Show: Denver's Early History
**Please note all of the information presented in this ‘report’ was taken from the following sources and meshed together. I originally did not intend to have a copy available for anyone other than myself and Mike to read from, and was not as careful as I otherwise would have been in documenting each source for each paragraph.**
http://www.bycitylight.com/cities/us-co-denver-history.php , http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grubstake , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_in_the_American_Civil_War , http://www.hometodenver.com/1526_BlakeStreet.htm , https://sites.google.com/site/denvercountycogenweb/books/history-of-the-city-of-denver/city-of-denver-in-1860 , https://sites.google.com/site/denvercountycogenweb/books , http://www.miningartifacts.org/Colorado-Mines.html , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_Creek_massacre , https://sites.google.com/site/denvercountycogenweb/books/history-of-the-city-of-denver/after-the-flood , http://www.enchantedlearning.com/usa/states/colorado/ , http://www.enchantedlearning.com/usa/states/colorado/
Steph: Hi! It’s Steph & Mike from This Is Colorado.net Season 1 Episode 3. Welcome to our podcast! On today’s episode we will learn about Denver’s early history. We will start with finding gold, move into our small role in the Civil War, a devastating fire and a ravaging flood. We also touch on early law enforcement and how we came to have a railroad when the Transcontinental didn’t come here. All of our sources will be linked in the show notes of course.
Mike: Of course. So Steph, how are you? How’s your week been?
Steph: Uh, it’s been pretty good. Uh, Holidays have wrapped up and I’m happy that they’re over, though they were very fun while happening. How about you?
Mike: Uh, about the same. I took the first week of January off from work, so, I’m getting used to not doing anything all day long, and it’s rough.
Steph: Nice. Rough life.
Mike: Yes, very rough.
Steph: It will be rough when you go back to, back to work anyway.
Mike: Yes. Yes it will be.
“LOG LANE VILLAGE — An interesting David-and-Goliath dynamic is taking shape across Colorado's burgeoning commercial cannabis sector, with tiny communities friendly to the sale of recreational marijuana living in the shadow of large — and totally pot-shop-free — neighbors.
Manitou Springs, just a few miles from Colorado Springs, is the only place within a reasonable distance of the state's second-largest city where you can buy recreational weed. On the Eastern Plains, Log Lane Village plays the same role vis-à-vis Fort Morgan, a city 10 times its size.
The community pairings, in all their strange divergence, are the result of Amendment 64, the pot legalization law passed by Colorado voters three years ago. The groundbreaking measure specifically left it up to individual towns and cities to decide whether marijuana businesses would be allowed.
Jerry Garner, Greeley's chief of police, likens the situation in his city to what existed with liquor half a century ago, when Greeley established itself as a "dry" town and Garden City became the destination for those seeking a stiff drink.
But that doesn't mean Garner wants to deal with the potential criminal activity associated with what has long been an illegal enterprise. If Garden City is willing take on that burden, he said, that's up to Garden City.
Yet pot shops as a target for thieves and burglars hasn't proved to be the problem many feared, according to several law enforcement officials interviewed for this story. Even Garner said he hasn't seen any evidence that Garden City's pot shops are nudging up Greeley's crime stats.
The Coloradoan reports (http://noconow.co/1JUyrgq ) that the park eclipsed 4 million visitors for the first time in its history in November and saw a 21 percent increase in visitors in 2015 as compared to 2014. Park officials predict an even busier 2016 with the celebrations for the National Park Service's 100th birthday.
Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson says officials are not turning their attention to how to alleviate the congestion that the popularity brings. Visitors to the park this summer and fall experienced long lines and wait times at the entrance, filled parking lots and packed hiker shuttles.
Steph: Also in that summer, a group of gold prospectors from Lawrence, Kansas arrived and established Montana City on the banks of the South Platte River. This was the first settlement in what was later to become the city of Denver. The site faded quickly, however, and was abandoned in favor of other mining camps such as Auraria (named after the gold mining town of Auraria, Georgia) and St. Charles City by the summer of 1859.
Mike: It wasn't long before tents, tepees, wagons, lean-tos, and crudely constructed log cabins lined the banks of the South Platte River as prospectors and fortune-seekers poured into the area. They came from all over the country, traveling on foot, in covered wagons, by horseback, and even pushing their belongings in wheelbarrows. Pikes Peak, a 14,000-foot mountain to the south of the mining camp served as both a landmark and a rallying cry for weary travelers. The "Pikes Peak or Bust!" gold rush was in full force. Participants in the Pike's Peak Gold Rush from 1858 to 1861 were called Fifty-Niners.
