Huerfano County, Colorado
Looking Back To 1889

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Huerfano World - January 12, 1989 Writer Hopes History Will Repeat Itself After 100 Years by Nancy Christofferson
Contributed by Louise Adams

As we look back at the year of 1988 with its many unfortunate events and too few happy ones, it seems appropriate to look farther back, back to a time of progress, innocence and optimism.

History has a way of "repeating itself," as the old saying goes. Whether it's actually repetitious or not, history does seem to go in circles, with certain trends following one another time after time. Thus, after a period of stagnancy will come a time of great activity (or vice versa!)

If history were to repeat itself, it would be appropriate, and welcome, to recreate the year of 1889, exactly 100 years ago, for this was a time of affluence and rapid growth for Huerfano County and especially for Walsenburg. Let's take a look back.

One hundred years ago, in 1889, the Walsenburg World was founded with G.M. Magill editor and proprietor. It was a four page shoot published every Friday with local, state and world news, handset on an old fashioned press. There were 1,000 copies printed of the first issue on Mar. 1.

Three men worked the press and were capable of producing 500 copies per hour. Subscribers paid $2 a year and some of the first were Fred 0. Roof, L.A. Parkhurst, Harry A. Gross, Sheriff Walter O'Malley, Mayor Charles Unfug, County Treasurer Allen McLean, A. Levy, Dr. D.W. Mathews, Fred Walsen, H.E. Wheeler, Henry Klein, T.F. Martin and Dr. T.D. Baird.

The World was not Walsenburg's first newspaper. As early as 1877, the, Huerfano Independent was printed here, though the editor soon pushed on to Garland City, the new railroad terminus east of the present Ft. Garland.

When the Cactus was first started is not clear, but it is known Dr. T. F. Martin was its owner/editor by August of 1885. Colonel C.B. Bowman and George B. Wick were in charge during the late 1880's and Wick took over in the mid 1890's. In 1898 he sold to W.B. and Walter Brice, but, possibly because of the death of Walter soon after, W. B. sold the paper the next year to the Huerfano Printing Company. William Butler was editor. At this time, September 1899, the Cactus became the Yucca. Editor Wick made several unsuccessful attempts to start newspapers in the area and gave up in favor of joining the Alaska gold rush.

The Cactus and the World obviously were friendly competitors, at least at first. Editors Magill and Martin were both involved in the Tourist City Addition and the pages of both were full of promotions for the new development. Dr. Martin was also owner of the Tourist City Hotel, renamed Twin Lakes for its previous location near Martin and Horseshoe Lakes but later moved into town. The Addition lots were ready for sale in March 1889, and the hotel opened in May. The town was experiencing its first "boom" and perhaps that called for a second newspaper.

Whatever the reason, the World began its 100-year existence. Advertisers were numerous and included: Huerfano County Bank, T.F. Martin, cashier (Dr. Martin was a busy man!); Unfug Brothers' Huerfano County Big Bargain House; Dr. W.L. Doyle; Attorneys R.R. Ross and Homer A. Cole; Potter's Crystal Ice House; Charles Meyer's German Bakery; Drs. Baird and Mathews; Henry Sturm's liquor and cigar store and soda water factory; Drs. F.B. Crocker and J.M. Sleicher; John Lowenbruck's U.S. Meat Market; Bernstein and Becker's The Great New York Clothing House; Burns Mercantile; Elrod and Barnes farm equipment; Meinhardt's dry goods; F.W. Miller and John Guy, tailors; M.L. Swift and Company hardware and grocery; Jellison's Grocery; G.G. Martin, music instructor; John P. Kearns, abstractor of titles; George McLaren, contractor and builder; George E. Ayers and H. Blickhahn's new Harness and Saddle Shop; photographer O.T. Davis's Home Gallery; Peter Krier's Shoe Shop; Walsen and Wheeler Bank; Thomas Grantham Drugs and Apothecary; Wycoff Brothers drugstore; A. Levy's general mercantile; W.J. Standley's hardware; Walsenburg Feed and Livery Stable of George D. Anderson; James LeClarf's Jewelry; Farr Brothers' City Feed and Livery Stable; John Mohr's Blacksmith; Hughes Brothers' Lumber and Building Supply: Mrs. Peterson's boardinghouse; Walsenburg Building and Loan; Cowing and Canon's grocery and feed store; Mrs. McCaskill's "Bazar" of Fashion; Freshwater's Confectionery; Mazzone's "Opra" House; Mrs. Delia Anderson's City Restaurant; Caldwell and Marvin's post office book store, Farr's Metropolitan Meat Market; John Brown's store; and Leisenburg and Hummer, tailors.

