Pueblo County, Colorado
The Pueblo Chieftain
It All Began in a Small Village Called Pueblo... - Although a Democrat, Dr. Michael Beshoar envisioned his newspaper (the Chieftain) as politically independent. His chief competitor would be William N. Byers' Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The News was definitely Republican.
Pueblo in southeastern Colorado Territory was a village of 200 permanent residents in 1868. The town itself had been founded about a decade previously, although there had been several trading posts since the late 1830s. For many years before then, however, the area at the confluence of the Arkansas and Fountain rivers had been a camping place for explorers and Indians. Remains of Fort Pueblo, erected in 1842 and abandoned following a massacre by Indians in 1854, still could be seen.
The town had a grist mill, several grocery and merchandise stores, an elementary school, hotels of a sort to accommodate travelers, and a courthouse where business was transacted for the county, which extended eastward to the border of Kansas. Most structures were built from adobe, but some were of planed wood.
The town was located on the stagecoach line that connected Denver and Santa Fe — it took 24 hours to travel the Denver-to-Pueblo segment. There also was service on stagecoach routes along the Arkansas River.
Another Pueblo connection to the outside world was a tap onto the Denver-Santa Fe telegraph wire, which was strung in the spring of 1868.
St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Gothic adobe in design, would be erected on the corner of Seventh and Santa Fe before the year was over as Pueblo's first religious edifice.
Most of those men who would amass fortunes already were in business in Pueblo.
One thing that was lacking was a newspaper, and that void was filled when Dr. Michael Beshoar established a weekly newspaper, The Colorado Chieftain, on June 1, 1868. There is no record of a previous newspaper in Pueblo. However, at the time of the initial settlement of Canon City, a newspaper, the Times, was founded in September 1860 by H.S. Millett, who later sold it to Mat Riddleberger. When the "boom busted" the next summer, the equipment was sold and moved to Buckskin Joe, near Fairplay, and Riddleberger took up ranching in the Greenhorn Valley.
Pennsylvania-born Michael Beshoar was graduated from the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He was able to buy a medical practice at Pocohantas and took up residency in that northeastern Arkansas town. There he also edited The Advertiser and Herald and ran a drug store. Union soldiers burned the newspaper in 1863 and captured its editor, who also was a surgeon in the Confederate Army. Beshoar was taken north to Missouri. When he was set free, he started another Herald — in Kearney City, Neb., (the present-day Kearney) where he also served as mayor. He had been post surgeon at nearby Fort Kearney when repatriated Confederate soldiers were sent out on the frontier to fight Indians. After he had fulfilled his military obligations, Beshoar decided to head westward to Colorado where, he figured, there would be opportunities for a person of his experience and ambition. He had three goals when he reached Colorado Territory in early 1867: to establish a medical practice, a drug store and a newspaper.
He made a quick survey of Denver, found it hostile to former Confederates, and took his wagons and supply of drugs south to Pueblo. Here, he was told, he would find a good number of compatible ex-Southerners.
There was no drug store between Denver and Santa Fe. There were few doctors. Most of these had little actual medical training, but perhaps had served as hospital stewards in the Army. An exception was Dr. Pembroke R. Thombs, a graduate of Rush Medical College in Chicago, who was practicing in Pueblo at the age of 28. He later became the first superintendent of the Colorado Insane Asylum.
In the latter part of January 1867, Beshoar, then 34 years old, prepared to open a drug store on Santa Fe Avenue in Pueblo. Two of his former Pennsylvania schoolmates, John A. and Mahlon D. Thatcher already were established in Pueblo. The two brothers provided Beshoar with a building for his drug store and medical practice, and sold his teams and wagons for him.
Beshoar opened his business in February, writing in his day book, "Commenced business in Pueblo, Colorado, Feb. 11, 1867, with mdse $4,900.25. Bills receivable $445.03, cash $20, owing $280.10." Those bills receivable were in Nebraska where a brother Mason had promised to make collections.
A little more than two weeks before he opened the office and store, Beshoar decided Pueblo must have a newspaper. He would need help in starting and operating the business because of the time involved in pursuing his medical practice. He appealed first to the Freeman brothers, whom he had met at Fort Kearney. The Freemans, also former Southerners, published the Frontier Index, a migratory newspaper that moved from boom town to boom town with the railhead of the Union Pacific Railroad. But the Freemans decided to stay with the Union Pacific.
