Renaming Mount Evans

Renaming Mount Evans

GOV. JARED POLIS THIS YEAR rescinded two orders on the steps of the State Capitol, ending the legal justification for the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. Around 100 members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes attended the ceremony, calling for changes. One of their “asks” was to change the name of Mount Evans, maybe to …

Read more

THE UPPER ARKANSAS MEETS THE NEXT RAILROAD BOOM

By Forrest Whitman Colorado folks, especially here in the Upper Arkansas Valley, used to be called “Colorado nice.” I still hear that sometimes, but not often. There are more of us here and that may result in less “nice” and more “grumpies.” Population booms lead to some positives and some negatives, but there’s no argument …

Read more

Colorado Governor Ralph Carr and the San Luis Valley

By Forrest Whitman There’s a movement afoot to rename the Russell Office Building in Washington D.C. “The Ralph Carr Senate Office Building.” That would please Colorado’s Japanese-American community and many folks from the San Luis Valley. That’s because Carr stood up for the Japanese folks during World War II. He had roots in the Valley, …

Read more

Places: Catching the SW Chief to Las Vegas, NM

By Forrest Whitman Winter is the perfect time to catch the train called the Chief. The trip begins early with a drive along U.S. Hwy. 50 to Cotopaxi. Snow highlights those fantastic rock formations, and the upper Arkansas River sparkles in the pink dawn. You’re in a good mood – off to catch a train! …

Read more

Places: The Front Steps of the Victoria Tavern

By Forrest Whitman The two steps up to the front door of the Victoria Tavern in Salida deserve a moment’s pause. Look around and you’ll notice, just to the right, a plaque dedicated to Mildred “Millie” Ohmertz Johnson. Before you go in for an adult beverage, think about Millie. Millie made Colorado history as its …

Read more

Salida to the U.S.A. by Passenger Train

By Forrest Whitman Passenger rail travel can be accessed conveniently with a three-hour bus ride from Salida to Denver. It’s going to be even more convenient in the future if the Colorado Passenger Rail Commission has its way. I host a rail show on KHEN radio (106.9 or on podcast) and attend many rail meetings. …

Read more

Snowbound on Trains

By Forrest Whitman The usual gossip in the lounge car on the westbound California Zephyr (#5) moved to the topic of snow. It seemed most everyone had been snowbound or at least delayed by snow. I was in the mood for a good, long trip to share the holidays with my family from Thailand in …

Read more

The Caboose

By Forrest Whitman There’s shock in Colorado at the real prospect of losing the popular passenger train, the Chief. The rumors out of AMTRAK all say the Chief is in a railroad death spiral. The new President of AMTRAK, Richard Anderson, runs AMTRAK like President Trump runs the White House. There’s no public input or …

Read more

Book Review: Bricks Underneath A Hoop Skirt

By Carolyn White Liferich Publishing 2018 ISB 978-1-4897-1637-8(sc) 101 pages Reviewed by Forrest Whitman When I picked up this book I was immediately skeptical. A book about a young woman working with horses in the backcountry sounded like another “girl meets horse” story. Not so this one. White has an understated, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, style. Her …

Read more

Ulysses S. Grant in Central Colorado

Ulysses S. Grant in Leadville, Colorado, circa 1880. Courtesy of William Korn, Temple Israel Museum.

By Forrest Whitman

Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War hero and President from 1869 to 1877, is an often forgotten part of history in Central Colorado. Interest in President Grant is sure to peak now that Ron Chernow’s biography, Grant, is out. Chernow made Alexander Hamilton come to life for us and the hit Broadway musical followed. Could a musical be on the way for Grant?

Read more

Book Review: Frontier Colorado Gunfights

Frontier Colorado Gunfights
True Stories of Outlaws and Lawmen in the American West
by Kenneth Jessen
J V Publications, 260 pages
ISBN 978-1-928656-12-8

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

Readers of this publication have come to expect careful and detailed historical writing from Kenneth Jessen. His new book lives up to that standard. Jessen describes gunfights and shootings in thirty one cases and clears up mysteries about some of them. My only criticism is that the book lacks context about the situations that led to the shootings.

When it comes to Jessen’s clearing up mysteries, a good example is Charley Harrison. He was a partner in a famous Colorado saloon, the Criterion. Myths abound about this gambler and killer. Jessen’s story clears up Harrison’s killing of “professor” Charles Stark. The Rocky Mountain News accused Harrison of wantonly killing “Professor” Stark. Was that true?

