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Colorado's Beginnings

“Father” John Lewis Dyer: The Snowshoe Itinerant

Portrait: John Lewis Dyer (Photo from Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame)

When: 1812-1901

Where: Central Colorado Mountains

Why important: Beloved circuit-riding Methodist preacher

Biography

John Lewis Dyer was born in Franklin County, Ohio in 1812, but spent most of his early years in Illinois. He received little formal education and, after his marriage to Harriet Foster in 1833, Dyer moved his young family to Wisconsin in order to work in the lead mines. Unfortunately, Harriet died when she was only 35, leaving Dyer with their five children. After their infant daughter (also named Harriet) died very shortly after, Dyer decided to become a Methodist minister. He became a circuit rider, meaning that he traveled from town to town as his services were needed for weddings, funerals, and sermons.

Stained Glass Image of John Dyer in Father Dyer United Methodist Church (Photo from Snowshoemag.com)

Dyer’s circuit covered a very large area across both Wisconsin and Minnesota and often meant he had to travel in harsh winter weather through very deep snows. Fortunately, Norwegian immigrants in Minnesota taught Dyer how to make skis that allowed him to travel more easily and navigate the wintery terrain. In 1861, after a decade of circuit riding in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Dyer left his younger children with his sister and headed to Colorado to join his son, Elias, who had moved to Denver shortly before. Wishing to see the mountains, Dyer started a preaching circuit through Colorado’s many mountain mining towns. He was able to use his snowshoeing and skiing experience to travel from town to town on foot, a task that had proven too difficult for many younger preachers.

Cover of John Dyer’s Autobiography: The Snowshoe Itinerant (Photo from amazon.com)

However, Dyer faced a different challenge in the Colorado mining towns. The rough-and-tumble residents spent a great deal of their time drinking and gambling in saloons. Dyer saw this as a sign that his preaching was needed more than ever. He set up churches in many towns, including one in Breckenridge that still functions today: Father Dyer United Methodist Church. Dyer understood the hard lives of the miners because he had once worked in the mines. Also, Dyer’s life as a minister was far from easy. In fact, he made so little money on his circuit that he started carrying mail when he traveled over Mosquito Pass in order to make extra money. During these hard travels, Dyer became very well-known and was affectionately called “Father Dyer” even though Methodist ministers were not referred to as “Fathers.”

Stained Glass Portrait from Colorado State Capitol (Photo from Park County Histories)

In 1870, “Father” Dyer married Lucinda Rankin, a widow who lived near Castle Rock. Lucinda joined Dyer and took up residence in Summit County for fifteen years until Dyer could no longer travel on his circuit. At the age of 73, Father Dyer and Lucinda moved to Denver where he wrote and published his autobiography, The Snow-Shoe Itinerant. Father Dyer died in 1901 at the age of 89, but his legacy remains in Colorado. His stained glass portrait hangs in the State Capitol, Father Dyer Peak in the Tenmile Range is named for him, and he was one of the first inductees into the Colorado Ski & Snowboarding Museum Hall of Fame in 1977.

This bio is brought to you by the Colorado State Library

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Colorado's Beginnings

John Charles Frémont: Senator, Governor, Presidential Candidate, and Explorer

Portrait: John Charles Fremont (Photo from britannica.com)

 

When: 1813-1890

Where: Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Why important: Explorer, Presidential Candidate, Civil War General

Biography

John Charles Frémont’s life was a series of ups and downs.  He ran for president, but lost.  He served as a civil war general, but was ridiculed for his approach.  And even before all that, he led an expedition through Colorado’s rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains that ended in disaster with deaths of 10 members of the party.

Frémont began his career as an explorer while he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers.  When he was 28 years old, Frémont married the 16-year-old daughter of powerful Missouri senator, Thomas Hart Benton. Though the Senator was very angry at first, he eventually accepted his daughter’s marriage and offered financial and political support to Frémont for his expeditions to the West. In 1841, Frémont mapped the Des Moines River in Iowa.  Moving further west, Frémont teamed up with Kit Carson on expeditions through the Sierra Nevada Mountains all the way to Lake Tahoe.  He also led expeditions to Utah, Oregon, and California, where he even served as military governor.

Portrait: Kit Carson and John C. Frémont Photo from the Museum of the San Fernando Valley

In 1845, Frémont set out on his first expedition through the land that would eventually become Colorado with Kit Carson in search of the source of the Arkansas River. Three years later, Frémont lead another expedition along the Arkansas, but when the party reached Bent’s Fort, trappers there told them that they were too late in the season to make it across the mountains before winter hit.  However, Frémont wanted to prove that his route to California was passable year round, so he ignored the trappers’ advice and pushed on.  The party started off successfully until Frémont made a sudden decision to turn south of the River.  As a result, his guide, Richens “Uncle Dick” Wootton and several other members of the party turned back.  Frémont and the remaining members became snowbound in the mountains and 10 men died. Frémont was criticized for his poor decisions regarding the expedition and as a result, his reputation suffered.

Because of his strong political connections, however, Frémont was able to regain his reputation and within only eight years after the disastrous expedition, he was chosen as the presidential candidate of the newly-founded Republic party. The party’s main platform was anti-slavery and Frémont’s campaign slogan was “Free Men, Free Soil, Frémont.” Unfortunately, Frémont’s own father-in-law, Thomas Hart, endorsed democratic candidate, James Buchanan, losing credibility for Frémont.

Col. John C. Fremont in the Rocky Mountains (Photo from Nevada Public Radio)

Though Frémont lost the presidential election, his political career was far from over. He served as a U.S. Senator from California, Governor of Arizona Territory, and Major General in during the Civil war. He also created controversy when he issued a proclamation freeing all slaves in Missouri.  The proclamation was not recognized by the U.S. government, however, and Frémont was removed from command.

Frémont spent most of the remainder of his life in Arizona and New York, where he became involved in railroad development. Although he never lived in Colorado, he played a key role in its early exploration earning him the nickname, “The Pathfinder” and the honor of having Fremont County, Colorado named for him.

