Tag Archive for: Colorado

Castle: A Little Town with Big Ambitions

   

        Castle: A Little Town with Big Ambitions

Richard Perske, December 2021

The town of Eagle has not always been known by that name. The small community went through several name changes in the 1880s and 1890s  before being incorporated in 1905 and officially becoming the town of Eagle, Colorado.

Photo by Alda Borah captures Castle Peak in 1910

The journey began in 1885 when William Edwards developed a townsite and a U.S. Post Office near the junction of the Eagle River and Brush Creek. Edwards named the settlement “Castle.” The settlement was situated adjacent to Edward’s ranch on a level and nearly treeless rise with a nice view of Castle Peak to the north. Early wagon road access to Castle came from Squaw Creek over Bellyache Ridge and down the fertile Brush Creek Valley.

The arrival of the railroad brought big changes to Castle. Construction of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad through the lower Eagle River Valley involved thousands of workmen, horses, and mules, creating an economic boom in 1886 and 1887. Edwards envisioned a thriving town serving both the coming railroad, nearby ranches, and the mines of the promising Fulford mining district. Castle eventually passed through a succession of ambitious and wealthy owners whose personal fortunes rose and fell with the value of their silver mines.

A locomotive powers across the railroad bridgeinEagle in the 1930s. The wooden trestle was replaced in 1934.

The 1887 arrival of the railroad connected Castle to the outside world. All railroad facilities were carefully mapped and named  to ensure the efficient delivery of passengers, freight, and mail to locations along the tracks. Within four years a series of actions by the D&RG and the U.S. Post Office re-identified the little community of “Castle” as “Eagle” (the more commonly used name). That’s the name that eventually stuck, although there were some in-between names, also.

The D&RG extended tracks 30 miles down valley along the north bank of the Eagle River from the mines at Rock Creek (Gilman) to just above Castle, where a substantial railroad bridge was required to cross the Eagle River. In August 1887, the D&RG established a watering stop and siding near this bridge that it initially named “Eagle River Crossing.” The railroad siding served Castle, the Brush Creek agricultural community, and the new Fulford mining district. All Rio Grande passengers, freight, and mail bound for those destinations were ticketed to “Eagle River Crossing” (not “Castle”). That began the Castle community’s name transitions.

The Colorado Business Directory of 1890 lists Eagle River Crossing with a population of 25.

Clark Wheeler gets involved

In 1891 Aspen millionaire B. Clark Wheeler invested heavily in the Fulford mining district, purchasing Edward’s ranch as well as the original town site of Castle. He believed that centrally-located Castle would soon become the Eagle County seat and planned to build a branch line railroad up Brush Creek to serve his promising mining properties.  Wheeler began by enlarging adding and selling additional lots to the Castle community. A.H. (Art) Fulford acted as Wheeler’s “attorney,” on the real estate deals. Fulford was also the construction superintendent for the wagon road from the Brush Creek forks to Fulford. Art and his brother Mont had recently built a modern livery stable in Castle. The Fulford family owned a ranch and stage route “halfway house” located just below the Brush Creek forks (currently the site of the Sylvan Lake Visitor Center).

In 1891 the D&RG upgraded their original siding, adding a station platform with ore bins and renamed it “Eagle Station.” In August 1891 the Post Office name was officially changed from “Castle” to “Eagle.” From this point on the community was universally referred to as Eagle, Colorado.

Among the artifacts in the ECHS/EVLD collection is this envelope addressed to F. E. Grant. Note that the writer took care to write the address of both “Castle” and “Eagle” on the envelope, likely ensuring that it would reach its destination during a time of community name transition.

Art Fulford died in a backcountry avalanche on New Year’s Eve Dec. 31, 1891, just as the Fulford mining district and town of Fulford were starting to develop. Many gold mines were dug into the hills around Fulford in 1892 and 1893 but no bonanza ore bodies had been located.

By August of 1893, the Silver Panic and steeply declining silver prices idled many Colorado silver mines and smelters. Lower grades of silver ore could not be mined, transported, and smelted at a profit. Wheeler, facing mounting losses from his Aspen silver mines, sold his Eagle County holdings. Fortunately, he found a newly-made Eagle County millionaire, Alexander Angus McDonald, willing to invest in the still-thriving gold mines. In December 1893 A. A. McDonald bought Wheeler’s enlarged townsite of Castle and took leases and bonds on Wheeler’s Nolan Creek (Fulford area) mines. McDonald also embraced Wheeler’s vision that Castle should become the Eagle County seat. He announced plans to improve his little town by building a “brick block” business section and planting thousands of shade trees.