Jessen shows that Stark (a black man from Missouri) threatened Charley first, with a knife in hand. But did Charley have to shoot Stark six times? What was the context here?

Read more

Book Review: Richard Sopris in Early Denver

Richard Sopris in Early Denver
by Linda Bjorklund
History Press 2016, 138 pages
ISBN 978.1 46713.593.1

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

Richard Sopris is one of the least known of the early Colorado influential leaders. This book should help correct that. A “fifty-niner,” arriving during the 1859 gold rush, he was one of the earliest miners and explored many possible gold panning streams. He “discovered” Glenwood Springs and a mountain near there is named for him.

Sopris is best remembered as mayor of Denver from 1878 to 1881. During that time he worked to develop a park system and is best known for establishing City Park. He went on to be one of the founders of the Colorado Historical and Natural History Society (what today is History Colorado and the Natural History Museum). Wherever the action was, Sopris was in it or around it.

Particularly interesting are several accounts of early Denver. The “Bummers wars” were wild affairs. This group of ruffians fought with the vigilance committees during the so-called “turkey wars.” The bummers were quick to steal things, including a cartload of turkeys. This war led to Richard’s career in law enforcement. In 1865 he was elected sheriff of what was then Arapahoe County, Kansas Territory. Later he was put in charge of the Denver jail. He also worked for the new Denver Pacific Railroad that hooked Denver up to the rest of the nation.

Read more

Book Review: Trouble Returns

by Nancy Oswald
ISBN 978-0-86541
Filter Press LLC
$8.95; 209pp

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

I wish I’d had an author like Nancy Oswald to read when I was ten. This is the third in the series of adventures about young Ruby and her donkey Maude in Cripple Creek. Oswald is careful to present the mystery in a setting as close as possible to 1895. Oswald’s research leads to enjoyment for any history buff, and the plot will keep any kid reading right through till the end. It did that for me.

In her last adventure, Ruby encounters a real passenger train robbery. That happened in 1895 on the Florence and Cripple Creek night express between Victor and Florence. This time the meanest of the robbers is going to trial in Colorado Springs and Ruby must go and testify. The historical detail about the trip; the hotel, Garden of the Gods, the court house, the jury (women weren’t allowed on a Colorado jury till 1945), and the whole setting is meticulously researched. Oswald even has the time tables of the Colorado Midland and the Cripple Creek spot on.

Part of the plot concerns Ruby’s father. He’s raised her literate and tough and Ruby can’t see why he thinks she needs a mother. Not only that, he picks the local school principal to marry and Ruby hates school.

Read more

Restaurant Review: Nana & Nano Monteleone’s Deli and Pasta House

By Forrest Whitman 418 E. Main Street, Trinidad, CO (719) 846-2696 Wednesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Waiting for a train in Trinidad, Colorado? The wait can be better if you eat at this little Italian deli. It’s on Main Street about five blocks from trackside so you can almost hear the train …

Read more

Touring (and Arguing) The Great Railroad War

By Forrest Whitman

Lots of the railroad history around Central Colorado is fun to discuss and argue about. The great railroad war (1878-1890) was a fierce fight. The contenders were General William Jackson Palmer’s Denver and Rio Grande Railroad versus the Santa Fe Railroad led by William Barstow Strong and Thomas Nickerson. The reader is invited to revisit the sites of the battles.

The first battle: A fine way to look at this site is to take the Southwest Chief passenger rain. As that train crawls up Raton Pass, I recommend getting a beverage and scanning out the sightseer lounge car window. Near the summit there’s still a sign erected by the Santa Fe Railroad. It’s announcing the site of “Uncle Dick Wootton’s place.”

This opening skirmish was fought in the very early morning of February 27, 1878. As the name of his line says, Palmer wanted to build south to the Rio Grande. The Santa Fe coveted the same territory.

The law was on the side of which railroad could lay track in the pass first. This battle should have gone to Palmer. He had interests in southern Colorado for a long time and had built rail here. Why didn’t he claim the pass long before 1878?

Read more

Reviews: The Second Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas

Lynn E. Wickersham, Editor
Colorado Bird Atlas Partnership

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

The second edition of the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas is out and it is stunning. This is the bible for birders, but also a lovely book in and of itself. The illustrations by Radeaux are almost worth the price of the book. The effort by hundreds of volunteers to compile the atlas is impressive also. Lynn Wickersham and Catherine P. Ortega of Fort Lewis College deserve kudos as do Jason Beason and Tony Leukering of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory for managing this massive project. Each geographical block has been studied by an army of dedicated birders. The climate and water maps are well worth a ponder too.

