Category Archives: Jan MacKell Collins

Wild and Woolly Ash Fork, Arizona

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

http://www.janmackellcollins.com

Portions of this article first appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

Long after Native Americans, Spanish explorers and Lt. Edward Beale’s crew made their way along today’s Interstate 40 through Arizona, a settlement popped up at the junction of today’s Highway 89 leading south to Prescott. The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, which laid rails through the area in 1882, called it Ash Fork after a nearby grove of trees.

For a number of years, things at Ash Fork were just swell. A post office opened in 1883, then a Wells Fargo office, and cattle and sheep ranchers began moving in. Local flagstone was loaded onto boxcars along the railroad to build bridges and buildings. Everything was fine until residents realized they had no sheriff, and that their fair little town was seeing a chaotic wave of outlawry and debauchery.

Some of the outlaws around Ash Fork were duly hanged by vigilante committees until the law showed up. When the town became an important branch along the Santa Fe Railroad to Prescott and beyond beginning in the early 1890’s, folks hoped some of the bad guys would hop a train and skedaddle. What happened instead, however, was that more bad boys and naughty girls bought a ticket to come to town instead of leaving it.

By 1893, Ash Fork was quite wicked indeed. On February 22, for instance, the Arizona Journal Miner alone reported that a “woman of the town” had committed suicide, and a man killed E.G. Owens in the same saloon where, the previous summer, one Brog May had also killed a man named Tom West. Also, wife murderer Salvador Armijo was still on the loose. That was just in one day. Later that year, when Ash Fork caught fire and burned to the ground, it is doubtful that anyone was really surprised.

Ash Fork rebuilt. The year 1894, however, wasn’t much better as the incorrigible Bertha Reed came to town. Bertha had already been in Prescott’s court over the morphine overdose of James Gabel and the murder of Tim Casey when she was arrested for loitering in Ash Fork’s saloons. Later, Bertha went to Globe and was involved in several more escapades before disappearing in 1907.

Bertha Reed wasn’t the only troublemaker around Ash Fork. In November of 1901 Rosa Duran was charged with larceny at Ash Fork and sentenced to Yuma’s Territorial Prison for three years. She was back in Prescott by 1908, however, where she and Ella Wilton, a.k.a. the “Turkey Herder”, were arrested for robbing Yee Jackson of $40.

Ash Fork balanced its wild nightlife by having not one but two of the finest Harvey Houses in Arizona. Fred Harvey built the first one, a wooden affair across from Cooper Thomas Lewis’ Parlor House Saloon. When a kitchen fire destroyed the building and some other structures, Harvey built the massive and extravagant Escalante Hotel and dining room in 1907. The Escalante was soon billed as the nicest Harvey House west of Chicago.

The Escalante seemed to tame Ash Fork down a bit. In 1912, an article in the Tucson Daily Star explained that “Ash Fork is today as innocent as a newborn babe; she is as pure and white, morally, as the drifted snows that rim the San Francisco’s.” Of course the cleansing was due to the fact that the day before, “sixteen women of easy virtue” and their consorts were taken to jail in Prescott as a means to clean up the town. Within a year, however, some of the ladies were back. Amongst them was May Clark, who had previously killed a man in Seligman in self defense. After bonding out in Ash Fork, May went to Prescott, dressing in elaborate velvet gowns and conducting herself like a regular socialite during her trial.

May and her many consorts and colleagues gradually moved away from Ash Fork. In time, Route 66 travelers came to rest easy there and in 1947, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made an appearance in town during the filming of “Dark Passage.” Even so, the hotel portion of the grand Escalante closed sometime between 1948 and 1951. The dining room closed just a couple years later as an expansion of Route 66 destroyed numerous storefronts and homes.

The final blows to Ash Fork came in 1960 when the Santa Fe Railroad moved its main line away from town; in 1968 when the treasured Escalante was demolished; in 1977 when yet another fire burned most of the downtown area and yet again in 1987 when one last fire destroyed nearly everything left of the downtown buildings. In between such catastrophes, Interstate 40 eventually by-passed Ash Fork altogether.

The original section of Route 66 still runs through Ash Fork where a healthy handful of historic buildings survive. In 1992 there was another brief revival when another movie, “Universal Soldier” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was filmed there—although, they say, several decrepit buildings were blown up as part of the action. Today, Ash Fork has reverted to one of its oldest industries, flagstone, while the Ash Fork Historical Society tells visitors about the town’s once wild and woolly past.

Read more about Ash Fork’s wild women in Wild Women of Prescott and Good Time Girls of Arizona and New Mexico: A Red-Light History of the American Southwest.

Who Was Sedona Arizona’s Sedona Schnebly?

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

It is no surprise that the name Sedona, that most unique art community nestled amongst impossibly beautiful red rocks in Arizona, sounds like a girl’s name. It is, for Sedona was named for a spunky young woman from Missouri who followed the call of the west. Sedona’s mother, Amanda Miller, would later say she made Sedona Arabella Miller’s first name up when the child was born in 1877. Dona, as she was known amongst family, was raised in a Methodist household, received a fine education and even attended finishing school.

Despite her fine upbringing, Sedona’s parents were shocked and heartbroken when their daughter announced her pending marriage to Theodore Carlton “T.C.” Schnebly. She was only 20 years old and besides, Schnebly was a Presbyterian. Sedona married Schnebly anyway. The wound grew deeper when the new husband announced his plans to take Sedona out west.

Sedona’s parents had little say in the matter. There were already two young children from the marriage (Elsworth and Pearl), but Schnebly’s brother Tad was beckoning the couple to Arizona. T.C. and Sedona left Missouri to join Tad and his wife, and the foursome worked their farm in “Camp Garden” along Oak Creek. T.C. hauled his produce to Flagstaff via a steep hill that is still known today as Schnebly Hill along Interstate 17.

T.C.’s hard work paid off. Within a short time the Schneblys were able to build a fine two-story home and open a store. They entertained often. Sedona’s excellent cooking skills, as well as her piano skills, were applauded by many. So popular was the Schnebly house that sometimes T.C. erected tents for extra guests.

In 1902 the community around the Schneblys numbered 55 people. T.C. successfully applied to establish a post office. Fortunately for his wife, the first two names T.C. chose—Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly Station—were too long to fit on a standard postal cancellation stamp. Tad suggested they name the post office Sedona, “because she was a character that would stand well as a symbol for the community.” The post office accepted the name and history was made.

For the next three years life was sweet for both Sedona and the community bearing her name. A third child, Genevieve, was born. Sedona Schnebly was a favorite in social circles, and the family enjoyed outings with others in the community. The lessons Sedona learned in her early years at finishing school were ever present. Her great grand-daughter would later remember, “Whenever she had to carry buckets of water from the creek, she was planning how she would set her table with a touch of class.”

Most unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1905. On an outing with her pony, daughter Pearl was accidentally caught in the reigns and strangled. The Schneblys buried her in the front yard of the family home to keep her close, but Sedona became so grief stricken that the family moved back to Missouri. There, the Schneblys continued farming and had three more children. Eventually they moved to Colorado, where they also farmed.

The family did return to Sedona, in 1931. By then T.C. was in bad health, and Sedona’s climate was better for him. The family farm was long gone, so the Schneblys rented a one room house. Sedona took in laundry for the Civilian Conservation Corp, and T.C. worked at a local orchard when he was feeling well enough. For the rest of her life, Sedona Schnebly dedicated herself to her community. Residents remembered her as a generous and spirited woman who taught Sunday School and spearheaded efforts to build Wayside Chapel.

Sedona Schnebly died in 1950, just three years after celebrating 50 years of marriage with her husband. T.C. died four years later. The Schneblys are buried in Cook Cemetery beside Pearl, whose remains were relocated. Today, Sedona Schnebly is an honored member of Sharlot Hall Museum’s Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden in Prescott. A bronze sculpture of her also resides majestically in front of the Sedona Public Library.

The Ups and Downs of Bumblebee, Arizona

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

Much like the fuzzy little insect, Bumblebee—located in southern Yavapai County just off of Interstate 17—has seen several flights of fancy. Since 1863 the tiny community has served as a short-lived mining camp, stage stop, post office, tourist attraction and these days, an historic landmark for ghost town enthusiasts.

There are no less than three stories explaining how Bumblebee got its name, all involving the flying critters and a nearby creek. Only forest ranger L.J. Putsch, however, ever offered evidence of a first-hand account. “Uncle Tom Saunders told me that in 1863 he and some other prospectors found a bumblebee’s nest full of honey in the cliffs along the creek,” Putsch wrote to historian and rancher Will C. Barnes. “Several of the party were badly stung so they named it Bumble Bee Creek.”

It should be noted that Bumblebee was originally not called that at all. The community was first known as Snyder’s Station after rancher W.W. Snyder. The name stuck until the first of several post offices was established as Bumblebee in 1879. Snyder was naturally the first postmaster, but Bumblebee’s series of stop—and—start post offices are indeed an enigma; postal stations were established and discontinued there twice in 1879, twice again in 1888, once in 1901 and a final time in 1928.

Although those early bee-bitten prospectors did find a bit of gold, by 1877 Bumblebee had become most useful as a stage stop between Prescott and Phoenix with several mining camps in between. An article in the Arizona Weekly Miner that year talked of a man named Besler who planned to build a stage station at “Bumble Bee Flat.” Mines such as the Bumble Bee and the Lucky Mack were staked in 1879 without much luck. In 1880 James Bobo served as station agent and postmaster, making around $46 per month.

News of Bumblebee over the next twenty years was scarce, but the town was still buzzing enough in 1902 to merit a postal contract extending to the town of Richinbar down today’s I-17 under J.R. Lowry. The Snyder family was still there too, as evidenced by an article about the marriage of W.W.’s daughter in 1907. Other prominent citizens included pioneers William Martin and Carl Anderson who settled in 1911 and 1912 respectively, and storekeepers William and Edna Martin.

As with so many rural towns, death visited Bumblebee often. Newspapers reported on the deaths of Carl Smith and a Mrs. Jackson’s new baby in 1907. In 1924, widow Susan Neatherland died at the Hidden Treasure Mine near Bumblebee. There were also a few murders, including the 1925 beating death of 75-year-old Thomas Glasgow, the 1929 shooting death of sheep herder Juan Chacon, and the killing of Carl Wester by gunshot in 1931. And in 1933 an unidentified man, apparently a suicide, was also found near town.

During the late 1930’s, business entrepreneurs saw gold in Bumblebee yet, and worked to turn it into a tourist mecca. New construction, credited to one Jeff Martin, added old—fashioned looking buildings to the site. A souvenir trading post and café was established in the old school. The “new” portion of the town was actually located some 250 feet west of the original site, but over time people lost interest in both. Bumblebee in its entirety was put up for sale in 1949.

In 1960 there were still ten souls living in Bumblebee proper. That year, eastern newspaper owner Charles Penn made news when he bought the town. Penn moved to Bumblebee and intended to open a railroad museum there, but died in 1962 before he could achieve his dream. The community was still privately owned in 1969, but the post office remained active until 1972.

Today Bumblebee is home to a large ranch and several private homes. The old faux buildings are gone, the souvenir shop is closed and there are no open businesses at this time. The town is visible from the Sunset Point rest stop along Interstate 17 (see photo) and is accessible via Exit 248. Although the trip to Bumblebee is worthwhile, visitors are advised to drive carefully, watch for off-roaders, and respect private property while visiting.

Ghosts of the Bradshaw Mountains, Arizona

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

Of Yavapai County, Arizona’s many ghost towns, quite a few are located in the beautiful Bradshaw Mountains, located just south of Prescott along a bevy of back roads. Many well-known places such as Bueno and Goodwin no longer exist, while lesser-known places such as Catoctin and Bolada are barely remembered at all. There are, however, enough ruins and fantastic views left to make the trip worthwhile.

One of the earliest towns in the Bradshaws is Bradshaw City. Both were named in honor of William Bradshaw, who came to Arizona in 1863. Bradshaw City was primarily a supply town for the nearby Tiger Mine. Eventually there were saloons, restaurants, two hotels and a peak population of 5,000 people. Saddle trains traveled between Bradshaw City and Prescott weekly. A post office was established in 1874 but only lasted ten years. Although nothing remains of the community, the cemetery is still accessible.

Closer to Prescott, the Senator Mine was staked during the 1860’s. Three miles of tunnels made up the mine, and there was a saloon, store and boarding house. After the mine was purchased by Phelps Dodge in the 1890’s, hotels, restaurants, a school and a church were built. Despite a labor strike in 1903 another mine, the Maxton, also opened. It was named for store owner Max Alwen. Senator’s post office finally opened in 1915 but only ran for three years. Even so, the mine produced until the 1930’s and is still highly visible.

In 1875 prospectors E.G. Peck, C.C. Bean, William Cole and T.M. Alexander were trying their luck in the Bradshaw Mountains. Peck found a rock rich in silver, and established the Peck Mine. When a small town was founded there it was named Alexandra. The town eventually had between 75-100 structures, from stores and saloons to a butcher shop and brewery. The post office opened in 1878 and the mines around Alexandra operated for several years. Even after the post office closed in 1896, mining operations continued into the early 1900’s. Nothing is left of Alexandra, but the nearby Swastika Mine has a few ruins.

As travel increased in the Bradshaws, Alfred and Matilda Spence pursued their dream of building a stage stop. In 1875 they built Palace Station (pictured) halfway between the Peck Mine and Prescott. The Prescott & Phoenix Stage made it a regular stop beginning in 1877. A saloon and rooms were available to travelers. The Spence’s daughter Elsie remembered seeing “fancy ladies” arrive in town to service miners on payday. Today the historic building is occupied by a caretaker for the Forest Service (for more about the good time girls of Yavapai County, see Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona, available by clicking here).

One of the last towns of the Bradshaws in the 1800’s was Oro Belle, named for the Oro Belle Mining & Milling Company that was established in the late 1890’s. Oro Belle’s post office opened in 1904 and the community was lucky to have a sheriff and justice of the peace. After the post office closed in 1918, a bar from the saloon was moved to Crown King. Today, several remnants of buildings from the town survive.

The early 1900’s ushered in a slew of more new towns. One of these was Fort Misery, built by Al Francis as his home. Two misnomers exist about this remote place. First, Fort Misery was never a military fort; Francis so named it for the bleak existence he led there. Second, Francis’ place should not be confused with Fort Misery in Prescott, Arizona’s oldest log cabin that was built in 1864 and is now on display at Sharlot Hall Museum.

The history at Middleton is a little clearer. Middleton was named for George Middleton, who owned the DeSoto Mine above town. Because the railroad ran nearby, there was an assay office, boarding house, blacksmith, warehouse, post office (established in 1903) and several homes to over 100 people. Miners rode an overhead tram to the mine. The post office closed in 1908, reopened in 1916 under the name Ocotillo and closed a final time in 1925. Travelers on the way to Cleator from Mayer will pass through what remains of the town.

Words to the wise: Obey no trespassing signs and stay out of mine shafts which are extremely dangerous. Take only pictures, and make your visit a safe one.

Faded Trails in Arizona: Alexandra, A Mining Dream in the Making

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article first appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

The story of Alexandra begins with Thomas and Catharine Alexander, who migrated to Prescott back in 1864. Thomas served as a director of the Prescott and Mohave Road Company, became a postmaster in Prescott, and later established a cattle ranch in Sycamore Canyon. In 1875, Alexander joined prospectors Edward G. Peck, Curtis Coe Bean and William Cole in exploring the Bradshaw Mountains. Peck noticed an unusual rock that turned out to be rich in silver, and the Peck Mine was staked on June 16, 1875.

Over the next decade, the Peck would produce over a million dollars in silver. By September of 1876 a community of 20 buildings near the mine was home to roughly 60 men. They called it Alexandra after Thomas Alexander. In addition to his investment in the Peck Mine, Alexander also staked the Black Warrior mine and eventually opened a mercantile.

Newspapers began taking note about the goings on at Alexandra beginning in 1877. In June, the Arizona Miner newspaper predicted that Alexandra would be “quite a place,” reporting there were “two large stores, Alexander & Company, and Andres & Rowe; three boarding houses, four places were spiritual refreshments are provided, two livery stables, one butcher shop, one blacksmith shop,” and more. The Peck partners had expended nearly $2,000 laying out the town and even grading the main streets.

Because the nearest mill was at Aztlan some thirty miles away, Alexander next built the Peck Mill in December 1877. “The general impression is that this is destined to be the best camp in the whole Territory, if not on the whole Pacific slope,” predicted the Miner on July 26, 1878. Just a few weeks later, on August 6, the post office opened, with Joseph Drew as postmaster. More hotels, restaurants and saloons opened, as well as John Ellis’ “Gold Room Resort” and even a brewery.

Alas, the good times were not destined to last at Alexandra. In 1879, the Peck partners got into a dispute over rights to the mine, which closed during litigation. People began leaving town. By 1880 the Alexanders had returned to Prescott, and it was Catharine who finally sued the Peck Mining Company “to recover the value of stock in that company”. She won, too, in January of 1881 to the tune of $80,000. “In many respects this is the most important case ever tried in the Courts of the Territory,” concluded the Arizona Miner.

Alexandra never had an official cemetery, but there were some deaths and subsequent burials. The first of these was a Mr. Marson, who accidentally fell into his partner’s bloody butcher knife in 1877. He was buried somewhere near the town. Then, in December 1890, a freighter named Grant LeBarr was shot to death at Alexandra. A letter from Sheriff “Bucky” O’Neill to LeBarr’s father—in—law, Dr. O.J. Thibode of Phoenix, explained that LeBarr and James M. Stoop were amongst those drinking at Refiel’s Saloon when a “dispute arose between the two in regard to some trivial matter.” The men made up their differences, but Stoop left, returning with a revolver. The man “took deliberate aim” and shot LeBarr, who died within minutes. O’Neill assured Thibode that LeBarr “has been buried at the Peck mine in the best shape possible, the entire camp suspending all work during the funeral.” Stoop, whom witnesses said had a “break down” in jail, ended his own life by swiping a fellow prisoner’s razor and slitting his own throat.

Alexandra’s post office closed in 1896. Two years later, Catharine Alexander died, followed by her husband in 1910. A new shaft had been sunk at the Peck Mine in 1903 and the railroad came through on the way to Crown King in 1904, but it was all for naught and Alexandra was abandoned. Arizona’s arid climate kept the old buildings preserved for some time. During the 1970’s, several houses remained at Alexandra. Virgil Snyder, who lived in the last standing house in town, was the last caretaker beginning in about 1985.

In about 2016, the Peck and several other mines were purchased by Q—Gold Resources, which was exploring further silver potential at the mine. Meanwhile, not much remains of Alexandra and its surrounding mines. The townsite lies high on the mountain about four and a half miles west of Cleator. Four wheel drive or an ATV is required to visit, but be aware of no trespassing signs.

The Hash Knife Around Holbrook, Arizona

Chapter Two: Holbrook

c 2020 by Jan MacKell Collins

The following is excerpted from The Hash Knife Around Holbrook, Arizona’s famous cattle outfit, available in paperback, Kindle and on audio at Amazon.com.

Arizona had a lot to offer the Hash Knife brand: lots of land at a good price, ample water, a workable climate and the chance to start over from the rough days in Texas and Montana. Arizona Territory had been established in 1863. By the 1870s, communities and ranches were springing up along major water sources, including the Little Colorado River dividing the north and south portions of the Territory. New settlers to the region included Mexican families, Mormons from Utah, and pioneers from the east.

