2021 Josephine Miles Award

 Borah Journals Project Wins State History Award

The Eagle County Historical Society and the Eagle Valley Library District are being honored by History Colorado for a several-year project involving digitization of the Alfred Borah Journals. The project is the winner of the 2021 Josephine Miles award, which honors outstanding projects that further understanding of Colorado history in exemplary and unique ways.

Borah was a homesteader on Brush Creek in 1882 who kept a meticulous daily journal detailing everything about his life. The journals have been photographed, transcribed, and are accessible on-line at via the eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com or evld.org websites https://evld.marmot.org/Archive/evld%3A11904/Exhibit.

Borah hunting camp circa 1890

The journals are significant in that Borah documents the details of pioneer life ranging from details as mundane as the price of 10 pounds of flour in 1885 to reports of mining accidents and murders. Borah’s writing also reveals the challenges pioneers faced whether it be dealing with a middle-of-the-night lice infestation, daunting weather conditions, crude medical care, the joy of a Friday night dance at the schoolhouse, and the heartbreak of a young wife’s death. The digitization of the journals makes this information easily available to the public with a few clicks of the computer mouse.

“This was a complicated project that involved multiple agencies, persistence, and some fortuitous timing,” noted ECHS President Kathy Heicher, “The journals offer a look into county history for current residents and also will serves as a valuable information source for future researchers.”

For more information go to:

https://www.vaildaily.com/news/history-colorado-to-award-locals-for-work-in-preserving-alfred-borah-photos-and-journals-from-1882-to-1917/

 

Sawatch and Saguache

Sawatch and Saguache: Colorado place names

and their Ute language origins

by Lynn Albers, April 2021

At a recent board meeting of the Eagle County Historical Society (ECHS), the proposed Gore Range name change by the Summit County Commissioners was discussed. The Summit County commissioners have petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to consider re-naming the Gore Range. The commissioners noted the name, “Nuchu Range,” as their preferred choice for the mountain range. Nuche was the Ute people’s name for themselves.  Nuche or Núu-chi means “human, person, Indian or Ute,” according to Dr. Talmy Givón, a University of Oregon linguist.   The Nuche are the original inhabitants of the Colorado mountains, including the Eagle and Summit county region.

I recalled an earlier discussion about the Ute-derived name, Sawatch, with Nathan Boyer-Rechlin, Community Outreach Coordinator of Walking Mountains Science Center.  ECHS often partners with other non-profit organizations, including Walking Mountains, for some excellent educational offerings. Inspired by the ECHS board discussion and prior conversation with Nathan, I set out to research the Colorado geographic place names Sawatch and Saguache.

Utes of the Colorado Mountains:

The Utes, whose self-name is the Nuche, were the original Native Americans of what is now Eagle County, Colorado.  The Nuche lived in family groups and practiced a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  Periodically, the Ute family groups united as extended family bands for seasonal hunting, gathering of plant resources, social enjoyment, and ceremony.  Ute is a Southern Numic language within the Shoshonean branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family.  The Ute language has Northern and Southern dialects that are often mutually intelligible.

Prior to European-American settlement, the landscape that is now Eagle County served as Ute hunting grounds, travel interface, sites for ceremonies, open camps, and villages in addition to workstation sites for subsistence gathering and processing, and weaponry manufacture.  The Yampatika (Yampa Ute), as well as the Parianuche (Grand River Ute), Nupartka (White River Ute), and Tabeguache (Uncompahgre Ute), frequented this area.  Together these Ute bands, alongside the Uintah Ute formerly occupying far northwestern Colorado and northeast Utah, are often known as the Northern Utes.  Between 1861 and 1881, these Ute bands were removed to northeastern Utah reservations.  The 1879 Meeker incident and various 1860s executive orders and treaties were the impetus and legal apparatus for this removal.

Sawatch Range topo map

Sawatch Mountains and Town of Saguache:

Sawatch (pronounced SAH-watch or sah-WATCH) and Saguache (usually pronounced sah-WATCH) are both derivations of same Ute word roots.  The Sawatch Mountain Range emerges in Eagle County south of the Eagle River and stretches south for approximately 100 miles.  Trending north to south and aligning with the Continental Divide from Tennessee Pass in Eagle County to Marshall Pass in Saguache County, the Sawatch Range hosts some of the highest mountains in Colorado.  The Sawatch Range includes the highest peak in Eagle County, the Mount of the Holy Cross.  The 14,011’ iconic peak is located within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, which is administrated by the White River National Forest.

Sawatch Range viewed from Brush Creek 1920s

Located south of the Sawatch Mountain Range in the San Luis Valley is the community of Saguache.   The town of Saguache is the county seat of Saguache County.  Ute peoples in this area often camped near the area’s primary waterway, Saguache Creek.  The town of Saguache was founded during the 1860s after the Utes were removed from the area.  Ute treaties in 1863 and 1868 were the legal apparatus for this removal.

Entering the town of Saguache

Discussion:

There are several interpretations for the Ute geographic place name, Sawatch or Saguache.  In his book, Land of the Blue Sky People: A Story of the San Luis Valley, Luther Bean states that the Ute word Saguache means “blue water.”  Dr. Bean became one of the first faculty members of Adams State Normal College (now Adams State University) in Alamosa, Colorado in the early 1920s.  The institution is home to the Luther E. Bean Museum, which features San Luis Valley regional art and history.

In her book, Utes: The Mountain People, Jan Pettit states that Saguache is a Ute word that means “Blue Earth” or “Water at the Blue Earth.”  In addition to being the founder of the Ute Pass Historical Society, Pettit developed educational programs with the support of the Ute community.  She also produced a documentary entitled Bear Dance.  The Bear Dance, mama-kwa-nhka-, essentially meaning “woman-step-dance,” is the annual life renewal ceremony of the Utes.  Held today in late spring or early summer, Ute Bear Dance traditionally occurred at the first springtime thunder.

In her University Press of Colorado publication, Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, Virginia McConnell Simmons states that Sawatch and Saguache evolved from the Ute word saguguachipa.  According to Simmons, the term means “Middle Earth” or “Blue Earth” and refers to the foothills, mountain valleys and mountain parks of the Utes original homeland.

The Ute language is vulnerable due to the passing away of Ute elders, who are today’s fluent speakers.   In 1975, Southern Ute tribal chairman, Leonard Cloud Burch, initiated the Ute Language Program.  Built upon the linguistic study of Dr. James Goss, linguist Dr. Talmy Givón, partnered with the Southern Ute Tribe and its Ute Language Committee to publish a Ute language collection of works.  A perennial program was established to teach Ute language to younger tribal members. Elders and cultural heritage representatives who spoke other Ute dialects were (and are) consulted in order to preserve a common language.

According to Givón and the Ute Dictionary, the Ute term saghwa refers to hues of green or dark blue.  The place name Saguache, Colorado likely derives from the Ute word saghwa-chi meaning “greenery, green spot” or “oasis.”  A similar term, saghwa-gha-na-chi, may also have a bearing on the geographic and place names Sawatch and Saguache.  This Ute term, used to indicate the Northern and/or White River Ute peoples, literally means “at the Green.”  Givón states this probably refers to the Green River which flows through a portion of northwest Colorado.  He further reports that the term may have originally been saghwa-gha-nuu-chi meaning “Green River Ute” and that this term may be the source of an early Spanish name for the Northern Ute, the “Yutas Sabeguanas.”  The earliest record of this Ute name was documented by Juan Maria de Rivera in 1765.  In 1776 Franciscan priests Dominguez and Escalante also recorded the name, Yutas Sabguanas, during their exploration of western Colorado.

Author

Lynn Albers is the local history and ethnobotany specialist at Vail Public Library.  She also helps administrate the Eagle County Historical Society museum in Eagle and has consulted for Ute ethnobotany and ethnohistory projects. 

References

Bean, Luther E.  Land of the Blue Sky People: A Story of the San Luis Valley.  Monte Vista, CO: The Monte Vista Journal, 1962.

Givón, Talmy with Pearl Casias, Vida Peabody and Mary Inez Cloud.  Ute Dictionary.  Volume 15.  Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2016.

Jacobs, Randy, ed. and Robert Ormes.  Guide to the Colorado Mountains.  10th ed. Golden CO: Colorado Mountain Club Press, 2000.

Janet Pettit 1937 – 2018.  Obituary.  Gazette.com.  https://obits.gazette.com/obituaries/gazette/obituary.aspx?n=janet-pettit&pid=188089003.

Jones, Sondra G.  Being and Becoming Ute: The Story of an American Indian People.  Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 2019.

Luther Bean Museum.  Alamosa, CO: Adams State University.  https://www.adams.edu/lutherbean/ (Accessed 6 September 2020).

