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The Way We Really Were

Photo courtesy of Virginia Simmons.

By Virginia McConnell Simmons

During Colorado’s gold rush and mining boom, rugged Methodist circuit rider Father John L. Dyer, the “Snow-shoe Itinerant,” is famous for carrying a Bible and packs of mail across 13,135-high Mosquito Pass. Enduring physically, economically, emotionally, and spiritually were his challenges. During his walk from the upper Midwest to Denver in 1861, he had been robbed of everything. In the mountains, using 10-foot-long homemade skis called Norwegian snowshoes, he suffered frozen feet. Without success, to supplement his meager income, he attempted mining and developing the hot springs at Mount Princeton. In his earlier life, two wives had died, and in the Upper Arkansas Valley at Granite, his son Elias, a judge, was murdered by vigilantes. But he remained devoted to his faithful flocks, had a hotel hauled from Montgomery to Fairplay for worship and constructed a church for Breckenridge. Justifiably, Father Dyer is remembered in the rotunda of Colorado’s capitol.