Huerfano County, Colorado
Georgia Colony History Page
Contributed by: Lonnie Dockery
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The following has been transcribed from a document photocopied from microfilm. The photocopy is of poor quality. The original document was bound, causing the first two or three letters of the first words of each sentence to be cut off.
Handwritten notes on the photocopy read:
"C. W. A. Interviews Huerfano County Pam 363"
Transcribed (with all good intentions)
By Nancy Christofferson
February 11, 1997

[How this story is connected to the C.W.A., or the Civil Works Administration, is unknown. The C.W.A. was one of Franklin Roosevelt's programs to employ those affected by the Depression. However, Benton Canon, himself a prominent Huerfano County pioneer, died in December 1927, several years before the Depression began.]

The History of the Georgia Colony
By Benton Canon

The history of the pioneer colony which moved from the state of Georgia to Huerfano County, Colorado, in the early days, is a thrilling story which dates back to the boyhood days of William Green Russell and Joseph Decatur Patterson. These two men were boyhood chums, and set sluice boxes and washed the golden sands of their native state together before the Centennial State of Colorado had been staked out, or its name written on the page of history.

Joseph Decatur Patterson, known from boyhood as Kate Patterson, had heard glowing accounts of the Pikes Peak country in the Rocky Mountains from Green Russell, who had trekked over the old Santa Fe trail and across the Rocky Mountains to the California gold excitement in 1849. In 1852 Green Russell had com back to his Georgia home with $20, 000,000 worth of gold dust which he had worked out of the golden placer fields of California.

Mr. Russell prospected the Pikes Peak country as he went through to California in 1849, and also in 1852 on his way back home, and he predicted at this early period that it would, in the near future, make one of the richest gold mining countries in the United States, if not in the world. He knew that he would never be satisfied until he returned to the Pikes Peak region and made a more thorough investigation of its mineral resources.

In 1858 and 1859 Kate Patterson accompanied Green Russell on his mining expedition to the Pikes Peak country. In 1858 they brought with them from the state of Georgia a small colony of Cherokee miners, composed of about thirty men who had learned the placer mining business in their native state. They brought their shovels, picks, and pans along with them for the purpose of testing out this mountain country for gold.

One of the best miners in this colony was James H. Pierce, cousin of Green Russell, who had the credit of panning the first gold colors on dry creek, near where Denver now stands. Green Russell was near by and said: "Give me your pan and let me try in here," and he got ten cents of gold.

In 1859 thrilling reports of the discover of gold in the Pikes Peak country were circulated far and wide, and mining men from all quarters of the world began to come in to these new gold diggings. In that year Green Russell and Kate Patterson brought another colony of about two hundred experienced mining men from Georgia. These men honed [?] out the first roads and trails into Russell gulch. It was claimed that some of the richest placer beds ever found in the Rocky Mountains were found in Russell Gulch.

It was the discoveries, made by this Georgia Colony, in 1859, that bought Horace Greeley from the office of the New York Tribune to Rocky Mountains. Horace was a conservative man and "wanted to be shown" so he came out from New York City at this early period to see for himself and help to spread the news through the columns of the New York Tribune.

He reached Denver in the early spring months when the streams were running high. It is said that upon his arrival at Denver he promptly bartered a mule, bridle and spurs, and took the trail to the new gold diggings on Clear Creek and in Russell Gulch. He got along nicely for a few miles until he came to the crossing of Clear Creek, and found the old pioneer, Jim Baker, building a toll bridge across this mountain stream.

The creek was running bank full and Jim Baker warned Mr. Greeley that there was danger in crossing mountain streams when water was running high. Horace Greeley was not the kind of a man who could afford to wait, but used his spurs on the mule vigorously. Man and mule plunged in to the water and went under the waves. Jim Baker and his men fished them out. Mr. Greeley's old white went under the wild waves and was seen no more.

Jim Baker finally helped Mr. Greeley across Clear Creek, and he reached the gold diggings in Russell Gulch in due time. Here he met Green Russell, Kate Patterson and their Cherokee miners at work with pick and pan, shoveling golden sand into the sluice boxes. He also watched these pioneer miners make their daily "clean up" of gold dust and gold nuggets, taken from the sluice boxes and placed in buckskin sacks. He acknowledged that he "had been shown" and that he was convinced that this Pikes Peak country had a wonderful future as a mining district.

