Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado’s Most Endangered Places

Every February, Colorado Preservation Inc. (CPI) releases their annual list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places. The program brings awareness to historic buildings, landscapes, or archaeological sites around Colorado that are in danger of demolition, neglect, modification, or development. This year’s endangered places, highlighting the history of southern Colorado, are:

  • Adobe Potato Cellars of the San Luis Valley (Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Rio Grande, and Saguache Counties)
  • Hose Company No. 3 Fire Museum (Pueblo County)
  • Iglesia De San Antonio-Tiffany Catholic Church (La Plata County)
  • McIntire Ranch and Mansion (Conejos County)
  • R&R Market (Costilla County)

The Culebra River Villages of Costilla County, Colorado, a Colorado Historical Society publication available from our library, mentions the history of the adobe potato cellars:

An important consideration involved storage. When Anglo growers first marketed potatoes they stored surpluses above ground in circular wire-frames encased with hay or in straw-covered trenches. However, the Rio Culebra farmers preferred to store potatoes in a large, underground cellars, or soterranos. Because Hispano[s] used earth, not sod, for walls, their structures maintain an even temperature that kept potatoes from freezing. Hispano subterranean structures were so efficient and cheap to fabricate that Anglo farmers throughout the San Luis Valley adopted double-wall adobe construction for their above-ground storage facilities.

Adobe potato cellars in Rio Grande County, Colorado, circa 1939. Courtesy Library of Congress.

A second Historical Society publication offers information about Conejos County’s McIntire Ranch. An Archaeological Inventory in the Pike’s Stockade Area, Conejos County, Colorado discusses the ranch site‘s historical and archaeological resources, including what remains of the large adobe ranch house. The ranch belonged to Albert McIntire, governor of Colorado from 1895 to 1897. You can read about adobe construction in Adobe as a Building Material for the Plains and Adobe Brick for Farm Buildings, two early-twentieth-century publications from the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station.

To learn more about historic preservation and its impact on Colorado communities, see Preservation for a Changing Colorado, a 2017 publication of CPI and History Colorado. Search our library’s online catalog for more Colorado history resources.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: President Lincoln’s Birthday

Today marks Abraham Lincoln’s 210th birthday. America’s most beloved President was born on February 12, 1809, in a log cabin in Kentucky, although he lived most of his life in Illinois (aside from his time in Washington, D.C.). In the decades following his death, several efforts were made to make Lincoln’s birthday a national holiday, but were unsuccessful. President’s Day, however, honors Lincoln as well as George Washington, who was also born in February. Lincoln’s birthday is a state holiday in five states, but not in Colorado.

Our state has found other ways to honor Lincoln, however, including Lincoln County and even Lincoln Street in Denver. Colorado-quarried Yule Marble was used to build the Lincoln Memorial. And although Lincoln never visited here, Colorado Territory was established on February 28, 1861 — less than a week before Lincoln’s first inauguration — so it was the country’s newest territory at the time of his presidency.

In the early 1900s, the state’s Department of Public Instruction — now the Department of Education — issued books for teachers with lessons, stories, poems, and recitations in honor of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays. Annual volumes of Birthdays of Washington & Lincoln have been digitized and made available online by our library.  The 1909 issue in particular is a special “centennial number” for Lincoln. Each volume gives fascinating insight not only on the lives of the presidents, but on the values, political atmosphere, and patriotism of the era in which the books were published. These volumes provide valuable primary source material for anyone researching American education and culture a century ago.

Finally, be sure to check out the Library of Congress’s website, where you can view the digitized Abraham Lincoln Papers.


Colorado Historic Newspapers

Topics in History: Five Points: The Heart and Soul of Denver

Old Five Points Neighborhood (Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

In recent decades, the city of Denver has undergone a drastic transformation both aesthetically and demographically. As young professionals flock back to the city’s center, neighborhoods that have existed as cultural centers for many of Denver’s deep-rooted and diverse communities are undergoing dramatic changes. One of the most significant of these cultural epicenters is Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. Designated from its earliest years as a space apart for Denver’s black residents, Five Points not only survived a time of extreme, institutionalized racial oppression in Colorado, but thrived and grew to become one of the most culturally rich destinations in the country, earning it the nickname, “the Harlem of the West.”

Denver NAACP Meeting (Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

Five Points initially took shape during Denver’s period of rapid growth in the 1870’s due to the silver boom. The neighborhood took its name from the five vertices created at the intersection of Washington Street, 27th Street, 26th Ave, and Welton Street. The introduction of Denver’s first street railroad connected the Five Points neighborhood to its city center and brought a wide variety of residents from varying economic and racial backgrounds to the area.  However, when more modern and fashionable dwellings began to populate the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, many of its wealthier, white residents moved out of the area. Due to the extreme racial oppression of the time, Denver’s black residents were not afforded the same mobility, and by the 1920’s, ninety percent of Denver black population lived within the Five Points – Whittier neighborhood.

