Category Archives: Victor Colorado

All-in-One: Grassy, Cameron & Pinnacle Park, Colorado

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

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

Cameron was first known as Grassy, although it was sometimes misspelled on various maps as “Gassy” and “Gassey.” Less-than-astute historians have joked that the community was named after the digestive conditions suffered by a nearby rancher. On a more factual note, Grassy was so-named because it was located in a wide, grass-filled meadow at the edge of a forest. Mines of the Cripple Creek District were nearby and, unlike the hilly and steep streets of the most area towns, Grassy’s flat ground made it very easy to lay out.

   Grassy was almost named Cripple Creek when it was first founded. This was back when Cripple Creek as it is known today was divided by two separate towns, Fremont and Hayden Placer. The towns were ensconced in a heated battle over who would be first to secure a post office. Fremont wanted its name, but Hayden Placer took a competitive edge by choosing the name “Moreland,” a brilliant marketing move that implied that one could acquire “more land” by buying lots there. When the post office accepted Moreland’s name, Fremont founders Horace Bennett and Julius Myers took the competition one step further. In March of 1892, they filed a plat on the northeastern most section of the former Broken Box Ranch and called it Cripple Creek. Promotors Hayden Placer and Fremont had the last laugh, however, when the post office decided to simply combine them into one city and designated the post office name as Cripple Creek.

   In light of the post-designated Cripple Creek, Bennett and Myers changed the name of their platted Cripple Creek to Grassy when it was officially founded in February of 1892. The men had realized that Grassy could become an important mining and railroad hub. The town was officially platted on October 29, 1894 and was intended to be a large city. The main avenues were Prospect, Wolcott, Teller, Blaine, Cleveland, Townsend, Routt, Pitkin and Sherman, intersected by streets numbered one through five. The Midland Terminal Railroad intersected the east half of the town, with a tidy depot located on the southeast corner of Teller and 3rd. Stage services were offered for a time, wherein passengers were brought to the depot to ride the train to Divide and beyond. Meanwhile, the Midland Terminal railroad continued laying tracks headed to the rest of the Cripple Creek District.

   It was soon apparent that Grassy would not be developing very fast, for it was a tad too far from other, more important towns, in the district. A small portion of Grassy was vacated in August of 1895, and by 1899 the town in its entirety was up for sale. Enter the Woods Investment Company, comprised of budding millionaire Warren Woods and his sons Harry and Frank. The Woods boys were already making a big splash in nearby Victor, where they had built much of the town (and rebuilt it after a devastating fire in August of 1899). The Woods purchased the Grassy town site at a cost of $123,000 for 183 acres. The investment was solid enough, for surrounding mines had produced $250,000 in gold ore just that year. Miners, laborers, railroad workers, ranchers, and others were soon moving to Grassy.

   The Woods renamed their newly-acquired town. In July of 1899, the Cripple Creek Morning Times reported that the “Cameron Company that now owns the Grassy townsite, has changed the name of the place to Cameron. Several new houses are now in course of construction there. “Beginning on August 3, Cameron began appearing on the timetables as a stop along the Midland Terminal Railroad. Nice brick structures now lined Cameron Avenue. There were three saloons and even a newspaper, the Golden Crescent. Yet Cameron continued struggling to draw residents and visitors.

   Then, on August 10, readers of the Cripple Creek Morning Times saw a most interesting article. “Sunday an excursion will be run from this city to Cameron, formerly Grassy,” reported the Times. “Pinnacle Park, at Cameron, promises to be a very attractive pleasure resort.” What was Pinnacle Park, readers wondered. It turned out that the Woods had come up with a fabulous idea to draw folks to Cameron. They built a giant amusement park, Pinnacle Park, for the people of the Cripple Creek District to enjoy.

   Spanning thirty acres, Pinnacle Park was built at a cost of $32,500. Matthew Lockwood McBird, son of noted Denver architect Matthew John McBird, and who designed numerous buildings in Victor, was hired to draw plans for the buildings at the new park. McBird was perfect for the job, and was described as “a bit of a visionary, a dreamer and creator.” The fact that he never officially held an architect license in Colorado hardly seemed to slow him down. The man had learned well from his father, and assigned himself to building Pinnacle Park with vigor.

   McBird’s designs gave the buildings at Pinnacle Park hip roofs and angled logs to give the park a rustic look. The place afforded the amenities of any great amusement park: a large wooden dance pavilion with a bandstand, a picnic area, restaurants, carnival games, and an athletic field with seating for up to a thousand spectators. Football and baseball games were the main attraction. Nearby, a zoo exhibited native animals. There was also a playground with assorted popular rides of the day. Entrance to the park was gained via Acacia Avenue, and the Midland Terminal Railroad tracks cut directly through the middle of the park. Visitors came by rail, horseback and carriage, gaining entrance through elaborate wooden arches.

   The first Labor Day celebrated at Pinnacle Park was amazing indeed. Although plans were already in the works for a great festival with a “grand picnic,” the event was turned into a “benefit of the families of Coeur d’Alene miners” who were suffering through violent labor strikes in Idaho. The final plans for Labor Day would feature a baseball game among the Cripple Creek District’s teams. There were a number of other events as well, including greased pole climbing, a “slow burro” race, a sack race, a fifty yard “Fat Man’s” race, a horse race and a dance. Modest entrance fees were charged for everything in the effort to raise money for those in Coeur d’Alene.

   Neither the promoters nor the guests at Pinnacle Park were disappointed. The Labor Day celebration was deemed a great success, from a parade spanning twenty-two blocks which made its way from Cripple Creek, to the games, craft booths, lemonade and cigar stands and entertainment at the park. “The outgoing trains from Cripple Creek to Pinnacle Park were so crowded,” reported the Cripple Creek Morning Times, “that people hung on the sides and scrambled all over the tops of the coaches to get a place to sit.” Furthermore, a “solid stream” of wagons stretched from Tenderfoot Hill above Cripple Creek all the way to Cameron. What a site that must have been!

   In all, over six thousand dollars was raised for the mining families of Coeur d’Alene. Residents of the District came away from Pinnacle Park happy to have had such a day to relax with each other, with no incidents reported amongst the party goers. “It is doubtful if the people of the district ever appreciated before yesterday’s parade what a host of organized working men there are here,” concluded the Times, “or how many different trades and crafts are in the camp.”