The McDonald era

The man on the far right, top row in this late 1890s photo is believed to be Alexander Angus McDonald, who once owned whatis now the town of Eagle.

 Born in Canada of Scottish ancestry, McDonald’s path to a miner’s riches had been rocky. In May 1884 his home and boarding house (Glengarry House) in Leadville burned to the ground in a major fire. In June, his wife took their two young daughters back to Silver Cliff and filed for divorce. McDonald was fond of drink and enjoyed a party when he could afford it. He relocated to Battle Mountain and Gilman, taking up small stakes and leases in existing mines. In early 1891 he secured an exclusive lease and bond on the Belden mine, one of the original Battle Mountain mines. The locals considered it to be “a worked-out proposition”.  McDonald re-timbered the old workings, re-started production, and explored deeper for new ore bodies. Belden soon began paying off. He also discovered an extremely rich ore body that he blocked out and kept in reserve for future development. The terms of his lease required that a 25%  royalty from the Belden’s ore smelter income be paid to the mine owners in Boston. McDonald shrewdly limited his ore production to the tonnage necessary to pay off the bond and acquire full ownership of the Belden. By March 1893 he was the sole owner of the Belden. He then increased ore production and began shipping his richest ores without the need to make royalty payments.

In April 1893 the Leadville newspapers reported that several single carloads of the rich Belden ore set smelter records with returns of over $2,100 each. The money started rolling in. Belden’s amazing success was reported statewide. By June 1893 McDonald’s monthly income was reportedly $75,000 and Belden’s ore reserves were estimated at $1.5 million.  During the worst of the 1893 panic the very rich Belden ore could still be produced at a profit. That summer, McDonald kept all the Battle Mountain miners working and on his payroll by getting creative with work shifts. The miners were very grateful for steady work despite smaller paychecks. McDonald became a very popular Gilman millionaire.

                           

                      BULLY FOR THE BELDEN

              It is Keeping all of the Battle Mountain Miners at Work.

  The report of the closing down of the Belden mine at Red cliff was an unfortunate error into which our reporters were led. It is not only not closed, but is in full operation and the mainstay of the Battle mountain district, not only giving employment, by rotation, to nearly every miner in camp, but contributing largely toward keeping the American Smelter, in this city, in blast. The owner of the Belden , Mr. A.A. McDonald, has a contract with this concern for sixty tons a day, and is working three eight-hour shifts, employing 120 men, but dividing the work among all of the industrious miners of the district, to the end that none may suffer for the necessaries or be compelled to move out, pending the settlement of the silver question.

Leadville Herald Democrat                             

 August 25, 1893

 

Now a state senator,  B. Clark Wheeler owned the Aspen Times newspaper, the Aspen Mining Stock Exchange, and several silver mines in Aspen. Wheeler had also invested heavily in the Town of Castle and the Nolan Creek Mining Company properties in partnership with A.H. Fulford.

Wheeler was well connected politically and keenly aware of the economic impact of the silver crash and coming recession. He was financially over-extended in mining and land speculation and was absolutely delighted to sell some of his holdings to McDonald.

 

                             NEWS OF THE MINES

   A.A. McDonald the bonanza owner of the Belden mine at Gilman has proposed to the Aspen Belt Mining and Milling company to sink a big deep shaft on five claims of the company located at Fulford for a $50,000 bond and a three years’ lease. The directors will meet in Aspen today to authorize and execute the papers.   J.H. Good, J.A. Campbell, Captain W.F. Kavanagh, and B. Clark Wheeler are the heavy stockholders of the company. Mr. Wheeler has sold the townsite of Eagle and the adjoining ranch to Mr. McDonald, who will soon inaugurate a campaign of improvement at Eagle in the way of a brick block and several thousand shade trees. Next fall the county seat of Eagle county will probably be changed to Eagle.

                                                  Aspen Weekly Times                             

December 2, 1893

There were just a few buildings in Eagle in the mid-1890s. The tent structure on the left may have been McDonald’s July 4th dance pavilion. The original railroad bridge is on the right, adjacent to the two-story building.

 Contrary to popular legend, McDonald did not “buy the town site for back taxes”. He bought the undeveloped town lots from B. Clark Wheeler and paid the back taxes Wheeler owed. Initially Mr. McDonald had very ambitious plans to improve the little community that included his idea for a new name: “McDonald.” In 1894 he had a revised town site land survey prepared, platted, and filed with the Eagle County recorder as the town site of McDonald. However, the post office, D&RG Railroad, and everyone else continued to call the community “Eagle”.

