Pueblo County, Colorado
Colorado Weekly Chieftain, June 11, 1868 There is frequently no little curiosity in the minds of eastern people to know something about the settlements and towns that are constantly springing up in this new western country, which until recently was untrodden by the foot of civilized man. But yesterday we looked abroad and saw an immense tract of uncultivated land. The valleys were fertile, inviting the farmer to till the soil and reap a bountiful harvest. The hillsides were covered with the richest and most nutritious herbage, suggesting to the grazier that millions of cattle might be reared - there with but little expense. The air was balmy and invigorating, offering health to those who should breath it. Meandering down the mountain sides and through the valleys were cool and refreshing streams, furnishing water to slake the thirst of man and beast, or to propel the mightiest machinery. Yet save a few Indian tents and wigwams scattered here and there at a great distance from each other, not a single human habitation was to be seen over the broad scope of country.
To-day, the scene is changed. The busy hum of industry is heard on every side. Toiling thousands of energetic spirits are at work. At their command villages and farm houses rise; lands hitherto uncultivated wave with golden grain, and the hill-sides are covered with lowing herds. Everything indicates the presence and power of civilized man. The hand of the enterprising pioneer, more potent than a magician's wand, has wrought this mighty change. All these transitions, as wonderful as they appear, are but the every-day occurrences of the wonderful west.
The town of Pueblo with the country surrounding it, so recently reclaimed from the untutored savage, is one of the numerous illustrations of the continued, rapid, and permanent growth. Situated on the left bank of the Arkansas river, in the midst of the finest agricultural and grazing region of Colorado, it is adapted by nature to become a large town. It already commands an immense and constantly increasing trade. Whilst it may be true that "God made the country and man made the town," it is equally true that man never has made a town of any considerable size or importance unless nature's God first prepared the way and made its existence possible and necessary. No one would look for rich and tropical fruits near the north pole; as little should any one expect to find a thrifty, populous town in an isolated and destitute locality without a country around it to feed, nourish and support it. Pueblo has such a country around it. It is already the commercial metropolis of Southern Colorado. Nature designed that it should be so. It is located on the Arkansas river, a stream which perennially affords the most ample water power for the propulsion of machinery or for the purposes of irrigation. It is in the midst of the richest agricultural and grazing region in Colorado. It is situated on the great highway between Santa Fe and Denver.
These, and many other natural advantages that might be enumerated, imperatively demand that there should be a town just where Pueblo is, to control and direct the energies of the surrounding country, to furnish provisions and supplies for the producing classes, and likewise to afford them a market for their commodities.
A glance at the products of Pueblo county alone for the last year will indicate faintly some of Pueblo's resources. There were produced during the past year in Pueblo county three hundred thousand bushels of corn, and one hundred thousand bushels of wheat - to say nothing of the oats, buckwheat and barley. There were owned in the county twelve thousand head of cattle; twenty thousand head of sheep, and two thousand hogs. Not less than four thousand gallons of wine of no ordinary quality were manufactured from our native grape, which grows so luxuriantly along our streams. We hazard nothing in predicting that when the process of making wine comes to be better understood by our people the numerous vineyards that will dot the Arkansas valley will constitute no inconsiderable source of Southern Colorado's wealth.
Eighteen months ago, and there were scarcely seventy-five inhabitants in Pueblo; now, its population is but little less than five hundred souls. During A. D. 1867, the business and trade amounted to $400,000 - and all this, the result of a normal and legitimate growth and development. Even as we write this article, the stroke of the carpenter's hammer and the sound of his saw are heard on every hand; business houses and private residences are rising all around us to meet the demands of an increasing trade and a growing population. Not galvanized into a spasmodio existence by crafty speculators or a moneyed monopoly, not of an artificial, but rather of a natural growth necessitated by the vast stretch of agricultural and pastoral land environing it -- Pueblo stands forth to-day with bright prospects of a permanent and prosperous future.
Historical Sketch of Pueblo, written by Hon. Wilbur F. Stone. July 4th, 1876, - The object of the proclamation of the president of the United States in requesting the preparation of a historical sketch of each town and village in the United States, to be read on this Centennial Fourth of July and a copy filed in the public ordinances as data for the future historian is in every way wise and commendable. But in an outdoor, promiscuous assemblage, surrounded with all the existing circumstances attending to the celebration, it is impossible to carry out the scope of the proclamation without making tedious what under other circumstances would be only interesting, and I shall, therefore , content myself with presenting a very brief outline of a few of the more interesting incidents of the earliest history of our city.
