Monthly Archives: March 2014

the fyre journals

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

Maude: “It’s the loveliest gift I’ve ever received.” She throws the beautiful ring into the seawater.

Harold: “Why did you do that?”

Maude: “That way, I’ll always know where it is.”

You know who you are, the one who incessantly saves everything. Everything you ever wrote, read, got invited to, received a commemorative doodad or dance card or ribbon for. The one who said “One day I’ll make a scrapbook,” and maybe you did, and even then some years passed before you realized you had seven or seventeen scrapbooks and 12 boxes of journals. They were full of maps, brochures, notes, business cards, concert tickets, articles, clippings, greeting cards, scraps of wrapping paper, bingo cards, plane and train tickets, crushed flowers, stickers, bookmarks, directions to parties, nametags, foil from a chocolate candy, certificates of achievement, obituaries, wedding invites, event programs, postcards, letters, Sunday funnies, old wallets with equally old driver’s licenses, speeches, food stamp cards, membership cards, library cards, casino player club cards, even old credit cards.

For friggin’ YEARS you have hauled this crap around. Every so often, usually during a move, you may sit on the floor sorting through your ephemera of memories. These items have come with you through your life stages and now remain for you to remember who you were and who you have now become. They serve as some sort of papier mâché suit of armor, one that each time a piece gets damaged or worn out, you simply remove it and replace it with a different piece. Over time your armor becomes thick, and sooner or later it will wear you down if you don’t carefully peel away the parts you no longer need.

If you are hoarder such as myself, you find a time every few years to dutifully and carefully examine your suit of armor and do away with the parts that no longer serve you. A large trash can, a box for the stuff that really should go somewhere else (like to a relative or friend, into a different file, or even on EBay), and a cushy chair with ample light makes your work area. And then you begin an emotional sorting out of your life, good and bad. It’s a rollercoaster, one that can tug at your heartstrings, make you laugh out loud or make you cry. And then you wonder where the things you are discarding should really end up.

the fyre journals came to me recently during such an evening. I started out just burning my discards to save on trash hauling and to warm up the house. But as I sat there, watching my memories being licked by flames and finally turning to gray ash altogether, I became mesmerized by the beauty it all. Flickering spires of yellow, orange, blue, white, purple and black caressed each piece, folding it into itself until it was swallowed up altogether. There went my rather dull daily planner from 1998. A note someone wrote to me that no longer holds much sentimental value. Art doodles that, let’s face it, will never be of interest to a gallery or go in a coffee table book. Copies of copies of copies I kept when one or three would have sufficed. My little Vogelzang wood stove welcomed these tidbits into its mouth and gave them blazing new life even as it destroyed them forever.

The site was truly beautiful in its own way. I sat on the floor into the wee hours, sipping wine and watching my past playfully slip away into the flames. My camera was the only other witness, recording the final destination of the things I chose to let go. They told their own story as they drifted into their ashen oblivion. When it was said and done, I felt vindicated, a little tipsy, and like I was holding a much lighter load.

You can view what I did by looking on my professional Facebook page, Jan MacKell Collins and looking for the fyre journals album. Here is the link:

And if you ever find yourself needing to let some of your life go, I highly recommend creating your own fyre journal. All it takes is one little match.


The Bare Hills, Furrow City and the Cripple Creek Scam

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Colorado Gambler magazine.

It seemed reasonable enough. If a Colorado cow pasture in remote ranch land could magically yield millions of dollars in gold and spawn the famed Cripple Creek District, certainly a nearby group of treeless hills could become a booming metropolis. At least that was what the promoters of Bare Hills City were hoping for.

Situated some 10 miles southwest of Cripple Creek along Wilson Creek, the Bare Hills are just that: a mass of rolling knolls covering three or four square miles that, by some freak of geographical nature, are barren of trees. Good ground cover makes this an ideal place for grazing cattle to roam. Over a century ago, pioneer ranchers from what is called the Four Mile region homesteaded in the area. As the gold boom at Cripple Creek unfolded, roads around Four Mile saw increased use as freight wagons, stage coaches and ranchers brought goods to and from the district.

By 1896, the dirt highway traversing through the middle of Four Mile was being called High Park Road. A new community, also called High Park, had been founded right near the Fremont and what would become the Teller County county lines. Just up the road was a much smaller hamlet called Gold Springs, named for some nearby mineral-stained ponds that sprang from the ground. And there was Bare Hills City, circa 1894 or perhaps even earlier, situated right in the middle of those barren hills. In fact, Bare Hills City was the first to establish a post office in April of 1896. Two months later, the Bare Hills Times newspaper was founded by V.S. Wilson.