McDonald promotes Eagle

Now connected by the railroad to the world beyond, the community of Eagle would soon be impacted by economic and political events far beyond Colorado. The population of Eagle was still less than 100 with a school enrollment of about 30 students. McDonald devised a grand plan to put Eagle on the map. In 1894 he spared no expense to host a gigantic 4th of July celebration featuring $1,000 in cash prizes for drilling contests, horse races, bicycle races, and even some traditional Scottish athletic contests. McDonald lavishly advertised the event in newspapers statewide and negotiated with the D&RG railroad to provide special half- priced passenger fares. He also constructed a racetrack and erected a large canvas dancing pavilion. It was Flight Days on steroids and a huge crowd was anticipated.

                                           The Eagle Will Scream

Mr. Frank Farnum, general road overseer of Eagle county and an old-time resident of Red Cliff is in the city. “Business has been very quiet with us, but we have tried to forget our troubles and are arranging a gala Fourth of July celebration at Eagle, about thirty-five miles below Red cliff.” said Mr. Farnum. “There is a large force of men at work building a race track, dancing pavilion, etc.”

  “Crops in the valley are looking fine and the farmers look for a big season.”

 

                                             Leadville Herald Democrat                            

 June 28, 1894

In June 1894 Mr. McDonald placed advertisements in almost every newspaper in western Colorado, inviting everyone to Eagle.

 

Although sizeable crowds were anticipated, the gala event experienced a major last minute problem when railroad labor disputes and riots in Chicago resulted in a rail strike. All rail traffic in western Colorado stopped on July 2, 1894. McDonald’s special trains were not available. The people who did manage to attend reportedly had a very good time.

McDonald the politician

 In 1895 McDonald entered the political arena. He vigorously campaigned for the office of State Representative and initiated a special election to move the Eagle County seat.                                      

  A petition is being circulated in Eagle county asking for the calling of a special election to change the county seat from Red Cliff to the town of Eagle.  A.A. McDonald, the owner of the Belden mine, is the principal mover in the enterprise, having bought the town site from B. Clark Wheeler.

Aspen Weekly Times                                     

June 8, 1895

The county seat question was placed on the November 1895 ballot. At this time Eagle’s population was slightly less than 100. Considering populations of nearly 400 in Red Cliff, 450 in Gilman, and 200 in Minturn, it would seem that little Eagle would not have a chance at winning.  However rural voters from Basalt, Gypsum and Brush Creek supported the move to Eagle and there was a rivalry between Red Cliff and more the populous Gilman on Battle Mountain (Mr. McDonald’s home base). Eagle did receive the most votes for the county seat, but lawsuits, injunctions, and court appeals by Red Cliff prevented the move. In 1899, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the 1895 county seat special election was unconstitutional because voting had been limited to “taxpayers,” preventing many from voting. That decision ended the first legal battle in what became a 25 year long Eagle County seat war between Red Cliff and Eagle.

McDonald also ran for office as State Representative on the Republican ticket in 1895 but was narrowly defeated.

In December 1895 Mr. McDonald sold one-half interest in the Belden mine for $600,000 and turned the mine’s daily management over to the buyers. He then began investing in mining property and real estate, but lady luck had deserted him. Within a few years his lavish spending, generous loans, and speculative mining investments exhausted his fortune. He advertised his remaining lots in Eagle for sale and listed Frank Doll (another prominent Eagle County pioneer) as his real estate agent.

McDonald had remarried in 1895 and was the father of two small children when he suddenly died of pneumonia at Gilman on April 3, 1899, at the age of 43. His death was reported statewide and his large funeral service in Red Cliff was well attended. McDonald had recently taken another mining lease on Battle Mountain and was anticipating a big strike and a financial comeback. His obituary noted that McDonald’s unbounded generosity and his boastful “gasconading” style had contributed to his downfall. He had always been a gambler and risk taker.  He began as a miner working for wages.  The Belden bonanza, his ultimate success, made him a millionaire for a few short years before he gambled it all away.

Eagle finally became the county seat in 1921, ending the bitter 26-year war that A. A. McDonald had so eagerly started. The bonanza owner of the Belden did win in the end and a much larger town of Eagle, once a pioneer community named “Castle,” marked its 100th year as the Eagle County seat in 2021, thanks to efforts and ambitions of Alexander Angus McDonald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Borah Journals: A Chronicle of pioneer life

The Borah Journals: A Chronicle of pioneer life, by Kathy Heicher [published with the permission of Vail Valley Magazine, Winter 2022 edition. Readers can pick up a hard copy containing this article at many locations in the Eagle Valley.]