   Cameron continued experiencing success. On September 30, an announcement was made that a new “broad gauge” railroad was planned from Colorado Springs to Cameron. The project was led by Irving Howbert and E.W. Gidding of the Cripple Creek District Electric railway, who had hired contractors Clough and Anderson to complete the work. By October, the school at Cameron had fifty two pupils. On December 8 a new post office was established. The name of the office was Touraine, however, “there being a Cameron in another portion of the state,” according to post office officials. The Woods Investment Company closed the year by announcing plans for the Gillett Light & Power Company, which would supply light to both the nearby city of Gillett, and Cameron.

   Interesting is that both the former town of Grassy and the new town of Cameron were listed in the Cripple Creek District directory in 1900. The reason was because the Woods had not yet filed a new plat map for Cameron. The growing population is exhibited by the fact that the Cameron School operated in town proper but a second town, identified as Lower Grassy School appears in the directory as well. Apparently, a portion of old Grassy now functioned as a suburb of Cameron. In Cameron proper, the downtown area offered an exciting array of business houses. The Arcade Saloon and the Cameron Club Saloon and Barber Shop attracted miners, while the more domestic could choose from a number of stores that included Butter’s Store, Home Bakery, Cameron Mercantile Co., G.G. Sweet & Company’s meats and groceries, Williams Dairy, and of course Pinnacle Park.

   As promised, citizens would also benefit from what the Woods called the Golden Crescent Water and Power Company. Within a year, running water would also be furnished to both Cameron and Gillett from Woods Lake. Yet it wasn’t until April 14, 1900 that the new and much improved Cameron was officially platted. C.L. Arzeno and Frank Woods were listed as principle officers on the plat map as Vice President and Secretary, respectively. Unlike nearby Beaver Park, whose naming of “streets” designated it as a blue collar town, Cameron’s roads were called “avenues” and named after local landmarks, including some important mines. The new names included Gillette, Hoosier, Isabella, Touraine, Damon, Pinnacle and Acacia. Just in case rich ore was found beneath the surface of the town, the Woods and Arzeno also wisely retained the mineral rights of all property within the town.

   Labor Day of 1900 appears to have been the record breaker of attendance at Pinnacle Park, when an astounding nine thousand people attended for a day of festivities. Admission was ten cents per head, yielding $900 for the day at the park – nearly $32,000 in today’s money. For a few glorious years, thousands of visitors came to Pinnacle Park every weekend and holiday during the summer. An April, 1900 issue of the Aspen Daily Times also announced that the “continued discovery of gold in the vicinity of Gillett and Cameron confirm the theory so long urged that the Cripple Creek veins extend to an unknown distance to the north.” Mines around Cameron included the Elsmere, Lansing and Wild Horse.

   The Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railroad, a.k.a. “The Short Line”, reached Cameron in March of 1901. A month later, the old post office name of Touraine was finally changed to Cameron. And once again, Pinnacle Park saw record attendance at Labor Day. For a time, it seemed as though Cameron would champion as a leading town in the Cripple Creek District – but that all changed in about 1903, when Cameron’s popularity began fading. The mines around Cameron began playing out and rumors abounded that the Woods boys were in financial trouble. Sales of residential lots at Cameron  came to a stop.

By the time the 1902-03 Cripple Creek District Directory was published, Cameron’s population had shrunk to around 300. The directory now described the town as “small” and located “on the site of the old Grassy settlement”. There was still an Episcopal church, a city hall, Kings Hall and three other clubs, but the business district had dwindled considerably to only a boardinghouse, a grocery, one doctor and the Cameron Crescent.

   The notorious, tumultuous labor wars of 1903-1904 in the Cripple Creek District in took a further toll on Cameron, which was located dangerously close to the center of the mining strikes. The Cameron Crescent went out of business, and in March, several blocks in town were officially vacated. A few months later, just five days into the labor strikes, “Big Bill” Haywood gave a rousing speech to a group of union men at a Pinnacle Park picnic. Haywood urged the miners “to stand with” the Western Federation of Miners until the strike against mine owners was victorious. But owing to the lack of news articles about Cameron during the labor strikes, it would appear that citizens wanted as little to do with the fracas as possible.

Cameron still had about 300 residents in 1905, but notably, neither of the two churches had a pastor and both congregations met at Town Hall. There was still a boardinghouse, general merchandise, grocery, hotel and shoe store, but Cameron was most certainly suffering a slow death. Even though there were a few more businesses in 1907, the population was only 200. The Colorado State Business Directory for 1908 reported the number of residents at one hundred. It would also be the last time Pinnacle Park, now under the management of one Thomas Morris, was listed in any directory. The park closed shortly afterwards. Cameron’s post office closed in August of 1909. A year later, only 50 residents remained in the city proper. By 1912, Cameron appeared as a suburb of Cripple Creek in city directories. Finally, in 1917, Cameron was vacated altogether. Children in the area were able to continued attending the Cameron School until it officially closed in 1921. By that time, only six pupils and their teacher, Miss Mannering, were left.

   The fancy log fence around Pinnacle Park, along with its quaint buildings, was eventually torn down. For years, the logs lay in a heap in the woods just off the former railbed of the Midland Terminal. Brick enclosures built to house bears and wildcats at the Pinnacle Park Zoo were the only remnants left until 2010, when they were dismantled in the wake of mining operations. The materials were stored by the City of Cripple Creek until 2014, when they were reconstructed at the Cripple Creek District Museum. By 2015, what was left of Cameron was quickly being buried under modern mining tailings, and the town is officially no more.

Bandits and Badmen: A History of Crime in the Colorado’s Cripple Creek District

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

The following is excerpted from Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado, Cripple Creek District: Last of Colorado’s Gold Booms, the Single Action Shooter’s Society and Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado 1860-1930.

The last of Colorado’s great gold booms occurred in the Cripple Creek District, high on the backside of Pikes Peak, in 1891. Prior to that, the ranchers populating the area were hardly concerned with crime. The busy bustle of city life had yet to descend on the area. With the discovery of gold, however, the region’s status quickly turned from that of quiet cow camps and homesteads to several rollicking boomtowns within a short distance, each complete with the accompanying evils.