High Park followed with its own post office in June, and its peak population was about 100 people. The newer city had at least one advantage over Bare Hills: Being located along the highway to Canon City guaranteed regular traffic and business. Bare Hills City was definitely located off the beaten path, in a remote area with no particular reason for one to pass through it. Only one road led to the Cripple Creek District, possibly via a trail between Espinosa and Long Gulch that eventually connected to today’s Shelf Road. Stage service was available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

From Bare Hills City, there was also a commanding view of the Cripple Creek District. It may have been no more than that picturesque view that inspired the Bare Hills Land Company to set up shop. The company founders, headed by J.R. Gleason, tried to replace the name of Bare Hills City with the more enticing name of Furrow City after initial founding father J.W. Furrow. What the promoters didn’t tell, however, was how in March of 1896 Furrow had returned to his fledgling city from Cripple Creek somewhat inebriated. Upon his arrival, he learned of a man named Lupkins who was busy staking his own town—right next to Bare Hills City! Incensed, Furrow “went at once to Lupkins’ tent and calling Lupkins out, began to swear at him,” according to the Aspen Weekly Times. Next, Furrow pulled a pistol and fired at Lupkins three times. Lupkins returned fire twice, killing Furrow almost instantly. Lupkins was found not guilty by self defense. It was the first—and only known—killing at Furrow City.

Despite the killing of their leader, city promoters were undaunted. The Bare Hills, they claimed, were located on the same gold belt as the Cripple Creek District. After all, initial gold explorations revealed ore valued at $70 to $80 per ton. And to prove their point, the land company even promised a free mining claim with each lot purchased. In addition, the post office and a tiny livery stable were situated so that upon approaching the two buildings each visitor got a bird’s eye view of Cripple Creek nestled high up in its “bowl of gold”. Thus the Bare Hills Mining District was born, with its mentor mining district in clear sight. Before long, Gideon Thomas of Victor (another of the many towns in the Cripple Creek District) was making a tidy sum by hauling supplies to Furrow City. The Bare Hills Times, meanwhile, was purchased by J.W. Clark in 1897. And in November of that year, the Cripple Creek Chamber of Commerce was coerced into paying thousands of dollars to build a better road to the tiny town. Even freighting magnate Albert E. Carlton, one of Cripple Creek’s newest millionaires, contributed funding. The new road ran south out of Cripple Creek, passing over the saddle south of Mt. Pisgah to down to Four Mile Creek.

For about the next decade, the Bare Hills Land Company continued convincing naive speculators that the Bare Hills Mining District was sure to boom at any moment. Even when the newspaper went under and High Park’s post office closed in 1899, the land company refused to give in. Soon, however, rumors began circulating that Furrow City was nothing but a false claim of certain wealth in the midst of a bunch of cow patties.

In answer, Bare Hills’ promoters simply solicited out of state and began extolling the virtues of other minerals besides gold. A cyanide plant was constructed in May of 1899. At least one company, the Colorado Mica Mining & Milling Company, was formed in 1900 out of Duluth, Minnesota. The company held three claims and reported their mica was selling for $600 to $32,000 per ton. Copper was another commodity, as well as sylvanite and lead ore known as galena.

The 1900 census shows 57 people surviving at Bare Hills City, including physician Andrew Hayes. There were ten homes plus a sizeable boarding house. The postmistress was Josephine Ferguson; her father Colin was a mail carrier. There were also families, gold miners, laborers, teamsters and a blacksmith, as well as a sawmill. Bare Hills City was never incorporated. From all appearances, there was never a school, a church or even a store at Bare Hills, but there was a shed next to the post office where horses could rest while their owners caught up on the day’s news. Soon it was obvious that Bare Hills City’s economy was hanging on by a mere thread.

By 1901, the jig was up. The post office closed in June. Six months later, the High Park post office reopened to handle the overflow. One source states Bare Hills had a population of over 1,000 in 1905, but this number surely includes residents of Gold Springs, Four Mile and High Park. In fact, High Park remained a favorite stop for travelers through at least 1917. During that time the post office closed only one other time, from April of 1913 to September of 1914.

As for Bare Hills City, the tiny mining district did survive through at least 1906. In July of that year, the Cripple Creek Times featured a story headlined, “Bare Hills District Excites, Increasing Interest Locally”. The article made one last attempt to entice new investors. “The Bare Hills mining district is exciting considerable interest among local mining men,” said the paper, explaining that the Copper Queen vein was among the most promising mines. The mine had been located by one Carl Sextus and his associates, and was said to be traceable to Witcher Mountain and towards Cripple Creek.

