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Joseph W. Milsom

Sidebar by Dick Dixon

Local History – May 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

After 16 years in a variety of public offices — and being editorially assaulted because of his 1897 political campaign — Joseph W. Milsom sought a less volatile career in the business world.

Joseph Milsom: Frémont Historical Society
Joseph Milsom: Frémont Historical Society

Milsom was born on June 8, 1853, in Bloomsburg, Pa., and he arrived in Cañon City in 1878 as a carpenter. Within two years, he moved to the boom town of Silver Cliff where he opened a furniture and undertaking business; then he moved to nearby Rosita two years later.

His Colorado political career began in January 1883 when he was appointed clerk of the district court in Rosita. He held that job until July 1890 and, according to the Aug. 12, 1897, Cañon City Daily Record, made “for himself a reputation of being the best court clerk in the state.”

Milsom held several minor offices in the Town of Rosita and was mayor in 1885. As the silver mining boom ebbed, he returned to Cañon City in 1890, bought a fruit farm, and built a”charming home” on Macon Avenue.

Soon after his return, Milsom was appointed Deputy Frémont County Clerk. He ran for clerk in 1893, was elected by a single vote, and in 1895 was reëlected by a margin of 212 votes. During Milsom’s second term, gold was discovered in eastern Chaffee County and almost a dozen mining towns and camps sprang up. Newspapers throughout the state advertised the mineral strikes as rivaling those of Cripple Creek, and apparently Milsom believed them. But there is no evidence he ever visited any of the camps.

As the Fremont County Clerk, Milsom spearheaded the campaign to put some of the boom towns in Chaffee County into Fremont County (see main story), but the gambit backfired. The region he acquired was already failing so the maneuver never really paid, and a lot of miners hated him for it. Asked to run in 1899 for a fourth term as Frémont County Clerk, Milsom declined.

But he continued as an active Mason, as president of the Chamber of Commerce, as a YMCA director and as a trustee with the Methodist church. Milsom worked his fruit farm and may have returned to furniture making.

He was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as chief melter for the United States mint in Denver on Aug. 7, 1902, and left Cañon City for a time to assume his new job — in which he was unlikely to attract public criticism.

Milsom died in Cañon City in 1930, and is buried there with his wife, Millie J. Milsom, in the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery.