Category Archives: Jan MacKell Collins

The Catamount Hills of Colorado

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

The Catamount Hills, which ramble along in the beautiful back country at the bottom of Pikes Peak, have a long and interesting history. The area made ideal ranching country, and was used as such beginning in the mid-to late 1800’s. One such place was known as Blandin, a.k.a. Blandon, a noted ranch with a sawmill that may have been named for Joseph C. Brandon. In 1880, Brandon lived in Colorado Springs with his family, and his occupation was noted as that of a “freighter in the mountains.” There were many other sawmills in the area a well, spanning from about midway up Ute Pass, through today’s Woodland Park and on to Manitou Park. So concentrated were logging efforts that by 1876 a Division of Forestry had been established to control logging efforts.

In the December 10, 1880 issue of the Gazette Telegraph in Colorado Springs, readers were introduced to “Catamount Charley” and his mustang, “Captain Kid”. Charley was a trapper and hunter by trade. He was a common site in Colorado Springs where he was always seen wearing “a yellow buckskin shirt and buckskin trousers, both trimmed with a fringe of buckskin cut into strips, a cartridge belt tilled with the loaded shells of a heavy repeating rifle, which he carried in his hand, a wide white sombrero on his head and moccasins on his feet.” He also had an unforgettable stature, it seems. He was described as being “tall, long-legged, with a loosely knit frame, a dark face, black eyes and a ‘flowing black beard’ that cascaded down his chest.”

Charley had remained somewhat obscure in tales about the Pikes Peak Region, until he claimed he had once killed a buffalo and three mountain lions with only two shots from his repeating rifle. His story made not just the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, but also the New York Times. The story begins with Charley riding into Colorado Springs with a bale of skins to sell at a trading post called Aiken & Hunt’s museum. As Charley walked into the store to see Mr. Hunt about selling his hides, what follows is the dialogue exactly as it was written and published on December 17, 1880:

“I say boss,” remarked Charley, “I’ve got some skins yere I’d like to sell yer.” “Certainly,” said Mr. Hunt, with his usual politeness. “I shall be glad to look at them.” “Yere,” said Charley, “is a mountain bison’s hide; yere is a mountain lion’s hide; and yere are two more lion’s hides. That fust lion’s skin is the biggest I ever see. It’s 9 feet from tip to tip; the critter must weigh 500 pounds. You see it was this way. I was looking round for game back of the Peak, when all at once I heard a growlin’ and a howlin’, which reminded me that the mountain lions was not all dead yet. So I crawled around a point of rock, and I’m blamed if I didn’t see three mountain lions havin’ a fight with a monstrous bison. I tell you, it was a big fight. The lions would make a leap, and the bison would back up against a root and take them on his horns. I don’t know how the fight would have come out, but it was just too good a picnic for me to let it pass, so I drawed a bead on the fust lion as it came in range and pulled my old rifle off. The surprisin’ part of the affair was that just as I pulled one of the lions jumped in between me and the one I shot at and caught the ball just back of his ribs. It passed clean through him, and bein’ turned a bit, it cut the second lion in the throat and went on to break the neck of the bison. They all dropped in a heap, and I was so tickled that I incautiously jumped out from behind the rock, when the third lion saw me.” “Indeed,” said Mr. Hunt. “Yes,” said Charley. “The third lion he saw me, and made a jump in my direction. As I saw him comin’ I didn’t have time to take aim, but I brought my repeatin’ rifle up under my arm and took a fly shot at him. Lucky for me, I took him in the breast, and he tumbled over dead.” “Indeed!” said an excited Mr. Hunt again. “Yes,” said Charley, “he tumbled over dead. Now what will you give me for these skins, three mountain lions and one bison?”

There is no record of what Catamount Charley was paid for his skins, his eventual fate, what his real name was or whether he stayed in the region or moved on when civilization encroached upon his territory. But his story illustrates the character and hardiness of the kind of men and women who came to settle the front range of Colorado.

In 1885, Catamount was noted on a map of Pikes Peak toll road. The road was perhaps alternately known as the “Golden Stair” by 1890, which skirted through Catamount Hills and towards Pike Peak to the Morning Star Mine. Around this same time, the area was first homesteaded and began providing lumber to the Cripple Creek mines. By 1892, logging had depleted so much of the forests in the Catamount area that the Pikes Peak Timber Reserve At was enacted in February. The Division of Forestry stepped in, took control of how much timber was being cut and began reforestation efforts. Next, in 1893 according to pioneer Henry Buensle, “all mills ceased operation when the adjoining forests were placed under the administration of the forest service.”

With the Cripple Creek gold boom in full swing, mining also remained very much an interest in the Catamount Hills. In about 1905 or 1906, one prospector claimed to have struck it rich along the south fork of Catamount Creek. Some believed the man’s claims to have found ore that was “richer than anything that was ever found in Cripple Creek,” while others maintained the ore was actually stolen from Cripple Creek District mines. Just to be sure, a number of prospectors dug around the creek but failed to find any gold. Apparently the miner had brought his specimens down to the Golden Cycle Mill in Colorado Springs, but nobody could pinpoint where they were coming from for sure. Eventually the would-be prospector contracted tuberculosis. On his death bed, he was asked to tell where the mine was, but refused. “Let them find it the way I found it,” he said, “but it will be hard to do. I have planted trees on the dump.” The mystery has never been solved.

In about 1915 the YMCA began working on a camp for boys along Catamount Creek in Blandon Gulch and called it Camp Catamount. The Oak Creek Times in Routt County reported in 1917, “The camp for boys established by the YMCA on Catamount Creek near Edlowe will be open June 11 and will continue for ten days.” Local land owners began donating land to the camp, particularly during the 1940’s and into the 1950’s. By the 1980’s, the YMCA owned the entire Catamount area and sledding was still a popular pastime among locals. The sledding hills were very informal, wherein kids and adults trudged up the hills, flew down them on innertubes and sleds, and could buy a cup of hot chocolate in the shack at the bottom. At the same time, a number of reservoirs, lakes and lodges were built in the Catamount area.

In 1996, Catamount Ranch Open Space of Teller County was able to purchase much of the old YMCA camp to preserve it. The following year, the Catamount Institute was born as a private foundation. Two professors from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Julie Francis and Howard Drossman, purchased 177 acres of the old YMCA camp for use as a “mountain campus dedicated to ecological stewardship, research, education, and leadership.” Today, the Catamount area has three cold water reservoirs for fishing, and numerous trails – one of which leads to beautiful Catamount Falls – at what is now known as the North Slope Recreation Area. If you go, keep an eye out for the ghost of old Catamount Charley, as well as the prospector’s lost gold.

For more history of the Pikes Peak Region, see Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado.

Bison Park: Victor, Colorado’s Private Playground

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

This article is an excerpt from Collins’ book, Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado.

Local legend records Bison as a logging camp dating to the 1860s and located between Cow Mountain and Pikes Peak near today’s Cripple Creek District. The east fork of West Beaver Creek feeds today’s Bison Reservoir, which, in turn, drains into Bison Creek running south. In 1874, Quincy King, who had just recently discovered the eventual nearby resort of Seven Lakes, partnered with two other men to form the “Smith, King and Unrue” mining claim in Bison Valley on the east fork of Beaver Creek.

The few mine diggings aside, Bison Park remained a pristine and most scenic area. Here, a road wound through lush trees to a quiet, wooded valley which opened into wide green meadows. Amazingly beautiful rock formations towered around the valley. Cabin ruins in the woods today attest to times when people worked or lived in the area. The remaining treasures also include a small Victorian home, built as a caretaker’s house in 1893. The spacious floor plan allowed for two bedrooms, a parlor, a dining area and a kitchen.

As the Cripple Creek District gold mining boom got under way, real estate men flocked in droves to settle small towns throughout the area. On July 2, 1895, a plat map for the “Bison Park Town Site” was surveyed by R.W. Bradshaw and filed in El Paso County. The map reads more like an advertisement, with the following description:

“Bison Park is a romantic and picturesque place. It is in the main mineral belt south of the Peak and is already surrounded with good mines. It is also on the established route of the [Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District] Railroad. Hence it is destined to become a town of considerable importance. Moral: Buy lots while they are cheap.”

Alas, the railroad declined to pass by Bison Park’s remote location, and the plat map shows that the town was vacated in September, 1895. The scenic valley was not lost, however, on the nearby City of Victor. In July 1901, the city proposed purchasing 213 acres of the park from the owner, a woman named Mary Miller, for $10,000. The plan was to build a reservoir as a water supply for local residents. The Altman Water Company, which already sold water to Victor, raised a slight ruckus at the idea. In the end, however, the city successfully completed the purchase. Bison Reservoir was constructed in about 1901. Several mining claims—namely, the Park Placer, Park Placer No. 2, Old No. 9 and a small portion of the Maggie A—were covered with water. As for Bison Park, the area remained as gorgeous and pristine as it ever was.

In more modern times, Bison continues to serve as Victor’s water supply but is also home to the Gold Camp Fishing Club. Membership to the club is extended to only Victor property owners, who take much pride in maintaining the area’s natural setting and historic sites. Much of the park is surrounded by BLM land. Numerous members actively volunteer their time, money and labor to Bison Reservoir. The grounds are frequently the scene of weddings, memorials, fishing tournaments and a host of other activities. In essence, visitors to Bison respect the land and its surroundings so that future generations can enjoy this natural playground for many years to come.

Please be respectful of this historic area by refraining from trespassing beyond the locked gates at the entrance.

Image of Bison Reservoir c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins.

The Short-Lived Life of Lanter City, Colorado

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article are from Colllins’ book, Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado

Alternately known as Lanter, Lantern, Lander’s, Landres and Landen, Lanter City hoped to become the next thriving metropolis in Teller County as the nearby Cripple Creek District boomed during one of America’s last great gold rushes. But alas, the effort was a failure. In about 1896, Lanter City first came into being and was described as being located on Pikes Peak, near a toll road leading to the top of of “America’s Mountain.” Roads from Lanter City probably led not just to Ute Pass between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park, but also the Pikes Peak Toll Road and perhaps even Edlowe between Woodland Park and Divide.

Around the turn of the century, as the Cripple Creek boom continued, the Fountain Creek Mining District was formed in the area that would later include Lanter City. The effort was just one of many, made in hopes that the amazing gold riches from the Cripple Creek District extended further. Though only four miles square, the Fountain Creek Mining District was comprised of thirty eight claims. At the time, the land on which Lanter City was situated was owned by one Henry Law. For three days, November 7, 8 and 9, 1900 surveyor L.J. Carrington platted and laid out the town in the vicinity of the North Star Gold Mining Company. First, Second and Third Streets were intersected by Carrington, Main and Parshall Avenues.

Lanter City’s desire to grow was indicated by a November, 1900 advertisement in the Colorado Springs Gazette. “Wanted,” the ad read, “Men and women to engage in all kinds of business at Lanter City in the Fountain mining district five miles north of Pikes Peak. One shipper and lots of good prospects. Take stage at Woodland Park. For information address Tyler and McDowell, Woodland Park, Colo.” The ad was presumably taken out by Robert Lanter, who appeared in various news articles about the budding boomtown.

Response to the advertisement was apparently positive, for on November 30 Robert Beers, who had purchased some nearby  land in 1891, platted his own Robert Beers Addition in Lanter City. The addition created 5th, 6th and 7th Streets, as well as Hartman Street. Not much happened, however, until 1900 when Lanter City at last made the newspaper. The December 3 edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette identified the “camp” as being located near Cascade in El Paso County, but “to the north of Pikes Peak.” In fact, the article wondered if Lanter City was not destined to be the next Cripple Creek. “Local mining men have been rather indifferent until very lately but it certainly must be admitted now that the camp…at least calls for respectful attention,” said the paper. Of particular interest, according to the article, was that gold was being found in the area. That news was enough to entice a mining group from Victor in the Cripple Creek District to hire one of their “experts” to come have a look. The man found several claims and figured that ore in the area was worth between $20 and $80 per ton.

County records show that Law was only able to sell only eight of the lots at Lanter City, to four different buyers. During the town’s heyday, however, there were twenty homes, a livery stable and a blacksmith shop. News of the town continued drifting into newspapers. “Ed Weston of Lanter City was in [Colorado Springs] Sunday,” read an article in January of 1901. “Mr. Weston, with Messs. McDowell, Foster and Wheat, have leased the Rico lode and will proceed at once to find what is in it.” On February 27, another article hinted a post office was soon to be established, but that never happened. Other news articles told of “Uncle Billy” Parshall who staked the Louise claim in April, and progress on the McCleary brothers’ mine in May. Also in May, fourteen more lots were sold at Lanter City. By October, plans were underway to build a steam plant on Lord and Dean’s claim just southwest of town.

Unfortunately, the gold mines around Lanter City simply weren’t enough to create the boom everyone was hoping for. Aside from gold mining, Lanter City’s other main industry was intended to be logging, until the Pike National Forest was established in 1907 and the homesteaders there became considered trespassers. In 1908 Henry Law bought back all of the lots of Lanter City and sold his city in its entirety to the Empire Water and Power Company for just $3,000. The company planned to build four reservoirs, but eventually sold the property to the City of Colorado Springs in 1930.

With the city officially deserted and owned by Colorado Springs, Lanter City was vacated for good. Five years later, South Catamount Reservoir covered about half of the old townsite. Researchers Kimberly Carsell and Kimberle Long believed they found five or so ruins at the site in 2000, as well as a large “glory hole” at the south end of the valley. Any remaining  mines were sealed by the Colorado Division of Reclamation and Mining Safety in 2008. Today there is nothing left of the town.

High Park City was on an Early Route to Colorado’s Cripple Creek District

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

This article is excerpted from Collins’ book, Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado.

If nothing else, the road on which High Park City was located served as the first route for prospectors and other travelers to make their way between the Arkansas Valley and the Cripple Creek District—the latter being the last of Colorado’s great gold booms. Today, High Park Road is alternately known as Teller County Road 11 and eventually leads to Canon City. Passengers on this road enjoy a scenic drive through high country meadows dotted with both historic and modern homes.

The High Park City & Cripple Creek Toll Road was first incorporated by John K. Witcher, R.K. Potter and S.P. Maderia of Cripple Creek in 1896. An alternate route skirted around the base of Mt. Pisgah outside of Cripple Creek and through Box Canon, with an intersecting road leading to what would soon be High Park City. The area around High Park seemed lucrative enough. It was a good place to raise cattle. Area farmers could grow crops and sell their goods in the booming Cripple Creek District some twenty miles away, but also at Canon City. The area also proved good for prospecting. J.M. Kellogg was locating claims around High Park for the firm of Barbee, Bastian and Kellogg in January of 1896, and gold ore from the Red Oak Lode was assaying at $23.00 per ton. Within a few weeks, more prospectors were converging on the spot. The Cripple Creek Morning Times of February 6, 1896 reported that three other miners by the names of Grant, Wagner and Griffith were busy prospecting there.

Prospectors, ranchers and farmers would all benefit from the newly proposed High Park City, although mining was a primary focus. “Robert Boath was in yesterday from High Park and reports a flourishing condition of things, both as to mining prospects and as to High Park City,” said the Mining and Industry Review magazine in February. “The location of this new town is about one mile west of Four Mile and near the old Wicher [sic] sawmill. A number of buildings are now underway and a livery barn, hotels, restaurants and other enterprises will soon be open for accommodation to the public.”

As in the case of other towns which lay outside of the Cripple Creek District proper, everyone was hopeful that the already sizeable goldfield would expand as more gold was found. “A good deal of prospecting is being done in the neighborhood of High Park some ten miles west of Cripple Creek,” reported the Colorado Transcript newspaper in far-away Golden. “The district is constantly spreading out.” At the time, High Park City seemed destined for greatness. Even before it was platted, T.P. Rigney of Cripple Creek was already selling lots at the townsite.

High Park City was formally platted on March 5, 1896 by the Greatest Gold Belt Mining Company. Streets bore the names of local minerals including Trachyte, Porphry [sic], Granite and Phenolite, intersected by Doubleday and Rope Avenues. There was also a High Street and Main Street. Progress was quick, as reported in Leadville’s Herald Democrat a few weeks later. “High Park City, one of the new mining camps in El Paso County, now has a dozen buildings completed and as many more in process of construction.” Notable is that Teller County would not be formed for another three years.

The post office at High Park City opened in June of 1896. The population was guessed to be around one hundred people. But in spite of wagon and horse traffic flowing through High Park City regularly, there wasn’t much to report. In the end, mining prospects were not as good as expected, and the post office closed in June of 1899. The 1900 Cripple Creek District directory described High Park as a “small settlement between Cripple Creek and the Bare Hills. ” In fact, the Bare Hills post office, in Fremont County, was now serving citizens of High Park City. It is no wonder, since business had slowed down considerably. According to the directory only eleven men lived there, some with wives and children. Others, such as rancher Joseph Stinger and prospector Thomas Hilliard, were identified as living three or four miles from town.

The 1900 census is a bit more telling about the residents of High Park City. They consisted mostly of ranchers and farmers. In town, there were two boarding houses run by Mary Mitchell and Minnie Allen, respectively. The presence of a cook indicates there might have been a restaurant. The population also included a sawmills owned by Robert K. Potter and Nelson Hackett, a veterinarian, a bookkeeper, a school teacher and two wood choppers, but only six miners. Almost all of the residents were married and had children.

For a time, High Park City did experience a brief resurgence, and the post office reopened in 1902. When postal authorities closed it again in 1913, local residents rallied for a protest. The post office reopened once more in 1914. Finally, in 1917, as the Cripple Creek District mining operations continued closing and people left the area, the post office closed one last time. That was the end of High Park City, which today is no more than a wide spot in the road. No buildings remain.

Image: Famed photographer William Henry Jackson captured this photo of cowboys branding calves in High Park City. Courtesy Jan MacKell Collins.

I’ve Been Shot! Film Making in Colorado’s Pikes Peak Region

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article have appeared in Kiva and the Colorado Gambler magazines.

If the experts are correct, over 300 films have been shot in Colorado over time. Narrow that number down to movies that have been filmed in the Pikes Peak region, and the estimate seems small. For well over a century, the wild, enchanting landscapes around Colorado Springs, Cripple Creek and Canon City have been catching the eye of prominent film makers from around the world. Thomas Edison, for instance, is credited as the first film producer to realize the potential of Colorado’s scenic wonders. In 1891, Edison produced the first ever moving picture. Shooting live film was a new and difficult process, and Edison’s films in those early days only averaged between 30 seconds
and two minutes in length. But they fascinated theater goers who had never imagined it was possible to capture people moving on film.

In 1897, Edison had fine-tuned his techniques enough to send an employee, James Henry White, out West to shoot motion picture films. White’s first stop was Colorado, where he filmed a number of short, unscripted scenes. His earliest attempt in El Paso County lasted 2 ½ minutes and depicted cattle being forded across a stream and branded. Other efforts recorded Ute Indian dances, downtown scenes of Denver and an obscure piece known as “Cripple Creek Float.” The projects immediately caught the eye of local railroad companies who saw commercial value in them. The idea of producing an actual story on film was not far off.

Edison’s real breakthrough in Colorado came with the 1898 production of a 45 second film called “Cripple Creek Barroom”. The scene depicts a number of men drinking and playing poker while being served by a “barmaid” who was actually a hefty man dressed in women’s clothing. A drunk enters the room, knocks the hat off of one of the customers, and is unceremoniously escorted out by the crowd. Although it was actually shot at Edison’s Black Maria studio in New Jersey, “Cripple Creek Barroom” was important for a number of reasons. First, it shows how Cripple Creek was indeed famous across America. It was also the first time a film maker actually created a story on film. Today, “Cripple Creek Barroom” is considered among movie buffs as the first western ever filmed.