The Rossonian Hotel (Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

That decade saw Five Points grow and flourish as a social, cultural, and political center for Denver’s black community. The Glenarm branch of the YMCA was built in 1924 and acted as the unofficial Town Hall of Five Points. Denver’s branch of the NAACP was established and hosted its first national meeting in 1925 to address the racial hostility and inequity perpetuated by the KKK’s firm hold on the Denver politics and society. In 1927, a group of black students successfully sued the Superintendent of Public Instruction of Denver for the unconstitutional separation of social functions for students based on race. Five points had now established itself as a political center for the advancement of equality as more and more of its residents began to own property and establish businesses.

The Lounge at the Rossonian Hotel (Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

The 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s gave way to perhaps the greatest cultural boom in Five Points as the Jazz and Blues movement took root in the area. While Denver’s downtown hotspots invited popular musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Miles Davis, and Nat King Cole to perform, they were not permitted to stay in the white-only hotels in those neighborhoods. Thus, Five Points played host to these artists who also performed in the neighborhood’s many jazz and blues clubs. The lounge at the now Historic Rossonian Hotel (originally the Baxter Hotel) was one of Five Points’ most iconic locales and was considered the best jazz club between Kansas City and LA. At the height of the jazz era, Five Points had become a destination where black and white visitors were welcomed together, despite the racial tension and segregation that still plagued the rest of the city.

Historic Five Points Neighborhood (Photo from

As the 1960’s saw the decline of discriminatory housing practices and legal segregation in the city, the residents of Five Points dispersed to other neighborhoods and suburbs. By the 1970’s Five Points fell victim to economic strife, crime, and drugs. However, the community that had once thrived in Five Points refused to disappear, and in the late 1980’s and 1990’s there came a dramatic push to preserve and restore the area’s landmarks. In 1988, Paul W. Stewart opened the Black American West Museum to the public in the former home of Dr. Justina Ford, Denver’s first black woman doctor. In 1995, the Rossonian Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has since undergone massive restoration with the help of former NBA star, Chauncey Billups, who is a partner in the project. In 2002, the Welton Street commercial corridor was listed as a Denver historic cultural district and in 2003, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library opened on Welton Street in order to serve the neighborhood and preserve its rich history.

Juneteenth Celebration Bilboard (Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library)

Five Points has even more recently become one of Denver’s most desirable neighborhoods, with home prices rising far above the median for the city. While this new influx of residents and businesses to the area has assured its survival and revitalization, the drastically inflated cost of living has driven out many of the same residents who fought for its preservation. Though Five Points now hosts its annual Jazz Fest and Juneteenth festival, drawing thousands of visitors to the area to celebrate its cultural heritage, it was Denver’s strong, black community that made the neighborhood a haven, a hotspot, and a home for decades in the face of oppression.


This post is brought to you by the Colorado State Library and Denver Public Libraries

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The WPA in Colorado

During the height of the Great Depression, as banks failed, unemployment soared, and farm prices dropped, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established as one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal projects. The WPA focused on creating and providing jobs rather than handing out direct relief. Most of the WPA jobs were aimed at civic improvements, such as public buildings and roads. Thousands of out-of-work artists and artisans, architects, musicians, writers, historians, and others who had previously been employed in creative or intellectual fields were given temporary work. Parks, trails, bridges, public buildings, artworks, and literary projects produced by the WPA continue to be enjoyed to this day.

Colorado’s division of the WPA issued The WPA Worker: A Monthly Pictorial Journal for Workers and Citizens of Colorado Interested in the Statewide Projects of Works Progress AdministrationIssues from 1936 and 1937 have recently been digitized by our library. Each issue of this amazing periodical highlights WPA projects in all corners of the state. These included many construction projects like public buildings, roads, bridges, stadiums, and parks, but also included such varied activities as

As Coloradans suffered from the effects of the Great Depression, the WPA enhanced life in every part of the state, and often undertook long overdue projects that in many cases would not have been otherwise completed. Many of the projects continue to enhance our lives today.

For more resources on the WPA in Colorado, see the following publications available from our library:

Aguilar’s city hall was constructed by the WPA.


The playground at Lake Junior High in Denver was also a WPA project.


Old infrastructure was replaced across the state.
20th Century & Beyond

Elvin R. Caldwell: City Council President, Activist, Community Leader

When: 1919 – 2004

Where: Denver, Colorado

Why Important: First African-American City Council Member West of the Mississippi, Civil Rights advocate, policy-maker, and life-long community leader and organizer.