Nuchu Range.  Case Brief (Domestic) #5410.  United States Board on Geographic Names.  file:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Temp/Nuchu%20Range%20proposal%20packet.pdf

Pettit, Jan.  Utes: The Mountain People.  Revised ed.  Boulder CO: Johnson Publishing, 1990.

Saguache County.  Colorado Encyclopediahttps://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/saguache-county (Accessed 6 September 2020).

Simmons, Virginia McConnell.  Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2001.

 

The “Frost” of Frost Creek

The “Frost” of Frost Creek

Wilbur Eugene “Webb” Frost

1856 – 1920

By Janice Tonz

March 2021

George Wilkinson was one of the cowboys who came into Eagle County with Webb Frost in 1880. ECHS/EVLD

Although deposits of small white ice crystals form on its waters when the temperature falls below freezing, Frost Creek, a tributary to Eagle County’s Brush Creek, was not given that title due to this natural phenomena.

Wilbur Eugene “Webb” Frost was the first man of European descent to homestead the land along the tiny creek that now bears his name.  Frost was one of Eagle County’s most adventurous pioneers.

In November of 1880, when 24 year old, Webb Frost and fellow cowboy George Wilkinson herded the first domestic cattle into Brush Creek from Park County, there were no roads into the area, just trails.  The two men spent the winter of 1880-81 snowbound in a rough cabin.  Later, Wilkinson and Frost cut a wagon road through aspens on Bellyache Mountain and dug the side hill grade at the head of Trail Gulch.

The Goodall family homesteaded this parcel of land at the mouth of Brush Creek in 1884. The log house is similar to what Webb Frost would have been living in at the time. ECHS/EVLD

Frost and another early settler, Henry Hernage, apparently controlled vast amounts of land in Brush Creek before other settlers arrived and formal claims were recorded.   Archives indicate that Hernage and Frost initially satisfied their ownership requirements by stretching a wire between two Cottonwood trees onto which they hung a sign.  On one side it read, “I own all the land above this fence.  Webb Frost.”  The other side stated just as simply, “I own all the land below this fence.  H.J. Hernage.”

This log wall is all that remains of one of Webb Frost’s homesteads on East Brush Creek. (Kathy Heicher photo)

His first two Brush Creek homesteads included what is now the Frost Creek golf and mountain resort community, and part of Salt Creek.  It was here that Webb and his wife Abigail raised their three children, who attended school in Fulford and Brush Creek.  After Abigail died in 1910, Webb  moved up East Brush Creek, where the remains of one wall still stand today, below the switchbacks leading to Yeoman Park.  That property at one time had a five room log and frame house, a 2 story barn, and hay shed, as well as 10 acres planted in potatoes, and hay cultivated on 70 acres.

Haying operation on what was once Webb Frost’s place on Frost Creek (now a golf course development). ECHS/EVLD

In addition to ranching, raising cattle, and growing crops, Frost was also involved in mining and  horses.  From at least 1892 to 1902, he owned, along with various business partners, interests in at least three mines in Fulford.  He once dug out his mining partner from a snow slide in which the man was carried 100 feet down a mountain side.

Mining was flourishing  in Fulford during the early 1890s.  Frost owned a horse stable in Fulford’s upper town and was known for raising horses, both for work and racing, on his ranch.  In 1896, he used his team of horses to cut and clear the right-of-way for the Yeoman Park road.

Like many men of his day, Webb Frost dabbled in mining, with interest in several gold mines in the Fulford area. The Fulford camp is pictured here in 1912. ECHS/EVLD

At age 62, in 1918, Webb sold out all his holdings, and headed west with his personal belongings in a wagon.  However, after crossing the Utah desert, he was so homesick for Brush Creek that he returned within a few months.  The Eagle Valley Enterprise reported, “We are all glad to see him permanently located here again for what would Brush Creek be without Webb Frost?”

He then bought an unimproved ranch on West Brush Creek, near what is now Sylvan Lake. It was there, two years later, that he was stricken with paralysis.  Upon his death, a few days later, he was laid to rest in Newcomer Cemetery in Brush Creek, near his sister and his first wife.

W.E. Frost was one, if not the very earliest, actual settlers on Brush Creek.  He helped to clear its rough meadows of dead timber, and bones of buffalo, elk, and deer.  Along with Abigail, he “lived to see a wilderness transformed into a garden”.

Ellen Frost Love, Wilbur’s sister, is buried in a small private cemetery on what is now the Brush Creek Ranch Open Space parcel. ECHS/EVLD

* * * *

The Eagle County Historical Society does not have photos of Webb Frost in its collection. We have selected photos related to Webb Frost to accompany this blog. If your family albums include a photo of Webb Frost that you would be willing to share, contact the Eagle County Historical Society at echs@eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.

Photos used courtesy of ECHS/EVLD and Kathy Heicher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentines Day 1886 : A Lynching at Red Cliff

Researched and written by Rich Perske

In 1879 Red Cliff was a rough mining camp consisting mostly of tents and a few crude cabins. It quickly grew to be a respectable little town with a busy commercial center and in 1883 became the Eagle county seat. Red Cliff was becoming a prosperous town that dealt firmly with the “criminal element” to maintain law and order. On Saint Valentines Day 1886 a lynch mob descended upon the town, broke into the jail and hanged a man accused of murder.  This lawless act immediately brought statewide scorn to Red Cliff. However, many thought it was swift justice for the senseless murder of a Battle Mountain miner by a drunken bully. The lynching of “Missouri Jack” caused quite a stir and a defiant Jack Perry found fame at the end of a rope.

Red Cliff and Horn Silver Mountain:
This sketch of the bustling Red Cliff mining camp appeared in the Leadville Democrat Herald newspaper on June 1, 1890.

January of 1886 began with a very optimistic outlook for the Battle Mountain miners and Red Cliff. Recent gold strikes were producing significant wealth and steady employment.  The “good times” had finally arrived, but so had winter.  The winter of 1885-86 brought unusually heavy snow and bitter cold throughout Colorado. Avalanches ran in the Eagle River Canyon and Ten Mile Canyon in January and February, disrupting train service to Leadville and Denver. Between work shifts the miners crowded around stoves in cabins and saloons to keep warm while playing cards, drinking, and gambling to pass the time. Living and working in these winter conditions was difficult and some of the miners were getting quarrelsome.

The thriving town of Robinson was just east of the Eagle River headwaters on Ten Mile Creek and about twice the size of Red Cliff. (The ghost town of Robinson is now under a lake formed when the Climax mine tailings piles were reclaimed.) Several very successful silver mines were in operation there including the Wheel of Fortune mine. Robinson was located 20 miles from Red Cliff by way of a narrow mountain trail along the upper Eagle River drainage.  Riding the Denver &Rio Grande railroad over Fremont Pass to Leadville and then over Tennessee Pass to the end of the line at Red Cliff was a longer, but much safer trip in winter.

Jack Perry

In January a young and inexperienced miner named Jack Perry began working in Robinson’s Wheel of Fortune mine as a “mucker,” filling ore carts at the bottom of the mine incline. The loaded ore carts were pulled to the surface, dumped and returned for another load. Twenty-one year old Jack Perry was from a well-to-do family in Independence, Missouri and had a bit of an attitude problem. He also owned a .44 caliber nickel-plated Hopkins and Allen six-shot revolver. His 27-year-old brother, Willard, had arrived in Colorado several years earlier and was employed by the D&RG at Salida as a telegraph operator. Willard C. Perry was well thought of in Salida and liked by all his coworkers. However, his younger brother Jack was considered the black sheep of the family. Jack was described as a “hot-blooded” fellow who became belligerent and violent when angry or drinking. He could be a real hellion and bully. Young Jack admired Missouri’s famous rebel outlaw Jesse James and carried a gun that was one of Jesse’s favorites. He also developed a taste for saloon whisky and western dime novels, a very dangerous combination.

On Monday, Jan. 25th, Perry was carelessly loading the ore carts and the hoist operator was having trouble dumping some of his loads. The overloaded carts would hang up, requiring extra time and effort to dump them. At mealtime the operator asked Perry to pay attention to loading and not overload the cart. They exchanged some angry words. Later when the problem was not corrected, the ore cart suddenly returned down the incline and Perry had to jump back to avoid being hit. Furious, Perry raced to his cabin for his gun. When he returned, Perry found the operator at another task. Perry brandished his gun, cursed, and threatened to kill him, then pistol whipped the man severely, leaving him semi-conscious on the ground and bleeding profusely from three deep gashes in the top of his head.

Believing that the man’s head injuries could be fatal, Perry hastily grabbed a few belongings and fled Robinson. The hoist operator was taken to Leadville for medical treatment and was unable to work for well over a month. He claimed he had been called away to another job and that a less experienced man had lowered the cart that nearly hit Perry. Perry committed this armed assault in Summit County and jumped a train to hide out in Leadville (Lake County). He later slipped into Eagle County and eventually reached the end of the Rio Grande line at Battle Mountain. Perry was on the run from the law and laying low. On February 11th he was drinking heavily at Lou Deering’s saloon at Belden’s camp on Battle Mountain. The next morning a strong winter storm moved in, for the next two days, halting train traffic from Leadville. The blizzard lifted late on Saturday, followed by bitter cold.