Beshoar then wrote to Roger Woodbury of the Denver Tribune and formerly with the Golden Transcript. Woodbury had heard that other parties had plans for a newspaper in Pueblo and for that reason declined to become involved with Beshoar's venture. Meanwhile, the would-be Pueblo entrepreneur had established a drug store at Trinidad. He put a former clerk from his Arkansas store in charge, opened a medical practice to become Trinidad's first doctor and commuted weekly by stagecoach between the two Southern Colorado communities. And if anyone ever stood out among stagecoach commuters, that person was Beshoar. He was distinctly different in appearance from the usual frontiersman. He was only five feet six inches in height. He had a mustache and a full head of shoulder-length hair. He wore broadcloth, white shirts, bow ties and blackened boots. He topped his outfit with a high hat, even on those weekly, dusty rides between Pueblo and Trinidad. Despite his fastidious appearance, he drank his whiskey neat and carried a pistol tucked in the band of his trousers beneath his waistcoat.
Beshoar's plans for a newspaper were simple. He would buy a press, secure a building and hire a good printer even if he had to give him an interest in the business. He hoped to line up some money in advance from residents in the area, although this didn't prove to be as successful as he had dreamed.
Although a Democrat, Beshoar envisioned his newspaper as politically independent. His chief competitor would be William N. Byers' Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The News was definitely Republican. His reason for naming his newspaper The Chieftain is not explained. However, several Indian tribes still roamed the area and it is likely that the name derived from that fact. The only other newspaper by the same name in the United States, and it was founded years later, also is located in Colorado — at Holly.
With his limited resources, Beshoar bought a building and lot on the north side of East Fourth Street between Santa Fe and Summit (now Albany) from Phylander Burke. The building, a one-story, two-room frame structure, formerly served as an office for a lumber yard. Beshoar also ordered a Washington hand press, paper and other needed equipment through the firm of Stebbins & Porter in Denver. When the press was due to arrive, Beshoar went to Denver only to be told that the press still was on a freight wagon somewhere out on the prairies.
While waiting for the shipment, Beshoar started looking for a printer. He made a trip to Golden City to visit with Capt. George West, proprietor of the Transcript. West recommended Sam McBride, who was subbing in the Transcript office. West told Beshoar that McBride was a gentleman in every sense of the word, as well as being a good writer and printer. West also believed that McBride was in the last stages of consumption. After examining McBride, Beshoar said that the printer merely had a bad case of bronchitis and laryngitis, not the dreaded disease, treatable if he would move to Pueblo with Beshoar. Thus buoyed by the doctor's diagnosis and because he was down to his last nickel, McBride accepted Beshoar's twin offer of a post as foreman and job printer plus a free stagecoach ride to Pueblo. Under terms of the job offer, McBride would be paid his personal expenses out of the receipts and share one half of the net profits for three years.
Once in Pueblo, McBride helped to remodel the lumber yard building into a newspaper plant while Beshoar hit the trail in quest of subscriptions and advertising. The front room of the Chieftain building was converted into an editorial office. The desk was crafted from a large box in which glass had been shipped. Legs were nailed onto the crate, which was placed in the middle of the room facing the door. A lightweight barrel was sawed halfway through the middle of the staves, filled with straw and covered with a gunny sack. This comprised the editor's chair. Three tiers of bunks were built onto the wall to permit the editorial office to double as a dormitory. Wall pegs and hooks for clothing and weapons completed the furnishings. The building also had been improved. The modest structure was built on a foundation of posts and had a batten board roof. Beshoar had the walls lined with adobe blocks for insulation and the walls then were plastered. Dirt was banked up against the outside foundation. A small room was added for storage purposes and windows were cut in to provide better lighting. When the plant was habitable, McBride and Beshoar began soliciting job printing.
The doctor realized that he had spread himself thin, with medical practices and drug stores in two towns and now a newspaper. To help with the writing he assembled a remarkable board of volunteer editorial advisers. The panel consisted of Wilbur F. Stone, Moses Hallett, George A. Hinsdale and Henry C. Thatcher. In addition, Beshoar called upon the talents of Dr. R.C. Miller, post surgeon at Fort Reynolds, and the Rev. F.S. Winslow, a young Episcopalian missionary appointed by Bishop Randall to build and serve as rector of St. Peter's Church.
In his quest for advertising, printing and subscribers to his newspaper, Beshoar ranged from Pueblo to Trinidad and into northern New Mexico, then from Taos through Questa, the eastern San Luis Valley and back to the Eastern Slope.
While the doctor was away at those chores, McBride was back in Pueblo putting finishing touches on the building and waiting for the first shipment of newsprint. In a report to Beshoar, McBride wrote that they could issue the first number by May 21 if the paper arrived in four or five days, explaining that "Thursday suits best as publication days because of the mails."
But the newsprint failed to arrive in four or five days and the date of the first issue was moved back to Thursday, May 28. That date also was missed because several members of the distinguished editorial board were late with their copy. Beshoar rushed back to Pueblo to help McBride by doing some writing and assisting as best he could in the back shop. They worked all weekend, fortified with nips at the bottle, and finally got the first issue out Monday, June 1, 1868.