It seems remarkable that the Grouse Mountain area [near Bare Hills City] would be part of the Cripple Creek District, for it is really a part of the greatest gold camp,” the newspaper insisted. Remarkable was right. Within just a few more years everyone was wise to the fact that no copper vein—nor any other vein, for that matter—extended to the Bare Hills from Cripple Creek’s riches. By 1910 Bare Hills City was pretty much abandoned. These days the remains of the town are located in the heart of a private and rural subdivision, and only a few crumbling log buildings remain.

The Cripple Creek District can be seen from between the two remaining buildings at Bare Hills City.

The Cripple Creek District can be seen from between the two remaining buildings at Bare Hills City.

Arequa Gulch: A Long Gone Town in Colorado

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article first appeared in the Colorado Gambler magazine.

The name of Highway 67 in Colorado is a bit deceiving. The road was originally a thoroughfare that took folks to the famed Cripple Creek District. In Victor, the District’s second largest town, one could catch the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad into the southern part of the state. Later proclaimed as Highway 67, today’s road still travels through the Cripple Creek District. At Victor, the “highway” turns into the scenic dirt road of Phantom Canyon and follows the old railroad grade to Florence.

Drive over Highway 67 between Cripple Creek and Victor today and you will cross the Arequa Gulch Bridge, a behemoth stretch of steel and pavement traversing a great canyon. Built in 2001 for $8 million and measuring 250′ high, it is the tallest non-suspension bridge in Colorado. The bridge offers two vastly contrasting views: the gigantic dirt tailings from the Cripple Creek &Victor Mine to the north, and the untouched, pristine landscape of Arequa Gulch with a stunning view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the south.

Long ago, before the mine and before the bridge, Arequa was one of 25 towns once located in the Cripple Creek District. Arequa was not only the oldest community in the area, but also played an essential part in the formation of the district and the gold boom of 1891. 

Back in 1873, a man known as “Uncle” Benjamin Requa had a general store and eatery at Fountain, south of Colorado Springs. Requa, Croft & Co. did a booming business even then, advertising frequently in local newspapers. Born in about 1835 in New York, Ben Requa was quite the nomad. The year 1863 found him in California, where he enlisted to fight for the Union during the Civil War. By 1864 he was at Calabasas Arizona, an ancient Papago Indian village that had also served as a Mexican garrison before becoming a military base.

 Following his discharge at San Francisco in 1866, Requa next made his way to Colorado. He is first mentioned in newspapers in April of 1873, when the Colorado Springs Gazette noted he was visiting Colorado Springs from Fountain. He was active in local affairs and owned a lot of property, as illustrated by many real estate transactions around Fountain in the early 1870’s.

 Bob Womack, whose family owned a ranch south of Colorado Springs at the time, was certainly familiar with Requa. It was at Requa’s store that Womack chanced to meet up with Ferdinand Hayden’s U.S. Geological Survey party in the summer of 1873. Womack told the men of his gold discoveries in Cripple Creek and invited them up to take a look for themselves. It took a year, but Ben Requa was able to assist Womack in gathering nearly 100 men to make a gold-seeking trek to Cripple Creek. The group blasted a tunnel near Eclipse Gulch, located about halfway between present-day Cripple Creek and Victor. The area was christened the Mount Pisgah Mining District. Later, Requa’s party concluded that it was indeed possible there were rich ore deposits in the area. If only they knew that the District was destined to be the last of Colorado’s great gold booms!

It could be said that Ben Requa’s interest in mining did much to support Womack’s claims. Just a short time before his trip to the district, Requa discovered a silver mine on Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. In September of 1874 he also filed a claim in the name of Requa & Brown Mining Co. in the Mt. Pisgah Mining District. Two years later, Requa & Croft purchased a mill at Silverton and assisted in forming the Colorado Springs Mining District. In December of 1876, Requa also took a trip up north to the Black Hills to have a look at some prospects.

Whatever his dreams of finding the mother lode, however, it appears Requa ultimately missed out on the gold at Cripple Creek. The last mention of Requa & Croft in local newspapers was when they sold more property, possibly their store, in December of 1877. The 1880 census, however, recorded Requa still living in Fountain. By then he was a widower (it is speculated he married twice and may have had two daughters), was still employed as a merchant and was living with the family of J.B. Riggs, another prominent citizen. It is believed Requa had other relatives in the area, but the man himself simply disappeared after 1880. He may have retired to Missouri, drawing from his military pension and living his life in obscurity. Whether he was even aware that the Requa Gold & Silver Mining Company was established in the Cripple Creek District in 1892 remains unknown.

What is known for sure is that, in honor of Ben Requa, the gulch nearest the Mount Pisgah Mining District was named Requa Gulch. The namesake town wasn’t far behind. By then Bob Womack’s family had relocated to the district and was living on the old Broken Box Ranch near the gulch. In February of 1892 real estate tycoons Horace Bennett and Julius Myers platted towns at both Cripple Creek and Requa. Lots were sold for a total profit of $320,000. Streets in Requa were gallantly named after past presidents of the United States.

Even at this early date, Requa and its nearby gulch somehow became alternately known as Arequa. No one can pinpoint just how that “A” got in there. Some attribute it to mispronunciation or even bad spelling on Bob Womack’s part. Either way, the name stuck even as confused pioneers continued referring to the area under both names. The town, meanwhile, continued to grow at a rapid rate. The Requa Savage Gold Mining company was established on nearby Beacon Hill in May of 1894. A post office was established at Arequa in July of 1894, but was discontinued a mere two months later. Postal records note “establishment rescinded” but give no reason. There was also a cemetery at Arequa. By December of 1895 Arequa consisted of about 90 acres in Requa Gulch and was already surrounded by several mines.

One of Arequa’s earliest claims to fame was that it may have been the very location from which Cripple Creek (the actual creek itself) was named. An 1896 article in the Quarterly Sentinel, while admitting to confusion as to the origin of the name, offered this story: “…a little old house, still to be seen in Arequa…was occupied by a family from Posey County, Indiana, who were one day invited to a dance by some distant neighbors. The Posey County lady answered that ‘We kain’t go; all broke up; Sam’s down with th’ rumatiz; Betsy’s got th’ fever; Jake’s got ‘is arm broke; old Pied (the cow) broker ‘er laig, and the hosses is run off…But if you all ‘ill come over to Cripple Creek, we’ll he’p ye out th’ best we can fur yer hoedown.’” Similar stories, often involving the Welty family who were neighboring ranchers to the Womacks, have also been handed down to explain the naming of Cripple Creek, but time and yarns have obscured the true origins of the creek’s name.

More mines bearing Ben Requa’s name continued to pop up. The Arequa Gold Mining Company was formed in January of 1896, followed by the Arequa Mill in 1898. Ben Requa’s name does not appear on the board of directors for either entity. Interestingly, advertisements for the mill were among the first to feature that mysterious “A”. And although the town of Arequa included the “A” by 1899, Requa Gulch did not. 

Despite its promising and primary status, Arequa never topped more than 100 residents. The terrain was too rough for building and the area too far from the mines. In time, Arequa came to be surrounded by the communities of Eclipse, Elkton and Beacon. In 1900, the total population of these four towns was 2,500. The town’s best claim to fame was actually the Arequa Mill, a chlorination plant built at a cost of $532,000. The mill was located at the end of the Gold Coin tunnel and was used to process at least some of the gold which came from the nearby Cresson Mine. A $500,000 hydroelectric power plant was also constructed to run electric trains in the Gold Coin tunnel. There was also the Gold & Globe Mill in Arequa Gulch.

Not much else of note happened in Arequa, save for an incident in 1904 when Mrs. J. W. Gladden shot her husband to death. The couple had been separated for several weeks. Gladden went on a drinking spree and assaulted his neighbor, Frank Harris, before violently storming into the couple’s home. Mrs. Gladden was arrested, and newspapers neglected to mention the outcome of her trial. In fact, so small was the community that it is recognized only in the 1910 census. The 99 residents there included 36 families. Most of the employed were occupied as miners, with the exception of two carpenters, two dairymen, three teamsters and 21-year old actress Maud Palmer. By 1914 the Gold Dollar Mine owned 52 acres of the Arequa townsite, although the Requa Savage Mines Co. was still in business as late as 1916.

By 1920, Arequa was considered a suburb of Victor and was pretty much abandoned. Arequa quietly melded into the handful of ghost towns favored by tourists until about 1971, when the Cresson Mine was purchased by the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company. The new conglomerate expanded its operations to include Arequa Gulch. The ruins of the Arequa Mill were visible as recently as 20 years ago, but are gone now. There is also no record of just when the occupants of the tiny Arequa Cemetery were uprooted and transferred to Sunnyside Cemetery in Victor (in fact, there is speculation that the older part of Sunnyside Cemetery is indeed the old Arequa Cemetery). As for the town, it was buried under tailings ponds decades ago.

Today, only one building is standing as a tribute to Arequa.