In addition to these businesses, but not advertisers, were numerous saloons. Those purchasing the $300 annual liquor licenses were Charles Mazzons, J.B. Dick, T.F. Martin, D. Brown, J.P. Atencio and Company, Dr. Rey and Lopic and DeCamp.

1889 was a year of important growth for Walsenburg. Editor Magill estimated that $150,000 worth of improvements had been made during the year.

The most important of these was the ''Complete Edison Electrical System," costing $35,000. New buildings, such as Twin Lakes Hotel, were immediately hooked up to the system. The court house got electricity in October. Town Council even held a special meeting with the electric company to contract for 30 street lights, of 16 candle-power each, for a rental rate of $2.25 per month for two years.

The town also built three miles of sidewalk, at a cost of $7,000, and looked north to expand. At this time, the railroad tracks were practically the end of Main Street - all the commercial buildings were down towards the river. But in late 1889, with plans for bridging, fluming and grading on North Main, Editor Magill predicted that Fourth and Main "may soon be the business center.''

By then, Walsenburg had a water system which was improved and extended to a $15,000 bill that year, no mean sum in 1889. Another $15,000 built the Twin Lakes Hotel, and yet another, the new Mazzone Opera House.

The Walsen and Wheeler Bank, owned by former state treasurer Fred Walsen and H.E. Wheeler, was prospering along with the town. Walsen even built a four-room brick building just south of his bank at Fifth and Main for rental purposes. This cost him a quick $8,000.

Henry Snedden also built in brick, constructing a $2,500 business block. Others were not so generous, New frame buildings sprang up, including Jellison's two story grocery store ($2,000); John Lowenbruck's two store buildings ($2,000); A. Levy's ice house, shop and residence addition ($2,500); Unfug brothers' two stores and two offices ($1,500); Cowing and Canon's ($1,000); O.T. Davis' photograph gallery ($1,000); D. Rey's saloon ($1,000); Robert Burns' mercantile ($800); and Henry Petmecky's ($600) and H. Blickhahn's ($500) more modest establishments.

In addition, 1889 saw the construction of 11 new houses "in town," 18 in Tourist City Addition, and 14 on Capitol Hill. The Knights of Pythias built their temple for $5,000 and the Methodists their church for $3,500.

The major reason for Walsenburg's growth was, of course, the growth of the nearby coal mines. Walsen mines had been in operation for a dozen years and were producing well. The Sulphur Springs mine (later Pictou) was just beginning, despite strikes. These camps had few facilities or businesses so most of the miners and their families relied on Walsenburg stores, doctors and banks for their needs.

The town was also situated on several major routes. The D&RG was still carrying the hopeful westward to the San Juans and bringing gold back, along with the bountiful crops and loads of livestock from the San Luis Valley. Although the north- south tracks passed through Cuchara Junction to the east, foot and wagon traffic came through town. And, of course, as county seat, Walsenburg hosted the local residents for all types of errands and duties.

The county officers at the time were B.N. Whitman, J.B. Hudson and A.J. Sanchez, commissioners; J.A.J. Valdez, clerk; C.B. Bowman, coroner; Allen McLean, treasurer; Candido Garcia, assessor; Henry Daigre, judge; A.A. Burtch, surveyor; and Dr. T.D. Baird, superintendent of schools. A. Read was the official interpreter. Walter O'Malley was sheriff and Ira Williams and Ed Farr his deputies.

Dr. Baird was also mayor of Walsenburg, aided by trustees Creesy, Lowenbruck, Dick and Farr. W.A. Smith was marshal, earning a basic $85 per month plus a fee for each summons he served. The town fathers met in the old town jail on North Main next to the D&RG tracks, which indignity probably kept them honest it nothing else did.

Up in La Veta, things were quieter. The town was between railroad booms and was slumbering along with a steady economy fed by agriculture and its being the section point on the D&RG, There were several general stores, saloons, two hotels, two churches, fraternal organizations and the flour mill. Sawmills were busy furnishing both the railroad and the growing mines with props, timbers and ties.

Administering the town's business were George S. Thompson, mayor; John Otson, John M. Francisco, John S. Barnes, John Cozad, Alex Lindsay and A.A. Foote, trustees; Oliver Bemen, recorder; and William Krier, treasurer. Laren Dye served two months as "road commissioner" and gave up. The La Veta Times, which supplanted the old Huerfano Herald (1880-1884), was the official news dispenser under Editor Fred L. Herbin.

