Colorado Historic Newspapers

Good Old Fashioned Barbecue

This week we have already had very warm sun, afternoon thunderstorms, lovely long days, and the Fourth of July! This also means that it is time for summer barbecuing! Truly, what is July Fourth without a barbecue? Barbecuing has been a long-standing tradition as part of our Independence Day activities. This is especially evident in our Colorado newspapers.

In 1879, a whole ox was roasted in Evans, for their July Fourth celebration.1 They had to be sure the meat was sufficiently flame-broiled when serving it to reporters at the town’s barbecue because if it was a bit on the rare side, it would have made the news.2 The barbecue was often (and still is) used to entice attendance to a town’s Independence Day celebration. This was especially true when the event was also a fundraiser, such as for the “old folks home” in Walsenburg.3 On occasion a promoted celebration, which in one case included “nice juicy pea fed pork steaks”, had to be abruptly canceled, disappointing the local citizens and depriving them of a much anticipated barbecue.4

Independence Day isn’t the only time to barbecue; the whole summer is! Interestingly, true outdoor barbecue recipes didn’t really start making an appearance in the newspapers until the early 1940s.  Even then recipes called for using the barbecue as an outdoor stove, rather than as a grill.5 In fact, most of the “barbecue” recipes consisted of using an oven.6 Outdoor grilling recipes (or how we more commonly think of contemporary barbecue) surfaced within the newspaper columns in the 1960s, where large portions of meat such as a roast7 or whole chicken recipes8 could be attempted on the grill. By the 1970s, non-traditional American recipes could also be found, such as the “out of the ordinary” recipe for kabobs.9 Thinking of the grill in new and exciting culinary ways really took off about 25 years ago and has remained a place of foodie innovation ever since.10

Of course one cannot go wrong with a delightful hamburger recipe or two. A dillburger sounds lovely. Perhaps adding the potatoes directly to the burger as opposed to on the side sounds intriguing. And what burger is complete without bacon (the answer is no burger is)?11

Newspapers are a great resource for interesting recipes. Don’t forget to search CHNC as you may find something “new” to try.  Happy summer barbecuing!

Colorado Historic Newspapers

Victorian Wonder Woman-Rattlesnake Kate!

Photo credit: 1987.32.0022D, City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection. Katherine Slaughterback driving a tractor, ca 1950. Photographer unknown.

It’s a nice, warm summer day and you are enjoying a jog along the open spaces near your home, when lo and behold, your normally safe trail is very surprisingly obstructed by a rattlesnake along your path. Perhaps you squeal realizing you’re a mere 10 feet away from the rattler that obviously saw you first and is head up, tongue out and rattle poised. One response would be to retreat and go back the way you came.  Another is that of Katherine McHale Slaughterback who on October 28, 1925, singlehandedly killed 140 rattlesnakes just outside Hudson (in Weld County), earning her the nickname “Rattlesnake Kate.”

Kate McHale Slaughterback is a Weld County legend. Born in a log cabin near Longmont in 1894, she attended nursing school and moved to Hudson where she resided for about fifty years. Even prior to her incredible rampage against a hundred plus snakes, Kate was a fiercely independent, strong woman who was known to wear pants,  an unusual choice for a woman during that time. She was married and divorced multiple times and owned her own farm. She was very adept at using a gun, knew a thing or two about taxidermy and even dabbled in brewing moonshine. Therefore, it was really no wonder, given Kate’s background, that a plethora of snakes were no match against her.

Photo credit: 1987.32.0013A, City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection. Katherine Slaughterback with two strings of rattlesnakes, 1925. Photographer unknown.

The story goes, that on that fateful day in October 1925, Kate and her 3-year old son were coming back on horseback from a nearby pond where duck hunters had been earlier that day. The hope was that there may be a wounded duck or two she could ensnare for that night’s dinner. First, Kate spied just one rattlesnake,12 which she shot with her .22 Remington Rifle.2 Then she saw another and another and another. She kept shooting until she was out of ammo. Then, still surrounded by plenty of rattlers, she proceeded to snag a sign (supposedly it read “No Hunting”) and used its wooden stake to pummel the rest of the snakes to death.

I fought them with a club not more than 3 feet long, whirling constantly for over two hours before I could kill my way out of them and get back to my faithful horse and Ernie [her son], who were staring at me during my terrible battle not more than 60 feet away.” -Kate McHale Slaughterback, “Rattlesnake Kate”

Photo credit: 1987.32.0014B, City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection. Rattlesnake Kate in rattlesnake dress, 1926. Photographer unknown.

Upon returning home, her neighbor noticed her haggard appearance and once the story was relayed, both he and Kate returned to the site of the incident and rounded up all the dead snakes. Her neighbor was so impressed, he spread the word and reporters caught wind of the incredible feat. Kate was now infamous and her picture was taken with all of the snakes strewn upon a rope in front of her. Kate capitalized on this sudden opportunity and proceeded to use her taxidermy skills to first make herself a dress out of the rattlesnake skins3 and then made shoes and belts as souvenirs. Interestingly, only a couple years later, snakeskin started making its way into fashion, primarily as accessories and shoes.4 Ironically, Kate later raised rattlesnakes and would milk them of their venom, selling the venom to scientists in California.5 Eventually, she found this work tedious and after being told just sending the heads unmilked would not be permitted, she quit the practice.

A few weeks before she passed away in October 1969, at the age of seventy-five, Kate donated her rattlesnake dress to the Greeley History Museum, where it still resides today!

