Baca County History

by the Plainsman Herald

John B. Garvin, an Unsung Springfield Hero from the County Seat Fights


John B. Garvin, an Unsung Springfield Hero from the County Seat Fights

John Garvin is usually a footnote in the history of Baca County.  You usually see him mentioned as a name in a list of early Springfield newspapers as follows:

  1. Springfield Advertiser 1887-1888 (about eight months); John B. Garvin founder. It was bought by the Springfield Herald.
  2. Springfield Beacon 1887-1888.   …”clean and wholesome”
  3. Springfield Herald August 1887-1919, George Hosmer, founder. Almost immediately after starting the Herald, Hosmer bought out the Advertiser, which had been published for about 8 months.
The Democrat-Herald (Springfield, Colorado) · 16 Aug 1918.

Sam Konkel mentions him in the Springfield paper in 1918 (Right) when he pulled an 1888 clipping from his Boston World Newspaper. The Democrat-Herald (Springfield, Colorado) · 16 Aug 1918.

The Daily Illini (Urbana, Illinois) · 25 May 1885, Mon · Page 5

 So who was this man, John B. Garvin? In 1886 John B. Garvin graduated from the University of Illinois. In the clipping, below right he was on the editorial staff of the University of Illinois, college newspaper.

In 1887 he founded the Springfield Advertiser which shortly thereafter merged with the Springfield Herald. The upstart town of Springfield had three newspapers in its earliest days.   

We recently discovered a letter he wrote in April of 1889 to his Alma Mater’s newspaper, “The Illini”  in which he identifies himself as one of the contingent from Springfield during the 1889 legislative session in which Baca became a county and Springfield became the county seat.  His education was likely appealing to the group and our final 1889 letter in this book records a brief statement about the success they had during this session.   The letter is provided later in this post and we will include this letter in our upcoming book Before it was Baca

There is no evidence of exactly when Garvin left Baca, but he ended up in Golden and then Denver as highly popular educator.   His death, recorded in 1924 shows he was involved in a train wreck in Illinois, which  proved fatal.  Garvin is one of the unsung Early Day East Enders who as part of the lobby contingent from Springfield who helped bring Springfield the county seat. When Baca was broken off from Las Animas County in the spring of 1889, he played a significant role.  He was in Denver that spring and a single letter helps us understand him a little better and the early settlement of the county. 

The Champaign Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois) 25 Jul 1887. John B. Garvin has located at Springfield, Colorado.
The Champaign Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois) 6 Oct 1887. —  Mr John B Garvin has engaged in the newspaper business at Springfield Colorado He is editor and manager of the Advertiser a copy of which has been received.

By the spring of 1887 he had become the Assistant Superintendent of schools in Las Animas County.  

The Champaign Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois) 9 Jun 1888 Sat Page 1.

The Champaign Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois) 9 Jun 1888 Sat Page 1. —  Mr. John B. Garvin of Springfield Colorado is in this city and will remain two weeks he will then go to New York on a business trip Air Garvin is assistant superintendent of schools in Las Animas county which contains an area of 7000 square miles He is proprietor of a newspaper and a lord of vast estates. Mr Garvin has waxed fat and wealthy since he graduated from the University of Illinois in 1886.

Winfield Daily Telegram (Winfield, Kansas) 26 Apr 1887, Tue Page 1

Winfield Daily Telegram (Winfield, Kansas) 26 Apr 1887, Tue Page 1 — THE TELEGRAM is in receipt of the initial number of the Beacon, a six column folio published at Springfield Colorado.  It is published by Hosmer and is very neat.  We notice the names of quite a number of Winfield and Cowley county people in the local columns.

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) April 30, 1887 Page 3 Library of Congress

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) April 30, 1887 Page 3 Library of Congress — The Springfield Beacon, a six column folio, reached our table this week and in running over with boom for Springfield and the surrounding country.  Mr. Hosmer, the editor, was a caller Monday.

The Western Star (Coldwater, Kansas) 7 May 1887

The Western Star (Coldwater, Kansas) 7 May 1887 We are in receipt of the Springfield.Colo., Beacon, published by Hosmer Bros. It will be remembered that these gentlemen passed through this city some weeks since going west, mention of which was made in this paper.

Kearny County Coyote (Chantilly, Kansas) 21 May 1887 Page

Kearny County Coyote (Chantilly, Kansas) 21 May 1887 Page 2 The Springfield (Colo.) Beacon, by our old friend, Geo. Hosmer, is before us. The Beacon presents a neat appearance, and starts out with a good advertising patronage. Success to you George.

Winfield Telegram (Winfield, Kansas) 6 Oct 188

Winfield Telegram (Winfield, Kansas) 6 Oct 1887—The Springfield, (Col.) Herald, a new paper, reached us to day. It contains twenty-four columns of plates, two of advertising, and two columns of something supposed to be set up at home, but the press failed to bring out the impress of the type.

Winfield Daily Telegram (Winfield, Kansas) 28 Jun 1887, Tue Page 1 G. E. Hosmer of the Springfield Colorado Beacon, is now sole proprietor, having purchased his brothers interest. 

Winfield Daily Telegram (Winfield, Kansas) 28 Jun 1887, Tue Page 1 G. E. Hosmer of the Springfield Colorado Beacon, is now sole proprietor, having purchased his brothers interest.

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) 29 Oct 1887

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) 29 Oct 1887 — Lamar Merchants. Who wish to secure the trade of the southern territory should advertise in the “Springfield Herald,” the recognized medium for all Lamar business houses to make known their , wants. The Herald reaches all the people and is the leading paper of that section of country. Try it.

The Champaign Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois) 9 Aug 1888, Thu  Page

The Champaign Daily Gazette (Champaign, Illinois) 9 Aug 1888, Thu  Page 1. Mr John B Garvin returned yesterday from a business visit in the east and will visit Champaign friends a few days before returning to Springfield Colorado, his home.

The Daily Illini (Urbana, Illinois) 5 Nov 1888, Mon Page 12.

The Daily Illini (Urbana, Illinois) 5 Nov 1888, Mon Page 12. We are in receipt of a circular issued by John B. Garvin, deputy county superintendent of schools, to the teachers of Las Animas county, Colorado. The circular contains much excellent advice, and &hows that John is making rapid progress in the world, as he also did in school.

The Daily Illini (Urbana, Illinois) · 6 May 1889, Mon · Page 5

The following is a significant find as it provides a great overview of early day Denver and his participation in the legislative session in which Springfield was named county seat.

The Daily Illini (Urbana, Illinois) 20 May 1889, Mon Page 7 — Since making my home under the shadow of the Rockies it has often occurred to me that a letter from this wonderland of America might be acceptable even to those who take but a passing interest in the doings of the University alumni; but from one cause and another I have kept deferring my correspondence until I feel almost as diffident and estranged as Robert Elsemere before confessing to his wife the cause of his silence and anxiety. Now that the ice is broken, it does not seem such a gigantic undertaking to throw off the veil of obscurity and inform the readers of THE ILLINI that we still live. In fact, the man who couldn’t live in the energizing and electrifying atmosphere of Colorado is an anomaly as rare as goats on Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak! What a world of unwritten history envelops that great cap of the Rockies! How many unfortunate adventurers have whitened the plains with their bones in the days when railroads were not, leaving to mankind the simple but expressive record, Pikes Peak or bust! Celebrated as this peak has become, it is but one of many lofty peaks scattered throughout the state, from Fishers Peak in the south to Mt. Independence in the far north. Turn where we will, those massive structures are seen stretching up toward heaven, their hoary heads standing out clear and bold against the cloudless sky. I sometimes think that we who live in Colorado lack appreciation of the grand and magnificent mountain scenery which nature here presents with a lavish hand, but after all one can scarcely be expected to live in constant rapture over scenes that enter so closely into his daily walks. Even discussions on the weather, here, become monotonous, and the individual who insists on boring his acquaintances on this subject betrays his recent arrival from less congenial clime. Of course it is beautiful weather! Why shouldn’t it be, in a land where 330 out of the 365 days in the year are filled with sunshine? The clear, deep blue skies of Colorado are as much a part of her scenery as the snow-covered peaks, of which they form the rich and harmonious background. Does it never rain here? If by “here” you mean Denver (and there are Denverites to whom Denver and Colorado are one and inseparable), I would say, occasionally, in the spring and early summer; but in the great plains region in the southeastern part of the state sufficient rain falls for all agricultural purposes. There are skeptics who still doubt that there is any considerable portion of Colorado susceptible of cultivation without irrigation, but if my own observation and experience of two years on the “Colorado Desert” go for anything, there is a scope of country nearly as large as the state of Ohio in which farming without irrigation may be pursued with reasonable assurance of success.

The glory of Colorado, however, is her mines; and from the days of ‘59, when first began the struggles and triumphs of the long roll of hardy pioneers, down to the present, Colorado has not ceased to astonish the world with the rich outpourings of her almost inexhaustible stores of gold and silver. During the year 1887 nearly $5,000,000 worth of gold and over $15,000,000 worth of silver bullion was added to the mart of the world by this state alone, and the opening up of new mines is of almost daily occurrence. From 1850 to 1887 the estimated coin value of the gold and silver produced in Colorado is $255,508,700.72. Is this not a record of which any state may be proud? and what wonder that with such illimitable resources Colorado has made remarkable strides in all that pertains to the material welfare of her citizens! Her schools, her churches, her charitable institutions, all bear evidence of a highly intelligent and prosperous people, and with constantly increasing diversity of pursuits no state has brighter prospects or will be more independent of outside resources. 

And what of Denver, the Queen City of the Plains, with her 110,000 inhabitants, her magnificent public buildings, and her palatial private residences? In the early days, when Denver consisted of but a few mud-roofed shanties on the banks of Cherry Creek, with a treeless and almost barren plain stretching away to the eastward, and on the west the lonely, everlasting hills, “I can imagine no more cheerless site for building a great and populous city. There is extant, somewhere,” says the historian, an engraving which represents Denver in 1859. The grand old mountains tower in the background of the picture, but the foreground contains a blank perspective, closed by a cabin or two, a tent, and half a dozen Indian tepees. A little fringe of cottonwood trees marks the line of the Platte River, and the course of Cherry Creek is similarly, though less boldly outlined. Why the early inhabitants should have settled at this particular locality, where, as one historian says, “They at first raised nothing but cactus plants, antelope, and jack-rabhits,” seems inexplicable.  Gold was not found here in paying quantities, and such of the inhabitants as strayed away to other neighborhoods in search of the glittering metal invariably returned to Denver. Numerous rival towns were started up in the vicinity and along the foot-hills, but most of them enjoyed but an ephemeral existence, while Denver grew and flourished like “a green bay tree.” Just why they failed is as mysterious as why Denver didn’t fail, says W. B.. Vickers. But grow she did, until today Denver is one of the most active, enterprising, and beautiful cities on the continent. Where was naught but the bleak, open prairies, are now miles of shady streets and grassy lawns, with clear, cool water from the mountain streams rippling down on either side. In the suburbs are thousands of acres of artificial forest, while every farm and farmhouse for miles around has its fringe of shade trees. The society one finds here is naturally cosmopolitan. The social strata are as yet less strongly defined than in eastern cities, owing to the constant ebb and flow of underlying currents, but the tendency of the elements to crystallize and stratify is becoming more and more appreciable and distinctive. But without dwelling further on Denver and Colorado, something concerning the U. of I. boys who have made the Centennial state their adopted home. About five weeks since, while strolling in through the lobby of the Windsor, I came face to face with my erstwhile classmate, J. F. Bishop, once of ‘86, and now a leading architect in the booming town of Pueblo. John is apparently prosperous and happy, and has unbounded faith in Pueblos manifest destiny. Indeed, he wouldn’t be a true westerner if he didn’t speak a good word for his town whenever opportunity offers. Through him I learned of the address of J. C. Jacobson, another ‘86 boy, whom I had not seen since that memorable June day, now nearly three years ago, when the class of ‘86 was launched upon the world. I found him busy at work in the office of F. Edbrooke, Tabor Block, putting the finishing touches on the drawings of the new Masonic Temple, and as I stepped up to the desk and greeted him with the old familiar name, Jakes face wreathed into a glad smile of recognition, and there was such a handshaking as only old classmates know how to give. That evening, under Jake’s leadership, we made a sally upon the quarters of Frank Baker, ‘88, head draughtsman for the Colorado Iron Works. Frank was in, and thereupon ensued another handshaking that no description can do justice to. With this addition to our ranks we set out for the room of Frank Long, ‘87, and quite took the dear old boy by storm. Shorty, as we used to know him in our halcyon days, looks supremely content, as though the world were using him well, and I guess it is, for he has an excellent position with F. C. Eborly, architect. Without particularizing on the events of this evening’s enjoyment, let me say that before parting arrangements were made whereby a sort of informal reunion of all tho I. S. U. boys in the city was to be held at Jacobson’s room two evenings later, March 11. What a jolly crowd that was, and how like the past seemed this gathering of merry, rollicking spirits! There was J. O. Davis, ‘86, county surveyor of Washington county, the same J. O. as in the days when “Love laughed at locksmiths,” although now the lord of a happy family, of which our friend and classmate, the fair and blushing “Zina” is the fond wife and mother. Then there was W. D. Sperry, ‘91, bicycle and all, R. O. Wheeler and J. H. Barnes, both of ‘90, who haven’t yet reconciled themselves to their voluntary exile from Champaign and its fair daughters. All have been in Denver but a few weeks, and yet have good positions with prominent architects. J. C. Jacobson, ‘86, Frank Long, ‘87, Frank Biker, ‘88, and your humble servant, all went there, and to say that mirth and music held sway that evening does not tell half the story. Jake, as host of the evening, did the honors of the occasion in grand style, and the boys were made to feel quite as much at home as though they were enjoying “a lark” in far-away Champaign. Jokes were cracked, songs sung, and memory refreshed by a flood of recollections, as tender as they were bright and imperishable. Numerous toasts, in which our Alina Mater and her many friends (not forgetting the girls we left behind us) were freely recognized, were proposed and responded to with hearty cheers; and to wind up the event the college yell was rendered with commendable force by Messrs. Sperry, Wheeler, and Barnes. No doubt the neighbors were somewhat shocked by the hilarity of the proceedings, but thanks to the scarcity of the Denver police we were unmolested, and the first reunion of our Colorado boys passed into history without a stain upon its honor. 

As for your correspondent and the object of his long visit in Denver, he still makes his home on the plains of southeast Colorado, but has spent the past two months at the capital, impressing upon the legislature the need of organizing a new county out of the Kingdom of Las Animas, with Springfield, his adopted town, as the county seat. It has been a long, hard siege, but the victory is ours, and Baca county, with Springfield the county seat, may now be placed upon the maps of the Centennial state, His labor over here, he will now return to the great billowy plains and the kind-hearted, hospitable people of the Colorado frontier. At some future day, perhaps, you may hear again from the Colorado boy’s of the I. S. U., for them is a warm spot way down in their heart of hearts for their Alma Mater and its able representative, THE ILLINI. Cordially Yours, 


It appears Garvin kept some contact with Baca after moving to Denver as shown in the following:

The Democrat-Herald (Springfield, Colorado) · 26 May 1905, Fri · Page 4

In 1915, while serving as principal of South Denver High School, Garvin was attacked and beaten. The story is summarized in the following:

The Idaho Springs Siftings-News (Idaho Springs, Colorado) · 27 Mar 1915, Sat · Page 2
Gilpin Observer (Central City, Colorado) · 7 Oct 1915

Garvin’s death was report in several newspapers.

Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, Colorado) · 30 Jun 1924
Fort Collins Coloradoan (Fort Collins, Colorado) · 6 Jul 1924,
The Daily Illini (Urbana, Illinois) · 14 Jun 1925, Sun · Page 2


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