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.

The Town Boom Years in Southeastern Colorado 1886-1889: A Map

Sometimes it is hard to understand old forgotten towns.  Especially since we don’t always know where they are located in relationship to present day landmarks and towns. The map in this post contains the towns which popped up in the area as well as towns that were connected.  For example, many settlers rode the train to Granada or Lamar and then rode the stage south to get to the communities in what would soon be Baca County. I believe every single community on the map below is mentioned at least once by Sam Konkel.

Kansas towns of Hugo (now Hugoton) and Woodsdale greatly influenced the early development of Southeast Colorado as the infamous County Seat wars of Kansas, specifically the “Haystack Massacre” was a symbol of the bloodshed in Kansas.  Those moving into southeast Colorado wanted to avoid much of what occurred in Kansas.

In 1887 Sam Konkel wrote,

It is a cold day when some new town doesn’t start up in southeastern 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.

Note:  You won’t see Athens or Randal on the map.  I may change the map when/and if  I get confirmation of their locations.

For those who don’t know the location of a particular place it should be useful when I find and post clippings such as the following from the  Xenia Daily  (Xenia OH), Gazette September 3, 1887 which tell about a former resident settling on the banks of the “Butte River”.  Yes, if you are from Baca County you will understand why this is in quotes.

In 1936, J.R. Austin wrote,

“Had the old towns of 1887 continued to exist, the interest in them would not be as great as it is today. There’s something about a lost chapter in the natural procession of events that tradition loving Americans like to preserve as a treasure.  The element of mystery makes it attractive. Early events in Springfield and Vilas do not excite the popular imagination; the towns that are here today, many of the old landmarks are still extent, the past has gradually merged into the present, and tradition has become a thing of common knowledge.

But with an old, forgotten town it is different. How entrancing it is to stand amid the ancient stone ruins and lose oneself in reverie to picture in the imagination the scenes that belong to long ago. Tran-scribed there on the lonely plains are the symbols of its past. The long spacious Main Street is still in evidence, the lone cross street begins boldly in the center of the town only to melt away into the plains as the ruins of the buildings no longer confined it to its course. Here the people rode into town, walked across the street greeted their neighbors and friends, they commented on the current topics of Interest. The long rows of stones on the corner may have been the proudest store in town. Another less imposing, may well have been the place where the transient patron sat for meals and dreamed of the places far away.  There, goods were sold and precious money taken by the hard fisted proprietor in exchange.  Still another place may have been a saloon where the stern faced bartender disposed of his wares and kept a steely eye on the more suspicious looking characters who frequented the place.  How many quarrels may have started and ended here?   Lastly, and most important of all, are the little dugouts partly filled with stones where there once were homes.”

I hope these maps are useful.

Here is a July 2018 update to the Boom Town Map.  I added another crazy aka “Trail City”, Holly, Coolidge and Syracuse Kansas and Beer City, Neutral Strip (also a crazy).

Map 1 is the newest version (February 19, 2018) and includes Clayton, NM and Mineral City, Neutral Strip

Map 2 is the original map I post.  Not sure if it is still useful, but thought I would leave it here for now.