Elvin R. Caldwell was born in Denver on April 11, 1919 and grew up in the historic Five Points neighborhood, which was a predominantly black neighborhood at that time. Though Caldwell’s family and many of the families in his neighborhood were prosperous, they faced racial discrimination, inequality, and exclusion from white Denver society. Caldwell’s parents, Wilba and Inez, fought against this discrimination, setting an example for Elvin that would inspire him and shape the rest of his life as an advocate for equality. Caldwell graduated from Eastside High School in 1937 and received a track scholarship to the University of Colorado and later, the University of Denver.

In 1941, Caldwell married Frank “Frankie” Harriette Webb, a teacher, and the couple had four children: Elvin Jr., John, Kenneth, and Frances. During World War II, Caldwell served as a chief statistician and assistant superintendent for production at the Remington Arms Company. After the war ended, many of Denver’s black residents lost their jobs to returning white servicemen, while many returning black servicemen faced discrimination back home in the country they had fought for. Caldwell firmly believed that all Americans were equal and deserved full rights, so he took his fight to the Colorado State Government.

In 1950, at age 31, Caldwell was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives where he served until 1955 when he was elected to the Denver City Council, making him the first African American to serve on a city council seat west of the Mississippi. Caldwell served on the Denver City Council for 28 years, with five years spent as president of the council. During this time Caldwell was deeply involved with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA), which was created to eliminate slum housing with assistance from Federal Grants. He also fought against discriminatory lending practices by banks, which refused to offer home loans in predominantly black neighborhoods. Until the 1970’s, nonwhites were barred from serving as judges or being promoted within the police force and could only serve in the one African American fire Station. Caldwell persistently contested these practices and under his leadership, Colorado implemented its first Fair Employment Practices Act. In 1980, Denver Mayor William H. McNichols Jr. named Caldwell Manager of Safety, making him the first black member of a Denver Mayoral Cabinet.

In addition to his years of political service, Caldwell was actively involved in many community organizations. He served as a board member for the Glenarm Branch of the YMCA, the Boy Scouts of America, and PAL of Denver. He also served on the board of directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Opportunities Industrialization Center, The Denver Improvement Association, the Five Points Businessmen’s Association, and the Colorado Municipal League. To honor his service and dedication to equality in Colorado, in 1990, the Denver City Council created the Elvin R. Caldwell Community Service Plaza. In April of 2003, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library opened its doors bearing his name, just 1 year before his death in April 2004. Elvin R. Caldwell was a tireless champion of the Civil Rights Movement, a steadfast advocate for equality and a deeply passionate community leader who dedicated his life to making Colorado and the United States a better place for all people.

This bio is brought to you by the Colorado State Library with thanks to the Colorado Encyclopedia

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: History of Aspen, Colorado

Today, Aspen’s riches come from the ski industry — but they used to come from silver mining. Aspen was founded in 1879, during the glory days of Colorado silver mining — the same era when mining boomtowns like Leadville and Georgetown were being established. With seemingly endless amounts of silver in the nearby Elk and Sawatch mountains, Aspen thrived until 1893, when economic disaster struck. That year, Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, under which the federal government had purchased millions of ounces of silver for coinage. Without a market for the silver, Aspen and the other boomtowns nearly became ghost towns.

Despite a steady decline in population, and area mines and railroads going bankrupt, Aspen managed to survive — but it needed something to sustain it. Tourism, and the newly fashionable sport of skiing, became the answer. In 1924, the Independence Pass Highway was completed, making travel to Aspen easier. Then, in 1936, Aspen’s first ski lodge was opened, ushering in the industry that would give rebirth to the town. Ski enthusiasts and wealthy vacationers descended on Aspen. In 1946, the area’s first chairlift opened, the longest in the world at the time, according to an article in the Colorado Encyclopedia. New ski resorts opened, and Aspen continued to thrive.

It wasn’t just skiing that made Aspen famous, however. It became known as a center for arts and culture, hosting such notable events as the Aspen Music Festival, the International Design Conference, and the Aspen Institute. Today, Aspen is known as a playground for celebrities, with some of the most expensive real estate in the United States — a far cry from the Silver Crash days.

You can read more about Aspen in numerous publications from our library; many are available online. In 1958, William Wardell wrote a delightful article in the Colorado Historical Society’s Colorado Magazine, sharing his memories of childhood in Aspen before the Silver Crash. You can also read about Aspen during the mining years in Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town, 1879-1893, which is available for checkout.

Over the past several decades the University of Colorado’s business school has prepared numerous studies on Aspen tourism, including:

The University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research also published several studies on Aspen environmental issues, including Quality Skiing at Aspen, Colorado (1975) and Landslides Near Aspen, Colorado (1976).

Other historical resources on Aspen available from our library include highway studies, air quality studies, a 1965 report on the Aspen general area plan, and, more recently, Climate Change and Aspen from 2006. Search our online catalog for titles. Finally, be sure to check out the Aspen Historical Society’s website for a historical timeline, digital archives, and more.


Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Colorado Historic Newspapers

CHNC Welcomes the Westminster Journal with help of SIPA & New Content Support Program!

Front Page of Westminster Journal (Vol. 1, No. 1)

The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is proud to welcome Westminster’s first local news publication, The Westminster Journal, to our online catalog in our continued effort to expand access to Colorado’s rich newspaper history! Thanks to the Westminster Public Library, CHNC users can now browse over 850 issues of the Westminster Journal, ranging from its first publication in 1947 to 1964.

The Journal was founded by A.B. Withers, who was also publishing the Wheat Ridge Journal and the Edgewater Tribune at the time. Withers maintained the Westminster Journal and grew its readership until 1954, during which time he was responsible for the hire of some of Colorado most famous journalists, including Jack Bacon, who won the Colorado Press Association Newspaper Person of the Year in 1994. After Withers sold the paper, it changed hands several more times over the next nearly 20 years until Community Publications assumed its management and changed the name to the Journal-Sentinel.  However, the Westminster Journal saw this sleepy Denver satellite grow into a thriving central Colorado metropolis during a very exciting time in the Centennial State.

Readers can browse the journal to read about the first graduating class of the United States Air Force Academy, learn how the construction of I-25 changed the landscape and culture of the Front Range, or bask in the glow of the Denver Broncos victory over the Boston Patriots in the very first game of the newly re-established 1960 American Football League. Whatever your interest, the CHNC and our new partner, the Westminster Public Library, have you covered with help, in part by the Colorado Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) micro grant program and the CHNC New Content Support Program.

Both funding sources offer assistance to educational institutions expanding access to online resources.  And great news, the CHNC New Content Support Program for 2019 is officially underway and taking applications now. Learn more about how your Colorado community’s news publication can join the CHNC and reach audiences all over the world at and check out all of our great titles at!

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Colorado State Museum

Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

Have you lived in Colorado long enough to remember when the State Museum was located at 14th and Sherman, in what is now the Legislative Services Building?

The State Historical Society was established in 1879 and its earliest museum exhibits were located in the State Capitol. By the early 1900s, however, the Society wanted its own home. Architect Frank Edbrooke — who had completed the designs for the Capitol — was hired to design a new structure, which would be located across the street. Built of native Colorado materials including Yule marble and Cotopaxi granite, the three-story Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1915. The museum was best known for its impressive archaeological collections and early Native American artifacts. Later, in the 1930s, WPA activities resulted in a great deal of historical research as well as the creation of the dioramas that became one of the museum’s most memorable features. In fact, the amazingly detailed WPA diorama depicting 1860 Denver can still be viewed at today’s History Colorado Center.

You can learn about the old museum building in Colorado Capitol Buildings, a 1951 publication highlighting the State Capitol and its associated architecture. In addition, a 1972 museum brochure digitized by our library might bring back memories, with photos and descriptions of the exhibits.

The State Museum continued at 14th and Sherman until 1976, when it moved to a new home at 1300 Broadway. That second building was torn down in 2010 and the current building, at 12th and Broadway, opened in 2012. The old museum building became legislative offices, due to its proximity to the Capitol, and is a part of the Denver Civic Center National Historic Landmark District.

The Colorado State Museum under construction, circa 1915. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.


Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: The Dotsero Train Wreck

110 years ago today occurred one of the state’s worst train disasters. On January 15, 1909 at 9:47p.m., a westbound Denver & Rio Grande passenger train collided with an eastbound freight train just outside of Dotsero, in Eagle County. Apparently the engineer of the passenger train had been confused about the time his train was ordered to depart. Twenty people, mostly passengers, were killed instantly in the head-on collision; another five succumbed to their injuries within a week of the accident. Thirty others were also injured.

The Dotsero disaster, along with several smaller wrecks and derailments occurring that same year, caused the Colorado Railroad Commission to examine railroad safety laws and pursue legislation for increased railroad safety. You can read their report and recommendations online, courtesy of our library. This report includes some unfortunate statistics – in all of the 1909 accidents combined, thirty-five passengers lost their lives and seventy-six were injured. That’s not even counting railroad employees or individuals who were trespassing on railroad tracks. If those numbers are taken into account, a total of 113 persons were killed that year, and 116 injured.

You can read more about the state’s investigation of the Dotsero wreck in the Biennial Report of the State Railroad Commission, another publication which as been digitized by our library. The state Railroad Commission eventually became the Public Utilities Commission, which still exists today, overseeing rail and transit safety alongside other utilities such as energy and telecommunications. Annual/biennial reports of both commissions from 1907 through 1930, as well as more recent reports, can be viewed online from our library. Finally, be sure to search the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection for some fascinating digitized newspaper articles about the Dotsero disaster.