Near the confluence of the Little Colorado and the Rio Puerco rivers was a place called Horsehead Crossing. At this remote spot, Juan Padilla built a house and Berado Frayre, or Frayde, ran a trading post and saloon. The trading post was also owned by Santiago Baca & Company for a time. It was said that “nobody left without food, even if they could not pay.” Edward Kinsley, of Boston, first laid eyes on Arizona as part of a survey team for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. At the time, the railroad was planning to lay tracks from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Mojave, California. The new rails would run very near Horsehead Crossing. When Kinsley returned to Boston, his mind was still on the abundant land he had observed in Arizona. Such a vast area would be the perfect place to raise cattle.

The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad made it to the Little Colorado in September of 1881. A year and a half later Baca, along with Pedro Montano, Henry H. Scorse and F.W. Smith, filed a plat for the town of Holbrook two miles west of Horsehead Crossing and right along the tracks. One of the first structures built at Holbrook was the depot. The community grew quickly as the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad made Holbrook a regular stop. The Aztec Land and Cattle Company saw an immediate opportunity to use Holbrook as a shipping point. Beginning in 1884, the company began bringing stock cars filled with cattle from Hash Knife operations in Texas. Holbrook soon became a popular shipping point and center of commerce in the region.

Twin brothers Adolph and Ben Schuster opened their A & B Schuster Company at Holbrook in 1884. For decades the Schusters reigned as prominent businessmen in Holbrook. The business later expanded to include a third brother, Max. Holbrook’s business district grew up around A & B Schuster’s and the town depot. Other early businesses included a Chinese restaurant, two saloons, a drugstore, a mercantile and William Armbruster’s blacksmith and wheelwright shop. A German immigrant, Armbruster first came to Arizona in about 1975. He would flourish in Holbrook for over 25 years.

In December of 1884, Edward Kinsley partnered with nephew Henry Kinsley, Frank Ames, James McCreery and a New York bank, Seligman & Seligman, to form the Aztec Land and Cattle Company. The men purchased a million acres from the Atlantic & Pacific for fifty cents per acre. By buying only the odd-numbered sections of land from the railroad, the company prevented other cattle companies from accessing the even-numbered sections. Thus the Aztec Land and Cattle Company owned the million acres they bought, and also had undisputed and sole access to another million acres. As the Aztec Land and Cattle Company began shipping cattle to Arizona, the Hash Knife brand was registered in Apache County on June 2, 1885. Henry Warren filed the paperwork and published and advertisement about it in the June 11 edition of the St. Johns Herald newspaper. The brand was also registered in Yavapai County, on August 22.

The first Aztec headquarters was constructed in 1885 ten miles west of Holbrook, on the south side of the Little Colorado River. The company spent $850 to construct a small ranch house measuring 14 feet by 24 feet, a tiny cookhouse and one or two outbuildings. Hash Knife cowboys were obviously not meant to spend much time here, but rather out on the range, spending the night at line camps as necessary. The line camps were scattered across the Aztec Land and Cattle Company range. At these remote places cowboys could rest, corral cattle, brand and perform other chores. Beginning in 1885, more line camps were built at Chavez Pass near Payson, Pine Springs, Mormon Mill, Sycamore and near Winslow, to name a few.

Edward Kinsley, meanwhile, had hired his nephew Henry, to work for the Hash Knife in Texas before appointing him assistant treasurer of the Aztec Land and Cattle Company. Despite allegedly receiving only room and board during his first year, the Boston city boy appears to have taken to cowboy life quickly even if he was occasionally spoiled by his uncle. Soon after Kinsley’s arrival, in 1887, a second Aztec headquarters was located on Washington (later Santiago and then Alvarado) Street in Holbrook. The company shared quarters with the Masonic Lodge, renting the bottom floor for $150 annually. Henry Kinsley was living at the headquarters in 1888. Old timers say the Hash Knife also used the nearby Brunswick Hotel as a headquarters, but the hotel was not known by that name until the 1890’s.

A third headquarters was built four miles south of Joseph City not long after, or even in conjunction with, the headquarters at Holbrook. Most historians agree the construction date was 1886 and that buildings included a kitchen and dining room, the grain house and the main office. Plenty of cowboys whose names still ring a bell worked for the outfit back then. They included Tex Roxy, George Smith, “Peck”, Tom Pickett, Buck Lancaster, Don McDonald, George Agassiz, Ed Simpson and Frank Ames. The cook was Billy or Jeff Wilson. Hash Knife cowboy Frank Ames expressed his fondness for the brand by taking several photographs of the outfit during the 1880’s. Ames, from a well to do Massachusetts family, hired on in Texas, came to Arizona and eventually became the Aztec’s land agent. Thanks to Ames, images today include pictures portraying other cowboys for the outfit: wagon boss Ed Rogers, John Taylor, Charlie Baldridge, Jim Burdette, Don McDonald, Bill Smith, Tom Smith and Tom Beach. Surveyor William Vinal and area ranchers often stopped by the various headquarters for a visit. The Aztec Land and Cattle Company had plenty of neighbors with large spreads in their own right. Some of them later became involved with the Hash Knife. Well-known ranchers and businessmen of the area included Burt Potter, Jug Jackson and Joe Woods. Potter was Woods’ nephew. Both men did business over the years with the Hash Knife; Woods later ran the Pioneer Saloon in Holbrook. He also served as sheriff there.

As the Aztec Land and Cattle Company settled into Arizona, Holbrook continued to grow. A number of other businesses blossomed around the depot along the south side of the tracks. Holbrook’s population was about 250 citizens, with homes scattered around the downtown area. On June 26, 1888, a warehouse filled with wool inexplicably burst into flames burning most of the downtown. A & B Schuster’s, the Cottage Saloon and Frank Wattron’s drugstore were among the businesses to rise from the ashes. Within a year, other new businesses included a feed store, livery stable, restaurant and the Mormon Arizona Cooperative Mercantile Institution. Houses, some of which survived the fire, are still visible in the small neighborhoods adjacent to the downtown area. Holbrook’s fire actually enabled A & B Schuster to build even bigger and better. The company’s success eventually allowed the brothers to open branch stores and trading posts across Arizona, hiring managers to run them. By 1892, the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad depot had been rebuilt at Holbrook and the town was back in full swing as a busy transportation center. Pack trains such as the one pictured here hauled wool and other goods to and from the station. The rail stop was also used to haul sheep and thousands of Hash Knife cattle. Passenger service was available too.The Schusters eventually moved to Los Angeles. Ben died in 1911 and Adolph died in 1934. In 1952, A & B Schuster in Holbrook was recognized as the oldest continuously operated grocery outlet in Arizona.

The Adventures of Captain Jack: A whimsical little woman combined her own stories with her vivid imagination to create a colorful life in Colorado.

c 2020 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article were originally published in All About History magazine.

“I was born November 4, 1842, in New Lantern, Nottingham, England.” So begins a seemingly plain and humble autobiography by a woman who was anything but plain, or humble. Ellen Elliott Jack’s book, The Fate of a Fairy, or, Twenty Seven Years in the Far West, would later tell of the spunky little woman’s amazing adventures. And although her facts were often sprinkled with a good dose of fiction, her story is very much worth telling.

When she was seven years old, Ellen met a “gypsy queen” at Nottingham’s annual Goose Fair who touched her on the head. “This child was born to be a great traveler, and if she had been a male would have been a great mining expert,” the gypsy said. “She is a Rosicrucian, born to find hidden treasures. She will meet great sorrows and be a widow early in life. Fire will cause her great trouble and losses.” Indeed, Ellen had already lost one sister in a fire. And as a teen, she had a brief romance with a man, “Carl,” who stabbed her in a fit of jealousy after seeing her in the company of her male cousin. Ellen recovered, and when her sister Lydia and her husband sailed to New York, Ellen successfully begged to go along.

Ellen loved New York, but fell ill and was unable to return to England with her sister until she was well. Upon boarding another ship, she recalled the horror of assisting a doctor in amputating the legs of a young Irish girl. But she also met first officer Charles E. Jack. The couple married at Liverpool in 1860 and returned to New York before Jack was called for duty during the Civil War.

The Jack’s first child, Nettie, was born between 1862 and 1864. During this time, Ellen claimed she took charge of a ring presented to her husband by General Robert E. Lee, attended a “president’s reception” with her husband during which she met President and Mrs. Lincoln, and toured Europe. After Charles Jack returned from the war with heart trouble, Ellen gave birth to a son. Both the infant and Nettie died just before the Jacks next moved to Chicago. Over the next three years another daughter, Jenny, was born. The family also lost everything in a fire, just like the gypsy predicted, and briefly farmed in Kansas before returning to Brooklyn. Ellen’s last child, Daisy, was born just before Charles Jack died in 1873.

The widow Ellen next built a hotel called the Bon Ton, but it burned in March of 1876 as she rescued her daughters and their nurse from the second floor. Daisy died three years later. Soon afterwards Ellen made friends with psychic Madam Clifford who, like the gypsy queen, told Ellen she was “born to find hidden treasures.” Ellen decided to head west, leaving Jenny with her sister-in-law. She arrived in Denver in about 1880, where she ran into her former nursemaid, Jennie. The woman advised her to go to Gunnison, but Ellen went to Leadville first. There, she was a witness when “Curley Frank” and another gambler killed each other in a shootout. A shook-up Ellen heeded Jennie’s advice and headed to Gunnison, where she arrived in the spring of 1881.

Ellen’s first night in Gunnison was spent at the Gunnison House where she paid a dollar to sleep in the lobby of the crowded hotel. The landlady advised Ellen to hide her valuables on her person, “as this is a very rough place.” Ellen followed the woman’s advice, saying she had “diamonds and government bonds sewed up in my bustle.” The next morning, Ellen was exploring the town when a stray bullet passed through her cloak. Ellen identified the shooter as “Wild Bill,” who scared her so badly that she shot him. Two lawmen appeared, but Ellen implored them to leave Wild Bill alone, “for he is a dying man.” Wild Bill gave her his gun, which the officers tried to take from her after the man died. Ellen boldy told them, “No. He gave me the gun, for you were too big a coward to get it, and you shall never have it.”

Ellen next purchased a tent with a cook stove, as well as a lot on Tomichi Avenue. She called her place “Jack’s Cabin” and began advertising a restaurant and “furnished rooms” in Gunnison’s Daily-News Democrat. Running a boardinghouse was no less exciting, for Ellen once discovered a group of Indian marauders pilfering Jack’s Cabin. Ellen said one of them was Ute leader Colorow, a “big buck” with “large gold earrings” who “came to me dancing and trying to touch my hair.” Ellen cut a lock of her golden hair for Colorow to keep, and a friendship was formed.

Eventually Ellen constructed some buildings. She rented one of them to Jeff Mickey, whom she had met on her trip to Gunnison. Mickey opened a saloon which became “headquarters for the freighters, and it was very crowded at night.” He was quite the businessman; once, the Gunnison Daily News Democrat revealed that the guest of honor at a funeral in the saloon was really only a passed-out drunk. “The joke was a profitable one for Jeff Mickey,” the paper explained. The supposed victim, with “burning candles at his head and feet, was better for business purposes, so Mickey said, than a free lunch or brass band.” Mickey also opened a gymnasium and “boxing school” next to the saloon.

Ellen would later attribute a large scar on her forehead to another Indian raid. This time, Jack’s Cabin was set on fire and she “was struck on the forehead with a tomahawk” laced with poison. Ellen claimed that she managed to kill some of the Indians before Chief Colorow declared a truce. “Pale face! Me wants to save her,” he exclaimed upon seeing her. “Bloody poison killy the white squaw, and we lovey the pale face.”[sic] There is no recorded Indian raid in Gunnison at the time, although it is true that Colorow often camped nearby. Only Ellen’s scar remained as a testament to her whimsical story.

Jack’s Cabin made the news again in January of 1882, when escaped convict Jim McClees appeared there. Ellen recalled that one of her employees told her, “There will be trouble in the bunkhouse, for Jim is full [of liquor] and has a gun, and is abusing one of the carpenters.” Ellen tried to make McClees leave. Instead, she said, McClees “pulled out his gun to fire at the man. I pulled mine and shot the gun out of his hands and part of his hand off with it.” A Sheriff Clark soon came looking for McClees and searched a room “occupied as a sleeping apartment by Mr. and Mrs. Mickey.”

When the officers found a trap door in the floor, “Mrs. Mickey” called out, “There is no use, Jim; there are fifty men here with guns, and you might as well come out without losing your life or shedding their blood.” McClees surrendered, Jeff Mickey was arrested, and Mrs. Mickey was notified she must appear in court. Ellen never admitted that she was “Mrs. Mickey.” She did admit, however, that she was unduly credited with beating everyone up during a fight in the courtroom and that a news reporter called her “Mrs. Captain Jack, the Dare Devil of the West”. All that is known for sure is that Ellen accused Sheriff Clark of false arrest while McClees bonded out and returned to Jack’s Cabin as he awaited his trial.

Ellen next decided to go to Crested Butte and told Jeff Mickey to leave. Mickey, she said, proposed marriage and promised to stop drinking. When she refused him, he told her that “when I breathe my last breath on earth it will be, ‘love for you, my fairy queen’, goodbye!” The Daily News-Democrat later explained more truthfully that “when (Mickey) took to drinking there was sure to be trouble. This last spree angered Mrs. Mickey so much that hot words followed and she left the house.” Ellen went on to Crested Butte. Later that evening at Jack’s Cabin, McClees saw Mickey with a vial of morphine powder. “Here’s the thing that will end all of my troubles,” he said. He died after consuming half of the vial.