Read more

Book Review – Early Days in South Park: Parked in the Past

By Laura Van Dusen
Vandusenville Publications, 189 pages
ISBN 978-692-72310-4

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

Sooner or later, if you live in Colorado, you’ll drive through South Park. It’s a lovely ride in its own right, but this book will keep the motorist seeing it all in a fresh way. Van Dusen, long-time writer for many publications (including this one), opens up the surprising history of the park.
Her vignettes about early notables in the park are well done and give us a new look at them. Some of them, like Willia Hamilton Johnson of Alma, or Marshall Lewis Link, are especially crisp. She reveals them in “the bad and the good.” They emerge as real people.
She draws on the letters of Wilbur Fisk Stone to show us just how dastardly some of our early heroes and villains were. Her historical accounts of the outlaws are gripping. Some of the bad guys, like the Espinoza brothers, were terrorists of the most incredible kind.

Wilbur Stone spared neither Governor John Evans nor Reverend Chivington (the fighting Methodist minister who led the massacre at Sand Creek). Both were crooked and amazing liars, as were many others who dealt with the Indians.
A weakness in Van Dusen’s coverage concerns the Utes. They were very much a part of South Park history, but other than a brief appearance by Chief Saguache, they don’t come through. On the other hand, Van Dusen can write only about the accounts of the first settlers, and the Indians were only backdrops for them.
Especially interesting is her coverage of how hard life was in South Park. For instance, Benjamin Berg, second owner of the Fairplay Hotel, lost three of his children to typhoid. During World War I, The Fairplay  Flume reported death after death to the Spanish influenza. Some 675,000 died in the U.S. in that outbreak.
There were interesting cures to various diseases, which she covers in detail, including Bayer Heroine, Lydia Pinkham’s Herbal Remedy (popular with women partly because of its alcohol content) and Magic oil (87 percent alcohol).
Driving on U.S. Hwy. 285, the motorist will have a new understanding of how hard travel was by stage coach. You’ll also learn more about Como. This was a big rambling coal mining town with its own “war” to remember. Her chapters on Como and the Antero Reservoir fights are especially good. The motorist may even pause to think of the King Coal disaster where so many miners died. The book makes a routine trip through South Park fascinating.
There’s more to the book than the 19th century too. Her accounts of pre-history and the Porcupine Cave are compelling. So are her accounts of modern history. She covers the death of JFK and the beginning of the Ed Snell race.
I’m always looking for books to add to my holiday giving list. Early Days in South Park is on mine this year. Laura Van Dusen has done an outstanding job here.

Read more

All Aboard the Southwest Chief from Pueblo?

By Forrest Whitman “A review by BNSF Railway of needed infrastructure improvements to support that service would be complete before Christmas,” said Ray Lang of AMTRAK. He gave that quote at a Southwest Chief Commission meeting to the Colorado Association of Railroad Passengers. The folks in Pueblo have worked for several years to make passenger trains …

Read more

Book Review: Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman By Jan Mackell Collins History Press, 2016 ISBN 878.146713.512.2 This author has done a commendable job of researching the lost ghost towns around Cripple Creek and other Teller County locations. Her attention to detail is excellent. The book might entice one to try and find some of the sites, or what …

Read more

The Lariat Loop: An Engineering Marvel at Texas Creek

A view of the Texas Creek bridge and a D&R.G.R.R. passenger train climbing up towards Inspiration Point for the trip to Westcliffe, circa 1890s. Courtesy of  the Denver Public Library.
A view of the Texas Creek bridge and a D&R.G.R.R. passenger train climbing up towards Inspiration Point for the trip to Westcliffe, circa 1890s. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library.

By Forrest Whitman

Readers of Colorado Central have probably driven right next to the roadbed of a spectacular railroad loop without noticing it. Even today, the Rio Grande’s Texas Creek extension gives us spectacular views of a line built around the mountainside and up to the sky. Getting a view and photo of its high reaches above the Arkansas Valley led us on a trip there recently.

Read more

The Caboose – A Ghost Railroad and a Reborn One

View of the Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive 473 (2-8-2), train number 216. “The San Juan” in snow at Pagosa Junction (Gato, Archuleta County), Colorado, December 1948. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library.
View of the Denver and Rio Grande Western locomotive 473 (2-8-2), train number 216. “The San Juan” in snow at Pagosa Junction (Gato, Archuleta County), Colorado, December 1948. Courtesy of the Denver Public Library.

By Forrest Whitman

Freight Train Wayne and I were talking with a group of Jicarilla Apache folks in their supermarket recently. We were in Dulce, New Mexico and were wondering how we’d get any further on our quest following a ghost railroad. That ghost was the Denver and Rio Grande Western narrow gauge.

Read more

Tips For Running for Small Town Mayor

by Forrest Whitman First: Never run against a dog. Ol’ Woody mopped up the floor with me at our debate through his psychic dog interpreter. I never should have defended the city code enforcer. Second: Ask first if you can run. My victorious opponent landed the old-guard oligarchs early. He sure knew who to ask …

Read more

Book Reviews – The Railroads of Leadville, Colorado

SILVER RAILS: The Railroads of Leadville, Colorado By Christopher James Sierra Grande Press ISBN 978-0-9670867-2-6 Reviewed by Forrest Whitman This is the book I want for Christmas. I’ve read many books about railroads and railroading, but this one stands out. Many of these rail books have great pictures of a historical era or region. Others …

Read more

The Caboose

by Forrest Whitman I recently took a lovely walk up the old Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad grade to the Orient mine in the northern San Luis Valley. It’s a spot anyone can visit on their own. Just stop at the Valley View Hot Springs office and sign in. Graded in 1881, this narrow …

Read more

Book Reviews – Simply Nora: High Heels and Diapers

Simply Nora: High Heels and Diapers by Theodore Marquez Club Lighthouse Publishing ISBN 978-1499648430 Reviewed by Forrest Whitman This is a tender book about a mother, written by her son. It reads like a Christmas card or high school scrapbook. Theodore Marquez was born and raised in Del Norte, Colorado. Nora, his mother, had 24 …

Read more

The Caboose

by Forrest Whitman Train Day is coming May 9, and at least 20 of us from Colorado Central territory will be on the Southwest Chief train that day. We’ll meet other Chief fans along the way and spend the night in Las Vegas, New Mexico. There will be partying on and off the train. We …

Read more

Book Review – Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume Three: Narrow Gauge Country

Hollywood’s Railroads, Volume Three: Narrow Gauge Country By Larry Jensen Cochetopa Press  72 pages ISBN 978-0-692-31351-0 Reviewed by Forrest Whitman Here’s a little gem of a railroad book that explains a lot about Colorado Central country. As recently as 1968, both of our narrow gauge railroads in southern Colorado were threatened with extinction. The D&RGW …

Read more

A 1933 Farm Program Aids a Town Via Tech Jobs

By Forrest Whitman

One thing is constant in my small town: bitching about the local economy. I’m accustomed to hearing the same old complaints. Plenty of folks at our coffeehouse call it a permanent recession resulting in low wages with no break in prices. I’ve got a couple of coffee bets out that something new is going to help.

Our economic squeeze is partly due to the local industries. The river rafting companies do hire in the summer, but that’s short term. Our local ski area isn’t a big one. Again, the jobs are not well paid. Walmart is at least consistent, but no source of a big salary. This is an old tale of economic depression told again and again in the small town west.

Read more

Reviews – Edward Wynkoop, Soldier and Indian Agent

Edward Wynkoop, Soldier and Indian Agent By Nancy Oswald #7 in the “Now You Know” series for young scholars by Filter Press ISBN: 978-0-86541-184-5 Reviewed by Forrest Whitman Cotopaxi author Nancy Oswald does a nice job of presenting this historical Colorado figure. Some young scholars will recognize that Wynkoop Street down by Union Station in …

Read more

Reviews – Plight of the Dam’d Rascals

Plight of the Dam’d Rascals By Tom Rollings 178 pages, Dog Ear Publishing 2014 ISBN: 978-1-4575-2950-4 Reviewed by Forrest Whitman Literally thousands of books and articles have been written about the Zebulon Pike Expedition of 1806-1807. The expedition is especially interesting to readers from Central Colorado, since many of the dramatic events on Pike’s long …

Read more

The Curecanti Needle

By Forrest Whitman

How many Colorado Central readers have seen the Curecanti Needle? It’s one of those well-known, but seldom visited iconic sites in the Central Colorado region. It’s located in the Curecanti National Recreation Area in the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The access road off Colorado Hwy. 92 is short and well marked. The path to the three overlooks might be a little dicey for folks who are physically challenged, but it looks doable. We took it easy on the rain slick-rocks on our recent visit.

Read more

Book Review – Individuals Create Value

Individuals Create Value By Kevin Barnes Self published, Booktango, Bloomington IN  58 pages Reviewed by Forrest Whitman In 58 pages, Salida author Kevin Barnes attempts to untangle one of the oldest questions about society: How does the individual create value within the sometimes oppressive rules of a society? Barnes gives credit to Thomas Jefferson for …

Read more

Reviews – The Hash Knife Around Holbrook

By Jan MacKell Collins Arcadia Publishing ISBN 978-1-4671-3093-6 127 Pages, $21.99 Reviewed by Forrest Whitman The Hash Knife brand and the cowboys who were part of that legend have created a cottage industry around Holbrook, Arizona. Each year a well-funded trail ride, called the Hash Knife Pony Express ride, goes from Holbrook south to the …

Read more

April 20, 1914 at Ludlow, Colorado

By Forrest Whitman

History in Colorado doesn’t quite repeat itself, but (as has been often said) it rhymes. President Obama’s push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour hauntingly reminds me of the Ludlow Massacre. It happened exactly 100 years ago on April 20, 1914. Somewhere around 39 coal miners and their families were killed and an uncounted more were wounded by Colorado militia and company security guards. Some woman and children died as they huddled in dugouts under the tents as they burned. These were coal miners and their families out on strike against CF&I (Colorado Fuel and Iron). They were living in a tent city at Ludlow after being kicked out of company housing for joining a strike. That strike was about many things, mine safety especially, but another issue was the way the miners were paid in script only useable at the company stores. The most basic strike objective, reminiscent of President Obama’s campaign, was a livable minimum wage.

Read more

Book Reviews

A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography
By Kayann Short

Torrey House Press, paperback 215 pp $14.95

 Reviewed by Annie Dawid

 

Thus must it be, when willingly you strive

throughout a long and uncomplaining life

committed to one goal: to give yourself!

And silently to grow and to bear fruit.

Rainier Maria Rilke, “The Apple Orchard”

Read more

A Railroad That Missed the Flood

By Forrest Whitman

When Gov. Hickenlooper visited Colorado Central county in Salida this summer, he took time out to view the old D. & R. G. W. Railroad main line. The last time a scheduled freight rolled by there was in 1997, but surprisingly we heard a horn blast. There it was, no mistaking, the short, long and two shorts of a train approaching the grade crossing in Salida. It turned out to be a maintenance-of-way consist. The crew dedicated some hours to removing any large plants growing up between the ties and moving some rocks off the line. The Union Pacific (UP) was complying with their obligation to keep the tracks open, even though they are officially “out of service.” As we looked over the much neglected tracks, I reminded the governor of a bit of history.

Read more

The Caboose

by Forrest Whitman

Ramblin’ Jack Talks Booze Trains

It’s time to head down to the Vic in Salida and drink rye whiskey in honor of Ramblin’ Jack Snyder. When he passed away two years ago, we lost a repository of Colorado rail history. The story is that he drove his aging Cadillac to a Denver hospital and died before he could check in. He was in his upper nineties. Each time Jack took me riding in his vintage Cadillac convertible he’d tell train tales. We’d stop at some railroad yard, and he’d point out where whiskey was stored and loaded at night. Sometimes we’d even find old barrel staves and broken bottles.

Read more

Real Estate Spanish

By Forrest Whitman

The business pages of many newspapers are bullish on real estate in Colorado Central country. Sales are up, but there’s an interesting anomaly. Turn to the real estate pages and you’d think you were in Mexico. Names like Spanish Hills, Piñon Hills, Mesa Encantada and Lomas Alt, abound; not to begin to catalog all the streets with Spanish-sounding names.

Read more

Book Review

The Marble Room: How I lost God and Found Myself in Africa

By Bill Hatcher

Lantern Books
ISBN: 978-1-59056-406-6
$18.00; 288 pp.

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.
They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

That’s an old African joke attributed to Bishop Desmond Tutu. Many a young Peace Corps volunteer went to Africa to try and ameliorate that ugly situation. Bill Hatcher, a current resident of the San Luis Valley, was no exception.

Read more