When that first edition hit the streets, those pioneers who came up with 25 cents for the first copy learned all sorts of news. The first edition reported the arrival of the Denver and Santa Fe Telegraph Co. a few days earlier. The Chieftain's news by telegraph must have given a genuine thrill to an area so isolated from the rest of the world.
While the newspaper did not give the source of its telegraph service, later articles indicated that it was provided by the News Press Association, the forerunner of the Associated Press.
First-edition news also reported that famed scout Kit Carson had died on May 24 at his residence near Las Animas. What The Chieftain didn't report was that its editor, Dr. Beshoar, had treated Carson shortly before his death. The frontiersman, a very sick man, was returning to his home from a business trip to Washington. He entered Pueblo in an ambulance and was taken directly to Dr. Beshoar's medical office. Beshoar noted a large aneurism in the carotid artery and there was nothing that any medical man of the day could do. Carson was made as comfortable as possible and sent home to die.
The newspaper also reported that two Army deserters who had stolen horses had been caught and hanged 50 miles down the river from Fort Lyon.
The first year of publication wasn't easy. While Beshoar was trying to raise money for his new enterprise, McBride was left to fend off creditors as well as publish the newspaper.
A second printer, identified only as Leonard, was of little help because he was drunk most of the time. With the exception of Hinsdale, other members of the editorial board worked out well. Hinsdale posed a problem because he insisted on using The Chieftain as a forum for his Democratic views. This ran contrary to those of the publisher in his desire to run a politically independent newspaper.
Stone, in his "History of Colorado," remembered that "In the early days The Chieftain was often compelled to issue on Manila wrapping paper, the overland supply of white paper having been delayed by floods, accidents or Indians."
On the day of the first weekly edition and for sometime afterward, a large painted sign strung from the building to a pole announced "Chieftain Printing Office." The words were painted on canvas by M.C. Reed, who practiced dentistry, photography, paper-hanging, sign-painting and surgery and who found time to drink a lot of whiskey when he wasn't otherwise occupied.
At the end of the year, after eight months of association with Beshoar and his newspaper, McBride resigned, citing ill health. Writing about McBride's departure some years later, editor Beshoar said McBride retired because he had discovered ". . . to his entire satisfaction that there were no profits and that I was getting all the business, to wit the losses . . ."
Beshoar asked the printers' union for another printer. It sent a stalwart young Pennsylvanian named R.M. Stevenson. He was to be associated with the newspaper for much of the next quarter of a century. Within a few months, McBride found he didn't like "retirement" and wanted to return to The Chieftain as part-owner. Beshoar, beset by problems from his various endeavors, made a counter-offer. He said he would sell the entire newspaper to McBride, but not merely a part of it. McBride obtained a loan from an area rancher and acquired the business on March 11, 1869.
Beshoar's parting words in The Chieftain: "Two years ago it occurred to me that the growing business and population of Pueblo and the surrounding country demanded a newspaper organ. I never lost sight of the project to establish here a newspaper until it was accomplished. After the press and material had been purchased, I associated myself with Mr. Sam McBride in the conduct of the Colorado Chieftain. From that time to the present the Colorado public knows the history of the enterprise. In taking leave of The Chieftain I cannot withhold my congratulations to the people of Southern Colorado upon having an organ fixed upon a permanent basis from a business point of view, and a character to reflect credit upon their section of the country. I have taken pride in its establishment and shall watch its future with intense interest. Other affairs claim so much of my attention that I am compelled to sell the establishment in order to do justice to them. The knowledge that I leave the paper to worthy and competent hands reconciles me to a parting with that public with which I had such pleasant relations. With the kindest feelings toward the conductors of contemporaneous papers with whom I have been associated I take leave of The Chieftain. If I have committed errors in my intercourse with any of them, they have been of the head and not of the heart. Commending The Chieftain to the continued favor of the public I close with a fond farewell to its friends and patrons."
Beshoar continued to live in Trinidad until his death in 1907. He practiced medicine, owned several businesses, including a coal mine, and founded his fourth and final newspaper, the Trinidad Advertiser, a morning daily that he edited for many years.
On one of his last visits to Pueblo, Beshoar attended another anniversary and gave another speech as The Chieftain's founder. He stopped in at the newspaper plant, standing first on one foot and then the other while staff members walked by. Finally a young reporter paused long enough to inquire of his name and business, and asked how to spell his name.
McBride had some talent as a writer, more as a compositor and a good personality. He worked hard in his management of The Chieftain, but just couldn't make enough to pay the bills.
In June 1870 he sold the paper to Capt. J.J. Lambert, an army quartermaster at Fort Reynolds, 20 miles down the Arkansas River. Lambert put his brother Nicholas N. Lambert in charge of the newspaper. The latter, with the able assistance of Stevenson much of the time, kept the business going until 1872 when J.J. Lambert left the army and assumed direction of the newspaper.
