Sunday, June 6, 2021

Wade's City: An Early Gateway to Cripple Creek

 Steven Wade Veatch

    This photograph (figure 1), probably taken in 1901, shows one of the buildings at Wade’s City, a rough-and-tumble settlement on the Old Stage Road near Colorado Springs. The person in the photograph might be Joel Hayford Wade, the man who established the place. 

    The photograph reveals many things. It shows a man standing alone, in stiff silence and edgy exhaustion. He is a massive man, built like a barn door. He is shaved clean as a smooth stone, wears a jacket that does not fit, and sports a hat with a bit of swagger. Perhaps he is looking at his place one last time. 

Figure 1. One of the buildings at Joel H. Wade’s stage stop on the Old Stage Road. On the front of the photo this is written in pencil: “Wade’s Inn, Cheyenne Mountain Stage Road, old landmark.” This is where Wade served drinks to travelers. Photo date circa 1901. Modified from a cyanotype. Photographer unknown. Photo courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 

    At the center of the photograph is the ramshackle cabin Wade built with heavy, hand-hewn logs notched at the ends and laid one upon another. Mud chinking fills the spaces between the logs. A tattered tarp covers the roof. Inside, the cabin is dark—tarps hang over windows. We can imagine that spiderwebs fill some cracks and smokey smells linger by the open door. 

    Outside, a handsaw rests on a weathered granite rock covered with splotches of lichen. A broken lantern sits nearby. Boulders behind the cabin are waiting the ages out. Helen Hunt Jackson wrote about one gigantic granite boulder at Wade’s place when she passed through (Conte, 1984).

    There are things not seen in the photo. Perhaps there are horses that nosed one another in a pole corral. There might be a downed log crumbling into soil, and on the north side of the cabin, piles of pine needles and cones covering the moss-cushioned ground. Possibly silence fills the pine scented air until an agitated chickadee starts a fit of chirping.

    Joel Wade was born in New York in 1827. In 1885, at the age of 57, Wade homesteaded at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain. He chose land on the south branch of south Cheyenne Creek by the Cheyenne and Beaver Park Toll Road (Gazette Telegraph, 1934). 

Figure 2. View of Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. From the S.W. Veatch postcard collection.

    The toll road began as a work road, evolved into a road for scenic trips to local resorts and hiking trails, and then was extended to reach the goldfields of Cripple Creek (Conte, 1984). The road ultimately became known as the “Old Stage Road.”

    Wade’s place was four miles west of the road’s tollgate. Wade thought there would be enough people traveling on the road to support a saloon. His saloon, or Wade’s Inn, became a popular place to stop (Peterson 2002). He stood behind the bar and poured drinks for travelers who stopped by for a break (Peterson 2002). 

    As stage traffic increased, Wade added several buildings. One was the blacksmith shop of Blackhawk Davis (Peterson, 2020). Davis maintained the machinery of the men who worked on the toll road. Davis’s surprising strength was well known. According to one account, he slung a 40-pound sack of flour over his shoulder and carried it on his back all the way from Colorado Springs to his cabin at St. Peter’s Dome, a hike of over 11 miles (Conte, 1984). 

    After a prospector discovered gold at Cripple Creek in 1890, a rush to the gold fields started. In the early days of the district there were only stage and wagon roads to the gold camp. El Paso County Commissioners worked on a plan to extend the Cheyenne and Beaver Park Toll Road to Cripple Creek (Conte, 1984). Once the road was completed, there was regular stage service to Cripple Creek.

    The Cripple Creek stage started its run to the gold camp from the corner of Colorado Avenue (then called Huerfano Street) and Tejon Street in Colorado Springs. A team of horses pulled stages that carried card sharps, snake serum sellers, miracle medicine men, merchants, and fortune seekers.

    With the blacksmith shop and tavern in place, the Cripple Creek stage stopped at Wade’s place regularly during the mining camp’s boom days (Horgen, 1923; Patterson 2002). With the steady traffic of travelers, Wade added rental cabins for visitors to rest or spend a night or a few days to enjoy the scenery before traveling on (Conte, 1984). By one account, Mrs. Moore ran a small brothel in one of the cabins (Peterson, 2002). By the early 1890s Wade’s settlement, known as "Wade's City," had twelve buildings and covered 6 acres (Conte, 1984). However, this stage stop never became an official town or had a post office (Conte, 1984).

    A story has been told that a drunk miner entered Wade’s cabin one night when it was cold outside. He was too drunk to build a fire in the stove; instead, he started the fire in the middle of the cabin’s floor. The flames quickly spread and burned the cabin down (Conte, 1984).

    By 1900, the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railroad, known as the Short Line, started service between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek. The Short Line replaced the stagecoach, and there would be no stops at Wade City or stages running after 1905 (Conte, 1984).The railroad tracks followed much of the stage road (Peterson, 2002). 

Figure 3. View of At. Peter’s Dome on the Cripple Creek Short Line, now the Gold Camp Road. From the S. W. Veatch photograph collection

    As time passed, Wade’s life changed. The stage no longer stopped, and Wade’s City was quiet as a deserted mine shaft. His days dwindled, and sand slipped through the hourglass. He knew he would soon be gone. That day almost came for him in February 1913, while he still lived in the village named for him, when he got lost in a snowstorm and nearly froze to death (Conte, 1984).

    By this time, he was 86 years old. Mountain life had put its brand on him. Although tougher than boot leather, he was feeling the botherations of old age. Time blew away like leaves in a fall breeze, and it was time for Wade to move on. Joel Wade took a deep breath when he took his last look at his settlement and then turned to leave.