Other filming locations would take place in Colorado. In 1902, the Selig-Polyscope Company of Chicago followed the trail of Edison by establishing their own agent in Colorado. His name was Henry H. “Buck” Buckwalter, a Denver photographer who jumped at the chance to try film making. Buckwalter also took several photographs in and around Cripple Creek. On the side he also ran his own projecting company
and during the summer months showed his own projects, as well as movies sent to him by Selig, in Denver and Colorado Springs. Over the next six years, both Edison and Selig-Polyscope shot more films in both Colorado and their respective eastern studios.

Another famous film that has survived the era was Edison’s 1903 production called “The Great Train Robbery”, a four minute western that was filmed in New Jersey. Buckwalter countered with two more projects: “Girls in Overalls,” filmed on location in Gunnison and “Tracked by Bloodhounds; or a Lynching at Cripple Creek”. Both features were eight minutes long, a record since most producers did not believe an audience’s attention span would allow for sitting still so long. “Tracked by Bloodhounds” was especially interesting, since it was filmed around Cripple Creek in April 1904. Like “The Great Train Robbery”, the film involved murder and a posse chase, ending in a shoot out and subsequent death of the villain. Backdrops included downtown scenes of Cripple Creek.

At the time the filming took place, the Cripple Creek District was in the throes of a violent labor war. Buckwalter and Selig saw little action while filming in April. But when professional assassin Harry Orchard blew up the train depot at the district town of Independence in June, Selig made the most of the incident. Certain advertising for the movie’s premier insinuated that the events in the film were real, and that the villain was actually a striking miner instead of the tramp that was portrayed. Newspapers across the nation, already aware of the explosion at Independence, further exploited the film in merely trying to get to the truth.

Later in 1904, Buckwalter produced another film called “Holdup of the Leadville Stage”.
This movie was actually filmed along Ute Pass and in the vicinity of Bear Creek Road.
Buckwalter managed to get the Colorado Springs Gazette to run a detailed news-like story about the “real” hold up. Only at the end of the story did the paper let readers off the hook: “The robbery was committed in broad daylight and posses immediately started in pursuit and this morning they will be photographed in moving pictures and the most exciting film ever made in the mountains of Colorado will be completed.”

By 1907 Colorado was becoming a film mecca and Buckwalter moved to Golden to shoot more films. In 1911 Selig relocated to American City, located above Central City. Three films were shot there, and at least one was sensationalized in the Gilpin County Observer as an actual bank robbery. In the fall Selig relocated again, this time to Canon City. The first Selig film shot there was “The Telltale Knife”, starring Tom Mix. From 1911 to 1914, more movies were filmed in Canon City and surrounding areas. By then, the standard movie ran about 15 minutes. Most of them used the same crew of actors,
namely Tom Mix, Joe Ryan, Josephine West, William Dunn and Myrtle Stedman.

After winning the Royal Gorge Rodeo Championship in 1909, Mix initially worked as a film technician before his wild riding and shooting stunts won him parts in the movies themselves. His first film appearance for Selig had been as a bronco buster in the documentary “Ranch Life in the Great Southwest”. In his off time, Mix worked and drank at several local watering holes. They included saloons in Hell’s Half Acre (now known as Brookside outside of Canon City), Prospect Heights (now a suburb of Canon City) and the Canon City Elk’s Lodge. Occasionally, Mix’ drinking sprees landed him in jail at Prospect Heights. In Cripple Creek, part of the district’s folklore revolves around Mix working at various bars in town, as well as performing ranch hand duties at the Crescent Ranch near Divide.

Despite Mix’ growing stardom in Canon City, attention turned to Cripple Creek once again in 1912 with the production of another silent Western called “At Cripple Creek”. Details as to the producer and location of this film are obscure. The script was written by Hal Reid and starred Wallace Reid, Sue Balfour and Gertrude Robinson. Throughout the rest of 1912, Selig continued churning out short westerns from Canon City. They included “Jim’s Vindication” about a man who is framed for robbery and flees while
trying to clear his name. Tom Mix is noticeably absent in this film, having opted not to renew his contract and moving on to Hollywood. In his stead, Selig introduced actress Myrtle Stedman, as well as actor William Duncan who wrote and produced the project. “Jim’s Vindication” was followed by two more Duncan productions, “A Ranger and His Horse” and “Buck’s Romance”. Both films starred Myrtle Stedman with Duncan as her leading man.

In 1913, a final Duncan production was released by Selig titled “Matrimonial Deluge”.
Selig eventually moved to Prescott Arizona and went on to produce several other high action packed films. Upon his departure from Canon City, the Colorado Motion Picture Company was formed by ex-Selig employees, including actors Josephine West and Joe Ryan. The Canon City Chamber of Commerce held a contest to see who could come up with the best logo for the company, with A.R. Livingston of the Empire Zinc Company and one Alva Wood taking honors. Colorado Motion Picture titles included “The Range War”, “Across the Border”, “The Hand of the Law”, and “Cycle of Destiny”. Today, only one known film survives. Ironically it is the company’s first production, “Pirates of the Plains”. Like its predecessors, “Pirates” was shot in Canon City and released in 1914.

Not to be outdone, Colorado Springs hurried to compete with Canon City’s film industry. Plans were announced in May of 1914 for the arrival of Romaine Felding, the highest paid actor/producer in the world at the time. Fielding intended to shoot some films on location, including the Hagerman Mansion which is today’s El Paso Club. Fielding remained in Colorado Springs from June through August. Whether he actually shot any footage is unknown, but his sudden departure may have been influenced by the July drowning of actress Grace McHugh and cameraman Owen Carter in the Arkansas River during the making of “Across the Border” at Canon City. While crossing the river McHugh’s horse stumbled, tossing her into the water. Carter jumped in, and the two managed to crawl onto a sandbar before the cameraman lost his footing and the couple went under once more. Their bodies were later found downstream, and it was said that McHugh’s mother won a court case against the Colorado Motion Picture Company. That was the end of film making in Canon City for the time being.

With Canon City out of the picture, so to speak, Colorado Springs filmmakers continued churning out movies. Notable is that Silver Dollar Tabor, the ill-fated daughter of silver king Horace Tabor, surfaced in town and began working as an actress for the Pike’s Peak Motion Picture Company sometime around November of 1914. The job did not last long and Silver moved on, but not before scoring a supporting actress roll in a production of “The Greater Barrier”. Filmed at Colorado College, this provocative movie about a white girl and her Indian beau addressed interracial dating and no doubt raised some eyebrows.

In the meantime, the Pike’s Peak Photoplay Company was emerging as another important Colorado Springs film company. One of their film locations was the former Heidelberg Inn in Ramona, a now defunct suburb of Colorado City. The closed up barroom was used to film a number of westerns over one summer. The building itself was razed in 1921, but movies continued to be shot in the Pikes Peak region throughout the 1920’s. In 1925 a few movie scenes were filmed for a Warner Bros. production of “The Limited Mail” around Canon City. They included footage of the Royal Gorge and even a train wreck. But the ideal location had lost its appeal for the time being, especially with the premier of “The Great K & A Train Robbery” in 1926 starring Tom Mix, Dorothy Dawn and a very young extra hired by Mix: John Wayne. Most of the scenes were shot in Glenwood Canyon, far away from Canon City.

The depression era did much to squelch movie making for about a decade. Then Tom
Mix died in a car crash near Phoenix, Arizona in 1940. But the mid-40’s found directors back in Colorado, striving to make spaghetti westerns with world wide-appeal. Productions included 1947’s “The Marshal of Cripple Creek” starring Red Ryder and 1948’s “Canon City”, starring Charles Bronson and based on the actual escape of 12 inmates from the Colorado State Penitentiary. When the crews left, a local man named Karol Smith established the Canon City Motion Picture Committee and produced a location manual to be sent to Hollywood producers. The ploy worked. In 1950, the first film to premier in Canon City’s new film era was “Vengeance Valley” with Burt Lancaster and Slim Pickens. “Vengeance” was followed by “The Denver and Rio Grande”. In 1952 another movie, “Cripple Creek”, premiered. While the fictional film was not shot on location, it does mention Victor and Goldfield. The tagline capitalized on Cripple Creek’s bygone mining era, declaring “For every man who struck gold—hundreds tried to take it away from him!” The plot was complete with shoot outs and fist fights to give it authentic western flavor.

In 1953 yet another film, “The Outcast” with John Derek, was filmed at Canon City. This
was followed by 1954’s “Big House USA”. In 1958, Karol Smith assisted in creating Buckskin Joe, a museum-quality assemblage of historic buildings from around the state (including one from Cripple Creek). The historic setting has continually provided an excellent backdrop for such westerns as “Cat Ballou” with Jane Fonda, “Boom Town” with Clark Gable, “Misfits” with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, “The Last Round Up” with Gene Autrey, “The Cowboys” and “True Grit” with John Wayne, “The Dutchess and the Dirtwater Fox” with Goldie Hawn, “White Buffalo”, “The Sacketts”, “Conagher” with Sam Elliot and Kathrine Ross and “Lightening Jack.” The closing of Buckskin Joe in 2010 truly signified the end of Colorado’s frontier film-making era, but you can read about movies made in the Centennial State between now and then by clicking here.

Anaconda, an Early Town of Colorado’s Cripple Creek District

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article appear in Jan’s 2016, book, Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County.

As the Cripple Creek District developed during the 1890s, thousands of miners flocked to the region seeking fortune. Within an incredibly short time, hundreds prospect holes dotted the landscape. In one area, located roughly halfway between Cripple Creek and Victor, the body of “a female aborigine” was unearthed. The remains were most likely those of a Ute Indian, since those native Americans once favored the area as a summer hunting ground. The area where she was found became known as Squaw Gulch.

