Pueblo County Presents
The History of Rye, Colorado
Contributed by Karen Mitchell
This History was produced by the DAR in 1939.
History of Rye, Colorado From 1868 to 1900
By Mrs. William P. Wilbar, Florence, Colorado
(Her Father, Mr. Jacob Sayler, was a pioneer of Rye in 1874.)
The little hamlet of Rye is located on a high plateau, or table-land, at the foot of the south-front range where the mountain makes a distinct rise from the altitude of 7,000 feet at Rye to the top of Baldy, about 13,000 feet. West of Rye the Greenhorn mountains form three distinct, rounded peaks above timberline. From these mountains and canyons are stored the snows and springs that supply the three main creeks with their pure, clear water. Greenhorn, Graneros and Apache have their source from this range. Snow can be seen on Baldy usually until about the middle of July. Thus, from the country extending from the upper Apache to the St. Charles on the north constitutes the District of Rye.
The word Greenhorn is a translation from the Spanish Cuerna Verde. From this name comes the first important event we have any historical record of. From Arthur Carhart, our own Colorado historian, we get this touch of the conquest of the band of Comanches led by Cuerna Verde, who was the most aggressive of all the Comanche Chieftains.
In 1778 Juan Bautista Anza, then political and military governor of New Mexcio, set out to smash Cuerna Verde's power and depradations. He followed Cuerna Verde through the lower San Luis Valley across the Wet Mountain Valley, catching up with him at the very place where Greenhorn Creek emerges from the Canyon. Here in a fiercely fought battle, Cuerna Verde was killed, as were four of his sub-chiefs, his high priest, his eldest son and heir, and thirty-two followers. So that range became the name and gigantic marker of this ancient battle field, also a monument of one of the greatest of Comanches. This Indian name bestowed on a man signified strength and great courage.
The first land at the entrance of Greenhorn Canyon was taken up as a homestead by Henry Depp, who, with his wife, cleared this ranch from scrub oak and timber, and with pioneer industry and perseverance made it one of the most productive and valuable ranches of the 1870's. It is now owned by a group of Pueblo people, who enjoy the cool breezes and the quiet of the lovely community recreational center, easily and quickly reached from Pueblo.
The government has set aside a forest reserve just east of Cuerna Verde that is visited and enjoyed by numerous tourists from every state of the union. Private cottages are owned by many from Pueblo, Kansas, and Oklahoma who come to Rye to enjoy the cool breezes, fresh crisp mountain air and pure mountain water, that only the mountains can produce.
The first post office for the community surrounding Rye was established on the ranch formerly owned by Joe Peterson, two and one-half miles northwest of the present village, and was originally owned by David Nichols, who settled in 1870.
In the fall or winter of 1880, James G. Thomas, a former teacher of the settlement, established a little store in the ranch home which is still standing. This store and the first post office, Table Mountain, became a convenience for the mountain folk. Up to that time Greenhorn, one of the old landmarks, was the only post office outside of Pueblo.
George Sears, postmaster at Greenhorn, also conducted a general merchandise store which supplied many of the settlers with the necessary groceries, saving them the long trip to Pueblo. Most of the products of the farm found ready sale and exchange of their needs.
In 1882, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Sears formed a partnership and moved the store and post office from Nichols' place to the present location, a building which was built for the Baptist, situated northwest of Rye, next to the big bluff on Captain William Meredith's place. The lumber for construction of the building was sawed by Frank Benham, later the firm of Benham and Cox.
It was moved down to the northeast frontage of the cross-roads at the junction of the Captain Meredith and Major Sheets homesteads, where the building now stands. It was the first building to adorn the thriving little village of Rye, and still houses a mercantile business.
The name of Table Mountain was not changed until a few years later, when the post office department objected to the lengthy name. Several names were suggested and after much discussion the name of Rye was selected.
So, for over fifty years the little town has struggled along. In 1937 it became an incorporated town.