This bio is brought to you by the Colorado State Library

 

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Colorado's Beginnings

Black Kettle: Cheyenne Chief and Peace Negotiator

Camp Weld Council, Black Kettle sitting third from left
Credit: Denver Public Library

When: around 1803- 1868

Where: South Dakota

Why Important: Native American peace negotiator

Biography

Black Kettle was born in South Dakota around 1803 (no one is quite certain what year he was born) into the Cheyenne Nation. Not much is known of Black Kettle’s earlier life, however he clearly possessed leadership skills as he was made a chief in the Council of Forty-Four, the tribal government of the Cheyenne.

Black Kettle (holding pipe in front row) at the Camp Weld Conference in 1864.
Credit: National Park Service

In 1859, with the arrival of prospectors from the United States looking for gold in Colorado Territory, conflicts arose between the Native Americans in the area and the miners who were taking over their land. Initially a peace was brokered in 1861 at Fort Wise, resulting in the Fort Wise Treaty1 which provided land near Sand Creek for the tribe to live. Black Kettle was one of the main negotiators of the treaty on behalf of the Cheyenne. Many young Cheyenne, as well as Arapahoe, Utes, Kiowas, and Sioux warriors disagreed with the treaties and the relinquishing of their land to the settlers. These warriors made up a large group calling themselves the “Dog Soldiers” and waged war upon the settlers.2 This increased tension between the Native Americans and the settlers. In response, the United States provided military troops to try to combat the Dog Soldiers resistance efforts. What resulted was the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 led by Colonel John Chivington.3 Black Kettle was present during the assault, but managed to escape.4

Despite the attack and the broken peace treaties, Black Kettle still tried to negotiate peace for his people.5 He signed the Little Arkansas Treaty in 1865 and in 1867 the Medicine Lodge treaty. These treaties moved the Cheyenne to southwest Kansas, but did not include their hunting grounds. Due to this, the Cheyenne’s ignored the treaty in order to hunt and the Dog Soldiers continued to fight against the settlers,6 despite Black Kettle’s pleas to keep peace.

Because the Cheyenne were breaking the Medicine Lodge treaty, General Phillip Sheridan of the United States army coordinated an attack on Black Kettle’s tribe. Lead by Lieutenant Colonel

Illustration of attack by General Custer on Black Kettle’s camp

George Custer on November 27, 1868, the troops fired into the sleeping encampment at dawn killing around thirty Cheyenne, including Black Kettle and his wife, who were shot while trying to escape on horseback.7

During the later years of his life, Black Kettle tried in vain to preserve a place for his people, knowing that the Native Americans of the plains could not possibly win a fight against such a numerous and formidable foe. Despite the untrustworthiness of the United States, Black Kettle was quoted as saying, “Although wrongs have been done to me, I live in hope.”

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Julia Archibald Holmes: First Woman to Summit Pike’s Peak

When: 1838-1887

Where: Nova Scotia, Canada

Why Important: First woman known to summit Pike’s Peak

Biography

Julia Archibald was born on February 15, 1838 in Nova Scotia, Canada. When she was ten her family moved to the United States and settled in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father was an abolitionist and her mother was a suffragist. Julia was taught to believe that a woman could do anything a man could do. In 1854 Julia’s father moved the family to the Kansas Territory to join other abolitionists who hoped to have the territory enter the union as a free state. This is where Julia met and married her husband, James Holmes in 1857.


A year after Julia and James got married, they joined a group of gold prospectors heading west to the Rocky Mountains. Once they arrived, the Holmes joined two other men in climbing Pike’s Peak to its summit. To do so, Julia wore a short dress, bloomers and moccasins, an outfit that was considered very indecent at the time.8 While resting on the summit, she decided to write a letter to her mother. In it she stated, “Nearly everyone tried to discourage me from attempting it, but I believed that I should succeed; and now here I am and I feel that I would not have missed this glorious sight for anything at all.”  

Pike’s Peak

The Holmes did not manage to find any gold themselves and proceeded south, relocating to Taos, New Mexico. While there, Julia worked as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. Julia and James had four children. Her marriage was an unhappy one and she divorced James in 1870 and moved to Washington D.C. While there she immersed herself in the suffrage movement and worked for the Bureau of Education as a Spanish correspondent. She was the first woman to be appointed to the position and eventually became the division chief.  She died January 19, 1887.

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Ouray: Ute Chief and Negotiator

Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta
credit: Denver Public Library

When: 1833-1880

Where: Southern Rocky Mountains, CO

Why Important: Ute Chief and Treaty Negotiator

Biography

Chief Ouray was born November 13, 1833 in Taos, New Mexico to a Jicarilla Apache man and a Ute woman. On the night he was born there was a meteor shower. This event apparently influenced his parents to name him Ouray, which means “The Arrow.” Interestingly, Ouray was not raised by his parents, but was raised by a Spanish family in the area. In this environment he learned to speak Spanish and English, and it wasn’t until later in life that he learned to speak his native tongues, Ute and Apache. Ouray was still in contact with his biological parents, and at seventeen moved to Colorado where they had relocated.  His father, despite being Apache, was chief of the Uncompahgre band of the Utes. During the next decade Ouray primarily worked as a sheepherder and married a woman name Black Water who bore him a son. Black Water tragically died and Ouray remarried in 1859, to a Kiowa Apache woman named Chipeta who grew up with the Utes, . Ouray and Chipeta were extremely fond of one another and formed a strong partnership.  

