Colorado College Tutt Library

Century Chest transcription 75

Colorado was settled, as it were, in a day. It is true that a few people came in the latter part of 1858 and during 19859, but the great immigration was in the year 1860. The confirmation of the reported gold discoveries in the region now embraced within the State of Colorado had created a great sensation throughout all the western states, and as a result parties were formed in almost every town and village to visit the new gold region.

My father, Rev. William Howbert, joined one of the parties made up at Quincy, in Adams County, Iowa, and later it was decided that I should accompany him. At that time I was just past fourteen years of age, and naturally I was greatly pleased at the opportunity of crossing the great plains that but a short time before had been known as the "Great American Desert", and of visiting the mysterious Rocky Mountain region, which to me seemed almost the end of the world. We started about the first of May, 1860, and journeyed leisurely across the country to the valley of the Platte in company with the thousands of others bound for the same destination. It is estimated that 100,000 people came to the Pikes Peak region during that year. Ox teams were the usual method of transportation for the reason that oxen could subsist on the grass of the plains better than horses, and as each party brought with them supplies sufficient to last at least six months a very large number of teams were necessarily required. It seemed to me that the line of white covered wagons was endless; in fact, one could ascend any high point and see the line of wagons, apparently without break, as far back and as far forward as the eye could reach.

The sensations of the trip after we reached the valley of the Platte, were the occasional buffalo we saw; the meeting of bands of wild indians and our first view of the Rocky Mountains. Buffalo were not very plentiful, but we passed many indian villages- the indians were very friendly and apparently indifferent to us.

After thirty days of travel that had become very wearisome to the older members of our party, but a most pleasurable and novel journey tome, we reached Denver, at that time a very small village. Most of the houses were of very cheap construction and located on the west side of Cherry Creek- there being very few on the eastern side.

As we entered Denver we passed a large indian village just below the mouth of Cherry creek, in which there seemed to be a very great commotion; ponies were being saddled, squaws were mounting them and rushing off furiously toward the mountains, some of them crying and making loud demonstrations of grief. Upon inquiry we found that news had just been received of a battle between the warriors of this village and the Utes in the mountains, in which the former had been defeated with considerable loss- the squaws were going out to meet the party bringing in the dead and wounded.

We remained camped on the valley of the Platte above Cherry creek for a week or two, when our party decided to go to the placer mines in the South Park, known as the Tarryall Diggings; my father in the meantime having consented to take charge of the Methodist Missions in that locality and adjacent region.

The road leading to the South Park from Denver was an exceedingly rough one, but we finally reached the Park after a week of hard work and camped within a few miles of Tarryall on the Fourth of July. The younger members of our party on that day took a long excursion to the top of some of the adjacent mountains and enjoyed the novelty of a snow ball, which was something very remarkable to us coming from a prairie state. At that time there were about 5,000 people in the Tarryall region and many profitable placer mines were being worked. Our party located claims and worked them for a while without a very great deal of success.

Later in the season my father, myself and two or three others made a trip by wagon from Tarryall through the mountains to Colorado City. The trip was a delightful one; the whole country between the South Park and the base of the mountains was un-inhabited and abounded in game, mountain sheep were abundant in all the higher mountains, herds of buffalo roamed over the country adjacent to the road, elk and deer were plentiful. The road down the Ute Pass at that time ran over the hills to the west of Manitou; there were no building of any description around the springs, and the only roadway was a narrow one cut through the wild cherry bushes growing along the valley of the Fountain. Around the springs were strewn beads and other evidences of the visitation of indians, who, as I afterward found never passed without casting beads or arrows into the water to propitiate the Great Spirit which they thought caused the water to bubble up.

Colorado City at that time was a town with about two hundred houses, but had a deserted look. The latter part of the previous year Colorado City had been the principal town in the Pikes Peak region, but the border troubles in Kansas had diverted travel from the valley of the Arkansas to the Valley of the Platte, and the travel finding more direct routes to the mining region than through Colorado City, other places sprang up and Colorado City began to decline.

None of the people who came to Colorado that summer expected to remain any great length of time. Their sole idea in coming was to engage in mining, make their fortune quick as possible and return to their former homes; no one had any thought that this country was of any value whatever for agricultural or stock raising purposes. One of the sights near Colorado City that summer, was a small garden in which corn, peas, beans and various vegetables were growing, all being raised by irrigation. Those who visited this garden were astonished to find the soil so prolific under irrigation. This experiment having demonstrated the fact that agricultural products could be raised here by irrigation, a good many people decided to take up agricultural claims and possibly, if they failed in their mining ventures, to remain here and engage in agriculture and stock raising. Irrigation was at that time new and unfamiliar to everyone, but a knowledge of it was soon acquired from the Mexicans who drifted into this locality.

A few weeks before we made this trip, my father had passed through Colorado City on his way from Denver and at that time had taken up two agricultural claims on Monument creek, on land now embraced within the limits of Colorado Springs, but afterward abandoned them, believing the land to be valueless. I find in his diary a reference to an incident which occurred on that trip. As he came into Colorado City, seeing a large crowd of excited people, he inquired the cause; they informed him that they had arrested a Mexican for stealing a horse on the previous night and that they were trying him. There being no civil law at that time, the citizens had assembled and elected three of their number as judges and another one as sheriff, and immediately proceeded to try the accused; one of the bystanders being appointed to defend him. After all the evidence was in the judges submitted to a vote of all present as to whether the man was guilty or not; the crowd by a unanimous vote decided that the man was guilty, whereupon the judges sentenced the criminal to be hung at once. My father told them that it was a very serious thing to hang the man afterward, but the crowd replied that it was business before pleasure, that they would hang the man first. The criminal was immediately led off and hung to a tree on the outskirts of the town. These "Peoples Courts" as they were called, were the usual method of enforcing law and order throughout the various towns and neighborhoods of the state, until 1861 when the territorial government was formed.

The general appearance of the country at that time was wild in the extreme; thousands of antelope grazed upon the plain where Colorado Springs now stands and on the hills to the eastward, and once during the summer of 1860 a herd of several hundred elk crossed the valley of the Fountain just east of Colorado City. During the summer of that year a good many claims were taken on Cheyenne creek, Bear creek and the Fountain, and an occasional claim cabin erected on these lands.

There was every evidence all around this region of indian occupation; the mouth of Cheyenne creek seemed to have been a favorite camping place. The indians living on the plains and those living in the mountains had been at enmity for a great many years, each claiming the region lying between the base of the mountains and the Snowy Range or Continental Divide. During the summer of 1860 and for a number of years afterward, the Sioux, Cheyennes and Arapahoe Indians of the plains went up through Ute Pass every summer to fight the Ute Indians of the mountains. Their battles usually occurred in the region between Colorado City and the eastern boundary of South Park. The Ute Indians evidently were of an entirely different origin from that of the indians of the plains. The Utes were of a short heavy build, while the indians of the plains were tall and slender. Both mountain and plains' indians were abundantly supplied with ponies and were splendid horsemen. In their battles but very few were killed or wounded, as their fighting was entirely done on horse-back and was not of a serious character unless one party or the other happened to be taken by surprise.

The first legislature located the capital of the territory at Colorado City. Great hopes were based upon this event, but as none of the state offices were ever moved to Colorado City and as the succeeding legislature after convening there immediately adjourned to Denver, no permanent good ever came of it. With this exception Colorado City steadily declined after 1860 for a number of years; but his was not the case with the adjacent country. The valleys of the Fountain, Cheyenne creek and other creeks of this vicinity rapidly filled up with settlers; many of the houses of Colorado City were taken down and removed to these ranches. Large tracts during the next three or four years were brought under cultivation; schools were established, churches were built, county organizations formed, giving the new community all the facilities and benefits of an orderly government.

During the Civil War the methods of communication with the east were very slow, and often times very inadequate. During the later period of the war a telegraph line was constructed to Julesburg, about 200 miles east of Denver, and news came in from that point to Denver by coach; newspapers were published weekly. Colorado City had a mail from Denver once a week, consequently as a rule the news received by us was from ten days to two weeks old. The news of the surrender of Lee and the end of the Civil War reached Colorado City about two weeks after the occurrence; the people were so over-joyed to hear of the end of the great strife that they built a great bon'fire [sic] on the hill to the north of the town to celebrate the event.

Up to 1864 the indians caused very little trouble, but early in the summer of that year they became very restless and began to commit depredations on the line of communication with the east. Soon we heard of murders committed by them in the border settlements to the east of us, and a short time after that a small body of them, apparently scouts, were seen at various points in this locality. A party of ten was organized, of which I was a member; we followed these indians, took them unawares and captured them on Monument creek about two miles and a half north of where it empties into Fountain creek- this happened at about nine or ten o'clock at night. We attempted to bring these indians into Colorado City in order that we might ascertain what their real intentions were, but they broke away from us and in the melee which followed such of them as were not killed, escaped. After that during the entire summer the border settlements throughout the whole length of Colorado were continually menaced by hostile indians. Finally the government authorized the enlistment of a regiment of volunteers for service against these indians; the regiment was formed under the command of Colonel Shoupe. I became a member of it and served until the regiment was disbanded the following January. During the latter part of November we marched eastward and surprised the indians at a point on Sand creek, about 150 miles from the mountains; we destroyed their camp and almost annihilated the village, which would have settled the trouble for all time had the government handled the matter properly and not temporized with the indians. The camp of these indians was filled with evidence of their raids upon the settlements and there could be no question as to their guilt, and that punishment was properly meted to them.

For four years after that there was continuous trouble every summer. In the early summer of 1868, while the indians were supposed to be peaceable, the government having made a treaty with them, a large war party passed through Colorado City on their way to the mountains; they were very sullen and our people were much alarmed. By that time we had telegraphic communication with Denver and information was wired the Governor concerning these indians; he replied that they were friendly and not to interfere with them, but the following day the indians suddenly appeared at a point about eight miles north of Colorado City, captured a large herd of horses and then proceeded rapidly down the valley of the Monument. At a point on the present site of Colorado Springs near the intersection of Boulder street with Cascade avenue, they ran across an unarmed young man by the name of Charles Everhart, whom they killed and mutilated in a horrible manner. They then passed on down to a point near the intersection of Vermijo street and Sawatch street where they shot and left for dead a sheep herder by the name of Baldwin, and a short time after, they killed two boys near the mouth of Shooks Run. These indians were all directed in their movements by a small party located on the hill near where the Mute and Blind Institute now stands. For weeks after this raid the people of this vicinity were in a constant state of alarm; they gathered together at Colorado City for mutual defense and did not dare to got to their ranches until late in the fall of that year; but that was the end of our indian troubles. The building of railroads across the plains during the next and succeeding years settled the indian question and this region was not further molested.

The early settlers of El Paso County were of an unusually good class of people; as I have shown, Colorado was not settled in the usual manner, by the overflow from adjoining states but a great emigration from the western and eastern states coming for the purpose of mining, with no thought of remaining in the country. These people were law abiding good citizens who laid well the foundation for the future great State of Colorado.

Up to 1871 the plain on which Colorado Springs stands had been used solely for grazing purposes; it was considered of so little value that it had not been taken up and was largely government land until after the building of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway in that year.

The building of the Rio Grande Railway and the founding of Colorado Springs marked the beginning of a new era in this region; the building of Colorado Springs brought in a new and enterprising population and from that time on there was a steady growth of population.

The building of the Colorado Midland Railway, running from Colorado Springs through the Ute Pass to the western limits of the state, was another enterprise that greatly helped in the up-building of this region

The discovery of Cripple Creek with its enormously rich deposits of gold was the most important event of recent years and has contributed largely to the growth of Colorado Springs and the surrounding region. It was the wealth produced by the Cripple Creek mining region that enabled the citizens of Colorado Springs to finance and construct the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway, which runs along the northern rim of North Cheyenne Canon and to the west of Cheyenne Mountain to the Cripple Creek district. This road was built almost entirely with Colorado Springs capital and is one of the very few roads of such cost and magnitude built without the aid of eastern capitalists. It should be of great value in the up-building of Colorado Springs.

It is a source of gratification to me that I have had somewhat to do with many of the enterprises that have aided in the up-building of this region during the last thirty years.

I served as County Clerk for ten years, from 1869 to 1879, and during that period had largely to do with the shaping of County affairs; I helped to secure the land on which Colorado Springs is located. I have been connected for twenty-three years with the First National Bank of Colorado Springs, an institution that has been foremost in aiding enterprises for the public good.

I was largely identified with the building of the Colorado Midland Railway, and have taken a leading part in the building of the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway.

I aided in securing North Cheyenne Canon for the City, and while a member of the State Senate secured the passage of the law under which the Canon was purchased by the City.

For years I was actively identified with every movement toward securing the reservoir system south of Pikes Peak, the source of the present water supply of Colorado Springs.

It is my sincere hope that al of these things shall prove to be of permanent and lasting value to the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County.

Irving Howbert,
Colorado Springs, Colo
August 4th, 1901

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