Pueblo County, Colorado
Papa Pueblo

Papa Pueblo? - Traders, Workers, Nabobs Get the Patriarchal Nod - If Pueblo had a father, who would it be? Zebulon Pike, who once spent the night near here and then made his way up the Arkansas River and into the San Luis Valley, where he was arrested for spying? Traders George Simpson, Robert Fisher, Mathew Kinkead, Francisco Conn and Joseph Mantz, along with mountain man Jim Beckwourth, who started a trading post near the junction of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River? Or the westering prospectors who briefly settled on the east side of the Fountain, borrowing adobes from the ruined El Pueblo to build Fountain City? Charles Autobees, who came west from St. Louis, a trapper, trader, scout and a farmer on the Huerfano River just south of the Arkansas? Or wealthy trapper-trader Marcelino Baca, who built houses and corrals in the bottomlands near the Fountain-Arkansas confluence but left following the Indian attack on El Pueblo in 1854? Should we go further back in time, to the native peoples who hunted and camped in the area - the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Apache, Comanche and the Ute - to look for our father figure? Or forward through the years to men like William Palmer, John and Mahlon Thatcher, Richard Corwin? Or should our father be one of the countless men who immigrated to Pueblo, with or without their wives and children, to work on the railroads, at the smelters and the steelworks, or to try their hand at farming or a small business; the Mexican, African-American, Italian, Greek, Slovenian, Irish, English, Austrian, Russian and German men who lent their dreams, their genes, their sweat and toil to the growing community? Should Pueblo's father be a cattleman like Charles Goodnight? A holy man like Father Cyril Zupan? A businessman like O.H.P. Baxter? For the answer, we turned to local historians . . . "I think there are a couple," says Deborah Espinosa, executive director of El Pueblo History Museum. "I'd divide it up into the frontier and as we developed as a municipality. "There were so many at the trading post, but I'd have to say Mathew Kinkead. He was the first, ahead of the others, even though he didn't stick around. It was a partnership; they all put up resources." Espinosa says Palmer also deserves the title, even though he was involved primarily in South Pueblo's development. "We don't pay him any respect because we don't know much about him, but he's responsible for so much: the railroads, the (steel) mill - the face of Pueblo." George Williams of Pueblo County Historical Society notes that Pike was the first Anglo to stay overnight here, but casts his vote for the builders of El Pueblo. "They established the fort which led to the town," Williams says. John Korber, another of the historical society's avid researchers, puts forward the name of Klaas Wildeboor, who at age 23 came to the infant Pueblo in 1868, filed a homestead claim on the Nolan Grant and built a cabin on the south side of the Arkansas, in The Grove - possibly the first dwelling in what soon became South Pueblo. He gave land to the Denver & Rio Grande for a depot and train yard near the bluffs. Wildeboor was mayor of South Pueblo for 16 years. He also was a city alderman, a school board member and Pueblo's first school teacher, and he operated a stage line to Canon City and Fairplay and raised hay on his ranch outside town. Noreen Riffe, special collections librarian at Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library, suggests four fathers of Pueblo: Josiah F. Smith, Otto Winneka, Frank Doris and George Lebaum, the gold-rushers who stopped in this area and stayed to build Fountain City. Riffe says they left St. Louis in the summer of 1858, bound for the Rocky Mountains. They followed the Santa Fe Trail, turned left at the Arkansas and stopped where Fountain Creek emptied into the river. An article in the 1929 edition of The Colorado Magazine, "Early Pueblo and the Men Who Made It," provided by Williams, says the four men and others who soon joined them laid out a town, built a cattle corral, a store and about 30 dwellings at Fountain City. About 80 lodges of Arapaho Indians camped alongside the miners/settlers for a few months. The most excitement that winter was a Ute raid during which 100 Arapaho ponies were taken, according to the article's author, Judge Wilbur F. Stone. (Stone, who became a Colorado supreme court justice, made his remarks on July 4, 1876, on the occasion of the country's centennial and his speech was reprinted in the 1929 publication.) Joanne Dodds offers several possibilities for city father: "The Thatchers, Mahlon and John, should be on the list because of economic development; a father provides for his family. John Keating - he was superintendent of District 20 - promoted education and self-reliance. Richard Corwin certainly delivered a lot of babies. He established kindergartens in the coal camps so children could learn English before they went to school. He bribed the kids, like a lot of fathers do. He gave all the boys a drum at Christmas and the girls a doll." Palmer, who didn't live here, didn't function in Pueblo's best interest, Dodds thinks, and doesn't deserve the honor. Non-human possibilities, according to the retired librarian, are the railroad, "which made Pueblo possible," and the Arkansas River. Borrowing the "father of waters" theme from a much larger river to the east, Dodds says, "Water is the father of Pueblo. "No. 1, there's no life without it. No. 2, it's a natural trail that led people here, from prehistory to Lake Pueblo. No. 3, it's key to economic development, from the smelters to the reservoir. No. 4, it belongs to everyone." Charlene Garcia Simms, Hispanic resources librarian at Rawlings library, says Baca and Benito Sandoval deserve credit as fathers of Pueblo. "When they had the Indian tragedy at El Pueblo, the Indians went first to Baca's place. He protected his family, he sent the Indians away, though they took his best mare and his stock." Sandoval, a farmer who was the main man or commandante at El Pueblo, died in the massacre trying to protect his two young sons, says Garcia Simms. The Utes kidnapped them anyway, returning one boy a few months later and trading the other to the Navajos. He remained with them, as a slave, for five years. This reporter's vote for the father of Pueblo is one of the early farmers, like Sandoval, who found the area blessed by good weather - if usually scarce rainfall - and rich soil deposited by the river and its tributaries. Trusting in the elements and whatever faith he possessed, he planted seeds, cared for his crops, harvested them and offered the gift of food to his family and the people who shared his world. Pueblo County/Pueblo firsts included: Commissioners - O.H.P. Baxter, R.L. Wooten, William Chapman; Sheriff - Hank Way; County clerk - Steve Smith; Probate judge - Chapman; District judge - A.A. Bradford; Mayor - Capt. James Rice; President, city board of trustees - Lewis Conley; House builder - Jack Wright; Family head - Aaron Sims; Hotel keeper - Sims; Post office keeper - Sims; Teacher - Klaas Wildeboor; Homeopathist - Dr. William Owen; 'Taos lightning factory' proprietor - Jack Allen; Store keeper - Dr. Catterson; Newspaper publisher, printer - Dr. Michael Beshoar, Sam McBride; Industrialists - Mather and Geist (smelter); Street railway builder - William Moore; Insane asylum superintendent - Dr. P.R. Thombs.  - Compiled by Mary Jean Porter from various sources. Pueblo Chieftain 6-21-2009

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