The Daily News-Democrat noted that Ellen was slow to return to Gunnison because “the telegram instead of reading, ‘Jeff has taken poison,’ read, ‘Jeff has taken horses,’ and she supposed he coming for her with a team.” The paper also revealed Ellen was trying to lease the Miners’ Boarding House in Crested Butte “hoping in that way to get her husband away from his present business”. Ellen “thought her absence would bring him to his senses, and sober him up.” But Ellen had already placed a new advertisement for Jack’s Cabin, which appeared on the same day as Mickey’s funeral. “The business will be carried on as heretofore,” it said, “and Mrs. Jeff Mickey will be glad to see old friends.”

Within a month of Mickey’s death, however, Ellen rented Jack’s Cabin to someone else and ventured “into the mountains in Wild Cat Gulch where the Indians camped,” looking for mining investments. This time her partner was sometime outlaw Bill Edwards, who promised to share any gold discoveries if Ellen would bail him out of jail. Edwards kept his promise and for the first time, Ellen made money off of the Big Congo and Maggie Jack mining claims. She also became half owner of the Black Queen Mine near Crystal City.

In 1882 Ellen had returned to Jack’s Cabin when one of her boarders, Redmond Walsh, proposed marriage. The couple traveled to Denver, but the night before the wedding, Ellen dreamed of children crying and awoke with a sense of dread. During the ceremony, the children’s crying sounded again, as well as a man’s voice. Startled, Ellen dropped the ring on the floor, but Walsh “grabbed my hand and put the ring on my finger without any more ceremony.” Afterwards, Walsh left Ellen at a hotel and did not return.

The next morning, Ellen caught the train back to Gunnison. Walsh eventually returned too, but spent much of his time away from home. A few months later he asked Ellen to take out a note for $2,600, explaining that the Black Queen’s payroll was short. But the miners only received half of their promised pay. A cashier from the bank informed Ellen that Walsh had “duped” her, and advised that Walsh had his eye on her half of the Black Queen. “Be on your lookout for that man,” he said. “He would not hesitate to take your life to get that mine.”

There was more about the deceitful Walsh. For one thing, he was still married to another woman. Ellen confronted him about it and recalled that his face turned into “an incarnated demon, and such a hellish, fiendish look I never saw on a human face before.” The next day, Walsh tried to make Ellen sign a contract deeding half of her properties to him. When she threw it in the fire, Walsh “grabbed me and tried to stick my head in the fire. I clung to him and screamed until two men came and took him by the collar, and then he let go of me.” Ellen’s hair, she said, “was nearly all burned and my face and neck were in blisters.”

Walsh’s debtors soon came after Ellen, who next caught Walsh planting dynamite under her window. She finally divorced him, but spent two years battling him in court. She also was arrested, in 1886, for applying for the pension left to her by Charles Jack. The reason? Nobody knew her as Ellen Jack, and the court believed she was trying to steal the pension. It took almost a year for Ellen to gain an acquittal, at which time she also was embroiled in another suit with the other owners of the Black Queen. Ellen’s rollercoaster of money troubles continued: She nearly lost the Black Queen in 1888, although she did manage to invest in the Little Mandie mine. Also, however, some property she purchased in Ouray in 1891 was seized to pay an outstanding bill.

In 1894 Denver’s Queen Bee, a feminist newspaper “devoted to the interests of humanity, woman’s political quality and individuality,” at last defended Ellen. “Captain Ellen E. Jack is back on her claim near Gunnison, again,” the paper reported. “The powers that be have had the wiley Captain Jack arrested for defending her claim at the point of her pistols…Men are simply absurd or they would let her alone, and fight professional pugilists and small dogs. It is shameful how the lords of creation will condescend to badger a plucky woman just because they like to have a winning fight.”

Ellen was likely not aware of the article, for she never mentioned it. Her autobiography ends after her account of a trip she took through Utah and Arizona, as well as her musings on God and how far society had come. “So, cheer up, for the aura light is breaking through the dark circle of apprehension,” she concluded, “And this is the prophecy of the Fated Fairy and a wanderer for twenty-seven years in the far West.”

Ellen’s adventures, however, were far from over. In February, 1900, the Aspen Daily Times reported that Ellen sold her interest in the Black Queen and was heading to Cripple Creek. “She is a good rustler and will make a strike in that camp,” the paper predicted. But Ellen did not invest in any mines in the Cripple Creek District. Instead she merely rented a lodging house above a grocery store. By 1903 she was in Colorado Springs, where it was reported a year later that she had established a mining claim in nearby Cheyenne Canyon called the Mars group, with four gold and copper mines. There also was a “tent town” called Camp Jack. Ellen said the claims were averaging $21.00 per ton.

None of Ellen’s claims ever amounted to much. Beginning in about 1907, she turned to the tourism industry. One of her endeavors was generating photographic postcards, featuring herself in various scenarios. In the earliest known image, she poses along with several men, two burros and some equipment. The image is captioned hopefully, “Mrs. Capt. Jack Looking for a Company to Buy Mine.” Next, in 1909, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that Ellen had located a cave “of wonderful formation”, but was keeping its location a secret until she could “purchase the property and turn it into a tourist attraction.”

Promotion of the cave never did come to fruition, but Ellen did establish a resort on High Drive in Cheyenne Canyon. She called it “Captain Jack’s” and told visitors colorful stories while hawking her postcards and copies of Fate of a Fairy. During 1912, her advertisement in a traveler’s guide of the Pikes Peak region commanded, “Stop at Captain Jack’s!”

Ellen also maintained a separate home in Colorado Springs, where passerby remembered seeing her “brilliantly colored parrots in the trees in front of her house.” In 1921 she filed for patents on her Cobra No. 3 and Mars No. 1 mining claims and seemed to be doing well until a flood which washed out the road to Captain Jack’s. The loss of her tourist resort was Ellen’s undoing. Her heart failed and she died on June 17. She was buried in Colorado Springs’ Evergreen Cemetery. Her long-forgotten daughter, Jenny, appeared in the hopes of gaining something from her mother’s will, but received nothing.

Ellen’s rival tour operator, Nora Gaines, purchased Ellen’s resort in 1923. The Colorado Springs Gazette noted that the “New Captain Jack’s Place Now Being Constructed on the High Drive” would offer rest for hikers and motorists, but Nora died just ten years later. The property was abandoned, and the “rotting cabins” were torn down in 1965. Today, Captain Jack’s Mountain Bike Trail outside of Colorado Springs is named for her.