Steph: However, gold wasn't the only way to strike it rich in the boomtown that was springing up on the banks of the South Platte. On November 22, 1858, General William Larimer, an American politician, soldier, and lawyer simply staked out a claim of land on the eastern side of Cherry Creek, by placing cottonwood logs on the hill overlooking the confluence (a meeting of two or more bodies of water) of the South Platte River and across the creek from the existing mining settlement of Auraria. He then lay out city streets, and along with associates in the St. Charles City Land Company, began to sell the lots to those arriving after him. The parcels were sold to merchants and miners, with the intention of creating a major city that would cater to new emigrants. He named it Denver City in hopes of gaining political favor with the Kansas Territorial governor James Denver. Larimer hoped that the town's name would help make it the county seat of Arapaho County, Kansas. What he didn't know was that Denver had already resigned.
Mike: Still, the location was accessible to existing trails and was across the South Platte River from the site of seasonal encampments of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Denver City was a frontier town, with an economy based on servicing local miners with gambling, saloons, livestock and goods trading. In the early years, land parcels were often traded for grubstakes or gambled away by miners. A grubsteak is basically, these people give you the parcel as long as you provide them with a portion of what you discover in the mountains as far as gold or silver.
Steph: By the spring of 1859, there were cities on both sides of the South Platte. The situation was tenuous and filled with confusion, as tensions between the cities grew and nearly led to bloodshed. Horace Greeley described the rapidly growing metropolis as a "log city of 150 dwellings, not three-fourths completed nor two-thirds inhabited, nor one-third fit to be." Finally, a torch-lit meeting was held, and on the Larimer Street bridge over Cherry Creek, for the price of a barrel of whiskey, all other names were dropped and the settlement in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains came to be known as Denver City.
Mike: Just when people began settling into their new lives in Denver, in 1859 a huge gold strike was discovered in the nearby mountain town of Central City. And as quickly as they came to Denver, the fortune-seekers packed up and headed to the hills - leaving the city nearly deserted. Gradually, people returned to Denver as they battled harsh weather conditions in the mountains, figuring there were better ways to make their fortune. They were the first settlers to discover and enjoy the mild, year-round climate Denver had to offer and began growing the city as a trade center.
Steph: Denver was a "wooden town," and the danger of fire was great. The whole city might have been consumed at any time. Auraria narrowly escaped destruction by fire on March 18, 1860, when a large new livery stable, belonging to Sumner & Dorsett, and valued, with its contents, at $18,000, was entirely consumed. This was the first fire in the new settlement.
Mike: May, 1860, was marked by the advent of the first daily newspaper, Thomas Gibson's Rocky Mountain Herald. The month of May was also marked by immense immigration, the arrivals numbering nearly one thousand daily, together with supplies of all kinds, and mills for treating ores. The city grew apace throughout May and June, but the latter month passed without any exciting incidents.
Steph: The last half of 1860 was marked only by the continued improvement of Denver, and though very many of the new arrivals returned East to winter, almost all who had wintered here before decided that it was more comfortable in Denver than out East, and remained. On the 26th of January, 1861, at a local election, the city of Denver polled 1,291 votes, showing a probable population of 6,000. However, opinion was divided as to the correctness of this estimate of population or the count of the vote. At any rate, it showed that East Denver had already outstripped its ancient rival, Auraria, in voting population.
Mike: Hum. Pretty good. The Colorado Territory was created on February 28, 1861, Arapahoe County was formed on November 1, 1861 and Denver City was incorporated on November 7, 1861. Denver City served as the Arapahoe County Seat from 1861 until consolidation in 1902 and then in 1865, Denver City became the Territorial Capital. With its new-found importance, Denver City shortened its name to just Denver. On August 1, 1876, Denver became the State Capital when Colorado was admitted to the Union.
Steph: Gov. Evans and Secretary Elbert arrived in Denver in 1862, and about the same time, the eventful month of May also brought to Denver tidings of the passage by Congress of the Pacific Railroad and Telegraph Bill, an announcement full of promise for the young but thrifty Rocky Mountain settlement.
Mike: The prospect of a railway connection East and West was hailed with unbounded delight by the people of Denver, not only for the mere convenience of transit but for its effect upon all the material interests of the young community. Travel across the Plains, by the slow stage-coach or lumbering ox-train, was even less provoking than the effect of such transportation on the Denver markets, which fluctuated with every change of weather, and often without any sound reason. The non-arrival of a goods train when it was expected, would put up prices, and when this train did arrive, prices would tumble below cost. An Indian scare would have the same effect.