The growth of crime in the newly founded Cripple Creek District grew in proportion to the swelling population as prospectors, merchants, doctors, attorneys and a fair amount of miscreants descended upon the area. Marshal Henry Dana of Colorado Springs once joked that crime was down in his city because the law-breakers had all moved to Cripple Creek. He wasn’t far off. Already, rumors had circulated for some time that the Dalton Gang of Kansas had used the area as an outlaw hideout. As the district grew, the Dalton’s moved on to their fateful end in Coffeyville, Kansas.

But for every outlaw who left the area, there was another one to take his place. Bunco artists, robbers, thieves and scammers soon descended upon the district in great numbers. The Cripple Creek District was still in its infancy and would lack proper law enforcement for some time. Only after Cripple Creek ruffian Charles Hudspeth accidentally killed piano player Reuben Miller while attempting to shoot the bartender at the Ironclad Dance Hall did the city ban guns for a short time. But it was already too late. Cripple Creek’s outlaws were already blazing their own bloody path through history.

By 1894, gangs and undesirables were running rampant throughout the district. “Dynamite Shorty” McLain was one of the first bad guys to make the papers for blowing up the Strong Mine in the district city of Victor during labor strikes. There was a gang hanging around Victor too, headed by the Crumley brothers. Grant, Sherman and Newt Crumley, lately of Pueblo, found the pickings quite ripe and soon fell in with outlaw Bob Taylor and his sister Nell, Mrs. Hailie Miller, Kid Wallace and O.C. Wilder.

Sherman Crumley was especially susceptible to running with would-be robbers. In May of 1895, he and Kid Wallace were arrested after five armed men robbed the newly formed Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad. Apparently a “toady” named Louis Vanneck squealed after receiving less than his share of the loot, which primarily consisted of money taken from passengers. Wallace went to jail, but the popular Crumley was acquitted. Following the incident, the Crumley gang contented themselves with cheating at poker and rolling gamblers in the alleys. Sherman was also a known thief, often stashing his loot in abandoned buildings around smaller communities like Spring Creek just over Mineral Hill from Cripple Creek.

The Crumleys remained in the Cripple Creek District for some time, until Grant shot mining millionaire Sam Strong to death at the Newport Saloon in Cripple Creek in 1902. Grant was not without good reason, for Strong had suddenly pulled a gun on him and accused him of running a crooked roulette wheel. Still, the killing of a man was not a reputation the Crumley’s wished to sustain, and the threesome quickly moved on to Tonopah and Goldfield, Nevada. Grant quickly earned a fine reputation as a man about town, while Newt became quite respectable and even owned the fabulous, four-story Goldfield Hotel for a time. His son, Newt Jr., would become a state senator.

The activities of the Crumleys were actually quite minor compared to those of “General” Jack Smith and his followers at the district town of Altman. Miner, poet and Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph columnist Rufus Porter (aka the “Hard Rock Poet”) once wrote a ballad about the town’s first marshal, Mike McKinnon. The honorable lawman died following a gunfight with six Texans (but not, allegedly, before he killed all six outlaws). Porter may have actually been recalling an incident from May 1895, when outlaw 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, Smith wrapped up a night of drinking by shooting the locks off the Altman jail, thereby freeing two of his buddies, who were already incarcerated for drunkenness.

Smith wisely left town, 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.” Lupton began reading the warrant, but Smith appeared to go for his gun. The constable quickly pinned the outlaw’s arms while Vanneck shoved a gun to Smith’s chest. Smith was arrested with a bond of $300. He managed to pay the bond quickly, however, and was next seen riding toward Altman “with the open declaration of doing up the marshal who swore the complaint.” Altman authorities were notified as Lupton and Victor deputy sheriff Benton headed for the town. By then, Smith had already 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 fired and emptied his own gun as Kelley continued shooting him. Outside, Benton fired a shot through the window that hit Popst. “The latter may recover,” predicted the newspaper, “but Smith is certain to die.” Popst also died, about a week later.

Saloon shootings in the Cripple Creek District occurred with such frequency that sometimes, they were hardly regarded as newsworthy. An 1895 article in the Colorado Springs Gazette reported half-heartedly that Joe Hertz, a.k.a. Tiger Alley Joe, was shot above the Denver Beer Hall in Cripple Creek by Clem Schmidt. Hertz staggered down to the bar exclaiming, “That crazy Dutchman shot me!” A few minutes later, he fell to the floor and died. The Gazette neglected to follow up on the crime or make comment on its effect in Cripple Creek. The year 1896 did not prove much better for the lawmen of the district. General Jack Smith’s widow, a prostitute known as “Hook and Ladder Kate,” masterminded the robbery of a stagecoach outside of Victor. In early April, Coroner Marlowe was contending with the likes of J.S. Schoklin, who dropped his loaded gun in a saloon and subsequently fatally shot himself in the side.

On April 25 and April 29 during 1896, Cripple Creek suffered two devastating Cripple Creek that sent residents into a full blown panic as much of the downtown area and hundreds of homes burned. Folks hurried to rescue what they could in the wake of the flames. Thousands of goods and pieces of furniture were piled high in the streets. It was prime picking for looters and arsonists, the latter whom set even more fires to instill further panic so they could rob and steal. In response, firemen, police and good Samaritans beat, clubbed or shot the law-breakers as a way to restore order.

Petty crimes and robberies continued intermittently for the next few years, and brawls and gunfights were common throughout the district. Crimes increased dramatically when the Cripple Creek District rallied against Colorado Springs to form Teller County in 1899. El Paso County clearly did not want to lose its lucrative tax base from the rich mines of the district. Arguments over the matter turned into all-out screaming matches, fights, and shootings. Thus the newly formed county, with Cripple Creek as the county seat, found itself besieged with lawlessness, free-for-all fights in the saloons along Myers Avenue, and high-grading of gold which was so widespread it was hardly thought illegal.

For several more years, law enforcement continued grappling with the outlaw elements around the district. Incidents making the papers included the death of James Roberts, who was clubbed with a gun and left to die on the floor of the Dawson Club as other patrons urged him to the bar for a drink (a portion of Roberts’ skull, used in testimony against his killer, is on display at the Cripple Creek District Museum). Down in Cripple Creek’s infamous red-light district on Myers Avenue, prostitute Nell Worley was arrested for shooting at a man breaking down her front door. Nell was arrested  because the bullet missed its mark and hit a musician on the way home from the Grand Opera House instead. Luckily he was only injured.