The Terrible Mill

c 2020 by Jan MacKell Collins

The Terrible Mill. The sinister sounding name was what intrigued me from the git. Even before I ever saw it, I could picture it in my mind, a large skeleton of a building, looming quietly on a hillside above the long forgotten town of Ilse in which ghosts roamed and winds moaned. Such was what I pictured the first time I first went to the mill back in the 1980s. What I found was interestingly different. The town was nowhere to be found, save perhaps one home, still occupied, with another modern dwelling nearby. And the mill, oh the Terrible Mill! There it sat, a quarter of a mile away from the houses, not a skeleton so much as one large, rusty square of wood and tin. Three glorious stories of rambling corrugated steel and wood beams and scaffolding and ancient cement jutted out of the hillside, right beside the road.

We roamed discreetly around the backside of the mill, keeping a careful eye on the houses lest anyone protest our intrusion. But once we had climbed through a broken window into the dank confines of that old place, all cautions were forgotten in the wonderful splendor of a building time forgot. We rambled at our leisure up one side and down the other, exploring endless passageways, chutes, large rooms, small rooms and halls. And there were wonderful, crooked but solid stairways, one of which led to the very top of the mill and the greatest treasure of many: a small sparrow hawk, trapped in the uppermost room. Catching and exploring his sleek and refined shape, returning him to the outdoors, and watching him fly away from us was an experience like none other.

Seven years later, we returned to the mill. As it is with ghost towns, one can never know how fast they will deteriorate. We took a back way in, different from the last time, and I felt an assuring pang of excitement when I sighted the old mill from around the next bend. We passed the first of the two houses, and lo and behold, there sat a sheriff’s blazer. It wasn’t there the last time, and my heart sank at the thought of not being able to see the mill after such a long drive. But we respectfully took our chances, and stopped to ask permission. A small, affable man, not at all resembling a sheriff, gave us permission to explore and take photographs. His father once worked at the mill.

How amazing and refreshing it was to find the Terrible Mill held up well over those seven years, with virtually no change at all. There it was, all three stories still there and holding. The wind, as before, whistled through cracks in the walls and rustled the tin roof – but the building stood strong.

My first mission was to find my favorite staircase, the one leading to the top. It was still there, scaling the side of the wall up, up a good hundred feet, and so crooked that I had to half climb it, hanging precariously on to the supporting wall. Even in its dilapidated position, its steps worn and slick from the hundreds of feet that have climbed it through the years, it was strong and sturdy.

Hardly anything had been moved. The old iron bed was still in the office, complete with mattress and the old shoes looking like someone just took them off before retiring. The bedside table was still there too, although a previous visitor had spilled the bottles of vitamin B to the floor. The old lab looked almost exactly the way I last left it. Samples were scattered in small brown packets, mixed in with old bottles of acid and other mining chemicals. The old bottle of salad dressing, still half full, lay exactly where I’d swear I put it. A box of wire mesh, looking like a giant brillo pad, still leaned against the wall. Even the old empty cans of cat food lay untouched, just as I’d seen them seven years ago, and the cat, whose petrified carcass we found when we pulled a Persian rug from the rafters back then, still lay prone on an old piece of cardboard in a doorway.

We wandered back down to the bottom story, where ore once rumbled down chutes to be melted by a large drum furnace, and eventually found our way out of a large sliding door. As we climbed carefully across the barbed wire fence, I felt a sense of duty relieved. It was as if I had just been to see an elderly aunt, and was leaving with the assurance she was doing just fine. In all the hussle of influx to this state, amongst all the construction and destruction going on, all the people old and new who have no appreciation for how this state came to be and the people who toiled so hard to make their dreams come true here, there are still some quiet corners in which to take refuge. I can rest easy knowing this, and that it is still possible for time to stand still in certain spots if you know where to look.

Busting Through Snowdrifts: the Ghost Train of Marshall Pass, Colorado

c 2020 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in Colorado Central magazine.

At 10,846’ in elevation, Marshall Pass remains among one of Colorado’s most precarious roads. The pass, located in the Sawatch Range between Salida and Gunnison, was discovered by Lieutenant William Marshall in 1873 as he was making a mad dash in search of a Denver dentist for a bad toothache. But Marshall’s painful trip was nothing compared to the wild ride experienced by Denver & Rio Grande Railroad engineer Nelson Edwards, and engine fireman Charles Whitehead.

The D & RG was built over Marshall Pass during 1880-1881. Shortly after the rails reached Gunnison, however, stories began circulating of a “ghost train” on the pass, the sight of which had caused other engineers to quit out of fright. Nelson and Whitehead had paid no heed to the tales, making several trips over the pass over a two month period without incident. One evening, however, Nelson guided a passenger train towards the pass with a feeling of foreboding. Perhaps it was because of a weakened bridge and a defective rail, both of which lay ahead on this snowy night. Others would later say that Nelson’s heightened sense of danger was due to the hair-raising specter he was about to see.

The train had just passed through a snowshed when the men heard the warning whistle of another train. The signals continued as the unseen train came nearer, and when Nelson heard the conductor’s signal to stop, he brought his train to a stand-still. Next, the conductor appeared, demanding to know why Nelson stopped. “What did you pull the bell cord for?” the engineer responded. “You’re crazy,” the conductor answered, “now pull her wide open, there’s a wild train a-climbing up on us!”

Edwards opened the throttle as the wheels struggled for a purchase on the rails and Whitehead shoveled coal madly into the fire. Over the next several minutes, the men listened in terror as warning blasts came from the approaching runaway. The D & RG cars were now rocking precariously, awakening panicked passengers and breaking through icy snowdrifts as they sped down the tracks. As the runaway came into view, Edwards was horrified to see a “white figure” atop one of the cars, waving wildly. A short distance later, the engineer vainly veered onto a side track as the runaway train came up on his side. Glancing over, Edwards saw “two extremely white figures in the cab. The specter engineer turned a face to him like dough and laughed.”

Alas, Edwards was going so fast that the runaway could not pass. As he guided the train back in front, the “ghostly fireman” in the other engine maniacally sounded the whistle. Now, the D & RG train was approaching the damaged bridge, but miraculously sailed right over it. A minute later, Edwards sighted a dozen or so section workers, toiling over the broken rail ahead. There was no time to slow down; when the man applied the brakes, he felt the wheels stopping even as the train continued gliding along the icy rails. The train ran right through the workers, whose forms parted like wisps of powdery snow. Edwards looked back just in time to see the runaway hit the broken rail, jump the track, and plunge over the embankment.