Jake and Alfred Borah slipped quietly into Eagle County in the early 1880s. They would prove to be among the most influential of Eagle County pioneers.

Alfred Borah

Like nearly every male who arrived at that time, the Kentucky born-and-raised brothers were lured to the Colorado mountains by the Leadville silver mining boom. Within a few years, both brothers moved down into the Eagle River Valley. Alfred, the older of the two, took  up a homestead on Brush Creek (where the Frost Creek golf course is now located) in 1882. In 1885, younger brother Jake settled in the Gypsum Creek Valley.

Although they always prospected, the Borahs were skilled outdoorsmen and soon gained prominence as hunting guides and outfitters. They also market-hunted for the mining camps, bringing in wagonloads of deer and elk meat.

Borah hunting camp

Jake, the more gregarious of the brothers with a particular gift for storytelling, eventually made the hunting guide business his life’s work. His clients included European royalty and wealthy Americans. Jake gained national prominence in 1905 when he guided President Teddy Roosevelt’s Colorado hunting adventure.

Yet it is Alfred, the older, quieter Borah, who will most likely have the greatest impact on local history. A meticulous record keeper, Alfred maintained a journal in which he noted the daily details of life in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He documented details as mundane as the cost of groceries at the general store and as dramatic as Ute uprisings and pioneer murders. And threaded throughout the pages of those journals is a sweet love story and revelations of unexpected tenderness by these tough mountain men.

Borah family descendants recently donated the hand-written journals to the Eagle County Historical Society, which partnered with the Eagle Valley Library District in archiving, digitizing, and transcribing the records. With the click of a computer mouse, the public can now step into the life of an Eagle County pioneer.

 

Prospecting the “Indian Country”
             May 11, 1882

Left Leadville Thursday To Prospect the Indian Country. Jake & I Pack up bright & early in the Morning & got to Red Cliff. Bought bill Grub & got down to Jack bridge on Eagle River & camped overnight.

Alfred Borah journal

The “Indian Country” that the Borah brothers were venturing into (the Eagle River and Roaring Fork Valleys) had indeed recently been Ute territory. The entire Western Slope of Colorado was Ute territory until white settlers and miners began to covet the land. Starting in 1868, the government negotiated (and broke) a series of increasingly restrictive treaties taking land away from the Utes and dictating where the natives could live. By September 1881, most of the Utes in Colorado had been forced off of their native lands and onto the stark and harsh lands of designated reservations, primarily in eastern Utah.

Treaty terms allowed the Utes to return temporarily to their former territory to hunt. Alfred’s journals reveal that the brothers periodically encountered Ute camps and used those opportunities for trading hides and meat. Alfred also reported on the occasional Ute-settler skirmishes that occurred when the natives ventured off the reservations.

Hunting and homesteading

Alfred was a heart-broken widower when he homesteaded 120 acres on Brush Creek in 1882. For several years he notes that his birthday, Feb. 13, marked the anniversary of his wife’s burial. “My Birthdays are not a happy day to me any more,” he wrote in 1884.

Between 1882 and 1885, the Borahs supplemented their prospecting by market hunting, trapping, and guiding tourists on big game hunts. They roamed the Western Slope of Colorado, tent camping year-around. Jake eventually built up a hunting outfit of 75 pack animals, 20 hounds, and numerous wagons and tents.

By today’s standards, the market hunting business is shocking. Alfred’s journal reports that in the 20 months between  May 1882 and February 1884, the Borahs killed 288 deer, 30 elk, 61 bear, 52 beaver, two wild cats (bobcats, lynx, or mountain lions), two rabbits, six ducks, 11 grouse, quail, a bighorn sheep, a wolf, and a fox.

Jake Borah

The companionable Jake was known for welcoming visitors to his campfire with  a hot pot of coffee and a sizzling elk, venison, or bear steak. The stoic Alfred managed the finances and recorded business transactions, and on one occasion bailed Jake out of the Leadville jail following an arrest for drunkenness. The brothers constantly bartered, trading game meat for saddles, or horses and mules for furs.

The journals reveal a tenderness for their work animals. In 1884 both men mourn when their favorite hunting dog, Fan, died after giving birth to three puppies. Alfred writes of shedding tears a month later when an old, trusty horse froze to death in a March blizzard.