Indeed, Myers Avenue was peppered with illegal gamblers, pick pockets and drunks who felt free to wave and fire their guns at will. The red-light district spanned a full two blocks, offering everything from dance halls to cribs, from brothels above saloons to elite parlor houses. Crimes, suicides, death from disease and frequent scuffles were the norm on Myers Avenue, where anything could happen – and eventually did. Today, Madam Pearl DeVere remains the best-known madam in Cripple Creek, and her fancy parlor house, the Old Homestead, remains one of the most unique museums in the west.

Over in Victor, vice-presidential nominee Theodore Roosevelt visited in 1900. His purpose was to speak to the masses of gold miners about the virtues of switching to silver coinage. Clearly, that wasn’t a great idea, and Roosevelt was attacked by an angry mob of protesters as he disembarked from the train. Cripple Creek postmaster Danny Sullivan is credited with keeping the crowd at bay with a two by four until Roosevelt was back on the train. A year later Roosevelt visited again, this time as Vice President. This time he was treated much kinder, although the apologetic city council of Victor kept him entertained for so long that he barely had time to visit Cripple Creek before departing.

When labor strikes reared their ugly head once again in 1903, citizens of the district found themselves pitted against each other. Union and non-union miners fought against one another. Neighbors stopped speaking to each other. Down in the schoolyards, even children fought on the playground over a debate they actually knew little about. Soon, miners were being jailed and/or deported from the district, and one time the entire staff of the Victor Record newspaper was arrested for publishing an unpopular editorial. Things reached a head when professional assassin Harry Orchard set off a bomb at the Vindicator Mine and blew up the train depot at the district town of Independence.

Now, corruption politics reared its ugly head. During a heated election debate in the district town of Goldfield, deputy sheriff James Warford was hired to oversee the elections. According to Warford, Goldfield constables Isaac Leibo and Chris Miller were shot in self defense when they refused to “move on.” An examination of the bodies, however, revealed both were shot from behind. Eight years later, long after the strikes had been settled, Warford was found beaten and shot to death on nearby Battle Mountain. His murder was never solved.

Within a few years, the Cripple Creek District’s gold would soon become too expensive to mine, and folks slowly began moving away. The sharks and scheisters moved on too, in search of fresh pigeons to pluck. It would be many more decades before legalized gambling would find its way to Cripple Creek, bringing a whole new, modern generation of eager residents, as well as the accompanying crimes.

For history buffs, there are still some mysteries remaining in the district yet. In Mt. Pisgah Cemetery at Cripple Creek, a wooden grave marker was once documented as reading, “He called Bill Smith a Liar.” Urban legend has it that after gambling was legalized, renovations of Johnny Nolon’s original casino in Cripple Creek revealed, a body in a strange shaft under the building. During the excavation of an outhouse pit at the ghost town of Mound City during the 1990s, remains of a perhaps quickly discarded revolver were found. These and other mysterious remnants still surface now and then, to remind us of the many other crimes the lively Cripple Creek District once witnessed.

Image: James Roberts’ skull remains on display at the Cripple Creek District Museum. Courtesty Jan MacKell Collins.

Clyde, Colorado began as an early stage stop

c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins

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

   Prior to the gold boom in the Cripple Creek District, folks wishing to access today’s Teller County used a series of wagon and stage roads. The oldest of these was the Cheyenne & Beaver Toll Road Company which began in Cheyenne Canyon near Colorado Springs and joined what is today known as Gold Camp Road. The route was originally established in 1875. Two years later the name of the road was changed to the Cheyenne and Beaver Park Toll Road. At the confluence of Bison Creek and Middle Beaver Creek, a new wagon road veered off towards Seven Lakes, a resort just below the summit of Pikes Peak. A stage stop was established at this junction which would later be known as Clyde.

   Though only a stage stop, services at Clyde did include a place to stay for the night, as well as food, and libations. Clyde prospered as the last stop before the ascent to Seven Lakes. The road running by also prospered, its name changing again in 1879 to the Cheyenne, Lake Park and Pikes Peak Toll Road Company. With the gold boom in the Cripple Creek District beginning in 1891, the road through Clyde gained even more popularity as the shortest route to the district from Colorado Springs. Promoters, including the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, spent upwards of $18,000 to improve the toll road.

   Miners especially found Clyde a great place to escape from the throngs of people swarming the Cripple Creek District. As merchants of Clyde prospered from these and other travelers, a post office opened under the name Seward in August of 1896. The name was changed to Clyde in October of 1899, after the son of resident George McCarthy. The post office application explained that the office would serve 35 people but was expecting to serve 100 or more in time.

   The families at Clyde were of the hard-working variety with lots of children. Being far away from good medical facilities, unfortunately, took its toll on babies in this remote spot, resulting in a higher-than-usual mortality rate. Unable to afford tombstones, or to reach nearby established graveyards in winter, many ranch families simply buried stillborns or infants on the family property. Most of these graves were never marked and have subsequently been forgotten over time.

   The Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railroad (CS & CCD), later called “The Short Line”, was built through Clyde in 1899 on its way to the District. The railroad was developed by mine owners who were sick of paying expensive freight fees to the Florence & Cripple Creek and the Midland Terminal Railroad, both of whom also extended to the District. Irving Howbert, president of Colorado Springs’ First National Bank at the time, convinced the mine owners they could finance their own railroad. Howbert, of course, became president.  The railroad was a limited success; even with the renowned Seven Lakes Resort above town abandoned, passengers still favored accessing trails to Pikes Peak from Clyde via the Short Line.

   George McCarty continued serving as postmaster at Clyde in 1900 while working on the side as a miner. The Cripple Creek District directory for that year notes that Clyde was referred to as Clyde City, a sign that locals hoped the town would grow larger. At the time, however, only a few miners were living there. Another resident was W.S. Gerber, a saw-mill operator who was renting a home from P. McNeny. The house was located next to the post office building which was owned by a Mr. Swink. In May, Gerber, hoping to cash in on insurance money for his household goods, burned both buildings (Gerber beat a hasty retreat to Nebraska but was arrested for the crime upon his return in January of 1901). Counting Gerber, the entire population, according to the 1900 census, only numbered twenty-nine people. And to McCarthy’s disappointment, the post office closed in September.