Lambert was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1837 and moved to Dubuque, Iowa, with his parents when he was 10 years old. He was educated in Iowa and was an apprentice printer in Dubuque at the onset of the Civil War. He served in the Union Army, working up to the rank of captain. When the war ended, he became a lieutenant in the regular Army, serving on the Western frontier.
Lambert published the early editions of The Chieftain with the aid of an interesting roster of competent employees. His first editor, C.J. Reed, worked here for about a year before taking a position with the U.S. Department of the Interior. Then came Maj. T.O. Bigney, a mineralogist by study and a poet by birth. Bigney spent a year or so in Pueblo before taking to the road peddling subscriptions, advertising and printing. Bigney's successor was Stevenson, who remained until 1880. Bigney later went to Massachusetts where he died in 1880. Before leaving Colorado Territory, he wrote Dick Wootton's biography, "A Frontier Life Story of Thrilling Adventure." And, in 1875, he established the Huerfano Independent newspaper at Walsenburg.
Among the first to join Lambert's Chieftain staff was a teen-ager named G. G. "Gus" Withers, who went to work as a printer's devil, launching a Horatio Alger-type career that would go well into the 20th century.
The Chieftain continued to be produced in a building that was a makeshift affair. A 20-foot addition had been built onto the rear of the original 14-foot-square lumberyard building. Editorial offices, composing room, and lodging for all hands initially were crammed into that small space.
The first newspaper to compete locally with The Chieftain was the People, organized in May 1871 by Hinsdale, Stone and George W. Hepburn, whom Stone had known in Nebraska Territory. Hepburn, in his youth, had been the Washington City reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and he later edited newspapers in Omaha before succumbing to the lure of gold in Colorado.
Although the size of Pueblo and the business potential probably didn't warrant such a move, Lambert converted his weekly newspaper into a daily on April 28, 1872. In 1800 there were only 24 daily newspapers in the United States. By 1880 there were 387. The number jumped to 971 20 years after the Civil War and The Chieftain was in that number.
In the first issue of The Daily Chieftain, Lambert wrote: "It is the first venture ever south of the divide (Monument Hill) to the lists of journalism and may be looked upon as one of the most flattering evidences yet afforded of the rapid growth and enticement of the Arkansas Valley, and this fact alone, we are confident, will bring forth a hearty welcome for our paper. We have started it in obedience to what seemed to be a widespread and universal desire on the part of the people of Pueblo for a daily paper, and shall do our best to please them in this respect, but we wish it distinctly understood at the outset that we don't want any donations, any bonuses, any gifts of anything of that sort from outside parties. All we desire is a good liberal patronage and good pay."
News of the day reported in the first issue of The Daily Colorado Chieftain included an account of the continued eruption of Italy's Mt. Vesuvius and the appointment of J.F. White as Pueblo deputy sheriff. The board of county commissioners had a large party of workmen repairing county bridges, the paper reported, and a "number one horse thief" had been apprehended and was lodged in the city jail.
Early issues also contained a weekly fashion letter from New York City. Advertisers in the first daily edition included the First National Bank of Pueblo (founded the previous year), City Bakery, Metropolitan Dining Room, several hotels and livery stables and two breweries.
A rancher, Maj. D.V. Crane, was the first subscriber to the Daily Chieftain. The new daily continued the newspaper's crusade for a city waterworks.
Less than a month later, on May 21, The Chieftain office almost became a major fire victim. The morning after that incident The Chieftain reported: "About 7 o'clock last evening a kerosene lamp that had been left burning on the desk of the editorial sanctum in the Chieftain office during the temporary absence of the usual occupant exploded, throwing about a gallon of oil over books, copy, papers, etc., and creating a lively little blaze, which had the effect of rousing the town and bringing out the entire bucket brigade on the double quick. "For a few minutes things looked rather dubious, as the whole interior of the room was in a blaze and hot as a furnace, but thanks to a redoubtable Babcock Fire Extinguisher, skillfully brought to bear by our friend Nick, the flames were subdued before much damage was committed. "A few Congressional Globes were badly scorched, and newspapers and copy burned, and our darling plug hat hopelessly ruined, but aside from these nothing else suffered worth mentioning. Had the fire been undiscovered five minutes longer the entire Chieftain office would have collapsed in flames."
But water wasn't the only concern of the crusading daily. The Chieftain was at odds with real estate men in town who asked $200 to $300 for lots in the suburbs, a price in excess of that sought in many more established towns in the States. In June 1872, the road on the south side of the river, beyond the junction of the ridge road and the public highway, was impassable for loaded teams. Since two-thirds of the town's trade came from the south side of the Arkansas, The Chieftain urged that the road be kept in good condition.
The last spike was placed on June 19, 1872, for the narrow gauge Denver & Rio Grande railroad, the first rail line to reach Pueblo. It gave Southern Colorado customers service to Denver and to the east that was faster, cheaper and a lot more comfortable than the stagecoach. The event called for a celebration to which Puebloans invited Denver's civic leaders. An excursion train arrived July 2, and 110 Denver folks were wined, dined and entertained with selections by the local cornet band. The gala was climaxed by a grand ball.
