Butte City: 1886

Boston wasn’t quite the first in the east end as this part of Las Animas county as it was then
called. Butte City was started in June 1886; we believe that less than half a dozen houses were built
there when it was abandoned and the houses moved over to Minneapolis, started a few miles west of it in
the summer of 1887.
– Konkel, Sam. “Persons, Stories and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.” Springfield Herald January 11, 1918

The earliest news mention I have found of Butte City was this St. Louis Post-Dispatch hotel listing showing G. F. Neal of Butte City Colo in St. Louis February 1886.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) 20 Feb 1886.
The Syracuse Journal (Syracuse, Kansas) 21 May 1886.
Border Ruffian (Coolidge, Kansas) 19 Jun 1886.

Below are a couple of items of a name familiar to present day Baca County.

Pratt County Press (Luka, Kansas) 02 Sep 1886.
Garden City Daily Herald (Garden City, Kansas) 20 Aug 1886.
Crill & Bowdle Stage Line – coach is enroute from Butte City to Granada – Winter 1886-89. John Bowdle is driving. This was the first transportation company in Baca County. (Photo courtesy of James Crill)

Note: We have transcribed the letter (left) to help the readability. The letter was published in Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois) 14 Sept 1886.
Editor Telegraph: As I promised you a letter viewing the “promised land,” Butte City, Colorado,I have now the opportunity of fulfilling the promise. After skirmishing around awhile on Thursday last, at Grenada, we succeeded in finding a person to take us and two other parties who were on their way to Butte, so at 8 p. m. we started. The country from Grenada, on the Sante Fe rail-road, south to our objective point is a beautiful rolling prairie, here and there dotted with groves or timber on the streams not a single steep hill, the entire route gently rolling. The soil for the first half of the distance is a whitish looking soil, but after crossing Butte creek, seventeen miles out, it becomes much darker, the banks of Butte creek are lined with a very fair quality of stone of the limestone formation. We stopped on the banks of Butte creek to eat our lunch and quench our thirst with the finest spring water.
When we were within about eight miles of our destination, we were halted by a party of movers, one of whom inquired how far it was to Butte City, said he was a brother of a Mr. Boorstor, who lives in the coming city of Southeastern Colorado, and wished us to inform his brother that he would be in in the morning. This was encouraging, to see people with their effects on the way to our new town. At about 8 o’clock In the morning sure enough here came our new settler. There is not a finer looking piece of country anywhere, perfectly free from rock excepting on the banks of the stream. This was an agreeable disappointment to me, as I anticipated seeing some rock almost any where in Colorado, but not so in this southeastern part of the State. The country, when settled up, will compare well with the best part of Kansas.
There are now six houses, the seventh building. Timber claims are being located daily; perhaps some of your readers may not understand what a timber claim means. “Congress passed an Act to encourage the growth of timber on the western prairies bearing date June 14, 1878, providing that a person, either a natural born citizen of the United States, or a person who has taken out his papers, may, on filing his papers at the District Land Office, first signing and making
affidavit as to qualification before mentioned, paying the fees, $14, and at the end of the first year having plowed five acres, and at the end of the second an additional five acres and at the and at the fourth year, having put out the ten acres in trees, he can, at the end of eight years, get a patent for the land, 160 acres, and it is not necessary to live on the land nor to do this yourself, but it can be done by anyone for you. Now here is a chance for some of your fellow citizens to obtain a quarter section of good land at a very small outlay, simply going to Grenada, Colo., making the necessary affidavit before a Notary, paying the $14 land office fees, and plowing five acres the first, and five acres more the second, and having the ten acres set out in trees by the end of the fourth year, and at the end of the eighth year paying the final proof fee of $10, when a patent for the land is issued. Come on, and we will see you fixed up. Will let you hear more from Butte City at no distant date.

Indianapolis, Colorado – Est. 1887.

In the 1880s Americans were moving in droves to the Western frontier. Waves of migrants were inspired by the promises of cheap land and riches, Following the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869, the journey west became considerably easier. Many entrepreneurs and private town  companies began heavily advertising real estate, investment and tourism opportunities in the West.  Indianapolis, Colorado was one of those places.

Sam Konkel, editor of the Boston World 1887-1889 and the Springfield Herald 1913-1930 mentions Indianapolis, Colorado several times in his 1918 -1919 Springfield Herald articles.  It appears from his writings there was a fairly close connection to the Boston Town Company, of which Konkel was a part. What do we know about Indianapolis?  Most of the town residents were from Meade, Kansas.  Three town blocks were reserved for churches and two for public schools.

It had a newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal which Konkel mentions. 

It had one citizen, Catherine Colver Williams who was a proponent of Women’s Suffrage.   

Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia) 10 Jan 1889

It had some troubles, as was common in those old towns. 

June 18, 1887 Minneapolis, Minnesota Star Tribune

Most references to Indianapolis, such as the one below are from Meade, Kansas.

Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 25 Jun 1887 
Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 25 Jun 1887 
Meade County Democrat (Meade, Kansas) 3 Jan 1890. 

What I really didn’t notice until now that Indianapolis was another town the Boston Town Company was hoping to become a county seat along with Boston, Carrizo, Albany and Brookfeld. The town is usually mentioned in listing of new towns starting up in 1887 similar to the one Konkel shares with us in the paragraphs below which are extracted from. 

“Persons, Stories and Incidents of Old Boston and the Old Days.” Springfield Herald, July 5, 1918.

The Town Building Fever -It is a cold day when some new town doesn’t start up in south-eastern Colorado.  In the short space of four months, there have been seventeen towns laid out south of the railroad and east of Trinidad.  They are in the order of their ages –Boston, Albany, Vilas, Carrizo, Springfield, Minneapolis, Humbar, York, Farmington, Wilde, Holmes, Indianapolis, Athens, Bloomington, Brookfield, Plymouth, and Randal — Western World, April 21, 1887.  Konkel also provided the following: Mr. Konkel editor and proprietor of the Western World published at Boston Colorado, visited Indianapolis last week.  We were very much pleased to meet Mr. Konkel who is a gentleman of culture, education and experience, and a valuable man  for Boston. While here he was a guest at the Aultman hotel of which he spoke of in the highest terms, he further said Indianapolis was the best town for its age he had saw in the west –Clipping from the Indianapolis Journal in Western World, October 1887.

The item is a little shy on grammar, but, laying modesty aside, the facts as we remember them now were about as stated.

Indianapolis was located about thirty miles west of Carrizo, something like ten to fifteen miles west and south of the present Kim, having the Black Mesa frowning at it from the east and Mesa De Mayo looking down at it from the rear.

Do you know, we’ve been out in that country several times in the last few years and looked for that old town site and couldn’t find it, nor could we find anybody out there that ever heard of it. 

We would say there were about two or three dozen houses at Indianapolis when we were there.  The hotel was two story. For the reason that Boston fathered the town we have a special interest in it.  

The object of Boston was to make counties about the size of those in Kansas — about thirty miles square, hence Boston, Carrizo and Indianapolis were to be county seats of three counties carved out of Las Animas, and Albany and Brookfield of two counties carved out of Las Animas, Prowers and Bent counties. 

All of these towns were promoted by the Boston Town Co.

As there was no settlement of any kind left in that country, we are presuming the houses were pulled down to the Cimarron, though some of them may have followed the example of Elijah and have gone straight up along with their newspaper, the Indianapolis Journal.

The ad below is from the Meade Globe (Meade, Kansas) 9 Apr 1887.  NOTE they reference the San Luis Valley as the location.  We have transcribed the text in the box following the ad. 

—Ho for Indianapolis. Is everybody going? It looks that was as quite a number of our citizens have been to see and say that the that the San Louis valley, in which Indianapolis is located, is the finest they ever saw, and hun-dreds more are going even from this our lovely locality, to get homes and and make money.   Indianapolis was located about the 13th of March, 1887, by a company of gentlemen from Meade and Seward counties in what is known as the San Luis Valley, 31 miles east from Trinidad, Colorado, where coal is worth from 80 cents to one dollar a ton, flour $2 per hundred, lumber $5 to $16 a thousand and every thing in proportion, and where you are in plain view of the snow caped Rocky Mountains, plenty of timber, water and building stone. The valleys are surrounded by skirts of timber and abound in running streams, where the finest soil for farming purposes was ever under the sun. The Company is composed of gentlemen of the first class under whose management Indianapolis can’t help but prosper and grow fat. The capital stock of the company is limited to fourteen thousand dollars, by its incorporation, divided into 280 shares of $50 each. The stock being worth its face value, and no doubt every share could be so disposed in Meade Center, but that the company refuses to dispose of it as they are quite jealous of their new enterprise. Never before in the history of the west has emigration reached the proportions it is at present assuming. 

The (mostly unreadable) town ad (below)  for  Indianapolis was in the Boston World (Boston, Colorado) Thurs March 8, 1888. 