After the location of the store, Mr. Thomas built the first house, a small, three-room house, located back of the store. In the early 1880's, Mr. Thomas built a ten room hotel building on the southeast frontage, which became known as Mountain View hotel. Mr. Thomas was the first proprietor, but found his business demanded his time, and Jacob Sayler then rented it for two years. After the two years, J.H. McDaniel operated the hotel, which was later acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Sayler. Following Mr. Sayler's death in 1900, Mrs. Sayler conducted the hotel for a number of years. After disposing of it by Mrs. Sayler, it was managed by numerous persons until it burned. The hotel housed many tourists and travelers.
The land comprising the town of Rye was part of the homesteads of Captain William Meredith and Major Sheets. Soon after the store and hotel were built, R.A. Smith, known as "Pick Smith", erected a two story building west of the store. He stocked it with drugs and the upstairs was a public hall, used for all kinds of social gatherings. There the Good Templers, a forerunner of prohibition days, had its inception. Dances, amateur plays and church socials held here were a pleasant pastime and gave gaiety to the settlers.
F.D. Miller built a two-room house on the west and it was used as a barber shop and bachelor hall. J.A. Trulove built a dwelling; James Gray an ice-house and butcher shop and dwelling. Frank Fisher completed the north side of the street and Mrs. Stilwell the south side of the street. Mr. Bagley built a residence and also owned a ranch and grist mill west of Rye.
Mrs. Priest, an invalid from Missouri, built a dwelling. Then the livery stables, now standing as a gargae, were built by William Hayes or John Cavanaugh. J.A. Trulove built a store east of the livery stables where he conducted a dry goods store. Next to Mr. Trulove's store, Mr. Sayler operated a shoe shop.
Across from the hotel, east, Joe Moody put up a skating rink which survived about a year and a half. A two foot snow storm in April caused the roof to collapse and it was not rebuilt.
Dr. Litteral built a residence in 1885 and, with his family, became one of the builders of the village. The Southern Methodist erected a parsonage east of the store.
William Lloyd constructed a two-story home for his family. He had purchased the farm now known as the Graham place or the Major Sheets homestead. A blacksmith shop was built south, near the Greenhorn Creek. William Hayes built another cottage across the street.
In the 1890's, Mr. Thomas built a large two-story building on the lot of the skating rink, which had a hall upstairs. The W.O.W. held forth for years, meeting in this hall. It was also a community center, having dancing, rink skating, plays, church socials, etc. Mr. Thomas also built a home east of the street across from the garage.
Mr. Rigor built a blacksmith shop east of the Thomas residence. These buildings comprised the homes and stores constituting Rye up to the late 1880's.
J.G. Thomas and George Sears dissolved partnership and Mr. Thomas moved his stock to the new building and with his brother, John, became known as Thomas Brothers. John Thomas, a former cowboy, married Hattie Frink, daughter of Mrs. Frink, one of the oldest settlers.
M.M. Meredith and George Sears occupied the building vacated by Thomas Brothers. Paul Meredith, a retired railroad man from Ohio, brother of Captain Meredith, bought the place across the Greenhorn east of the road, now known as the Lone Star Ranch, and built a very modern home, in which was placed the only piano west of Pueblo, an old square piano design.
The saw mills were the most profitable industry at that time. The mills of Frank Benham and Fin Cox, pioneers, sawed lumber for the homes of the earliest settlers. Thousands of feet of lumber were taken from the heavily forested lands. Smaller trees supplied the ties for the construction of railroads. In 1880 a raging forest fire destroyed miles of forest, which has never been replaced. Many acres of land on the mountain side now give mute evidence of the destructive fire.
After the fire, there sprang up on the mountain raspberries and huckleberries which flourished for many years until weeds and undergrowth choked them out.
Game, bear and deer were plentiful and no closed season furnished the farmers with choice venison.
The resources from the beginning of the settlement seemed to be mostly cattle raising and agriculture. Many of the early settlers came overland by wagon train, driving their herds of cattle with them. Only traveling eight or nine miles a day, it took months of patience and enduring hardships. When they came to good ranges for their cattle and plenty of water, they became settlers. The land was theirs by right of possession. They were, however, in constant danger of the Indians.
In the 1880's, Mr. McCarthy, of Pueblo, started a saw mill and cut thousands of fine trees into lumber. It is an accepted fact now that the terrible waste of our virgin forests has a very decided effect on our drouth and soil erosion conditions, for which we are paying the penalty at this time.
Some mining was done on the upper St. Charles by John Prichard, and later carried on by a Denver group. The lack of transportation and low grade ore made it an unprofitable investment. In the 1870's the government opened the land for homesteads and pre-emption. Thus the settlers became permanent and legal home owners.
David Frink and John Williams settled four or five miles east of Rye in 1867 or 1868. Mrs. Frink and Mrs. Williams were the first white women in the vicinty and Laura Halsey Williams, born in 1868, was the first white child born. She is now living in Pueblo.
Tim Howard and Mrs. Frink taught the first schools. These schools were subscription schools held at the homes of the pupils. This grouping together and the necessity of a community center for the mountain folk, exchange of farm and dairy products, the convenience of the store and post office, made the logical place for the beginning of the village.
The original church of the neighborhood, also the school house, were located one mile south of Rye for many years. It was there the settlers met to worship God and promote religious education. Among the ministers who were pioneers in church life were Father Clark, a Baptist roving missionary, a dear old white-haired man of God, trudging his way alone on his periodical journeys to minister to all who lived within the area from Canon City, Greenwood, Beulah, Rye, Rosita, Silver Cliff, and as far south as La Veta.
J.A. Allison and John Morrow organized a Cumberland Presbyterian church, but it was later decided by the community to have one denomination and the Methodist Episcopal church was chosen by the majority of the church peoples. Father Quillian, living on the upper Huerfano, became the pastor. Being a circuit rider, he preached at several other communities, at first coming to Rye only once a month. Old timers can picture him, either horseback, his traveling apparel in the pockets of his saddle, or his old bay horse dragging his one-seated open buggy. We all loved him and his fine wife, who came with him occasionally.
Rev. Cooper, a Baptist minister, also came occasionally as an evangelist. O.F. Sensebough was sent by conference. He served the Beulah and Rye churches and was instrumental and helped construct the parsonage in Rye. Rev. Cooper, a Southern Methodist minister, spent several years in Rye and it was during his, or Rev. Sensebough's time there, that the church was built.
It was while the pioneers worshipped in the original church that several of the signs of progress manifested itself in the desire to possess a church organ. The only instrument in the community at that time was the Estey organ, brought from Pueblo by Mr. Sayler in 1878.
The Ladies Aid, with tireless energy decided on an oyster supper as a means to accomplish the end. That started the fund which soon materialized in the reality, and such a jubilee when the organ was installed. "The Church Organ", a poem, was recited by one of the young folks. Of course, some objected to the new-fangled ways. The realization of the possession of the organ was an event never to be forgotten by participants.
The first Sunday School was organized by Mr. Sayler as a union Sunday School. He was succeeded as superintendent by Ben Woodford, a brother of Mrs. Letteral, who moved to Canon City and became a leader in church and Sunday School work there until his death.
The mantle of the church settled on the shoulders of Jimmie Thomas, who was there until his death, and was one of the most outstanding religious leaders of that period. He led in singing, prayer, was superintendent and a teacher in the Sunday School, and helped the financing of all departments of the church.
Paul Meredith was a very zealous and faithful member of the church, Sunday School and prayer meetings. He was loved by the young people and gave his services cheerfully to the religious life.
In educational, cultural and social activities of the late 1870's, 1880's and early 1890's, the most outstanding character that inspired higher ideals in the youths of that period was a woman, Mrs. Jennie Frost-Irving, originally from Boston. She taught the third grade in the Centennial school the year it was opened, and was married to John Irving of Pueblo, who later took up a ranch southeast of Rye. She taught school at the old schoolhouse, gave singing lessons, organized literary and debate societies, helped give entertainment to raise money for the church organ, played the organ and taught Sunday School classes.
The early settlers will never forget, or cease to appreciate, that brave, gay little woman who gave her best to build more stately mansions for those whom she contacted. Had it not been for her gracious, refined, kindly interest in the youth of that period, it could have meant a great difference to the high cultural place Rye has today, a desirable and pleasant rural home. All Hail to our Pioneer Woman!