In 1860, while the Georgia boys were busy working their claims and sacking their gold dust, they heard rumors of war between the north and south. In 1861, President Lincoln called for an army of seventy five thousand soldiers to fight the southern states and war was declared against their country. Members of this Georgia mining colony began to lay down their shovels, picks and pans, clean up their sluice boxes, and quietly prepare for a journey back to their native state, to help their folks at home fight the battles of their country.

They held frequent meetings during the winter of 1861-1862, and one night [?] Green Russell and Kate Patterson, with their group of miners started back to their Georgia home to enlist in the southern army.

The company was well supplied with covered wagons, camp equipage, guns [?] and ammunition to defend themselves against the Indians. They went down California Gulch, near where Leadville now stands, without informing the public where they were going or what they proposed to do.

Early in the fall of 1862, they trekked over the old emigrant trail to Pueblo, and camped, under the big cottonwoods on the south bank of the arkansas river. Here they met a number of men to whom they explained, in a quiet way, the object of their expedition, making some valuable additions to their company.

The next camping place was at the Hicklin Ranch on Greenhorn Creek, which was in what was then Huerfano County. Zan Hicklin was a noted character in the early days of Colorado. He was a friend of Green Russell and Kate Patterson. He was also a "dyed in the wool" Missoure [sic] Democrat, and his sympathy was with the South. He skilfully [sic] played both sides and the middle in the Civil War controversy, but his firends [sic] could always rely upon him. His ranch was a typical Mixican [sic] hacienda, and was operated with Mexican labor in true Mexican style.

When these pioneer miners saw the corn that was grown on the Hicklin ranch, in the fall of 1862, they were amazed and favorably impressed with Huerfano County, as will be noticed later in this narrative. They were charmed with the majestic beauty of the old greenhorn mountain, the Sangre de Cristo Range, and the historical Spanish Peaks, all of which were in Huerfano County and in close procimity [sic] to the old Santa Fe Trail, leading from Pueblo to NewMexico, over which this company was travelling to reach the Pecos river and ultimately the border of Texas.

The writer of this narrative can give only an incomplete list of the names of the members of this Georgia cavalcade, as follows: William Green Russell and Joseph Decatur Patterson, the promoters and managers of the expedition, Dr. Levi J. Russell, J. Oliver Russell, both brothers of Green Russell, and James H. Pierce, cousin of Green Russell. These five men were gentlemen of the true southern type- and no pioneers, in the early days of Colorado, stood higher in the communities where they lived and were known- than these men.

Others [sic] members of this historic band were: Samuel Bates, Isaac S. Roberts, (alias Sam Jack), William Wisher, John Wisher, Robert Field [?], Mr. Rippie, Mr. Demsey, John Glass, and the Joshua P. Potts family, composed of father and six children-Miss Martha M. (about 20), William (about 16), Melissa and Malinda (twins about, 10 ), Matilda (about 6) and the youngest daughter, Mary.

Late in the fall of 1862, the objects of this expedition leaked out, and the military forces at Denver were ordered to pursue Patterson Russell and their followers, overhaul them and march back to Fort Union, New Mexico, to be held there as prisoners of war. In the meantime they had been advised of the Government's action, and at once the company was put under "whip and spur", along down the old Pecos River trail, which was leading this unfortunate caravan into the jaws of death-at the hands of the Comanche Indians.

Meanwhile, rumors of war with the Comanche Indians came from all directions, and some members of the expedition weakened and turned back, but the brave southern men whose names are mentioned above, were determined to stick to the trail and fight their way through the savage Indian country.

Presently it became apparent that fate had decreed otherwise- and marked the expedition for failure. They were overtaken with an epidemic of small pox in this wilderness. Josh[u]a Potts died, and his remains committed [sic] to mother earth-and left to sleep alone in that desert country. The passing of Mr. Potts left a family of six orphan children and brought sadness and sorrow in to the camp.

The expedition had to go in to permanent camp and care for the sick and the afflicted. Had it not been for Dr. Russell, who gave them medical attention, death would have called many more of the company. During this trouble, a detachment of Government troops arrived on the scene and arrested all members of the company. As soon as the sick were able to travel, they were all marched back to Fort Union, and held there as prisoners of war.