Colorado Historic Newspapers

Topics in History: The Lake County War

(Photo from

The Lake County War, as it has become known, was not actually a war at all in the traditional sense.  Instead, it is the term used to describe the time period in what was once Lake County (now Chaffee County) from 1874-1881, during which law and order broke down and vigilante “justice” reigned. For nearly a century, details of the events of this time were based on scattered and varying accounts, questionable witness testimony, and even local legend. In recent decades, however, historians have gathered information from local news sources, court records, and family histories in order to piece together the events of this tumultuous time in Colorado’s Arkansas River Valley.

In the early morning hours of June 17, 1874, Lake County homesteader, George Harrington raced from his home to a nearby outbuilding that was engulfed in flames. As Harrington and his wife attempted to extinguish the fire, which had been started deliberately, shots rang out and he was struck in the back and killed on the spot. Friends of Harrington were convinced that he was murdered by a fellow Lake Countian named Elijah Gibbs, with whom Harrington had recently quarreled over rights to an irrigation ditch. When Gibbs was acquitted of the murder in a Denver court, the late Harrington’s friends and supporters took matters into their own hands.

On the night of January 22, 1875, a posse of approximately 15 men surrounded Gibbs’s cabin and demanded he come out to be lynched. When Gibbs refused, the group threatened to set fire to the home with Gibbs’s family inside. As the group prepared to storm the cabin, Gibbs opened fire, hitting two of the men and causing one to accidentally fire on his own group, leaving all three dead. The posse left and Gibbs and his family fled the area. However, Harrington’s supporters were determined to get justice. The posse reformed with greater numbers and called themselves “The Committee of Safety.”

Over the following months, The Committee of Safety rounded up many of Gibbs’s alleged supporters, sympathizers, and fellow cattle rustlers. Many were tortured, while others were lynched. The committee’s tactics for “trying” a defendant included questioning the accused with a noose around their neck and tightening it with each answer the committee disliked. The group is even believed to have been responsible for the shooting death of Judge Elias Dyer, son of the famed circuit-rider Father John Dyer, after he issued warrants of arrest for 28 members of the Committee of Safety. The violence continued to a point that the Governor of Colorado sent a special detective to the area to investigate the conflict and report back.  However, the agent never uncovered anything of substance and the violence continued for the next several years, causing many families to flee the area in fear for their safety.

As time went on, the fervor of the committee members waned and the violence eventually subsided. The last of the Lake County War deaths is believed to have taken place in 1881, but estimates of the total death toll range anywhere from 10 to 100 over the course of the conflict. Among those lives allegedly claimed by the Lake County War were two brothers from the Boone family, distant relatives of the same Boone family that explored the Missouri Territory. Though many details of the Lake County War have been lost to time, a renewed effort by historians has uncovered new information regarding the motives and power dynamics of its key players.  One thing that remains certain though, is that the Lake County War was evidence of a Colorado that was still very much the Wild West.


Historic Newspaper Articles About The Lake County War

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado a Century Ago

Our library has recently digitized a delightful publication from 1917 that looks at life in the various regions of Colorado. The Story of Colorado examines all parts of the the state, for the purpose of attracting settlers and investors. The portfolio is divided first by region, then by county within each region. Each contains statistics on the area’s agriculture and industry, accompanied by some wonderful photographs of each region’s architecture, industry, and natural beauty. Find the section on your part of the state, and learn what life was like in Colorado a century ago!

The Story of Colorado
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


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

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

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

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Denver’s First Christmas

160 years ago, in December 1858, about fifty settlers gathered for Denver’s first Christmas celebration. Among the revelers was General William Larimer, Denver’s founder. Lured by the prospect of gold, Larimer and his party had reached Cherry Creek and the South Platte just a month earlier. There they found two towns, Auraria and St. Charles, already staked out. The St. Charles town company had made the mistake of leaving their camp to head back east for the winter, so Larimer jumped their claim – according to legend, plying the guard with liquor – and called the new town Denver City. He chose the name to flatter James Denver, governor of Kansas Territory, of which the town site was then a part. Larimer didn’t realize, however, that Denver had retired as governor a few weeks before.

Other gold rushers came to the new town, and the settlers put together a committee to plan the town’s first Christmas celebration. The guests included E.P. Stout and S.S. Curtis who, like their friend Larimer, each have downtown Denver streets named for them. There were songs and speeches, but the highlight of that first Denver Christmas was the dinner. The settlers feasted on every kind of wild game imaginable, including some that are hard to imagine (“grizzly bear a la mode”?). They also had potatoes, beans, rice, vegetables, raisins, nuts, “prickley pear,” nine different kinds of pie, and a “wine list” that included everything from champagne to Taos lightning. The menu was recorded by A.O. McGrew, who sent the Omaha Times a colorful description of the festivities. In 1937, the Colorado Historical Society re-published the article in their Colorado Magazine, which you can now read online.