Mrs. Emma Stilwell, another woman who left a legacy of refinement, sweetness and religious influence, a widow, homesteaded a ranch east of the Irving ranch, coming from Pueblo with two little boys. She later built a home in Rye and became official chaperone for the young people. She gave her kindly advise and helped plan many of the little social affairs. Most of the social life was connected with the church, Sunday School, and school.
Joe Moody, a bachelor and retired cattle man, was always genial and dependable, but imposed on by the fair sex. Dad Griffen was a friend to all, though we knew little of him. He lived there many years.
The Pioneers of Rye are not ashamed of the progress of time we have seen develop from our associated, fine citizens, who have taken their place in the upbuilding of Colorado and Rye, as it now is, and we are happy to know it stands out as an ideal place to live.
Early Settlers Of Rye
1865 or 1866: Grandpa Fisher, David Frink, John Williams, John Warner (on the lower Greenhorn, 1867)
1869: William Smith, John Medill
1870: George Haynes, David Nicholas, Thomas Nicholas, Joel Nicholas
1871: Burton Moore, Joseph B. Doze
1872: Frank Benham, Finn Cox, George Sears, Major Sheets, David Hunter
1873: Joseph Peterson, John Peterson, Calvin Goss, John T. Graybeal, Henry Depp
1874: Dr. Letteral, Captain William Meredith, Avery Carter, Jessie Marshall
1875 or 1876: Old Dr. Beckwith, who owned the ranch three miles east of Rye known as the William Hunter place.
1878: Jacob Sayler, Sam Sheetz
John Morris ranch south of Rye, later owned by George Sears.
Rutherford, south of Rye.
Dr. Blanchard, a dentist, living on the Dr. Litteral place.
David Hunter on the little Graneros. His son, Lewis Hunter, still lives on the homestead.
Mr. Jamison, east of Rye.
Huggins, father of Mrs. Jessie Marshall, and grandfather of Mrs. Pearl Hughes.
John and Frank Gallamore, Frank owned place later bought by Porter Ashley.
Preston lived on the ranch with the spring where the hatchery is located.
Rush and Will Fisher came in the late 1860's.
Robinson west of Rye and adjoining the Sayler homestead.
Granvile Graybeal, the one lone negro, a former slave of John Graybeal. He drove one of the teams from North Carolina to Colorado for Mr. Graybeal.
Mr. Johnson, cattle man living five miles east of Rye. His daughter married John Waldron, a rising young attorney, who later became Judge Waldron, of Pueblo.
Matt Rittlebarger, attorney for Zan Hicklin.
John and James Zimmerman, cattlemen.
Mr. Pollick, related to the Zimmerman family.
George Haynes came to lower Greenhorn and conducted a store for two years.
Rev. Berry, Presbyterian minister and carpenter, helped build souls and worked in constructing many of the earlier homes in Rye
Henry Hardin, northwest of Rye, coming from North Carolina in the 1870's.
Joe Ray, the Christensons, George Savage, widow LeFever, Tom Walters, the Meades, old Mr. Johnson, a bachelor and carpenter, the Dixon families, and numerous others that cannot be recalled. I think a few more came in the 1880's.
Mr. Bagley, who purchased the Robinson place and built a flour mill just west of Captain Meredith's place.
Mr. and Mrs. Stephens homesteaded just east of the Medill place.
James T. Edmundson, a former prosperous cattleman, who lived on the Muddy Creek and lost a fortune in 1880 by drouth. He bought the ranch owned by the hatchery and raised his family, later moving to Pueblo. His daughter, Nellie, married George Chillcot, pioneer of Pueblo.
John Zorn lived southwest of Rye about one and a half miles.
I have not recorded the names of families that located after 1890.
In January, 1864 John Iliff married Miss Sarah Smith, a lineal descendant of Pocahontas fame. Their only son, William S. Iliff, was born in March, 1870.
William Iliff married Miss Elizabeth S. Frazier, who was born in Canada but made her home with an aunt near Pueblo. (This aunt's name was Mrs. Miller and she owned what was known as the Halfway House on Muddy Creek. She had a small ranch there.)
William Iliff erected the Iliff school of Theology at University Park. His widow, Elizabeth Frazier, later married Bishop Warren. Mrs. Iliff's brother, John J. Frazier, lived near Pueblo for one year.
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