When their hearts ceased pounding, Edwards and Whitehead puzzled over what they were sure was the phantom train so many had spoken of before. The men’s hearts thudded again, however, when they spotted a cryptic and badly-spelled note etched in the frost of the fireman’s window: “Yeers ago a frate train was recked as yu saw—now that yu saw it, we will never make another run. The enjine was not ounder control and four sexshun men wore killed. If you ever ran on this road again yu will be wrecked.”

To date, no documentation supports the death of four section workers on Marshall Pass, although a wreck in November of 1888 did kill two men on the train, including the fireman. As for Nelson Edwards, the engineer quit his job the minute the train reached Green River, Utah, and went to work for the safer, and ghost-free, Union Pacific Railroad out of Denver.

Pictured: A Denver & Rio Grande Train on Marshall Pass, as captured by William Henry Jackson.

Cleora, Colorado: Victim of a Railroad War

c 2020 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in Colorado Central magazine.

In the great rush to settle Colorado, it was not unusual to see railroad companies vying for the quickest and most profitable routes across Colorado. The settlement of Cleora was a perfect example of the sacrifices made when one company won and another one lost.

Cleora’s history begins with William Bale, and early-day settler who purchased a ranch on the north side of the Arkansas River near today’s Salida in the early 1870’s. The ranch, located along the Barlow and Sanderson State Road running between Leadville and Cañon City, became known as the South Arkansas stage stop.

Bale, his wife Sarah, and their three daughters became well known at South Arkansas. According to local newspapers, overnight accommodations were provided in the family’s “big, rambling” log house, and “liquid libations” were served to thirsty travelers. By 1875 there also was a cemetery. The first burial is said to have been Charles Harding, a victim of the infamous Lake County War of 1874-1875.

In the summer of 1876, the Colorado Daily Chieftain predicted that South Arkansas was “bound to become a popular resort of pleasure seekers.” In December, Bale duly applied for a post office. The name South Arkansas was already in use at the site of today’s Poncha Springs. Bale decided to name his new mail stop after his youngest daughter, Cleora.

Cleora prospered. An 1877 article in the Saguache Chronicle commented that “no better accommodations can be found on any routes of travel.” The Salida Mail would later recall that “the place fairly hummed with business, the house usually being filled to its capacity and often more people camped outside than there were inside. Many of the leading men of America, and most of the leading men of Colorado in that day, were guests of the Bale house at one time or another.”

When officials of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF) railroad purchased some of Bale’s land in the summer of 1878 to layout a town, Cleora’s future seemed set in stone. Lot sales totaled $3,800 on the first day they were offered as 200 people migrated to the new community. By 1879, Bale was “one of the best known and highly respected citizens” in Chaffee County, which was officially formed in February. Early merchants included dry goods dealer John Blake. “Old Uncle Billy Bale’s” hotel, as it was called, underwent renovations. Dr. L. C. McKinney’s Cleora Journal reported the goings-on around town as the population climbed to nearly 600 people. In August, residents gathered at Mayor W.A. Hawkins’ newly opened Grand View Hotel to vote for incorporation of their new town.

At the same time the vote was made, an article in the Rocky Mountain News announced that the Denver & Rio Grande was attempting a takeover and had managed to stop the AT&SF’s progress. “Cleora is doomed for the present to inactivity,” the News warned. Still, Hawkins and the others remained optimistic, appointing a treasurer, marshal, police judge, and corporate attorney that October. Three lumber yards supplied building materials as buildings flew up and businesses opened throughout the winter of 1879-1880. Pioneer Thomas Penrose remembered trying to cash a payroll check for $1,250 at Wilson’s Saloon in February. When the proprietor said he didn’t have enough money on hand, Penrose and his partner rode to Cañon City, cashed the check, and returned to Cleora to drink at Wilson’s. “They told us that the whiskey was in the back room,” Penrose remembered, “and that there was a siphon there and for us to go ahead and take a drink, and pay 25 cents for a drink.”

The railroad war was finally settled in April when the D&RG won the battle against the AT&SF and continued laying tracks along the north bank of the Arkansas. At Cleora, citizens watched eagerly as the D&RG line approached—and then passed them right by! D&RG officials made it painfully clear that they had no use for Cleora. Instead, they platted their own new town just 1 ½ miles away, and named it for the South Arkansas post office. Disheartened citizens of Cleora pondered what to do as the board of trustees met for the last time on May 27.

In the end, D&RG officials were not so heartless. Officials soon announced that anyone owning a lot with a house or business on it in Cleora (the exception being saloonkeepers) would receive a free lot in the new town if they moved their building over to South Arkansas. By June, dozens of structures were being heaved onto rollers and guided over the rough road to South Arkansas. The Cleora Journal hauled its printing equipment over and became the Mountain Mail. Meyer & Dale, E.H. Webb and Peter Mulvaney relocated their mercantile buildings. “The business men of Cleora are all settling with us,” the Mountain Mail announced importantly. “They see that South Arkansas is to be the town and are governing themselves accordingly.”

Not everyone chose to leave Cleora. The June, 1880 census recorded 183 residents, including William, Sarah and Cleora Bale. Still, the Mountain Mail noted in August that “buildings keep coming up here from Cleora. It will not be long until they are all here.” In November, former territorial governor and D&RG official Alexander Hunt purchased the Grand View Hotel and also moved it to the new town. “The Hawkins house has finally succumbed and gone with the rest of Cleora up to South Arkansas,” reported the Rocky Mountain News. “It was the last building to go.”

Cleora’s post office closed in 1882 as South Arkansas adopted a new name, Salida. At last there remained but one asset of value at Cleora which nobody seemed inclined to move: the cemetery. Salida’s town founders showed no interest in establishing a new graveyard. “What would be the use of one?” the Salida Mail quipped in January 1883. “People don’t seem to die here at any alarming extent.”

For a time, Cleora’s cemetery remained the only burial ground in the area—a less than ideal situation to some. “It’s a mockery to call the present burying ground ‘a cemetery’”, declared the Salida Mail in 1887. The article further lectured that Salidans should be “aroused to a sense of their duty toward a fit place to bury our dead.” It was not until 1889 that Salida at last established its own cemetery, Woodlawn (Fairview Cemetery would be established in 1891).

Cleora’s cemetery was not forgotten: Knights of Pythias, the Grand Army of the Republic, and Woodmen of the World continued hosting annual Memorial Day activities there for many years before the graveyard was deeded to Chaffee County in 1921. The last burial took place in 1948. The cemetery eventually fell victim to vandalism and the elements, cared for only by the families of those buried there.

Thankfully, Cleora Cemetery was successfully listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. Today, Four Seasons RV Park and Rocky Mountain Livestock Sales mark the site of Cleora on the north side of Highway 50. The cemetery is across the highway, an ironic reminder of the days when Cleora was full of life.