   Those who loved living at Clyde refused to die with the town. Over the years Clyde, as well as a number of satellite camps, remained home to several settlers who knew there were still plenty of ways to make a living there. One of the outlying communities was Saderlind, identified on a 1901 CS & CCD timetable as a stop between Rosemont and Clyde. The whistlestop was located roughly 2.2 miles from Rosemont and 6 miles from Clyde. How many people lived at Saderlind proper is a mystery, since they were counted as residents of Clyde and only appeared in the 1910 census.

   There were plenty of visitors to the area, too. Majestic Cathedral Park was just up the road. Area prospectors continued searching for gold. Ranchers benefited greatly from the wide meadows and ample water. And when Vice President Theodore Roosevelt passed through on the Short Line in August of 1901, the community was in a buzz for days.

   Soon, the Short Line was in hot competition with the Midland Terminal, which had been charging two dollars for a round trip ticket between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek. A fare war started, ending when the Short Line successfully beat out the Midland at .25 cents per round trip. The resurgence of interest in Clyde was so good that Frank Cady, postmaster at the Love post office nearby, submitted a new application to reopen the post office at Clyde. Cady cited 140 people as living at Clyde, with the total number of people using the post office at 300. Clyde’s post office successfully reopened in September of 1901.

   With the post office back in place, a new rail station and water tank were constructed in November. There was also a school. There was also Cathedral Park, just around the bend from Clyde along the railroad. The “sublime scenery, fantastic rocks and cathedral spires” of this amazing formation beckoned passengers from the Short Line, which offered daily excursions to the park. Awaiting patrons was a dance pavilion complete with a corrugated iron roof, a five-room “dwelling” and two refreshment stands installed by the company. It was perhaps around that time that an artificial lake was constructed at Clyde for recreational purposes.

   What with people enjoying themselves looking at the natural wonders around Clyde, there was little crime reported until 1904, when assassins Harry Orchard, Johnnie Neville and Johnnie’s son Charlie camped near Clyde. The group was working on behalf of the mine owners during a most violent and tumultuous labor war in the Cripple Creek District. Orchard was orchestrating a plan to blow up the depot at the Cripple Creek District town of Independence, which the group did successfully on June 5. Thirteen men were killed and several others injured.

   Throughout the early 1900’s, Clyde’s population remained at a mere handful of residents. In 1905, when the number was around fifteen citizens, the figure included Joseph D. Schneider who had married his sweetheart, Elmira May Moore, in 1895. The couple homesteaded at Clyde in 1905 and Schneider worked as a section boss on the railroad. The family homestead, meanwhile, grew into a large ranch totaling 2,000 acres. In his early years Schneider was known as “difficult”. When he bought his first car he was in the habit of yelling “Whoa!”, cussing at the vehicle when he wanted it to stop, and even jumping from the newfangled machine when it went out of control. Later in life his demeanor softened.

   The population of Clyde remained at fifteen through 1908. Still on board were schoolteacher Miss J.E. Kenton, as well as station agent and postmaster Chas. F. Redman. But the tiny village could hardly justify its post office, which closed a final time in September of 1909. The number of people shot up to an amazing eighty three residents in 1910, but that number included numerous railroad workers who were likely temporary. Eighteen section hands shared quarters in the railroad’s section house, ten of them being Greek immigrants. Eight others were Japanese. Also living in Clyde was school teacher Harry G. Goves. Two other people worked at the Clyde  Timber Company. The McCarthy family was still there too, including young Clyde who was now eighteen years of age. Clyde and his brothers were employed as farmers on the family homestead.

   The 1910 census at Clyde is notable because at the time, several small satellite camps surrounded the community. They included Rosemont, Saderlind, Summit, Bald Mountain, Bunker Hill District and Seven Lakes. At Bald Mountain there were only five residents. They included prospectors Frosty Clemens, Frank Nelson and James Snodgrass, all widowers in their forties and fifties. Frosty Clemens in particular was a character of sorts whose name has become legend in his part of the country.

   Born in 1865 in Missouri, Clemens was allegedly a cousin of Samuel Clemens, better known as the prolific writer Mark Twain. By the time he arrived in the area, Clemens was a widower who apparently had been prospecting for some time. Local folklore cites that Clemens dug several mines but never found much in the way of fortune. Ultimately, according to legend, Clemens died in 1916 when “he pulled a permanent lid of gravel down over himself in one of his mines.” It is also believed that he built what is now known as Frosty Clemens Trail in Frosty Park.

   The Bunker Hill District was located on Bunker Hill between Bald Mountain and Rosemont. Residents of the district were all farmers, most of whom had departed the area by the time of the 1920 census.

   With the formation of Pike National Forest, a ranger station was built at Clyde between 1912 and 1917. The Cripple Creek District mines were dwindling, and fewer people were using the Short Line. When the dance pavilion roof at Cathedral Park collapsed during a heavy snow, nobody bothered to rebuild it. Former resident Glenora Meyers also remembered that the school house was just one room with 12 or so students. Those who still loved the peaceful paradise that was Clyde, however, maintained a number of homesteads in the area.

   Longtime homesteaders included Isadore and Minnie Meyers, who moved to Clyde from the Cripple Creek District city of Goldfield in 1914. The family home was a one and a half story cabin made from square logs. The bottom floor contained the front room, kitchen, and bedroom for the Meyers. Their many children slept on the second floor in a large room divided by a curtain for the girls and boys. A cellar was stocked with vegetables and canned goods. The outhouse was out back. Water was carried from Middle Beaver Creek across the road. The Meyers’ daughter, Glenora, remembered that “there never was any shortage of snow in winter. Sometimes, the snow drifts were so high that we could walk over the tops of the fences. Of course, to go anywhere, the road had to be shoveled out by hand or plowed out with what was called a go-devil. This was a triangular shaped contraption that was weighted down with rocks or sometimes with us kids and pulled by our faithful team of horses.” At Christmas and other times, the family would take a trip to Victor with hot rocks wrapped in newspapers to keep everyone’s feet warm.

