1899, when a fire began in a brothel in Victor’s notorious Paradise Alley. Before the blazing inferno was under control, fourteen blocks had been destroyed, including some 800 buildings, causing $1.5 million in damages, and leaving 1,500 people homeless," according to Legends of America.

"As the largest property owner, the Woods Investment Company suffered the heaviest losses, including the total destruction of their bank and the original Victor Hotel. However, Victor’s citizens immediately began to rebuild and within three days the banks and saloons were back in business," Legends says.

 "Though the town soon prospered once again, it would be short-lived. In 1900, the main ore vein in the Gold Coin Mine began to play out and the Woods’ profits began to decline. To add to their tremendous debt, heavy financial losses in 1899, and the reduced profits of the mine, the Woods’ Economic Mill burned.  For the Woods Investment Company, the future was looking extremely grim," says reports

"Though they were said to have been worth some $45 million, the company was heavily leveraged and rumors of their impending collapse caused a run on the First National Bank of Victor. Trying to recoup, the Woods Investment Company consolidated its miscellaneous mining properties into the United Gold Mines Company in 1902," said Legends of America.


Bird's eye view of Victor, Colorado, during devastating fire on August 21, 1899, taken from vantage point on hillside where many people fled with household goods and personal belongings for safety. Shows horse-drawn wagons and carriages filled with furniture, personal articles and belongings retreating from town; wooden frame houses on fire; and smoke billowing from commercial buildings.


Andrew James Harlan's photo of a group of men, women and children posed in front of ashes and debris of R. H. Atchison's residence, Victor, Colorado, one day after devastating fire of August 21, 1899.


Burning of the newly-built Midland depot on Aug.21, 1899 (closeup print of top photo) by Edgar A. Yelton.



Sunday, October 4, 2020

Narrow guage view of an industrious spirit

Virgil Caine is the name
And I served on the Danville train
'Til Stoneman's cavalry came
And tore up the tracks again
In the winter of '65, we were hungry, just barely alive
By May the tenth, Richmond had fell
It's a time I remember, oh so well
__ Robbie Robertson, The Band, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

 Ghost tracks of General Palmer's across Colorado

By Rob Carrigan,

Foot steps. Tracks across the field in front of you. Remnants of a forgotten time, but with a memory attached ... of that time.  All evidence of a ghost, a presence from our past, a piece of our history that we might not understand — but it is there anyway. Like statue in the road of a man on cast iron horse downtown.

As the American Civil War began in 1861, although his Quaker upbringing made William Jackson Palmer abhor violence, his passionate abolitionism compelled him. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania volunteers and took a commission in the Union Army. He organized the Anderson Troop, an independent company of Pennsylvania cavalry, in the fall of 1861 and became its captain. Originally formed as a bodyguard for Brig. Gen. Robert Anderson, it instead served as the headquarters cavalry for General Don Carlos Buell, commanding the Army of the Ohio. Impressed with the "elite scouts" that Palmer had assembled, Buell detailed Palmer and 12 of his men to go back to Pennsylvania to recruit more men to form a battalion around the Anderson Troop that would be known as the "1st Anderson Cavalry."

In ten days of recruiting, however, Palmer received enough applications for enlistment to form a regiment, which was authorized as the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry. He was appointed the regiment's colonel. Before Palmer was able to organize the regiment at Camp Alabama in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he and a portion of it were ordered on Sept. 9 to help the Army of the Potomac resist the Confederates invasion of Maryland. For nearly a week Palmer, accompanied by a telegrapher, personally sought information of Lee's movements every night in civilian clothing, and transmitted his findings to General George B. McClellan by-way-of telegraph.

Two days after the Battle of Antietam, Sept. 19, 1862, Palmer was captured while scouting for McClellan, seeking information on any preparations by Lee's army to cross the Potomac River back into Virginia. He was on the Confederate side of the river, dressed as civilian and accompanied by a local blacksmith and a parson as his guides, attempting to recross to the Union side after midnight when he was captured by Confederate artillerymen sent to guard the dam he used for the crossing. When questioned, Palmer gave his name as "William J. Peters," and claimed to be a civil engineer from Delaware on an inspection trip. He was interrogated by General William N. Pendleton, who thought he was a spy. He was detained and sent to Richmond, Virginia, with a rambling note from Pendleton that was ignored.

"He later referred to this venture as an 'act of injudicious patriotism,'"according to military historian Gen. William E. Carraway. "Certainly it had a most unfortunate outcome, for he was captured in civilian clothes and was in real danger of being shot as a spy."

Palmer was incarcerated at the notorious Castle Thunder prison on Tobacco Row, Richmond where his true identity was never uncovered. Doubts about his identity were apparently reinforced by publication of a fictitious dispatch in the Philadelphia newspapers that purported that Palmer was in Washington, D.C. after scouting in Virginia. When he was freed after four months of confinement, he found that his guide, the Reverend J.J. Stine, had escaped but been arrested by Union authorities, accused of betraying him to the enemy. Rather than risk Palmer's life by publication of the circumstances in the Northern press, Stine had remained imprisoned in Fort Delaware until Palmer's personal application to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton resulted in his release.

Palmer was set free in a prisoner exchange for a prominent Richmond citizen, recuperated two weeks, and rejoined his regiment in February 1863. During his period of imprisonment, the regiment had become mutinous because of a failure to have officers appointed and other enlistment inducements it felt had not been honored. 212 troopers faced court-martial and the possibility of going before a firing squad for refusing to fight in the Battle of Stone's River. Palmer reorganized the regiment, personally appointed officers in whose abilities he had great trust, and had the charges against the confined soldiers dropped on the condition that they behaved going forward. The severely demoralized group of men rallied and distinguished themselves during the 1863 Tullahoma Campaign, the Battle of Chickamauga, the capture of Brig. Gen. Robert B. Vance's raiding cavalry and re-capture of 28 wagons of a foraging train in January 1864, and the Franklin–Nashville Campaign.