By about March of 1892, the Anaconda Mine above Squaw Gulch was producing $50,000 in gold each month. The company was officially incorporated on June 21. David Moffat, the famed Colorado railroad tycoon, was president. The mine was not without its problems as principle officers of the company fought with each other over who got what, and the mine was shut down at least once. While the Anaconda struggled, other good producing mines followed, including the Mary McKinny just a few months later, and the Doctor Jack Pot and the Morning Glory in 1893.

Along Squaw Gulch, a series of small towns formed. The two earliest communities were Mound City and Barry which sat on either side of a wagon road traversing Squaw Gulch. Quite suddenly, a new camp emerged in Squaw Gulch, at the foot of Gold Hill. Without much aplomb, the Aspen Daily Times of May 20, 1893 simply mentioned that the “town of Anaconda, near Cripple Creek, has taken out incorporation papers.” At least the Daily Times was impressed by the town newspaper which began two months later. “The Anaconda Herald is a new candidate for newspaper favors at Cripple Creek. It is very ably edited by A.J. McNasser.”

It was not long before there was some news to report. On an August night in 1893, Larry Cavanaugh ended an all night drinking spree by coming home, knocking his wife to the floor and threatening to cut her throat. He also threatened to kill his brother in law, George Cosen. Mrs. Cavanaugh managed to escape to Cosen’s house. On her heels was her husband, who kicked in the door and went after Cosen with a revolver. Cosen “picked up his rifle and shot the intruder dead,” reported papers throughout Colorado. The news said Cosen was arrested, but that he would most likely be released.

Indeed, Anaconda had blossomed practically overnight into a real town with the accompanying violence of any western town. The 1893 directory lists Anaconda’s first mayor as Dr. A.A. Smith, with trustees consisting of U.G. McCrackin, James A. Doyle, Chas. A. Keith, J.C. McKenney, F.C. Hathaway and W.M. Armstrong. A second newspaper, the weekly Mining Standard run by W.A. Bray, soon replaced the Herald. Hotels, drugstores, groceries, physicians and lawyers put out their shingles. Three saloons—Good’s Place, Mayer & Cook and Page & Allen’s X 10 U 8 sample room—kept the blue collar workers happy. The Anaconda Dance Hall  and the Barry Club also provided entertainment. There also were churches, a school and a jail. There was even a music teacher and dressmaker living in town. Not bad for a town of only 200 people.

In December of 1893, Anaconda managed to snatch the post office from, and absorb, the nearby town of Barry. Another community, Mound City, was absorbed as well. The Anaconda post office officially opened on December 7, 1893. M. Lehman, who also ran a “gent’s furnishings” store, was postmaster. Barry resident Leslie Doyle Spell remembered the small jail at Anaconda, a two room affair built of rock from the nearby creek bed and filled with mortar. On a night, temporary marshal Tom Flanagan jailed a miner known as “Big Kelly” for being drunk. Flanagan had installed his prisoner and was playing poker when Big Kelly suddenly appeared at his elbow. “Tom whirled and said: ‘I thought I put you in jail,; whereat Kelly answered: ‘You didn’t expect to keep a hardrock miner in a jail like that, did you?'” It turned out that some local children, including Spell, had found an old  knife and given it to Kelly to dig his way out through a weak place in the mortar. Flanagan duly marched Kelly back to the jail and made him crawl through the hole, telling him to stay put or the marshal “would come back and give him a good licking.” Kelly stayed put for the rest of the night. Spell recalled that many years later he was telling this story in Bisbee Arizona. “An elderly man spoke up,” he remembered, “and said, ‘That’s a true story, men. I was playing poker with Tom at the time.”

Unlike Altman and other places in the Cripple Creek District, Anaconda seemed rather unaffected by the labor strikes of 1893-94. Even in Squaw Gulch, there were few places for miners to build a stronghold like they had at Altman. Rather, Anaconda’s miners seemed a bit more open to—or afraid of opposing—owners of the Anaconda mine who wanted them to work an extra hour for the same pay. In March of 1894, it was announced that the Anaconda Mine was one of the few who would reopen and hire anti-union employees to work there. While not all of Anaconda’s miners were for the change in policy, when the strike was settled a few months later citizens simply resumed their daily lives with little trouble or comment.

In 1894, Anaconda was becoming an important part of the Cripple Creek District, and incorporated. The population consisted of about 1,000 people “who enjoy their cosy [sic] life snug in the embrace of the hills,” according to an 1894 directory. More billiard halls and saloons were now present, but more respectable businesses such as the Delmonico and Keystone Restaurants, hardware stores, attorneys, doctors, and others outnumbered them. As Anaconda grew, both the Midland Terminal Railroad and the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad were running a most heated race to reach the Cripple Creek District. The F. & C.C. won, with a passenger train chugging into nearby Cripple Creek on July 1, 1894. The next day the train continued on to Anaconda, only to derail and cause a spectacular crash close to town. Two passenger coaches and the baggage car went over the edge of a trestle. Twenty one people were injured, and W.G. Milner of Leadville was killed.

By 1895, upwards of 2,000 train passengers and visitors passed through Anaconda each day. Enter Jimmy Doyle, a former fireman, would soon to strike it rich at the famed Portland Mine and become a future mayor of nearby Victor. But his beginnings in the Cripple Creek District consisted of advertising his assaying services in newspapers throughout 1895. The city was still growing, and in May, the Blue Bell addition was added for more housing. Now, Anaconda even had a baseball team, and by November, the Midland Terminal Railroad tracks had reached one side of town.

Prizefighting became a popular pastime in Anaconda beginning in 1896, when newspapers announced that Billy Woods and Jim Williams would be duking it out for a purse of over $3,000. The fight was forgotten a few weeks later, however, when the city of Cripple Creek just a few miles away burned in not one, but two fires. Refugees from the fire crowded into Anaconda, tripling business at the post office. In the months following the fires, after the temporary visitors had returned to Cripple Creek, the Cripple Creek District directory of 1896 guessed there were roughly 1,800 people living in Anaconda. City businesses now included a blacksmith, drugstore, general merchandise store, laundry services, a livery, a meat market, shoemaker, two barbers, two confectionaries, two dressmakers, two dry goods stores, two physicians and two restaurants. There were also four grocery stores, and six bars to quench the thirst of locals. Guests of the town had two hotels and eight boardinghouses to choose from. There was even a justice of the peace and a notary public. Around town were about twenty six mines, plus a sampling works, stamp mill and three assayers.

Also in 1896, a new newspaper, the Assayer, was met with approval. “Mr. [C.P.] Brooks, it is needless to say, knows how to  make a bright and newsy paper,” commented the Leadville Herald Democrat. The article proved to be an understatement, for the lively Mr. Brooks kept readers entertained with plenty of news, and a good dose of editorial comment to boot. On January 13 of 1898, the Greeley Tribune noted that “Charles P. Brooks, who was reported a few weeks ago to be in a dying condition at Anaconda” had also become editor of the Cripple Creek Prospector newspaper in Cripple Creek. Greeley was, incidentally, Brooks’ former hometown. The Elbert County Banner also had something to say about Brooks’ character: “The editor of the Anaconda Assayer has been having a high old time with the mayor and town board of that camp. But he seems to be plenty for them even they do pummel him around and draw guns on him when he attends town council.”

Brooks’ antics aside, life at Anaconda throughout the late 1890’s remained rather quiet. Newspapers reported on a $250 robbery at John Knox’s saloon, the accidental deaths of various miners and a foiled ore robbery attempt at the Doctor Mine in 1897. Six trains were still coming through town daily. And in August Dr. Coleman, a local druggist, was digging a cellar behind his home and hit a rich gold vein.

Indeed, things were very bright for Anaconda at the turn of the century. The Cripple Creek Morning Times‘ New Year’s Day edition  of 1899 had much good to say about the town, calling Anaconda “a well governed little city with no debt and where the people are prosperous and happy.” The writer went on to claim that “There is no place in the state more picturesque, and as a ‘summer camp’ it has no equal.” Compliments were showered upon the peace-loving population as well. “The old-time notion that a  mining city must in the nature of things be ‘tough’ does not obtain in Anaconda,” the paper went on, emphasizing the point by mentioning a “splendid” school system with over 400 students.

By 1900 the Anaconda Mine was a major producer.  The town proper had become the fourth largest in the Cripple Creek District, even as the population remained at around a thousand residents. Even so, Anaconda was still considered a “young” city. The impressive downtown area spanned two blocks with false-fronted buildings housing churches, hotels, lawyers, an optician, pharmacies, physicians, saloons, stores and a nice, white wood-framed school house. Residents also enjoyed telephone service. The Anaconda School’s principal was E.E. Morris. Nellie Riggs, Maud Sheldon and Alida Colwell were employed as teachers. There was also a volunteer fire department at the Town Hall. Irving Douglas was postmaster. Baptist, Methodist and Catholic Church.

Anaconda unwittingly became home to a handful of people who eventually became famous in their own right. One of them was Josiah Roberts, who was ten years old when his family lived in town in 1900 (some websites claim Roberts was born in Anaconda. In 1890, however, neither the town or the Cripple Creek District existed yet. Roberts’ World War I draft registration verifies he was actually born in Rockvale, Colorado). By 1920 Roberts had  moved to Los Angeles, where he went to work for motion picture companies. When he died in 1971, he was noted as a cinematographer who had worked on the films “White Shadows in the South Seas” in 1928 and “Eskimo” in 1933.

Other famous residents included Judge Melvin B. Gerry and Dr. Susan “Doc Susie” Anderson who became citizens as Anaconda swallowed up Mound City and Barry, respectively. But the woman who really turned heads at Anaconda was the later-known speakeasy queen, Texas Guinan. Mary Louise Cecelia Guinan, as she was then known, came to town with her mother in 1902. Mother and daughter were there to visit Mrs. Guinan’s sister, Mrs. Margaret Conley.