Winters were fierce in Red Cliff, as indicated in this undated photo of Eagle Street.

The murder

Perry later testified that he coincidently met Lou Deering, age 27, at Battle Mountain and that they were old school friends from Missouri. Deering and Perry drank at the saloon on Thursday night and Perry slept that night in the saloon. On Friday morning he and Deering resumed drinking and he remained in the saloon all day. He was down to his last 20 dollars. The saloon, a small wood frame building, and known locally as “the Little Church,” was situated on the road between Gilman and Bell’s camp. The story unfolded with the sworn statements from five witnesses presented to Justice of the Peace Arthur Helm. The witnesses all testified to essentially the same facts :

On Friday evening , February 12, between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Lou Deering, Fred Bayha, J. L. Caruthers, and J.M. Goolsby, were in Deering’s saloon, and they noticed that Mike Gleason and Jack Perry were talking in a friendly way together. They had been drinking considerable whiskey, and both Perry and Gleason were under the influence of liquor. Perry would pull out his revolver occasionally, saying what a good shot he was and by way of proving it, would fire a ball through the roof and the side of the wall. All of the witnesses say he shot through the side of the building at least twice. About three o’clock Gleason asked Perry to loan him five dollars. Perry immediately took a twenty dollar greenback and handed it to Gleason. A short time elapsed when he asked Gleason to give him his change. Gleason said, “You are too drunk now, Jack. I will give it to you tomorrow.” “Give it to me now, I want it.” roared Perry

“You shut up or I’ll whack you in the jaw” was the reply.

“No I won’t shut up. I want my money” said Perry brandishing his revolver by his side.

“Let me have my money now, I want it.

“No I won’t ” said Gleason. I’ll give it to you to-morrow, when you are sober”

Those were the last words Gleason ever said, for Perry struck him on the side of the head with the revolver. Gleason walked toward the door, with Perry following. Gleason turned to open the door and Perry shot him in the breast. Gleason had opened the door by this time and fell out of it down to the ground. Perry stood over him and fired at him again, but must have missed him as the only shot that entered his body was the first one fired, and this one entered his breast. He then put his hand in the hip pocket and fumbled around for something. When he drew his hand out a $20 bill, three dollars and fifty cents in silver and a pocketknife fell to the ground.

Judge Helm’s recorded witness testimony

Perry had been drinking for two days and apparently not eating much. Gleason had just come in that afternoon for a few drinks and a card game. Perry’s drunken pistol shooting must have annoyed and disturbed the men enjoying their Friday afternoon of relaxation and drinks. As he reloaded his gun, Perry reportedly said “these two are for the old marshal at the Cliff, ” referring to Marshal Tom Evans. One man had just left the saloon to begin his work shift at a nearby mine. It appears that Mike Gleason had used the excuse of a $5 loan in an attempt to get Perry to stop drinking. When they later searched Gleason’s body he was found to have $78. Gleason had no need to borrow $5 except to try to quiet the very drunken Mr. Perry. It was a fatal miscalculation.

That Sunday (Valentine’s Day) the following column was published in Leadville:              

Mike Gleason’s Character

 Mike Gleason, the man who was killed in Red Cliff by Perry, was well and favorably known in both Leadville and Aspen. He has been what is known as a lucky miner, and sold an interest he had in a mine in Aspen a few months ago for several thousand dollars. After this he came to Leadville and sojourned here sometime.  Judge Rose met him in this city, and gave him a tenth interest in the Printer Boy mine at Red Cliff.  About the first of January the men working in the mine struck a nice body of ore that has been assaying fifteen ounces silver and one ounce gold, and Gleason it is said, was offered $1,000 for his tenth interest in the mine shortly before he died, and refused it. Although Gleason went on incipient sprees occasionally, his reputation for peace and quietude seems to have been the very best. He has been known for many years to Alderman C.C. Joy and others in this city, and this is the character that they give him.

  A resident of Red Cliff, in a chat with a reporter of this paper, says that Perry was crazy with drink when he shot Gleason through the brain. Of course this is not mentioned by way of excuse for the terrible crime for which no palliation has so far been offered.

 Leadville Herald Democrat February 14, 1886

The unarmed Mike Gleason had been senselessly murdered by an arrogant young drunk. Gleason,40,  may have had his faults, but he was a family man. He and his wife, Barbara Quirk Gleason, had been married 16 years and had three children. Their oldest son Tom was 10, daughter Kate was 7 and youngest son Frank was 4. Their home was in Leadville, but Mike had interests in a mine on Battle Mountain, as did his relatives. His father-in-law, Dennis Quirk, owned a Battle Mountain mine nearby at Rock Creek. Molly Quirk Fulford was his sister-in-law and Art Fulford was his brother-in-law. Art Fulford operated three mines employing almost 100 miners within a half mile of Belden’s camp and was one of the area’s leading citizens. It is little wonder that the Battle Mountain miners were extremely angry and soon began talking about lynching Jack Perry for murdering Mike Gleason.

Running from the law

Immediately after the shooting, Perry grabbed his money from Gleason’s pocket, took another $20 from Deering and fled towards Red Cliff. He intended to skirt Red Cliff and get back to Leadville, but was hampered by drunkenness and snow. Goolsby and Bayha had quickly left the saloon and headed towards Red Cliff to report the murder. Perry caught up with Goolsby and forced him at gunpoint to lead the way and break trail through the snow as they descended into the canon in order to follow the railroad tracks. Perry hoped to take the road up Homestake Creek to Leadville. Bayha had ducked into a tunnel, taken a different route, and reached Red Cliff first, alerting Marshal Tom Evans. Evans was waiting with a drawn gun when Perry and Goolsby arrived at the railroad bridge below Red Cliff. He arrested Perry without further incident. Perry was in custody for nearly two hours and “was most nonchalant and asked at once for a dime novel and a pint of whisky, and declared that his neck was not made for a rope, and that his father had too much money to let any harm overtake him. He also boasted that he “did” three men at Cheyenne and one in Denver.”   Perry’s lack of remorse and arrogant statements were soon public knowledge, interpreted as a clear admission of guilt and an expectation that his family’s wealth would free him. News of his arrest for murder was telegraphed to Perry’s brother in Salida who acted immediately and soon had legal assistance on the way.

Willard Perry and his friend Jake Bergeman traveled from Salida to Leadville on the Saturday morning train where he hired a well-known defense attorney and judge. Judge Rice was a tall man with a commanding courtroom presence and extensive experience in defending criminal cases. They knew that Perry’s murder case would be difficult to win if tried in Red Cliff. they would need a change of venue. The wheels of Perry’s defense were already in motion but the Saturday Rio Grande train to Red Cliff had been canceled because the blizzard had blocked the tracks. The three men had to wait out the storm.

Men watch a rotary snowplow clear the railroad tracks in order to open up the line for rail traffic.

Back in Red Cliff, sworn statements and evidence were gathered. As facts became more widely known, the talk of lynching Perry grew stronger. Angry Battle Mountain miners huddled in groups around saloon stoves. Justice Solon N. Ackley collected testimony and evidence. The 20 dollar greenback at the root of the dispute had been issued by the Bank of Boston. Judge Ackley took the notorious bank note as a souvenir and substituted one of his own.

By Saturday afternoon the storm was slackening, the sky was clearing, and the temperature was dropping towards zero.

William Greiner, Eagle County Sheriff from 1887 – 1891.

Sheriff William Greiner was now in charge of the prisoner and he sensed danger in the gathering crowds. Anticipating a possible Saturday night lynching party, he secretly moved Perry out of the jail to a private residence. The night passed without incident and the Sunday morning Leadville train managed to arrive in early afternoon, bringing W.C. Perry, J. Bergeman, and Judge Rice. Judge Rice interviewed and counseled Jack Perry and then took his sworn statement for the record. Rice also requested a change of venue and permission to take Perry to Leadville for trial. At that time Judge Ackley saw no reason to grant his request.

Jack Perry’s carefully prepared statement contradicted the eyewitnesses’ testimony. He said Gleason had aggressively advanced on him and cornered him, forcing him to shoot. He described Gleason as a known fighter. Perry claimed that he had recently been beaten by three men in Cheyenne and had vowed to never to let it happen again. Perry also denied forcing Goolsby to break trail, claiming that he was headed to Leadville to turn himself in to the authorities there. Perry’s brother offered well-rehearsed excuses to anyone who would listen to him: Jack had had a severe ear infection as a child that caused him to act crazy when sick or drinking alcohol. Jack was a tee-totaler prior to coming to Colorado and drinking at high elevations badly affected him. Jack was not in his right mind now or when he shot Gleason. Jack Perry was insane.