The arrival of the railroad sparked a boom and The Chieftain soon noted the lack of hotel rooms and permanent accommodations for newcomers. Although the town rapidly was assuming the air of a city, the newspaper noted that one morning a mule train had stampeded on Santa Fe Avenue.
Meanwhile, former Chieftain owner McBride was back in the newspaper business with Sam McBride's Advertiser, an eight-page monthly that contained not a shred of news, only advertisements. It collapsed from non-support in August 1873.
Other newspapers continued to compete. On April 4, 1874, in addition to The Daily Colorado Chieftain, there were two weekly newspapers. The equipment for a newspaper easily could be hauled about in a wagon, and printers established publications in the region's new towns. Newspapers, like the early camps and villages, appeared and disappeared over night. Chieftain readers complained of the small size — four pages — of the daily but were assured by Lambert that if advertising reached significant proportions, the newspaper would be enlarged to the size of the London Times.
On April 29, 1874, the newspaper changed its name to The Pueblo Daily Chieftain. Thereafter the daily had an occasional six-page edition.
One of the other major stories of that year was the laying of the cornerstone of the Holly Water Works, Pueblo's first water system. A crusade had produced results.
On Dec. 8, 1874, The Chieftain published in its entirety President Ulysses S. Grant's message to Congress. The message was delivered on Dec. 7 so The Chieftain was able to print it on the same day that eastern newspapers did. To achieve this gigantic feat, The Chieftain relied on Charles C. Butts, D&RG telegraph operator, for reception of the message, which ran for 10 1/2 newspaper columns each of which was 17 inches deep. The work represented about 30 man-hours of hand-typesetting by Chieftain compositors.
On Feb. 18, 1875, The Chieftain bought the entire physical stock of the Pueblo Printing Co., publishers of the dormant People. John Latshaw, manager of the defunct newspaper, transferred his allegiance to The Chieftain and took charge of its printing department.
In 1875, ground was broken for a new Chieftain addition to the rear of the original building. It was to be of brick, 22 by 44 feet in size, and as nearly fire-proof as possible. The stone floor of the composing room was the work of Lorenze Fembres of Pueblo. The front building was remodeled to be used as a business office and editorial room.
The Chieftain was proud of its coverage of Southern Colorado and made strong efforts to distribute the paper west to the Colorado-Utah border in advance of the Denver newspapers. Transportation was still horse-powered.
In November 1875, the newspaper began using a mailing machine that printed the address of each subscriber along with the patron's expiration date. The machine saved time and provided a legible address for the postoffice.
About the same time, the newspaper was embroiled in a controversy with key government officials in the San Luis Valley, charging them with dishonesty and incompetence. The fight included a U.S. district attorney who was angered by charges that disparaged his integrity and ability. That official brought a criminal action against the newspaper. Stevenson, the editor, acknowledged that the district attorney had been libeled "about two bits worth" and offered to settle provided that the attorney come to the newspaper's office and offer a cash discount. The libel action never got to trial. Stevenson later editorialized that when the U.S. district judge convened court to hear information presented by the district attorney, all 16 Southern Colorado attorneys were present. They arose, one by one, to tell the judge, "We are for the defense." The judge is said to have muttered something about not having time to hear a matter that should be settled in a justice of peace court. The editorial finally remarked that the district attorney and federal officials in the San Luis Valley were political hacks and that the area would continue to be governed by incompetents until Colorado achieved statehood. The Chieftain was living up to its motto: "A paper of Vim, Vinegar, Vitriol and Enterprise."
The big story in March 1876 concerned the arrival of the first Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe passenger train from the east. Puebloans laid out a "Broad Gauge Dinner and Centennial Supper" on the day of the anticipated arrival. The train, delayed by a big blizzard in western Kansas, arrived late so festivities continued for two days. Among the passengers on the train was Levi "Bona" Hensel, a Kansas newspaperman. Hensel liked the looks of Pueblo, perhaps met old acquaintances who were living here, and remained. He was part of the local scene for more than a quarter of a century.
Chieftain readers were kept abreast of activities at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876. Chauncey L. Hall sent 30 or more descriptive letters from that city.
Except for advertising illustrations, a picture in the newspaper was rare indeed. The issue of April 15, 1876, however, included a large map indicating the direct route to the San Juan mines was via the Santa Fe Railroad through Pueblo. Bogart and Foley Engineers provided the map and the engraving was made by a St. Louis firm.
George M. Chilcott and his son, H. Clay Chilcott, prominent in early Colorado and Pueblo history, each had a financial interest in The Chieftain in the 1870s. Lambert later acquired their shares.
The Chieftain was low-key in its coverage of the events leading up to statehood for Colorado, and when the territory became a state on Aug. 1, 1976. Indeed, Southern Colorado in general seemed to be cool to the idea of statehood. Probable reasons are fears that taxes would rise and that Denver would continue to dominate the rest of the area. If Denver was for anything then, the reasoning went, people of Southern Colorado automatically were opposed. In any event, The Chieftain acknowledged the news of statehood with only a small story on Page 1.
But life went on and the ever-enterprising Chieftain installed a board on its outside wall on which were posted late news bulletins. In November 1876 the board was illuminated by a Santa Fe locomotive headlight, courtesy of the railroad's master mechanic, for national election returns. Subscribers, however, didn't find out on election night who had been elected president. This was the year of the Rutherford B. Hayes-Samuel Tilden imbroglio that wasn't settled, in favor of Hayes, until weeks later.
On Nov. 30, 1876, the newspaper installed a steam engine to run its presses. The daily was distributing 900 to 1,500 copies and circulation of the weekly was 2,500.
Sam McBride also was back in circulation. On the strength of his personal popularity, Sam held a number of public offices in Pueblo even though he had failed as a businessman. In 1876, he was entrusted with the post of treasurer of the Pueblo District School Board. Readers were stunned, therefore, when The Chieftain broke a story under the heading, "Have You Seen Sam?" The news account told of McBride's disappearance with $14,000, which the district had raised for constructing a new school building. There were later reports that McBride had fled to Florida or Mexico, but no one ever saw Sam in this region again.
The Chieftain's editorials, as was customary among newspapers of the day, were neutral on nothing. The Pueblo daily was stridently vocal in its sympathy with the Santa Fe Railroad's efforts to build westward through the Royal Gorge. As a personal backup to his strong editorial positions, editor Stevenson added a big revolver to the papers, paste, scissors. Pueblo Chieftain 5-30-1993
1903 Chieftain Policy: 'Anti-Gang Republican' - Efficiency was important even in early days of The Chieftain, and folks marveled at the speed with which newspapers were delivered via a newly purchased wagon-and-horse team. Guaranteed in 1903 was porch delivery by 6 a.m.
The Chieftain entered a new era on March 1, 1903, with its sale to I.N. Stevens at a reported price of $145,000. A new company was organized with a capital stock of $300,000. Officers were Stevens, J.J. Lambert. J.A. Barclay, Walter Lawson Wilder, Samuel W. Townsend, Frederick W. Lienau and Alva A. Swain. Lambert was the previous Chieftain owner, and Swain was a correspondent based in Denver who covered State Capitol news for the Pueblo daily.
Stevens, a lawyer and politician, sold his half interest in the Colorado Springs Gazette to purchase The Chieftain. He immediately announced that The Chieftain, under his ownership, would be "anti-gang Republican."
Stevens was 44 years old when he entered the Pueblo market. A native of Ohio, he studied with a legal firm in Burlington, Iowa, and was 21 when he was admitted to the bar. He moved to Colorado, arriving in Denver on June 1, 1880. Active in the Republican party, in 1884 he was appointed assistant U.S. attorney for Colorado, and, in 1888, was district attorney for the 2nd Judicial District. He also had been the attorney for the lusty young Denver Post.
Stevens brought with him an able crew, including editors, printers, foremen and financiers. Wilder, who was to be associated with The Chieftain for nearly a quarter of a century, was the "executive mind and director upstairs."
The job-printing department was separated from the newspaper business. B.F. Scribner took that department and operated it under the name of the Franklin Press, which later was absorbed by a firm that became the Rocky Mountain Bank Note Co.
As news of the sale got around the state, the Telluride Journal editorialized: "Ike Stevens will make life a burden to Puebloans until they wake up, put in sewers and pave their streets. And they deserve it."
The new management got off to a rousing start. The March 1, 1903, issue explained that in printing the second section of the morning edition, a loosened bolt dropped from the middle of the press, breaking several cog wheels. A telephone call to The Star-Journal, the evening paper, procured an immediate offer of that daily's facilities so that The Chieftain could make an appearance that morning.
Whatever his political motives may have been, Ike Stevens and his crew put new life into Southern Colorado's first daily newspaper.
As predicted, the new editor immediately pinpointed Pueblo's needs - a suitable water supply sufficient for the population, street paving and a large metropolitan hotel. There also were red headlines and headlines with one black line and one line in red.
An editorial on March 14 said, with no lack of emphasis, "The Chieftain shall aim not to emulate the policy of the Denver papers with their sensational falsehoods, their abuse of every public man who does not bring grist to their mills, their selfish and mercenary destruction of public confidence in all classes of public officials and their attempt to pervert the public taste with nauseating details of heinous crimes. "On the contrary, the policy of The Chieftain shall be directed toward making a complete and reliable newspaper, one that contains all the news `fit to print' and as accurate in its reports as it is possible to obtain and publish news events; a newspaper, in other words, that shall be as nearly as possible the direct antithesis of the Denver publications."
Construction began on March 16, 1903, on a new Chieftain building to adjoin a structure to the east. Cost, not including machinery, was $15,000. A new brick face was put on the building erected in 1879 and a branch office was established at 1538 E. Evans in Bessemer to receive classified advertising and news items.
The Chieftain rolled off four morning editions. The first was for readers in the eastern Arkansas Valley, western Grand Valley, San Luis Valley and the southern San Juan area. The second went to the western Arkansas Valley, Gunnison Valley, northern San Juan, Cripple Creek district, Trinidad, and several towns in New Mexico and Texas. The third was distributed to readers in Colorado Springs and Denver, and the fourth to subscribers in Pueblo.
Subscribers in all four districts were shocked by headlines on Aug. 7, 1904, that screamed news of a train wreck five miles outside of Pueblo at Eden. Ninety-seven persons were killed in the tragedy that was the most deadly in the nation up to that time. Crews and passengers on the Missouri Pacific train, en route from Denver to Pueblo and points in between on Denver & Rio Grande tracks, had no clues that anything was amiss as the locomotive neared a bridge that crossed usually dry Hogan's Gulch at Eden. Survivors noted that skies were overcast and it was raining gently as the train left Colorado Springs. But the instant the train started across the bridge was the precise moment that flood waters reached their peak. Suddenly there was a terrible crash, lights went out and part of the train lurched into the gulch as the flood-weakened bridge gave way. Muddy water began to pour through train windows. Despite lack of television and radio, news of the disaster reached all parts of Pueblo that evening. The Chieftain had sufficient time to provide Pueblo with information about the wreck in its Monday morning edition. The first of several "extras" hit the streets at 10 a.m. Under the banner, "NEARLY ONE HUNDRED LIVES LOST IN MISSOURI PACIFIC TRAIN WRECK AT EDEN," The Chieftain published the first list of the dead. Subsequent investigations provided the grist for articles in newspapers in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver and the rest of the nation for weeks thereafter.
A fine hotel was built at Seventh and Santa Fe in 1910 and was named the Congress in honor of the National Irrigation Congress, which held its convention here in that year. But, the Chieftain had little to say about the irrigation congress after delegates passed resolutions that the West regarded as detrimental to its interests.
Another large hotel, the Vail, was erected on South Grand Avenue in 1911.
Stevens retired in March 1911 from the newspaper business. The Chieftain announced that a leasing arrangement, with provision for purchase, had been entered into with an unnamed but "very strong and influential group of Pueblo citizens." The new company was The Chieftain Publishing and Holding Co.
Editor R.M. McClintock left The Chieftain and, on June 1, 1911, became editor of the Pueblo Leader, established by Andrew McClelland. The Leader's owner was heavily involved in the rough-and-tumble city politics of that day.
Also in 1911, Pueblo voters approved a commission form of government in hopes that it would be an improvement over the mayor-council plan formerly in place.
This also was a time for circulation promotions. One year, the prize for the person bringing in the most new subscriptions was $1,000 in gold coins. Pianos were frequent prizes as were trips to various parts of the country. One winner received a trip to Panama.
Every summer for at least a decade, The Chieftain sponsored a Children's Day in Mineral Palace Park. It was a day of entertainment by and for the youngsters of the community.
During the early part of the 20th century, The Chieftain gave considerable space to money-raising for a railroad from Pueblo to Beulah. A few years later there was a plan to build a series of dams, power plants, an electric railroad system and heaven only knows what else between Pueblo and Garden City, Kan. The Colorado-Kansas Railroad Co. finally settled on merely laying tracks from Pueblo to the stone quarry at Stone City.
There also was the ill-fated plan by Ball Bros. of Muncie, Ind., makers of glass jars, to use the Fountain River underflow. But after pouring a lot of money into this project, the Indiana company gave up the idea after learning the Fountain River was too high in mineral content to use for its purposes.
On the positive side of progress, Pueblo County commissioners defied strong opposition by starting a fund to build a new courthouse. Work finally got under way after the matter of location finally was resolved in favor of the site of the structure the new courthouse was to replace. The new building was opened to the public on Jan. 1, 1913. Remarkably, except for a few current bills, the courthouse was paid for in advance.
Announcement was made on June 7, 1913, that T.H. Devine, B.B. Brown and J.A. Barclay, sole owners of the capital stock of The Chieftain Holding Co., had sold their interests to George T. Haubrich, Fred R. Marvin and Will R. Wright. The departing Barclay was honored at a farewell dinner given by about 35 friends at the Congress Hotel. When the master of ceremonies announced that there had been a reconciliation between Barclay and Frank S. Hoag, manager of the rival Star-Journal, there was a burst of applause. Two guests, assuming the roles of newspapermen, entertained the crowd in a humorous musical parody describing the competition between the pair. Haubrich and Marvin had come to Pueblo previously to operate the Leader. On May 31, 1913, they said an arrangement had been made with the holding company to print the Leader in their Chieftain plant.