At Chickamauga, Palmer's regiment was detailed as headquarters guard for the Army of the Cumberland with many troopers doled out to the various corps as couriers and scouts. When Longstreet unexpectedly attacked the union right near Rosecrans' headquarters, Palmer gathered all the men of his regiment available and prepared to counterattack with a saber charge. The Union right flank dissolved, however, and after attempting to rally the panicked infantry, his regiment crossed the battlefield in good order under Confederate artillery fire to protect the Union artillery. During the army's retreat to Chattanooga, the 15th Pennsylvania provided escort for the army's supply train. Not easily impressed, Major General George H. Thomas (the "Rock of Chickamauga,") recommended that Palmer receive a brigadier's star for his success at turning a highly demoralized group of men to an effective group of soldiers.

Palmer was vigorous in pursuing Confederate General John Bell Hood after the Battle of Nashville in 1864. On March 9, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Palmer for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general of volunteers at the age of 28, with the U.S. Senate confirming the appointment on March 10, 1865. On March 16 he was promoted to command of the 1st Brigade of the Cavalry Division, District of East Tennessee, consisting of the 15th Pennsylvania, the 10th Michigan, and the 12th Ohio Cavalry Regiments. A month later he assumed command of the division after General Alvan C. Gillem was promoted to command of the District of East Tennessee. 

Palmer was in the vanguard of Union General George Stoneman’s raid into Virginia and North Carolina in the last two months of the Civil War. At Martinsville, Virginia on April 8, 1865 Palmer's cavalry defeated a Confederate force of Cavalry commanded by Colonel James Wheeler, the cousin of Confederate Cavalry commander Fighting Joe Wheeler. If Palmer had pushed on to Danville, only 20 miles to the north, he might very well have captured Jefferson Davis, who up till then had not left the capital of the Confederacy. Davis subsequently left the next day, upon receiving word of Lee's surrender. This was a little-known campaign immortalized in The Band's epic, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

Palmer commanded the cavalry pursuit of Jefferson Davis following the surrender by General Joseph E. Johnston. Davis was followed through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia and driven into the hands of General James H. Wilson. During the pursuit, Palmer's former command overtook and captured wagons carrying millions of dollars of specie, bonds, securities, notes, and other Confederate assets,  in Georgia, near Covington, that had been kept in the Bank of Macon (Georgia).

Touched by General Palmer's Ghost:

• Born to a Quaker family in Leipsic, Delaware, Sept. 17, 1836. 

• Worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and learned all he could about a railroad company and engineering. Became private secretary to President John Edgar Thomson.

• First person to suggest that trains should burn coal and not wood, which was running out in some

• Pennsylvania Railroad became the first to switch to coal. 

• Disapproved of violence but believed in ending slavery and served eventually as a general in the Civil War. 

• Medal of Honor winner for his actions as colonel leading the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry at Red Hill, Alabama, January 14, 1865 where "with less than 200 men, attacked and defeated a superior force of the enemy, captured their fieldpiece and about 100 prisoners without losing a man."

• After the Civil War, Palmer joined the Kansas Pacific Railroad.  In August, 1870, under Palmer’s direction and guidance, the Kansas Pacific Railroad reached Denver, Colorado. 

• Founded the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad with his friend, Dr. William Bell. The first tracks went from Denver to Pikes Peak area, the heart of mining at the time. 

• Married Mary Lincoln (Queen) Mellen in 1870. On their honeymoon in the British Isles, Palmer saw a narrow gauge railroad in the Welsh countryside. Narrow gauge is cheaper to build, can make sharper turns, and climb steeper slopes. 

• Two sections remain of his narrow gauge track still remain: the 45-mile track between Durango and Silverton, and a 63-mile track between Cumbres and Toltec. 

• In the spring of 1880, Palmer was made president of the Mexican National Railway (now National Railroad of Mexico).  Most of the line was completed by 1883 when the railroad reached Mexico City.

• Retired to Colorado Springs, one of the cities he founded. 

• Helped to establish the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, a tuberculosis hospital, and Colorado College.

•  Developed rail-related industries in Colorado, such as a large steel mill near Pueblo. 

•  The Rio Grande and its successors eventually operated the largest network of narrow gauge railroad in the United States. They were ultimately absorbed by the 21st century Union Pacific Railroad. 

• Founded the city of Colorado Springs, in 1871, as well as several other communities. Palmer founded Colorado Springs as a "dry" community, based on his Quaker and temperance beliefs. Palmer and Bell founded Fountain Colony (later Colorado Springs), downstream of Colorado City, and it was laid out by the Colorado Springs Company that year.  Named for springs found along Monument Creek as early as 1871. Four chalybeate mineral springs were later discovered along Monument Creek in October 1880. He also founded the town of Manitou (later Manitou Springs) as a resort town at the base of Pikes Peak. Palmer spent about $1,000,000 (equivalent to $29,142,414 in 2019) on the construction of roads and development of parks in Manitou Springs, Old Colorado City, Colorado Springs, and Manitou Park.

• Public schools in Colorado Springs were named for both him and his wife, Mary (Mellen) Palmer, who was known by her nickname of "Queen."

• A statue of William J. Palmer (on his favorite horse Diablo,) still stands in downtown Colorado Springs, across from the school named in his honor.

• Died on March 13, 1909 at age seventy-two.