The Battle Mountain miners knew that Jack Perry was a dangerous, gun-crazed bully when he was drinking. It was clear to them that the Perry family had plenty of money and intended to free Jack using the old insanity dodge. The miners were now determined to present their case to Judge Lynch and to do it quickly. By late afternoon even Judge Ackley sensed their growing anger and smelled danger. Ackley agreed to the change of venue and prepared the witness statements for a transfer of jurisdiction. Sheriff Greiner agreed to immediately release Jack Perry if a special train could be summoned from Leadville. W.C. Perry agreed to pay the $100 fee for a special Rio Grande train to be dispatched from Leadville that day. Greiner also deputized as many of the town’s responsible men as he could find who were willing to assist him. Things were getting hot in town as the sun set, but the thermometer was headed to zero and would soon go well below. Judge Lynch began hearing the miner’s appeals in the saloons and large crowds of miners were gathering for action.

Although the jail referred to in this blog may have been a different building, this is the historic jail that remains in Red Cliff currently.

The plain stone Red Cliff jail was located on a rock bluff across the Eagle River on the south side of town just above the railroad tracks and accessed by a bridge. The Rio Grande train depot and locomotive water tank was a quarter mile further up the river. That night the sky cleared, and a three quarter moon reflected off the snow like daylight. The special train from Leadville arrived at the depot about 10 p.m. enveloped in a cloud of smoke and steam. The temperature was 10 degrees below zero and dropping. The shrill locomotive whistle and a hiss of escaping steam announced the start of the action.

The lynching of Jack Perry

D&RG train Depot at Red Cliff.

At the railroad depot, Deputy Sheriff Fulford and Jake Bergeman boarded the coach car that was to carry Jack Perry to Leadville. W.C. Perry climbed on top of a freight car, directing the engineer to stop at the jail where Sheriff Bill Greiner and Jack Perry would be able to quickly board. The train advanced towards the jail, but some empty freight cars, frozen solid to the tracks, blocked the way. The engineer broke the locomotive pull bar in repeated attempts to bump and dislodge the frozen cars. He started to back to the roundhouse to reverse the engine and try again, but fate intervened. A large mob had already begun attacking the jail and seeing this, W.C. Perry jumped down and ran to his brother’s aid.

At the trackside jail a mob of 200 miners demanded that Perry be given over to them. Sheriff Bill Greiner was inside, well-armed and determined to resist. He said he would sell his own life dearly before giving Perry up and they should damn well keep back. That’s when he heard the mob call for giant powder (dynamite) and noticed the pounding of hand drills attacking the stone jail walls. Not wanting to be blown up, Greiner opened the door and was immediately knocked to the floor. The lynch mob grabbed Jack Perry and began marching him out of town and up the tracks a quarter mile to his fate. His brother reportedly tried to intervene and hand him a gun, but he was disarmed and restrained by the mob. On the long, cold walk Perry was combative and asked if they were trying to freeze him to death.

Railroad water tank at Minturn, similar to the tank in Red Cliff where the mob hanged Jack Perry.

The lynch mob was cold, disorganized, and fueled by alcohol. No one had brought a rope. As they passed the locomotive they cut the bell cord rope off and proceeded to the  tall Rio Grande water tank where they hanged Jack Perry from a ladder rung. Perry’s body was left hanging until after midnight when his brother finally cut him down.

Valentine’s Day had passed, and Jack Perry’s life had ended just like the bad men in  his dime novels, at the end of a rope. The D&RG railroad had supplied the gallows and his own brother had supplied the rope.  On Monday his body was taken to Leadville to be embalmed and his brother accompanied it back to Independence Missouri for burial in the impressive Perry family plot. Perry’s funeral and his family’s grief were later reported in the Leadville papers, noting “the family is quite well off and stands very high in the community.” Mike Gleason’s funeral service was held on Wednesday, February 17 in Red Cliff with a very large number of people in attendance.

Newspapers throughout Colorado quickly reported and denounced Perry’s lynching at Red Cliff and strongly criticized the town. The headlines proclaimed A LYNCHING BEE AT RED CLIFF !The townspeople correctly pointed out that the lynching was not done by them but by the Battle Mountain miners. In the weeks that followed, the Leadville newspapers carried numerous articles updating the facts and developments concerning Gleason’s murder and the sensational lynching of Jack Perry. A group of Leadville newsboys even penned a popular play titled “The Lynching of Missouri Jack” with a very creative and fictional plot, selling a lot of newspapers.

                                        A Lynching Bee at Red Cliff

Special to the Tribune-Republican

    RED CLIFF, Colorado, Feb. 14. —- A mob numbering about two hundred came into town earlier this evening, overpowered the Sheriff, and took Perry, the man who killed Mike Gleason on Battle Mountain day before yesterday, out of jail and hung him from the railroad water-tank at 10:45 p. m.

   His only request was to be allowed to climb the ladder and jump off, but this request was denied. He was drawn up a short distance from the ground by the hooting mob and strangled to death. No man ever died more game.

   The officials getting word of the coming of the mob late this afternoon, telegraphed to Superintendent Cook for an engine to take the prisoner to Leadville, but it was met at the depot and taken possession of by the mob.

   The populace is greatly excited, but the mob has dispersed, and all is quiet now. The body is still hanging at 12 o’clock midnight.

In addition to reporting the details of the Perry lynching, the opinions of several prominent Red Cliff citizens were published :

A.R. Brown, county attorney : “I was retained on the defense, and think that the plea of insanity would have cleared him; but the deed is done, and everybody concurs in the action of the mob, I have no blame to attach.”

Dr. A.G. Mays : ” We all feel that the fate was deserved and that the Battle Mountain miners vengeance was as merited as it was vigorous.”

Robert Haney : “Yes, I know some of the people of Robinson say the bounds of propriety were overstepped, but they should remember that this retributive act was not for deeds done at Robinson, but for the murder in cold blood of an inoffensive Battle Mountain miner.”

Thomas Randall : “I don’t care to say, but in view of the expected influx of people, it would certainly have a deterrent effect upon the bullies and rounders always in the advanced guard.”

  1. N. Ackley : “It was a perfectly orderly crowd. I looked on from my office door and I can say I did not see a drunken man in the party, and if Judge Lynch ever executed a righteous judgment he did it that day.”

                          Leadville Herald Democrat

February 20, 1886

On February 19, George S. Irwin, the editor of the White Pine Cone in Gunnison county managed to summarize the entire affaire in just two brief lines:

Mike Gleason, a miner, was shot dead at Red Cliff last week by a man named Perry. Cause, whisky.

The remains of Jack Perry, the man who was lynched at Red Cliff, were taken to Leadville for burial.

(In 1893 George S. Irwin would move his family and printing press to the gold rush town of Fulford and establish its only newspaper, The Fulford Signal.)

A reporter had asked miner Tom Baynard why he referred to Red cliff as “a poor man’s camp” ?  Mr. Baynard had some very wise and interesting observations:

Because a poor man can make good wages working those prospects from the grass roots. Whether you get into the porphyry or quartzite it pays. There is not an idle man in the camp, and there need never be if they want to work. It requires a comparatively small outlay to begin to work a mine in Red Cliff to what it does in other camps. Just compare it for a minute to Aspen. There you have to spend from fifty to one hundred thousand dollars before you can get out any pay ore.

In Red Cliff a couple of Swedes started to dig on Battle mountain about January 1, and they are shipping pay ore already. This is the reason there is going to be a tremendous boom in the camp in the spring. The miners have learned the nature of the displacement there and some of them have got right into the quartzite and struck the main body of the ore, which simply means a fortune for all who have done it. It seems to me, I mean so far as the result is concerned, like placer mining used to be in California. If a man don’t want to work his claim on Battle mountain  he can generally sell it for a fair and reasonable price.

Is the town growing ?

Yes, it continues to grow even during the winter. You bet it is quiet over there. Since Missouri Jack was lynched people have left their doors unlocked, and if a sneak thief happened to be in town he wouldn’t dare to open a door or touch even a stick of wood. Lynching may not be what the lawyers would call the correct thing; but it helps the camp wonderfully and makes a jail a useless ornament to the town, and cuts down the sheriff’s and city marshal’s fees to nothing. Yes, sir, Red Cliff is a very orderly place and we propose to keep it so.”

The Leadville Daily/Evening Chronicle

March 1, 1886

This man on the street interview presented a good overview of the situation in Red Cliff in the spring of 1886. The camp was finally prosperous and booming again largely due to Art Fulford’s recent gold discovery in the quartzite. People were optimistic and many were sharing in the riches of Battle Mountain. The lynching of Jack Perry had brought severe criticism to the town, but most of the town’s citizens believed it was totally justified. They also believed it served as a strong warning and deterrent to criminals in general.