Utes in Washington D.C. to sign the Brunot Treaty, 1874
(credit: Denver Public Library)

In 1860, Ouray’s father died and he became chief of the Utes. Chief Ouray used his new position within the Ute Tribe to facilitate peace with the white settlers and the United States government.2  He was known as “The White Man’s Friend”.2  While the United States government fondly referred to Ouray this way, this was an insult from the other members of the Ute tribe. Many Utes did not agree with the treaties that Ouray continued to negotiate with the United States, which often included him and Chipeta traveling to Washington D.C., as each new treaty resulted in less land that the tribe owned.3 Not only were they displeased, but there were many attempts made on Ouray’s life by angry members of the tribe.  Luckily, Ouray survived the attempts made on his life4 and continued to work with the United States.5

Taos, New Mexico circa 1898
credit: Library of Congress

In 1879, the neighboring White River Utes attacked an Indian agent and the families that lived in the area taking several women as captives.6  Ouray managed to negotiate a deal for the release of the hostages.7 Despite Ouray’s attempts at peace,8  this was the final blow for the Utes in Colorado and they lost their land within the state9 and were relocated to Utah. It was Ouray who traveled to Washington D.C. in 1880 and signed the treaty for their removal from Colorado.10

Ouray, however, fell ill with a kidney disease and died soon after he returned to Colorado from Washington.11  It was Chipeta, Ouray’s wife, who would accompany her people to their new reservation in Utah and who would continue to fight for the reinstatement of their ancestral land in Colorado.

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Silas S. Soule: Abolitionist and Brave Soldier

Silas Soule in uniform
Capt. Silas Soule in 1864 or 1865.
Credit: Denver Public Library
Colorado Volunteers
credit: Denver Public Library

When: 1838-1865

Where: Fort Lyon near Sand Creek, Colorado

Why Important Soldier who refused orders to participate in the Sand Creek massacre

Biography

In Bath, Maine on July 26, 1838, Silas S. Soule was born. He grew up in Maine and Massachusetts in an abolitionist family and was taught that slavery was wrong. When Silas was sixteen, his family joined the New England Emigrant Aid Company, moved to Kansas Territory where Silas’ father helped set up the Underground Railroad near Lawrence, Kansas. During that time, Kansas desired to join the United States, however, its citizens could not agree whether to be a “slave-state” or a “free-state” and turmoil ensued. There were many skirmishes and incidents between the citizens that were “pro-slavery” and the abolitionists (anti-slavery). Silas chose to participate in some of these confrontations. He even assisted in the escape of an abolitionist that had been arrested.

In 1859, gold was discovered about 600 miles west of Kansas in what is now Colorado. Silas, along with his brother and cousin decided to try their own luck at prospecting and headed to the gold fields near Central City in May, 1860. Silas did not strike it rich and ended up working for a blacksmith. After the Civil War began in 1861, Silas joined the 1st Regiment of Colorado Volunteers.  12

Illustration of Sand Creek Massacre
credit: Denver Public Library

He was a very successful soldier2 and was promoted to Captain3 by 1864.  This promotion placed him in charge of his own company, Company D of the 1st Colorado Cavalry.

Company D was one of the companies under the leadership of Colonel John Chivington. The regiment was assigned to Fort Lyon,4 which had tribes of displaced Cheyenne and Arapaho Native Americans living in tents outside of the fort near Sand Creek. Unprovoked, Colonel Chivington ordered an attack on the Native Americans, which at the time consisted of older adults, women and children. Silas did not agree with this order and commanded his company to refuse to carry it out. Not one soldier in Company D fired his weapon on the tribes. This incident became known as the “Sand Creek Massacre.”

There was an investigation into the massacre5 and Silas testified against Colonel Chivington. On April 23, 1865, soon after he testified, Silas was assassinated 6 just weeks after he had married Hersa Coberly in Denver. He was only twenty-seven years old. Although there were initial arrests made for his murder,7 no one was ever convicted of it, and many believed at the time that Colonel Chivington was behind the assassination.89 . Silas Soule is buried in Denver10 at the Riverside Cemetery and is often remembered honorably by the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

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David Moffat: Railroad Tycoon and Industrialist

David Moffat

When: 1839-1911

Where: Denver, CO

Why Important: Denver Businessman, Colorado railroad owner

Biography

David Halliday Moffat was born in Washingtonville, N.Y. on July 22, 1839. When David was only twelve years old he moved to New York City and became a messenger boy for a bank. He worked so hard that the president of the bank noticed him and gave him the job of assistant teller. David’s older brother Samuel moved to Iowa in 1855 and David soon followed, getting a job at a bank there.

The lure of the West called to David and in 1860 he moved to Denver and opened a bookstore11 on Larimer and 15th Streets. David wasn’t fond of selling books and by 1865 became an agent for the Home Insurance Company.2 Around 1870 David was hired at the First National Bank of Denver as its manager3. The bank was very successful when David was running it and eventually he became the bank’s president.4

Banking was not David’s only interest. He was enthusiastic about railroad transportation in Colorado and co-owned nine railroads.5 He was also very interested in the mines of Colorado and had over 100 claims.6 Success in both these interests made David very wealthy.

first_train_in_moffat_tunnel
First train into the Moffat Tunnel

David wanted to build a railroad through the mountains from Denver to Salt Lake City, Utah. He began to build the railroad in December 1902, which had 33 short tunnels and it went from Denver to Craig, CO. It was called the “Moffat Road.”7 He spent millions of his own money to pay for the railroad. When he started running out of funds, he went to New York City to try to find people who would be willing to help pay for the railroad through the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, David became ill while in New York City and died on March 18, 1911.8

Since David died, there was no money to tunnel through the Rocky Mountains; however the goal of the tunnel was not forgotten. After several years of trying to raise the money, the Colorado Senate in 1922 voted to pay for the tunnel.9 It was finished six years later and the first train went through the new tunnel on February 26, 1928.10 It was named the “Moffat Tunnel” after David.

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Clara Brown: Angel of the Rockies

Clara_BrownWhen: 1800-1882

Where: Central City and Denver

Why Important: One of the first African-American women to settle in Colorado and became a very successful business woman.

Biography

Clara Brown was probably born into slavery in Virginia around 1800. Wealthy white southerners who “owned” Clara often auctioned her to the highest bidder as if she were a horse to be sold. Each time she was bought, she would have to move, sometimes even to a different state. Clara married when she was eighteen, and later gave birth to four children. Tragically, all of her children and her husband were sold to different people across the country. She vowed to work for the rest of her life to reunite her shattered family. Clara worked as a domestic servant until 1856 when her “owner” at the time, George Brown, died. Fortunately, his family helped Clara achieve her freedom, and she could begin the search for her missing children.