Boston World (Boston, Colorado) Thurs March 8, 1888. 
See more Boom Town maps here:

Crop Prospects for Southeast Colorado in 1888

PERSONS Stories and Incidents of the Early Day East Enders

Before Baca County became a county in the spring of 1889 it was the eastern end of Las Animas county. As spring is upon us, I thought it might be good to look back at the crop prospects in Southeast Colorado in 1888.  The following  report comes from the The Daily Sentinel (Garden City, Kansas) · 28 Feb 1888.  I have included the towns from  what is present day Baca County and the areas surrounding Baca County including Old Bent County.  If you want to see where many of these towns were located, check out Boomtown Maps. There were many more Kansas listings, but we have chosen those most relevant to the history of Baca County.  If space allows we may present Kansas locations in the future.

Springfield and Vilas were in Old Las Animas County when this was printed.

Brookfield was in the Northwestern part of what is present day Baca County

Troy and Indianapolis were near present day Kim, Colorado. I am still unsure of the location of Alfalfa. If anyone has any clues, let me know.

The following are from Old Bent County which was broken up in the 1889 legislature.

Wilde was just west of Two Buttes mountain in present day Prowers Count. For more on Wilde check out my blog Wilde, Colorado: Colonel York, The Bloody Benders and West Point

Growing Up in Baca County, Episode #5b John Havens

 As the dust storms increased many of the farm families and a few of the town residents had to pull up stakes and look for greener pastures.  As a kid working around the service station I observed first hand family after family load all their belongings into cars and onto pickups and head out to find new homes.

A Colorized version of a 1930’s Baca County Dust Storm

   Even these many years later I remember three families who moved to southern Louisiana.  At least three families moved to Idaho, some to Oregon, some to California.  Several families moved to western Colorado, others to the Canon City/Penrose area.  It was not quite like a scene from Grapes of Wrath, but the Vilas community suffered the loss of many fine families.

   For those who stayed, times were hard.  Many farmers found work with the WPA, building bridges, roads and public buildings.  They would plant crops only to have them wiped out by the dust storms.  Then there were plagues of grasshoppers and the increase of jack rabbits.  Those critters increased in population until the famers had to organize rabbit roundup to reduce the population.  On one occasion Army Worms invaded an area near Vilas.  They stripped every garden as they moved from South to North for several miles.

   It was unbelievable how the dust swirled around houses and barns and drifted much like snow.  Farmers had to shovel the snow (dust) away from their front doors to gain entrance.

   There was one crop that seemed to thrive quite well during those days and that was broomcorn.  Tons of it was raised in Baca County, and if my memory serves me right, the town of Walsh became known as the Broomcorn Capital.

   But raising this crop was not easy.  It was strictly a dryland, crop and farmers spent long hours in planting it, weeding it, and then harvesting it.  Since no machine has been invented to cut the crop, it had to be harvested by hand.  Broomcorn cutters came from eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Southwest Missouri and other areas to cut broomcorn in the Fall of the year.

   One farm couple I was personally acquainted with hired 8 to 12 men during broomcorn harvest.  This couple had to get up by 5 a.m. and have breakfast ready for these men. They turned their double garage into a cook shack during this time.  They served bountiful meals, prepared lunches for the men to eat in the field, and another wellcooked evening meal in the cook shack.

   Since they no longer had livestock, they turned their barn loft into sleeping quarters, and the men ascended by ladder to their beds.  This had been their accommodations for several years, and no one had complained.  Then the Government stepped in and told this farm couple they had to have a stairway to the loft.  They complied with the order, and the first year of harvest one of the hands fell down the stairs and broke his leg, and the farmer had to pay the medical expense.  Also, the government said they had to have outhouse facilities at the end of so many rows of broomcorn.  The farmer decided there was getting to be too many rules and regulations, so they quit raising broomcorn.

(A comment by Kathy)

I know we have to have rules, but sometimes the rules cause more harm than good.  These men were out of work, the farmer out of income, and the community had one less industry.

    The WPA was a worthwhile program and saved a lot of people from starving and gave people a pride in earning a living for their family.  Today we are still enjoying some of the great buildings, bridges, and monuments that these people built.

Offices of the Prairie Cattle Company

“The largest herd of cattle I ever saw was in the summer of 1888. It stretched north from the mouth of Leon Creek, 25 miles southwest of the present Clayton for 5 or 6 miles. It was accompanied by 2 crews of 12 men each. Cattle belonging in Southern Colorado and the Cimarron River country to the estimated number of 15,000 head made up this great mass of cows, fresh branded calves and steers — old and young — which were being moved to their home ranges. At night the stock was loose guarded. It was too bulky to close up. In this herd were cattle bearing brands of the Prairie Company, the Western Land and Cattle Company (101’s) and the Muscatine Cattle Company, all Scotch companies.” – A. W. Thompson, Editor Clayton (NM) Enterprise

For those not familiar with the story. The Prairie Cattle Company exerted great influence over the development of early SE Colorado and Baca County. They were sometimes called the “mother of British cattle companies” since it was the first foreign syndicate to take advantage of the southwestern “Beef Bonanza” of the early 1880s. It was established in 1880 by the Scottish American Mortgage Company, based in Edinburgh, and by the following year it had purchased the JJ spread in southeastern Colorado and the Hall brothers’ Cross L Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. The company’s first big investment in the Texas Panhandle occurred in July 1881, when it purchased George W. Littlefield’s LIT Ranch for $253,000. Included in the transfer were 14,000 head of cattle, 250 saddle horses, and the LIT headquarters east of Tascosa. Subsequently the company added several small holdings to these properties. By the end of 1882 the Prairie Cattle Company owned close to 100,000 cattle and range rights to an unbroken, 300-mile strip of land from the Canadian River to the Arkansas River. We’ll a little bit more on this a little later

I’ve spent  many glorious days at the Steven Hart Library in Denver over the past few years. Much of that time revolving around topics which relate to Southeast Colorado, Boston Colorado, and the Prairie Cattle Company.  According to many early sources all the Prairie Cattle Company records and documents burned which is a bit confusing as in the Steven Hart Museum there is still 7.5 miles of microfilm with records which include the Articles of Association and a record of much day to day business.  They existed from 1880 – 1916 so granted there are many missing years and there.are many pages with a note that said the mice got them but I am not so sure they all burned since there still is the 7.5 miles of microfilm. A fact I am thankful for.  

I noticed something the other day as I was organizing files.  The address of the Prairie Cattle Company in 1880 was different than the one we posted a couple years ago on the Baca County Facebook page.  Not that it really matters, as people and businesses move all the time. Always have, probably always will, but I thought it might be fun to compile some of social media posts and add some to it. When the Articles of Association were filed in Edinburgh Scotland on Dec 29, 1880, the office was listed at 62 Frederick Street Edinburgh.  

Prairie Cattle Company Articles of Association December 29, 1880
Excerpt from Articles of Association showing Prairie Cattle Company place of business being 62 Frederick Street Edinburgh

The only other info I could find on this address was from 1907-1908.  At that point the tenet at the address was occupied by a group of lawyers.  Not sure it’s relevant to our work other than the Prairie Company was still in operation and they don’t appear to be headquartered there any more. 

Here is a shot of  62 Frederick Street, Edinburgh, Scotland today.

The key piece of this which tells me they were loocated elsewhere later is the letterhead shown below.  This letter is one of a series of letters 1915-1917 which began the work dissolving the Scottish syndicate which so greatly influenced Southeast Colorado. Also note their “Telegraphic Address”.

Below is 2 York Place Edinburgh Scotland today. So at least in the later years of the company  this was the home office of the Prairie Cattle Company. (Red Door).

There is another Scottish address, 18 George Street Edinburgh, mentioned by A. W. Thompson in the excerpt below which may indicate a third address occupied by the Prairie Cattle Company. 

 Among the corporations launched in Scotland in 1881 was one known as the Prairie Cattle Company Limited. The corporation, had voted, raised, an appropriated for the purchase of land and cattle in America, no less than 650,000 pounds sterling, over $3,000,000 American dollars. (NOTE: the initial capital raised as shown in Articles of Association above was 200,000 pounds.  There were multiple stock issues after that which I think may have exceeded Thompson’s numbers above)  It was called the Prairie Cattle Company, Limited. Its American office was located in Kansas City Missouri, its registered office and principal place of business, in Edinburgh, Scotland. If indeed in 1881 you had cared to look up the gentlemanly directors of The Prairie Cattle Company Limited, some of whom had been knighted, you would have found them dressed in loose-fitting Scotch tweeds within Dowell’s Rooms, 18 George Street Edinburgh.

18 George Street Edinburgh, Scotland. Today the space looks to be office space in the same building occupied by the Hard Rock Cafe.

To further break it down, a deed on record in Colfax County New Mexico, gives insight into the organization of The Prairie Cattle Company. The deed recites in part that John Guthrie Smith and James Duncan Smith solicitors before the Supreme Court, Scotland and William A. Clark, Muscatine, Iowa were trustees of the Prairie Cattle Company, Limited.