The word Pueblo - Spanish - means originally people, thence it came to be applied to the various tribes or peoples of the conquered Indians of New Spain who lived chiefly in villages; afterwards the word became a generic term for a village in which people resided, and lastly made the name of a few particular towns, as is the case with ours. It is, however, pertinent to here remark that this city of ours never was a Spanish or Mexican town in any sense nor at any time in all its history. The Spanish conquerors of New Mexico never established a settlement north of the waters of the Rio Grande del Norte, and it was not until after the province has been acquired by the United States that settlements were established in the Arkansas valley.
Bent's Fort was one of the first trading posts, there was another established, however, several years prior on the Hardscrabble that was occupied several years by Col. Albert Boone. Here at Pueblo at a very remote period the was wont to gather the trappers of the Rocky Mountains to winter on account of the mild climate, and is Washington Irving's adventures of Captain Bonneville reference is made to the warm, sunny rendezvous on the Arkansas river at the mouth of La Fontaine qui Bouliie, where used to gather from the Green river, from the Snake and even from the Columbia those adventurous bands of the American Fur Company as well as the free trappers like Kit Carson, Bill Williams, and Dick Wooten, and bring their stores which were taken by the traders and conveyed down to the "great Muddy" to build up the village of St. Louis with the spoils of a fur country. Afterwards a regular trading post was established her and a fort built as was the custom for protection from Indians. This was called "Napesta", after the Ute name of the Arkansas River. A small Mexican settlement was established by old Charley Autobees at the mouth of the St. Charles, which Mr. Blunt's farm now covers and a few acres were cultivated below the Fontaine, near the Goldsmith ranch, and from which Fremont procured a supply of corn on that ill-fated expedition when he tried to cross the Uncompagre mountains in the dead of winter. In 1854 arose the insurrection of the Ute Indians and in the following year a band of warriors made a sudden attack on the fort here at Napeste, massacred the inmates and pillaged and dismantled the buildings. You may still trace the quadrangular foundation of the adobe walls, near where two small adobe houses now stand on the west side of Union avenue.
In the winter of 1857-8 the Cherry creek gold diggings were discovered by the Georgia explorers and Cherokee Indians although more than ten years before, gold nuggets had been gathered in the Cherry creek sands by the children of Col. Wm. Bent, while camped there on the way from Fort Bridger to Bent's Fort. This was related to me a year or two ago y Mrs. Judge Moore, of Bent county, a half breed daughter of Col. Bent, and one of the children referred to. In the fall of 1858 a little party of Americans in St. Louis, hearing of the gold discoveries from some of the returned plainsmen, started across the Great American Desert for the Rocky Mountains. They came up the Arkansas river, leaving Santa Fe trail at he old Aubrey crossing and in November reached the mouth of the Fontaine and camped where now is the north line of Shaw's addition. This party was composed of Josiah F. Smith, (who is still one of our citizens and whom we all know as 'Si Smith) Otto Winneka, (who is yet one of our reliable citizens also), Frank Doris and George Lebaum. This spot was where the Santa Fe trail to the Black Hills crossed the Arkansas river and the great Arkansas valley route to the Rocky Mountains, and so our adventurers concluded they could more profitably and easily mine gold by starting a town and engaging in a good game of "swap" with the natives. They were soon joined by Wm. H. Green, of Green Bay, Wisconsin; Geo. Peck, brother of our townsman Charley Peck, Robert Middleton, Anthony Thomas, Wm. Kroenig, from La Junta, New Mexico, and George McDougal. This last was a brother of the late Senator McDougal, of California, was a talented but eccentric and dissipated genius, who had left California and the world in disgust and spent several years with Charley Autobees and other old trappers in the wilderness, self-exiled and a wanderer. These parties joined together and laid out a town, just east of the Fontaine where the present road runs, and named it Fountain City. Two men named Cooper and Wing came about this time from Missouri with a little stock of goods, and with them were two men named Shaffer and Browne who made a survey and plat of the town site. Cooper and Wing built a large cattle corral and opened a store, and the settlers names, with some additions, made during the winter foot up about thirty cabins - log, jacal and adobe. Most of the adobes were got from the old walls of the fort here at Pueblo, portions of which remained standing. Bob Middleton had with him his wife who was the first white woman of the settlement. About eighty lodges of Arapahoe Indians camped alongside of the settlers for nearly three months during the winter, trading in furs, dressed skins and other commodities.
The most lively event of the winter was that of a raid which was made one day by the wily Ute's, who got away with a hundred head of Arapahoe ponies. An Arapahoe chief with a few braves, including Si Smith, followed a few miles up the river to try to recover the stock, but when the chief was ambushed and shot near the Rock canon, Si and the other Arapahos got suddenly discouraged and retreated. Game was plenty, and the settlers frequently indulged in it during the winter, both for food and pastime. It consisted chiefly of deer, antelope, jackass rabbits, monte and seven-up.
In January a man coming down form the diggings, got caught in a snow on the divide, and perished with cold and exhaustion, dying just as he reached Fountain City afoot; and thus the settlers were providentially enabled to start a grave yard, and thus plant civilization in these western wilds.
The next Spring - 1859 - an acequia was dug and water taken out of the Fountain for irrigation by Si Smith, land was plowed and put in cultivation and a crop raised. Kroenig brought up cattle from New Mexico and traded, Ott. Winneka and Frank Davis being in his employ. Immigration poured in, mostly going to the gold diggings and Pike's Peak, which never had any gold within fifty miles of it, became immortal. In April there came old Mr. Matthew Steele with his family, but who settled first on Cherry creek, Steve Smith, a brother of Si, came out from the state and there also came and settled at Fountain City, Wm. H. Young and Lorn Jenks, whose wives were, next after Mrs. Middleton, the first American mothers of the country. Charley Peck came from Salt Lake in the summer and became a permanent settler. In the fall of 1859 a provisional government was organized by the settlers at Denver, Golden and Gregory diggings, and an election held for governor and members of a legislature of the provisional government of "Jefferson territory." As Fountain City was the only settlement south of the divide it must needs be looked after, and so Hickory Rogers was sent down from Denver to see that the right of suffrage was properly exercised. Si Smith had been previously appointed by the governor of Kansas a justice of the peace, being therefore the first jurist that sat on the bench in the Arkansas valley, and he administered some of his oaths to the election judges, who proceeded to open the polls and receive the votes of the settlement, amounting to about seventy-five, all for the Jefferson government. The returns were duly certified and sworn to and delivered to Hickory to take to Denver, which at that early day assumed to "hog in" the capital. The first night out, up at Jimmy's camp, old Hickory sat down by the fire light of his camp and deliberately added 1,150 names to the poll book. As the returns were properly sworn to there was no going back by the canvassing board on the population of Fountain City, and thus early in the history of the now proud Centennial State, did the honest American voter of the Arkansas valley vindicate the glorious boon of the ballot box.
In the winter of 59-60, Dr. Belt, Dr. Catterson, and his brother Wesley Catterson, Cy. Warren, Ed. Cozzens, Jack Wright and Albert Bercaw came here, some from Denver and others form Missouri, and laid out the town of Pueblo as a rival of Fountain City. It was surveyed by Buell & Boyd, two surveyors brought from Denver, and platted on a scale that shows the characteristic ambition of the average American to expand, in general, and in the matter of town sites to spread himself particularly. Pueblo, as then laid out and staked off, extended from the river back two or three miles towards the divide, and from the Fountaine on the east to Buzzard's ranch on the west. Near the mouth of Dry Creek was an extensive city park, filled with serpentine drives and walks, rare shrubbery and exotic flowers, amid which the alkali dust was gently subdued by the spray of a dozen refreshing fountains. Railroads, however, were modestly omitted, and therefore the harmony of the town company was not marred by any conflict as to the location of the depot. Jack Wright, a brother-in-law of Ed Cozzens, built the first house, just back of where Joel Roe's stable now stands. Aaron Sims, another brother-in-law of Ed Cozzens, built another cabin adjoining, and Dr. Catterson built one in the rear of where now stands Jenner's store. Everything being now ready for starting the town, Jack Allen came up from Fort Wise and gave the city a proper "send-off" by establishing an institution which at the high moral town of Colorado Springs would now be called a "drug store." Jack, however, called it a Taos lightning factory. The town was now fairly established. Luxuries however, soon came in. And Colonel Boone built a small frame tenement, which is now a part of the Morris stable, at the lower end of Santa Fe avenue, and in this was opened the first store, consisting of Taos flour, Missouri bacon, condemned government coffee, plug tobacco, Mexican beans, pinon nuts, hickory shirts, chili colorado, and other costly luxuries. This stock was sent over the Sangre de Cristo mountains from Fort Garland by Col, Francisco, then sutler at this post. Dr. Catterson was engaged by the colonel to keep the store, and tradition has it that he kept it well, for he not only kept the store but the money also, and on the first news of the outbreak of the war, Col. Francisco's riches took to themselves wings and flew away with Dr. Catterson to the happy land of Dixie. (I have not the time here to relate the story of the first war which was fought between the settlers of Fountain City and a party of returning tenderfoot miners, but it is sufficient to say that our side whipped.) The first family in Pueblo was that of Mr. Aaron Sims. Si Smith went to the states in '59 and married, moved over into Pueblo and constituted the second family of this place. Emory Young, the oldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. H. Young, was the first white child born south of the divide in Colorado, and Hattie Smith, now a beautiful miss of sweet sixteen. She sits before me in the circle of white robed girls representing the states of the union, is the second child born, and consequently the first girl baby in Southern Colorado.
