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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endangered Places 2021

Colorado Preservation Inc. has named the historic bridges of Colorado as one of its Endangered Places for 2021. Included is our favorite bridge, the green bridge at Red Cliff which has been an iconic landmark since 1941. Click on the link below to see CBS coverage of the historic bridges.

http://cbsloc.al/3qVlv6x

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.

 

 

Our Gift to You: A virtual visit to the NYC Tenement Museum

 

Happy Holidays!

Our Gift to You:

A virtual visit to the NYC Tenement Museum

Thursday, Dec. 17,  4 p.m. via Zoom

Stella and Ralph Marfitano wedding 1919

In appreciation for your interest in local history, the Eagle County Historical Society and the Eagle Valley Library District Local History Department invite you on a virtual visit to New York City’s Tenement Museum. Visit the tenement home of Italian immigrants Aldolpho and Rosaria Baldizzi in the 1930s. Learn about their life experiences during the Great Depression, and how we draw from their story for our lives today.

Please RSVP on or before Wednesday, Dec. 16 by sending us a note at ECHS@eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com. We will send you the Zoom link for this one-hour, interactive program.

Skiff Family 1885

(Photos courtesy of ECHS, EVLD and the Tenement Museum)

Colorado Gives Day 2020

Colorado Gives Day 2020, Tuesday, December 8

In 1980, when a local rancher offered a dilapidated, 1898 barn to the fledgling Eagle County Historical Society for use as a museum, it seemed like an impossible idea. But the very determined Historical Society directors, including Frank Doll, Laurene Knupp, Jim Nimon, Rae Benton, Roy Robinson, Ross Bolt, and others worked for a decade to make it happen. In 1990, the museum opened and has been serving the public ever since.

1984 Museum barn move

In 2020, the current ECHS Board realized that some significant improvements to the building were needed in order to keep the building functioning.

Museum barn before re-roofing

With hard work from the Board, and terrific support from the loyal donors, local businesses, and local government, the ECHS re-roofed the aging building with a metal roof, made some small structural repairs, and repainted the barn. It feels like a new building. If the corona virus situation allows, the museum will be open in the spring for the 2021 season.

Museum Docents

Meanwhile, the ECHS continues to fulfill its mission of sharing local history with educational programs, website blogs about early day pioneers, history hikes, cemetery tours, book publication, and a treasure trove of historic photographs and digitized manuscripts offered online via our partnership with the Eagle Valley Library District. We love local history, and we love sharing it with you.

The ECHS is run primarily by volunteers, and is financed through book sales, memberships and donations. The Historical Society is a small-scale non-profit with large-scale dedication to preserving local history. Your support on Colorado Gives Day, Tuesday, Dec. 8, is appreciated.

Donations can be scheduled at any time at https://www.coloradogives.org/.

 

 

 

 

Time Travel

Time Travel

What happens when a pandemic makes it impossible to open your museum?

The exhibits pack up their bags and go travelling.

The Eagle County Historical Society has developed several new exhibits which are now on display in public spaces throughout the county. If you are out and about, stop by and take in a little local history. Here’s where you’ll find it:

 

Eagle Town Hall – Photo exhibit reveals Brush Creek’s history, including the story of the short-lived Lady Belle silver mine on Horse Mountain.

Brush Creek history exhibit

 

Eagle County Administration Building – Head upstairs to the hallway outside of the commissioner’s meeting room for a look at historic clothing from the pioneering Nottingham family. Myrtle Nottingham had some engineering talent hiding behind those beautiful dresses.

Nottingham display

 

Eagle Public Library – Two stories are told in exhibits on the second floor, in the Local History Department. Learn about the impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic in Eagle County. Then take a look at the county’s first ballot box and learn how it put trust into elections.

Pandemic exhibit

 

Ballot box

 

These exhibits were made possible with funding provided by Colorado Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act economic stabilization plan of 2020.

 

If you have suggestions for future exhibits, please contact us at

ECHS@eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Newcomer Cemetery Tour October 26, 2020

Newcomer Cemetery Tour

Monday, Oct. 26, 12:30 – 2 p.m.

Ellen Love gravestone

Many historic ranches in Eagle County maintained their own small cemeteries. People were buried on the same land that they lived on.

Join the Eagle County Historical Society and Eagle County Open Space for a brief history tour of the Newcomer Cemetery, located on the Brush Creek Ranch and Open Space land south of Eagle. The cemetery is tiny, but the history is significant.

 

 

The tour involves a half-mile hike across a hayfield. Meet at the main parking lot for the Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space.

The event is free, but due to COVID restrictions, participation will be limited and advance registration is required. Face masks will be required.

Sign-up at the following link:
https://forms.gle/jMEBeTyycn34zMSB8

Contact:
Eagle County Open Space: Peter Suneson, 970-401-1054, peter.suneson@eaglecounty.us
Eagle County Historical Society: Kathy Heicher, kheicher@gmail.com