The commanding officer took possession of the personal property of the miners also of their buckskin sacks, filled with gold dust and nuggets from the placer mines of Colorado. He furnished the prisoners comfortable quarters for the winter, looked after the sick and disabled, and treated them well in all respects.

While Green Russell and his companions were sadly disappointed and humiliated at the result of their adventure, the army officer at Fort Union, who was in close touch with the Indian situation, told these Colorado pioneers that there was not one chance in a thousand for them to have got [?] their way through the Indian beyond the Texas border.

Afterwards, the members of the party themselves concluded, that instead of their failure being a misfortune, it was really the utmost good fortune- that fate did not allow them to cross the Texas border into the hostile Comanche country. It was considered a certainty that the little company would have been attacked by the redskins: the men would have been murdered, and the women and children would have been taken into captivity and subjected to a torture-worse than death.

Early in the spring of 1863, the prisoners were released on parole, and allowed to go their way. Green Russell, his two brothers, and James H. Pierce, his cousin, returned to Denver. Later, Green Russell went from Denver to the Indian territory and worked his way back to his family at their home in Lumpkin County, Georgia, where he had left them in 1859. His two brothers worked their way through to Texas, and lived in that state the remainder of their lives. Dr. Levi J. Russell died at ___gle, Texas, March 23rd, 1908. Joseph O. Russell passed away at his home in Menardvillle, Texas, October 28th, 1906. Green Russell died in __arto__, Indian Territory, August 24th, 1877.

The story of Green Russell's last journey to Colorado in 1870, was told by the late Thomas J. Quillan [sic], in a series of letters to the writer of this narrative. Mr. Quillian was a member of Green Russell's company

In the Russell caravan, which set out from Georgia in the spring of 1870, were Parson Asbury H. Quillian and family, Anderson Graham and family, Sam Bates, a boy whom Green Russell had raised. Russell settled at the foot of Greenhorn Mountain, his ranch being at the head of Apache Creek.

Green Russell was a natural hunter and miner. The writer feels that it was a privilege to know this distinguished '58er, and to be with him on his annyal [sic] fall hunt a number of times. Russell did some placer mining in Grayback Gulch, west of La Veta. It was said that Mrs. Russell had a sprinkle of Cherokee blood in her veins, and so every one of the Russell children was entitled to several hundred acres of land in Indian Territory. There were three boys and three girls. The eldest son, John, was a mining man; he lost his life in a mine accident near Leadville. The oldest daughter, Mary, married a man by the name of Howard in La Veta.; they moved afterwards to the little town of Mears, west of Salida. The writer remembers another son, named Henry. Green Russell washed out gold dust to the value of tens of thousands of dollars. He gave away money freely to the needy and unfortunate.

It has been said that there are two kinds of men born in this world. One kind lies down when they see trouble approaching their way. The other stands pat and fights it. Joseph Decatur Patterson realized that he and Green Russell were defeated in their undertaking to reach their Georgia home and join their friends and relatives in the ranks of Lee's Army of the south, but Kate Patterson did not lie down and consider himself down and out.

While in Fort Union, he had met many noted men of the Rocky Mountain country. Among them were Ceran St. Vrain, Richens L. Wooten [sic], Lucian B. Maxwell, Kit Carson, Governor A.C. Hunt, Governor Gilpin and others who used their influence in having the Georgians released. St. Vrain urged Mr. Patterson to take his little colony and settle in the Huerfano valley. After mature deliberation he concluded to go back to Huerfano County and settle there.

Mr. Patterson first unfolded his plans to Miss Martha M. Potts, the oldest of the unfortunate orphan children, and invited her to join his proposed colony for settlement in Huerfano County, Colorado, and also to become his wife. After some consideration she accepted both propositions, and they became engaged while they were still held as prisoners of war. When this engagement was announced, the officers and soldiers at Fort Union made up a purse of three hundred dollars, and presented it to Miss Potts as a wedding present. The gift was highly appreciated and brought happiness to those orphan children in the wilderness.

Mr. Patterson and his bride-to-be journeyed to Huerfano County and were married there in the spring of 1865. They located a ranch near the historical Huerfano Butte and adjoining the home of John W. Brown and family, who was the first American with a family to settle in what was know as the upper Huerfano. Mr. Patterson developed a valuable place, and lived on it for thirty years, selling out in 1895. He moved to Mancos, Montezuma County, where he engaged in mining in the La Platte [sic] mountains.