I can not take time here to go into the causes which led Fountain City, like the ancient republics of Greece and Rome to decay and fall; but so it did, and became finally merged in the town of Pueblo.
Colorado was created a territory by act of congress in 1860, and in the fall of that year was held the first election for delegate to congress, H.P. Bennett, republican, being elected over Beverly D. Williams, democrat. Most of the voters of Pueblo did their level best for Bennett, who had promised to send them all garden seeds; and hence came to be called "Garden seed Bennett." Gov. Hunt improved upon this afterwards when he distributed cod-fish in the Greeley campaign.
Pueblo County when organized included what is now Bent county, and Huerfano included the present county of Las Animas. Pueblo was in a council district, first represented by Bob Willis, and in a representative district with Fremont county, represented by one Powell. John B. Rice was the first sheriff, Steve Smith the first county clerk, and Will Chapman the first probate judge. The first district judge was Hon. A.A. Bradford, who held the first term in the old Boone house in December, 1862. The incidents of this court furnished both interest and amusement, more particularly to the legal profession, but for the benefit of the ladies, we may remark that a divorce suit was one of the first on the docket, and in justice to the fair sex in such matters it may be added that the suit was brought by the lady on the ground of desertion, and that she promptly got a decree. During this term of court John A. Thatcher, now one of the leading merchant princes of Southern Colorado, arrived at the lower end of Santa Fe avenue with his pants in his boots and driving two yoke of oxen on their last legs, hauling a dilapidated wagon with about a dray load of goods from Denver which he had bought on tick, and with these he opened out the second store. There had been none since Catterson's exodus a year before. John set up his palatial fall stock in a cottonwood log cabin about ten feet square, with dirt roof and floor which stood near where the city brewery now stands on 2nd street. He sold out his load, went back to Denver and returned with a more pretentious stock, and opened out in the old Boone house, when he laid the foundation of that business which he now does by a corps of stylish clerks behind French plate windows. Previous to this a number of prominent persons had been added to the place, such as Geo. M. Chilcott, who came out in advance of his family in 1859, O.H.P. Baxter, Col. Francisco, Judge John Howard, and the following gentlemen with their families: Governor Hinsdale, Captain Wetmore, John W. Shaw, whose daughter, now Mrs. Dr. Thombs, was the first young lady in the society of the town; Mark G. Bradford, and some others not now remembered by the writer.
Society was rather crude up to this period. The cheerful hum of the bullet and the soothing slash of the bowie knife has occasionally enlivened the community. Bercaw had committed three cold blooded murders; Charley Dodge, the very prince of he chivalry of desperado gamblers, had assassinated his partner in crime; and several lynchings had ornamented the limbs of cottonwood trees in the vicinity.
Baxter & Thatcher's grist mill in 1864 was the first noted enterprise in the industry of the town.
The first hotel was kept by Aaron Simms, next by John B. Rice, then the noted old log tavern, just below where the James Rice hose house now stands, was opened by Moody & Alexander, then it was kept by Pete Dotson and afterwards by Alderman Keeling and J.J. Thomas, and in that hospitable old caravansary, with its great, comfortable fire place and its sufficient force of sleek, well-fed bed bugs, we used to have our first dances. Ah! in those halcyon days we didn't fool round and fall down over two yards of draggling silk trail, but we came down to genuine flat-footed dancing. And such fiddling! Perched on a candle box in the corner, the fiddler made no pretensions to a knowledge of Strauss or Ole Bull or any of those foreign chaps, but he just straightened back, shut his eyes, called so he could be heard to the St. Charles, and made the cat-gut howl. And the names of tunes were as you could understand if you wanted to call out your favorite, such as the Arkansaw Traveler, Five Miles from Town, The Devil's Dream and Soapsuds Over the Fence.