   Beginning in about 1917, the Meyers alternated their time between Clyde and a nearby place they simply called “Camp” near Gould Creek. The family felled and sold timber at Camp. They were also farming by 1920. The family lived briefly in Colorado Springs, where Minnie died in 1926. Isadore continued living in both Colorado Springs and at Camp through at least 1940.

   A year after the Meyers first migrated to Camp, the telegraph office at Clyde closed. It was replaced by a telephone system so train engineers on the Short Line could talk with the dispatcher. In 1920, however, the Short Line ceased operations altogether, and residents of Clyde were counted in the population of Victor during the census that year.

   Today, the old stage road that preceded the Short Line meanders onto the private property comprising Clyde. Two miles from where Middle Beaver Creek has washed out, the old road is a home lived in by the Reifenrath family during the 1920’s. John Reifenrath is believed to have built the large log house, which contained four rooms downstairs and four bedrooms upstairs, each with its own closet. The 1920 census lists John, his wife Mary and their children Edward and Lucille living there. John worked as a farmer and stockman.

   Stories of Clyde reflect that there were still a number of residents there throughout the 1920’s. Around 1921, a particularly heavy rainstorm threatened to break the dams up at Seven Lakes. The children of Clyde were gathered in the second story of the ranger station, which was quite sturdy and thought the safest place to put them. Everyone survived, and in 1922 the old railroad bed gained new life when W.D. Corley purchased it at auction for $370,000. Corley, a coal operator-turned-capitalist, beat out three other bids, including one representing mining millionaire A.E. Carlton. Corley tore up the tracks, filled in the trestles, and turned the rail bed into the Corley Mountain Highway toll road. The toll was one dollar and on a good day, reaped $400 in fees.

   The toll road enabled others at Clyde to prosper as the area remained a popular picnic ground. In 1924 Jim and Helen Schneider moved into the former Clyde Pavilion and converted two of its rooms to living quarters. In 1927 a new post office application was submitted by the Clyde Eating House but was denied. During the 1930’s, Pike National Forest took over the Corley Mountain Highway, renamed it Gold Camp Road, and opened it for free to all.

   The Schneiders and their children continued living off the land. They grew hay, harvested block ice from some nearby caves, and traded hand-churned butter to Seven Lakes caretaker Clyde Reynolds in exchange for fresh trout. The Clyde School closed in 1936. The last teacher was Mr. McComb, who was known for his excessive drinking habits. Into the 1940’s, Clyde next served as a stopover for mule trains training soldiers from Camp Carson in Colorado Springs. The soldiers gave the Schneider children candy bars and bought moonshine from the family.

   For a time beginning in 1947, there was a hotel at Clyde called the Clyde Inn. One of the Schneider children, Hank, was now living with his wife Ida in the old school. Their furnishings in the large classroom included a grand piano from the Victor Opera House in nearby Victor. Also during that time, Chuck and June Bradley moved to the area and purchased much of Clyde to use as their family ranch.

   Clyde resident Frances Kramer remembered that the Clyde Inn was closed up and shuttered during the 1950’s. The hotel was later purchased by some investors from Colorado Springs, but burned to the ground on September 9, 1954. Clyde’s last school survived, however, and was purchased by Robert and Laverne Rayburn in 1954 for $1,500.00. The Rayburns installed a door between the attached teacherage and the schoolroom, expanded the kitchen and added a second bathroom, fireplace, back door and picture window.  

   The Bradley family, meanwhile, continued purchasing ranches, including that of the Schneiders, throughout the 1960’s. In 1974 Chuck Bradley subdivided lots at Cathedral Park Estates and tried to sell them, but the effort was in vain. Picnic tables that had been present at Clyde were dismantled by the Forest Service during the 1980’s even as Gold Camp Road remained a popular tourist destination. When Teller County commissioners attempted to close the old railroad tunnel outside of town in 1988, residents of Clyde and others complained until the tunnel was reopened.

   These days, the school and former ranger station are all that really survive of old Clyde. The historic area remains as private ranching property; folks driving down Gold Camp Road are cautioned to obey all no trespassing and private property signs.

Image: A 1933 picnic near Clyde.

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.

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.

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.

Adelaide, Colorado: The Ill-Fated Stop Along the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Shortly after gold was discovered in the Cripple Creek District in 1891 merchant James A. McCandless of Florence, to the south, was one of many men who took an interest in generating commerce from the gold boom. In McCandless’s mind was Eight-Mile Canyon, an old, windy and sometimes precarious trail used by Ute natives to travel to the high country and make their summer quarters. With a creek of the same name meandering alongside much of the trail, the canyon was ideal for reaching the District. McCandless and several engineers first surveyed the canyon in 1891. By 1892 Thomas Robinson, whose endeavors included promoting the Florence Electric Street Railway Company, had opened the “Florence Free Road” leading to the District. Around this same time, give a take a few years, the name of the canyon was changed to Phantom Canyon.

Robinson intended for the road through Phantom Canyon to eventually run between the borders of Wyoming to the north and New Mexico to the south. When the Salaman Stage Line debuted on the Florence Free Road, its success inspired plans for the Florence and Cripple Creek State Line Railroad. A map of the new railroad was filed in May of 1892, and the company was reformed as the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad.

As plans unfolded for the new railroad, Denver & Rio Grande Railroad magnate David Moffat got involved. Under his wing, the F&CC was incorporated in April of 1893, and construction of the railroad commenced the following December. Robinson also remained involved with the project, to the effect that one early camp along the line was named for him. Railroad workers and travelers could stop at Robinson, situated nearly halfway between Florence and Cripple Creek, to buy supplies at a general store or stay at a boardinghouse nearby.

By 1894, for reasons unknown, the name of Robinson had been changed to Adelaide. A depot was constructed for the F&CC, as well as some homes and a water tank for the train. Two men worked at the tank, each in a 12 hour shift, so that it would remain full of water for the locomotive. They, as well as other railroad employees, lived in a nearby bunkhouse with a coal-burning stove for warmth. The former boardinghouse was converted into a hotel called the Great Elk. The station agent’s quarters were in the back of the depot.