In 1865, after the civil war had ended, Kate Patterson began to receive letters of enquiry from his relatives and friends in Georgia, concerning this western country. In 1869, he arranged with his father, Samuel Patterson, Sr., and his cousin, James L. Patterson Jr., to guide [?] a trip to southern Colorado and investigate the country, with a view of moving a colony of home seekers from Georgia to Huerfano County.

In the fall of that same year these men rode over the fertile landscape to the east of the Sangre de Cristo range; they recognized the vast resources of the county in coal mines, and they saw opportunities for farming and stock-growing on the public domain. Returning home, they induced some of their friends to move to the land of promise. A number of Georgians settled here in 1869; others came in 1870 and 1871. There were about five hundred newcomers from Georgia and the Carolinas, most of the emigrants bringing their families. Nearly all of them located in the Cuchara and Huerfano valleys.

The chief credit for this emigration belongs to Joseph Decatur Patterson, James L. Patterson and Green Russell. This movement from the south to Huerfano County lasted for years after 1871. The Pattersons are gratefully remembered, for they were pu[b]lic benefactors. The arrival of these Southerners added hundreds to the population of our county in the early seventies; they were a good class of people- industrious and thrifty. The Georgia colonists, as they were called, are to be found in many neighborhoods of this county.

Herewith is and [sic] incomplete list of Southerners, who settled in Huerfano County in the seventies, or not much after:

John Alexander and family
William Kimsey and family
Charles Anderson and family
James Kincaid, single
Hiram Baker and family
Joseph Kincaid, single
Homer Barnard and family
Jasper Kirby and family
Virgil Barnard and son
John Kirby and family
Sam Bates, single
Leander Kirby and family
John Brown and family
George Kitchens, single
Jasper Bruce and family
Andrew McAdams [?] and family
Charles Carroll and wife
Pinkey [sic] McLain, single
Samuel Carroll and wife
John McClure and family
Abner Chastain and sons, Elisha and Worth
Benjamin Chastain and family
Andrew McClure and family
Berry Chastain and family
John Medill and family
Thompson Chastain, single
Martin Moore and family
John Denton, single
Columbus Moss, single
A. J. Dodgion and family
Mrs. Harriet Ownby and family
C. L. Dogion and family
J. D. Patterson, single
J. P. Dorsey
James Patterson, single
James Erwin and family
Nathan Patterson and family
Uncle Johnny Erwin and wife
Robert Patterson, single
Thomas Erwin and family
Albert Phillips and wife Rachel
William Erwin and family
Isaac Prator and family
C. F. Estes and family
Asbury M. Quillian and family
Pink[n]ney Estes, single
Robert A. Quillian, brother and sister
James Garren and family
Green Russell and family
Jesse Garren, single
Lycurgas A. Sallee
Anderson Graham
George Sutton and family
Esekiel Gribble and family
Jesse M. Walker and family
James Gribble, single
Marshal Wilburn, single
Dr. John Gribble and family
John Harris and family
_____Hayes, single
Albert Jullon[?]
Perry T. Kimbrel, single


T. J. Quillian was in correspondence with Benton Canon during the years 1922-1923. Mr. Quillian's letters contain much historical material, but as his sketches are rather jumbled, it becomes necessary to divide them and place each presentation in its proper category.

Only the few items, relating to the Georgia Colony, will be given a place in this chapter. Tom Quillian writes:

Gardner, Colo.
April 25, 1922

Mr. Benton Canon
Grand Junction, Colorado

Dear Mr. Canon:

Enclosed you will find a short sketch of father and mother, also the names of their children; this job of writing is not very well done, but maybe you can use it, after all, it is not the specific act that counts, but rather the reason for having done so…….

Green Russel [sic] in Huerfano County
Thomas J. Quillian

"The spirit of adventure is the mot--- of commonwealths," so one has remarked, now [?] this is of Colorado. The story of the coming of William Green Russel and other adventurers to the Rocky Mountains in 1858, has been told again and again. The story of his last trip to Colorado, in 1870, is not so well known. It is told here by a man who was one of the party. Although he was then only eight years old, he vividly recalls the circumstances and jots down his reminiscences in the hope that they may be of interest to others.