During her extended stay, Tex began playing the organ for the local Sunday school. But she also began dressing a little too modern for the standards of young ladies of Anaconda. Not only were her outfits a bit too revealing, but she also wore rouge and makeup. Next, she lined up a series of suitors, whom she would date once or twice before casting them aside. Those who complained were given the same response that would soon be Tex’s tradmark saying: “Oh, you poor sucker.” It was probably at Anaconda that Tex met John Joseph Moynahan. The 1900 census verifies that John was in town visiting his uncle, John O’Brien. Later that year, Moynahan was hired as a cartoonist with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. He also may have invested in real estate in Cripple Creek, where the now-defunct Moynahan Street was named for him.

By 1904 both Moynahan and Tex were in Denver, where they married on December 4. The couple later divorced and went on to marry others; in the meantime, Texas Guinan eventually made her way to New York where she found work as a chorus girl and started appearing in short films starting in 1917. She also ran a series of successful nightclubs and speakeasies during the prohibition era. The name of one of them, the Culture Club, was later used by a popular British band during the 1980’s. Tex appeared in more than thirty films before she died in 1933. A film, “Incendiary Blonde”, profiled her lively and interesting life in 1945.

Anaconda boasted “good schools and several churches” in 1902, with a population of about 1,000. George Horton was mayor. Notably, there was no pastor at the Baptist Church, nor the Methodist Episcopal Church,  when the Cripple Creek District Directory was published. Instead, Reverend Father Victor was overseeing the Catholic Church. Three lodges, the I.O.O.F. Ivanhoe Rebekah Lodgw No. 60, Miners’ Union No. 21 and White Swan Council No. 31, D. of P., were available to members. Other businesses included a wagon maker, a drugstore, a dry goods, a boardinghouse, a hardware store, a meat market, one tailor, a doctor, one realtor, one shoe store, a stationary store, two restaurants, two barbers, two cigar stores, three assayers, three fuel and feed stores, three saloons, and four groceries.

Like many towns across the west, Anaconda suffered a fire that was almost the town’s undoing. On November 11, 1904, a fire began at Nelson’s Grocery at 11:30 p.m. The flames had been growing for some time before they were discovered by Edwin Irwin. News of the fire was reported as far away as Los Angeles, where the Los Angeles Herald warned the town was “in danger of total destruction by fire.” One block of the downtown had already burned, with many other in danger. A lack of water pressure combined with strong winds spelled disaster, even after a bucket brigade was formed. Anaconda’s volunteer fire department finally called Cripple Creek for help. Many buildings, including the city hall, were dynamited in an effort to stop the flames, but in the end every building south of the railroad tracks through town burned. Only one of them was insured. Newspapers guessed the damage to be between $50,000 and $60,000.

In spite of nearly being burned out altogether, Anaconda did survive for a few years more. The town still had “good schools and several churches” in 1905, and the Cripple Creek District Directory for that year did offer this disclaimer: “A large portion of the business section of Anaconda was recently burned and owing to its nearness to the city of Cripple Creek there is considerable doubt of its being rebuilt.” Nonetheless, the population still hovered around 1,000 people. Lyman Cornwell was mayor. Two of the three churches had no pastor. There were, however, still three lodges surviving. Businesses included one cigar store, a drugstore, one dry goods, one saloon, one shoe store, two physicians, two grocers.

Anaconda would continue to downsize in the coming years. There were 130 residents left when the post office closed on March 31, 1909. In 1911 the post office reopened during a small surge in mining, and 200 people called Anaconda home in 1912. Only a confectionary store and a grocery, however, represented the business section. Five years later, the post office closed a final time. By 1920, any remaining residents of Anaconda were listed as part of the nearby town of Victor in the census. A few mines did continue to survive around Anaconda. One of them was the Mary McKinney, which finally closed in 1953 after producing $11 million in Gold.

For years, Anaconda’s main street was an empty dirt road with a few buildings scattered about. The Mary McKinney’s huge cribbing paralleled the highway. In Squaw Gulch, only faint remnants of Barry and Mound City could be seen, including the jail. Beginning in 1967, the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad in Cripple Creek brought visitors on a four mile scenic tour from Cripple Creek to Anaconda. The trip dead-ended at the old blacksmith barn for the Mary McKinney, one of the few relics left of Anaconda. A year later, the CCVNG recovered the former Midland Terminal Depot at Bull Hill and moved it to their property in Cripple Creek.

Anaconda remained a highly popular spot for history buffs and ghost town hunters. Tragically, however, in April of 1984 Anaconda made the news when 23-year old Wayne Tease, of Colorado Springs, suffered a fatal fall down an old mine shaft at the Mary McKinney. Due to the depth of the shaft, one thousand feet, authorities could do little to retrieve the body short of slinking a camera down the shaft to identify Tease. The only thing his family could do was erect a small memorial to him at the shaft where he died. Over time, the story took on some interesting twists. It took Tease’s mother fourteen years to obtain a death certificate for her son. Then in 2011, it was discovered that modern mining operations by the Cripple Creek/Victor Mine were slated to cover the shaft. Although the mine offered to move the memorial, the family objected since the shaft was considered by them to be a grave for their son. After negotiations which lasted a year or better, and with no law to stop them, the mine proceeded with their plans. Today there is barely anything left of Anaconda, nor the little valley below it which once led to Shelf Road, which is still used to access towns south of the Cripple Creek District.

Image: Famed Colorado photographer William Henry Jackson captured Anaconda during the 1890s. Library of Congress.

Altman, the Wickedest Town in Colorado’s Cripple Creek District

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article are from Jan’s book, Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado

Nobody seems to agree about the exact altitude of Altman, one of the more notorious towns of the Cripple Creek District. The 1894 Cripple Creek District directory located the town at 10,500 feet. Author Robert L. Brown reported that Altman sat at 10,700′. Historian Allan C. Lewis more accurately calculated the town’s height at 11,150′. Newspapers of the day claimed the town sat at 11,650′. The Colorado State Business Directory of 1908 guessed the altitude to be 11,146 feet. The Cripple Creek District Directory for 1915-16 claimed an altitude of 10,728 feet. At the very least, everyone agrees that during its heyday, Altman was the highest incorporated city in the United States. Altman citizens, and later historians, also liked to claim the town was actually the highest in the world. It wasn’t, according to Brown, who said that honor actually went to La Paz, Bolivia.

What is known for sure is that Altman, situated at the top of the Cripple Creek District with a clear view of Pike’s Peak, was platted on September 25, 1893 by Samuel Altman. In 1891, Sam owned the Altman Mill in Squaw Gulch a mile or so away. He also owned two local mines. Further away, Sam also operated a sawmill in Park County’s town, Lake George, during the 1890’s. Altman had purchased the Free Coinage Mine on Bull Hill before founding his namesake town nearby.

In its infancy, Altman grew very quickly. The population may have soared as high as 1,200 in 1893. The main thoroughfares included Main, Baldwin and Brown Streets. Business buildings were of the wood, false fronted variety. Four restaurants, six saloons, six grocery stores, a schoolhouse and 200 homes already dotted the hillside by the time the town was platted. Almost immediately, a few roughnecks moved into town. On October 10, 1893 four newcomers, Felix Parrow, Robert McCullough, Harry Cavanaugh and Jim McDonald showed up at W.R. Goodey’s saloon. The men spent a most pleasant night playing cards for drinks. Around 4 a.m., however, the men suddenly broke into a fight as a ruse to rob the place.

During the fray, barkeeper John Ashby was whacked in the head with a gun and “laid out”, while faro dealer J.S. Bush was disarmed. In all, the robbers took $610.00 in cash and another $350.00 in checks, along with five gold watches and a pair of bracelets. Within a day, however, one of the robbers had already been arrested. Next, in November, ex-prizefighter George Lear was labeled a “Green Monster” by newspapers when he shot and killed a dance hall girl named Irene Goode in a jealous rage. Lear got his; a short time later, Altman bartender Sam Jones killed Lear at Kilday & Sullivan’s Saloon.

As of January 1894, Altman’s population was guessed to be around 2,000 residents. Prominent citizens included Peter Hettig, who was credited with opening the very first store in nearby Cripple Creek when that town was founded. Likewise, Hettig also opened the first store on Bull Hill near the Pharmacist Mine. Altman’s authorities likely hoped for the best as a post office was established on January 18, 1894 in what was then El Paso County. But even this news, was soon overshadowed as Altman unwittingly became a major player in the labor war of 1893-94. Beginning February 1 local mine owners, including Sam Altman, changed their employees’ work day from eight to nine hours per day—for the same daily wage of three dollars. Rather than bow down, however, the miners took matters into their own hands and simply walked off the job on February 2.

As word spread through the District, the residents of Altman decided to drive their point home—by leaving altogether. “The entire population of the camp packed up their effects,” reported the Aspen Daily Times on February 7, “and a motley procession was formed, including miners, saloonkeepers and their outfits, merchants with their stocks and the denizens of the brothels. The hilarious cavalcade moved to Cripple Creek and within a few hours the camp was deserted.” Other miners expressed their desire to follow suit, and a walkout from every mine in the camp was planned for February 8.

Failing to get a proper response to their actions, the population of Altman was soon back, openly declaring their hometown a union town. Most of the residents were pro-union anyway and before long, the Free Coinage Union Local No. 19 opened its doors for the first time. In the meantime, mine owners succeeded in procuring court orders to cease striking, but they were to no avail. As the highest town in the District, Altman afforded views in all directions and offered relative security from invading forces. The Western Federation of Miners (W.F.M.), led by John Calderwood, soon found a home in town and successfully closed Altman to all but union men. Union membership cards were required of anyone wishing to enter town.