Their most momentous decision during the entire year may have been their ordinances concerning lighting and water works. This would go into the "Plan Ahead" column since they wouldn't get a water system for 15 years and electricity for 17!

The population of La Veta was estimated at 500, and one teacher, Miss Ella Weir of Madison, IL, held sway over the local scholars. Construction news centered around the building of the two story stone W.T. Lake drugstore by the Dotsons, sitting isolated between Cozad and Ryus' store and the Ryus home on the north and a frame store on the next corner south. Across Main Street were a saloon and two stores. F.A. Moore was postmaster but quit in October and was replaced by M.T. Hills. Hills, incidentally, was the originator of the name Nunda, the post office at later Cuchara Camps (and for whom Hills Branch of the Cucharas was named).

La Veta, too, was enjoying some prosperity from nearby mining, though not of coal. Copper, silver and gold were coming in dribbles from mines to the south, north and west. Alas, even the dribbles dried up instead of becoming torrents, but the town still was visited by various "mining experts" and investors to keep up interest. Truck mines were also operating in coal veins along the Wahatoya, Cuchara and Middle Creek.

Down in Old Rouse, then new, things were jumping. The mine was the leading producer in the county and once sent out 2,500 tons in a 10-hour stretch! The town had several groceries, dry goods, a livery, hotel and school. Twenty-four more houses were constructed late in the year.

To the west, Gardner had some 100 residents, a store, church, and sawmill. There were probably a hotel and livery as well to serve travelers along the Mosca and Pass Creek trails. Tom Sharp was operating his trading post at Malachite on Pass Creek and L.T. Santy his marble quarry at Seguro on the Huerfano.

Though the Sulphur Springs mine was progressing, it was attached by Sheriff O'Malley for the First National Bank of Denver for $25,000. The mine continued operations, however, and a camp, including saloons, two groceries and a school, began to expand.

Other communities around the county were Apache, Badito, Birmingham, Bradford (previously Dickson), Ute, Huerfano Canon (later Farisita,) St. Marys, Santa Clara, Scissors (later Capps) and Sharpsdale. Most of the later settlements on the plains were still the open range of cattle and sheep raisers.

In 1889, Huerfano County's population was about 6,800, about a third of which lived in Walsenburg. With some 4,000 people scattered throughout the county, it was assumed at least 1,50O were children. Children need education so the school districts, first organized at the time of statehood in 1876, were re-organized to offer the benefits of schooling to the farthest away. The school districts of 1889 were: No. 1 St. Marys; No. 2 Butte Valley; No. 3 Badito; No. 4 Walsenburg; No. 5 Crestones (Chama); No. 6 Vacant; No. 7 Alexander (Sager); No. 8 Talpa; No. 9 La Veta; No. 10 North Veta; No. 11 Gardner; No. 12 Cucharas; No. 13 Apache; No. 14 Scissors; No. 15 Wahatoya; No. 16 Kincaid (Ritter); No. 17 Chauvez Plaza (later Rocky Mountain); No. 18 Turkey Creek; No. 19 Walsen mine; No. 20 Malachite; No. 21 Upper Cuchara; No. 22 Sharpsdale; No. 23 Birmingham; No. 24 Bradford. (Ultimately there would be 55 districts in the county.)

Each district varied in enrollment, from seven students in the far-flung schools to hundreds in the larger camps and Walsenburg. Crestones/Chama also had a large enrollment In those days, averaging about 100 students, often with just two instructors.

In the fall of 1889, Walsenburg had 130 students and four teachers. Prof. G.N. McKay was principal, his wife taught the "second intermediate department," Miss Minnie Guy first intermediate, and Miss Katie Gantz was in charge of the primary children.

To support the county school system and other expenditures, tax levies were set at: State two plus 13/30 mills plus 1.7 "other"; county 25.5 mills; and special school tax, military and poll tax, $2. Seems fair enough, doesn't it?

A dollar went a lot farther back then and most of the county's dollars went for schools and roads. Don't assume the road system was anything to brag about, though. Every rainstorm turned thoroughfares (including Walsenburg's Main Street) into minor rivers and then into quagmires. Bridges and culverts were practically unknown and during spring runoff, fords across creeks and rivers were impassible. In dry times, the dust engulfed everyone from pedestrian to large wagons (much like today!) and kept housewives busy exterminating the grit in their homes.

And speaking of dollars, just one would buy 18 quarts of milk from John George.

Well, in 1989 our money has a bit different value but we save and spend it just as thriftily, or, at least, try to! We can't build a store for $800 but wouldn't it be nice to have a building boom in 1989. C'mom history, repeat yourself!

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