You can read more about William Larimer and the founding of Denver in the University Press of Colorado titles Colorado: A History of the Centennial State and Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis, available for checkout from our library.

The State Publications Library wishes you and yours a happy holiday season! (Even if grizzly bear isn’t on the menu).

Colorado State Publications Blog

Herndon Davis, Colorado Artist

You’re probably familiar with the Face on the Barroom Floor, the mysterious portrait of a dark-haired lady on the floor of the Teller House in Central City. But did you know that the same artist who painted this iconic image also used his paintings to document the Colorado he knew, before it vanished forever?

The Face on the Barroom Floor. Herndon Davis, 1936. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department

Herndon Davis (1901-1962) started his artistic career as a commercial illustrator in several midwestern cities. He moved to Denver in 1936, working for the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. While in Central City to paint a series of murals for the Central City Opera House, Davis painted the Face, thought to be an image of his wife, Nita.

Over time, Davis began to notice how much Colorado, and Denver especially, were changing. Gone was the frontier West, which Davis set about to document in paintings of rickety frontier towns and old mine sites. He painted and sketched numerous portraits of notable Coloradans like Kit Carson, John Brisben Walker, and Helen Bonfils. He even painted Colorado dinosaurs.

But Davis is perhaps best appreciated for his paintings of old Denver and metro area buildings, often documenting them before they were lost. Davis painted the remaining homes of early Denver area settlers; fine Capitol Hill mansions; and famous nineteenth-century Denver buildings that had fallen into disrepair. Buildings that were the pride of nineteenth-century Denver are shown surrounded by parked cars, for sale signs, and empty lots. Yet each retains a dignified beauty that Davis was able to capture, even as the structures were about to be lost to the wrecking ball.

The Hallack Mansion, one of Capitol Hill’s largest homes, painted by Davis in 1940 shortly before the building’s demolition. It is now the site of the Cash Register Building at the corner of 17th and Sherman. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
The Tabor Grand Opera House, 16th and Curtis, painted by Davis in 1941 as the building fell into disrepair. Most Denver historians agree that the Tabor was the finest building ever built in Denver. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.
This view of the Navarre building, which still stands on Tremont Street, shows the changing landscape of Denver in 1940. Credit: Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

Davis and his art are featured in Herndon Davis: Painting Colorado History by Craig Leavitt and Thomas J. Noel (University Press of Colorado, 2016), a full-color book which you can check out from our library or on Prospector. Much of Davis’s art is now in the Collection of the Denver Public Library Western History Department, and you can view many more Davis paintings on their website.

Credit: University Press of Colorado.
Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Constructing Vail Pass

Colorado’s ski industry depends on transportation along I-70. What would your drive to the slopes be like if it weren’t for Vail Pass?

Charles D. “Charley” Vail was the visionary behind the pass, and it – along with the town and ski area – bears his name. Director of the state’s Department of Highways from 1931 to 1945, Vail proposed the route, but construction didn’t start until 1975, thirty years after Vail’s death. Construction took three years, and the result is one of Colorado’s engineering marvels.

According to a local magazine, Vail Pass was built with “the first bridge span in the country built with pre-cast concrete (with sections ferried from Denver), erosion-resistant landscaping (including a unique retaining wall designed by architects from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West), the state’s first separated bicycle path over a mountain pass, and the first solar-heated rest area in Colorado.”

Our library collection includes a number of Highway Department documents concerning the construction of Vail Pass, and the various engineering challenges they faced. Some of these resources have been digitized by our library, including:

Also, a report on the solar-heated rest area is available for checkout from our library, as is a DVD of a 1978 promotional video, Vail Pass: A Highway in Harmony with its Environment.

Before-and-after aerials of Vail Pass, from I-70 in a Mountain Environment (1978)
Colorado's Beginnings

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

Portrait: John Charles Fremont (Photo from


When: 1813-1890

Where: Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Why important: Explorer, Presidential Candidate, Civil War General


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


Colorado Historic Newspapers

Colorado’s Cultural Newspaper History

The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection has once again grown by thousands of pages thanks to some very special new additions! We at the CHNC are proud to welcome more than 10 new foreign language titles to our online catalogue as we constantly strive to grow our knowledge of Colorado’s rich, cultural history.  Whether it’s reading the local news in Italian, catching up on politics in Serbian, or browsing the classifieds in Spanish, CHNC visitors now have an even more direct line to Colorado’s cultural past through the voices of those who lived it with these great, new titles:


Title: La Hermandad
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1889-1907
Issues Available on CHNC: 123

Title: El Progreso
County: Las Animas
Years of Publication: 1888-1944
Issues Available on CHNC: 1



Title: L’Unione
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1897-1947
Issues Available on CHNC: 299

Title: Il Risveglio
County: Denver
Years of Publication: 1905-1956
Issues Available on CHNC: 79

Title: Il CO-Operatore
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1918-1919
Issues Available on CHNC: 6

Title: Marsica Nuova
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1918-1926
Issues Available on CHNC: 113

Title: Corriere di Trinidad
County: Las Animas
Years of Publication: 1903-1944
Issues Available on CHNC: 2



Title: Glas Svobode
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1902-1904
Issues Available on CHNC: 5

Title: Mir
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1901-1902
Issues Available on CHNC: 13



Title: Srpski Odjek
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1902-1903
Issues Available on CHNC: 13

Title: Srbin
County: Pueblo
Years of Publication: 1909-1911
Issues Available on CHNC: 1


So whether you’re searching for your ancestors, researching a cultural project, or just practicing your Italian, stop by and dive into Colorado’s rich and diverse history. And be sure to visit again and again as we’re adding new titles and issues all the time!

Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Colorado Facts and Figures

One hundred years ago the State of Colorado began publishing its annual Year Book, featuring of all kinds of facts and figures about the state. The year books were published by the State Board of Immigration and later by the State Planning Commission, as a way to attract newcomers to Colorado. Today, they are an extremely valuable resource for anyone researching life in Colorado in the first half of the twentieth century — and they are now available online from our library.

The Year Book of the State of Colorado was published from 1918 to 1950. In each edition you can find that year’s statistics on population, geography, climate, industry, agriculture, natural resources, highways, automobiles, railroads, telephones, schools, health, land classification, homeownership, elected officials, banks, post offices, commercial organizations, county data, and much more. Maps and charts supplement the data. If you’re looking for Colorado statistics from 1918 to 1950, start here!

Colorado State Publications Blog

The “Maverick” of Carpenter Ranch

Farrington “Ferry” Carpenter was a Harvard- and Princeton- educated rancher whose autobiography, Confessions of a Maverick, is one of the most frequently checked out items in our library collection. Today, his Routt County ranch, still a working cattle operation, has been preserved as a nature center.

Originally from Evanston, Illinois, Carpenter (1886-1980) spent time in New Mexico as a teenager, developing a lifelong love of the West. During his college years, he would spend summers in Colorado, where he began purchasing cattle. After obtaining his law degree at Harvard, he moved to Colorado full-time and became the town of Hayden’s first lawyer. He was most devoted to his cattle ranch, however. “He became one of the best informed men in the country on land and grazing laws,” according to his obituary. He served as the first director of the U.S. Grazing Service and was one of the primary authors of the Taylor Grazing Act. He also served in the State Legislature, as District Attorney for the Fourteenth Judicial District, and as the state’s first Director of Revenue.

Today, the Carpenter Ranch near Hayden, Colorado, is overseen by the Nature Conservancy as a research and education center focused on nature, agriculture, and conservation. Visitors to the ranch can explore the original house and barn. The site is also known as a hot spot for birdwatchers, and guided birdwatching hikes are available.

Carpenter told the story of his exciting life in Confessions of a Maverick, published by the Colorado Historical Society in 1984. You can check out a copy from our library or through Prospector. Also see the article Butting Heads: Farrington Carpenter’s Dramatic Role in the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934,” which appeared in the May/June 2010 issue of Colorado Heritage and is also available for checkout from our library.

Colorado State Publications Blog

Colorado’s Role in World War I

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. Colorado had reason to be proud of its role in the Great War. In early 1917, Colorado’s state legislature was the first in the nation, according to James Baker and Leroy Hafen’s History of Colorado, to appropriate funds for the National Guard in the event of war. 43,000 Coloradans served in the military or were training to serve at the time the war ended, with 1,009 Coloradans killed and 1,759 wounded. At home, numerous others were engaged in war work or volunteered in various ways to assist in the war effort, whether through war bond fundraisers, Red Cross chapters, defense councils, Home Guards, supply collections, or other activities. You can read about Colorado’s role in the Great War in a chapter in the 1927 History of Colorado, which has been digitized by our library. Here you can find information on the training and organization of Colorado’s troops; state governmental leadership during the war; and the activities of the war effort here at home. The authors concluded:

“‘Colorado in the World War’ was a wonderful spectacle, a whole state converted into a smoothly running powerful machine for winning the war. It was a moving sight to see rich and poor, country and city people alike, accept the draft, give up their sons, some of them to die, without a murmur of protest. For the time, there were no parties or classes. It was a unit moved by the single purpose to make the power of this state felt to the highest degree in destroying the enemy of civilization…Everybody within the boundaries of the state did everything he could. No sacrifice was too great.”