Angered mine owners next hired a number of temporary deputies to disperse the miners at Altman. During one encounter in March, six sheriff’s deputies on their way to Altman were accosted by the town’s own police staff. A fist fight broke out and shots were fired. One deputy was wounded, and two others were arrested for carrying concealed weapons. El Paso County Sheriff Frank Bowers was enraged and sent a message to Colorado Governor Davis H. Waite. He claimed a deputy was actually killed, Waite later said; hence, the governor allowed fifty special sheriffs to be deputized and sent up from Colorado Springs.

Embellishments such as Bowers’ fib to Governor Waite continued. Adjutant General Thomas J. Tarsney also received word that the strikers were rioting and causing mayhem. Tarsney hurried to the Altman but encountered only “disheartened but dedicated miners” and was ready to rescind his offer of assistance by the time Bowers secured numerous warrants against the men. Tarsney also played witness as the men surrendered. Only one was tried and acquitted, the others released without going to trial. Bowers’ actions incensed the strikers. On May 25 a group of men attacked the Strong Mine above Victor, disarmed the guards and blew the mine to smithereens. Only three men who were in the mine at the time suffered no more than shock from the explosion. A short time later, during a clash of mining strikers versus Colorado Springs deputies and a number of anti-union men, two strikers were killed and five were arrested.

More violence followed; in June another scuffle broke out as deputies cut the telegraph wires at Altman, arrested reporters who were covering the event and were exchanging gunfire with miners on Bull Hill when a fresh militia was sent by Governor Waite. But so many lies were being told by men on either side of the war that Waite ultimately visited Altman himself and called for a civil mediation in Colorado Springs. On June 11, the strike was finally settled.

Altman recovered nicely from the labor war, but continued on its raucous path. By late 1894 the population was said to have soared to more than two thousand people. Businesses were flourishing. They included the two-story Hill Top Hotel, the Altman Oyster and Chop House, the Belmont Restaurant, a watchmaker and jeweler, and several general merchandise stores, restaurants, laundries, books and stationary stores, bakeries, liveries and boarding houses. There were also six saloons where hard-working miners toasted their town on a regular basis. Adjacent Towns. Cripple Creek, CO: Hazeltine & Co., publishers, May 1, 1894 p. 148-149)

When authorities announced plans to close the growing community’s post office and move it to the town of Independence down the mountain in 1895, the citizens protested at an “indignation meeting”. The problem, postal authorities explained, was that Altman was simply too darn high to be lugging mail up and down the mountain. It was a hard point to argue. In the end it was agreed that all mail for Altman would be directed to Cripple Creek. From there, the mail would be delivered to Altman by Faharbeck Brothers express company, and distributed by M.L. Dowling. A telegraph was also sent to the House of Representatives, explaining the situation and requesting an investigation into the matter. The post office was indeed moved to Independence during the investigation, but a month later it was re-established at Altman. The citizens had conquered once again.

With their post office back in place, the outlaws around Altman felt free to start their shenanigans once more. In March of 1895 a four-horse stage was coming down the hill from town when three men jumped out of nowhere. In their attempt to stop the stage, one of the men grabbed the lead horse’s bridles. Instead of slowing down, however, the stage driver simply snapped his whip. The horses “made a jump and rushed down the road, throwing the would-be robber to the ground and apparently running over him.” As much as Altman’s citizens declined to put up with much, however, the town did gain a reputation for being a rough-and-tumble sort of place. History buffs over time have sometimes stretched the truth, stating that the local undertaker even offered to give group rates for funerals on Saturdays. When poet and Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph columnist Rufus L. Porter wrote a ballad about the town’s first marshal, Mike McKinnon, dying after a gunfight with six Texans (but not, allegedly, before he killed all six outlaws), people accepted the story as fact.

Porter may have actually been recalling a real scenario which played out in May of 1895. In that case, outlaw gangster “General” Jack Smith dueled it out with Marshal Jack Kelley. Smith had been running amuck for some time, and had been warned by Kelley to stop trying “to run the town in his usual style.” On May 14, 1895, Smith wrapped up a night of drinking by shooting the locks off of the Altman jail. Inside were two of his buddies, who had already been arrested for drunkenness. Smith wisely left town as soon as his friends were free, but the next day a constable named Lupton and one Frank Vanneck located him in a Victor saloon. “I want you Jack,” Lupton said, to which Smith replied, “If you want me, then read your warrant.” As Lupton began reading the warrant, Smith appeared to go for his gun. The constable quickly pinned down the outlaw’s arms while Vanneck shoved a gun to Smith’s chest. Smith was taken to court and a hearing was set with a bond of three hundred dollars. The angry outlaw bonded out immediately and was next seen riding towards Altman “with the open declaration of doing up the marshal who swore the complaint.”

Lupton made a quick call up to Altman (presumably by telegraph) to warn of Smith’s threat. Then he mounted his own horse and headed for the town with Victor Deputy Sheriff Benton. Meanwhile, Smith had made it to Altman where he gathered a small force of men including one named George Popst. The bunch headed to Gavin and Toohey’s Saloon, where Smith started ordering one drink after another. Outside, Lupton and Benton met up with Marshal Kelley and set out in search of the “General”. Kelley “had just lifted the latch of Lavine and Touhey’s [sic] saloon, when ‘crack’ went a gun from the inside. The ball struck the latch and glanced off.” Kelley threw the door open and shot Smith just below the heart. From the floor, Smith emptied his gun and Kelley continued shooting him. Outside, Deputy Benton fired a shot through the window that hit Popst. “The latter may recover,” predicted the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper, “but Smith is certain to die.” Popst also died, about a week later.

Marshal Kelley had barely recovered from the ghastly shoot out with General Jack when a bartender at another saloon was killed and robbed in early September. This time, two men entered the place which was occupied by the barkeep and two other men. The robbers abruptly shouted “Throw up your hands!” even as one of them shot the bartender three times. “And this is after he had thrown up his hands,” it was noted, “a signal which even bandits respect.” The bandits only netted seventy dollars for their trouble, because the bartender had wisely hidden the bulk of his nightly proceeds in a safe place before he was killed. The robbers remained elusive to authorities until two men fitting their descriptions turned up in the El Paso County jail for robbing a Wells Fargo Express. Kelley lost no time in visiting the jail to see the men, Lloyd Marye and Pete Wilson. The men were indeed the ones Kelley was looking for.

Surprisingly, the gritty events at Altman were not enough to deter the Denver Chamber of Commerce from coming through for a day visit later that month. And when the Miners Union Ball was hosted in Altman in December, an advertisement promised the dance would “be the event of the season.” Residents around Altman, including families, miners and business folk, clearly learned to work around the rowdy outbursts of certain citizens. In January of 1896 Mr. and Mrs. H. Wolf were driving the road up to Altman from Goldfield when two men stopped them. The gentlemen bandits relieved Mr. Wolf of his valuables, but let Mrs. Wolf keep hers. A short time later the men, identified as Mike McMillan and Jack Haggerty, were arrested in Goldfield.

Altman was finally incorporated on July 25, 1896 and David B. Rhoads was declared the first official mayor. Within a year, the population was said to have doubled to 1,000 people. Serving the citizens of Altman were an assayer, bakery, drugstore, general merchandise store, grocery, hotel, jeweler, shoemaker and tailor, also two dry goods stores, two liveries, two meat markets, two physicians and two restaurants. Four barbers were also on hand. Six saloons served thirsty miners at all hours of the day and night. They included the Thirst Parlor, The Mint, The Silver Dollar, and the Monte Carlo. Newcomers and visitors to town could choose from eight boardinghouses. Around the town, approximately thirty seven mines employed miners and other blue collar workers. Their children attended the Altman School, overseen by schoolmaster Thomas Roundtree. For the ladies, Mitchell’s Millinery offered stylish hats. And, Altman’s own Weekly Champion newspaper reported the goings-on through the whole town.

In June, Sam Altman began suffering financial woes starting with a lawsuit against his Free Coinage mine. Back in January of 1896, he had already sold his interest in the Free Coinage mine to fellow mine owner Sam Strong. Altman eventually moved to Colorado Springs, where he died in 1922. Long before that, Altman’s town carried on swimmingly. In April of 1896 it had been announced that a new water works plant was being planned. And in October, the Florence & Cripple Creek railroad announced plans to build a spur to Altman. Soon, Altman had grown large enough to begin calling a portion of it “South Altman”. Amongst the fancier hotels at Altman during 1897 was the Altman Hotel and the Hill Top Hotel.

Altman was just starting to look like a real first class city when another shooting occurred, in April of 1897. The perpetrator in this case was Jack Cox, who had been in Cripple Creek since 1895 after being pardoned for murder. Cox had been gambling and drinking all night at McElroy and Coll’s Saloon. With him were his best friend, Bob Daily, also another friend, Sam Loshey. At 10 a.m. the next morning, Cox and his friends were still at it when a fight broke out. Said to be “crazed with liquor”, Cox opened fire and killed Daily. He shot at bartender J.C. McElroy too, but missed. His third shot killed Loshey, too.

Following the shootings, Cox ran for the door. On his way out he encountered Harry Miner, another friend whose mother ran the boarding house where Cox lived. Miner was also shot, which fortunately only broke his arm. Out on the street, Cox saw Town Marshal Ed O’Brien coming and fired yet again. This time the marshal returned fire, seriously wounding the murderer. Cox lived to stand trial, but three witnesses on the stand didn’t seem to know why the fight broke out. After some confusion, Cox finally explained that the “witnesses” were actually his gang members, and the argument had been over stolen goods. The men were arrested. In the end, Cox was found guilty of murder. He was lucky, as Colorado’s death penalty had only recently been abolished by the legislature. 

