Pueblo County, Colorado
LEVIA "BONA" HENSEL

Contributed by Jean Griesan.

Kansas Visitor Became Historical Figure in Southern Colorado When the first Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad passenger train came rolling into Pueblo in March 1876, nearly all the passengers were Kansas newsmen and women who were enjoying a hilarious free load. One rider, Levia "Bona" Hensel, was a frequent contributor to the Kansas City Times. He chose to remain in Pueblo and went to work for The Pueblo Chieftain as an advertising and subscription salesman. He also wrote articles about the areas he visited and signed them "Bona." Hensel acquired his nickname in boyhood because his ability to win snowball fights was as keen as that of Napoleon Bonaparte in winning wars. Hensel was born in Ohio in 1832 and worked his way westward. During the Civil War, he was a first lieutenant in Capt. Blackburn's Company G, 13th Kansas Volunteers, which fought the Confederate force operating in Missouri and Arkansas. It didn't take long for Hensel to become well acquainted in Colorado. His readers soon realized that he had that rare ability to remember every person he met and to recognize him at another place five years later. Hensel covered the first session of the Colorado Legislature in December 1876. He traveled in the San Juans in 1877. He also spent considerable time in 1877 and 1878 in Lake County and what now is Chaffee County. He informed the world of the great carbonate discovery in Lake County and was greatly disappointed when supporters reneged on a promise to back him in a newspaper enterprise. When Nick Creede discovered the Monarch mining district, Bona went to report on what was there. He also went to Telluride, the Uncompahgre Valley, the San Luis Valley, Trinidad, Walsenburg, South Park, down the Arkansas River to Dodge City and points in between. He traveled by train whenever possible, but much of the time he rode in a wagon, on a burro, horse and probably did some walking. He stayed overnight in hotels, as the guest of a rancher's family or in a miner's cabin. In 1878, settlers from Poncha Springs to Helena (near Buena Vista) and Cleora (near Salida) gathered at a Dr. Wright's place for a July Fourth celebration. Hensel showed up, gave an impromptu address and, at the end of the day, caught a ride to Poncha Springs. Hensel settled in Silver Cliff for a time in the early 1880s. He did some mining, operated a newspaper and continued to keep Chieftain readers informed. One son expressed desire to be a farmer and Hensel used his homestead rights as a Civil War veteran to obtain the title to the old town of Titusville in Custer County. Hensel and his first wife divorced in the early 1880s. He later married Mrs. L.A. Caffell, a Pueblo resident. They lived about 10 years near her children in Espanola, N.M. - and The Chieftain received an occasional dispatch from there. They later built a home on Abriendo Avenue and returned here. Hensel died here in 1911. Pueblo Chieftain January 13, 1991



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