Don’t mess with Red Cliff !

 

 

 

 

                            

 

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birthday cake

Want to express your admiration for a politician? Try baking a birthday cake.

When United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned 56 years old on January 30, 1938, Eagle County was involved in the celebration.

Specifically, a Minturn woman, Ruth Jackson, spent a month making and decorating a magnificently tiered cake as a token of her respect for the president.

Jackson, 31, a divorcee with a four-year-old son, worked as a private housekeeper and lived in a boardinghouse just east of Minturn.  She likely was an admirer of the president and his “New Deal” programs intended to spur economic recovery during the Great Depression. Records indicate that her annual income in 1938 was $360. In 1935 her meager income was bolstered by a $10 monthly payment from Eagle County’s “Mother’s Compensation Fund,” a relief program created by the federal government.

The white fruit cake that she baked for Roosevelt’s birthday required 10 dozen eggs and 15 pounds of dried fruit and nuts. The various sized round cake layers collectively weighed over 40 pounds, and when stacked, frosted, and decorated stood about five feet tall.

Sensitive to the safety requirements involved in making a cake for a United States president, Jackson assembled the pastry masterpiece in a room at Minturn’s Eagle River Hotel, isolated from the general public. Every utensil used to bake the cake was sterilized before use. Only Mrs. Jackson touched the cake.

Ruth Jackson with others and the birthday cake

The cake top was topped with a sugar replica of the federal capitol building and flanked by Uncle Sam figures drawn with icing. A written greeting from “The People of the United States” was piped in gold icing on the top layer. The cake’s sides were decorated with frosting flowers representing each of the 48-states, true to color and form. Jackson had written to every governor in the continental U.S. requesting a color photo of their state flower — and every state responded.

Photographer Jim Buchholz was summoned from Eagle to snap photos of Jackson’s culinary masterpiece. The intent was that the photo could be used for postcards.

Ruth Jackson’s cake

The completed cake was packed into a special wooden crate. Together with the crate, the weight of the cake now approached 70 pounds. The towering cake was loaded onto an eastbound Denver & Rio Grande train, and shipped express to Washington, D.C., accompanied by an unnamed “guard” who stayed with the cake until it was delivered to FDR.

Whether the president actually ate the cake is unknown. But a week after his birthday, Roosevelt sent a gracious note to Jackson, writing: “Thank you very much indeed for the especially fine birthday cake. I more than appreciate your friendly thought in presenting it to me. Very sincerely yours, Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Eleven months later, Ruth Jackson honored another politician with a culinary masterpiece. In December 1938, she baked a similar birthday cake for outgoing Colorado Governor Teller Ammons, who had recently been defeated in a bitter election by Republican Ralph Carr. Ammons, an advocate of New Deal-type programs, had been instrumental in securing funding for major road improvements for Highway 24 over Battle Mountain in Eagle County.

Teller Ammons’ birthday cake

For Ammons, who was the state’s first Colorado-born governor, Jackson created a five-tiered cake with a replica of the state capitol building on the top, and Colorado flowers etched in icing around the sides of the layers. With additional piped frosting, Jackson extended a friendly message:

 

“Wishing our son of Colorado a very happy birthday December 3, 1938.”

Then she offered a frosting poem:

“Events come and go the lives of all mortal men,

Be whatever their hearth, clan or kin.

But when a life has served a needed post,

Remember it more than talk or boast.

So this token here which surely is not of clay

Represents our affections for Governor Teller Ammons

On this his forty-second natal day.”

Again, the cake (which the local newspaper described, presumably inaccurately, as a “200 pound cake”) was shipped, most likely via train, to Denver. Ruth Jackson had her moment of glory when a photo of Gov. Teller Ammons, his wife Esther, and the towering cake was printed on the front page of the Rocky Mountain News.

In 1940, Ruth Jackson married William Bergquist, the man who owned the rooming house where she and her young son lived in Minturn. In 1942, the Bergquists moved from Minturn to Arizona, citing the need for a location change because of Ruth’s health. Beyond that point, the history of Eagle County’s resident cake-maker gets vague.

Still, this woman with an eighth-grade education, an appreciation of politicians, and a talent for baking made an impact in Eagle County, and had her moment of fame in both Colorado and the United States.

Perhaps it is time to go back to the tradition of expressing our feelings for politicians with cake, frosting, and kindness.

 

Written and researched by Kathy Heicher for the Eagle County Historical Society, January 23, 2021.

 

 

Political Ingenuity: Eagle County’s First Ballot Box

Along with the delivery of ballots this week, the Eagle County Clerk’s Office and Eagle County Historical Society delivered a little bit of election history. An early day ballot box, patented in 1884, is on display in the History Department of the Eagle Public Library through election season.

The Eagle County Historical Society and County Clerk Regina O’Brien (far right) check out historic ballot boxes on display at the Eagle Library. From left are Janice Tonz, Sandy Van Campen, History Librarian Matthew Mikelson, Joanne Cermak, and O’Brien.

County Clerk’s office employees recently discovered two of the 136-year-old, wood-and-glass ballot boxes during some storeroom cleaning and handed the artifacts over to the Eagle County Historical Society. Supplementing the ballot boxes is the county’s first Voter Abstract Ledger, a large record book detailing the results of local elections from 1884 through 1924.

These artifacts and record books tell the story of a fledgling county whose citizens were eager to take on the responsibilities of democratic self-government.

The ballot box prior to cleaning and tape removal

ECHS Archivist Jaci Spuhler spent hours cleaning grime and dust off the ballot boxes and researching the history of the artifacts. Marketed as the National Ballot Box, the boxes were invented and manufactured by Amos Pettibone of Chicago in response to election corruption in San Francisco. The election-rigging involved a ballot box with a false bottom that concealed pre-marked ballots for a specific candidate. Angry voters demanded more transparency in the election process.

Pettibone figured out the solution: A locking wood frame containing a glass dome that ballots could be dropped into and observed constantly. Opening the box to reach the ballots involved undoing three locks with several different keys. Citizens could watch the voting process and be certain of the results.

Give those early day Eagle County commissioners credit for investing in state-of-the-art election equipment. Two much simpler locking wooden box ballot boxes, probably decades younger than the National Ballot Boxes,  were also donated to the Historical Society. The homemade hinged boxes with a ballot drop slot and a latch designed for a padlock probably reflect the frugality of a budget-conscious county clerk and Board of Commissioners.

The ballot boxes will ultimately be displayed in the Eagle County History Museum.

The Voter Abstract book is archived at the Eagle Public Library, which partners with the ECHS in making historic records accessible to the public. That book too reveals some interesting bits of local history. For example, 306 ballots were cast in the county’s first election on Nov. 4, 1884. There were nine voter precincts in the county, including the mining camps of Taylor Hill, Mitchell, Red Cliff, Cleveland (Gilman), Rock Creek and Dotsero. The agricultural precincts were Sheephorn, Brush Creek and “Lakes” (Edwards). Minturn, Avon, Eagle and Gypsum are not part of the picture until a few years later.

The ledger book also reveals the county’s steady population growth, settlement patterns and social trends. In 1893, when Colorado gave women the vote, Eagle County was on board, voting 415 – 257 in favor of women’s suffrage.

Voter registration was also a much different process in 1899. An article in the Eagle County Blade (Red Cliff) newspaper on Oct. 19, 1899 indicates that every precinct had its own Voter Registration Board, and notes that people registering to vote needed to be vouched for via affidavits from two already registered voters. “Voters should personally see that they are registered as very often names are overlooked by the boards,” advised the newspaper.

Eagle County’s first historic ballot box will be on display on the second floor of the Eagle Library through election day. Stop by to take a look. Consider it a reminder to cast those 2020 ballots. The Voter Abstract ledger can be viewed upon request to the library’s History Department.

This ingenious ballot box design ensures that the voting process is transparent, and that the ballots cannot be tampered with without considerable effort.

Researched and submitted by Kathy Heicher.

October, 2020

 

 

 

 

Prospecting at the End of a Rope

(Editor’s note: Richard Perske is the author of  “Boom Town to Ghost Town: The Story of Fulford.” Since the book was published in 2015, Perske continues to dig deeper into the history of this Eagle County mining camp at the base of New York Mountain.)

 

Prospecting at the End of a Rope

By Richard Perske

Arthur Fulford, the daredevil prospector. (Courtesy ECHS and EVLD)

Art Fulford read the Leadville Herald Democrat of January 1, 1886 with a great deal of pride and personal satisfaction. The article titled “EAGLE’S CAPITAL” and described in great detail the town of Red Cliff, the county seat of Eagle County. The article cited several of Fulford’s recent achievements and gold mining successes. Nearby Battle Mountain was finally booming again and largely because of him. Art could well remember his earlier and less prosperous times in Colorado. Red Cliff had a pretty humble beginning as well.