Colorado Historic Newspapers

A Rock Garden Fit for the Gods

“This is truly a perfect palace of a place. Nature and beauty must have here convened and constructed this place in co-partnership. To describe it on my part, would be in actuality detracting from it, for its romance and picturesque sceneries, as it were, beggar all description.”6

The Garden of the Gods, with its unique rock formations, has elicited curiosity and wonderment for centuries.  According to a legend of the Utes, the Native Americans of the area, their ancestors were about to be attacked by giants and they prayed to their god Manitou for protection.  Manitou answered their prayers by turning the giants into stone.2  For the Utes, it remained a revered place to gather and bury their dead.3

In 1858, gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains, which lead to an influx of prospectors making their way West in 1859.  A common route to reach the gold was traversing through the mountains just north of the Garden of the Gods. Miners needed supplies and Colorado City was established to fill that need. In surveying the area just south, two men, M.S. Beach and Rufus Porter meandered into the Garden of the Gods region.  Rumor has it, one exclaimed that it would make a great “beer garden.” The other replied, “Beer garden! Why this is a place fit for the gods to assemble!” And thus it was christened Garden of the Gods.4

By 1860, a large portion of the Garden of the Gods was owned by William H. Garvin, Esq. He built a house there and originally intended to “improve” the area with saloons, restaurants, billiards and other recreational structures.  He was also hoping to run a cab line (as in horse and buggies) from Colorado City bringing tourists on an hourly basis to the Garden of the Gods during the summer and fall.  After Garvin’s death in the mid-1870’s, the land was put up for sale, and in 1879, Charles Perkins bought the 480 acres.5

Garvin and Perkins were not the only individuals who owned parts of the area. Curt Goerke owned the land where Balanced Rock resides. Goerke, a photographer, built a fence around it and if you wished to see the rock formation you had to agree to getting your picture taken by it and pay a quarter for the privilege. However, by 1930 the U.S. Circuit court ruled that Goerke could not charge for visitors to view the rock.6 

Touting of the Garden of the Gods as a hot tourist attraction started almost immediately by Colorado City. The Denver and Rio Grande had it advertised as one of the prime destinations in Colorado that only their railroad went to.7 Even international visitors wanted to be sure to experience the region. In 1906, the prince of Baroda, India, Maharajah Gaekwar visited the site.8 As soon as cars were invented, the region gained even more visitors, and the Standard Oil travel guide of 1960 listed it as a place of “special interest” in Colorado for “motorists”.9

In 1909, Charles Perkins passed away. While not specified in his will, he did share with his children that he would like his acreage to be donated to the city of Colorado Springs, so that the area could be used as a park, free of charge. His children upheld his wishes and the acreage became part of Colorado Springs in 1910. Between 1910 and the 1970s the city was able to purchase more of the surrounding land to add to the park, eventually totaling 1,300 acres. They also allowed commercial development, such as an inn built within the cliffs, sightseeing bus routes throughout the park, a chuck-wagon dinner establishment, as well as a beer hall near Gateway Rock.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked at the park creating trails, natural stairways and providing benches to decrease the human footprint.  However, by the 1970’s it was becoming increasingly obvious that those measures were not enough and it was decided that all commercial development was to be removed or ceased. Soon after, Lida Hill – who owned property adjacent to the park- offered to build a visitors center on her property and donated it to the city. In May 1995 the visitors center opened. It provided a store, the proceeds of which are used to maintain the park, as well as a parking lot, thus eliminating parking within the confines of the park itself.

The Garden of the Gods park continues to be a major attraction in Colorado with over two million visitors per year. It is still a fabulous place to take photographs, as it has always been; from the amateur photographer winning second prize in a photo contest with his image of the rocks10 to the professional photographer, such as the prolific Colorado photographer William Henry Jackson, wishing to profit from its beauty.11  Easily accessible with paved trails and astounding views, it is no wonder why the Garden of the Gods is so popular.

photo by William Henry Jackson
Colorado Historic Newspapers

Fashion Conscious in Colorado

People’s fascination (and let’s be fair, women’s in particular) with clothing style has been around for millennia.  However, publications devoted to style have only been around since the eighteenth century. It was of course in Paris, France that the first fashion publication came to be. Le Cabinet des Modes’ first issue was published in 1785.  Similar publications soon appeared in Britain, Italy and Germany.

Here in the United States, Godey’s Lady Book12 can claim being the first widely popular magazine devoted to fashion. They began their circulation in 1830 through 1878. It was a truly unique magazine for its time. A woman named Sarah Joseph Hale was the editor from 1837-1877 and became quite the fashion influencer. She also increased the circulation from 40,000 to 150,000 in just two years. She managed to have three issues that were written entirely by women during her tenure. The magazine included short stories and illustrations, but what really made it unique was its color illustrations of fashion, which was a very expensive process, costing into the thousands. Thus the magazine cost $3, a substantial sum when most magazines and newspapers cost just pennies.

They were not alone, however. In the 19th century there was an explosion of fashion publications, mainly due to mechanization and industrialization of both print and “ready wear” clothes. This advancement in technology also helped create a middle class, as well as increased literacy among the masses. While magazines were indeed popular, newspapers began to add their own fashion columns in the 1840s. In addition to the Associated Press, which in the 19th century was primarily an east coast conglomeration, there was the Western Newspaper Union (WNU) out of Iowa. They supplied standardized, pre-printed news to more than 12,000 newspapers in the western part of the United States. By the 1880s, one of their factories was located here in Denver. Fashion columns were part of the standardized news they offered, and many Colorado newspapers at the time subscribed to their service. The primary woman reporter on the scene for fashion news through WNU, was Julia Bottomley.2

Bottomley appears to have started writing columns  in Colorado newspapers beginning in 1908.3  She was a prominent fashion columnist4 until 1930, with the exception of 1917-1918 and 1920-1922 when she dropped out of the scene. Bottomley was also a noted hat maker or milliner, 5  and even published a book on the subject in 1914. In her first few years of writing the columns, she focused primarily on hats6  and hairstyles7 not only for women, but also for young girls.8  By 1912 her repertoire of fashionable items began to include under garments such as girdles and lingerie,9 sleepwear, accessories10  and coats. These sometimes reflected new fashions for new modes of transportation, such as “aeroplanes”11 and cars.12

Not only did Bottomley write about fashion for the person, but also fashion for the home,13  including how to make homemade gifts for Christmas.14  Bottomley was very fashion forward15  and well informed of the trends hitting Paris, often speaking on the new “modes”.16 By the mid-1920s, this included bathing suits,17  as well as jackets, pj’s and bloomers18  for women. She often highlighted different types of fabrics, such as lace,19  velvet,20  knits,  and embroidered fabrics. Very occasionally, she targeted men21  or boys22 and even handmade pillows for the pets.23  

After 1930,  she disappeared from the fashion columns in the Colorado Historic Newspapers. Regardless, many Colorado women of the first quarter of the 20th century were influenced by her current Parisian insights into fashion, even here in the wilds of the West.