The business and news staffs of the young evening paper also were moved into The Chieftain building. The Leader was merged with The Chieftain on July 13, 1913, after managers realized that Pueblo couldn't support three dailies.
The period during which Haubrich and Marvin headed The Chieftain was probably the most difficult for covering the news as any in The Chieftain's 125 years of existence. This was the time of the great coal strike in the Southern Colorado coal fields. In September 1913, reporter Joseph A. Willetts was assigned to cover the strike in Trinidad and Walsenburg and points in between. It was rumored that Willetts received the tough assignment because he had been winning too many newsroom World Series pools. There was a huge cast of characters in the strike at Ludlow, a community between Walsenburg and Trinidad. They ranged from "Mother" Jones, who was brought in by union forces to keep strikers motivated; to the state auditor, who frequently exercised his authority and declined to pay National Guardsmen who were trying to keep the peace; to Gov. Elias Ammons, who didn't have the firm backing of his Democratic Party. There also were the many immigrants from southern European countries, along with National Guardsmen from Colorado communities, out-of-state guards hired to protect mine property, a group of Greek miners (mercenary soldiers might have been a better description), politicians, union leaders and industrial tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Willetts covered the field diligently, reporting the moving of miners and their families into tent colonies (for which they were paid by the union) and the violence attributed to both sides. He left the assignment sometime after the first of the year.
On April 21, 1914, the first news story in The Chieftain concerning the tragedy at Ludlow was published. It did not carry a byline. The next day's article, which described the bloody battle, was written by E.J. Welsh, who also was working for a Trinidad newspaper. Subsequent articles were attributed to C.V. Crouse. Editor J.H. Shaw had the problem of deciding whether the strike in Southern Colorado should get bigger play on Page 1 than the war in Mexico. He sided with the war by authorizing a banner headline reading "Germany Sends Aid to Huerta Forces" over a smaller one reading "Thirteen Killed in Battle at Ludlow."
A few weeks earlier, Shaw had written to editors of all daily newspapers in the United States asking that they consider the source before publishing scurrilous articles that were being sent out, presumably by union forces. Editorials against unfounded stories also appeared in The Chieftain.
The Chieftain's banner on April 12, 1914, was "Newspapermen Approve Stand of Chieftain on Muckraking in General." There was this message from Gov. Ammons: "I think it (the anti-muckraking crusade) is the greatest work that has been started by any newspaper in years. I am with you heart and soul. I hope you will be able to turn the tide of sentiment so that the stories reflecting on the state will react against the person sending them out. What Colorado needs is the advertisement of her resources - and we certainly have enough of them - and not the advertisement of her troubles, especially when the troubles are enlarged. Good luck to you!"
Guy U. Hardy wrote in the Canon City Daily Record: "This is a move in the right direction. Personally, I am glad to see it inaugurated by The Chieftain. The Record will be in harness with you. Agitators and muckrakers have done harm that cannot be estimated in dollars and cents. They have driven and still are driving capital and desirable settlers from Colorado. It is time some organized campaign is made to take the matter in hand and stop it. You are on the right track. Keep up the good work."
The strike finally was ended in December 1914. On Dec. 1, 1914, Marvin and Haubrich severed connections with The Chieftain, which had doubled circulation in 14 months.
The Chieftain Printing Co. was the name given to the new company. It was headed by former Chieftain publisher I.N. Stevens, who had moved to Denver. Walter L. Wilder, who had been associated with the newspaper from 1902 to 1912 was named editor. Swain, who became an associate editor, continued to head the Denver office. Harry G. Amick became cashier.
Amick stayed in Pueblo newspapering until retiring in 1962. On Dec. 7, 1915, Stevens announced that he had divested all of his holdings in The Chieftain Printing Co. New owners were G.G. Withers, Wilder and Swain. The trio bought nine-tenths of the capital stock. They took control of the editorial and business management, with Withers serving as president and business manager, and Swain and Wilder as editors and managers. This arrangement continued for years.
In 1916, The Chieftain told of the death of Lambert. The one-time owner died a few days before his 79th birthday. A later article related that Lambert had left most of his $100,000 estate to Sacred Heart Orphanage, with the provision that the proceeds be invested and the income used to maintain the institution he had founded.
In the years 1919-21, city editor Willis H. Parker provided pen-and-ink drawings of scenic Southern Colorado places for The Chieftain pages. A Monday-morning farm page was a regular feature for years. But the era of growth and prosperity in Pueblo came to an abrupt halt in June 1921 when the area's worst flood in history descended on an unsuspecting city.
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|© Karen Mitchell |