 

Red Cliff had been established in 1879 and at that time was a remote silver mining camp in Summit County, accessed by trails and a very bad wagon road to Leadville. Red Cliff had its ups and downs as the silver mines on Battle Mountain were first discovered and the area boomed, then slumped. Early on, mine speculators and bad luck damaged the reputation of the town. However, everyone had faith in the mineral treasure in the Battle Mountain mines. Even that faith would soon be sorely tested.

The nearby Holy Cross Mining District had initially showed great promise as a gold producer. Numerous veins showing free gold had very good initial assay results. Speculators quickly sold their claims to large companies who made major mine investments, only to discover that the gold content diminished significantly a few feet below the surface. Eons of natural weathering and erosion had concentrated the gold mainly near the surface. The mining companies soon went bankrupt and pulled out, contributing to a general slump in Red Cliff mining investments.

Red Cliff had become noticeably cash-poor by late 1881 and the merchants were forced to extend credit to many customers. Mining was very risky business and the local smelter operation was a large part of the problem. The Battle Mountain Smelter Company in Red Cliff refined the silver ore output from the mines and was in dire financial difficulty. The smelter closed in March 1882, owing its workers four months unpaid back wages. The workers, merchants, and suppliers were owed nearly $40,000 and were very angry.  The smelter’s financial  manager F.C. Garbutt, unable to satisfy their demands for payment, wisely secured a horse and left town just ahead of a growing mob. That night the mob paraded on Eagle Street and lit a large bonfire to burn Mr. Garbutt in effigy. This was only the first blow to the town’s economy.  The Belden mine, the area’s best producer, was also forced to close and a dispute among the Denver owners put the mine in an extended period of receivership. Many Red Cliff men were idled and out of work in 1882. The economic slump would last at least 12 months.

On the night of September 22, 1882 nearly half of Red Cliff burned to the ground as the result of a disastrous fire that started at the Southern hotel, saloon, and dance hall located in the Strand building on Water Street.

This turn-of-the century photo shows a bustling Red Cliff business district. The Quartzite Hotel is on the right side, middle of the photo. (Courtesy ECHS and EVLD)

Red Cliff  managed to slowly rebound from these early misfortunes. The State Legislature established Eagle County in late 1883 and Red Cliff, the only town, became the county seat. By then the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad had finally reached Red Cliff providing essential ore freight, scheduled passenger coaches, and telegraph service to Leadville and the world beyond. The Battle Mountain lead and silver ore was now being shipped by rail to Leadville smelters. However, it was the efforts of a “daredevil prospector” named A.H. Fulford who found gold in the quartzite cliffs of Battle Mountain in 1884 that finally put the town back on its feet.

On October 12, 1884 Art and two partners discovered and located the Ben Butler mine high on a remote unclaimed cliff section of Battle Mountain. Bob Haney and Will Travers lowered Art on a rope to investigate the high cliff crevices and openings in the quartzite formation. He found a fissure vein that yielded high grade free-milling gold ore. Art sacked the ore and they hauled it up the cliff by rope. Art soon became known as “the daredevil prospector”. By December they were shipping the first gold ore produced from the Battle Mountain quartzite contact and a new gold rush was on. The Ben Butler quickly developed into a big gold producer and the partners were getting rich. In 1885 Art used some of his proceeds to buy interests in other nearby quartzite mines including the Gold Wedge, Golden Wonder, and Percy Chester. He also took on several local partners to help finance the costs of mine development. All of these mines became very good gold producers and Art was soon supervising 45 men developing the remarkable Percy Chester mine.

This 1898 postcard shows the D&RG Railroad narrow gauge track in Eagle River canyon. The Ben Butler mine is visible among the sharp-pointed rocks in the upper right corner. (Courtesy ECHS and EVLD)

In the two years prior to Art’s discovery the annual production of the Battle Mountain mines in both silver and gold was about $500,000. In 1885 gold production had doubled and in 1886 gold production alone would reach $420,000. Total ore production for 1886 would exceed $1,000,000. The economic impact of Art’s Ben Butler gold discovery on the town of Red Cliff and Battle Mountain mine production was huge. The cliffside quartzite gold formation was no longer being ignored. Red Cliff even had a new hotel named “The Quartzite.”

 

The discovery of rich gold ore in the Ben Butler quartzite spurred the development of other nearby claims that had not previously been worked. Renewed exploration of the quartzite fissure veins had quickly doubled the value of gold output on Battle Mountain, entirely due to Art’s amazing discovery. The nearly inaccessible claims in the quartzite cliffs formed a narrow band just below several well-established silver mines, the Eagle Bird, the R.L.R., and the Belden.  Art and his brother Mont took a lease on the nearby Ground Hog mine and made a considerable gold strike there as well.

Art supervised the construction and development of the Percy Chester mine and employed 45 miners. They constructed a 750 cable tram to deliver ore to the D&RG tracks below. When the miners encountered a large, flooded cave with promising ore, it was pumped and drained and the valuable heavy, wet ore delivered to a trackside building and dryer that Art devised. The mine machinery, ore trams, and pumps were run by steam engines.

In the spring of 1886, the camp was finally prosperous and booming again largely due to Art Fulford’s gold discovery in the quartzite. People were optimistic and many were sharing in the riches of Battle Mountain.

This drawing of Battle Mountain mining claims appeared in the Leadville Herald Democrat newspaper on June 1, 1890. The Ben Butler claim is on the right. (From the Colorado Historic Newspapers website)

(Want to learn more about Eagle County’s early mining days? Rich Perske’s “Boom Town to Ghost Town: The Story of Fulford” book may be purchased from the Eagle County Historical website, or at several retail outlets in the Eagle Valley.)

Henry J.W. (James Wakeham) Hernage

Henry J.W. (James Wakeham) Hernage

Compiled by Janice Tonz

July 2020

Today’s Eagle County residents are familiar with the names Hernage Creek, Hernage Gulch, Hernage Creek Road, and Hernage Ditch.  Henry Hernage left his mark on what is now called Eagle, in spite of living in this area for only three or four years during its earliest pioneer years.

Born into a wealthy family in Nottingham, England in 1851, he was educated in London and Shoreham (near Brighton). Without receiving his degrees, he came to the United States in 1867 at age sixteen, living first in Omaha, then Dunlap Iowa.  At age 20, he made his way to Colorado, living in Boulder County for three years before arriving in Hahn’s Peak (then in Grand County, now Routt County) in 1874.  There he mined and was a US postal carrier.  By 1876, he was mining in Red Cliff.

Hernage Creek Cabin by Janice Tonz

In 1881 or 1882, Henry was the first, or one of the first, settlers to file a claim and start a ranch on Brush Creek, years before the area was called “Eagle.”  When O.W. Daggett settled in Gypsum in May of 1882, Hernage was one of only four settlers with ranches between Red Cliff and Glenwood Springs (the other three being Joseph Brett, Webb Frost, and John Bowman).  Since he stayed in the area for only a few years, little is known of the scope of his operation or success or failure as stockgrower and homesteader.  During that time, he ran cattle, served as a deputy sheriff in Lake and Eagle Counties, and according to O.W. Daggett, operated a roadhouse for travelers .  The Hernage cabins were a rendezvous spot along the route between eastern and western Eagle County.  Travel from Brush Creek to Dotsero was a two day trip. Hernage had one good large room for cooking and eating, and another with a large fireplace and bunks.  In winter, the floor was covered with beds that the travelers carried with them.

Webb Frost and Hernage apparently controlled vast amounts of land in the Brush Creek valley before other settlers arrived. Formal claims were recorded in Red Cliff, then the  county seat.  Several reports state that Hernage and Frost claimed land in a less formal method: they stretched a wire fence between two Cottonwood trees and hung a sign on the wire.  One side read, “I own all the land above this fence.  Webb Frost.” and the other side read, “I own all the land below this fence.  H.J. Hernage.”

Hernage signature at Sweetwater Cave by Janice Tonz

By at least 1884, Hernage was married to Lizzie Hernage.  The England and Wales Civil Registration Marriage Index of 1878 lists the marriage of Henry James Hernage in the first quarter of that year.  However, no name was recorded for his wife.  Henry and his wife visited the Sweetwater Indian Cave (located in Garfield County but accessed through Eagle County) in August of 1884.  To this day, there remains the following inscription on the cave wall:  “H. HERNAGE + WIFE AUG 4 1884.”