A serious wagon accident on Tennessee Pass in November of 1886 likely turned Alfred’s focus from hunting to homesteading. Alfred was driving the wagon from Leadville to Red Cliff when it tipped and rolled 100 feet down a steep embankment. The horses were uninjured, but Alfred suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg. A Red Cliff doctor set the bones after removing several sizable fragments, but for the rest of his life Alfred suffered pain and infections in the damaged leg.

Jake continued to develop the guiding and outfitting business. Alfred turned his attention to making his homestead tract of unbroken wild sage and willows into a fine 480 acre ranch. He raised cattle, hay, grain, and vegetables.

Pioneer romance

The first mention of Miss Mary Grant, a Leadville woman, appears on July 5, 1884, when Alfred notes that he took her on a horseback ride across Tennessee Park (between Leadville and Red Cliff). To say their relationship developed slowly would be an understatement.

Alfred was still roaming the Western Slope, hunting with Jake. Mary and Alfred exchanged scores of letters, but he often went weeks without being near a post office. Personal meetings were rare, but he did occasionally take her to a dance or on a fishing excursion. He gifted her a saddle and bridle.

1/1 1886 Friday Staid [Stayed] about Town at night went to Dance at union Hall to Club, took Miss Mary Grant had a good time.

Alfred Borah journal

Mary, Al, and Mittie Borah

Alfred had a long-term plan, He persuaded Mary’s widowed mother to homestead a parcel of land adjacent to the railroad track at Eagle. He helped build a cabin, barn, and corrals. Once the women moved in, he visited Mary more frequently while her mother chaperoned.

On March 18, 1888, nearly four years after they met, Alfred and Mary shared several kisses (duly noted in the journal) as she strolled on the road with him on a wintry night. In June, he helped Mary file a homestead claim adjacent to his Brush Creek parcel.

In September, Alfred traveled by train to Leadville to purchase a gold engagement ring and delivered it to Mary in a memorable fashion. Alfred was meeting a hunting client in Glenwood, so hopped on the westbound express train. The express train slowed at the local stations but did not actually stop. By pre-arrangement, Mary stood out in her mother’s yard (adjacent to the railroad tracks) when Alfred’s train passed through Eagle. He placed the ring in an envelope and threw it off the moving train to Mary. The engagement was official.

The couple married in a small ceremony in Leadville on April 16, 1889. Alfred dutifully recorded the cost of the marriage license ($3) and preacher ($5). The newlyweds spent one night in Leadville then returned to his Brush Creek cabin. That evening, the “boys of the neighborhood” shivareed the newlyweds­ –– a frontier custom involving  a loud serenade with tooting horns, ringing bells, and clanging pots and pans. The relentless noise ended only when Alfred invited the revelers into the cabin for some generous drinks of whiskey. Alfred was 44 on his wedding day and Mary was 31.

Mary became a true partner at the ranch, working alongside her husband. Journal entries reveal that Mary suffered a couple of miscarriages, but on Dec. 4, 1896, gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Mittie Alda. She was a beloved only child. It was Mitty who preserved her father’s journals, and her granddaughter who donated them to the Eagle County Historical Society.

With his family established, Alfred focused on developing his land into one of the best ranches in Eagle County. He was involved in the community, helping to build the little log school that Mittie would attend, and serving on the school board.  Neighbors knew they could count on Alfred Borah for help and advice.

One year after Alfred’s marriage, Jake married local belle Minnie Hockett. Their adventurous life included operating hunting and fishing resorts at Deep Lake (on the Flat Tops, northwest of Dotsero) and at Trapper’s Lake. They maintained a ranch on Gypsum Creek and raised two sons. Jake’s hunting adventures took him all over the western United States and into Mexico. His famous clients invariably became his fast friends. Jake died in 1929 and is buried in Gypsum.

Alfred’s health issues prompted his family to move to Arizona in 1917. He died in Phoenix in 1923.

Credit Alfred for his persistence in maintaining those pioneer journals, and his daughter Mittie for preserving the fragile books. Eagle County now has a treasure trove of local history that will delight many future generations of researchers.

Mary and Alda Borah

The digitized Borah Journals and photographs are accessible via the Eagle Valley Library District website (evld.org) and at eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.

 

Kathy Heicher worked as a reporter and editor at newspaper in the valley for over 40 years. She is the president of the Eagle County Historical Society and is just completed writing her fourth local history book. Her work has earned History Colorado’s Caroline Bancroft Award for contributing to the advancement of Colorado history. She is the go-to person if you are seeking gossip of 1890s Eagle County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.