Our collection of newspapers includes so many wonderful fashion items24  and are highlighted on our Facebook page every Friday.

Colorado Historic Newspapers

Fire in Colorado Springs!

Colorado Springs business district on Pike Peak Ave and Tejon St.
credit: Denver Public Library

On January 12, 1900, the thriving business district on Tejon Street in Colorado Springs was rocked by a fire.  The fire was noticed around 4 a.m. by a waiter working at the Blue Front restaurant.25 It apparently originated in the basement and soon consumed much of the Nichols & Co. block of the street.  There was a high wind2 that night and the fire was severe and difficult  enough to control, that not only were the professional firefighters (which had only been established in 1894) alerted, but also the volunteer firefighters.3

College Hose Co. Volunteer Fire Dept in Colorado Springs around 1900
credit: Denver Public Library

In Colorado Springs in 1900, the act of putting out a fire was much harder than it is today.  While there were horse driven fire wagons with steam engines available at the time, images indicate that Colorado Springs still utilized the man-pulled hose on a spool-like apparatus that was attached to two large wheels.  The pressure required to move the water through the hose was done by a hand cranked engine.  The water was provided by a reservoir northwest of town and piped through town to its twenty fire hydrants.  Through their best efforts, the professional and volunteer firefighters were able to contain the fire to the Nichols & Co. block only and extinguished the fire fully by 8 a.m that morning.4

The main victims of the fire were the May Clothing company with a monetary loss of $80,000, the Nepol Grocery company with a loss of $20,000, and the Waite Shoe company, also with a loss of $20,000 due to water and smoke damage. Other smaller businesses were also affected by the fire.  The total loss was originally estimated at $140,000,5 but a later report gave the amount as $159,000.6

Today we are very grateful for the amazing willingness of the men and women who protect us from fire and make our lives safer.  We can also greatly appreciate the firemen from 1900 that not only had to put out the fires, but also pull the one-ton fire reel to the scene and then fight the fire.  Truly incredible!

Additional Sources:

Colorado Historic Newspapers

Colorado-Bred Swashbuckler

“Want something snappy, exciting, romantic, full of tense action, bubbling over with romance and glamor [sic]? Well, here it is!” Douglas Fairbanks in the The Mark of Zorro.”7

16616vOn Dec 5, 1920, The Mark of Zorro premiered. However, it didn’t begin making the rounds throughout Colorado until 1921. Unlike now, in the early days of  movies copies were typically purchased by an individual who traveled from town to town showing the movie in local theaters, community centers or churches (in fact, my grandmother used to play the piano during the silent movies when they came through Manassa).2 What was special about The Mark of Zorro was that it starred a Coloradan: Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, who grew up in Denver. 

Fairbanks’ real name is actually Douglas Elton Ulman. His love of acting appears to have started as a young boy. He began performing in summer stock plays at the Elitch Theater in Elitch Gardens. By his teenage years, he notoriously loved doing stunts. It gained him quite the reputation at East High School, as well as cost him his job at Morey Mercantile where he worked with his brother Jack. Fairbanks was known to slide down the elevator cable instead of taking the stairs in the five floor building. While Fairbanks was asked to leave, Jack stayed with the company for over twenty years and it was frequently visited by Fairbanks on his visits to Denver.

Fairbanks’ love of histrionics served him well, however, once he reached Hollywood in 1915. He landed many romantic leading roles and by 1918 he was the “King of Hollywood.” Wanting to revive the costumed adventure movie, Fairbanks made The Mark of Zorro. It proved tremendously successful and spawned numerous swashbuckling type films (a truer inception of the “action-adventure” genre), such as Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers.

Still from “Mark of Zorro”

Here in Colorado, it was a big hit!

“Fairbanks has excelled any of his previous performances. This is due to some extent to the ingenious story and the opportunities afforded “Doug” to make the greatest use of his athletic ability.”  -Record Journal of Douglas3

“Never before has Douglas Fairbanks waxed so enthusiastic over the success and admiration of a picture than he has over ‘The Mark of Zorro’… –Summit County Journal4

“‘The Mark of Zorro’ a dandy picture–see it.”- Aspen Democrat-Times5

Believe it or not, the film is actually one of the rare films still available to watch today. For free!


Colorado Historic Newspapers

Veterans Day: Inception & Beyond

Queen Marie of Romania visiting wounded WWI vets here in Denver
credit: Denver Public Library

At 11 o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 in Versailles, France, armistice was declared between the Allies and the Germans, ceasing World War I, known as the “Great War.”  This day was remembered and commemorated the following year by President Woodrow Wilson. In his message to the nation that day he stated, “The soldiers and people of the European allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed forces. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half….[We] assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory…Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service.”6

President Franklin Roosevelt on Armistice Day November 11, 1938
credit: Library of Congress

While the declaration of naming the anniversary of the cessation of World War I, Armistice Day had transpired, it did not officially become a national day of observance until June 4, 1926 when Congress adopted the resolution in the hopes that President Calvin Coolidge would embrace it. This did not seem to happen. However, on May 13, 1938 a Congressional Act was passed and the day became a federal holiday.

The holiday retained its namesake of Armistice Day. It was not until after World War II that the proposal to rename the holiday to the more inclusive “Veterans Day” was introduced by veteran Raymond Weeks to General Dwight Eisenhower, who encouraged the idea. As with declaring Armistice Day a federal holiday, the renaming of the commemorative holiday took time. It was not until Congress amended the original bill on May 26, 1954 that the holiday became “Veterans Day.”2

credit: Library of Congress

This event also led to the inadvertent change in the meaning of “Memorial Day” which was originally called “Decoration Day” and honored the Civil War dead and veterans.3 With “Veterans Day” honoring all veterans from every war, “Memorial Day” now leans more towards honoring the dead from war.

In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved both Veterans Day and Memorial Day to Mondays instead of their specific dates of November 11th and May 30th. And while Memorial Day continues to be observed on the 4th Monday of May, in 1978 observance for Veterans Day was reinstated to November 11th.

Therefore, on this Veterans Day be sure to hug a vet today and say THANK YOU! (And their families too).



Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection


Colorado Historic Newspapers

Lovely Rocky Mountain Autumn

cc2-yuya-sekiguchiThe autumnal equinox – the day in September when daylight hours are almost equal to nighttime hours. This time also represents the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The days turn cooler and the leaves turn color and begin their descent to the ground from the branches above.4

With the cooler weather comes the need to prepare for winter.  Here in Colorado, especially in the mountains before the standard use of insulation and heaters, this was a very important undertaking.  Oftentimes the only source of heat was a wood or coal burning stove.  Even the State Legislators had difficulty keeping warm while at work and in September 1861, Secretary Weld was kind enough to provide multiple coal stoves. It was felt that they would “enhance the comfort of our Legislators and facilitate their labors.”2

untitled-1Providing heat was not the only cold weather preparation recommended. As we Coloradans are aware, the difference in temperature from day to night during autumn can be quite vast. In the late nineteenth century there was a strong belief that such dramatic temperature changes led to sickness, “the human body not being made of steel or India rubber, sensibly feels these tremendous changes.”3 The remedy for this was a tonic, more specifically Hosetter’s Stomach Bitters, which was astonishingly 47{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} alcohol (94 proof!), sugar, anise, coriander, cinchona, and gentian (for “medicinal flavor”).

While the temperature fluctuations were of concern, so was the general unpredictability of the weather, where one day it is warm and sunny and the next day the first snow arrives.  Therefore, mending your clothes or adding layers to existing clothes was also a necessity.  It was suggested that one “lines the undershirt inside…with warm soft flannel.”4  

credit: Mike Willis via Flicker
credit: Mike Willis via Flicker

Flannel was not the only way to keep warm. Good old fashioned mountain clothing in the form of fur was also a standard for those living in the Rocky Mountains.  Autumn is a great time for catching furry beasts, such as “black bears, squirrels, persimmon deer and oppossums…” nice and plump from eating “mast”, (acorns that had fallen from the oak trees).5 However, fur was not the only benefit of indigenous animals, so was their meat; preparing jerky for the winter months was of great importance.

Of course, food preparation does not only include meat.  Preserving fruits and vegetables from the garden is also a seasonal activity.  Canning was the most common way of preserving produce for the winter. Sweet peas, corn, tomatoes, beets, blueberries, pears and grapes were popular items for the Rocky Mountain family to can for consumption during the many months of winter. Recipes were abundant in the local news publications.6 They can even be used today in the 21st century!

Colorado Historic Newspapers

Happy 140th Birthday Colorado!

The land that we now call Colorado was sparsely populated by any white settlers in the mid-1800’s. While some had ventured to Colorado to acquire first hand knowledge of what existed in and around the Rocky Mountains (such as Zebulon Pike or Kit Carson), it was primarily the home of Native American tribes, buffalo, pronghorns and prairie dogs.

constitutionGold was discovered in 1858 and attempts to keep it a secret failed.  By 1859 the rush of potential prospectors from the east and west culminated in a quick habitation near Cherry Creek, thus establishing Denver City and Auraria.  At the time, this land was considered part of Kansas Territory. By 1861, Colorado Territory had been established by President James Buchanan. Fourteen years later on March 3, 1875, the Enabling Act (a draft of the state’s constitution required by the United States for consideration into the union) was submitted to Congress.7 Proclamation of the statehood was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on August 1, 1876 and Colorado’s integration into the union increased the number of states to thirty-eight.2article

It appears, however, that Coloradans, chose to celebrate before official acceptance of statehood by the United States had been bequeathed. The July 1st election for the adoption of the constitution had passed by July 4th,3 so what better way to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the nation than to also celebrate their impending union with America. Therefore, the Fourth of July celebrations in 1876 also included festivities aimed at observing this momentous occasion. In Denver, the parade was extraordinary, complete with grand floats. At the “Grove” (a park type setting within Denver at the time), the territorial Governor, John Routt, gave a rousing welcome and Denver Mayor, R.G. Buckingham read the Declaration of Independence.  A local teacher then gave the history of the area, followed by a poem about Colorado.  Many other speakers followed, waxing eloquent about Colorado and the impending officiality of statehood. 4

Colorado City float on July 4, 1876 ,
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Denver however, was not the only city to celebrate. Canon City played a ceremonial game of baseball against South Pueblo (Canon City won). Black Hawk ended up having an unexpectedly destructive good time, when celebratory gunshots hit a tank of quicksilver which promptly exploded, flew through the air and crashed into a boarding house for miners. Amazingly, no one was hurt, but the hotel was left in ruins.5 Governor Routt
(credit: Denver Public Library)

When a state enters the union, it must have a leader.  John Long Routt was the territorial governor at the time of induction and assumed the duties of state governor until the election in October.6 He won the election and thus became the first governor of the State of Colorado.7

Colorado has certainly seen its fair share of booms and busts throughout the last 140 years, but people fall in love with this gorgeous state and the population continues to rise dramatically each decade.  In 1880, the population was just under 200,000.  By 2014, there were just over 5.25 million people who called Colorado home. Its appeal has become irresistible.




Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection

Colorado Historic Newspapers

Bears, Oh My!

In the summers of Colorado, a century and a half ago, larger wildlife could be found milling about in abundance. However, with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the incredible slaughter and decline of the bison was just beginning. The mountains, however, held a deadlier large mammal that would also be vigorously hunted. It was the bear.

Untitled-1In the mid to late nineteenth century,  Colorado still had quite the brown bear population, which included the grizzly. There were also plenty of black bears, including a lighter colored subspecies often referred to as “cinnamon.”8 A distinct difference between the two types of bear is that black bears are omnivorous, while brown bears are carnivorous. Neither, however,  are keen to their area being disturbed and their habitat encroached upon by humans. Run ins with bears and miners were common and often made the local news.

Cinnamon bear
Cinnamon bear

An agitated bear can be quite fearsome. As the early Colorado mountain inhabitants were to discover, shooting one down could be difficult, as it would take more than one round from a significant rifle to even cause a bear to slow down when ill-tempered.2 The successes of which could provide a bountiful source of meat for a while.3

Success at scaring away or killing an attacking bear was not always to be had, as “old-timer” mountain man, “Rocky Mountain Jim”, from Central City was unfortunate enough to experience  in July of 1871. He tried in vain to kill the bear, but to no avail. He was severely mauled,

“[The] bruin’s next blow fell upon his head, tearing half the scalp clean from the skull and cutting a fearful gash under the ear.”

A_rough_and_tumble_with_a_grizzleyThese were not poor Jim’s only injuries. He lost an eye and his hands and feet were nibbled on. Somehow, Jim survived, managed to drag himself to his horse and make his way to Idaho Springs where a doctor visiting from Georgetown was able to give Jim medical attention. He was in extremely critical but stable condition when the incident was reported.4

It was best to simply avoid bringing attention to oneself in bear country, if one could, as the toll-gate keeper in Lake City opted to do, when a “cinnamon bear trotted by within a few feet of him” and wisely decided not to attempt collecting the toll.5

The brown bear population became extinct in the lower forty-eight states by the mid-twentieth century due to mass killings of the beasts. Small populations exist today in Montana and Washington, while a much larger population exists in Alaska, including the famous grizzly. TR bear huntBlack bears, however, continue to be a problem. More so, in the way of nuisance than attack, as was just reported last week in the Denver Post.  While a black bear may be smart enough to somehow get IN your car, they are not as smart about getting OUT and tend to panic.

Despite the early Coloradans’ attempts to wipe out all bears from the mountains, who today believes mountains are mountains without bears? It is all part of Colorado living and always has been. Let’s just hope that any encounters that may happen upon you are more like the toll-gate keeper’s, rather than “Rocky Mountain Jim’s.”

Additional resources:

Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection



Colorado Historic Newspapers

Choo, Choo! To Denver and Beyond

Denver Pacific Railway locomotive circa 1880-1890'scredit: Denver Public Library
Denver Pacific Railway locomotive circa 1880-1890’s
credit: Denver Public Library





The end of June, between 1870-1882, was a hot time for railroad milestones in Colorado. Reaching those milestones were not without hindrances, competition or the possibility of contention between all the various railroad companies.

In 1866, Denver was informed that it would not be on the route of the transcontinental railroad; it would instead be built northward through the break in the formation of the Rockies in Wyoming. Therefore, the main railroad hub before passing the Rockies would be Cheyenne, Wyoming, not Denver, Colorado. This was a tremendous blow to the fledgling city of Denver. However, Colorado, with its extensive system of mines and ore, was a hard Territory to ignore. Nor would Denverites in particular let the area be ignored. Denver remained on the radar of railroad executives of both the Union Pacific and the Kansas Pacific. A representative (the appropriately named George Francis Train) for the Union Pacific, on November 14, 1867 gave a lecture in Denver stating that the town itself should have its own railroad company and construct a line from Denver to Cheyenne. It should only cost $2,000,000. The Denverites were enthused and within three days (with Pages from 009-DRC-1870-06-23-001-SINGLE (1)the former Territorial Governor, John Evans at the helm) the Denver Pacific Railway and Telegraph was incorporated and $300,000 raised. The rest of the funding was a bit harder to procure, but Evans eventually persuaded the Kansas Pacific Railroad to grant right of way to their land in Colorado and Wyoming along the route, as well as to assist in financing the building of the road after the Union Pacific’s agreement to provide the iron fell through due to financial hardship. Road work began in May 1868 with a grand celebration, complete music and a keg of beer.6 It was completed June 22, 1870.2Georgetown, in commemoration of the event, bequeathed to Evans a silver spike made from Colorado silver.3 There was a fantastic celebration in honor of the road being completed sponsored by the “ladies of the Episcopal Church.”4 (Interestingly, Evans had to rescue the spike after the occasion [he somehow got away with simply wrapping a standard spike in white paper to pass for silver], as the men sent to deliver the spike had proceeded to inebriate themselves and had pawned it).