Steph: On July 15, 1862 the first volunteer fire company in Denver was organized.
Colorado having been created as a military district, a provost guard, also known as military police, was mounted in September and the city of Denver was placed under martial law as far as the soldiers were concerned. Though the soldiers and citizens occasionally came in conflict, the provost guard rendered good service in keeping the city quiet and orderly.
Mike: Like any city, Denver suffered its growing pains in its early years. Although sentiments were somewhat divided in the early days of the Civil War, Colorado was only marginally a pro-Union territory  (four statehood attempts were thwarted, largely by Confederate sympathizers in July 1862, February 1863, February 1864, and January 1866).
Steph: Jeesh. Colorado was strategically important to both the Union and Confederacy because of the gold and silver mines, as both sides wanted to use the mineral wealth to help finance the war. The New Mexico Campaign (February to April 1862) was a military operation conducted by Confederate Brigadier General Henry Sibley to gain control of the Southwest, including the gold fields of Colorado, the mineral-rich territory of Nevada and the ports of California. The campaign was intended as a prelude to an invasion of the Colorado Territory and an attempt to cut the supply lines between California and the rest of the Union. A volunteer army was hastily put together in Denver and, although they were hardly trained and badly outnumbered, they managed to defeat the Rebels from Texas at the Battle of Glorietta Pass in New Mexico, saving Colorado for the Union. And that was just the beginning of the challenges the city would face.
Mike: The early spring of 1863 was marked in Denver by the departure of the Colorado troops for the theater of war in Missouri.
When Denver was only 5 years old, on the morning of April 19, 1863 a fire was discovered in the rear of the Cherokee House, then standing on the lot now occupied by the Fillmore Block, corner of Blake and Fifteenth streets. The alarm was given between the hours of 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning.
This great fire burned much of Denver's business district to the ground in 1863. In less than two hours, the center of the city was a blackened waste, from Wazee to Holladay streets, and from Cherry Creek to Sixteenth, except a few fire-proof buildings.
Steph: Before the town was fairly aroused, the fire was beyond all possible control, and the people turned their attention to saving goods from imperiled buildings. The sands of Cherry Creek were soon covered with heaps of goods from stores and the household paraphernalia of residents.
Mike: Unfortunately, those who were attempting to fight the fire were all untrained in the perilous and important duty to which its services were dedicated. Additionally its equipment was incomplete. Daybreak revealed that about seventy buildings had been burned, involvingloss of about a quarter of a million dollars -- not a very big sum for the Denver of today, but all too large for the Denver of 1863. The loss of provisions was very great, and prices for materials rose sharply in consequence of the fire.
Steph: Many of the brick buildings in Lodo were constructed after the fire and led to the "Brick Ordinance." The ordinance requiring all new buildings be constructed of brick or stone was drafted into law on April 20, 1863 and was in place until the 1940s. Some of the oldest buildings that still exist in LoDo, were built immediately following the 1863 fire. These are the long, narrow brick structures built along lower Blake, Market and Wazee Streets. By Christmas, the burnt district was substantially covered with new buildings, and business was going forwarded with usual activity.
Mike: The streets, which were eighty feet wide, were laid out diagonally, running northeast and southwest, with cross streets at right-angles. All the northwest and southeast thoroughfares gave full views of Long's Peak in the distance, and, in the winter, it is said that the view was particularly fine. The blocks were large, having each thirty-two lots, 25x125. The streets were originally lettered from southwest to northeast, but this lettering subsequently gave way to numbers, by which means F street became Fifteenth, G Sixteenth, etc.
Steph: On May 19, 1864, a flash flood swept down Cherry Creek. There being but a little water in the creek at any time, it came to be looked upon as a dry stream, and little attention was paid to it as a water-course, while many buildings were planted on piles in the very bed of the creek itself, despite early warnings from the Indians who had their winter camps along the creek.
Mike: The bridges of the period were low wooden structures, also raised on piles, a little above the sands. It was undoubtedly a wild deluge of waters, and it was reported as coming down with the most appalling force and suddenness upon the slumbering city, about the hour of midnight, killing 20 people and causing a million dollars in damage.
