Tag Archives: Manitou Springs

Hermann’s Hotel Succumbs to Flames!

C 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Manitou Springs circa 1890

The Utes of Ute Pass, Colorado

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

For decades, Hollywood had movie fans believing all Indians were evil savages who ran around killing whites and committing barbaric acts. Such stereotyping has been countered by historians showing that America’s true natives were, like any culture, closely knit with their own society, religion and way of life that is in fact enviable. In Colorado, the Utes stand out as one of the friendliest tribes in the Indian nation. They also are the only indigenous Native Americans of Colorado. And, despite their reputation as a peaceful tribe, the Utes of Colorado were never violently conquered by another civilization. That isn’t to say they didn’t have their battles—beginning with early Spanish explorers—but it is rare to see an instance where the Utes started a fight. They just finished it.

Nobody really knows when Ute tribes first came to Colorado, or even where they migrated from. The Indians themselves simply say they have been here “since the beginning.” It is thought that the Ute nation is descended from the Desert culture, the Fremont Indians and perhaps even the Basket Makers, which would date their presence in Colorado to 10,000 years ago or more. Other sources speculate the Utes may have migrated from Mexico, since their native tongue is deemed Uto-Aztecan.

Throughout the 1600’s and 1700’s in Colorado, Utes both befriended and fought various incoming tribes, including Comanches, Apaches, and Navajos. Seven different tribes once thrived throughout the state, each with their own name, dialect and culture. The Utes commanded the mountainous regions of Colorado, guarding Ute Pass—one of the few ways to access the western portion of the state. It should be noted here that at last count, there were five areas officially known as Ute Pass. The pass referenced here today traverses a beautiful canyon west of Interstate 25 from Manitou Springs. Most recently, the area made international news for the Waldo Canyon wildfire in 2012 and the subsequent floods which created havoc along the pass in 2014.

In those early days, Manitou Springs at the bottom of the pass was regarded as a sacred sanctuary. Here, seemingly magical, bubbling springs flow from massive caverns below. The Utes believed a great god, Manitou, resided below the springs. Manitou’s breathing gave the springs bubbles and steam, bringing health to all who drank from them. To pay homage and bring good luck, the Utes made annual treks from the mountains to visit Manitou. Utes were adept at basketry, leather work and clay wares. They often left offerings of this nature, as well as beads and knives, for Manitou. Other tribes were permitted to pay homage as well, and springs were known as common ground among all nations. At the top of the pass near Florissant, however, immunity from war was forgotten; battles between the Utes and other tribes were common.

While the near the top of the pass Cripple Creek District is best known for its gold deposits and mining history, the Utes favored the area’s high country meadows as an abundant hunting ground for thousands of generations. Utes were hunters and gatherers, and the mountains offered an abundance of edible fauna, berries and wildlife. Because the District sits at an elevation close to 10,000 feet, however, the area did not make good winter quarters. The Utes spent their winters in the lower and warmer regions, such as northern New Mexico, once the snow began falling. Spring and fall were spent commuting and preparing for the alternate seasons.

After a treaty between the Utes and the Spanish was established in 1675, the Utes became accustomed to the presence of Spaniards, Mexicans and eventually, white settlers traipsing up and down Ute Pass. They traded freely with early explorers and weathered several historic events, including New Mexico Territorial Governor Juan Bautista de Anza’s quest to kill the Comanche leader Cuerno Verde in 1779, Zebulon Pike’s failed attempt to scale Pikes Peak in November of 1806, and Major Stephen H. Long’s successful climb to the top of the mountain in 1820. They also met such famous explorers as Kit Carson, explorer John C. Fremont, and English adventurer George F. Ruxton, all of whom traversed Ute Pass during the 1840’s.

The year 1859 saw the first use of Ute Pass by freighters. Hundreds of prospectors and merchants were making their way to the gold fields on the western slope of Colorado. Skirmishes between whites and Indians still occurred, but the occasional troubles hardly stopped people like Augusta and H.A.W. Tabor, who traversed the pass on their way to Leadville. Within a year, Ute Pass became known as the “Gateway to the Goldfields”. The Utes’ passiveness at the new flurry of activity was encouraged by their famed leader, Ouray, who encouraged friendships with white men. In 1863, Ouray served as an interpreter at the Conejos Peace Treaty and was subsequently appointed leader of the Tabeguache Utes. In 1873, he also assisted in negotiating the Brunot Treaty. Unfortunately many of these treaties, designed to bring peace between the Indians and the government, were later broken by the white men who agreed to them.

In the aftermath of the infamous Meeker Massacre of 1879, Ouray and another Ute, Buckskin Charlie, went to Washington D.C. to negotiate a peaceable end to the ordeal. When Ouray resigned his position as Ute leader a short time later, he appointed Buckskin Charlie his successor. Ouray died in 1880, but the town of Ouray on Colorado’s western slope was named for him. Ouray’s wife Chipeta also had two towns named for her, including the Ute Pass resort town of Chipita Park.

A Colorado native, Buckskin Charlie was orphaned by the age of 11. He became a warrior, participating in many battles against plains Indians. One skirmish left a bullet scar on his forehead. Later, Charlie served as a scout for the U.S. Army. He earned his famous nickname for the number of antelope he killed and subsequently skinned on the expedition. Buckskin Charlie reigned over the Utes for an amazing 56 years. Photographs of him often depict him wearing a moustache, a rare characteristic among Indians. Charlie encouraged his tribe to let their children be educated by whites and attend church services. He also spoke English and dressed in white men’s clothing when visiting Washington D.C.—even though the government noted his preference for the Ute tongue and his refusal to outlaw peyote and other ceremonial aspects of his native culture. Still, Charlie was patient and sensible in his dealings with U.S. officials, even when arguing over broken treaties.

As Charlie continued his negotiations, more and more whites migrated to Colorado. Throughout the years, the Utes had watched as early ranchers homesteaded on their treasured hunting grounds and began mining in the Cripple Creek District. By the 1890’s, when the District was formed, the Utes had lost their hold on the area altogether. Within a few short years, hundreds of prospect holes and mines were erasing the past. Two gulches, Papoose Gulch and Squaw Gulch, were so-named for the remains of an “aborigine woman” and a child that were found there. More than likely, they were actually Ute skeletons.

Indeed, the turn of the century held many changes for residents of the Pike’s Peak region. In 1912, the El Paso County Pioneer’s Association in Colorado Springs decided to dedicate the old Ute Pass trail to those who had used it long before any white man. Buckskin Charlie was invited to the ceremonies. Scores of Utes, dressed in full regalia, rode the pass. As the party passed into French Creek Valley just below Cascade, the Indians burst into ceremonial song. Buckskin Charlie led the pack, declaring, “I seventy years old and never been so happy.” Ute outposts were still visible along the pass as late as 1920.

Throughout his career, Buckskin Charlie maintained his outstanding reputation and personally met with seven United States presidents. He died in 1936, and some say his death was the last of the Indian frontier as Native Americans knew it. Although fewer in number, however, many Utes still live in Colorado, maintaining their peaceful lifestyles and ceremonial beliefs.

Utes and Colorado pioneers traverse Ute Pass in 1912.

Utes and Colorado pioneers traverse Ute Pass in 1912.