Eagle River at Elbow Canyon by Janice Tonz

Tragedy struck on July 29, 1885.  Twenty four year old Lizzie drowned while herding cattle over the Eagle River.  This incident made the news in at least five newspapers around the state.  The Colorado Daily Chieftain (Pueblo) reported:  “TWO PEOPLE DROWNED.  A special to the New from Aspen says:  J.S. Swan reports the drowning in Eagle river, at Elbow canon, yesterday morning, of the partner of Henry Hernage and also the wife of the latter, by a bridge giving way.”  The Silver World (Lake City, Hinsdale County) stated:  “Mrs. Harry Hernage was drowned in the Eagle river, about forty miles below Red Cliff, a few days ago.  While crossing a bridge, the second span gave way, hurling the lady and the mule she was riding into the stream.  Her body was recovered about a mile further down the stream.”

Elbow Canyon 1894 map

Lizzie Hernage is believed to be the first person buried in Sunset View Cemetery in Eagle.  Her headstone was refurbished around 2012.  The name of Henry Hernage’s partner, who perished along with his wife, is unknown.  Another pioneering family, the Nogals, used the logs from the collapsed bridge to build their first cabin.

Lizzie Hernage grave, Sunset View Cemetery

In 1885, shortly after his wife’s death, Hernage, 34, left Eagle County and returned to Routt County, settling in Egeria Park, later known as Yampa.  At that time, the little settlement on Brush Creek was known as “Castle.”  The Hernage homestead claim on Brush Creek was eventually purchased by the White Family.  Thus ended Henry J.W. Hernage’s time in Eagle County.  During the few years this early pioneer spent on Brush Creek, he was a major contributor in laying the foundation for what was to become the town of Eagle.

Henry remarried in Nottingham, England on December 15, 1885 to 20 year old Annie Frances Smith, and brought her back to Yampa.  One source stated he arrived with $1,000, half of which he used to purchase an unimproved homestead, and the remainder to buy stock, packed into four one-horse wagons, for a small store he then started.  He established a ranch, part of which is located on the present Yampa townsite, and the small store (the first store in southern Routt County) grew into the successful Hernage Mercantile Company.  He joined the Yampa Masonic Lodge in 1894, eventually serving as its secretary and worshipful master.  After years of informally lending money to ranchers and businessmen, in 1903 he organized the Stockman’s Bank, serving as president.

Hernage Mercantile, Yampa, Colorado

Twenty years after leaving Eagle County, he was included in a 1905 book entitled “Progressive Men of Western Colorado” in which he was described as “a progressive and public-spirited citizen…one of the potential factors in the development and prosperity of Routt county.”  Only one sentence in that chapter was devoted to his time on Brush Creek.

The Hernage family moved to Santa Monica, California in approximately 1910.  Annie gave birth to 11 children between 1887 and 1910.  Until at least 1913, Henry  continued to serve as president of his Yampa businesses and owned considerable property in Yampa. During his lifetime, tragedy was intertwined with success.   Between 1893 and 1898, three of their first six children died at an early age (two months, four years, and six years).  In 1913,  Henry inherited $75,000 as the sole heir of his great-great-grandfather in London, and following the death of his sister in Africa, also inherited a hotel in London.  One son committed suicide at age twenty six in 1914.

Henry J.W. Hernage, a Colorado pioneer who played an important role in the development of both Eagle and Yampa, died at age seventy-one in 1923.  He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, California.

 

Sources:

Ancestry.com

Colorado historic Newspapers Collection

Progressive Men of Western Colorado, 1905

Findagrave.com

Brush Creek Memories.  Brown, Sharon; and Dana Dunbar Kamphausen.  Eagle, CO:  Manuscript, ECHS Archives, Eagle public Library, 1980.

 

The Ladies of the Garden Club: Growing a community

Eagle’s downtown flowerpots overflow with bright petunias this summer. The pretty petals are both decorative and historically correct. Since 1934, the petunia has been Eagle’s official flower, thanks to the forward-thinking and sometimes formidable ladies of the Eagle Garden Club.

Francis Watson

They were community activists, using their flower seeds, charm, and persistence to advance the town. Civic improvement was the primary goal when the club formed in July 1932. Twenty-two women members signed on at that first meeting. The club’s first president was Mrs. George Watson, the wife of a prominent, cattle-ranching county commissioner.

For several decades, the fourth Wednesday of every month was Garden Club meeting day. The women educated themselves by researching and presenting “papers” on topics including the study of plant names, the benefits of birds in the garden, and storing vegetables for winter.

The civic projects started out small. The club transformed an old horse watering trough at the north end of Broadway into summer flower garden. Mrs. A.B. (Laura) Koonce planted flowers and vines, then toted water to the trough throughout the summer to keep the plants alive.

The success of that project led to a competition recognizing the best-kept homes and gardens. The townspeople responded enthusiastically. Small cash prizes were awarded, and pride abounded.

Flowers on Broadway

In August 1932, the ladies hosted the first-ever Flower Show in Eagle. They expected limited participation, theorizing that only a few varieties of flowers could be grown at Eagle’s mountain elevation. To the Club’s surprise,  35 contestants showed up with over 57 varieties of flowers displayed in baskets, jars, and vases. The flowers were exhibited with considerable community pride. The Flower Show became a beloved annual affair.

Next up was  a Christmas outdoor lighting contest that the Garden Club initiated with the help of the men (mostly Garden Club husbands) of the Eagle Commercial Club and the Lions Club. The enthusiastic response from businesses and homeowners made Eagle the talk of the Western Slope that holiday season.

Bigger projects

The civic projects grew bigger. The new county courthouse lacked landscaping. The Club ladies responded with shrubs, grass, and trees. The Eagle Cemetery was a dusty patch of sagebrush-strewn gypsum soil. Led by Mrs. Caroline Thoberg, the Garden Club ladies spent months working with the Cemetery Association on a landscaping plan. They strong-armed their husbands into providing the muscle. The community effort resulted in the grassy, tree-dotted oasis that provides a peaceful final resting place for Eagle residents today.

Their work went beyond grass and gardens. During the Great Depression, needy families were supplied with generous Christmas baskets. When World War II started, the Garden Club ladies turned their attention to salvaging silk, nylon hosiery, and waste fats. They also sewed for the Red Cross.

The women raised money by selling subscriptions to “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine, and hosting luncheons and card parties. The prizes were often flower bulbs.

Helen Hart Allen

It was not easy to deter the  garden club ladies from an identified project. In March 1934, at the suggestion of Helen Allen (the wife of local bank president J.D. Allen), the Club declared the petunia, something of a floral newcomer to the county, to be Eagle’s official flower. The plan was to plant petunias in every local garden. The Garden Club handled the cost and the labor of planting petunias in public places including gas stations and Broadway businesses.

The petunia decision was dutifully reported in the Eagle Valley Enterprise newspaper. However, the following week, an anonymous writer (most likely Enterprise editor and publisher

Adrian Reynolds) expressed disappointment in the selection of the petunia as Eagle’s flower. He was a fan of sweet peas and suggested that would have been a better choice.

Affronted, the Garden Club ladies did not back down. Their response letter-to-the-editor acknowledged the sweet pea as a beautiful flower but pointed out that the petunias were ideal for many more purposes including porch boxes, flower beds, borders and rock gardens. The women also noted that petunias come in many varieties, blossom from early summer through frost, and could be wintered indoors. Also, the town of Aspen had already claimed the sweet pea as its official flower. Nobody likes being second.

Duly chastised, the editor meekly declared his intent to plant “a solid bed of petunias this year.”

Mrs. Jack Layton and roses

The Garden Club thrived. They hosted a delegation from the Colorado Federation of Garden Clubs. They joined in a state-wide discussion of the need to reign in the proliferation of billboards along highways and byways  (and indeed, there are no billboards in Eagle County today). The little Eagle group became affiliated with the National Federation of Garden Clubs.

Despite their many good works, the women of the Eagle Garden Club probably never got the recognition they truly deserved. True to the social customs of the time, the women were recognized in newspapers or public discussion by their spouse’s names, rather than their own. Even their obituaries rarely mentioned a female first name. Yet, these women figured every bit as prominently in the history of Eagle County as did their husbands.

Consider the example of a few of the club’s founding members. Mrs. George Watson (Francis) was a very capable horsewoman, as good as any ranch hand at rounding up cattle. Mrs. Nick Buchholz (Jeanette) served as the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. Mrs. A.K. Ethel (Mabel) was the wife of a county judge (she was his court clerk). When he died in 1933, the county commissioners appointed Mabel to the judgeship … and paid her $20 less per month. Her very first case was a highly controversial and precedent-setting issue involving a sheep rancher trailing his herd across public land designated as cattle range. She presided over the court for over 10 years.

The Garden Club ladies grew more than flowers. They grew a community. And if they were to stroll through downtown Eagle today, they would be pleased.

Kathy Heicher     July 3, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abrams Family: Pioneer Adventure Tainted with Violence

These days most down-valley locals associate the name “Abrams” with a street in the outer reaches of the Eagle Ranch subdivision, or a challenging mountain bike trail in the adjacent open space.

In reality, the Abrams family was among the first homesteaders in the lower Eagle Valley. As a group, they exhibited pioneer pluck, daring and ingenuity, and a dark streak of violence. More than once, the deaths of family members were attributed to what the newspapers of the day described as “unnatural causes.” Indeed.

David Abrams

David A. Abrams, the family patriarch, was born to Irish immigrant parents in Philadelphia in about 1847. During the Civil War, he joined the Pennsylvania infantry and distinguished himself with remarkable bravery and fearlessness in battle. As the ranking captain, he led recalcitrant troops into fire in the Battle of Petersburg,  Va., a Union victory that cut off a major supply hub for the Confederates and ultimately led to the Rebel surrender.

After the war, Abrams became a Philadelphia police detective with a reputation for effective work. In 1878, the silver mining boom drew David, his wife Jennifer, and their youngest children (there would eventually be seven Abrams children) to Leadville, Colo. Abrams mined, then was quickly hired by the local police force. His police work sent him to the Taylor Hill mining district on Tennessee Pass to quell a violent mining claim dispute that killed several men. Abrams, exhibiting considerable nerve, secured and held possession of the mines until the conflict could be resolved in court.

Abrams was prominent in Leadville, and knowledgeable about mining affairs. He and his sons had mining in their blood.

Members of the Abrams family pose at a large log cabin in about 1917. From left are Albert Abrams, Mae Abrams Sheehan, Jennie Abrams, Nellie Sheehan, Loyal Abrams, and Jack Sheehan.

In 1883, Abrams became a rancher, leaving Leadville for a 360 acre homestead on Brush Creek, a tributary to the Eagle River. (The Abrams land included what is now the heart of the Eagle Ranch golf course, and the denser Village Homes housing development.) He and a Leadville physician, Dr. Eyer, partnered on the ranch. Abrams provided the land and the labor, Eyer paid for the cattle and farming equipment. The Abrams family built a cabin about five miles up Abrams Creek, where they also dabbled in copper mining. When the mine proved non-productive, they built another, more comfortable home down at the mouth of Abrams Creek in the Brush Creek Valley. The Abrams sons sometimes stayed at a third cabin, located midway between the two homes. Newspapers described the Brush Creek property as a “magnificent ranch.”

From the start, there were problems with the neighboring land owner, David Sutton, who also claimed a strip of the same valuable ranchland. Sutton succeeded in evicting the Abrams family from their comfortable cabin in the dead of winter, sending them scrambling for a new home. The several-year land dispute went all the way to the Secretary of the Interior. Ongoing rulings favored the Abrams family, according to newspaper reports, but Sutton kept appealing. The hostility between the neighbors was constant.

An unidentified man works the field with a Mormon Derrick, used for stacking hay, in the background. The gyp hills of the Brush Creek valley are in the distance.

David Abram’s personal land battle ended abruptly with his unexpected death in September, 1886. The Leadville Herald Democrat newspaper attribute Abram’s death to “unnatural causes,” related to a serious knife wound to his spine suffered a year earlier. David Abrams had literally been stabbed in the back.

The origin of that knife wound will forever remain a mystery. No reports of the original incident can be found in the newspapers of the time; yet the stabbing seemed to be common knowledge. The Abrams family and friends would not talk about it.

“Those who are familiar with that tragic affair declare it to have been an accident and preferred to have no reference made to it,” noted the Leadville Herald Democrat on Sept. 18, 1886.

The infected knife wound rendered Abrams increasingly feeble over the following year, eventually causing his death at the age 45. Where David Abrams is buried is unclear.

William J. Abrams

  A year after David Abrams’ death, the Abrams-Sutton land dispute reached the boiling point. On Nov. 30, 1887, David’s oldest son, William J. (Bill) Abrams, 21, shot and killed Sutton.

William Abrams

The incident started a couple of days previously when Abrams turned several of his horses out on the disputed strip of land, which was fenced. Sutton, a bachelor rancher, gathered the horses and secured them in his barn, refusing to give them back until the courts issued a final ruling on the disputed property. Sutton demanded legal documents showing proof of the land possession and insisted that Abrams pay for the damages.

A violent confrontation ensued, witnessed by the neighboring Hockett brothers and two ranch hands.

Newspaper accounts of the incident conflict. Sutton and Abrams definitely argued. According to one account, Sutton advanced toward young Abrams with a sledge hammer. A different report suggests that Abrams may have been the aggressor, threatening to kill Sutton if he touched the horses. Sutton kept advancing toward Abrams, who drew his revolver and fired twice, hitting Sutton in the stomach and then in the left eye.

Bill Abrams immediately went to a neighbor’s house and turned himself over to the authorities. Fearing mob violence, Constable Ed Thompson avoided taking his prisoner to the Eagle train depot for transport to the county jail at Red Cliff. Instead, the constable and the suspect walked up the valley to the next rail stop.

Sutton was a prominent player in early Eagle County. He had recently been elected Eagle County commissioner, but had not yet taken office. His remains were taken to Denver where he was buried in Riverview Cemetery in the White family plot (the Whites also homesteaded on Brush Creek, and Sutton was Sarah White’s cousin as well as the White ranch manager).

In June 1888, a grand jury in Leadville indicted Bill Abrams for first degree murder. He awaited trial in the Leadville jail, where a stream of friends visited him, offering support. The local newspapers sympathized with Abrams, describing him as a “quiet, inoffensive-looking young man, with flaxen hair and a small moustache of the same color, with nothing about him to indicate the desperado.” The newspaper flatly states that the Sutton killing was self-defense.

Newspapers did not report the result of Abrams trial, but the course of his life afterwards suggests that he was acquitted. A marriage in 1895 ended in divorce less than two years later.

He volunteered for the Spanish-American War in 1898 achieving the rank of lieutenant during that 10-month conflict. Shortly afterwards, he was reported to be living in Crestone, Co., a small mining camp in the San Luis Valley.  By 1901 he was in Defiance (now Glenwood Springs), mining with his brothers.

Bill Abrams was not destined for a happy life.

On Jan. 1, 1911 Abrams was blinded in a dynamite mishap inside a lead mine in the cliffs above Shoshone in Glenwood Canyon. Five months later, he was declared insane and sentenced to a stay at the asylum in Pueblo, Doctors blamed the loss of eyesight and damage to his brain.

By 1912, Abrams was out of the asylum, and out on the streets of Denver, selling newspapers and flowers from a stand outside the Montview Hotel. He made headlines in August of 1912 when he wrote a letter to the warden of the state penitentiary, requesting that that the eyes of a condemned murderer be harvested immediately after the fellow’s hanging. Abrams believed he had a doctor who could transplant the eyes and restore his vision.

I’d go through hell to regain my sight, and no operation, however painful, would deter me from taking the one chance I have had to be able to see,” Abrams told the newspapers.

Abrams’ sight was never restored. Blindness led to his death in Denver in September, 1920. He became disoriented, and stepped into an open hotel elevator shaft, apparently mistaking it for a door. He fell three stories to his death. Bill Abrams is buried in a family plot at Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs.

The Abrams rumors

Jennie Abrams, David’s widow, married William J. Paye, a road overseer, in 1899. They continued to ranch the Brush Creek land, along with the younger Abrams children. In April 1908 she was granted a divorce, with the newspapers noting that her husband was a fugitive from justice and did not contest the lawsuit.

Unidentified children, presumably Abrams family members, at a small cabin.

In 1924, William Mayer, who had been ranching in the valley for about 25 years, purchased the Abrams property. In his memoir, William’s son Chet Mayer raised some interesting stories about the Abrams family.

Mayer could remember a double grave up Abrams Creek, well-marked with a board fence around it. The story he heard as a child was that the stepfather (possibly Paye) and one of the Abram’s sons got into a fight while cutting timber. Both raised axes and attacked each other. One reportedly died from a split skull, and the other bled to death from a severe wound in the neck and shoulder.

However, another Eagle pioneer, Ernie Nogal, offered a different version of the story, saying an Abrams son came upon his stepfather beating his mother, and buried an axe in the man’s back. The son died a few weeks later while swimming … or, another version of the story suggests he was poisoned.

Mayer also repeats a rumor that perhaps Bill Abrams was a hired gun, whom local ranchers used to take care of cattle rustlers, and may have been the person who murdered the outlaw Charlie Johnson in 1901.

None of those rumors can be verified by archive research, and the stories are likely a mix of miss-remembered history and flat-out rumors. If there are twin graves up Abrams Creek, nobody has seen them in decades.

Jennie Abrams in field

Jennie Abrams outlived five of her seven children. She spent her life on that Brush Creek homestead, dying in 1924 at the age of 78. She is buried alongside several of her children  in the family plot at Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs.

Photos are from the Abrams family album and are shared courtesy of the Eagle County Historical Society and Eagle Valley Library District.

Compiled by Kathy Heicher

May 30, 2020