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Creative cartography?

Letter from Kenneth Jessen

Colorado history – April 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

Creative cartography?


Buyer Beware: The much touted 1894 map of Colorado, originally published by the Caxton Company, was just too good to be true. It has many long forgotten places, and added an amazing amount of information on long abandoned Colorado towns. It is generally accurate; however, there are towns on this map that appear in no other source, leading me to be somewhat suspicious about “creative” map making.

Take for example the San Luis Valley. There are three definitive sources of information on its towns: George Harlan’s excellent Postmarks and Places showing early postal routes and the towns along these routes. Another source of town listings is found in Colorado Post Offices published by the Colorado Railroad Museum. This book lists all post offices from the very first up until 1989. The most authoritative work is The San Luis Valley by Virginia McConnell Simmons. She lists all major towns in the back of her book in the appendix and has numerous references within the text to other lesser towns in the valley.

Alamosa area of 1894 map
Alamosa area of 1894 map

Back to the map. There are several towns shown on this 1894 map in the San Luis Valley not listed in any of these sources. That isn’t to say they never existed, or possibly they were known by another name. They also may be farms or ranches where the name of the land owner was used by the map maker. I remain suspicious since no towns show up at these locations on any other map. Included are:

Patterson – located south of Mosca, but well north of Alamosa. Hayes – located east of Alamosa and on the east side of the Rio Grande. Baldy – farther east of Hayes

And there are a few errors such as the location of Liberty, shown on the 1894 map as near Monte Vista. The only town with the name Liberty was located southeast of Duncan and on the far east side of the San Luis Valley. But the map does show some very obscure places such as Los Cerritos south of Manassa. Only the cemetery remains. Even more obscure is Los Rincones, located east of Los Cerritos at the Salazar ranch.

Kenneth Jessen