By August of 1897, Altman’s baseball team was playing other District teams regularly at Mt. Pisgah Gardens outside of Cripple Creek. Later that same month, Miss Marie Nelson, a professional singer and former student at Altman’s school, returned to perform for her home town. By September, however, the natives were restless yet again. This time, miners Pat Gildea and Jerry O’Donnell had a round at Goodley’s Saloon. The two had been at each other since an altercation during the Corbett-Fitzsimmons boxing match clear back in March. At Goodley’s, Gildea was arguing with saloon manager George Savadge when O’Donnell decided to chime in. “Maybe you want some of this yourself,” sneered Gildea, striking O’Donnell twice in the face and knocking him down. Then he gave him a kick for good measure. O’Donnell rose to his feet. He was covered in blood, and mad. “You wouldn’t do this if I hadn’t been drinking, and I don’t believe you can whip me anyway!” he retorted. The fight was on. This time, when Gildea hit O’Donnell in the face again, the latter pulled a knife and sliced his opponent right across the guts. Gildea was able to run outside, bring in a rock and clobber O’Donnell again before onlookers broke up the fight. By the next day, Gildea was suffering terribly with internal bleeding and died soon after. O’Donnell was arrested.

During 1898, Altman’s bad boys seemed to calm down a bit. In its New Year’s Day edition, the Cripple Creek Morning Times noted South Altman was “a place worthy of commendation”, and explained that “more miners make their home in Altman than any other town in the district.” The town appeared to be doing just fine with a population of 2,000, electric lights, a telephone company and a postal telegraph company. The Florence & Cripple Creek apparently concluded there was no way to lay tracks to the high town, but residents were still hoping that David Moffatt’s Golden Circle railway would come there instead. Meanwhile, Altman continued living up to the Morning Times‘ expectations. By February the city had its own Bull Hill Literary Society, a French club and a Ladies’ Aid Society. Crimes were still being committed, but they were half hearted efforts at best. When two men robbed Mutterer and Blass’ Saloon, they only got four dollars and nobody was even hurt.

The dwindling crime element took an even stranger turn one night in October when Edward Callahan ran into police headquarters at Cripple Creek. He told officers he was turning himself in for shooting two men at Altman. Callahan was out of breath, he said, because “he had started to this city on horseback but could not ride fast enough, so he had jumped off the horse and run. [And] it was very evident that he had run,” according to the Cripple Creek Morning Times. After some investigation, Marshal O’Brien finally found a witness to the shooting. The man said he had seen Callahan fire his Winchester twice at hillside, but he hadn’t shot at anybody. Meanwhile, Callahan “told a marvelously bloody tale of how he had shot the two men all to pieces, but every time he told it, the story took on new phases, until it was clear that he was non compos mentis.” The police put him in jail until they could take him to Colorado Springs and “care for him.”

Another rather comical event was said to have taken place in December of 1899. The Denver Times reported that Mayor Thomas Ferroll decided the people of Altman had no need for that newfangled contraption called a telephone. When the Colorado Telephone Company attempted to install telephone poles in town, Ferroll retaliated by chopping two poles down. The mayor was made to pay for the poles, as well as the wages of the telephone workers. Ultimately, Altman did succeed in obtaining a single telephone located at Morrison & McMillan’s store.

Although the population had dropped in half by 1900, Altman still retained its school and city hall. In addition to the usual saloons, there were also two restaurants, a drugstore, assay office, two mercantiles, and four boardinghouses. There was even a Justice of the Peace and a volunteer fire department. As promised, the Golden Circle railroad was providing transportation to a station just west of Altman. Citizens could also frequent a number of organizations including the Home Forum Benefit Order, and two chapters of the Red Men. Two unions prospered as well: the Free Coinage Miners’ Union, and the Stationary Engineers’ Union. And as usual, there were four saloons in which to whoop it up on Saturday night. There were two churches too, and one of them oversaw the marriage of mining millionaire Sam Strong to Altman resident Regina Neville. The couple had barely been pronounced husband and wife, however, before one of a string of lawsuits were served on the philandering Strong by various women. The suits were settled, but Strong was later killed by Sherman Crumley’s brother, Grant, at Cripple Creek in 1901.

it was the 1902 Cripple Creek District Directory that first boasted that Altman was the highest incorporated city in the world. The population of 1,500 was comprised of citizens within the city limits, but also those “who receive their mail at that point as well as those who have no regular postoffice address, giving locations where possible.” Businesses in town had dwindled to three barbers, three dressmakers and three saloons, but only one each of such important places like assayers, drugstores, general merchandise stores, hotels, meat markets, restaurants and shoe stores. There was only a single physician remaining as well. Then, in 1903, a fire destroyed most of the town.

The conflagration broke out in the early morning hours at Mrs. Ollie Davisson’s Altman Hotel. The fire had been raging for some time before it was discovered, and when firemen tried hooking their hoses to the hydrants they found the faucets had been “tampered with”. It took four hours to fix the hydrants, during which some buildings were dynamited in an attempt to keep the fire from spreading. All was for naught. By the time surrounding fire departments had arrived to help, the entire business district and numerous homes were in ashes. In the wake of the fire, it was noted that this was the second time someone had tried to set fire to Mrs. Davisson’s hotel, also that red pepper had been spread around the scene to deter bloodhounds. Soon it was discovered that Mrs. Davisson had set the fire herself. She was arrested, along with her housemaid, miners Neal Osborne, Thomas Deetson and a man named Johns, and even Altman Water Company manager J. W. Dumpee.

Further news of Altman’s fire was lost in the shuffle as the Cripple Creek District launched into a second labor strike. The labor strike of 1904 was even worse than the one ten years before. Altman had no time to set up a fortress like before, and the militia plopped down in the middle of town before anyone could do anything. Eventually, the union lost the war and their members were forced to leave town at gunpoint.

Altman’s population continued to fall, totaling only 900 people by 1907. “While many of the rich mining properties of the District are located in the neighborhood,” explained the Cripple Creek District directory that year, “the facilities for reaching the valley towns are so excellent that many of the miners prefer to travel back and forth rather than to reside at so high an altitude.” Only a dozen businesses remained. A year later the population was reported at 150 residents, with only eight business men and women appearing in the Colorado State Business Directory. The post office closed on May 20, 1911.

For a few more years, one or two businesses clung to life at Altman. By 1915 those left at Altman began receiving their mail at Independence, and were considered residents of that town thereafter. Even so, Altman’s Mayor, Frank Dorethy, and other government officials were listed separately in the directory. John Giblin was still mayor pro-tem in 1917, but no businesses appeared in the Cripple Creek District Directory at all. The town was eventually vacated for good. Most of the buildings were gone by 1937, although some buildings on Main Street still stood as late as the 1960’s. Among these was the city hall, still containing a large safe. The remaining buildings swayed with time, and a few even survived into the 1980’s when the road to Altman was closed by a modern mining interests. Today the mine, recently acquired by Newmont Mining Corporation, let visitors up a graded road to the American Eagles Mine. A gate up top used to lead to Altman. But finding Altman is literally impossible today, for even the mountain where it once stood no longer exists.

Image: A colored postcard shows Altman circa 1899. Pikes Peak is visible in the background. Courtesy Jan MacKell Collins

Alta Vista, a Tiny Whistlestop in the Cripple Creek District of Colorado

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article are excerpted from Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado.

As the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad (aka the F. & C.C.) built up Eight Mile Canyon towards the Cripple Creek District during the 1890s, it was soon discovered that the last few miles into the District proved steeper than originally thought. The new railroad needed a way to help the engines make the grade. There may have already been an old stage route in the high meadow where the “helper” town was built, for by the time the railroad reached there, the place had been named Alta Vista, Spanish for “High View.” True to its name Alta Vista, at 9,710 feet in altitude, afforded a beautiful view for miles around. From the whistlestop’s lofty location, passengers could see the District=s working mines, as well as the budding city of Victor.

Alta Vista was never platted and never had a post office. Though small, the village played a prominent role in the railroad history of the District. The railroad officially reached the tiny stop on May 20, 1894. Unlike other stops along the tracks, Alta Vista served several purposes for the F. & C.C. A large station yard allowed for repair of both freight and passenger cars. A “classification yard” was also built, wherein freight cars could be sorted by content and destination. Most importantly, Alta Vista housed extra engines to travel south down the tracks to the railroad stop of Adelaide, attach to trains coming up the canyon, and assist them in making the steep grade up to the city of Victor a few miles away. The helper engines were then disconnected at Alta Vista and turned around to head back down the grade to Adelaide.

The founding of Alta Vista happened to coincide with the first of the Cripple Creek District’s tumultuous labor wars. No sooner had the railroad reached town when miners in the Cripple Creek District began a strike. At issue were demands by mine owners for the men to work more hours at the same rate of pay. On May 29, just over a week after the F. & C.C. debuted at Alta Vista, fifty picketing miners showed up. So did Denver deputies, who had a clear view of Victor and watched in horror as strikers blew up the Strong Mine above town. Newspapers noted that “the entire four miles of winding track to Victor was picketed with sharpshooters.” Following the explosion, according to the Aspen Daily Times, “the road supervisor accordingly required all trains to be searched, beginning with a passenger train coming in that included two coaches, the baggage car and even the engine.” Presumably nothing was found, and the train was allowed to roll on in to Victor.

After the labor war ended, coal, gold ore, mining equipment and supplies continued to be brought through Alta Vista regularly, as well as upwards of six daily passenger trains. Few got off the train, for Alta Vista offered very few services aside from a small one-room depot and some residences for railroad workers. For a mere whistlestop, however, Alta Vista’s presence was both necessary and important because of the classification yard. Because the F. & C.C.’s early equipment often included the use of Denver & Rio Grande train cars, defective cars would be held at Alta Vista to await repair or maintenance.

On March 23, 1895, Alta Vista played a very small part when Sherman Crumley’s gang staged the first robbery of the F. & C.C. Crumley, from a good family in Pueblo, had come to the Cripple Creek District with brothers Grant and Newton. He was in Colorado Springs as early as 1894, when he was arrested in June for participating in the kidnapping, tar and feathering of Adjutant General Timothy Tarsney. The General had come in defense of striking miners who had been arrested during the labor wars. Crumley and his gang were hired to kidnap Tarsney, take him to the barn of mine owner William Otis, tar and feather him, and leave him on the edge of town with orders to walk to Denver.