Nighthawk Colorado: A Fallen Resort Town

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article first appeared in the Colorado Gambler magazine in 2006.

 Long before the appearance of prospectors and white settlers, Indians had long enjoyed the virtues of the South Platte River, a gentle but wide waterway that cuts through the central and northeastern portion of Colorado. When Anglo Americans discovered the river as early as the 1830’s, they too enjoyed its ample fishing holes, scented pines, picturesque valleys and fresh mountain air.

By 1876 the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad was laying its rails along the South Platte. From Denver, the railroad traveled south through Buffalo Creek, Pine and eventually to Leadville. The South Platte branch of the area in Jefferson County soon blossomed to include a number of small communities. Among them was the actual hamlet of South Platte, landmarked by the South Platte Hotel. The hotel sat just 11 miles east of Buffalo Creek and 16 miles north of Deckers. It was a two-story wood frame affair with an upper balcony skirting the front of the building. Along the top, visible for some distance, was the sign reading “South Platte Hotel”.

Both the hotel and a tiny depot were located at the confluence of the north and south forks of the South Platte River. For unknown reasons, South Platte was alternately known as Symes. A post office under that name opened February 9, 1887. By May of 1896, there were no less than 500 mining claims around South Platte as more communities came into existence. One of these was Nighthawk. The small town with the intriguing name was located in such a beautiful area that promoters soon envisioned it as a prominent tourist resort.

 At an elevation of 6,200′, Nighthawk was located in Douglas County on the banks of the south section of the South Platte River. Most historical annals identify Nighthawk as a mining camp, although in reality the community was meant to become one of many premier resorts Colorado was so famous for. Located just 33 miles from Denver by train or 40 miles by wagon road, the place offered a unique getaway for city dwellers. Nighthawk’s only newspaper, the Mountain Echo, premiered on July 10, 1897. The paper was published each Saturday under the direction of editor T.C. Knowles and business manager H.C. Wood. During its short lifetime, the paper was the only periodical within a 25 mile radius. Subscriptions to the paper were initially $1 per year.

By 1897, the Nighthawk Town, Mining & Improvement Company was already in place with an office in Denver. One F. Alley was employed as general manager. Douglas Avenue appears to have been the main drag. From the South Platte depot, along what was alternately known as the South Park Road, stages met the trains and took passengers the remaining 4 ½ miles to Nighthawk. The fare from Denver cost between $1.25 and $1.70.

 Although advertisements fairly screamed for folks to come to Nighthawk for pleasure (Tell Your Friends About Nighthawk!”), there were still a few mines. The Caledonia Gold Mine was among the most prominent, owned and operated by the Nighthawk Mining and Milling Company, Inc. with E.T. Hanna serving as its authorized agent. Other mines included the Agnes and the Kitty Clyde. Although Nighthawk never had a government post office, daily mail service from South Platte was available by July 17, 1897. Hanna distributed mail from a small postal station and sold camping supplies.

 Promoters at Nighthawk certainly worked fast. Editorials promoting the new town talked lovingly about the “towering and craggy mountains” and “tall and stately pines” surrounding the area. Ample fishing, hordes of berry bushes, abundant wildflowers and even the nearby Strontia Mineral Springs completed the picturesque description of Nighthawk.

By August of 1897 one could find accommodations at the Craggie View Hotel or the local boarding house at Nighthawk. A.J. Dugger was offering general blacksmithing and wagon work at Douglas Avenue and Pine Creek Street. A month later C.B. Derby opened a store with “groceries and provisions at Denver prices.” A carnival was held in October, followed by the premier of the Nighthawk General Merchandise Co. and Miss Annie Vermillion’s Post Office Store with confections and stationery. Interestingly, most residents did not live in Nighthawk proper, but rather along Sugar Creek just south of town.

Nighthawk continued to blossom. In November I.P. Cleary opened a feed and livery stable and a Miss Harger began teaching school there. Sunday School children also could catch services in nearby Trumball. Residents celebrated with a turkey shoot. The Mountain Echo also reported on railroad tycoon David H. Moffat and Eben Smith’s plans to construct an electric power plant at Goldfield in the Cripple Creek Mining District some 60 miles away. Doing so would require building a dam on the South Platte near Nighthawk. Such an endeavor would not only be a feat for the 19th century; it would also bring Nighthawk into the limelight even more.

In February of 1898 mining prospects must have been looking better, judging by the appearance of Mining Engineer A.F. Polhamus at the nearby community of Daffodil some nine miles from Nighthawk. Nearly next door at Trumbull, miners could party the night away at the Miner’s Home Saloon run by C.P. Combs or another tavern operated by J.S. Gardner, or get a .25 cent meal and a room at Mrs. M.M. Smith’s Half Way Restaurant. Fatty Miller also opened the Palace Saloon at West Creek, offering keg beer and lunches. By April, Charles F. Denison was selling Hercules powder, fuse and caps at Nighthawk.

Cripple Creek was mentioned in conjunction with Nighthawk again in April of 1898 when it was announced that any new rails from Cripple Creek to Denver would surely pass through Nighthawk. Then in 1899, the Denver, Cripple Creek & Southwestern Railroad purchased right of ways for a “Nighthawk Branch” and began constructing a spur.

By January of 1899, Mrs. J.E. Pitts was running Trumball’s Half Way Restaurant and directing travelers to Nighthawk. Then on January 31, the Symes post office finally changed its name to South Platte. Such small changes were early signs of a developing metropolis, but it was never to be. The last issue of the Mountain Echo was published in February of 1899. By then, ads reading “Come to Nighthawk” almost seemed like pleas. Town promoters switched their ads, asking folks to “buy lots in Nighthawk” to the West Creek Mining News.

Nighthawk did continue to experience limited success for the next several years. In October 1899 W.H. McMahon opened yet another general merchandise store there, and in 1900 James Kelly was running a huge boarding house on Sugar Creek with 38 lodgers. More communities, such as the resort of Bethesda, popped up near Nighthawk as the Nighthawk Branch of the railroad began service in 1902.

In spite of all efforts to turn Nighthawk into a vacationer’s dream, for some reason the town just failed to catch on. By about 1910 only a few structures were left at Nighthawk. Photographs of the community show two frame structures identified as the post office and a dance hall, with a tent reposing on the site of the Craggie View Hotel. A stable that once serviced the hotel was also still standing. A few broken down cabins and a gabled home are also depicted. By then only a few residents were left, among them mail carrier J.C. MacDonald and sawmill laborer Hugh Kendall. Roughly 70 people were living along Sugar Creek.

Railroad service to Nighthawk ceased in 1916. By 1920 there were only 35 people left at Nighthawk, most of them farmers. Both Nighthawk and Bethesda appeared on 1923 maps, though merely as place names. Only 26 residents lived at Nighthawk in 1930, including school teacher Minnie Norman. The South Platte post office closed September 15, 1937. A year later, the railroad through South Platte ceased operations.

 Soon the remaining cabins in and around Nighthawk became nothing more than summer homes. Today the road through South Platte is a part of the Colorado Trail. At Nighthawk, a few occupied buildings are visible in the trees above the road. Many areas along the river still serve as ideal camping and picnic spots. In their own small way, Nighthawk and South Platte still survive as the resort areas they were meant to be.


While summer homes accommodate part time residents at Nighthawk, almost all of the original buildings are now gone. One exception is the schoolhouse which is now a private home. Only an interpretive sign at the townsite informs travelers as to what was once there.

From Gold and Tungsten to Rock and Roll: Nederland, Colorado

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Colorado Gambler.

Throughout its early life, Nederland Colorado was closely associated with Caribou, a Dutch gold mining community that was platted near Boulder in 1870. In 1873, some Dutchmen purchased the Idaho Shaft at Caribou for $3 million and set their sites on a nearby settlement. Originally called Dayton, then Brownsville after settler N.W. Brown in 1869, then Middle Boulder with a post office in 1871, this smaller camp became Nederland after Dutch immigrants took over the local mills. One of them, Abel Breed, purchased the Caribou Mine.

Nederland is in fact Dutch for the Netherlands. The city fathers lost no time incorporating on February 10, 1874. The post office opened under the new name on March 2. Although gold was all the rage in Colorado, tungsten was also mined near both Nederland and Caribou. In its day, the mineral served as a useful material to harden other metals such as steel, and for filaments in electric lights.

It is no wonder the Dutch settlers preferred Nederland to Caribou. Located at nearly 10,000 feet, Caribou was cold, subject to 100 mile an hour winds and terrible snowstorms with 25 foot drifts. The camp also suffered at least one scarlet fever epidemic and a diptheria epidemic. Also, there was no railroad to Caribou. Despite such inconveniences and tragedies, however, there were roughly 60 businesses including the Potosi Mine Boarding House and the 1875 Sherman House. Twenty mines served a population of 3,000.

When Caribou burned in 1879, even more folks began migrating to Nederland. A new church was erected in 1881 at Caribou, but the population had shrunk to just 549 people. The town burned again in 1899, suffered an earthquake in 1903 and burned one last time in 1905. A final attempt by the Consolidated Caribou Silver Mining Company to blast the 3,500′ Idaho Tunnel in 1946 did nothing for the town.

Where Caribou failed, Nederland did not. In 1870 a mill was built to process ore from Caribou’s mines. In 1873, when it was announced that President Ulysses S. Grant was coming to visit nearby Central City, Abel Breed’s mill produced silver bricks that were later laid across the sidewalk where Grant would enter the Teller House in Central. Within four more years, the population of Nederland was 300. Despite its great aspirations, however, author Helen Hunt Jackson visited Nederland that same year and referred to it as “A dismal little mining town, with only a handful of small houses and smelting mills. Boulder Creek comes dashing through it, foaming white to the very edge of town.”

Nederland was obviously not Jackson’s cup of tea, but the town thrived throughout the 1870’s, 80’s and into the 1890’s. Boardinghouses included the Antlers, Cory, Hetzer, Sherman House and the Western, all of which rented beds in shifts when mining was at its height. Restaurants followed suit, allowing their customers only 20 minutes to consume their meals before ushering them out for the next set of hungry miners. During its boom time, Nederland produced 60 percent of the tungsten in the United States, and at one time realized one million dollars in the stuff annually.

Nederland proper served chiefly as a supply, smelting and shipping town for area mines. Those mines, in fact, experienced great success. The Primos Mill, located at the community of Lakewood some three miles away, was the largest tungsten-producing mill in the world. Around Nederland were several camps and towns, but Nederland appears to have only been rivaled by Tungsten Camp with its alleged population of 20,000.

Tungsten was also known as Steven’s Camp and Ferberite. Today, however, most of Tungsten lies underneath Barker Reservoir. A less popular town among Nederlands’ proper families was Cardinal City, a sin city founded expressly by saloon keepers and prostitutes from Caribou beginning in 1870. Cardinal City was originally located conveniently between Caribou and Nederland. For a time, the scarlet ladies and barkeeps of Cardinal City hoped to overtake both towns. A plan in 1872 to build a courthouse, possibly to keep the barkeeps and wanton women in check, never came to fruition.

In about 1878 Cardinal City picked up and moved to a site closer to Nederland because of the railroad, and re-christened itself New Cardinal. But by 1883 the new city had lost its appeal, and its 2000 or so citizens began migrating elsewhere. Some moved to the 1860 gold mining town of Eldora (known originally as Happy Valley and Eldorado). The hard drinking and hard gambling miners at Eldora were nobody to fool with; the first day the Bailey Chlorniation Mill failed to make payroll, miners shot the manager and burned down the mill.

Other towns close to Nederland included Bluebird and the 1892 silver town of Hessie, which was named after its first postmistress. In 1914, Hessie also briefly made the papers following a mysterious murder. Grand Island, Lost Lake, Mary City, Phoenixville, Sulphide Flats and Ward were other camps. Most of these camps were fading by 1916. With the beginning of World War I and the call for more tungsten, however, Nederland experienced a surge while towns around it were dying off. The exception was the old town of Tungsten up the road. Within no time, real estate prices at both towns soared.

Of course the price of tungsten also went up. Upwards of 17 mills were working between Tungsten and Nederland. In 1917, nearly $6 million in tungsten was mined. Eventually, imports of the stuff from South America and Japan killed off the boom. Quickly. By 1920 Nederland was hanging on as a mere resort town with a handful of pioneer families living there full time. When author Muriell Sybil Wolle stayed the night there, she recalled that at the time, the boys from Nederland were playing a heated baseball game against a team from nearby Blackhawk.

Although Nederland has held its own as a resort and summer escape since the 1930’s, its reputation also received a boost with the repurpose of the old Caribou Ranch in the 1970’s. Homesteaded on the road between Nederland and Caribou in the 1860’s by Caribou Mine owner Sam Conger, no less than four films were shot at the ranch before music producer James William Guercio purchased it in 1972. All told, Guercio bought a 4,000+ acre parcel and set up a private, unique recording studio for major recording artists. Joe Walsh and Bill Szymczyk were the first musicians to finish an album (Barnstorm) there. The second project to be recorded at the ranch included Rick Derringer’s hit single, Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo.

In 1974, Elton John further immortalized the place with his album, fittingly called Caribou. Dozens of other performers recorded there as well, including America, Badfinger, the Beach Boys, Chicago, Phil Collins, Dan Fogelberg, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Kris Kristofferson, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tom Petty and Frank Zappa. Legendary musicians might still be recording there today, but in March of 1985 the control room at the studio suffered a fire with an amazing $3 million dollar loss. The roof was replaced, but the original recording studio was never rebuilt.

Guercio began selling off parts of the Caribou Ranch in 1996. About half of it is owned today by the City of Boulder and Boulder County. An additional 1,489 acres were placed under a conservation easement. The remaining parcel is still owned by Guercio’s Caribou Companies, an exclusive gated community containing 20 unique mountain home sites encompassing over 700 acres. As for the old studio, there have been hints for several years now of a reprise of the ranch’s famous recording past. Guercio’s remaining 1600 acres, which continue to serve as a working ranch, are currently listed for sale with Mountain Marketing Associates of Breckenridge-for the modest price of $45,000,000. The right seller could indeed make Nederland and its surrounding communities experience a whole new boom of a different kind.


Hermann’s Hotel Succumbs to Flames!

C 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

It was Albert Gould’s worst nightmare, that September night in 1886.

The expressman was working late in Manitou one Friday evening, when at about ten minutes past 11 p.m. he looked up to see flames close to his home next to Hermann’s Hotel on Manitou Avenue. A combination dancing hall, dining room, bar and hotel, Hermann’s had taken on some undesirable residents of late. Now the place was going up in smoke. Gould sounded the fire alarm and hurried to the hotel, whereupon several half-dressed men fled from the building.

Inside the building, a number of men continued to run in the wake of the fire. Among them was Mr. G. Hattox, driver of Hermann’s ice wagon. Hattox later said he thought the first cries of “Fire!” were a joke, and only realized the situation was serious when he smelled smoke. Moments after escaping out of his first floor room into the street, Mr. Hattox watched as the second story of the building collapsed. Within a short time the whole place was reduced to a pile of smouldering rubble, and Hermann’s Hotel was no more.

For Frederick Hermann, the fire was the end to a growing travesty. A man of many occupations, Hermann had resided in Manitou as early as 1878 when the Colorado Springs Gazette announced the July 4th opening of his new hall on the road between Colorado City and Manitou. “A good musical entertainment will be held in the afternoon and a ball in the evening,” the paper reported.

Upon overseeing the hall’s opening, Hermann next traveled around Colorado scouting for more investments. The 1880 census lists him in Trinidad with several family members. By 1884 he may have migrated to Leadville and briefly worked as a miner while rooming at the Grand Pacific Hotel. A short time later the 42-year old German arrived back in Manitou and settled permanently into the hospitality business. Early maps show his café as being located just west of the intersection of Sutherland Creek and the old Manitou Road.

A month before the fire, Hermann had rented the bottom floor of his hotel to contractors McMurtie and Streeter, who worked for the Colorado Midland Railroad. The Colorado Midland had just recently began construction up Ute Pass, and several workers needed temporary shelter as the tracks were laid. The deal seemed pleasing enough, until Frederick Hermann made an unpleasant discovery. McMurtrie and Streeter had merely acted as agents for the firm of Murray & Reid, who misunderstood the lease to include the hotel in its entirety.

Soon Frederick Hermann found his hotel overrun with itinerant Italians, many whom were working for Murray & Reid or the railroad. The upstairs rooms had accordingly been amply supplied with straw upon which several men slept each night. When Hermann appealed to Streeter, the contractor claimed to be powerless over the proceedings. An infuriated Hermann threatened to double Murray & Reid’s rent, and the building was vacated once more.

Things might have returned to normal, but for a tricky door leading to the second floor that was nearly impossible to latch properly. During the night as Hermann’s hired man slept, a handful of Italians snuck back into the building and once more took over the top floor of the hotel. Upon discovering the trespassers, Hermann chased the unwelcome boarders off. He did, however, rent rooms to three of them with the promise that the straw would be disposed of.

Before long, the unruly Italians once more took advantage of the hapless German and the place filled up yet again. What to do? Hermann mulled over his dilemma as he took a necessary business trip to Pueblo. And that was when the fire started. Several men, it appeared, were smoking pipes on the second floor. Their carelessly tossed matches soon caught to the remaining straw, and before long the whole building was engulfed. The real tragedy lay in Hermann’s fateful decision some months before to not sell the building for the offered price of $3,500.

Hermann’s Hotel was insured—but for a mere $1,200. The thankful German took the money and opted not to rebuild. The 1887 Manitou directory found him working as a bottler. What line of work he pursued after that is anyone’s guess. The illustrious man did continue to live in the Pikes Peak region with his wife Josephine, who died in 1924. Frederick passed away in 1926, and the infamous conflagration of Hermann’s Hotel was forgotten.


Manitou Springs circa 1890