Hearing that one of her daughters, Eliza, may have moved to the West, Clara headed in that direction. She had money to travel, but black people at the time were forbidden from buying stagecoach tickets. Instead, she convinced a group of prospectors to take her with them. On their way to Colorado in search of gold, she would work as their cook. The journey was long and rough and Clara had to walk alongside the wagon for much of the nearly 700-mile trek. Once in Denver, Clara was unable to find her daughter. She decided to travel with gold seekers to Central City in the summer of 1859. The town was made up of gold mines, small stores, saloons, and shacks for miners and their families.11  Clara was one of the first African-American women to reach the gold-mining towns of Colorado.

Gregory_gold_diggings_ColoradoClara’s two most important goals were to make enough money to live independently and to find her family. She figured that accomplishing the first goal would help her with the second. Clara started by opening a small laundry service for the gold miners of Central City. The business was very successful, and she began saving her money. To make even more, she cooked, cleaned, and catered special engagements. By the end of the Civil War in 1865, when most black people were just gaining their legal freedom, Clara had saved ten thousand dollars. This was an astonishing amount of money. With this wealth, she invested in mining claims and Colorado real estate. She could now support herself very well. A Hub of the Community Like most of the small black population of Colorado, “Aunt” Clara saw the importance of living within a strong community. In Central City, her business and her home became community hubs. Sick or injured miners, regardless of race, would often turn to her for help. Clara gave them a place to recover and cared for them until they were able to return to work. She also helped those who were homeless and needed a place to stay. Pregnant women in town often wanted Clara to help deliver their babies. She provided many of these services for free to those who could not afford them. Clara Brown was a Presbyterian, but she did not discriminate against other faiths. She gave money and time to four different churches in town. As she had done in Denver, she also helped start the first Sunday school program in town. She used her home as the classroom. While her faith was strong and her finances secure, Clara was still missing something…her family.

Central_City_after_fire_1874
Central City after the fire
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Once she had saved enough money, Clara Brown began the hunt for her family. She traveled to Kentucky and Tennessee in search of her loved ones. Though she did not find her children or husband, she did not return empty-handed. Clara discovered other relatives on her trip, and she paid for them to move to Colorado. She also helped other freed blacks to move here for many years. When they arrived, she helped them find jobs in their new home.

In 1879, Clara acted as an official representative of Colorado Governor Pitkin to Kansas. Many black people had escaped from the South and moved to black homesteads in Kansas. This was sometimes called the “Black Exodus,” and these people were called “Exodusters.” Governor Pitkin sent Clara Brown to Kansas to try to persuade some of them to move to Colorado. Many jobs were available in Colorado due to mining strikes and labor shortages. Clara delivered Governor Pitkin’s invitation and donated some of her own money to support the new black communities.

In spite of all her successes, disaster was just around the corner. In 1864, a great flood swept through Denver and destroyed much of the town.2 The papers proving that Clara Brown owned property there were lost. In 1873, Clara’s home and several of her other properties went up in flames in a huge fire in Central City.3 Clara now had nothing to show for all her years of work, but people in the community came to her rescue. Someone even set her up in a cottage in Denver.

In 1882, when Clara was about 80 years old, good news brought fresh hope of finding her daughter. She received word that a black woman named Eliza lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This woman was born about the same time as Clara’s child, Eliza. She had been taken from her mother and sold to another family, and she even looked a bit like Clara. With money from her friends, “Aunt” Clara immediately traveled to Iowa to find out if this person could indeed be her Eliza. They met in Iowa, and the two joyfully discovered that they were in fact mother and daughter! The story of their reunion was widely published in newspapers in Colorado and throughout the Midwest. After forty-seven years of separation and searching, Clara’s dream had finally come true. Eliza was the only child Clara ever found, and the two returned to Colorado where they lived until Clara’s death.

“Aunt” Clara Brown passed away in her sleep just three years after being reunited with her daughter.4 Crowds flocked to her funeral. The mayor of Denver and the governor of Colorado even attended the ceremony. The Colorado Pioneer Association made Clara Brown their first African-American member, and funded her entire funeral.5

Clara Brown’s name and reputation have lived on in the years since her death. A chair in the Central City Opera House was installed in her name in the 1930s. This is an honor reserved for well-respected community members. In 1977, Clara’s life and achievements were commemorated with a stained glass portrait of her in the state capitol building. She also has a plaque on the St. James Methodist Church in Central City, which explains that her home served as the first church in the area. An opera about her life, called Gabriel’s Daughter, debuted in Central City in 2003. People say that Clara Brown went from being a slave to being an angel, but neither word is accurate. She was an experienced black woman who lived with purpose and passion. She recognized the power of community and in building relationships. She found her way out of a life of enslavement to establish a new life in Colorado. Her success in business gave her the chance to share her wealth with friends and family. She worked to develop the black community in Colorado. The discovery of her daughter, Eliza, turned her lifelong dream into reality. In her own time of crisis, favors and kindness were lovingly returned to her.

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Frances Wisebart Jacobs: Health Care Activist

When: 1843 – 1892

frances_wisebart_jacobsWhere: Central City and Denver

Why Important: She helped establish the Jewish Hospital Association of Colorado, now called National Jewish Hospital.

National Jewish Hospital(credit: Denver Public Library)
National Jewish Hospital
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Biography

Frances Wisebart Jacobs was born March 29, 1843 in Kentucky to Bavarian immigrants. The family later moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where her father Leon Wisebart worked as a tailor. Frances and her six siblings attended public schools. She married Abraham Jacobs in 1863.

The couple moved to Central City, Colorado, and had three children: Benjamin, Evelyn, and a child who died early. Benjamin became a lawyer and Evelyn became a teacher.

In 1870, the family moved to Denver. Frances saw a lot of poverty, suffering, and sickness in the Jewish Community and wanted to help. In 1872, she founded the Hebrew Ladies’ Relief Society. However, Frances soon saw that people from all backgrounds were affected by the same issues. So, she formed the Denver Ladies’ Relief Society.6 Then she founded the first free kindergarten in Denver, and later the Charity Organization Society, later called United Way. Jacobs became known as Denver’s “mother of charities.”

In addition, Frances helped people suffering from tuberculosis. She visited patients and brought them food, clothing, and house supplies. She was not afraid to touch a sick person and did not flinch at the sight of blood. Jacobs worked to create a hospital for tuberculosis2 in order to treat the large numbers of patients living in the Denver area.

On October 9, 1892, the Jewish Hospital Association of Colorado was founded to treat tuberculosis – her dream came true! Frances died one month later. The Hospital was named the Frances Jacobs Hospital in her honor. In 1900 the name was changed again to the National Jewish Hospital.3 The hospital is located today at Colfax and Colorado Boulevard in Denver; it still specializes in tuberculosis.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1843 to Jan. 1, 1892

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William Byers: Founder of Rocky Mtn News

When: 1831-1903

William_Newton_Byers00Where: Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, and finally, Denver

williambyersWhy Important: Byers was the greatest Denver promoter, bringing people and money into the city. He established the first paper, the  Rocky Mountain News.

Biography

The greatest Denver promoter of all, William Newton Byers was born on an Ohio farm in 1831. His family moved to Iowa in 1850 and William began survey work, which involves making a detailed map of an area.

William continued to move west. He landed in Omaha, where he made the first official plat and map of the city and Omaha. A plat shows the divisions of a piece of land into parcels for buildings homes and businesses. Succumbing to gold fever, he left Omaha in 1859 and moved to Denver. He wrote a Handbook to the gold fields that same year, which helped to attract more people to the city.

William established Denver’s first newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, on April 23, 18594 – just days after he had arrived! His trick? He had written most of the stories while still in Nebraska, using reports about Denver and a bit of imagination. He bought the printing equipment from a defunct newspaper in Nebraska and had it moved by a team of oxen to Denver.

Newspapers attracted newcomers and money to upstart towns such as Denver. Byers became the spokesman for Denver and helped to organize a Chamber of Commerce. He tirelessly promoted Denver as the “Queen City of the Rockies.”

William sold the Rocky Mountain News in 1878, but remained prominent within the Denver society, helping to establish the Colorado Historical Society. In 1886 William, Governor John Evans and hotel builder, Henry C. Brown started the Denver Tramway Company.2 The electric cars soon ran across Denver, connecting developments and allowing people to move throughout the city and suburbs.3

Byers died on March 25, 1903 at the age of seventy-two.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1831 to Jan. 1, 1903

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Chief Little Raven: Peacemaker

When: c. 1810-1889

Courtesy of

Where: Colorado and Oklahoma

Why Important: This Chief sought peaceful relations  between Native Americans and whites even amidst the Sand Creek Massacre.

Biography

Little Raven was born around 1810 on the Plains near Nebraska. He negotiated peace between the Southern Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, and Plains Apache in 1840. He was also known to welcome white Americans into his Denver tipi during the Gold Rush.

Despite Little Raven’s efforts, peace was hard to maintain 4. The Fort Wise Treaty of 1861 forced the Arapaho away from their homes. Although many Arapaho chiefs did not sign the treaty, Little Raven did sign in hopes of maintaining peace. However, he soon discovered that whites were violating the treaty. The Sand Creek Massacre furthered threatened any possible peace.

Sand Creek Massacre painting(credit: Denver Public Library)
Sand Creek Massacre painting
(credit: Denver Public Library)

The Massacre occurred on November 29, 1864. Several bands of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians were told to camp near Fort Lyon by the  U.S. Government. Unjustly, Colonel Chivington ordered his troops to attack the peaceful Indians. When the violence ended, over one hundred Native men, women, and children had been slain by the soldiers. Little Raven and his band of Arapaho survived the massacre, but only because they camped far away from the other Cheyenne and Arapaho.

Illustrations from Harper's Weekly of the Council at Medicine Creek(credit: Denver Public Library)
Illustrations from Harper’s Weekly of the Council at Medicine Creek
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Still Little Raven tried for peace and signed the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 2, but his tribe was again moved to another reservation.

Little Raven traveled to Washington D.C. and spoke at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art 3. President Grant even offered him a peace medal; however Little Raven said he had no peace talk to make because he had never been at war with whites.

He died in 1889. Little Raven Street, between 15th and 20th Street in Denver, near the South Platte River, commemorates the Arapaho chief.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1810 to Jan. 1, 1889 Bio Last Name: Little Raven, Chief

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Chipeta: Admired and Respected Indian Leader

When: 1843 -1924

Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta(credit: Denver Public Library)
Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Where: Born in the Kiowa Apache tribe and raised by the Ute tribe in what is now Conejos, Colorado

Delegation of Utes at the Brunot Treaty meeting in Washington D.C. Chipeta is second from the left in the bottom row (credit: Denver Public Library)
Delegation of Utes at the Brunot Treaty meeting in Washington D.C. Chipeta is second from the left in the bottom row
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Why Important: Only woman ever allowed to sit on a Ute tribal council, she lobbied the US Congress on behalf of her tribe.

Biography

Chipeta, which means “White Singing Bird” in the Ute language, showed great courage and wisdom in her efforts to get Native Americans and white people to try to solve their differences. Chipeta was married to Chief Ouray. She and Chief Ouray helped to create the first treaty of Conejos, Colorado, in 1863.4 They also went to a treaty signing in Washington five years later.2

Both whites and Native Americans admired and respected Chipeta for her beauty, wisdom, good judgment, and compassion. She was the only woman ever permitted to sit on Ute tribal councils. Sadly, after Chief Ouray died in 1880, Chipeta was betrayed by the government and joined the forced march led by the U.S. Army. The army forced her to relocate the Uncompahgre Utes to Ouray, Utah.3

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1843 to Jan. 1, 1924 Bio Last Name: Chipeta

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Zebulon Pike: Explorer

engraved portrait of Zebulon PikeWhen: 1779 – 1813

Where: Born in New Jersey, explored Pikes Peak and Arkansas River Valley, Colorado

Why Important: Explorer

Biography

Zebulon Montgomery Pike was one of the first white men to explore the vast wilderness that is now Colorado. Born in New Jersey, Pike joined the army in 1794 at age 15. In 1806, Pike and a party of soldiers were sent to explore the unknown far west 4 in order to find where the Arkansas River began. In November of that year, Pike spotted what he called “a small blue cloud,” which turned out to be what would later be named Pike’s Peak.

Death_of_General_Pike_at_the_Battle_of_York
Engraving of the Death of General Pike at the Battle of York (now Toronto) in 1813. (credit: Library of Congress)

With winter approaching, the party built a stockade, a building where they could be protected from Indians and the weather. Yet Pike wanted to explore the mountain he had seen, so he set out with a party through bitter cold and waist-deep snow to find the mountain. Pike never climbed the mountain named in his honor2, however; perhaps partly due to the heavy snows, Pike believed that the mountain could not be climbed. Two months later, the party found the source of the Arkansas, which they had been sent to do, and returned back east, their job for the army completed. On their way back to the States, Pike and his party were captured by the Spanish and taken to Santa Fe. After five months in captivity, the men were released.

Nobody did climb the mountain for the next fourteen years, until a man named James climbed to the top. As a result, many started referring to the mountain as “James Peak.” Finally, in the late 1850s when gold was discovered in Colorado, people started calling the mountain after Pike3 and “Pikes Peak or Bust” became a famous slogan of those traveling westward to seek their fortune.

Zebulon Pike died just six years after the expedition, a casualty of the War of 1812.

An account of his expedition was published in 1810 as The Expeditions of Zebulon Montgomery Pike. In 1900, his journals, confiscated by the Spanish during his capture, were recovered, shedding new light on the discovery of the famous peak that bears the explorer’s name.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1779 to Jan. 1, 1813

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Alferd Packer: Notorious Cannibal

When: 1842 – 1907

Where: Lake City, Cañon City, and Littleton, Colorado

Alferd_PackerWhy Important: Cannibal

Biography

Like thousands of other men of his time, Alferd (sometimes spelled Alfred) Packer caught “gold fever” and sought to make his fortune in the mountains of Colorado. During the winter of 1873-74, Packer joined a group of five other men, whose names were Shannon Bell, James Humphrey, Frank Miller, George Noon, and Israel Swan. The men had met Chief Ouray, who told them to postpone their journey until spring, but the men ignored the Chief’s advice. In February, the six men ran out of food. Alone in the wilderness and trapped in heavy snows, the men soon resorted to boiling their moccasins for food. After a few days, even that ran out. According to Packer, the men became so hungry that one night, Bell came after Packer with a hatchet. Packer turned on Bell and killed him. Packer claimed that he then found the bodies of his other companions and that the flesh had been torn from one of them. That is when, Packer said, he was forced to eat the meat of the other men, or otherwise starve to death.

Illustration from an article about Alferd Packer in "Harper's Weekly" (credit: Wikicommons)
Illustration from an article about Alferd Packer in “Harper’s Weekly”
(credit: Wikicommons)

That spring, Alferd Packer stumbled out of the mountains to a nearby Indian agency, where he told his story 4  2 3. People didn’t believe, though, that he hadn’t killed all the men. In April Packer was tried in court, where he was unable to prove that he had not killed the men, except for Bell, which he claimed was self-defense. He was sentenced to jail in the town of Saguache4 , but soon escaped. He was not found until nine years later, when he was living in Wyoming under the name of John Schwartze. He was given a new trial in Lake City, near the site of the killings, and was sentenced to 40 years in the State Penitentiary in Cañon City. He served fifteen years and was then released on parole. After his parole, Packer moved to Denver and worked hard to clear his name. He died in 1907. In 1980, a judge named Ervan F. Kushner tried to get Packer pardoned posthumously, but was again unsuccessful. Packer is buried in Littleton, Colorado.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1842 to Jan. 1, 1907

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Felipe Baca: Rancher and Town Founder

When: 1828 – 1874

bacaWhere: Born in Taos, New Mexico, and founded Trinidad, Colorado

Why Important: Colorado Hispanic pioneer who helped found Trinidad, Colorado

Biography

Trinidad_looking_north
Trinidad circa 1870s
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Felipe Baca of Trinidad, Colorado, farmed and ranched in southern Colorado.5 Baca, whose family had lived in New Mexico since about 1600, was born in 1828 near Taos, New Mexico. He and his wife, Dolores, and their children moved to the area around Trinidad, Colorado in about 1860. Baca ran a general store and served as one of the town’s founders.

Trinidad served as an important stop along the Santa Fe Trail. Baca was also responsible for construction of a 400-acre ditch to irrigate area farmland; it is still known as the Baca Ditch. In 1870, Baca served in the Colorado territorial legislature (Colorado would become a state in 1876). In 1873 Felipe and Dolores Baca purchased a ranch with a large adobe home in Trinidad, which is now part of the Trinidad History Museum. The house was paid for entirely with wool from Baca’s sheep. Baca died just one year later.2 He was honored with Baca County, Colorado, being named for him.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1828 to Jan. 1, 1874

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Richens “Uncle Dick” Wootton: Frontiersman

When: 1816 – 1893

Where: Raised in Virginia and settled in Denver, Colorado

Uncle_Dick_Wootton croppedWhy Important: Wootton was a guide, a rancher, a farmer, and a storekeeper. He also operated a toll road.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe train leaving Raton Tunnel circa 1908(Credit: Denver Public Library)
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe train leaving Raton Tunnel circa 1908
(Credit: Denver Public Library)

Biography

In 1836, Richens Lacy Wootton left his home in Mecklenburg County,Virginia. Itching for adventure he headed west. Wootton found work as a hunter at Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas River. He also drove a supply train to trade with the Sioux Indians. The wagons were loaded with blankets, beads, trinkets, hunting knives, guns, gunpowder, and bullets. They also carried coffee, sugar, and flour. Wootton traded all these things for buffalo hides, buckskins, and ponies.

Wootton moved his family from Taos, New Mexico, to a settlement near Pueblo on the Arkansas River in 1853. He built his new home as a stockade to protect against the local Ute Indians. Wootton found new employment by hauling supplies once more.

In 1858, Wootton loaded his family and trade goods onto a wagon and moved once again. He headed to Kentucky to visit his family. On the way, he stopped in Denver City and Auraria. Wootton broke open two barrels of “Taos Lightning” whiskey. He offered it free to any takers. By the end of the evening, he was so popular with the locals he had earned the nickname “Uncle Dick.”3 The people of the town talked him into staying. Wootton opened a general store. He and his family lived in Denver until 1861.

Later, Wootton moved to Trinidad, Colorado.2 He built a toll road over Raton Pass. It was April of 1865 when he opened the twenty-seven mile road from Trinidad to Willow Springs, New Mexico.3 The Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway offered him $50,000 to buy the road in 1878.4 He turned them down. Instead, Wootton asked that the railroad give his wife groceries and a pass to ride the train for life. They agreed and signed the deal with a handshake.

Wotton died at the age of seventy-seven in 1893.5 True to their word, the Santa Fe Railroad officials took good care of his wife. They made sure she had groceries and a free ride on the train whenever she wanted until her death forty-two years later.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1816 to Jan. 1, 1893

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Juana Suaso Simpson: A Frontier Life

When: 1827 – 1916

Juana-Suaso-SimpsonWhere: Born in New Mexico and settled in Trinidad, Colorado.

Why Important: Simpson did charitable work at churches, schools, and hospitals. She also taught Spanish-speaking students.

Biography

Simpsons_Rest
Simpson’s Rest in Trinidad
(Credit: Denver Public Library)

Juana Suaso Simpson was born in 1827 in Taos, New Mexico.  She was the daughter of Teresita Sandoval, a notable female
pioneer. In 1835, when she was eight years old, Simpson’s family moved a short distance away to Mora, New Mexico. Her parents had received land there from the Mexican government. In Mora, Simpson’s mother met Matthew Kinkead. In 1841 her mother and Kinkead decided to move north. The Sandoval-Kinkead family settled in Fort El Pueblo.

At Fort El Pueblo Simpson met George Simpson. He was one of the men who helped build the fort. Juana wed George one month before her fifteenth birthday. They were married at Bent’s Fort by a notary public. The couple soon moved to Hardscrabble. This was a new farming community co-founded by George.

In 1844 they traveled to Taos to be married by a priest and to baptize their daughter, Isabel. In late September the couple left for Taos on horseback. Simpson carried her baby in a sling made from a shawl. Juana’s sister, Cruzita, and her husband, Joseph Doyle, also made the trip. The group was caught in a terrible snow storm. During the storm Simpson’s horse fell. She and her baby were thrown into the snow. On October 6, 1844 the group arrived safely in Taos.The Simpson family settled in Trinidad in 1865.6 Trinidad was a young but growing town on the Santa Fe Trail. Simpson wanted to be independent. So, she taught herself to read and write. In Trinidad she taught Spanish-speaking students. Simpson also helped recruit people to build a bigger school in Trinidad.2

Simpson had the love and respect of all who knew her. She did charitable work at the church, school, and hospital. Because of her kindness and accomplishments, the people of Trinidad called her “Doña Juanita.” Juana Suaso Simpson died in 1916 while with her daughter, Isabel, in California.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1827 to Jan. 1, 1916

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Teresita Sandoval: Colorado Pioneer

Teresita-SandovalWhen: 1811 – 1894

Where: Born in Taos, New Mexico, she moved to Mora, New Mexico and Fort El Pueblo in Colorado. She eventually died in the Arkansas River Country.

Why Important: Sandoval was a pioneer. She was one of Colorado’s many little-known women who helped pave the way for generations to come in the West.

Pueblo and the Arkansas River circa 1860-1880(Credit: Denver Public Library)
Pueblo and the Arkansas River circa 1860-1880
(Credit: Denver Public Library)

Biography

Teresita Sandoval was born in 1811 in Taos, New Mexico. When she was seventeen, Sandoval married Manuel Suaso. By the time she was twenty- three, she was the mother of four children: Juana, Cruzita, José, and Rufena. The family moved to Mora, New Mexico. They went to settle land they received from the Mexican government.

In Mora, Sandoval met a man named Matthew Kinkead. Sandoval and Kinkead decided to leave Mora with her children. They moved north to the American side of the Arkansas River.3 The family raised livestock, corn, and other crops on their homestead.

In 1841, the Sandoval-Kinkead family moved to a new trading post called Fort El Pueblo. From the very beginning, Sandoval and Kinkead helped build and run the fort. It was a busy place. Trappers, traders, settlers, and Native Americans all met to negotiate and do business there. Buffalo hides, fur pelts, jewelry, metal tools, and food exchanged hands at the fort.

Adventure at the fort was endless. Sandoval knew and worked with some of the most famous characters on the western frontier. Life here was filled with hard labor, extreme weather, and retaliation by the many Plains Indian warriors defending their traditional hunting grounds.2

A few years after moving to the fort, Kinkead moved to California. He took the couple’s son, Juan, with him. Sandoval was on her own once again. She went to live with her daughter Cruzita. Cruzita and her husband, Joseph, had a ranch in the Arkansas River country called Casa Blanca. Here Sandoval stayed for the rest of her life. When Cruzita’s husband died, Sandoval took control of the property. She prevented the valuable lands from falling into the hands of rival cattlemen. Sandoval died in 1894 after a long life of toil and achievement. Teresita was a pioneer in every way.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1811 to Jan. 1, 1894

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Owl Woman: Cheyenne Trader

When: 1800s – 1847

Where: Born and lived in southeastern Colorado

Owl_Woman_0Why Important: Owl Woman married William Bent and helped run Bent’s Fort

Biography

Owl Woman, known as Mis-stan-sta in Cheyenne, was probably born in what is now southeastern Colorado in the early 1800s. White Thunder, her father, was “keeper of the arrows.” This honor made White Thunder a high priest. He was one of the most respected and important men among the Cheyenne. Since she was his daughter, Owl Woman was also highly respected.

Bent's Fortcredit: Library of Congress
Bent’s Fort
credit: Library of Congress

White Thunder decided that Owl Woman should marry one of the most powerful men on the plains, William Bent. Bent had built a fur-trading fort on the Arkansas River in 1833. He was friendly with the Cheyenne people. Bent even learned to speak their language. In 1835 Owl Woman married William Bent. Bent’s Fort3 was built of adobe bricks made with mud, straw, wool, and water. Trappers with pelts came from the mountains and Indians came from the plains with their goods. In exchange for these items, Bent would trade flour, sugar, coffee, calico, tobacco, whiskey, wine, tea, fur, and guns.

Owl Woman helped at the fort, and she was often in charge of Bent’s supply trains. The fort would become the largest and most popular trading center along the Santa Fe Trail.2 Preferring the outdoors, Owl Woman frequently stayed just outside the fort walls in her Cheyenne village. The couple had four children, Mary, Robert, George,3 and Julia. The children learned about Cheyenne ways from their mother’s mother, Tail Woman. When they were older, their father sent them to schools in St. Louis, where he had been raised. By the time they were grown, the Bent children could live in either world.

Owl Woman died shortly after giving birth to Julia in 1847. She had lived with her husband between the Cheyenne and the American worlds for many years. Instead of being buried, her body was placed on a high platform, exposed to the weather and birds, so that she could quickly return to the earth. This was the Cheyenne way.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1800 to Jan. 1, 1847 Bio Last Name: Owl Woman

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Barney Ford: From Slavery to Success

When: 1822 – 1902

barney_fordCHS-708x1024Where: Born in Virginia. Lived in South Carolina, Chicago, and Central America, settled in Denver, Colorado.

Why Important: Barney Ford escaped from slavery using the Underground Railroad. He became a successful businessman and civil rights activist

Biography

Ford was born on January 22, 1822 in Virginia. He grew up as a slave. Ford’s mother, Phoebe, hoped he would one day escape slavery. And he did! At seventeen, he traveled the Underground Railroad to Chicago. Ford taught himself to read and write. He also helped other slaves escape to freedom. In Chicago he married Julia Lyon. She helped Barney pick his last name— as a slave, he wasn’t given a last name. He got the idea from a steam engine called the Lancelot Ford.

In 1851, Ford and his wife decided to move to California to find gold. They traveled by ship. The ship stopped in a town in Nicaragua, located in Central America, for a few days to pick up supplies and passengers. Barney and Julia got off the ship and liked the town so much they decided to stay. The couple opened a successful hotel and restaurant.

Inter-Ocean Hotel circa 1900 (credit: Denver Public Library)
Inter-Ocean Hotel circa 1900 (credit: Denver Public Library)

Ford dreamed of bigger opportunities. He believed he could achieve his dreams in the American West. So, the couple moved to Colorado to mine for gold.4 However, African Americans faced discrimination in the West.2 Ford was not allowed to own a mine claim at that time because he was African American. Ford was determined to succeed in the West anyway and moved to Denver. He opened a barbershop. People were impressed by Ford’s intelligence and determination. Unfortunately, Ford’s barbershop burnt down in a fire.

Not even a fire could stop Barney Ford. He opened three more businesses: the People’s Restaurant, the Inter-Ocean Hotel, and the Ford Hotel.3 One of his buildings is still used today. It is located at 1514 Blake Street in downtown Denver.

Ford fought for the civil rights and voting rights of African Americans in Colorado. He also helped freed slaves get an education. Ford died in 1902 at the age of eighty. He was honored with a stained–glass portrait in the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1822 to Jan. 1, 1902

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Chin Lin Sou: A Pioneer in More Ways Than One

When: 1836 –  1894

chinlinsouWhere: Born in China, settled in Denver

Why Important:  Chin Lin Sou was a leader in the Chinese American community and a successful businessperson in Denver.

Biography

chinese riotChin Lin Sou was born in 1836 in southern China. Chin heard stories of opportunities in the American West. He moved to the United States in 1859 to work on the transcontinental railroad.

Chin was fluent in Chinese and English. He was also over six feet tall! Because he was so tall, he was able to get a better job on the railroad as an overseer. The transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869. It meant better communication and travel for Americans. But it also meant the end of work for the Chinese laborers. Many, including Chin, left to look for work in gold mines.

Chin moved to Black Hawk, Colorado in 1871. He was one of the first Chinese immigrants in Colorado.Chin became a supervisor in a mine.4  Miners toiled all day and rarely found gold. As a supervisor, however, Chin earned good money. With the money he earned, he was finally able to bring his wife to Colorado. They had been apart for ten years! He became very rich when he discovered two profitable mines and sold them.

Chin and his family eventually moved to Denver. During this time, Chinese workers faced discrimination. Many Euro-Americans thought they were stealing American jobs. Anti-Chinese violence erupted in many cities, including Denver.2 Using his fluent English, Chin tried to find jobs for fellow Chinese but it was difficult. In 1882 the U.S. government made it  even harder. It passed a law prohibiting Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens,3 which meant they could not defend themselves in court.

Chin opened a successful  trading company in Denver. The company imported food, clothing, and furniture from China. He became a well-known leader and was called the “Mayor of Chinatown.” Chin fell ill and died in Denver on August 10, 1894. His children also became leaders in the Chinese community of Colorado. Many of his descendants still live in the Denver area. Chin was honored with a stained-glass portrait in the old Supreme Court room in the Colorado State Capitol.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1836 to Jan. 1, 1894

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