Colorado headlines from November 11, 1918, courtesy of Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection.

Colorado Historic Newspapers

Topics in History: Colorado’s Homegrown History

As Thanksgiving approaches, there’s a chance you may be swapping recipes with friends, recreating an old family dish, or doing some googling for fresh ideas. Luckily for us Coloradans, our Rocky Mountain home has more than a few favorite foods that are as uniquely intertwined with our history as they are with our daily diets. Whether they’re from the sunny orchards of the western slope, the spicy southern Colorado border towns, or the eastern plains, Coloradans have always had a special love for their local fare.  These are some of our favorites that are ripe with flavor and Colorado history!

Palisade Peaches

The region that would one day become the town of Palisade was originally inhabited by the Ute tribe of Native Americans.  Settlers began to arrive in the area in the early 1880’s and named it for the palisade cliff formations to the North. Some of the first peach trees in the area were planted by John Harlow in 1882 and by the early 1900’s, new irrigation systems allowed for more than 25,000 pounds of peaches to be shipped daily from Palisade to destinations all around the region. The rich soil and nearly 200-day growing season of the Western Slope produces apples, cherries, and even impressive wine grapes, but are first and foremost responsible for these peaches, which are now some of the most sought after nation-wide. In fact, because the town owed so much to its peaches, in 1968, the town of Palisade began hosting an annual Peach Festival in August that now draws over 15,000 visitors to the town. In Colorado, Palisade peaches are used in everything from jam to barbeque sauce to Colorado whiskey and we could not be more proud!

Rocky Ford Melons

The town of Rocky Ford was named for a nearby shallow crossing of the Arkansas River by explorer Kit Carson, founded by G.W Swink and Asa Russell in 1871, and moved shortly thereafter following the placement of railroad tracks. By 1881, Swink had gardens so large that they were producing nearly 300 tons of watermelon a year and in 1886, he began to grow the Netted Gem Cantaloupe, the melon for which Rocky Ford is now most well-known. And just like Palisade’s famous peaches, Rocky Ford’s melons have their own festival that centers around Watermelon Day, which was founded by Swink himself in 1878 with about 25 friends and neighbors. Today Watermelon Day is the centerpiece of the Arkansas Valley Fair and boasts over 12,000 attendees and hosts events ranging from seed-spitting contests to watermelon carving competitions. It is also estimated that nearly 50,000 pounds of free watermelons are given away on that day at Rocky Ford’s famous Watermelon Pile. Also, the Rocky Ford cantaloupe don’t just grow bigger and healthier than other region’s melons. They actually contain up 5{66eaadba41c14e7e553ffe7a4ee73fbae213b19704eda0514b3dd79e37e4c0c5} more natural sugar, making them richer and sweeter than others and proving that Colorado sun and soil really do make all the difference!

Colorado Green Chile (Pueblo Chilies)

Even though we saved it for last, if you ask anyone Coloradan what food we love most, our green chile is #1. Unlike our peaches and melons, the Pueblo Chilies that provide the base for our favorite dish are a fairly recent discovery. While chilies are no strangers to Southern Colorado, the particular variety that has become the commonly known Pueblo Green Chile of today was actually the result of a mutation in the crop of farmer name Harry Mosco.  After his passing in 1988, Mosco left a bag of seeds to his nephew, Dr. Mike Bartolo, the manager and vegetable crop specialist at Colorado State University’s Arkansas Valley Research Center.  Bartolo found that the peppers these seeds produced tended to be a little bigger, a little thicker and faced upward toward the sun while growing, as opposed to hanging down like most chilies.  Today, these Mosco chilies are the most common variety of Pueblo Chile found in Colorado and as you may have guessed, they too have their own festival. The Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival takes place in September and attracts over 140,000 attendees over 3 days. But Coloradans don’t need a festival to celebrate their favorite dish all year long.  From Burgers to biscuits to pasta and even pizza, our Colorado hearts pump green and spicy!


Historic Newspaper Articles/Ads About Palisade Peaches

Palisade Tribune, Volume 39, Number 7, August 15, 1941

Palisade Tribune, Volume 10, Number 7, July 12, 1912

Palisade Tribune, Volume 4, Number 13, August 25, 1906

Historic Newspaper Articles/Ads About Rocky Ford Melons

La Junta Tribune, Volume 21, Number 41, August 15, 1900

Middle Park Times, July 12, 1912

Aspen Daily Times, August 25, 1908

Historic Newspaper Articles/Ads About Colorado Green Chile

La Cucaracha, Volume II, Number 10, November 7, 1977

Louisville Times, Volume 64, Number 5, July 21, 1977