Adelaide served a second, more important purpose too. As the F&CC tracks progressed up the canyon, it was soon discovered that the last few miles into the district proved steeper than originally thought. A “helper” town of sorts, Alta Vista, was constructed on the edge of the Cripple Creek District near the city of Victor, wherein engines could travel down the canyon to the station at Adelaide in Fremont County and assist the trains in making it up the grade.

For about a year, everything was grand at little Adelaide, nestled there among the trees and below the majestic rock walls of Phantom Canyon. But there came an evening in July of 1895 when a horrific thunderstorm, typical for late summer in Colorado, let loose with a destructive might like no other.

The Cripple Creek Weekly Journal later described the carnage that ensued. A F&CC train with 14 cars had just been lightly damaged when a small landslide derailed the train just a mile above Adelaide. Four railroad men from the train walked down to the Great Elk Hotel, and Conductor Brown had just wired news of the incident when he chanced to step outside. In the twilight he could see a wall of water, towering some 20 feet high and flowing at about thirty miles per hour, roaring down the canyon, and Adelaide was directly in its path.

Just up the tracks from Adelaide, a helper engine with engineer Mathew Lines and fireman Bert Kreis had just passed through Glenbrook, the closest stop above Adelaide, on its way down from Alta Vista. Lines and Kreis saw the wall of water, quickly stoked the fire in the engine and sped up as fast as they could as the flood chased after them. If anyone saw the engine fly past Adelaide, there does not seem to be a record of it. The engine managed to pass by the next stop, McCourt, before reaching Russell where the tracks diverted away from the flooded creek. Lines and Kreis survived.

Back at Adelaide, meanwhile, the railroad men and the station agent and his family quickly climbed to safety, as well as three other men and “three tramps” who were dining at the hotel. The railroad men turned around in time to see the Great Elk Hotel smashed to pieces by the water and carried away. Tragically, inside were the hotel’s proprietress, Mrs. Carr, as well as waiter Lee Tracy and cook John Watson. Tracy’s body was eventually found nine miles south of Adelaide, near Russell. Mrs. Carr’s body was carried several miles further, almost to Vesta Junction near Florence. Watson was found too, as well as the bodies of three other men who were believed to be section men for the railroad. Three other men surfaced safely in Florence the next day.

In all, the flood washed away ten miles of tracks as well as several bridges. It took quite some time to reach Adelaide and assess the damage, which was estimated at $100,000—over $3 million dollars in today’s money. One would think that would be the end of the F&CC, but the company remained resilient. Over the next year, workers toiled to rebuild the railroad at a cost of just over $238,000. At Adelaide, the station was relocated about half a mile down from its original location on today’s Phantom Canyon Road, well above the creek. A new water tank, a large cistern and a new depot were eventually built at the site.

Although other cloudbursts and occasional floods continued to plague Phantom Canyon, Adelaide remained safe until July of 1912 when another storm sent yet another wall of water crashing down the F&CC tracks. This time, twelve bridges were wiped out and five miles of track were either damaged or lost altogether in the flood. Rather than rebuild again, the F&CC took into consideration its own finances but also those in the Cripple Creek District, where the mining boom was slowly fading away. In 1915 the F&CC was dissolved, and the remaining tracks were removed from the canyon.

Over the last several decades, any structural remnants remaining at Adelaide have disappeared altogether. The only evidence of the whistle stop today is the large cistern, which can be seen below the road along Phantom Canyon. Small signs denote Adelaide and most of the other stops along the route, making for a most scenic drive through the canyon with a little history thrown in. And in Florence, both the McCandless house and the Robinson mansion bear proof that, for a time, the F&CC was a good investment indeed.

French Blanche: Last of the Harlots

c 2020 by Jan MacKell Collins

For more on French Blanche, see Jan’s new book, Good Time Girls of Colorado: A Red-Light History of the Centennial State. Click here to order.

Of all the forgotten soiled doves in the Cripple Creek District of Colorado, French Blanche=s story is one that bears mention.

Born in France, Blanche LaCroix first came to America to work as a prostitute in New Orleans. She later stated that she was hired by Morris Durant to come to Cripple Creek. A saloon owner in Cripple Creek and Victor, Durant apparently commissioned several girls from France to work on Myers Avenue, Cripple Creek=s notorious red light district.

Naturally, French was quite beautiful in her youth. Durant fell in love with her. When his wife heard French Blanche was pregnant with his child, she accosted French and threw acid in her face. The wounded harlot retreated to the nearby town of Midway, where for many years she concealed her scarred face behind a veil. At Midway, she could still service miners coming to the Midway Saloon along the High Line railway. When her daughter was born, French was forced to give her up for adoption.

For years, French=s only company at Midway was a handsome man who lived next door. The two had a brief courtship until French discovered he was seeing another woman. Despite his being her only neighbor in Midway, French never spoke to the man again, and he eventually moved away.

During her remaining years at Midway, French Blanche lived a quiet life. No one is certain when she ceased doing business. After a time she would accept groceries delivered to her door, and old timers recalled seeing her sitting in the window with the evening sun on her face. She waved at folks passing by, but if someone happened to knock at her door, French never answered the door without her veil in place.

As she grew older, wrinkles disguised her scars and French stopped wearing the veil. Certain children of the district began visiting her and recalled she made wonderfully delicious cookies. Her tiny cabin was wallpapered and clean, with a green and white porcelain cook stove.

Perhaps the children gave French Blanche courage, for she began making monthly trips to Victor for groceries. Before long, a local woman began giving her rides back to Midway and learned she received no more than $35 per month to live on because she wasn=t a U.S. citizen.

Lack of money and failing health are probably what enticed French to move to Victor in the 1950’s. The same woman who had given her rides to Midway put her up in a small cabin next to the family home. In the early 1960’s, French contracted pneumonia and died at St. Nicholas Hospital. Per French=s instructions, the woman who cared for her found $200 stashed in a drawer for her burial.

French Blanche=s story doesn=t end here. Two years after she died, the daughter she had given up years ago came looking for her. The woman said she had been adopted by a doctor in Kansas, who revealed her mother=s true identity on his deathbed. She received a photograph and a few of French=s belongings, and disappeared. All that remains of French Blanche is a small metal sign, which marks her grave at Victor=s Sunnyside Cemetery.

1918: The Year of No Thanksgiving

c 2019 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in The Colorado Gambler.

“Thanksgiving Parties Are Forbidden.”

So ran the headline on the front page of the Cripple Creek Times & Victor Daily Record in Colorado, a mere two days before Thanksgiving in 1918. Beneath was this command, issued by the Teller County Board of Health: “Eat your Thanksgiving dinner at home and be thankful that the ‘flu’ is under control. Visiting spreads the epidemic.”

Indeed, a world wide influenza epidemic was at hand. Colorado was no exception to the rule. Statewide, citizens had for months known about the Spanish Flu, which began sweeping the whole world off its feet the previous March. The suspected origin of the dreaded disease was Spain. But because the epidemic began almost simultaneously in America, others suspected Fort Riley Kansas, where soldiers fell ill within two days of burning tons of manure.

Forty eight soldiers would die at Fort Riley as others followed troop movements to Europe to fight in World War I. Within weeks, the flu had reached pandemic proportions. To people around the globe, the severity of the Spanish Flu was comparable to the Black Plague of Europe some centuries before. Onset of the illness was quite sudden. Within a matter of hours, a person could go from the picture of health to being so weak they couldn’t walk. Fevers escalated to 105 degrees and doctors were at a loss as to how prevent pneumonia from developing.

In all, the Influenza Epidemic would take nearly three times the lives that World War I did. An early estimate lay at 27,289 war casualties versus 82,306 flu victims. In the end, the final toll in the United States was somewhere between 500,000 to 675,000, with 20 to 40 million fatalities world wide.

It is no wonder then, that by November the epidemic was taking precedence over everything else in Teller County. The November 8 issue of the Cripple Creek Times & Victor Daily Record reported 12 dead. Two more outbreaks had occurred in the previous 24 hours, and five were reported critically ill at the County Hospital in Cripple Creek. In addition, six new cases of Spanish Flu were reported in Victor & Goldfield.

“WAR IS OVER” screamed the headlines on the following day, but the end of the war hardly seemed important as folks received news of a county-wide quarantine. By ordinance, newcomers to the county were automatically put into quarantine for a minimum of three days. In addition, no one was permitted to enter or leave quarantined houses. Schools closed and children were ordered kept at home. Parties and public congregations, including funerals, were forbidden. Anyone daring to venture out in public was required to wear a gauze mask.

In roughly a years’ time, one funeral director alone recorded 45 deaths from the flu. Among them were the Snowden boys, ages ten and fifteen, who died within a day of each other at the Cripple Creek District town of Elkton that November. Their mother Augusta died just four days later, leaving a single grieving husband and father. The Snowden family’s fate was sadly typical of what many residents of Teller County were experiencing on a day to day basis.

The residents of the Cripple Creek District rallied as best they could. Family was told to stay away for the holidays. The obvious lack of advertising for Thanksgiving supplies in local newspapers told the tale. Dinner plans were cancelled as the healthy did what they could to help the sick. Volunteers left warm meals, coal and wood at the back doors of quarantined families.

News traveled by way of notes and messages shouted over the backyard fence. Local newspapers worked round the clock to keep up with the dead and dying, as well as their guardian angels. “Assist the sick in every way possible” was the motto of the day as daily editions included recipes for tonics and syrups, plus important notices.

“If anyone knows of any family in Victor who are needy during the Thanksgiving festivities,” offered the Cripple Creek Times, ‘they will be taken care of if word is left with Mrs. W.O. Higgins or Mrs. T.C. Wilson at the Wilson Art Shop.” A similar list was available from Mrs. Wilson M. Shafer in Cripple Creek.

The temporary health regulations were strictly enforced. In Colorado Springs, a woman was fined $10 for hosting a musicale and luncheon at her home. In Cripple Creek, only one ill-informed scoundrel dared to ignore the ordinance. In what was surely a blatant move in this crisis, the Gibbs House advertised turkey with all the trimmings Thanksgiving day for seventy five cents. The place was probably fined or ordered shut down.

It was surely a bleak Thanksgiving day that dawned on Colorado residents that year as they awoke to newspapers filled with funeral and death notices. Although the Times-Record indicated the flu was “under control” that Thanksgiving, it would be months before the county returned to normal. Schools remained closed through January and it was some time before the virus finally ran out of steam and died off.

There is no doubt that as households dined on what they could gather for dinner that Thanksgiving day in 1918, the feeling of family tradition was accompanied by one of hope. As they gazed over their offerings, each individual had one and only one prayer in mind. The prayer might have evolved into a word of thanks for being healthy and being alive, plus a wish for the continued health of loved ones and neighbors. It was a sentiment worth keeping in mind, with or without the loss.

Good Time Girls of Colorado: A Red-Light History of the Centennial State

c 2019 by Jan MacKell Collins

A quick note about this book: expanding on the research I have done for Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado 1860-1930 (University of New Mexico Press, 2004) and Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountains (University of New Mexico Press, 2009 – out of print), presented here are some notable shady ladies like Mattie Silks, Jennie Rogers, Laura Evens and others. Also included however, are some ladies seldom written about: French Blanche LeCoq, Lou Bunch and Laura Bell McDaniel (whom I was pleased to first introduce to the world clear back in 1999).

Why do I write about historical prostitution? Because I believe that these women made numerous unseen, unappreciated contributions to the growth of the American West. They paid for fines, fees, business licenses and liquor licenses in their towns. They shopped local, buying their clothing, furniture, food, jewelry, medicine and other needed items from local merchants. These women were often angels of mercy, donating to the poor, helping the needy, and making or procuring sizeable donations for churches, schools and other organizations. Many took care of their customers when they were sick, or sometimes when they became elderly.

Hollywood and the general public like to laugh at and shame women of the night for selling sex for a living. In reality, these women often turned to prostitution as the only viable way to make enough money to survive. Theirs was one of the most dangerous professions of the time, the threat of devastating depression, domestic violence, disease, pregnancy and often subsequent abortion, and alcohol or drug related issues being very real issues the ladies faced daily.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it and furthering the truth about our good time girls from the past. You can order it here: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781493038060/Good-Time-Girls-of-Colorado-A-Red-Light-History-of-the-Centennial-State