Smiley's History of Denver, p. 453, contains a letter from Green Russel's daughter, Mrs. Martha Marshall. According to her, Green Russel came to Huerfano County in 1872. She is mistaken, the trip was made in the year 1870.

It was some time in 1869 my father, Asbury H. Quillian, began to bring Green Russell home to dinner. We were then living in Auraria, Georgia. When he called father and mother talked and talked about Colorado. Mr. Russell held the view that this country was about perfect. The climate was the best, the soil the richest, the water the purest, and the game most plentiful. He told us of a region called the "Huerfano County", and that he regarded it as an ideal place to live. Compared with the red clay hills of a worn out mining country, impoverished by war, the region of the Huerfano, undoubtedly looked good to my parents. Russell talked to other men and painted in glowing colors, the many advantages of the Rocky Mountains region. The men were impressed—and finally concluded to "go West".

On a beautiful day in 1870, May 1st, we all met at the appointed place, near Auraria. There were four families and two single men, Sam Bates and John Odom. Russell's family travelled in wagons drawn by ox teams. Anderson Graham and family travelled in a tar-pole wagon, drawn by a span of mules. My father and family travelled in a tar-pole wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen. Another family started, but did not reach the Mountains.

One thing became apparent very soon. Mr. Russell was in no hurry. It was a very leisurely journey, taken partly for his wife's health. He wanted her to enjoy the ride. Some days the wagons covered only ten miles. Mr. Russell took life seriously, and yet he wanted t get some enjoyment as he went along. He had six fox hounds for hunting, and hunting occupied a good share of the time of these emigrants.

While Russell was rather quiet, thoughtful man, he liked a joke. Once in Mississippi, where the people seemed particularly busy building houses and planting crops, a man asked where we were going.

"To Colorado," responded Russell.

"Why don't you stop here-there's plenty of work," observed the man.

"We are not hunting work," Russell replied laconically.

The man was noble. Father's money was almost gone, his oxen were played out, and he began to look out for a place to stop. Russell bought a magnificent yoke of oxen. One was named Big and the other they called Tom. Then he came to father and said to him: "Parson, I want to buy your oxen. I will give you eighty dollars for them and loan you Tom and Big to drive to Colorado." So father did not stop, but drove Russell's fat oxen to Colorado.

At Bentonville, Arkansas, we bought supplies to last us across the plains. In this town lived John Russell, a brother of Green Russell. We drove on through the south-west corner of Missouri, thence into Indian Territory. That was when I first began to chase Indians. Father never liked to travel on Sunday, but when Russell moved-the rest followed. We had been watching [?] the tribesmen going to church. Along came five young bucks, mounted upon prancing ponies. The red men all had pistols. And I was scared. I was driving the loose cattle in the road. I shied to make way for the Indians Instantly they whirled about us they passed me and let out some unearthly yells. I ran for the wagons. To say that I was running, is putting it mildly. I beat the ponies to the wagon where father had stopped-and was standing with a smile on his face. I have always doubted the sincerity of the worship of those Cherokees that Sunday.

Green Russell's wife had a little Indian blood in her veins. Russell himself, had many acquaintances among the civilized Indians—and also among the wild tribes. Just how long we were in Indian Territory I do not remember. It was a hunter's paradise. We saw thousands of prairie chickens and some deer.

We crossed into Kansas near where Coffeyville now is. We continued north to Fort Scott, a Government post. One day an army officer rode out to meet us and asked if we wanted an escort. Graham, who had been a captain in the confederate army, answered "No"!

From Fort Scott we travelled northwesterly to the Great [?] Pacific Railroad. We were in the buffalo country. We saw thousands and thousands of buffaloes every day. Men shot them from the windows of the trains. Hundreds of bison lay on the ground where they fell. They were not even skinned. It looked like a sinful waste.

The people we came across on the plains supplied us with buffalo meat, and we gave them of [sic] fresh milk. We never saw an Indian on the plains. One night we camped on sand creek, the scene of Colonel Chivington's massacre. There were great numbers of arrow heads and cartridge shells every where on the ground.