Sherman Crumley initially pleaded innocent in the ordeal, telling reporters he was messaged to bring a hack from his Colorado Springs livery stable to the Alamo Hotel on South Tejon Street. To his surprise, he claimed, a group of masked men dumped their victim into his hack while one of the men jumped up beside him. “‘Now drive, G___ D____ you,’ said the man with me, sticking a revolver against my ribs. It is unnecessary to say that I did as he told me,” Crumley said. While the newspapers might have bought Crumley’s story, the authorities did not. Crumley and several men were subsequently arrested. Amazingly almost all of the men were released due to lack of evidence and reliable witnesses. The exception was El Paso County Deputy Sheriff Joe Wilson, who confessed and subsequently tried.

Crumley soon relocated to Cripple Creek, forming a gang comprised of himself, Bob Taylor, O.C. Wilder, “Kid” Wallace, W.R. Gibson and Louis Vanneck and planning to rob the F. & C.C. On the day of the robbery, the men stationed themselves just below Hollywood, a southern suburb of Victor, and flagged down the F. & C.C. train just outside of town. Passengers were duly relieved of their wallets, jewelry and other valuables before the robbers disembarked and disappeared into the hills. The engineer was instructed to move on. At Alta Vista, Conductor Paddy Lane jumped off the train and notified authorities. A search led to Taylor’s cabin at the Strong Mine, and the posse eventually found the men partying away their profits in the bars of Victor. The men were taken into custody to await trial. Newspapers expounded on the charges: “It is charged that these parties wounded and attacked Alexander McArthur, the custodian of the United States mails, and took possession of said mails,” reported the Aspen Daily Times. Only Gibson and Taylor were held over for trial before a grand jury. By some miracle, Crumley and the other fellows were released per request from the district attorney and a plea from Wallace’s attorney.

The most exciting event to take place around Alta Vista was a flash flood, which erupted just below the station on Eight Mile Creek on July 30, 1895. Water in the creek, which paralleled the F. & C.C. tracks, reached speeds of thirty miles per hour as it swept down Phantom Canyon towards Adelaide. A helper engine on the way back from Alta Vista made breakneck speed to outrun the flood until it reached another whistlestop, Russell, at which point the tracks diverted away from Eight Mile Creek. But the flood caused much havoc. Amongst the drowned were Lee Tracey, proprietor of Adelaide’s Great Elk Hotel. Also drowned were the hotel cook, Mrs. Carr, as well as a boarder identified as Mr. Watson and three F. & C.C. section men.

It cost a bit to rebuild the tracks, but the F. & C.C. was up and running again by November. Four trains passed through Alta Vista daily. Two of them left Florence at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.; the other two returned from Cripple Creek at 9:10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. By 1899, day picnics in Alta Vista’s sunny meadows were a favorite destination amongst District pioneers. Passengers boarded the F. & C.C. at Cripple Creek at 9 a.m., receiving a nice tour of the District before arriving at Alta Vista. Picnic baskets were unloaded and wildflowers picked as the visitors enjoyed the outdoors. At 3:30 p.m., all boarded the train back to Cripple Creek. A round trip ticket cost a twenty five cents.

Curiously, Alta Vista never appeared under its own listing in Cripple Creek District directories. Only in the 1900 directory, which included residents living outside the city limits of the district towns, were a scant few citizens listed at Alta Vista. They were operator S. Aller, operator, F. & C.C. employees Jim Doyle and George Metzger, miner E.H. Niles and Harvey Taylor’s Brickyard. Taylor employed Louis Scott as a brick maker. Alta Vista remained very quiet throughout the early 1900’s, especially after the F. & C.C.’s tracks washed out a second and final time in 1912. In 1913, the Fairplay Flume reported the Alta Vista Mining Company planned to build a new mill at Alta Vista, with an expected cost of $20,000. This apparently never happened.

A 1923 map still shows Alta Vista on Eight Mile Creek in Fremont County. At that point, however, the tiny community was surely no more than a scattering of abandoned houses. In time only the depot remained, standing in a field along what was now the dirt road of Phantom Canyon. The depot has since been moved to Victor, where it serves today as a visitor’s center.

Pictured: An early postcard depicts the Alta Vista Depot before it was moved to Victor and restored.

Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado That Are Truly Lost

C 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

In 2016, I wrote Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, an account of every known town in what began as a farming and ranching area and turned into the site of Colorado’s last major gold boom. The book focused on towns that are “truly lost,” which have been destroyed, buried or just plain forgotten over time. It was a tough selection to make since certain places, although they are just a shell of what they once were, still contain residents. What I wanted to showcase were the camps, cities and towns that will never be the communities they once were.

In making my selections for Lost Ghost Towns, I also had to leave out certain places for which I could find absolutely nothing other than a plat map, or mention in a newspaper, or referenced in a history book. These are communities which were so short-lived they were quickly lost to history. Some of them were never developed beyond the planning stage. Others were the dreamchild of someone who hoped to create their own slice of heaven somewhere in the 559 square miles that constitute tiny Teller County. They too deserve their place in history, however short that history may be. That being said, here are the towns which did not make it into Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, but are shared here for you to enjoy.

Custer Cabin is a lone log structure located in Metberry Gulch where Teller County meets with Douglas and Park Counties. The cabin sits along the South Platte River, and is so-named because General George Armstrong Custer is supposed to have stayed there. That would date the building to sometime before Custer’s death in 1876. Others suppose that the cabin was actually relocated to its present site, but the date on that is very fuzzy. To date Custer Cabin has been the victim of vandals carving their names in the walls and even building campfires inside. At this writing, it is unknown whether the cabin is even still standing.

Hayden Park refers to an area between Divide and Woodland Park, and there is supposed to have been a community there of the same name in 1885.

Wilders is only known as a stop on the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad in 1895, just before the stop of Glenbrook.

Crescent Drive didn’t have a chance during the wild and woolly gold boom of the 1890’s. In 1896, the Castle Rock Journal announced that plans were being made to found a new town, Crescent Drive, roughly two miles southeast of Pemberton (today’s West Creek). It is uncertain whether Crescent Drive was truly located in Teller County, but either way the town was doomed. Why? Because Crescent Drive was promoted as a family town. “No saloons or disturbances of any kind will be allowed within its limits,” warned the Journal.

Fulton‘s plat map was filed in 1896. Three years later, the Cripple Creek Morning Times reported that Fulton’s total property value was assessed at $20.00. Both the map, and therefore the town, have since disappeared from official records.

Badger was located a little over halfway between Cripple Creek and Midway on the High Line of the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railway, close to the tiny community of Vista Grande. The High Line was one of two electric trolley systems which offered transportation throughout the Cripple Creek District. A ride on the High Line in 1903 cost twenty cents, with stop all along the northern section of the Cripple Creek District between Cripple Creek and Victor. The tracks through Badger were abandoned in 1905, and the High Line shut down in 1922.

Camps, Towns and Cities That Never Made It Further Than the Planning Stage

Brookville

Ellamo Mining Camp

Free Silver

Garden of Eden

Golconda

Hunky Dory

Juanita Mountain Park

Lafayette

Mineral Hills

Rhyolite City

Richmond

Ritten House

Roanoke

Rubicon

Ruby Aspen

Alnwick, Colorado: The First Connection Between Cripple Creek and Canon City

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

This is the first of several installments with excerpts from articles about the Cripple Creek District of Colorado, as well as Jan’s book, Lost Ghosts Towns of Teller County, Colorado.

 It is surmised that the village of Alnwick, located at the confluence of Four Mile Creek and West Four Mile Creek, was named for the most historic place and castle of the same name in England. A post office opened there on August 11, 1887 in what was then El Paso County. At the time, Alnwick was one of the very few stops for ranchers and farmers wishing to access Canon City from Teller County. There was plenty of water along what was then known as Oil Creek, and the budding hamlet was comfortably nestled along a high-rise bank well out of flash flood danger.

By 1892, with the gold boom going on in the nearby Cripple Creek District, the founders of Alnwick stepped things up a bit and officially platted the town on March 23. Some of the streets were given the names of Collbran, Hagerman and Howbert, likely in hopes that railroad moguls Henry Collbran, J.J. Hagerman and Irving Howbert might build a railroad through there someday. In November, the United States Geological Survey party visited. The Aspen Daily Chronicle gave details:

“Mssrs. W.S. Post, W.L. Wilson, and T.M. Bannon, of the United States Geological Survey, have been at Cripple Creek this week. They compose the surveying party which four the last two months has been engaged in surveying this district for the purpose of making an official topographical map. The survey extends from Pikes Peak on the northeast to Florissant and Lake George on  the Northwest, and almost to Canon City on the south. It will be a valuable and thoroughly reliable map and will comprise nearly 30 miles square, with Cripple Creek in the center. The survey is no almost completed, the last camp of the party now being located at Alnwick.”

   Efforts to make Alnwick the central hub between Cripple Creek and  Canon City were for naught. The post office closed on October 26, 1893. In March of 1894, the town was vacated. A short time later, geologist Charles Whitman Cross noted that the “Alnwick lake beds” were made up of “fine-grained sandstone and conglomerate, the latter containing pebbles representative of the volcanic series to west.” Alnwick Lake was mentioned in passing again in 1906 as Henry Gannett, in his Gazetteer of Colorado, called Alnwick “a village.”

Nothing more was mentioned about Alnwick until 1974, when another report stated the area was “abandoned.” Today Alnwick is comprised of nothing more than the meadow of an historic ranch. The road leading to it is privately owned by a local outfitter.

Image: Alnwick, Colorado as it appeared in 2016. Copyright Jan MacKell Collins.