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Taylor Park, Colorado’s Shangri-La, by Eleanor Perry

Review by Martha Quillen

Local History – August 1995 – Colorado Central Magazine

Taylor Park, Colorado’s Shangri-la
by Eleanor Perry
Copyright 1989
ISBN: 0-939101-01-7

Parts of the first chapters of Taylor Park may prove to be rough going for those who aren’t intimately familiar with the region.

Although I’ve been to Tin Cup a dozen times, I was a bit bewildered by the concentration of details in the beginning chapters.

My reading faltered when I came to information like, “As production of the Gold Cup Mine, patent #2580, increased, the Silver Cup, patent #2581, and the Little Gold Cup, patent #2582, were added to the holdings of the Gold Cup Mine.”

And I was lost when I got to, “It is interesting to note on the Virginia City plat, that Grand Avenue from the north, ended at Block A on the south side of Washington. That block, running east and west, is completely filled in with 29 lots, whereas, on the Tin Cup plat, there is a break in the block that allowed Grand Avenue to become a through street, north and south, through town.”

But my advice is to stick with it. Once the mines are established and the towns are platted, the book ventures into the lives and adventures of Coloradans who were definitely interesting.

In real life, a few of Tin Cup’s former residents could have held their own in any modern thriller. Or as Perry puts it, “There were many shootings and many murders in the small mountain town, but I can only document the murder of three town marshals — Harry Rivers, 1882; Frank Emerson, 1882; and Andy Jamison, 1883.”

And document them Perry does — after she supplies the tales of vengeance and lust that led to those homicides.

Since Perry also documented the murders of several other citizens who weren’t marshals, one couldn’t help but wonder whether modern anxieties regarding our violent society aren’t a mite exaggerated. (Or perhaps they’re just long overdue.)

More astonishing than the murders, however, (which are, after all, a well-documented part of our western heritage), were the punishments.

Frank Emerson was tried for killing a man who had bested him in a horse trade — and was exonerated. Tom Leahy was convicted for murdering Emerson, and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. William Taylor was convicted for murdering Jamison and served four years. Charley LaTourette was tried after shooting Harry Rivers, and was exonerated (more or less on the grounds of self-defense, since the drunken sheriff had followed him home).

Yet I was always under the impression that murderers in the old west were inevitably hanged by the neck until dead — if the vigilantes didn’t get them first. In Tin Cup, however, that punishment must have been reserved for horse thieves (although I can’t be sure, since rustling was not a noted crime in the community).

But there was more to Taylor Park than murder. Perry also follows the stories of several families and numerous citizens who managed to remain neighborly even though their lives included long work days, freezing winters, grievous financial setbacks, and tragic bereavements.

By telling about the advent of telephones, television, and tourism, and by interviewing many modern residents, Perry pursues the history of the region right into the present, and Taylor Park also presents a comprehensive chronicle of the Tin Cup Cemetery, including the names of everyone known to be buried there.

In the cemetery listings I noticed a few problems with dates that don’t match the text (e.g. The date of Mary Parent’s death is off by one year, which leaves her marrying after her death. And if George Dugan was born in 1885 he would have been a mere thirteen years old when his son Ray was born, which seems improbable since George attended law school before marrying).

Actually, these discrepancies weren’t particularly distracting, but in this instance, I suspect the errors may be significant, not because they detract from the book, but because the book itself is an important foundation upon which to build a continuing history of the region.

Taylor Park is both a detailed regional history, and a fascinating glimpse into Colorado’s gold rush past. Many who live in Taylor park under the shadows of those old mines will find each and every detail fascinating.

But those who don’t know much about the park, can also enjoy this uncommon journey into Colorado’s history. With anecdotes and a wealth of local color, Perry has breathed life back into those who once lived in Taylor Park.

As I read her work, I found myself wishing Perry had settled up on Currant Creek for a time, before moving down to Cochetopa Pass, so that more of our region could have been resurrected by her pen.

— Martha Quillen