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Brief by Central Staff

Local history – January 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

We had a good time when Salida celebrated its centennial in 1980, and we note that San Luis celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2001, since that was 150 years since Colorado’s oldest town was founded in 1851.

However, we need a word for what comes between centennial and sesquicentennial — the 125th anniversary — since we’ve got several of them in 2003: Alamosa, Leadville, and the Jackson Hotel in Poncha Springs.

We looked for the appropriate word in several dictionaries and other references, and we couldn’t find one. But we did find a way to construct the word we need. Start with centennial, which comes from the Latin words centum, one hundred, and the adjectival form of annum, which means year. With sesquicentennial, the prefix is a contraction of two Latin words, semis, which means half, and que, which means and.

So sesquicentennial is a way to say “a hundred and a half,” and by analogy, we can build the word we need: “quarquicentennial” for “a hundred and a quarter years.”

Alamosa was founded in 1878 when the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad extended its La Veta Pass line west from Fort Garland to reach its namesake river. The city’s name comes from the Spanish word for the cottonwood tree, also evident in other place names like Los Alamos in New Mexico and the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. We haven’t received any announcement of celebration plans, but doubtless there will be something.

We haven’t received Leadville’s celebration plans, either, but we have heard there will be some festivities. The name “Leadville” was first applied to the post office in 1877. Silver was at the heart of Leadville’s mining success, not lead, but the presence of so much lead with the silver made the ore easy to smelt, and thus provided a distinction.

As the settlement boomed with the silver rush, a municipal government became a necessity, and so civic leaders gathered on Jan. 14, 1878 in a wagon shop.

They decided to keep the name Leadville, although they discussed Carbonate, Cerrusite, and Meyer (for smelter owner August R. Meyer). Then they petitioned Gov. John L. Routt (a Leadville miner himself) to allow them to incorporate a city, which happened with a special election on Feb. 12, 1878. Horace Austin Warren Tabor, the postmaster and storekeeper who went on to fame as a silver baron, was elected the first mayor.

Tabor also figures in our other quarquicentennial, since on several occasions he and his trophy wife Baby Doe stayed at the Jackson Hotel.

It was built in 1878 by Henry Jackson, a Memphis steamboat captain who went west to avoid Reconstruction-era politics at home. The hot springs on the nearby hillside (the water is now piped to the Salida pool) were already a popular attraction, and Jackson figured he could earn a living by providing food and lodging. By 1882, business was so good that he added a wing, giving the structure its current shape.

It was known as the Poncha Springs Hotel at first, but that name was confused with other establishments, and the Jackson name came into general use. On account of fires which spared the Jackson over the years, it’s the only building in Poncha that remains from the town’s founding in 1880.

In recent years, operation has been rather sporadic, but it’s open again with a handsome new coat of paint and a menu of steak dinners named for famous guests like Tabor. The new owner, Craig Waugh, observes that 125 years “is a pretty good life for a wooden building without a foundation.” And the 1878 box-grand piano, hauled in by oxcart because the railroad hadn’t yet arrived, is still there.