Clark and a Mr. Underwood of Kansas City were bankers and established firm based in Kansas City that operated under the name of Underwood, Clark and Company. This firm during its early years was delegated almost unlimited power in the purchase of lands and cattle. Their acts were approved by a board of directors in Edinburgh. All of the of the general managers of the Prairie company, except one were natives of the the British Isles. The purchases of the all the ranches in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, however, was left to the discretion of the American’s, either Underwood Clark & Co., or their lieutenants.

Finally, the Trinidad location was the home of ranch managers which were Americans until 1885. After that they imported Scots to run it. The most prominent was Murdo Mackenzie. Interestingly even after Mackenzie became manager of the Matador he continued to live in Trinidad. I guess that was the first instance of telecommuting. Not sure what you would have called it in the 1880s.

In America there were management offices referenced in Kansas City and Trinidad.  I have no documentation on the Kansas City Location, but most references such as Thompson’s Above as well as the one below  list something about the management of Underwood, Clark, and Company of Kansas City. Mr. A. H. “Gus” Johnson became the 1st general range manager in 1881. He held the position for only a year before his untimely demise. Anything the Prairie Company was doing in 1881 was big news. The following account of his death was reported in The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) 11 Jul 1882.

The clipping below doesn’t mention the specific location address, but does indicate the photo was taken at the Prairie Office in Trinidad. 

Clipping courtesy of the Texas & Southwest Cattle Association

 In the 1909 Trinidad Business Directory lists the Prairie Cattle Company Office at 319 W Main, Which is still there. Couldn’t find them listed in any of the other Business directories available at the museum.  The current occupant is a Photo Gallery.

H. G. Glazbrook, the manager of the Prairie Cattle Company was technically “officed” in Trinidad, but I bet this letter from Springfield, CO Attorney, L.H. Alberti, addressed to him in La Junta, on the topic of  the killing of JJ Steers on Butte Creek in 1915 probably got to him.

The Division Headquarters

  So back to A. W Thompson. Albert W. Thompson (For Baca County folk, he was the Sam Konkel of Clayton NM). He was editor and publisher of the Clayton Enterprise Newspaper. He wrote “The Early History of Clayton New Mexico” in 1933. That document is the equivalent of JR Austin’s “A Early History of Baca County.” written in 1936. His early writings also record much of a different part of the Prairie Cattle Co history than we are used to hearing about in Baca County. However, it gives perspective of how large the Prairie outfit really was and provides some perspective on how conversations about the Prairie Cattle Company were and still are very regionalized.  The Prairie had 3 divisions. 

 In 1871 the hall Brothers William James and Nathan established the ranch known as the “Cross L” in northwestern New Mexico.  Their first experience in northwest New Mexico was in 1869 when they trailed a herd of red white and yellow cattle from Texas Across the plains where they wintered them on the Cimarron and the next spring they drove them 300 miles north to then struggling town of Denver Colorado where they were sold for a nice profit. In their drive from Texas, the Halls got across the plains and the Canadian river by the Middle Water then on to Buffalo Springs.  This was later the celebrated site and headquarters the syndicate company also known as the XIT Ranch. This is a location the Halls still claimed until 1882.

In 1873 Jim Hall trailed a bunch of stairs from the Cimarron to Nevada where they were sold. He took Goldust as payments and $38,000 which you brought back with him on a pack horse.  This was later invested in Texas Cattle. Albert W Thompson also tells the story of Bill Metcalf another pioneer of the dry Cimarron and builder miles of fence. Thompson says in 1873 he operated a toll road in a store on a leg of the Cimarron and it was he who furnished the Halls with provisions until they could make cattle sales. 

In 1882 the Cross L was purchased by the Prairie Cattle Company Limited and Division 1 or the Cimarron River Division was created.   It was the first purchase of an American Ranch by the Prairie Cattle Company.  This was the beginning of the great movement to incorporate cattle companies in the American West in an attempt to provide capital and bring ranching in the American west to scale.   Many foreign cattle syndicates came and went but the largest and most profitable of them was the Prairie Cattle Company. In addition to a Scottish headquarters, a Kansas City Office and a Trinidad office they established three Ranch headquarters under distinct and different brands with the Cross L being the first.

The Arkansas River Division was the most northern of the Prairie companies divisions, some 20 miles south of La Junta Colorado (Higbee).  In SE Colorado the stories you hear about the Prairie Cattle Company are about the JJ.  The picture below, with my great uncle John Layton squatted down at the fire is a picture which I found in my mothers basement is an example of conversation about the different divisions of the Prairie Cattle Company.  There never really was discussion of the Prairie Cattle Company. It was always about the JJ. In fact the envelope in which I found this photo is labeled “J J Pictures” no mention of the Prairie Cattle Company.

  Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but the JJ was a Division of the Prairie Cattle Company.   Frances Bollacker Keck’s book The J J Ranch on the Purgatory River in Colorado focuses on the Jones family, and the JJ Ranch but barely mentions the other divisions of the  Prairie Cattle Company.    The shortened version of this story is that the JJ was a brand was the namesake of the Jones Brother.   About 1881 cattle reached a higher price than they had even a chain since the war, the price that the Jones Brothers were offered for the herd by Underwood, Clark & Company of Kansas City,  representing the Prairie Cattle Company, was too tempting. No one knew how long these prices would continue. A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush, and so Jones Brothers Disposed of all their Holdings to the Prairie Cattle Company. One of these brother’s name Jim– Jim Jones, and dust originated the JJ brand. At the time of this purchase in the portion of Southern Colorado known as the JJ range, nearly all the small owners of the cattle offered Their herds at the same price paid for the Jones heard and they were taken by the same syndicate. The Jones Brothers were among the first to give consideration to the Improvement of the grade of cattle then in Colorado. They imported Shorthorn Bulls from the eastern states, and their herd became one of the finest in the West.

The 3rd Division or the Canadian River Division was an outfit known as the LIT some four or five miles from Tascosa Texas on the Canadian river .  The Texas Historical society records the LIT story but misses the story of the other divisions. Again the story of these three divisions of this gigantic company is hardly mentioned as a whole.   Beyond these three cores ranches which made up the identity of the three divisions of the Prairie Cattle Company were many smaller ranches. Although numerous smaller operations were also purchased it was under the brands of these three ranches, Cross L, JJ, and LIT that the Prairie operated and it was these three in conjunction with the numerous smaller purchases that created the 300 mile north south expanse the Prairie Company controlled.

Clipping courtesy of the Texas & Southwest Cattle Association

By 1886 they were even bigger and the biggest of that time with 124, 212 head of  cows. That is a lot of beef.. Here you also see the influence of other Scottish syndicates such as the Swann and Powder River companies.   

 In the Cimmaron River area of the Prairie Cattle Company Holdings in an area known as the public strip the neutral strip or no man’s land, many other cattle companies foreign as well as American begin establishing a foothold. Below the Cross L and just over the line of no man’s land which is the Oklahoma Panhandle today was established the Western Land & Cattle Company another Scottish company.  They branded with the 101 brand. Downstream 10 miles was the headquarter of the Tower brothers and still further down 15 miles the Muscatine. There were still more but this very interesting 1884 New York Times clipping (below) shows even more of their ambition…they wanted to buy the Panhandle, the neutral strip. Yep,the whole neutral strip.

As I look at these old but well kept buildings, I can’t help but wonder if the current occupants know how much prior tenants influenced the settlement of the American West, Southeast Colorado, Northwest NM and the Oklahoma Panhandle.  Or what about the neutral strip? If they had succeeded in buying it would they have setup another headquarters and how might that have change the development of that area? That’s all for tonight…

Growing Up in Baca County Episode 6, Part 2 – By John Havens

To write anything about Vilas and not mention my Uncle Tony Havens would be an affront to him. Through many years, when I have met people and told them I was from Vilas, they have said: “Oh, are you related to Tony Havens?”

   After Mr. Wheeler died my Uncle Tony and George Stice put in a small grocery store. Mr. Stice moved from Vilas soon after that and my Uncle Tony and Aunt Ruth took over the store and called it Tony’s Market. They worked side by side in that story for forty years.

   During the drought and dust bowl years people came from quite a distance to trade at Tony’s Market. For those who were not able to pay, Uncle Tony extended credit, making it possible for farmers to purchase their groceries. He also sold ice in one hundred pound blocks, and farmers could leave their cans of cream there to be picked up by a creamery.

   As the hard times continued many farmers found it difficult to pay their bills. So on Sundays Uncle Tony would get in his pickup and go visit those farmers whose bills were mounting up, and he would settle their account by letting them give him a pig, or a calf, maybe some chickens or turkeys. He would come home with his pickup loaded with his assortment of animals, then on sale day at Lamar he would take whatever he had collected, sell them at the sale, then load his pickup with groceries and bring them back to the store.

   I never heard of him pressuring anyone to pay their bills. But during the hard times he and my Aunt Ruth helped make it a little easier for many farmers.

   Uncle Tony was also the community fund raiser. As Christmas approached, Uncle Tony put a pen and tablet on the counter, then asked everyone who came in the store to make a contribution toward the fund to purchase treats to be given out at the annual program.

   Also, if there was a death in the community, again he placed the tablet and pen on the counter, and no one escaped being asked to make a contribution for the purchase of flowers for the funeral. Usually there was a large wreath with a ribbon stating it was from the Vilas Community. When the list of names was given to the family there were names of people they never heard of, salesmen, deliverymen and everyone else.

   For several years Tony and Ruth lived in a small one-room structure which had been built as a garage. Then a farm house several miles South of Vilas came up for sale, and much to my Uncle Tony’s surprise Aunt Ruth was able to pay for the house and its moving with quarters she had saved over the years. It was moved into town and for the first time in their lives they enjoyed living in a five room house with indoor plumbing.

An 1894 View of SE Colorado

I have seen small images of this map, and have wanted to see it up close as you never quite get the quality of actually looking at the map. I got my wish today thanks to Don Brookhart. This map was reproduced by USGS in cooperation with the Library of Congress, this hand drawn map was originally published in 1894 by James McConnell School Supplies of Denver, Colorado. This unique birds-eye view map has incredible detail with features including: relief shading, counties, cities, towns, roads, rivers, valleys, railroads, and elevations of some mountain peaks. Use this map to understand the growth of Colorado from 1894 to the present, to examine the affect of topography on population settlement, to compare historical versus modern mapping techniques, to examine how some features’ names and spellings have changed since 1894, and to analyze the number of towns in mining areas and on the Great Plains that have disappeared. One source tells this map has a total of 1096 communities –more than doubling the number of mining camps and ghost towns commonly known.

I have included one map of towns highlighted from the area that is present day Baca County. One town, Viena I had not heard of before. Enjoy!

The Story of Edler: by Wayne Collier – Part 2

I am again excited to push out part 2 of Wayne Collier’s “The Story of Edler,” It will be available here for free, We will also publish it as a series in the Plainsman Herald.

We had a great response to part and Zoretta Ownbey fills in a little more of the story as she tells us, ” Wayne Collier was married to Joe’s aunt Blanche Ownbey. He and his father was struck by lightning which killed his father and Wannie evently went blind. He went on to college. He became a preacher. He pastored the Baptist Church in Campo, for several years later moving to Cortez and pastoring a church there.”

It also seems to be the kind of thing that would be good in a new book format compilation of Baca County History, but that is another conversation. I have my reasons for wanting to get to to folks in multiple formats. I won’t address that here, you can see a bit of that reasoning at my tech blog kentbrooks.com in the article “Are you ready for the Digital Dark Age?” I would again like to offer up a hearty “Thank You” to Arlan Hiner for providing us another item for our efforts to document Baca County History.

This letter was written by Wayne Collier, October 27, 1969. Wayne Collier was born at Cherryvale, Kansas May 11, 1905 and died April 21, 1985 at Palisade, Colorado. Given to me at the Hiner family reunion in May 2018 by Opal Ketterman Brinkley, my oldest cousin.”

Arlan G. Hiner

LakeView School

Lakeview School, as I remember, was larger than most country schools of the time – I would judge its dimensions to be about twenty-four by forty feet. It had a dirt floor, which we children promptly ground into a fine dust an inch or two deep. We had dust storms within the building and noons and recesses, when the weather kept us in, long before the county had them outside. One time a mouse was found in our water cooler, and we had a lot of fun yelling, “mouse soup for sale” to each other. We had no desks. For a time, cement block left over from the construction were piled up and planks placed over them for seats. Other cement blocks were stacked higher and planks placed over them for a desk. My father, being a carpenter, eventually made a home-made desk for Andy and me. I saw that desk many years later at Springfield at a school fair. I wished afterwards that I had inquired about it and had taken steps to acquire it.
When school buildings were built for educational purposes, they also became community centers for recreational and religious purposes. Box suppers and pie suppers to raise money for the school became social and recreational events as well. For this reason we sometimes went to such events in other districts. I remember attending such a supper at the Sunnyside School about seven or eight miles northwest of Edler when it was just a shell of new lumber without either outer or inner finish. Many years later, Basil Slavens who grew up in that neighborhood and taught there, introduced me to the member of the school board there and I taught my first term of school there. That community had a Post Office called Setonburg and a little ahead of Edler and we got our mail for awhile at the Setonburg P.O. I am not sure of the spelling. It was named for Seton Brown, who lived in the community at that time.
Then literaries were organized in some schools. Our Lakeview Literary alternated in time with the Horseshoe Literary; so we could attend each other’s literaries. For those not acquainted with such entertainments, let me say that the programs could be put on by amateurs with a minimum of preparation – especially collective preparation. The programs included such things as recitations, readings, dialogues, songs, stunts, and there were regular features such as a literary paper made up of jokes on various members of the community submitted by other members of the community, and a literary debate – usually on some ridiculous question argued with more humor than logic. The Horseshoe School House was a half dugout building smaller than the Lakeview building.
The first year that Olaf Baldwin taught our school he invited the Horseshoe School to join us in last day of school activities. Part of the activities was a game of baseball between our two schools. Within our schools a spelling bee and a siphering match were often a last of the week means of relaxation. The last quarter of the day was often given over to such activity.
Baseball contests between communities was later developed as a Saturday afternoon form of recreation. I remember the younger Bosley boys, Claude, Dan, and Charly as being prominent in representing the Edler Community in this sport.
Then there were Fourth of July celebrations in the head of the canyons in which Reignier was located. Again, I’m not sure of the spelling. I believe the canyon was called Jones Canyon – but I am not sure of that. I remember such things on the program as a Fourth of July speech by someone – I remember Mr. Palmer, he had a long white beard, who lived two or three miles south of Lakeview as giving one such speech. One year Andy and I were asked to sing some of the songs which we sometimes sang at literary programs, and a collection of small change was taken up for us. There was a wrestling match one year between Mr. Caswell, probably in his forties, and a young man. Afterwards I heard the young man talking about the match and saying that Mr. Caswell was strong as a bull in his arms and shoulders but weak in his legs. This Mr. Caswell was an interesting character. He had a heavy black beard and was somewhat short and stocky in build. He had a wife but no children. He was called on every year to prepare the barbecue. He barbecued both beef and goat. I usually sampled both and at the time, liked both. People brought the rest of their food. Being somewhat of a mystery figure, Mr. Caswell was the subject of such rumors as the one about him coming to the country with gold coins between the two layers of a double bottom in his wagon box. Part of the Fourth of July program was a rodeo upon the flats above the head of the canyon, with, I believe, some horse racing.
As school houses were built, nearly everyone of them, if not every one, became the meeting place of a Union Sunday School. There was seldom enough people of any one domination to have a Sunday School or church of a single domination at the beginning, and men of different dominations preached at these schools – usually on an occasional or intermittent or alternative basis. Mr. Palmer, a widower with two grown daughters and a grown son, who lived about two or three miles south of Lakeview, was a long Superintendent of the Union Sunday School at Lakeview. He was a moderately tall and moderately slender man who wore a white goatee. His son was drafted into the army in World War I and he did not return to live with his father after the war, but Mr. Palmer’s daughters were still living with him, I believe, when he left Baca County.
The Union Sunday School soon formed Sunday School Associations and set certain dates for meeting and fellowshipping with each other. In addition, our Sunday School occasionally had a picnic at the same site where the Fourth of July picnics were held.
Before the Union Sunday Schools was organized, my Mother conducted Sunday School lessons at our house with a neighbor girl, Mary Farley, who lived three or four miles east of Edler and a little north, and Andy and me as her class. Also, before there was a school house at Lakeview, a Church of Christ Minister, Rev. T. V. Nidey, preached in our house, even though my parents were Baptists. Later, on a still quiet night, when my Father was away working, Mother, Andy and I set out in our front yard and heard Rev. Nidey preach to Stinsons shearing crew at Number Nine three quarters of a mile to the east of us. He had a strong voice which carried well and the atmospheric conditions were just right to carry sounds extra well. At other times I have heard this beloved pioneer Minister, when preaching in small school building, invite everyone to come to the front so they could hear.
Well, T. V. as he called himself later preached a series of messages at Lakeview, and I was converted under his preaching. In the home discussions after the end of the meetings, Andy decided to present himself for Baptism also. We wanted our membership with our parents, and the nearest Baptist Church to us at that time, was meeting in the Sandy Soil Schoolhouse, which was then a half dugout. Rev. Tippit was the Pastor of the Baptist Church there and alternated with Rev. Nidey in preaching there. Both a Church of Christ and a Baptist Church meet in the same building. Most of each congregation, I believed, listened to the Pastor of the other. Andy and I were baptized in John Neal’s stock tank a mile or two to the northwest of the school house on a winter day, when the ice had to be broken off the tank. Later, when I was courting my wife we attended a debate at the Sandy Soil Schoolhouse, which was built on top of the ground. The debate was between Rev. T. V. Nidey and a Mr. Russell who was then Postmaster at Edler and claimed to be an atheist. Still later, I taught my last term of school at Sandy Soil.
Another man who occasionally preached at Lakeview was a Methodist preacher, Rev. Huffman, who with his wife lived about two miles east of Edler. There daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter lived about a half mile east of them. I can’t recall their names, just now, except that the little girl’s given name was Ruth. They and the Huffmans lived very close to the same place where Dr. Keyster and his family had lived. Now coming back to the subject of horses, we had no team, when we first settled in Baca County. Uncle Charly’s team, Max and Charly had to plow the required twenty acres on both Uncle Charly’s half section and on ours as well the first year. The next year my Dad went to Lamar for lengthy periods of time to earn money to buy a team and harness and wagon. On one of his trips home he walked all the way blistering his feet. Andy and I walked down to Uncle Charly’s place and met him walking to our place. He had shaved off his brown mustache and we didn’t know him and were afraid to come to him until we recognized his voice. He soon grew his mustache again. Eventually, he earned enough to bring home a team of mares equipped with harness and wagon. There was a fourteen hundred pound white mare called Bird and a twelve hundred pound brown mare called Babe. Andy and I could ride Babe to Lakeview to school, tie up her reins, turn her loose and she would go home. If it remained bad, Dad would ride one horse to school and lead the other for us boys to ride home.
One time Uncle Charly traded his horse Charly to us for a week for the use of Bird. He wanted to make a freight trip to Lamar and didn’t think Charly was up to making the trip. He put him in our pasture, which was separated from his pasture by a partition fence. We wanted to use the horses for some small chore, so I rode Babe into the pasture to drive Charly to our house, but Charly had different ideas, and he was a logger-headed old horse. He thought he should go to Uncle Charly’s house instead of ours. When I was running Babe to circle him back towards our house, I got a little too close to Charly. He lifted up one of his long hind legs and planted a big hoof forcefully on my solar plexis, kicking me clear off Babe. The blow blinded me for a moment, and for the first time, I knew what it was to see nothing but stars. I hit the ground and rolled without seeing it – and I was sick, oh so very sick. I walked a little way at a time toward our house, and then would go down to rest and overcome the nausea. My Mother and Andy came running to meet me. They called Dr. Goodrich, an M. D. who had settled across the road from Ralph Fox a half west of our house. He lived with his wife and two grown daughters, Charlette and Elva. Whereas Dr. Keyster had worn a dark mustache, he wore a white goatee. He thought that all I needed was to take it easy for a while. We forgot what we needed Charly for, and he stayed in our pasture till Uncle Charly got home and exchanged Bird for him again.
Bird gave us a colt which we named Dick – later another named Shirley, Babe never had any colts. My Dad made a small barn with four stalls. It had a shed roof – and, incidentally, a number of pigeon houses around it. A pair of pigeons had come to us from we knew not where and began to multiple. One day when the colt, Dick, was behind the barn, a strong whirl wind came along and dumped the barn over on him, caved in the roof of the barn. When we got the barn turned right side up again, the colt seemed not to be seriously hurt.
After our house had burned down and Dad and Mr. Fox had built our second one, they completed the horse buying trip to the Welsh Ranch. Dad bought a bay colt – or maybe I should say young horse – which we named Snip. He bought another horse from someone else – a bay which we named Ned. About a week before July 17, 1917 he took note of the danger that some of our livestock were in by remaining near a barbed wire fence during an electrical storm. Mother had a dream in which she saw an angel lying in a black casket. On the afternoon July 17, 1917 my Father, Andy and I went to the field to work. As we passed through the gate, Dad seemed uneasy about the danger of lightning, for a small thunderhead was forming over head. We started to work. Dad was working Ned and Snip on a walking cultivator. Andy and I followed with a hoe apiece. If the cultivator missed a weed on my side of the row, I got it with my hoe. If it missed a weed on Andy’s side he got it with his hoe. The north half of our half section was then fenced off for a field, and the western two thirds of this area was now broken out.
We took up our work about thirty rows east of the west fence and had followed one half mile row to the north side of the place and had come back a quarter of a mile when it began to rain and hail a little bit. The young horse Snip, began to prance; so Dad went forward and caught him by the bit. Since we were even with Charly Bosley’s half dugout which was west of us just across the road, we decided to unhook the team and tie them to the cultivator; so the couldn’t run off with it. We planned to take shelter in Charly Bosley’s house during the storm, although he was not home. Settlers did not lock their houses in those days, and neighbors were free to enter in case of need. Andy started across toward the house, our dog, Crowder, following him. The last thing I heard my father say was to warn Andy not to remain near that fence – the one which we must cross to reach the Bosley house. I reached for the tug of the horse opposite the one my Dad held with the intention of unhooking him. I rememberd no more. It was evident I didn’t quite touch the tug which by that time was wet and a good conductor of electricity. The main bolt of the lightning struck the horse my Father was holding by the bit. The force of the bolt knocked both horses and my Father to the east and knocked me to the west.
Andy and Crowder were near enough to be shocked, but far enough away to avoid being knocked unconscious. Andy ran home to tell Mother that the lightning had struck killing the team and killing me, and that Daddy was dying. He had seen him patting and rubbing his throat. After Andy left, I began to regain consciousness. I became dimly aware that it was raining in my face. I could see nothing but the brightness of the sun as it come out from under the thunderhead and shined directly in my face even while it was also raining in my face. I thought I was having a nightmare and kept saying to myself. “This surely can’t be true. This surely can’t be true.” I didn’t know where I was or what had happened. After a while, I was dimly aware of men’s voices without understanding any thing that was said. I felt myself lifted up and leaned against the cultivator wheel which I gripped with my hands, and I felt a sensation in my legs of pins and needles as when an arm or leg is moved after it has gone to sleep. I didn’t know until twenty years later how I happened to be leaning against the cultivator wheel. Pete Marsh told me that he and another man came by in his buggy and found me wallowing in the mud. The stood me up by the cultivator wheel and then went on to Uncle Charly’s place for help. Pete was drilling a well for Uncle Charly at the time.
When Andy told Mother what had happened, they ran back to the field. On their way they passed Mr. Fox’s field, and he happened to be at that end of the field when they passed. They told him what had happened. He was using a riding cultivator which had knives like those later used on knife sleds, instead of cultivator shovels. He pulled the knives up out of the ground and drove his team in a gallop back to his house. He got his Model T which was the only car in the Edler Community at that time – the Rudolphs some seven or eight miles southeast of Edler had the only other car anywhere near there at that time, so far as I know. When Mother and Andy got to the scene I was dimly aware of someone crying. After a while Mother spoke directly to me and asking “Wannie, do you know that the lighting struck and killed Daddy and the team and nearly killed you?”
I answered, “I know it now,” and I said no more. I had no impulse for a week to initiate speech, responded only to give the briefest answer possible. I was conscious, but feelings were numb.
Ralph Fox had picked up Dr. Goodrich, who lived across the road from him, and he arrived in his car with Doctor, shortly after my mother and Andy got there. The Doctor pronounced my Father as already dead when he arrived. He and Mr. Fox used the cushion of the back seat in the car as a stretcher and put me in the car and took me to the house. A large crowd of neighbors assembled at the house almost as soon as we got there. I suppose this was the result of the word that Pete Marsh took to Uncle Charly’s house and perhaps on to Edler. A lot of conversation was going on which I did not follow for the most part. I didn’t know they were wondering whether I could see or not. Mother said my eyes were bugged out and full of mud when she got to the field. After a while one neighbor bent down low over me to look at me without having said anything yet. Someone asked me if I knew who was looking at me. I could see him dimly, but enough to recognize him. I said, “It is Mr. Charles.” They knew then that I could see some.
Someone brought a casket down from Springfield and placed Father’s body in it in our house preparatory to removing it to Springfield for the funeral and burial, with Rev. Huffman officiating. At a later time, my Mother said it was the same black casket that she saw a short time before in her dream. Two people one on either side of me, supported me and lead me to the casket to see my Father’s body before it was taken away. I saw him dimly and cried a little, but I did not experience the full grief of his going till my mind and feelings cleared up about a week later. Dr. Goodrich was quite worried about me during that week, but I didn’t know it then. He later said I would never be nearer death again without going on.
The Ralph Fox family planned to take a trip into Kansas shortly after I recovered. Mother sent Andy and me with them to stay with her sister in Wichita, my Aunt Myrtle. Her husband was Delbert Bolen and her son, Ray, and daughter, Elsie, completed their family at that time. After mother had straightened up necessary business affairs, she come on to Wichita and worked as a practical nurse and as a domestic, while Andy and I continued to live with Uncle Delbert and Aunt Myrtle and go to school – back in Lincoln Elementary School again.
In the spring, we returned to Baca County, and Mother got a job as a housekeeper and cook in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Stinson, who had moved to Springfield then. Andy and I lived with Mr. Palmer and his two daughters for a while, then Andy went to live with the Ralph Fox family, I went to live with the Coulters’ – Vernon and Floyd and their Mother and Floyd’s wife and baby. Vernon and Floyd’s houses were close enough that they could eat together and be together through the day. Once again Andy and I attended the Lakeview School which now had a fourth of the interior area covered by a board floor where our desks were located. Influenza epidemic of 1918 soon closed the school. One of my jobs at Coulters was to pick up dry cow chips and load them in a wagon box to be hauled to the house for fuel. We had sometimes used that kind of fuel at our house on the claim earlier. I also helped feed the cattle Russian Thistle hay. Crops had not done well so they had cut and cured and stacked the thistles which did do well. We use a hay knife – a long bladed knife with a wavy edge – to slice the hay from the stack with a sawing motion. It was a lot better than no feed at all. Later in eastern Baca County during dust bowl days I saw Bud and Alva Watson beat up soap weeds in a hammermill for cow feed.
This reminds me of other ways of planting and harvesting crops which are no longer in use. I saw Dr. Goodrich work day after day using a hand planter till he had planted a twenty acre field which cornered where our place was located and lay to the northwest. He would take a step, jab the planter into the ground pull the handle of the planter apart to release the seed, then repeat the performance for the next hill. I saw my Father plant a twenty acre field of cane by carrying the seed in bags suspended from his shoulders and scattering the seed broadcast by hand. I helped him harvest a twenty acre field of corn by using two corn knives. There were long bladed knives which broadened as they extended farther from the handle. We gathered the corn in our left arms as we chopped each stock with our right hands. When our left arms were full we added the armfuls to the shock we were building. Later Dad husked the corn and used the fodder for roughage. Sometimes I rode a horse for Ralph Fox while he rode on a sled with a knife on the side a few inches above the ground. We pulled the sled down a row of feed, and as the knife cut the stocks, Mr. Fox gathered them in his arms till they were full, then he shocked them.
The car that Mr. Fox bought wasn’t primarily for transportation. When he first stopped at our place as he was bringing it home, Andy and I ran out to examine it. We saw some metal pieces sticking out to the rear from the framework of the car. We spelled out the name Straud on the extensions. Then we ran in the house, where he was talking to Mother and said, “We know whose car it is.” He asked, “Whose?” We answered, “Mr. Stroud’s.” He was the Springfield merchant who first established a branch store at Number Nine.
Then Mr. Fox explained that it was his car with a Straud Make-a-tractor attachment. He had bought the Model T primarily to use as a tractor. He told me he would teach me to drive it in return for my working for him, if I wanted to do that. I did. He used it to pull a sulky plow in breaking sod. If the term is not familiar to some, let me explain that a sulky plow is a riding plow which has but one bottom, and gang plow has two or more bottoms.
Oh yes, about my eyes; one eye gradually went on out and the other improved; so that I had useable sight within a range of forty-five degrees for a number of years. Most people have a range of one hundred and eighty degrees. Cataracts developed as a delayed result of the electric shock and the one in the good eye – the right one, was removed in 1947, giving me usable sight for five more years. Then I lost all sight by a retinal separation.
Well, well, well, when I started this letter, I didn’t realize that such a flood of memories would arise to indicate how much life in this country as changed since homesteading days in Baca County. And even now more memories come flooding in. I don’t suppose that the type of incubator which Mother used is still in use anywhere. Her incubator was heated by a kerosene lamp which had a regulator to govern the amount of heat put out and keep the eggs from over heating or getting too cool. She put marks on the eggs when she loaded the incubator so she could properly turn the eggs once a day. One day the marks would be up and the next they would be down. Since she had no setting hen ready to take charge of the chicks when they hatched, Andy and I lead the chicks out each day and caught grasshoppers for them. They learned to respond to our call of. “Tiny, tiny, tiny” much as other chicks responded to the cluck, cluck, cluck of a hen. We learned to know the chicks so intimately that we gave them individual names.
Mother used to exchange a yeast starter with neighbor ladies. Each one put a bit of dough in a mason jar after her bread was through raising and added a little sugar for the yeast to feed on. Then she passed the starter on to another neighbor. By such means the yeast was kept alive and fresh.
We raised cane – not in anger – but for sorghum. When it was ready we topped the cane and stripped it of leaves and took the bare stocks to one of the several sorghum makers who then operated in the country. They had a device like a big clothes wringer turned up on end with the rollers in a vertical rather than a horizontal position. A long tongue was fastened to one of the rollers so that a horse could be hitched to it. As he walked he turned one of the rollers and its pressure against the other caused it to turn also. The sorghum maker ran the stocks between the rollers to squeeze out the juice. The juice was placed in large flat vats and a fire kept going under them to evaporate the moisture from the juice and thicken it into sorghum. The squeezed out stocks when dry, were used for fuel. Two kinds of cane were grown in our neighborhood at that time, orange and amber. The orange made the best sorghum. The sorghum maker kept a share of the sorghum and gave us a share.
Fruit was scarce and hard to come by at first. Mother, becoming fruit hungry, tried vinegar pie as an experiment. She made it like lemon pie, but substituted vinegar for lemon juice. It wasn’t a very satisfactory substitute for fruit. Later, Dad and Mother, and we boys went to Shannon’s Orchard and picked apples on the shares. We went south through the canyon in which Reignier was located, as I remember, then turned west and circled back north into another canyon where the orchard was located. We camped out while picking the apples. A number of other people were doing the same thing.
My Dad used to keep a camping bed and grub box ready for any long freighting trips or for trips to the Cedars as we called the canyons to the west of us. The Cedars were, for years, the chief source of fuel and of fence posts for the country. Both cedar and pine made good fuel, but only the cedar made good posts. Pine rotted out in the ground too soon. In our division of chores, it usually fell to me to saw the fire wood into stove lengths with a buck saw and to split it with our double bitted axe.
Speaking of the sorghum making equipment for squeezing out our cane juice as being like a big clothes wringer turned up on end reminds me of how Ralph Fox altered the remains of Mother’s clothes wringer for a new usage after it had gone through the fire which burned off all the rubber on the rollers.
He set the cogs in a board so that when you turned the crank it turned three cogs at once whose shortened shaft extended through the board. He attached hooks to the ends of the shaft which came through the board. He also shaped another board so that the upper end of it had three notches – one on the top and one on each side. The part of the board that extended down, he shaped into a handle. Then he threaded binder twine from the hooks through the notches and back to the hooks in such a way that he had three multiple stands of twine between the two contraptions. One person would hold the notched board while another turned the crank and twisted strands of twine. When they were tightly twisted and removed from the notched board the three twisted strands twisted themselves into a rope. By using more or less twine he could make any size rope he needed.
Before we had any horses of our own, and before we had a cistern, we had a single wooden water barrel for water storage. Of course, we could do with less water storage when we had nothing but a few chickens to water besides taking care of our minimal domestic needs. We had to depend on neighbors, who had horses, to haul water to maintain and supply the storage capacity of our barrel.
On one winter day, when the ground was covered with snow, Ralph Fox was bringing us a barrel of water on a sled pulled by one horse. He and Andy were riding the sled in front of the barrel, and I was riding behind the barrel. When we were within about a hundred yards, or so, from our house, the wire which fastened the single tree to the sled broke and the sled stopped suddenly. The barrel didn’t stop. It turned over forward and dumped its contents on Andy drenching him from head to foot. Mr. Fox caught Andy up in his arms and ran on to the house and the warm fire with him.
We had to conserve our water supply in every way we could. One way of doing that was to make use of the little wagon our parents had bought as a Christmas present for Andy and me, while we were yet in Wichita. With the little wagon, we hauled our laundry down to Uncle Charly’s place to wash near the Number Nine water supply.
We also used the little wagon to haul other things back and forth. It also served our needs to transport cow chips when we went out over the prairie to collect them. We gathered them in gunny sacks and loaded the sacks on the wagon, sometimes several sacks high.
One day when Andy and I were making a trip to Uncle Charly’s place with the little wagon, a snake came gliding from the north toward us. He was traveling at an unusually high speed for a snake. He seemed to have no fear of approaching us, Andy left the wagon and ran toward to south. The snake followed after him. As he ran, Andy circled back to the east toward Uncle Charly’s place. The snake circled with him until he was going about straight east, then the snake broke off following him and went on south. We didn’t know what kind of a snake it was. I have never seen another snake travel as fast as that one did.
Several of us saw a small rattle snake with a single button. He was on the northwest corner of our place. Some of the men teased him with a stick or stalks. In writhing about he covered his body with dust. Finally he struck and bit a part of his own body. I do not know whether it was because he was flustered or because he mistook the dust – covered part of his body for something else that threatened him. In a little while he turned his stomach up to the sky and died.
When my Father took me to the Cedars with him for a load of posts, we heard a snake rattling off to the north of us as we traveled toward the setting sun. We looked about and saw him coiling and uncoiling near the opening of a prairie dog hole. When we neared him we saw that he had a prairie dog, which was about three-fourths grown, about half swallowed. My father chopped off the snake’s head. The same stroke also cut off the prairie dog’s head, leaving it in the snake’s body.
Beside snakes, Prairie Owls also lived in prairie dog holes. It was common to hear them at night. During the evening hours the sound of the night hawks was common through the summer. During the day, one often heard the turtle dove, the meadow lark, the curlew, and the killdeer. Chicken hawks and buzzards were common sights. Once we saw a road runner.
We were close enough to the buffalo days that buffalo wallows still remained. One was a short distance north of Uncle Charly’s house. Many cattle trails over the prairie made by cattle following each other single file were in existence on the plains. Some of these may have originally been buffalo trails. My Father found a pair of buffalo horns still undecayed, although they were weathered checked. He cut off the pointed end of one so he could blow the horn as you blow a trumpet. One quiet night when sound carried well, he went out doors and blew the horn a while. After a while, someone off to the south answered by blowing another horn. We never knew who it was.
Uncle Charly, Aunt Gertie, son Paul and daughter Esther Collier moved from the Edler Community in 1935, to Canon City, Colorado. Uncle Charly, Aunt Gertie and their son Paul are all buried at Canon City. Esther is married to Mr. Ed Kachenko and lives in Denver.
I always felt a tug toward the ministry, but hesitated to go into it. There came a day when fading eyesight, resulting from the stroke of lightning, closed all other doors to me, but left open the door to theological training. Now, I am a semi-retired minister doing pulpit supply work and writing a column for several local newspapers. My training for teaching history, politics and the other social sciences and my training in theology both enter into the writing of my column.
By W. W. Collier

Joy Coy, Colorado & the Coming of the Railroad

“Nearly everything lives in a hole in the ground; the rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, owls, ground-squirrels, and even the people.”

-Letter from Joy Coy Colorado, 1916

Pritchett, Colorado lies in the extreme Southeast part of Colorado.  There is not a lot of activity there these days. There is a school, a bar, a hotel for providing astrotourism adventures in the best dark skies in the United States, and a few houses. The empty storefronts on main street provide a few clues of a busier time when this portion of Colorado was the “Broomcorn Capital of the World.”

As you drive south through Pritchett you see a couple of towering grain elevators and railroad track.  The railroad is a key part of this story but we will save that for later in this post.

A couple miles west of Pritchett, Colorado State Highway 160 turns south as it takes a path toward Trinidad Colorado.  As you turn south there sits in a pasture, on the right hand side of the highway, a few piles of ruble signifying as many such locations do on the prairie that there was once life and activity in former days.  This location and this ruble was what was known as Joy Coy, Colorado. The reference in the quote above about living underground refers to a “dugout” which is a shelter that is dug in the ground and roofed over.

The author standing next to the ruins of Joy Coy, Colorado
A 1929 map including Joy Coy courtesy of the University of Alabama Maps Collection

The first news from Joy Coy was in 1915, so it is likely that is when folks came and set up the town.  They came because this was one of the last places in the United States with free land available to homesteaders.  

The first I learned about the settlement of Joy Coy was in the book, Bear Tracks and Cactus Tree’s by Iris Powell Colwell.  Iris lived in Balko, Oklahoma,the hometown of my wife and she actually attended our wedding. It was only a few years ago that we discovered that when Iris was a child her family homesteaded west of Joy Coy. They apparently ran the store there for a time (See Below).

Iris Powell Colwell’s Uncle John Jackson with his Reo Speedwagon loaded with groceries for his store in Joy Coy, Colorado. Springfield, Colorado businesses in the background.

Additional information about the settlement of Joy Coy follows:

The Mountain Echo (Yellville, Marion, Arkansas) · 12 Nov 1915


O. F and Jeffie Gray of Bruno returned a few days ago from Joy Coy, Colorado, where they had been Visiting their brother, W. O. Gray, who went to that country  last spring and homesteaded 320 acres of fine land. They said that the entire 320 acres can be cultivated and that it is very rich and productive. They also stated that while there is a great deal of land in that country subject to homestead entry, it is being taken up very rapidly, and in a short time it I will all have been taken off the market.  The young men stated that they would return to that country in a very short time and file a homestead on 320 acres each. We regret to see these young men leave Marion county but hope they will do well in Colorado

The Nashville Journal (Nashville, Kansas) 23 Dec 1915.  

Photo provided by Kathy Evans Olson of her grandparents (on the right) on their wedding day in 1916. They homestead near Joy Coy.

JoyCoy was described  in the 1980 Baca County History Book as follows:

Jacob Gelvin wife Myrtle, sons Walter Ray daughters Flossie and Margaret, bought the whole east side of town.  It consisted of a three room house, a filling station, garage, blacksmith shop between this building and the general store was machinery. The general store carried everything from thread to cookies.  Crackers, cookies and candy came in a 12x12x12 inch box with lids

A Wellsville Globe (Wellsville, Kansas) · 30 Jun 1916.

Well Mr. Editor of the Globe, we received copies of the Globe yesterday and it seemed like a letter from home. We were sure glad to hear of plenty of rain back there.  Rain is our greatest need in this country. It is very dry at present. We have only had one real good rain since we got out here, and that has been six weeks had – several sprinkles. We planted corn, maize, and cane and it is all up, but it is so dry that it don’t grow very fast and our garden is late and can’t make much to eat if we don’t get rain soon. But we are not alone in the drought. It has been dry in Western Kansas and Oklahoma.

Well we like the climate it sure is a good place to eat and sleep; the nights are cool and we sleep under cover every night and fire feels good in the mornings.

Can say to inquiring friends that all the land is taken up but there are some relinquishments that can be bought rom $60 to $500. The country is pretty level and the soil is loose and good and deep enough to raise any thing if it gets to raining and they say it will.  

Nearly everything lives in a hole in the ground; the rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, owls, ground-squirrels, and even the people.  We have a nice dugout 16×20; and a house on top of the ground 14×14 in which we cook and eat, but we sleep in the dugout.

We are getting lonesome, for nearly all our neighbors have gone off to harvest. We were over close to the cedar mountains 3 weeks ago and there are thousands of head of the J. J. company over there and as many sheep. They are a good bit of trouble to the settlers and will be worse when the crops get larger. There are none of the cattle or sheep in this part of the country because this is more thickly settled. Every thing is high out here cows are $75 to $100 a head. Our neighbor paid $90 for one and they are scarce at that. If any of you Wellsville people want to get brown just come out here.

Mrs. J. R. Smith.

Photo provided by Diane Evans Harvey of the family homestead near Joy Coy.  

Dear Sir; The enclosed check will bring to us away out here in Baca County, the news from home for another year.

We are rejoicing in the assurance of a good crop, as we have had many very heavy rains over our county in the past two weeks. The ground here is thoroughly soaked up and every pool is full of water. My crop of forty acres is in fine shape. Corn just about in roasting ears; sudan grass higher than my head and ready to cut; twenty acres in feed, cane and maize, is looking good and we have a Little patch of Mexican and tapir beans, which are “the settler’s” stand-by.

We are now using besides them, potatoes and turnips of our own raising.

My family is well. Mother has just returned from a three weeks visit with her sister in Rocky Ford.  My children are looking forward to school duties. I expect to try wheat this fall, with what success I cannot foretell. Your friend, Mrs. T. R. BARNETT.

Editor Gray County Record. Dear Sir: I will drop you a line, as I did not receive your last two papers. But it is not your fault.

We sure have been having some winter here. It started snowing about 5:00 o’clock, December 17, and never stopped snowing and blowing until about 10:00 o’clock December 24. It sure was some storm, and we have not had the mail from Lamar but once since the 20th of December, so that accounts for our not receiving your paper.

The weather man started the new year here by dropping the mercury to twenty below zero, and that makes one feel like staying close to the fire.

There are some few cases of flu in this neighborhood yet. The Baca County paper states that one man lost 35 head of cattle in one night since the storm. As this is all the news I think of at present, I will close, wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year.

Chas. E. Ryder.

The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kansas) · 8 Mar 1919

Kansas Farmer and Mail and Breeze (Topeka Kansas) · 10 May 1919

The Gray County Record (Ensign, Kansas) · 17 Jul 1919

Joy Coy Colorado, around 1920

The Dexter Tribune (Dexter, Kansas) · 31 Oct 1920

Capper’s Weekly (Topeka, Kansas, United States of America) · 27 Mar 1920

The Nebraska Farm Journal (Topeka, Kansas) · 15 Dec 1921

The Hugoton Hermes (Hugoton, Kansas, United States of America) · 3 Feb 1922

Joy Coy, Colorado like many towns looked forward to the coming of the railroad.  The news of the day anticipated that the rail would reach Joy Coy.

The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) · 6 Jul 1926

The Dodge City Journal (Dodge City, Kansas) · 28 Feb 1924

The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Reno, Kansas) · 29 Jul 1926

The proposed extension of the railroad to Joy Coy never came to pass.  The railroad stopped approximately two miles short of Joy Coy. A new town, Pritchett. Please Note in the clipping below they refer to Vilas as Wheeler, presumably in reference to long time Vilas merchant CF Wheeler.

The Morton County Farmer (Rolla, Kansas) · 27 Aug 1926,
John Jackson, Civil War Vet, Joy Coy Homesteader and Storekeeper standing. Younger Brother Rob Blevins sitting

By a Staff Correspondent. Springfield Colo., Feb. 1 — All Baca county expectantly awaits today the fulfillment of a dream born a halt century ago when the first rugged plainsmen began homesteading the rich prairies, the sight of a train puffing its way over the prairie.  This long awaited sight will be given residents of Baca county tomorrow when the first scheduled train will operate over the new Santa Fe line extended out of Manter to Pritchett Colo., a new town near the western edge of Baca County.

The Santa Fe operating department today formally look over the 56.1 mile stretch of of splendid railroad from the construction company.  Regular service will be inaugurated tomorrow. For the time service will be tri-weekly, trains running west from Dodge City on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and returning form Pritchett on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  No trains will run on Sundays. The first train leaving Dodge City, Kan., at 7 o’clock in the morning and reaching Springfield late in the afternoon.

Railroad officials have assured local shippers that daily service will be accorded Baca county just as soon as business warrants.  It was pointed out that it would be far better to start with tri-weekly service and increase the trains than to give daily service on the start and then reduce the trains.  

A Splendid Railroad.

No finer piece of new railroad was ever turned over to an operating company than that extending form Manter Kan., to Pritchett, Colo.  Nothing but heavy steel was used in the construction and the roadbed in splendid shape at present. Lack of rain in more than six months has prevented any grade settlement.  This means the Santa Fe will have considerable filling to do later, but for the time at least riding over the new line is as comfortable as the Santa Fe Main Line. Special trains carrying officials making final inspection of the line before acceptance by the operating Department have been zipping along at a speed of 10 to 50 miles an hour which is nothing short of remarkable for a new road.

The opening of the new Manter line of the Santa Fe leaves one railroadless County in Colorado that is real Blanco in northwest corner of the state.

Great Development to Come.

The importance of the railroad to Baca County cannot be overestimated.  Here is a great expanse of rich land barely tapped by the handful of hardy pioneers who have stayed against the day of the railroads coming, hauling their products 30 to 50 miles for shipping.  It opens the way for a great many agricultural developments on the land which will grow wheat corn broom corn and numerous row crops. It is said of the sandy section of the southern part of the county that there never has been a complete failure except where hail has taken its toll.  Rainfall comes during the growing season due to the melting snows in the mountains to the west.

Grain Awaits Shipment.

A considerable tonnage of freight awaits commencement of a regular train service. The Santa Fe will operate in a mixed train carrying both freight and passengers. Nearly a train load of wheat is already loaded with the three principal stations, Pritchett, Walsh and Springfield, and a large amount of broom corn and grain is piled on the ground at Walsh waiting cars. The construction trains have previously carried out some grain and have brought some inbound Freight.  Most inbound Freight has been trucked across from Lamar, however, immense service over the construction company train was too uncertain.

Springfield and other Baca County towns will continue to get their mail Lamar station for the time because of the lack of daily service on the railroad.  Daily truck service out of Lamar has been supplying mail in the past.

Ends Long Wait.

“We have been waiting for this train service for 40 years.”  Commented Mayor H.. E. Homsher, of Springfield today. It should bring us many new settlers in the launching of service and undoubtedly marks the beginning of an era of prosperity for our country. The railroad means the thousands of acres of sod will be broken this spring.

Extensive building programs in Walsh, Springfield, and Pritchett will now be possible with materials available via Freight. Efforts to build especially in the new towns that have sprung up from the Prairie on both sides of Springfield have been particularly handicapped by the lack of materials.

End to Two Towns.

Opening of the railroad memes the passing of two Pioneer towns Joy Koy and Stonington. Joy has been moved about two miles into Pritchett, western terminus of the road and and Walsh is replacing Stonington.  Since the railroad has not come to these pioneer settlements they moved to the railroad.

The opening of the railroad brings this Colorado County closer to Kansas Distributing points than those in Colorado, actually closer by measuring miles. Vacuum County will be a big buyer in Hutchinson markets. Dodge City is also bound to reap a great deal of benefit from the tapping of this new country.

Three agency stations.

The Santa Fe will maintain agents of each of the three principal points on the new Railroad.  H.S. Hazel is the Agent of Springfield; R. A. Spellman at Walsh and A. E. Menefee at Pritchett. The railroad has built homes for the agents at Walsh and Pritchett and it looks like the same thing would be necessary in Springfield for there isn’t a vacant building in this town.

Grain elevators are already beginning to rear skyward along the new railroad and others will soon be under construction. Places for elevators have been provided several sightings as well as in the three towns. Stations and sidings on the new 56.1 mile extension starting at manter and extending West or as follows:

Bartlett, Colo., siding.
Walsh, Colo. agency station.
Vilas, Colo. siding.
Springfield, Colorado agency station.  
McCall, Colo siding.
Pritchett, Colo. Agency station terminal.
Saunders, Kas., siding.

Joy Coy ball team about 1926 –
Back row: Dick Jordan, Floyd Michael, George and Raymond, Nelson McClain, Ward Brown. Seated: Raleigh Stout George Middleswail, manager John Halbert, Winnie Union Chas Brown

Waiting for Lots in Pritchett photo courtesy of Art Dowell.

An 1887 Letter from Judge Jennings

Many of you are familiar with Judge JDF Jennings who was Vice President of the Boston or Atlantis (Colorado) Town Company from my book “Old Boston: As Wild As They Come.”    The Judge aka Judge Jennings aka John D.F. Jennings was a former plantation owner, an attorney, and a physician.  He served the Confederacy during the civil war as a surgeon. He is also often noted as the great “Orator” He was the father of Al, Ed, John and Frank Jennings. The following letter from the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen will provide a few more details about the Judge and daily life in Old Boston.

Header from letter written by Judge Jennings in the December 9, 1887 Trinidad Daily Citizen
Judge JDF Jennings

In the great rush of events time passes more rapidly than any of us imagine. It is nearly a month since I had the pleasure of listening to your goodly counsels, and yet it seems as only yesterday.

While i am writing the old winter King is on quite a tear. For the past few days the driving blizzard has howeled around our cottage homes, and our valleys and plains are enshrouded in a vast winding sheet of snow. Cold and blustering as it is, there is something in the falling snow and the hazy atmosphere around us that that reminds one of the winter among the grand old mountains, where you and I were born, and where we used to chase the fox and the swift footed deer.  Those were happy days brother.— free from care, free from  fear and with many bright visions floating before our youthful minds.  Have you any ideas that you and I will ever be as happy again?

Well Boston—the peerless—the beautiful—the law abiding, peaceful and quiet town that it is, is still growing, spreading and booming.  On the 24th ult. We celebrated our first anniversary, and a grad success it was. Just as daylight was peeping, something like the thunders of an earthquake shook the earth beneath us and caused us to spring from our beds in alarm.  We soon ascertained that the boys were on the rampage with dynamite bombs, which they exploded throughout the day and far into the night. I could not help thinking that those explosives were but the harbingers of Boston’s future; and that they would go thundering down the corridors of time until she shall become the great rival of our much loved sister — Trinidad.

From all points of the compass we are receiving cheering news of an enormous influx of home-seekers in early spring.  To day 128 lots changed hands, and some most excellent men from Kentucky have settled in Boston. They are all “A No. 1 Democrats.”

Judge Jennings Far Right

The surveying corps of the B.T. & G. W. railroad was driven by the cold snap, but will resume their survey as soon as the weather settles. They have completed their survey within 25 miles of Trinidad, and report that they have found the finest grade in Colorado; and 17 miles the shortest route ever yet made from the Kansas line westward.

W.O.P. McWorter, from Albany, Clinton county, Ky., purchased 14 lots in Boston to-day, and two shares in the Town Company.  His acquaintance say that he is worth a half million dollars. We are pleased to have such a man among us.

Our people are all standing the winter well, and are very hopeful of the future.

Our farmers are getting good ready for large crops the coming season.  If you will pay us a visit next fall you will find us all as happy as clams, and as game as fighting cocks.

I thank you kindly for the home thrust you gave those canting hypocrites who forced Dr. Kelley to recant his defense of Emma Abbot.  Kelley was right in the first instance, but showed himself a coward in the end.

All our people esteem the CITIZEN very highly, and if you will appoint Capt J. B. Parrot your agent in Boston, I have no doubt he will send you many subscribers.

A.Hughes and Mr. Houser started to Mexico to-day, with the foul intent of killing deer and buffalo meat, but we now have an abundance of venison.

There is no new town in eastern Colorado that esteems the people of Trinidad more highly than do the people of Boston.

With many good wishes for your future, I remain your friend.



Photo’s Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Trinidad Daily Citizen, (Trinidad, Colorado) December 9, 1887