Solid silver spike given to Gov. Evans from Georgetown
credit: History Colorado

Eight years after the Denver Pacific connected Denver with Cheyenne up north, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad connected Denver with the south by way of the San Luis Valley and its agriculture and mines. In fact, the DR&G created its own town, naming it Alamosa,5 in a bend on the Rio Grande river just west of the already established Garland City near Fort Garland. This didn’t seem to faze the Garland residents, who apparently simply moved themselves and most of their buildings to Alamosa.6 The narrow-gauge railroad was completed around June 26, 1878 and Alamosa quickly established itself the railroad hub of the San Luis Valley. Unfortunately, the occasion was met with the tragic accident of a fireman (the man who shoveled coal into the furnace to run the steam powered locomotive) being killed on the job.7 There were high hopes for Alamosa to become a city on par with Colorado Springs or Denver. While this accomplishment was not quite met, today Alamosa can boast around 9,500 residents, remains a prominent player in the state’s agricultural industry and provides rides on the historical train route in historical trains.

Alamosa circa 1878credit: Denver Public Library
Alamosa circa 1878
credit: Denver Public Library

The early 1880s, brought about the very notable completion of a direct railroad route from Chicago to Denver8 when the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad reached Denver on June 26, 1882. The CB&Q Railroad began as the Aurora Branch Railroad in 1862 in an attempt to connect the forty-one miles west of the town of Aurora with Chicago. By the time of the line’s completion in 1864, the railroad had been renamed the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad due to it incorporating all of those cities with stops along the route. Throughout the next eighteen years, CB&Q expanded westward, first through Iowa, then Nebraska and into Colorado thus initially connecting freight transportation with Denver.9 The first passenger train did not arrive to Denver from Chicago until July 2, 1882.10 This expansion into Colorado was not without concern of a potential railroad war occurring between the DR&G and the CB&Q Railroad companies.11 A conference was held in Denver in the beginning of June 188212 with the hopes of resolving any route or rate conflicts, however, an agreement was not immediately reached. The worry appears to have been unfounded, since “pooling” (definition: a train operating over a track owned by two or more railway companies) became a non-issue for CB&Q.13

It seems incredible now to think that without all of the above railroad connections being established that Denver would have become a ghost town on the eastern edge of the Rockies. However, because the town did work together in the late 1860’s to save their status in the region, we are now blessed with a thriving city of approximately 650,000 people. The tenacity of the fortitude one acquires living in Colorado has a long history of being undeterred.


Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection

Colorado Historic Newspapers

“The Great Deluge in Denver”

“I looked out of the window and saw a wall of water six feet high rushing down the dry creek bed at terrific speed. Before we could escape from the building, the flood waters reached an embankment connecting the plant with some high shores of the creek. In a few seconds we were completely isolated, with raging water surrounding the building.” -Nathan A. Baker14

(Credit: Denver Public Library)

On this day, May 19, in 1864 the Cherry Creek massively flooded in the wee hours of the night.2 Prior to this date, Cherry Creek had been a very dry creek bed for many years. Despite warnings from Chief Little Raven that building on the creek bed was foolish due to the potential for flash floods, as had happened in the past,  the settlers developed in the area, including the building that the Rocky Mountain News was housed in.

Therefore, the incredible, thundering sound of the water rushing into Denver and Auraria blindsided the residents of the area. Many barely made it out of houses or buildings before the structures were swept away. In fact, five members of the  Rocky Mountain News staff were sleeping in the building when it was indeed swept away. They managed to climb through windows and swim to shore. For four to five hours the flood grew, particularly where Cherry Creek met the Platte and thus spilled over into Denver flooding additional buildings with one to five feet of water. Not only were buildings swept away, but also livestock and tragically, fifteen to twenty people lost their lives.

As with any natural disaster, there were stories of extraordinary rescues and unfathomable survival. One such story was that of Mrs. Smith and her five children. “A negro named Smith, with his wife and five children were carried away, but through the heroic management and cool courage of Mrs. Smith, the entire family were saved. All honor to that brave hearted woman!” 3 The cavalry, under the direction of Colonel Chivington, behaved much like today’s National Guard and went into rescue mode assisting those trapped by the flood waters, including the Rocky Mountain News owner, William Byers. He and his family were stranded  on an island in the Platte and Chivington dispatched some men to literally build a boat (which was accomplished in two hours) and rescue the family.

At the time, Colorado was experiencing an abnormally wet spring and it had rained incessantly for days prior to the flood. At one point storms produced hail as “large as hen’s eggs” for one full hour. Ranchers had already endured the loss of sheep and cows, however, the likelihood of the dry creek bed suddenly becoming a wet torrent simply did not cross the settlers’ minds.  The sudden flood lead to a loss of property determined to range over one million dollars4. Since the Rocky Mountain News building and all of its equipment were lost in the flood, the Weekly  Commonwealth, in what today would be an impossibly unprecedented gesture, offered to share its office and equipment with the Rocky Mountain News and combine the papers until a new building and equipment was established. 5

(Credit: Denver Public Library)

Once the mountain communities were informed of the flood, they began joining relief efforts already under way by prominent Denverites, such as Luther Kountze, from the Denver area. 6 By May 27, 1864, Blackhawk, Colorado was informed of whom in the community to donate money to for the relief fund.7

Amazingly, it took multiple instances of Cherry Creek flooding throughout the decades before the retaining walls were erected in the early 1900’s and the Cherry Creek dam was constructed in 1950.

And so, on this day of May 19, 2016, let us enjoy the fact that the creek is relatively subdued as a nice meandering trickle to be gazed upon while walking/jogging/biking along its trail.

Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection

Colorado Historic Newspapers

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -MLK

“There is much to be done for the betterment of our future condition…”-Mary B. Talbert, President of the National Association of Colored Women/Vice President of the NAACP8

Mrs. Talbert wrote those words in 1918. Indeed, she was correct. There was much to be done, however, in 1918, much had been accomplished, including the organization nationwide of many “colored” or “negro” support organizations championing African-American civil rights. Interestingly, in researching the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) and Denver Public Library for this article, it was found Colorado had connections to many of the prominent African-Americans of the Victorian Era.