The first post office was kept by Simms, and then by D.J. Hayden in a store he opened in 1863 in the old adobe building now used by Mr. Jenner. Postmasters didn't put on the style in those days that Billy Ingersoll now assumes back of the pigeon holes where one can't get at him to hit him. The mail bag was emptied on the middle of the floor and the crowd told to pitch in "them that could read" and pick out what belonged to them. What was left after this promiscuous sorting was put in an empty candle box and when people came to the post office, they were told to go and look for themselves and not be bothering the postmaster. The first business house of any pretension was built by Jim Haas and used by him, and afterwards by Jake Betts and George Hall for a grocery store, liquor and billiard saloon. This was the old "El Progresso" which stood on the corner next to the present O.K. Restaurant. For several year the El Progresso was the sort of town hall and common resort of the people of the town and country, to trade, talk business and politics, and settle quarrels. It will be remembered by the old ones that Jim Haas was the original possessor of a beautiful Roman nose, but in a quarrel one day, Hugh Melrose, with one blow of his fist, converted it into a contemptible pug nose. So that nose who Jim once knew he nose no more forever. This event was only equaled in interest at a later day when a carnivorous Scotchman amputated with his teeth the major portion of the ebony under lip of the Honorable Guillford Court House Budd.
The first school was taught by a Miss Weston, a sister of Eugene Weston now of Canon City, but a school district were not organized until 1866 or 1867. A comfortable frame house was built as early as 1863, just back of where Wilson Bros. & Shepard's store now stands, and in this school house the district court was held for several years., and in it was held during a term of courts in the summer of 1864, the first religious services ever held in Pueblo. At that time the Rev. Mr. Hitchings, the rector of St. John's Episcopal church in Denver, and now of Trinity church, New York, came down on Sunday held services, the responses being made by the members of the bar.
In 1864 the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indian war broke out, and every settlement in the territory outside the mountains was put upon the defense. Si Smith then lived in a log house near where Hyde & Kretschmer's buildings now are, and here was built a block house, and also there was built of adobes on the top of the bluff south of the present brewery, a sort of runic round tower, pierced with loop holes for rifles and with an entrance which could only be reached by a ladder. This stood for several years and was a noted landmark all over the country, and should have been preserved tot his day as sacredly as the old South Church or the Great Elm in Boston. Its demolition in 1867 by the Kezer brothers to finish a private building with was an act of inexcusable vandalism.
The first church built in Pueblo was St. Peter's Episcopal church in 1868-69 by the people of the town aided by Bishop Randall and the energetic efforts of Mr. Winslow, a young missionary sent here in 1868. Its bell was the first church bell south of Denver, and when its tones first sounded over the village it brought to many a heart the tender memories of a childhood's home, long covered up by years of life on the Sabbathless border. The Methodist church was the next one erected and after that the Presbyterian, and later the Roman Catholic. On the first day of June, 1868, occurred an event which marks an epoch in the progress of the place of more than ordinary interest to all Southern Colorado. This was the issue on that day of the Pueblo Weekly Chieftain. It was printed by Dr. Beshoar and Sam McBride, and edited by the late Gov. Geo, A. Hinsdale and the writer of this sketch. In this first issue will be found a notice of the death of Kit Carson at Boggs' ranch, then in Pueblo county, and the resolutions thereon of a club of his friends in Pueblo. From this time on the progress of Pueblo was rapid until now the size of the Daily Chieftain exceeds that of the weekly in 1868. The later history of our town is fresh and familiar to us all. In 1870 it became a corporate town, Lewis Conley being the first president of the board of trustees, and in 1872 the Denver and Rio Grande railway was finished to Pueblo and thus marked the next important epoch in our progress. From this time on Pueblo was borne on the high tide of prosperity until the financial jam a year or two later, when there came a halt in our building and large influx of population. Since then, however, we have materially added to our wealth, business and importance. In 1874 we built our Holly water works. In 1875 we got our eastern railroad - the Pueblo and Arkansas Valley, connecting with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, and we had been seven years in trying to get, and which opens all Southern Colorado and New Mexico by a new and shorter route to the east, and by the extension this present year of over one hundred miles of the Denver and Rio Grande railway to Trinidad and the south west, we have become the railway center for all the western trade tributary to this great Arkansas valley highway to the Rocky Mountains and Pueblo is the gateway through which the vast tide of wealth is to pour in and out over the "Banana line." And in 1876 - the close of this sketch - we are having our beautiful new school house, which sits upon the city like a crown, whose jewels are our precious children, some of whom, now before us, represent the sisterhood of states, and among them is one typical of Colorado, which is in this Centennial year celebrating its first independence day. The baby state, the child of silver voice and golden hair - the pet among Columbia's daughters.
I may, perhaps, jocosely, but fitly close this imperfect sketch of Pueblo, in the touching and beautiful language of one of the web-footed poets of Oregon, who in moralizing over the change that had come over the history of his native town, exclaims:
Here the wild Indian once roamed
Fished fit and able;
Now the inhabitants are white,
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