    The Colorado Springs City Directory shows Wade living at the county poor farm from as early as 1913 until at least 1916. Although there is no record that Wade’s grandson, Fred Barr, who built Barr trail to the summit of Pikes Peak, visited him at the poor farm, it is likely that he did.

    Wade’s death date is not documented, but he is buried in Colorado Springs’ Evergreen Cemetery. By 1934, all of Wade’s City was gone, now part of Cheyenne Mountain’s buried memories. This old photograph of Wade’s Inn now belongs to the past, and Joel Wade has stepped into yesterday.

References and further reading:

Conte, W. R., 1984, The Old Cripple Creek Stage Road: Colorado Springs, Little London Press.

Horgen, I.S., 1923, History of Pike National Forest. Ms. on file, National Park Service, Midwest Archeological Center, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Gazette Telegraph, 1934, Famous Hotels and Inns of Long Ago Now Only Memories, Sunday April 8, 1934.

Peterson, H. K., 2002, Colorado Stagecoach Stations, A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

La Brea Tar Pits

From a tar seep

bubbling asphalt pools.

Here Ice Age animals

disappear and time

is trapped.


Dire wolves,

saber-tooth cats,


and mammoths

will one day

return as fossils.

By Steven Veatch

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Lennox House: A Mansion Built from Cripple Creek Gold

 By Steven Wade Veatch

William Lennox (1850-1936), after prospecting in the mountains near Fairplay, Colorado, headed down to Colorado Springs, a new town at the foot of Pikes Peak. He established himself as a businessperson and later invested in Cripple Creek mines. These mining investments made him a millionaire almost overnight. 

The now wealthy Lennox built a new home, one that would show his position in Colorado Springs’ society. He hired the well-known Denver architect Frederick J. Sterner to design his two-and-a-half story mansion across from Colorado College—at the northeast corner of North Nevada Avenue and Yampa Street. Lennox started his home building project in 1900 (at a cost of $50,000) and moved into his stylish home in May 1901 (Lennox, 1901). Lennox hired James H. Barry as the general contractor for the construction of his home (National Register of Historic Places, 1999).

Photo of the Lennox House, 1001 N. Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado. This cyanotype  was taken around 1901 (courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum). This was written in pencil on the back of the cyanotype: "Lennox's new house NE corner Yampa and Nevada.” 

Repeat photo of the Lennox House taken February 2021 by S. W. Veatch. 

The Lennox house was one of Sterner's first commissions in Colorado Springs, and soon his architectural designs were in high demand among the city's leading citizens. Sterner’s local projects included General William Jackson Palmer's (the founder of Colorado Springs) second Antlers Hotel and the renovation of Palmer’s residence, Glen Eyrie, both in 1901 (Lennox Walking Tour). 

The Lennox house featured elements of the Mission Revival style in an interesting display of large curvilinear parapets, smooth stucco walls, quatrefoil windows (an ornamental design of four lobes resembling a flower), arched windows, and porches with arcades. A stunning red tile roof topped the structure (Central Downtown Historic Walking Tour). 

Lennox finished the interior of the home with hardwood, an open design, lots of windows, and large doorways. Several large eye-catching fireplaces heated the home.

Perhaps on a warm summer afternoon, after years of visible success, Lennox walked down a path, fringed with blue flowers, to a bench between two cottonwood trees and sat down. A songbird chirped on a fence post. As calm as a stone in a pool of deep water, he looked at Pikes Peak and thought about his life, how it began, and how it had changed. 

Lennox, the child of Scottish immigrants, was born on Christmas Day in 1850 in Iowa. Looking back on his life in 1901, Lennox wrote, “I was brought up on my parent's farm and used to hard work . . . I attended the Iowa State University at Iowa City. I could not spare time from farm work to graduate but acquired sufficient learning to teach a country school” (Lennox,  1901).

With his parents and siblings, Lennox made the journey from Iowa to Denver on the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and from there they traveled by stage on a rutted, dusty dirt road to Colorado Springs. They arrived in April 1872. According to Lennox, his parents “bought and moved to a ranch at Edgerton, on the west side of Monument Creek, about ten miles north of Colorado Springs” (Lennox, 1901). Just nine months earlier, on July 31, 1871, General William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War veteran and railroad tycoon, had established Colorado Springs. Promoters called it the Fountain Colony, and Colorado was still a territory. 

The same month they arrived in town, Lennox and his brother helped plant the first cottonwood trees General Palmer brought in to shade the wide streets of the business center of the city (Lennox, 1901). The trees gave the city a burst of green when it had been a treeless prairie.

The 22-year-old Lennox pondered infinite possibilities. He had both the appetite to succeed and the will to make it happen. He was a westward-looking man, and Fairplay was not too distant for hope. Lennox left Colorado Springs for a few months to prospect and mine near Fairplay. He then returned to Colorado Springs in 1873 and started a feed and livery business at the age of 23 (Lennox, 1901). The following year he added the handling of coal as the agent for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and later a freight-transfer business entered his orbit of business enterprises (Lennox, 1901).

In 1876, Lennox married Belle Cowgill. He went to Iowa for the ceremony and returned to Colorado Springs with his bride. They had six children; two died in childhood. 

Lennox emerged as the largest coal dealer in the Pikes Peak region. He continued in the coal and transfer business until April 1901 (Lennox, 1901). 

While operating his coal yard, Lennox invested in mining operations in Gunnison, Summit, and Teller counties (National Historic Register of Historic Places, 1999). In 1891, Lennox bought Robert Womack’s El Paso lode (Portrait and Biographical Record, 1899). Womack was the first to find gold at Cripple Creek, in 1890, and his El Paso strike started a gold rush to the area. Lennox next organized the Gold King Mining Company, which included the El Paso lode. Lennox invested in other Cripple Creek mines. Along with Ed Giddings, who owned a department store in Colorado Springs, and Judge Colburn, Lennox leased the Strong mine in Victor (Sprague, 1953). One report states that the Strong lease brought $20,000,000 to the Lennox group (Newton, 1928). Lennox also became a major shareholder and officer of the Ajax mine, also in Victor (Wilkins, 1983).

The Gold King mine. Womack's claim came under the ownership of the Gold King Mining Company. Undated photo by A. J. Harlan. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. CCDM A84-30.

Lennox became a millionaire as the Cripple Creek mining district became the foremost producer of gold in the nation (National Register of Historic Places, 1999). Luck had been Lennox’s constant companion.

While banking his Cripple Creek fortune, Lennox served as president of the Exchange National Bank in Colorado Springs. Furthermore, he served as vice-president and director of the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railway—the third railroad into the gold camp (Wilkins, 1983). He also owned large cattle ranches in Texas. 

This vintage color postcard depicts the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek Railway (also known as the Short Line) at St. Peter’s Dome. This line provided one of the most scenic train rides in the state. William Lennox invested in this railroad and served as vice-president and director of the line. From the S.W. Veatch postcard collection. 

In 1902, Lennox built the Lennox Hotel at 226-228 N. Tejon Street with furnished rooms on the upper floors that served middle-class tourists and railroad workers. The ground floor was a storefront for the Knight-Campbell Music Company.

Lennox Hotel circa 1903. There is a sign "Lennox" over the second floor windows and hotel doorway. The Knight-Campbell Music Co. occupies the storefront on the left side of the building. Note the wide street with streetcar tracks. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District, 001-5622.

        By 1921, the Lennox changed its name to the Albany Hotel. The Albany sent cars to the railroad depots to pick up passengers who were staying at the hotel. The hotel offered a guide and touring cars for the “Four Hour Circle Trip” that included Garden of the Gods, the Cliff Dwellings, Cave of the Winds, Ute Pass Canyon, Manitou and the local mineral springs, and the foothills of Pikes Peak (Albany Hotel Brochure, 1921). The hotel offered longer excursions that took guests up Pikes Peak, to Cripple Creek, and to the Royal Gorge. These scenic auto trips, operated by the Colorado Touring Company for the hotel, left directly from the Albany and returned passengers to the hotel at the end of the trip.

Room rates in 1921 started at $3.00 (about $44 in today’s dollars) for two people (Albany Hotel Brochure, 1921). Today the Albany Hotel provides apartment units with the ground floor divided into a lobby and a separate retail storefront. 

Interior of an Albany Hotel guest room circa 1921.
Photo from a brochure promoting the hotel.
From the S. W. Veatch collection. 

View of the Albany Hotel, originally the Lennox Hotel. Architect Thomas MacLaren designed the three-story commercial brick  building at 228 N. Tejon for William Lennox as a variation of the Classical Revival style. Photo date March 2021 by S. W. Veatch.

Lennox, concerned with the progress of the community, always looked ahead for the development of Colorado Springs. And, as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, he worked tirelessly to promote the city. He was deeply interested in education, and from the year he moved into his mansion (1901), he served on the Colorado College Board of Trustees until his death on August 13, 1936, at 85. 

In his will, Lennox left his house to Colorado College. After receiving Lennox's home from his estate in 1936, the college engaged local architect Edward L. Bunts to design plans to remodel the home as a student center. The college spent $40,000 renovating the property for use as a multi-purpose student center that functioned as a place for student dining, recreation, the student government offices, the college newspaper, and social gatherings from 1937 to 1959. A few years after it opened as a student center, the college bookstore used the second floor. Henry E. Mathias, the former head of the Geology Department, acted as the center's director. 

In 1959, the newly constructed Rastall Center opened as the new student center. The Lennox house, after another remodel, became home to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity for 30 years. The college conducted an intensive German language program there in the summers. 

In 1989, the college renovated the building for use as a coed dormitory. The college listed the Lennox house on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Today, Lennox’s home is known as the Glass House, a co-ed residence for 20 students to explore and expand multicultural awareness. 

The Lennox House is an important landmark in Colorado Springs for its architecture and history. The building, built with money from Cripple Creek gold, shows the association of William Lennox, a Colorado Springs pioneer and a wealthy Cripple Creek mining investor, and the college that he financially supported. And the Lennox house still stands, just like Pikes Peak—defiant against time.


I thank Shelly Veatch and the Colorado Springs Oyster Club critique group for reviewing the manuscript, and Dr. Bob Carnein for his valuable comments and important help in improving this paper. 

References and Further Reading:

Albany Hotel Brochure, 1921, Advertising brochure promoting the hotel and Colorado Springs.

Central Downtown Historic Walking Tour, Colorado Springs, 2004: retrieved from, on March 15, 2021.

Lennox House, History Walking Tour, Colorado College: retrieved from, on February 9, 2021.

Lennox, W., 1901, Century Chest Collection, 1901. Letter written August 4, 1901 to My Great Grand Children, Colorado Springs: retrieved from, on February 9, 2021. Note: This letter, written by William Lennox, is from a time capsule, the “Colorado Springs Century Chest Collection, 1901. It was stored for 100 years in various locations on the Colorado College campus. On January 1, 2001, the chest was opened at the Tutt Library of Colorado College. The college scanned items from the chest and transcribed many of the letters.

National Register of Historic Places, 1999, Registration form: Lennox House, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, National Register #99001266 United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service.

Newton, H. J., 1928, Yellow Gold of Cripple Creek: Anecdotes and Romances of the Mines, Mining Men, and Mining Fortunes: Denver, Nelson Publishing Company.

Portrait and Biographical Record of the State of Colorado: Containing Portraits and Biographies of Many Well Known Citizens of the Past and Present, 1899: Chicago, Chapman Publishing Company.

Sprague, M., 1953, Money Mountain: The Story of Cripple Creek Gold: Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press.

Wilkins, T. E., 1983, Short Line to Cripple Creek: The Story of the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek District Railway: Golden, The Colorado Railroad Museum, Colorado Rail Annual Number 16. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Iceman of Cripple Creek

 By Steven Wade Veatch

After 28-year-old Ralph Bowen married his wife Zula in Denver in 1894, he had decisions to make—where he and Zula would live, and how he would earn a living. He had heard about the Cripple Creek mining district and decided this place offered him a fresh start and a chance to build his life the way he wanted. 

Bob Womack discovered gold there a few years earlier, in 1890. A gold rush followed Womack’s strike, and overnight a camp appeared in the goldfields. It was a beehive of activity: prospectors searched the hills, miners swung picks and blasted rocks, carpenters built houses, merchants opened stores, bartenders poured drinks, and gamblers played cards under a canopy of cigar smoke. 

The real gamblers, though, were the ones who placed their bets on opening a business. Bowen, a two-fisted, bigger-than-life entrepreneur, with ambition as big as Pikes Peak, took that gamble, and started a sawmill near the town of Gillett in the mining district. 

It was a good business, as the demand for lumber was high in the growing mining district, and he was determined to succeed. As his saws buzzed and the sawdust flew, the sawmill reduced rough pine logs into planks, studs, and shingles. Horses plodded down dusty roads, pulling wagons—one after another—of Bowen’s lumber to town. 

Shortly after Bowen established his sawmill, the sharp, cold winters of Cripple Creek signaled more possibilities, and he set up another enterprise, the Bowen Ice Works. A recently discovered early twentieth-century archive of rare photos, at the Cripple Creek District Museum, freezes time and documents Bowen’s ice business in the gold camp. And now, through these historic photos, his story can be told.

Business was the major theme of Bowen’s life story in Cripple Creek. His ice operations were far removed from Cripple Creek’s Bennet Avenue—the city’s broad street of business and enterprise. He knew he would not make bags of money but simply have a good life in this beautiful part of Colorado. 

Bowen quickly became a skilled iceman: Each winter he harvested a large natural ice crop from his spring-fed pond near Mount Pisgah. Harvesting ice from his pond, where nature and technology merged into one, was a winter routine—once the ice grew to a thickness of a foot or more. To check the thickness of the ice, workers drilled holes into it with augers, and then reached down and put a ruler into the hole (Jones, 1984). The resulting measurements let them know if the ice was thick enough to start the harvest.

Figure 1. Bowen’s crew using long saws to cut ice into blocks and pikes to extract ice from his pond near Mount Pisgah. Unknown photographer. Undated photo. Ralph Bowen photograph collection. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8724B.

Once the ice reached a foot thick, workers shoveled snow off the pond’s surface and piled it into deep, white windrows. Next, the workers “scored” the surface of the ice with grooves in a checkerboard pattern, using horse-drawn plows. The straight-line grooves showed the workers where to cut the ice (Pepe, 2017). Using a long saw, the workers cut the ice, and the sounds of sawing ricocheted around the pond like a cue ball (Cummings, 1949). This work chilled the ice crew to the bone. The cold brought a fresh scent to the mountain air. Nearby, Steller’s jays perched in the green shadows of pine trees and watched Bowen’s men remove ice blocks while mule deer ruled the forest.

Once the workers cut the ice, they used long poles, called pikes, to move the floating ice blocks toward the shore. Then they guided blocks of ice, pulled by horses, up inclined ramps to the top of the icehouse. Men stacked the ice like firewood and packed it as tight as a box of pencils. Sawdust from Bowen’s sawmill separated the layers of ice from each other and served as insulation to prevent melting. The storage building preserved the ice for delivery to residential and commercial customers.

Figure 2. Bowen’s crew using pikes to maneuver blocks of ice. This was written on the back of the undated photograph: "Bowen Ice pond foot of Mt. Pisgah.” Unknown photographer. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CDM 8727A

Figure 3. Icemen pulling blocks of ice out of the water and loading them onto an inclined wooden ramp. A horse pulls the blocks of ice up into a storage area. Unknown photographer. Undated photo. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8727D.

Figure 4. Bowen uses a simple system of two pulleys and three cables to pull the ice up the ramp and into storage. This was written on the back of the photograph: "Bowen Ice Works." Unknown photographer. Undated photo.  Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8724A.

Figure 5. Bowen and six employees take a break in front of an ice storage house. This was written on the back of the photograph: “Ralph Bowen (3rd from Left) and his crew at ice plant, possibly Barnard Creek." Unknown photographer. Photo date circa 1902. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8726.

            Each spring, as weather turned warmer, the delivery of ice began to hotels, restaurants, storekeepers, and housekeepers in Cripple Creek. As his ice trade grew, so did his profits. Bowen, along with his horse and wagon, became a part of the Cripple Creek summer street scene. At a time before electric refrigerators, he made daily rounds in his horse-drawn wagon, delivering ice for wooden iceboxes. These insulated wooden iceboxes had shelves inside for food. 

Customers placed a card in their window to let Bowen know how much ice they wanted. Based on the card, he then pulled ice out of his wagon using tongs. He lifted the block of ice onto a thick sheepskin pad on his shoulder and carried it to the house, placing it inside the icebox (Jones, 1984). If the block of ice did not easily fit into the icebox, Bowen used an ice pick to trim it. He carried a small scale in his pocket to assure customers they received the correct amount of ice. After deliveries, he mended harnesses and fixed his tools.

Figure 6. Ralph Bowen and his ice wagon pulled by two white horses. Unknown photographer. Undated photo. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8704A.

Figure 7. Ralph Bowen in a surrey, Cripple Creek is in the background. Unknown photographer. Undated photograph. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8703.

Bowen and his family lived in a large, rambling frame home on a grassy rise at the base of Mount Pisgah, near his pond. A fireplace kept his place warm on wintry days. Parted drapes let the sun in through the windows. Here he washed up with hot water to ease his aches and dog-tiredness. In the quiet comfort of the evenings, he likely relaxed in his special chair and picked up the Cripple Creek Morning Times to read. 

Figure 8. A view of the Bowen home. This was written on the back of the photograph: “Ralph Bowen home at the foot of Mt. Pisgah.” Undated photograph. Unknown photographer. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8704C.

Bowen was committed to his six children. He had three daughters: Dorothy, Elizabeth, and Jean; and three boys: Ralph Jr., Palmer, and Scott (Scott disappears from recorded history. It is thought that he died while a child; however no records confirm this). With a smile on his face, he drove his ice wagon while Ralph Jr. and Palmer hitched rides in the back. In the winter, groups of children bounced along in Bowen’s large wooden sled pulled by two white horses. 

Figure 9. Studio portrait of Ralph Bowen (center) with his two sons: Ralph Jr. (left) and Palmer (right). Bowen’s ice tongs rest on his shoulder and a cat sits quietly on his knee. Unknown photographer. Photo date circa 1915. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8702B.

Figure 10. Ralph Bowen Jr. and his brother Palmer in the ice wagon. Unknown photographer. Photo date circa 1917. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8704B.

Figure 11. Bowen’s ice pond in the summer. It is thought that Bowen’s wife Zula and his daughters Dorothy, Elizabeth, and Jean are depicted in this photograph. This was written on the back of the photograph: “Boating on Bowen Pond foot of Mt. Pisgah." Unknown photographer. Photo date circa 1912. Ralph Bowen photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 8725B.

Figure 12. Children taking a ride in a Bowen Ice Company sled on a frosty day on a snow-covered street after a heavy snowstorm. Albert Vaseen home in background. Unknown photographer. Photo date circa 1911. Ralph Bowen photograph collection. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. CCDM 8703A.

        The seasons set Bowen’s life in Cripple Creek in a patchwork of days: harvest ice in the winter, sell it in the spring and summer, and work the sawmill in the fall. Few lives in the gold camp were more toilsome.

It cannot be denied Bowen risked everything by operating two businesses in the district, but he thrived. He forged an independent life, and for over three decades he delivered ice to Cripple Creek and ran the sawmill. He provided day wages to six or more workers. He never failed in any important undertaking, and by sheer effort overcame all difficulties that stood in his way. He had a proprietary pride beyond words.

So, too, he was at ease with being a family man while selling ice and lumber. He took his family boating on his pond and entertained local children with rides and made a few moments of their lives richer.

Ralph Bowen’s photograph collection documents an important part of a life in the mining district. And these photographs keep Bowen from slipping into obscurity as he drives his ice wagon through time without end. 


I thank Shelly Veatch and the Colorado Springs Oyster Club critique group for reviewing the manuscript, and Dr. Bob Carnein for his valuable comments and important help in improving this paper. 

References and further reading:

Cummings, R. O., 1949, The American Ice Harvests: A Historical Study in Technology, 1800-1918: Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press.

Jones, J. C., 1984, America’s Icemen: An Illustrative History of the US Natural Ice Industry 1665 -1925: Humble, TX, Jobeco Books.

Pepe, W., 2017, The Icebox, the Iceman and the Ice Harvest, Retrieved from on 12/12/2020.

. Workers shovel off yesterday’s snow while others saw ice on a pond during the long, dark winters. From the S. W. Veatch stamp collection. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Captive Pony

 By Steven Wade Veatch

With the turning of each page in the frayed leather album, the old blue photographs or cyanotypes, possibly over 12 decades old, conjured the past and a way of life that is gone.  One group of photographs reveals part of one day on a ranch, about 20 miles east of Colorado Springs, in eastern El Paso County, Colorado. This might be the story of these blue images. 

The riders had an early start. The night chill faded as the sun climbed in the sky. A cowboy, sitting low in his saddle, looked out across the endless reach of the high plains that spread out in all directions. He spotted a wild pony. 

Cowboys approaching a wild pony. Written in pencil on the front of the cyanotype is: “Catching a wild pony, Russell’s ranch.” Unknown photographer. Undated cyanotype. From an album of an unidentified owner. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Turning back in his saddle to call the others to help him catch the pony, he could see Pikes Peak mantled with snow. This group of young men, who appeared older because of the hard work they endured, slowly rode toward the wild pony. 

When the cowboys reached the pony, they pulled their horses to a stop. The wild pony nosed the ground as it grazed on grass. Stems of dead grass stuck to its mane. Flies buzzed around. The air smelled fresh. 

One cowboy rode quietly forward, stopped, and lassoed the pony while the others watched. This outfit of saddle-sore cowboys, tough as leather, headed back to the ranch with the pony in tow. The sun was now high in the sky and the day inched along as they rode back. Along the way meadowlarks sang, grasshoppers jumped, and butterflies flew around the wildflowers. Prairie dogs stood straight as sentries, peeked at the riders, and then dived into their holes. A soft breeze blew out of the west, rustling the tumbleweeds.

When they arrived at the ranch, a wrangler led the wild pony inside the corral. A ranch hand threw a log on the fire in the middle of the corral. Smoke drifted toward the gate. A branding iron, sitting in the hot coals, glowed a bright red on its business end. Several of the men brought the pony to the ground, tied its legs together, and then a wrangler branded it, marking ownership. Tomorrow the cowboys would break the wild pony.

Branding the wild pony back at the ranch. There is a lot going on in this cyanotype. The shadow of the photographer is in the lower left. In the background, behind the gate, is a woman looking out wearing a bonnet and a prairie dress. Written in pencil on the front of the cyanotype: “Branding same pony, Russell’s Ranch.” Unknown photographer. Undated cyanotype. From an album of an unidentified owner. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 

Cattle, lowing and bawling, stand in a stock pond to cool off. Written in pencil on the front of the cyanotype: "Russell’s Ranch 20 miles east of Colorado Springs." Unknown photographer. Undated cyanotype. From an album of an unidentified owner. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Three men and a woman pose on the porch of a mudbrick house on the ranch. A cat rests on the steps. Five large pumpkins sit on the porch. Barnyard chickens peck on the ground in the far right of the photo. Written in pencil on the front of the cyanotype: “Doyle’s House, Russell’s ranch.” Unknown photographer. Undated cyanotype. From an album of an unidentified owner. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

        After the branding and the completion of their tasks, some cowboys sat on the front porch of one of the ranch houses and relaxed after a hard day of work. They peered out from the shadow of the porch and thought about all the newcomers moving into the area, crowding the land. Each one wondered how soon their way of life would be corralled and changed like the wild pony they branded. 
Note: The cyanotype process uses light sensitive iron salts instead of silver salts on paper. This simple and low-cost process made prints in blue used for making proofs instead of finished prints and was popular with some amateur photographers. Dates in popular use: 1880-1910. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

An Early View Down Pikes Peak Avenue

By Steven W. Veatch

An early photograph of Pikes Peak Avenue in Colorado Springs, taken by A. J. Harlan in the mid-1890s, has survived over 12 decades. Pikes Peak and Cameron Cone are in the photograph’s background. The muddy street, trolley tracks, and trees draw the viewer’s eye down to where the first Antlers Hotel sits. Pikes Peak and Cameron Cone reflect in a shallow pool of water from a recent rain shower in the center of the photograph’s foreground. 

The photographer, A. J. Harlan, operated a photography studio in Cripple Creek. He roamed around the area and photographed many of the iconic spots of the Pikes Peak region. 

View of Pikes Peak Avenue (Colorado Springs) in the mid-1890s. The Antlers Hotel is at the west end of the street. General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs, built the Antlers in 1883 with Castle Rock Rhyolite. The hotel burned down in 1898 and was rebuilt. Photograph by A.J. Harlan. From the Eugene L. Glew photograph collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Bill Sutton Story: Hard Rock Days During the Depression

 By Steven Veatch

Connecting with the past of Cripple Creek, a place that means so much to so many, came closer when I looked at a collection of photographs and ephemera that belonged to William W. “Bill” Sutton, who had donated this collection to the Cripple Creek District Museum. Sutton’s collection takes us back in time—over eight decades—to Cripple Creek during a part of the Great Depression. And the photographs bring back a group of men who were largely forgotten by history.

Photo of William W. Sutton. He was well-grounded in western mining and came to Cripple Creek to work on a gold mine. Photo date circa 1932. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Bill Sutton came to Cripple Creek in 1932—when the Great Depression was underway—to start a mine. It was a hard season for finding work. Because of the difficult times, there was renewed interest in the Cripple Creek mining district. The great gold camp carried with it the promise of something better, and men came looking for opportunities. Bill Sutton was one of these men and was ready to start work on the Geophysical mine, a new location on Carbonate Hill, northeast of Cripple Creek.

After Sutton arrived in Cripple Creek, he reported to Charlie Kuhlman, who had achieved a solid reputation in the district as a gold miner. Sutton’s first encounter with Kuhlman was tense. Kuhlman took one look at Bill Sutton and said, “You won’t last a week.” Sutton recalled, “I fooled him and stayed three years” (Sutton, n.d.).

William Sutton standing in front of Charlie Kuhlman’s house where he lived for 16 months. Photo date circa 1933. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

This local boy was Sutton’s neighbor. During the Depression young men found their way into a world of mining in Cripple Creek that was larger than they could imagine. Photo date circa 1933. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Sutton roomed with Kuhlman in his rundown home on Crystal Street in Cripple Creek. Sutton wrote, “Al Mousseau and I lived with Charlie Kuhlman in his old shack and lived on boiled cabbage, black beans and sowbelly” (Sutton, n.d.). Kuhlman, who was born in Langendier, Germany in 1880, came to the district as a teenager in 1897, and latched onto mining like a bulldog with a fresh bone. He started out as a blacksmith in a mine and ended up as a gold miner. 

Al Mousseau, a Detroiter who worked with and lived with Sutton and Kuhlman, poses for the camera. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Officers of the Geophysical mine arrived in Cripple Creek in 1932 to meet and look at their investment. They were a diverse bunch, but a competent team. The mine had to be developed on a shoestring budget. The stakes were high. If they failed, they would lose all the money they had invested. As night fell on the day of their meeting, the men didn’t know enough to admit failure and so decided to go ahead with developing the property. They believed the district was still viable, with plenty of unknown and untouched ground. The men buzzed with energy and ideas. They were living an adventure story while looking for the sunburst dazzle of gold. With the future in front of them, they felt they had the luxury of time to find gold in Cripple Creek’s ground.

Photograph of the seven-person Geophysical mine group. Left to right: Bill Sutton, Al Mousseau, Karl Jorn (geophysicist), Charles Sutton (president), Mr. Williams (vice president), Mr. Hegee (secretary/treasurer), and Charlie Kuhlman. This group financed and operated the Geophysical mine on Carbonate Hill from 1932 to 1933. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Sutton, Kuhlman, and Mousseau began the hard work of developing the mine. With the help of Karl Jorn, a geophysicist, they located they platted out the mine on the ground.

Once the mine was located, they set up the gin pole that served as a temporary headframe. Gathering steam, Sutton climbed to the top of the gin pole and attached guy wires to stabilize it. Below the gin pole the men built a wooden foundation, in the form of a framed rectangle, that they assembled with bolts and iron pins on the ground.

Wooden planks form a foundation around the mine shaft. Two men are setting up the gin pole. Photo date circa 1932. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Sutton sits on top of the gin pole and attaches the guy wires to stabilize it. Photo date circa 1932. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Next, it was time to sink a small shaft to find the ore. There is a special intensity that descends on miners as they dig a gold mine. Attention is focused, tension mounts, and the work is hard. With picks and shovels, Sutton, Kuhlman, and Mousseau started digging the shaft. They drilled the hard rock by hand. When the drill steel dulled, they carried it three miles down to Cripple Creek where it was sharpened, and then carried it back to the mine. These three men also walked the same three miles from home and back each day. No one had a car. 

This view shows the pile of tailings that Sutton, Kuhlman, and Mousseau mined. Photo date circa 1932. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

After drilling, the holes were packed with explosives, and then the rocks were blasted. The air got so dense with smoke from the blast that it was blue. Once the dust settled and the smoke cleared, the broken rock was mucked and sent up the shaft in an iron bucket. Because it was a small operation, a hand windlass (manual-powered winch) was used to hoist the bucket, filled with waste rock and any ore, to the surface. When the bucket reached the surface it was upended, and its load dumped (Twitty, 2005). This bucket continued to come up to the surface until the miners cleared the bottom of the shaft of broken rock; then they drilled and blasted another round (Twitty, 2005). This process was repeated: drilling, blasting, mucking, and hoisting. As a result, an expanding lobe of rock tailings projected out from the dumping area.

It was an all-day struggle of backbreaking work as they searched for gold. The crew spent the evenings playing cards, smoking, and telling stories between drinks. As the days wore on, they complained about geological conditions and conclusions. 

The days of mining blended together as the men deepened the shaft. When they eventually reached 64 feet, they hit a big vein of pyrite that signaled they were close to gold ore. This fueled Sutton’s optimism. In a moment of flashbulb clarity, Sutton knew what they had to do—dig deeper. Sutton wasn’t alone in this stance; Kuhlman felt the same way. At the depth of 64 feet, the shaft had passed the point where the gin pole would work safely. To go deeper, they needed to build a solid headframe over the shaft. Sutton and Kuhlman built a two-post gallows headframe since it was easy to erect and its cost was low. 

The men of the Geophysical mine drove on the vein an additional 21 feet. At the bottom of the deepened shaft they chipped off fragments of rock and found more pyrite, lots of it, but no gold. It was pin-drop quiet. A cloud of unease hung over the mine. Bill Sutton’s face changed, and he said they had “worked like hell seven days a week for an interest in another failure” (Sutton, n.d.). They abandoned the mine in November 1933, and the Geophysical mine faded into the district’s whispering rumors of gold.

After they left the Geophysical mine, this same group took up a lease on the old South Burns mine, near the celebrated Vindicator mine, and hired a few unemployed miners. They thought they would have better luck at a developed mine. The South Burns mine, once the property of the Calumet Mining and Milling Company, was purchased by the Acacia Gold Mining Company in 1895 (Hills, 1900). It was worked by the Acacia company as late as 1926, and then the Nuestra Ventura Mining Corporation took it over for the next two years (Munn, 1984). Sutton’s group worked a lease at the South Burns from 1933 to 1935. 

A view of the South Burns mine, Cripple Creek Mining District. Photo circa 1970. Gene Mourning photographer. From the Gene Mourning collection. Courtesy of the Western Museum of Mining and Industry. 

Sutton and his crew shipped decent gold ore from the South Burns which improved their financial condition. Sutton moved from Kuhlman’s place to the boarding house run by Babe Wolfkill and her daughters. A miner named Ed lived at the Wolfkill boarding house while he worked at the Blue Bird mine. In 1934, Ed was killed in an accident at the Blue Bird, and Sutton wrote, “We called his wife and asked where to bury him, and she said to throw him down the first old shaft you come to" (Sutton, n.d.). Sutton emphatically stated this was a true story. Whether Ed was thrown down a shaft, abandoned or otherwise, is not known. We can wonder if Ed’s wife ever saw the photo in which one of Mrs. Wolfkill’s daughters is holding Ed’s arm.

A Wolfkill daughter holds the arm of Ed, a local miner. He was killed in the Blue Bird mine in 1934. Photo date circa 1934. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Babe Wolfkill and her daughters standing in the yard of their Cripple Creek boarding house. Photo date circa 1934. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

While working at the South Burns mine, Sutton was able to buy a car, a 1928 Dodge, and drove back and forth to work. With his Dodge automobile, Sutton moved in 1934 to what was left of Altman, one of the towns on the east side of the Cripple Creek Mining District. Most of the town had burned down in a 1903 fire started by arson.

Sutton’s accommodations were primitive in Altman. He called his place the “Pilch” and “batched” there for another year while he operated the South Burns mine (Sutton, n.d.). His Altman place must have been terrible for him to call it the Pilch. A pilch is a wrapper worn over an infant’s diaper.

A photo of Sutton’s ramshackle home  in Altman that he called the “Pilch.” Photo date circa 1934.William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

A group of gritty mining men who lived in Altman and worked with Bill Sutton during the Depression at the South Burns mine. Photo date circa 1934. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

Ben McPherson, a weathered and salty miner, was Sutton’s neighbor in Altman. In the photo he wears a top hat, has one hand in his pocket, and a cigarette in his other hand. His downward gaze is sharp. Photo date circa 1934. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 

Texas Art Roer and Clem Anette, both Sutton’s neighbors in Altman, relax by their car. Photo date circa 1934. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

This photo shows good fishing below Cheesman Dam for Ed Anette, who was Sutton’s hoistman on the South Burns mine. Born in Kansas in 1875, Anette was in Cripple Creek as early as 1900. Photo date circa 1934. Anette lived in Altman. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

According to Sutton, “we finally shipped enough ore to get all the stockholder’s money back and closed her [South Burns mine] down” (Sutton, n.d.). After the Sutton group gave up their lease and left in 1935, the South Burns mine produced gold ore for the Acacia Gold Mining Company through 1936. In 1937, Golden Conqueror Mines leased the South Burns and mined a large body of ore. Acacia Gold Mining Company operated it from 1938 until 1947 (Munn, 1984).

Bill Sutton and his crew spent their Depression-Era days chasing ore and most of their nights cursing their lack of finding it. Cripple Creek, though, offered them many diversions. Sutton described Cripple Creek as a “fun place . . . where the sky was the limit” (Sutton, n.d.). Saloons were busy and dance halls hummed. One favorite diversion was gambling. Bets were placed on donkey races, boxing matches, and everything in between. 

Sutton and his South Burns group wanted to make a good bet and improve the odds to win. To help win the bets they made on the local boxing matches, they brought in a young prizefighter by the name of Chief Stanley Fell to fight all of the local young mining toughs who stepped into the ring with him. Fell’s hometown was Lamar, Colorado. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. He fought in the 1931 Kansas State Amateur Championship Tournament as a heavyweight. Fell later went professional and was managed by Hoot Burger. He won the 1934 Colorado Heavyweight Title against Carl Walker, at the match in Lamar, Colorado. 

Chief Stanley Fell, a boxer the Sutton group “imported to fight local boys in the ring.” Photo date circa 1934. William Sutton collection, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

As the depression deepened, Charley Lehew, owner of the Cripple Creek Auto Company and the local Buick agent, wanted to stage events to bring people and their money to Cripple Creek in the summer. He decided to hold a donkey race: the “Grand Donkey Derby Day Sweepstakes.” Lehew, with his business partner, Bryan Jones, started the Donkey Derby Days in 1931. Lehew, Jones, and Mr. Lynch of the Palace Hotel started the “Miles High Club” to support the event (Summers, 2011).

Avis Welty’s membership card in the Miles High Club. This club was organized to support the Donkey Derby Days. The club later changed its name to the “Two Mile High Club” and continues to take care of the Cripple Creek donkeys. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.

In addition to the donkey race, Lehew and Jones included a boy’s relay race, a girl’s chariot race, a tug-of-war between Cripple Creek and Victor businessmen, saddle-horse races, stock-car races, and a boxing match (Summers, 2011).

After the success of the donkey races, Lehew built a racetrack and added car races. According to Sutton, Lehew “furnished the shovels, picks, dump truck, and kept a keg of good old Cripple Creek whiskey for all who worked on the racetrack” (Sutton, n.d.). Sutton said Lehew held the auto races first, then the donkey races followed. Sutton never missed a Donkey Derby Days event while he was in Cripple Creek. 

A parade down Cripple Creek’s Bennett Avenue to celebrate the start of the Third Annual Donkey Derby Days. Photo date 1933. From the Wilkinson Family collection, Cripple Creek District Museum, CCDM 2000134.

Bill Sutton’s three years of working in Cripple Creek came and went, and we are as close to knowing Sutton’s story as we can come. After the crew ended their lease on the South Burns in 1935, things changed. Some of the people in this story stayed, others left. 

Bill Sutton slipped away into the long ago, and what happened to him after his three years in Cripple Creek is not known. Chief Stanley Fell left boxing and Cripple Creek to work at the CF&I steelyards in Pueblo. Fell died in 1986 in Pinedale, Wyoming. In 1936, Charlie Kuhlman married Gladys Adams. Kuhlman remained in Cripple Creek the rest of his life and died there in 1965. Ben McPherson later moved to Goldfield, where he lived with his wife and daughter. 

All of Sutton’s outfit had lived on the excitement of gold mining during those Depression years. Sutton’s manuscript and his photos conjure a story of men who belong to another time.  Because of Sutton’s donation to the Cripple Creek District Museum, we get to hear their story and meet those men while we learn about their mining adventures in Cripple Creek.


I thank Shelly Veatch and the Colorado Springs Oyster Club critique group for reviewing the manuscript, and Dr. Bob Carnein for his valuable comments and important help in improving this paper. 

References and further reading

Hill, F., 1900, The Official Manual of the Cripple Creek District: Colorado Springs, Fred Hill.

Munn, B., 1984, A Guide to the Mines of the Cripple Creek District: Colorado Springs, Century One Press.

Summers, D., 2011, Colorado Community Media, Donkey Derby Days Through the Years, retrieved from,81373, on November 13, 2020.

Sutton, W.W., n.d., untitled manuscript, Cripple Creek District Museum Archives.

Twitty, E., 2005, Riches to Rust: A Guide to Mining in the Old West: Montrose, Western Reflections Publishing Company.