Even though racism existed, the West of the 1800’s provided a place in this country where prosperity was feasible for all races. Two of the earliest success stories of African-Americans in Colorado are James Beckwourth and Barney Ford; both were born into slavery in the 1820s, both escaped, came West and became prominent figures in Denver, particularly Ford, who became quite wealthy. Despite some African-Americans achieving success, Colorado was not immune to the general racism against non-white Americans.2 It was not uncommon for derogatory terms to be flung,3 exclusion from places, events or organizations,4 wrongful arrests leading to death,5 and of course, lynchings.6

By the turn of the twentieth century, the African-Americans (mostly in Denver) were establishing organizations of support, much like the white population of the area.7 An example being the Colorado chapter of the Association of Colored Women, who counted among its members, the successful Dr. Justina Ford. Dr. Ford was an African-American woman, who practiced out of her home in Denver (due to the Colorado Medical Association denying Dr. Ford admittance into its organization and thus was not allowed to open a legitimate medical practice in an office) where she treated many of Denver’s poor, regardless of ethnicity.

In 1918, it was decided that the convention of the National Association of Colored Women and the NAACP would be held in Denver, July 8-13. In that year, the NAACP had only 35, 000 members nationwide, however, they celebrated this number as it had increased significantly in the last year. It also had 117 active chapters throughout the country.

Oddly enough, it appears that none of the Denver county newspapers made any mention of the event, however, six rural newspapers had done so: The Eagle Valley Enterprise, Record Journal of Douglas, Summit County Journal, Weekly Ignacio Chieftain, Wray Rattler, and the Yampa Leader. 

The Denver Star  8 published a fantastic supplement of the convention. The Denver Star began as a regular supplement during 1879-1882, but appears to have been reborn in 1912 combining two other African-American publications, The Statesmen and The Independent. The 1918 convention issue highlighted the event’s noteworthy speakers and the success of the African-American community in spite of discrimination. These successes included the Colored American Loan & Realty and C.M. White. For the Colored American Loan & Realty, with its humble beginnings of $350, “an immediate death was predicted for this little adventure…because it was a wide diversion from the line of business heretofore engaged in by the Negro.”9 This was not to be. The company was raking in $4000 a month by 1918.

C.M. White's home in Denver circa 1918
C.M. White’s home in Denver circa 1918

C.M. White was one of the most prosperous members of the Denver community. He was founder and president of the fraternal organization American Woodmen, which was the African-American version of the whites only fraternal organization, Modern Woodmen of America. The convention appears to have been quite a success and although the authors of The Denver Star are not specified, it is written with class and dignity, which could be quite contrary to how the whites of Colorado wrote about the African-Americans at the time.

Therefore, let us celebrate the change-makers of the African-American community in Colorado during this, Black History Month! The Colorado Historic Newspapers never cease to provide engaging information about our history!

To reiterate, The Denver Star, 1918 Convention issue was a consulted resource courtesy of Denver Public Library. 

Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection



Colorado Historic Newspapers

♫ Over there…the Yanks are coming…♫

In January 1945, the Germans had secured a foothold in the Northern Apennine Mountain Range in Italy. They believed themselves impenetrable atop the mountain, as the only way to sneak upon them would be to rock climb up the side of the mountain. Their lack of confidence in any Allied troops was such that they didn’t bother guarding the mountain ridges at night, preferring to sleep. This was a mistake. For the United States Army had in fact trained such a division of soldiers for just that job. They were the 10th Mountain Division and their training was primarily done at Camp Hale, located in the Eagle Valley of Colorado.

Soldiers at Camp Hale (credit: Denver Public Library)
Soldiers at Camp Hale (credit: Denver Public Library)

The specialized army division for mountainous infantry was initially activated in December 1941. Civilians with previous skiing skills were recruited and training initially began at Fort Lewis, WA. They eventually moved to Camp Hale in Colorado in 1942 and the original name given was the 10th Light Division (Alpine). In November 1944, just prior to deployment to Europe, the division was renamed the 10th Mountain Division.

Training at Camp Hale (credit: Denver Public Library)
Training at Camp Hale (credit: Denver Public Library)

By January 1945, the division found themselves in Italy. Their destination was the Apennine Mountains to rid it of the Germans. A base camp was set up and shortly after, on this very day seventy-one years ago, a newspaper for the division was created. The Blizzard is one of the most interesting newspapers in the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection!

The division was there to do a job however, and by February 18, 1945, they began stealthily climbing up Riva Ridge during the night with cloth around their pick axes to dampen the noise of climbing.  The Germans of course, since they were sleeping, were caught completely unaware and easily over taken by the next day. That was battle number one. Battle number two was going to prove more difficult and costly. The next objective was to secure Mount Belvedere.10 This battle took a few days, as the Germans were a bit more prepared for the onslaught and fought vigorously. However, the 10th Mountain Division emerged victorious, but with many casualties.2 It’s C Company was particularly hit hard.

Leaving Mt. Belvedere with casualty (credit: Denver Public Library)
Leaving Mt. Belvedere with casualty (credit: Denver Public Library)

long voyage home aug 9The 10th Mountain Division continued to be victorious in battle and managed to apprehend the mountain range all the way until it meets the Alps. Initially the division was to be sent to the Pacific, but the Japanese surrendered in August3 and the division was demobilized in November 1945. Many returned to Colorado (as well as Montana and Wyoming) and were paramount to the establishment of Colorado’s ski resorts. In fact, Camp Hale is on the National Register of Historic places and there are plans to extend protection of the site by Senator Michael Bennet to be “the nation’s first National Historic Landscape.”4

Bob Parker in middle smiling
Bob Parker is the man in the middle smiling
(credit: Denver Public Library)

There were two amazing resources consulted for this post (in addition to The Blizzard), that must be highlighted. The Radio Diaries podcast of veterans from the 10th Mountain Division (including one Bob Parker 5) and their experiences training and on the battlefront. The Denver Public Library, who not only provided the fantastic images (there are oodles more! It was so difficult to choose!),  have a splendid 10th Mountain Division archival and photograph collection.   History Colorado holds the 10th Mountain Division artifact collection.  Much of both of these collections has been digitized.


Additional resource: Wikipedia

Learn even more at Colorado Online Encyclopedia!


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Colorado Historic Newspapers

Superbowl of Cattle Shows

The National Western Stock Show begins this weekend and shall be celebrating its 110th Official year!  In actuality, there were attempts to hold joint conventions of the American Stock Growers’ Association and the National Live Stock Association prior to 1906.

Barbecue at Denver Union Station Stockyards circa 1898
(credit: Denver Public Library)

However, the late 1800’s, while less wild than earlier in the century, was still a bit unruly. And thus it was in 1898, when the Associations gathered in January in Denver.

It was due to be quite the affair, and indeed it was, until the last day. The final day celebrated the end of the convention with an absolutely huge barbecue of all types of meat, (even opossum). The Herald Democrat even lists the meat offered. 6 A “hitch in the get-along” was daily journal-1898that Zang’s Brewery had already begun serving its product before the grilling was done. What transpired, was a reckless rush for the vittles. The Daily Journal 2in Telluride aptly described it as a “riot.”

The rowdy incident led to the stock shows being held elsewhere (mainly Chicago) for the next few years. However, in 1906, while Robert Speer was mayor of Denver, the convention once again was held in Denver.  The Park County Bulletin3 and Yuma Pioneer4 both reported on the tremendous success of the gathering. park county bulletin-1906       yuma pioneer - 1906

It was determined at the event, due to Denver’s central railroad location heading west being more convenient than Chicago, St. Louis or Omaha, that the convention would remain in Denver for the foreseeable future5.

The National Western Stock Show was quite the social “to-do” in the early 20th century, attracting even the elite of Denver, even though the first few years the events were held in enormous tents near the stockyards. In 1909 the Stadium Arena was completed and many of the festivities were gratefully held indoors away from the typical snowy weather of Colorado in January.

Stadium Arena/posh couple inside the arena circa 1909(credit: Denver Public Library)
Stadium Arena/posh couple inside the arena circa 1909
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Since then the National Western Stock Show has grown significantly, building more and larger venues, including the Denver Coliseum. In fact, further expansion is still on the agenda in the coming years.

One can always count on the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection to provide splendid details about long standing annual events here in Colorado!

Want to know more about the National Western Stock Show beyond the newspapers? RMPBS’ Colorado Experience has an episode highlighting the event.

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Colorado Historic Newspapers

A “Discovery”!

It has existed for over  a millennium. It was hidden from view by trees, brush and the overhang of the top of the cliff. The Utes knew of it and considered it sacred. Odds were high that the Spanish, in their explorations of the Southwest had come across it. However, the new, white homesteaders of the land in Southwest Colorado were unaware of it and of course credited with it’s “discovery”.

Richard Wetherill
(credit: Wetherill Family Website)

The place (re)discovered: the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde

Discoverer: Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charlie Mason.

Date: December 18, 1888 (a mere 127 years ago today)

dpl-richard w
Richard Wetherill among the cliff dwellings
(credit: Denver Public Library)

Story goes, Wetherill and Mason, were out wrestlin’ up some stray cattle near Wetherill’s ranch in Mancos Canyon, and came across the cliff dwellings. Prior to Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency in  1901-1909, when National Parks and Monuments were created, many ancient or historical sites were at the mercy of the settlers who “found” them. In the case of the cliff dwellings, Wetherill and his brothers decided on promoting it as tourist attraction,6 . The Wetherill brothers even built roads to the site to make it more accessible.2 This was quite an accomplishment for Colorado.3 

montezuma journal-deathIn 1898, Mr. Wetherill relocated to New Mexico and set up a trading post among the Navajos. Sadly, Mr. Wetherill and his Navajo neighbors did not always get along. While varying accounts of witnesses at the time make the true story a bit unclear, the general narrative is that on June 22, 1910, a Navajo man was severely mistreating a horse and Wetherill and a fellow companion went to confront the accused Navajo man. The Navajo, claiming self-defense, shot Wetherill dead.4  Wetherill’s companion was shot at, but came away unscathed. The Navajo, Chis-Chilling Begay, was arrested, tried and sentenced to the penitentiary for several years.

Oh, so many many stories can be found in the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection! 


Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection



Digital Colorado

Vice + Promised Library = a Swindle

In the 1870s, Colorado was very much the wild west and the thriving, growing hub of Denver was full of all kinds of “vice”– saloons, opium dens, outlaws and Market St primarily marketed

credit: Denver Public Library
credit: Denver Public Library

Denver’s floosies. The young men growing up in Denver did not have a respectable establishment to hang in. This needed to be remedied.7

pages-from-009-rmw-1873-09-24-001-singleAbout a year later, a charlatan named J.W. Suitterlin proposed building a public library and reading room. He just needed the funds. And he had a ruse to obtain them.2

However, Suitterlin (if that was his real name…) had swindled the fine, upstanding, morally contentious folks of Denver. He had no plans to build a library for the poor, overly tempted young men of Denver; he had plans to keep all the money for himself. All $80,000. Suitterlin didn’t make it out of the state quickly enough and was arrested mid-September and held on a $1000 bail.

hc-pub lib copy
credit: History Colorado

By later November he was convicted and sentenced to jail for eighteen months.3

Denver eventually had a small library established in the high school beginning in 1889. In 1910, it received funding from Andrew Carneige for its own building in downtown Denver.

The Colorado Historic Newspaper collection never ceases to amaze with its first hand accounts of wild west shenanigans! In fact, RMPBS’ Colorado Experience has an episode all about lack of morally upstanding individuals in Colorado’s history!



Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection