c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins
Portions of this article are from Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado.
Prior to the gold boom in the Cripple Creek District, folks wishing to access today’s Teller County used a series of wagon and stage roads. The oldest of these was the Cheyenne & Beaver Toll Road Company which began in Cheyenne Canyon near Colorado Springs and joined what is today known as Gold Camp Road. The route was originally established in 1875. Two years later the name of the road was changed to the Cheyenne and Beaver Park Toll Road. At the confluence of Bison Creek and Middle Beaver Creek, a new wagon road veered off towards Seven Lakes, a resort just below the summit of Pikes Peak. A stage stop was established at this junction which would later be known as Clyde.
Though only a stage stop, services at Clyde did include a place to stay for the night, as well as food, and libations. Clyde prospered as the last stop before the ascent to Seven Lakes. The road running by also prospered, its name changing again in 1879 to the Cheyenne, Lake Park and Pikes Peak Toll Road Company. With the gold boom in the Cripple Creek District beginning in 1891, the road through Clyde gained even more popularity as the shortest route to the district from Colorado Springs. Promoters, including the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, spent upwards of $18,000 to improve the toll road.
Miners especially found Clyde a great place to escape from the throngs of people swarming the Cripple Creek District. As merchants of Clyde prospered from these and other travelers, a post office opened under the name Seward in August of 1896. The name was changed to Clyde in October of 1899, after the son of resident George McCarthy. The post office application explained that the office would serve 35 people but was expecting to serve 100 or more in time.
The families at Clyde were of the hard-working variety with lots of children. Being far away from good medical facilities, unfortunately, took its toll on babies in this remote spot, resulting in a higher-than-usual mortality rate. Unable to afford tombstones, or to reach nearby established graveyards in winter, many ranch families simply buried stillborns or infants on the family property. Most of these graves were never marked and have subsequently been forgotten over time.
The Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railroad (CS & CCD), later called “The Short Line”, was built through Clyde in 1899 on its way to the District. The railroad was developed by mine owners who were sick of paying expensive freight fees to the Florence & Cripple Creek and the Midland Terminal Railroad, both of whom also extended to the District. Irving Howbert, president of Colorado Springs’ First National Bank at the time, convinced the mine owners they could finance their own railroad. Howbert, of course, became president. The railroad was a limited success; even with the renowned Seven Lakes Resort above town abandoned, passengers still favored accessing trails to Pikes Peak from Clyde via the Short Line.
George McCarty continued serving as postmaster at Clyde in 1900 while working on the side as a miner. The Cripple Creek District directory for that year notes that Clyde was referred to as Clyde City, a sign that locals hoped the town would grow larger. At the time, however, only a few miners were living there. Another resident was W.S. Gerber, a saw-mill operator who was renting a home from P. McNeny. The house was located next to the post office building which was owned by a Mr. Swink. In May, Gerber, hoping to cash in on insurance money for his household goods, burned both buildings (Gerber beat a hasty retreat to Nebraska but was arrested for the crime upon his return in January of 1901). Counting Gerber, the entire population, according to the 1900 census, only numbered twenty-nine people. And to McCarthy’s disappointment, the post office closed in September.
Those who loved living at Clyde refused to die with the town. Over the years Clyde, as well as a number of satellite camps, remained home to several settlers who knew there were still plenty of ways to make a living there. One of the outlying communities was Saderlind, identified on a 1901 CS & CCD timetable as a stop between Rosemont and Clyde. The whistlestop was located roughly 2.2 miles from Rosemont and 6 miles from Clyde. How many people lived at Saderlind proper is a mystery, since they were counted as residents of Clyde and only appeared in the 1910 census.
There were plenty of visitors to the area, too. Majestic Cathedral Park was just up the road. Area prospectors continued searching for gold. Ranchers benefited greatly from the wide meadows and ample water. And when Vice President Theodore Roosevelt passed through on the Short Line in August of 1901, the community was in a buzz for days.
Soon, the Short Line was in hot competition with the Midland Terminal, which had been charging two dollars for a round trip ticket between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek. A fare war started, ending when the Short Line successfully beat out the Midland at .25 cents per round trip. The resurgence of interest in Clyde was so good that Frank Cady, postmaster at the Love post office nearby, submitted a new application to reopen the post office at Clyde. Cady cited 140 people as living at Clyde, with the total number of people using the post office at 300. Clyde’s post office successfully reopened in September of 1901.
With the post office back in place, a new rail station and water tank were constructed in November. There was also a school. There was also Cathedral Park, just around the bend from Clyde along the railroad. The “sublime scenery, fantastic rocks and cathedral spires” of this amazing formation beckoned passengers from the Short Line, which offered daily excursions to the park. Awaiting patrons was a dance pavilion complete with a corrugated iron roof, a five-room “dwelling” and two refreshment stands installed by the company. It was perhaps around that time that an artificial lake was constructed at Clyde for recreational purposes.
What with people enjoying themselves looking at the natural wonders around Clyde, there was little crime reported until 1904, when assassins Harry Orchard, Johnnie Neville and Johnnie’s son Charlie camped near Clyde. The group was working on behalf of the mine owners during a most violent and tumultuous labor war in the Cripple Creek District. Orchard was orchestrating a plan to blow up the depot at the Cripple Creek District town of Independence, which the group did successfully on June 5. Thirteen men were killed and several others injured.
Throughout the early 1900’s, Clyde’s population remained at a mere handful of residents. In 1905, when the number was around fifteen citizens, the figure included Joseph D. Schneider who had married his sweetheart, Elmira May Moore, in 1895. The couple homesteaded at Clyde in 1905 and Schneider worked as a section boss on the railroad. The family homestead, meanwhile, grew into a large ranch totaling 2,000 acres. In his early years Schneider was known as “difficult”. When he bought his first car he was in the habit of yelling “Whoa!”, cussing at the vehicle when he wanted it to stop, and even jumping from the newfangled machine when it went out of control. Later in life his demeanor softened.
The population of Clyde remained at fifteen through 1908. Still on board were schoolteacher Miss J.E. Kenton, as well as station agent and postmaster Chas. F. Redman. But the tiny village could hardly justify its post office, which closed a final time in September of 1909. The number of people shot up to an amazing eighty three residents in 1910, but that number included numerous railroad workers who were likely temporary. Eighteen section hands shared quarters in the railroad’s section house, ten of them being Greek immigrants. Eight others were Japanese. Also living in Clyde was school teacher Harry G. Goves. Two other people worked at the Clyde Timber Company. The McCarthy family was still there too, including young Clyde who was now eighteen years of age. Clyde and his brothers were employed as farmers on the family homestead.
The 1910 census at Clyde is notable because at the time, several small satellite camps surrounded the community. They included Rosemont, Saderlind, Summit, Bald Mountain, Bunker Hill District and Seven Lakes. At Bald Mountain there were only five residents. They included prospectors Frosty Clemens, Frank Nelson and James Snodgrass, all widowers in their forties and fifties. Frosty Clemens in particular was a character of sorts whose name has become legend in his part of the country.
Born in 1865 in Missouri, Clemens was allegedly a cousin of Samuel Clemens, better known as the prolific writer Mark Twain. By the time he arrived in the area, Clemens was a widower who apparently had been prospecting for some time. Local folklore cites that Clemens dug several mines but never found much in the way of fortune. Ultimately, according to legend, Clemens died in 1916 when “he pulled a permanent lid of gravel down over himself in one of his mines.” It is also believed that he built what is now known as Frosty Clemens Trail in Frosty Park.
The Bunker Hill District was located on Bunker Hill between Bald Mountain and Rosemont. Residents of the district were all farmers, most of whom had departed the area by the time of the 1920 census.
With the formation of Pike National Forest, a ranger station was built at Clyde between 1912 and 1917. The Cripple Creek District mines were dwindling, and fewer people were using the Short Line. When the dance pavilion roof at Cathedral Park collapsed during a heavy snow, nobody bothered to rebuild it. Former resident Glenora Meyers also remembered that the school house was just one room with 12 or so students. Those who still loved the peaceful paradise that was Clyde, however, maintained a number of homesteads in the area.
Longtime homesteaders included Isadore and Minnie Meyers, who moved to Clyde from the Cripple Creek District city of Goldfield in 1914. The family home was a one and a half story cabin made from square logs. The bottom floor contained the front room, kitchen, and bedroom for the Meyers. Their many children slept on the second floor in a large room divided by a curtain for the girls and boys. A cellar was stocked with vegetables and canned goods. The outhouse was out back. Water was carried from Middle Beaver Creek across the road. The Meyers’ daughter, Glenora, remembered that “there never was any shortage of snow in winter. Sometimes, the snow drifts were so high that we could walk over the tops of the fences. Of course, to go anywhere, the road had to be shoveled out by hand or plowed out with what was called a go-devil. This was a triangular shaped contraption that was weighted down with rocks or sometimes with us kids and pulled by our faithful team of horses.” At Christmas and other times, the family would take a trip to Victor with hot rocks wrapped in newspapers to keep everyone’s feet warm.
Beginning in about 1917, the Meyers alternated their time between Clyde and a nearby place they simply called “Camp” near Gould Creek. The family felled and sold timber at Camp. They were also farming by 1920. The family lived briefly in Colorado Springs, where Minnie died in 1926. Isadore continued living in both Colorado Springs and at Camp through at least 1940.
A year after the Meyers first migrated to Camp, the telegraph office at Clyde closed. It was replaced by a telephone system so train engineers on the Short Line could talk with the dispatcher. In 1920, however, the Short Line ceased operations altogether, and residents of Clyde were counted in the population of Victor during the census that year.
Today, the old stage road that preceded the Short Line meanders onto the private property comprising Clyde. Two miles from where Middle Beaver Creek has washed out, the old road is a home lived in by the Reifenrath family during the 1920’s. John Reifenrath is believed to have built the large log house, which contained four rooms downstairs and four bedrooms upstairs, each with its own closet. The 1920 census lists John, his wife Mary and their children Edward and Lucille living there. John worked as a farmer and stockman.
Stories of Clyde reflect that there were still a number of residents there throughout the 1920’s. Around 1921, a particularly heavy rainstorm threatened to break the dams up at Seven Lakes. The children of Clyde were gathered in the second story of the ranger station, which was quite sturdy and thought the safest place to put them. Everyone survived, and in 1922 the old railroad bed gained new life when W.D. Corley purchased it at auction for $370,000. Corley, a coal operator-turned-capitalist, beat out three other bids, including one representing mining millionaire A.E. Carlton. Corley tore up the tracks, filled in the trestles, and turned the rail bed into the Corley Mountain Highway toll road. The toll was one dollar and on a good day, reaped $400 in fees.
The toll road enabled others at Clyde to prosper as the area remained a popular picnic ground. In 1924 Jim and Helen Schneider moved into the former Clyde Pavilion and converted two of its rooms to living quarters. In 1927 a new post office application was submitted by the Clyde Eating House but was denied. During the 1930’s, Pike National Forest took over the Corley Mountain Highway, renamed it Gold Camp Road, and opened it for free to all.
The Schneiders and their children continued living off the land. They grew hay, harvested block ice from some nearby caves, and traded hand-churned butter to Seven Lakes caretaker Clyde Reynolds in exchange for fresh trout. The Clyde School closed in 1936. The last teacher was Mr. McComb, who was known for his excessive drinking habits. Into the 1940’s, Clyde next served as a stopover for mule trains training soldiers from Camp Carson in Colorado Springs. The soldiers gave the Schneider children candy bars and bought moonshine from the family.
For a time beginning in 1947, there was a hotel at Clyde called the Clyde Inn. One of the Schneider children, Hank, was now living with his wife Ida in the old school. Their furnishings in the large classroom included a grand piano from the Victor Opera House in nearby Victor. Also during that time, Chuck and June Bradley moved to the area and purchased much of Clyde to use as their family ranch.
Clyde resident Frances Kramer remembered that the Clyde Inn was closed up and shuttered during the 1950’s. The hotel was later purchased by some investors from Colorado Springs, but burned to the ground on September 9, 1954. Clyde’s last school survived, however, and was purchased by Robert and Laverne Rayburn in 1954 for $1,500.00. The Rayburns installed a door between the attached teacherage and the schoolroom, expanded the kitchen and added a second bathroom, fireplace, back door and picture window.
The Bradley family, meanwhile, continued purchasing ranches, including that of the Schneiders, throughout the 1960’s. In 1974 Chuck Bradley subdivided lots at Cathedral Park Estates and tried to sell them, but the effort was in vain. Picnic tables that had been present at Clyde were dismantled by the Forest Service during the 1980’s even as Gold Camp Road remained a popular tourist destination. When Teller County commissioners attempted to close the old railroad tunnel outside of town in 1988, residents of Clyde and others complained until the tunnel was reopened.
These days, the school and former ranger station are all that really survive of old Clyde. The historic area remains as private ranching property; folks driving down Gold Camp Road are cautioned to obey all no trespassing and private property signs.
Image: A 1933 picnic near Clyde.
Jan, I just love your stories of our colorful Colorado. You make me feel like I am right there at the time you are writing about. ❤️
Thank you Ruth!