We crossed the Arkansas at Rocky Ford; then we drove along the river on the 22nd of September. It snowed. We saw great flocks of ducks and geese. Father shot a goose. We travelled over the country to the Huerfano river, passing the Craig and Doyle ranches. Ou[r] last camp was at the place where Apache creek empties into the Huerfano. That was some time in October. Russell had at last reached the spot that was in his mind – the [gar?] den of the world, wood and water being plentiful, and the grass in abundance for his little herd of cattle. Nearby was Greenhorn Mountain, full of wild game, ready for the hunter.

Russell suggested that father take his family to the [hom]e of Mr. J. W. Brown, and this pioneer settler entertained us royally. Father soon found work at one dollar a day; he boarded himself. After a while mother got over the ague. In the winter she was employed to teach school.

Before long father was preaching. In the spring of 1872 we moved to Beulah, then called "Maes' Hole". He planted some crops and did ----ers work at odd spells. Russell was still living on Apache creek. He left in 1874 for an old Spanish placer mine in Costilla County. The grasshoppers had destroyed his crop, and he was getting pretty low financially.

He seemed somewhat discouraged. I saw him only once afterward. I remember hearing him say that they were just about making ---res. It must have been in the late summer of 1877 that he started back to his old home in Georgia. He died, August 24th, 1877, somewhere in Indian Territory. His family went to their farm in Georgia.

In the spring of 1875 we again had planted a crop, and again the grasshoppers harvested our grain. Then we moved and settled in Huerfano creek, this time, near the mountains on Williams Creek, rather homesteaded it, and later, when I became of age, I also homesteaded along side of the place. There we lived until father died, in 1899. Father preached all the time except for two or three years before his death-when he was no longer able to travel."

It appears that some one had accused Green Russell of [in] fidelity of the United States Government, or of having taken up arms against the northern army. . .

Relative to this accusation, Tom Quillian writes, under date of May 7th, 1922,:

"As to Green Russell having taken the oath of allegiance-when he was turned loose at Fort Union, I don't think he did. I think he was paroled and worn [sic] not to taken up arms against the United States Government. I remember very distinctly of having heard this thing talked of many times, and always heard that the Russells, at least, were paroled."

"As to Green having organized a company of soldiers, there is not a word of truth in it. Green Russell was not a warlike man-he was a man of peace. No doubt, he had had many adventures, but he never boasted, The only time I ever heard him speak of having taken any part in a fight, was to speak of having seen a man holding another man by the collar, pushed him against a door, whereupon he drew back and struck a powerful blow at the man's face, which Russell parried by striking the fellow's arm-so that instead of hitting the poor man in the face-he struck the door jam with his fist.

"I know Green Russell never had any idea of taking up arms against the United States Government; to begin with he believed in the [un]ion, as a great number of the mountain men of Georgia did; neither did he believe in slavery. Russell was firm believer in the dignity of labor; he worked himself, and tried to teach his boys to work."

"Had he ever taken any part in the war, I would have heard it. He was a brave man and not ashamed of what he had done during the war, neither were any of the other Georgia men, that I have known, ashamed of their war records. The reason they came to Colorado, was because they were [no]t altogether in sympathy with the majority of the residents of Georgia. They had been loyal to their state, and fought bravely in the confederate army, but after the war was over a lot of them wanted to get away from the [state?]; they clearly saw the fallacy of human slavery, and these men and their descendents, are standing today for human liberty and the dignity of manual labor".

It is generall[y] conceded that Kate Patterson and his father, "Uncle Sammie"- did more work in "moving" the Georgia colony to Huerfano County – than any other one man connected with the enterprise.

"In fact, as Mr. Canon writes, "Samuel Patterson made it the ---ing work of his life, and the descendents of the Georgia colonists, should ---e to it that a suitable monument is erected to this public benefactor, who did so much towards the settlement of our County."

Benton Canon continues, and further writes:

"Joseph Decatur Patterson was born in Union County, Georgia, in October ??th, 1836, and died at the town of Mancos, Montezuma County, Colorado, January 9th, 1910. His noble wife, Martha M. Potts-Patterson, was born near [Na?]shville, Tennessee, April 14th,1846, and died at her home in Mancos, in [192]1, at the age of 76 years.

"The Pattersons were the second American family to settle in Huerfano County in the early spring of 1863, and no family was better known, or more loved by the early pioneers of southern Colorado, than these good people. The latch st[r]ing to the door of this early pioneer home always hung on the outside, and was free to use by all who came that wa[y]."

"Mrs. Patterson's life was tragical from childhood days. Her father trekked across the plains with his family in 1861, and cast his fortune with Green Russell and Kate Patterson in Russell Gulch. In 1862 they moved to California Gulch, where the mother died. In the fall of that same year her father joined the Georgians to work their way back through New Mexico and Texas to Georgia – in order to enter the southern Army."

"Mrs. Patterson's only brother, William, was murdered by the Indians on north veta creek in 1866. The writer was living in the Patterson home at that time—and was the last white man to see Billy Potts alive. He came to the door of my ca[b]in, showing me his gun and pistol, and also his [pon]y, saddle and bridle. He was very proud of them. He told me that he had another horse in the mountains, near north veta creek—and that he was afraid the Indians would get it. I warned him of the danger, but he was determined to go. Two Indians were seen later in the day—with the head of my friend, Billy Potts, tied to one of their saddles. His body was never found, nor any of his trappings.

Honor Pioneers of Huerfano County - Huerfano World - July 28, 2005 - by Nancy Christofferson -

Once again, Francisco Fort Museum will honor the pioneers of Huerfano County at the annual celebration to be held this Saturday, July 30, in La Veta.

This year's special honorees will be the descendents of what is called the Georgia Colony, or those settlers who traveled west from the Old South following the Civil War.

The first Georgians to come to the future state of Colorado were members of a gold prospecting party. Notable among this party were William Greeneberry "Green" Russell (1820-1877) and Joseph Decatur "Kate" Patterson (1836-1910).

Russell had trekked through the Pikes Peak country in 1849 to join the California gold rush. Along the route, he noted potential ore-bearing formations in the Rocky Mountains. He returned to the South in 1852 with the intention of going back to the mountains to search for gold.

In 1858-1859 Patterson joined Russell for a prospecting trip to Colorado. Accompanying them were a group of about 30 Cherokees.

Another companion, Russell's cousin James H. Pierce, actually found gold by panning a dry creek near Denver. However, the area became known as Russell Gulch.

With the beginning of winter and enduring copious snowfalls, the miners decided to retire to the eastern plains for the season. They established a camp on the South Platte River and called it Auraria after their hometown in Georgia. The name was eventually corrupted to Aurora.

President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for volunteers for the Union Army in 1861. The Georgians had heard rumors of an impending Civil War and even encountered some prejudice from abolutionists. While many miners were returning to their homes in the Midwest and Eastern states, the Southerners quietly made plans to return to support their home state.

The Georgia men started south, intending to head for Texas as fast as possible, and from there go due east.

Their only foes, they reckoned, would be Indians along the route, especially in eastern New Mexico and western Texas.

Their path brought them through Pueblo to the old Hicklin ranch on the Greenhorn. Zan Hicklin was an old friend of Patterson and Russell, and made the party welcome.

The Georgians noted Hicklin's fine fields of crops, his orchards and scenery. The ranch was not that far from the old Santa Fe Trail and the party followed this to Fort Union, New Mexico.

Slipping by federal troops at the fort, the party continued east despite rumors of depredations being carried out by the Comanches upon travelers. The party was armed well, had plenty of munitions, food and other supplies, and many wagons and livestock. However, a silent enemy struck -smallpox. One of the victims was Joshua Potts, a widower with six children. Green's brother Dr. Levi J. Russell fought the disease as best he could in the prairie wilderness, and mortalities were few.

But the disease and caring for the patients necessarily slowed travel for the caravan, and federal troops appeared. The Southerners were arrested and, when all were able to travel, marched back to Fort Union. Russell and Patterson and their party were held at the fort until the spring of 1863 when they were paroled. Far from being the humiliation they felt it was, the "imprisonment" at Fort Union may have saved them from the marauding Comanches, who murdered scores of whites during the early 1860s.

Some of the Georgians returned to Colorado, while others, worried about the safety and condition of their families at home, returned east.

When the Georgians arrived back at their homes in northern Georgia and southern North Carolina, they found their slaves gone, their families hungry and often homeless, many of their fathers and brothers buried on the battlefields of the Old South. They pitched in to repair and restore the properties, but the condition of the postwar South were very hard on those who lost the war - even though these Georgians been far away and noncombatants.

The men must have spent many long and sleepless nights considering their plights and planning for a better future. Always, they remembered the clear air and gold-laden streams of Colorado.

And so a caravan, led by Russell, left the South in the spring of 1870, headed west. One of this party was Parson Asbury H. Quillian and family who became long-time Huerfano County residents.

The party traveled with oxen and mules, tar-pole wagons, whatever they could find to carry the choicest of their worldly possessions. How wrenching it must have been for the women to choose which of grandmother's quilts to take, which of their featherbeds, dishes and other family heirlooms.

By winter, they reached the banks of Apache Creek, where Russell settled on some fertile land. Others of the party settled nearby, along the Huerfano at Huerfano Butte and west into the Huerfano Valley.

Patterson had stayed in Colorado and married Martha Potts, the eldest daughter of the man who died of smallpox on the plains, and her brothers and sisters lived with them. For a time, they lived in a large plaza near the settlement of St. Mary on the Huerfano, near the now Kimbrel ranch: Perry Kimbrel was a member of the Colony.

In 1865, Patterson began receiving letters of inquiry from his family in the South, who wondered if they, could find better conditions on the frontier. Colorado had become a territory in 1861 and many of the early settlers, especially around Canon City, had hailed from the South.

Convinced the long trip was preferable to staying in Georgia and North Carolina, a party led by Samuel Patterson Sr., Green's father, and James L. Patterson, Green's cousin, left their homes in 1869 and; about six months later arrived along the Huerfano. [Note: Samuel Patterson Sr. was the father of Joseph Decator (Kate) Patterson NOT William Greeneberry (Green) Russell.] These families sought out farm sites and settled along the Huerfano River from the Butte to west of Gardner, and along the Cucharas above and below La Veta.

Among these settlers were the Andersons, Bakers, Bruces, Barnards, Browns, Chastains, Dodgions, Erwins, Esteses, Garrens, Gribbles, Harrises, Kimseys, Kincaids, Kirbys, Kitchens, Ownbeys, Phillipses, Praters and Willburns, many familiar names even 135 years later.

Some of these names are those of present Huerfanos, while some are place-names. The Bakers, for instance, settled on Baker Creek for which the original Panadero Ski Resort was named.

Bob Bruce of La Veta, of Bruce and Kimsey ancestry, may well be the only third generation Georgian left in the county. He is 93 years old.

Rather oddly, one Marshall Willburn was a member of the Colony; now we have Marshal Harold Willburn in La Veta.

Dodgeton Creek in Cuchara was named for the man who settled on that waterway, Jackson "Jack" Dodgion. The name has been corrupted. Most of the Dodgions moved on during the 1880s but some have returned to visit during the ensuing years.

While the others of the Georgia Colony were content with farming and raising livestock on their new places, Russell still had the gold bug in him. He wandered across old La Veta Pass to some ancient Spanish diggings along Grayback Creek where officers and enlisted men from Fort Garland were placer mining. Although he called his haul "poor man's diggin's," Russell continued to pan gold from the stream for many years. In response, early residents of the little gold mining town named it Russell. Later it became known as Placer but the sign on Highway 160 still Bays Russell. Of course it is just a wide spot in the road now, with a few old cabins and a highway department dome barn.

Other relatives and inlaws of the first Georgians continued to make their way west through the next two decades, with the last waves of immigrants arriving in the mid-1890s. Some of these families were the Alexanders, Egglestons, Smiths, Kirlees, Parkses, Martins, Hayeses and many others. Some families stayed but one winter and finding it too harsh for their Southern veins, continued west to California.

In fact, most families ended up on Colorado's Western Slope or on the West Coast eventually, many dying there after trekking clear across America. For many years a La Veta Day was celebrated in California where many scores of expatriots gathered to swap stories about their families' adventures along the route from Georgia and in Colorado.

Every year there are fewer descendents of the Georgia Colony left in this area, but every year Francisco Fort hosts visitors coming to photograph tombstones, see photographs and experience the flavor of Huerfano County left engrained in them by stories told by grandparents and great-grandparents. Thank you, Georgia Colony, both visitors and Huerfanos, for your legacy.

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© Karen Mitchell