Steph: For four or five hours, up to daylight, the floods, in Cherry Creek and in the Platte, were growing gradually, spreading over West Denver and the Platte bottoms in the eastern and western wards of town. The adjoining flats next to both Cherry Creek and the Platte were inundated with water and the buildings were flooded to a depth of one to five feet. Blake street was covered to a foot in depth with wetland debris, and the basements of many of its stores were solid cisterns of muddy water. From the Buffalo House to the site of F street bridge, on the East Denver flats, was one shining sea of water.
Mike: Most of the settlers had to leave their homes and household goods, and made their way up-town to escape the inundation. The West side of the city was hit notably harder by the flood. One good effect of the flood was the washing away of all that remained in the shape of hostile or sectional feeling between the East and West Divisions of the city. It also put a stop to all building on the treacherous sands of Cherry Creek, and as West Denver, being on the lowest ground, suffered the most, it subsequently led to the abandonment of many of its business houses, the proprietors establishing themselves to new places in the East Division of the city, which rapidly acquired prominence and importance.
Steph: Shortly after the flood, the American Indian war broke out, cutting stage stations and supply lines and leaving Denver with just six weeks of food. Indians on the Plains commenced in action against those in their territory, which ended only with the bloody battle of Sand Creek on November 29th, 1864 when a 700 man force of the Colorado Territory militia attacked and destroyed a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho in southeastern Colorado Territory, killing and mutilating an estimated 70–163 people, out of which two-thirds were women and children. The location has been designated the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site and is administered by the National Park Service.
Mike: Gov. Evans, during all the troubled times of 1864-65, was zealous in his efforts to end the wars which were doing Colorado so much damage. He had previously been instrumental in negotiating the treaty of Conejos, by which the Utes were restricted to the valley of the Gunnison, with their full consent. The enlargement of their reservation followed this Sand creek affair, when the Government made every effort to "pacify" the Indians. Gov. Evans also undertook to treat with the Plains Indians, at or about the time the treaty of Conejos was concluded, but without avail.
Steph: Gee, I wonder why they didn’t want to talk. God. At that time, the Plains Indians included about all the Northern tribes who ranged north and south at will, and numbered thousands of warriors. Sitting Bull was a leader in those days, and his voice was always for war. He used to say that, while the white men were fighting among themselves, the Indians could unite and drive them out of the country; that the Washington Government was "played out." Sitting Bull seems to have been a secessionist on a small scale. Anxious to have a talk with these Plains Indians, Gov. Evans sent the well-known Elbridge Gerry to invite the chiefs to a conference on the Republican. Gerry, who was well known and universally liked by all the Indians, who called him "Little Gerry," had no difficulty in communicating with them, but they strenuously and persistently opposed any "peace" conference. Gerry reported to Gov. Evans, who was then in camp, on the Republican, waiting for the Indians to come in. Evans advised him to return to the Indian camp and ask for a delegation to come in, not to make peace but to hear what he had to say. These efforts proved unsuccessful.
Mike: Contemporary with the Indian excitements of 1864 were a couple of mountain scares, proceeding from entirely different causes.
A large party of road agents, or "guerrillas," as they styled themselves, claiming to be rebel soldiers, organized a raid in South Park, under the leadership of a dare-devil by the name of Reynolds. (Dunn, dunn, dunn)
Steph: Well it was the Wild West.
Mike: The Reynolds raid was long be remembered by old settlers, many of whom have good cause to remember it by their losses inflicted, either of property or friends.
Steph: Reynolds threatened to sack Denver, and actually headed this way, but was stopped at the hands of an attacking party in the Platte Cañon, on the evening of July 30, 1864. Jack Sparks, of Gold Run, led the attack, supported by the followers from that camp. Instead of making a desperate fight, Reynolds and his gang fled without firing a shot, (what a ninny.) leaving their plunder and the dead body of one of their number on the field. A hot pursuit of the fugitives was immediately instituted, during which five of the robbers, including a brother of Reynolds, were killed. This settled the guerrilla business in Colorado.
Mike: Shouldn’t that be pronounced Kan-yon?
Steph: Kan-yon. Spell check.
Mike: You’re silly. The summer of 1865 brought with it the ‘grasshopper year’ in which everything green was eaten by the critters. No one was prepared for their coming and there were no methods for fighting them. In consequence, all crops were destroyed and produce and provisions had to be brought in from the other States. Prices were high during the fall and winter, and created the hardest times ever known to the early settlers in Colorado, up to that point.
Steph: The Legislature of 1866 seems to have been remarkable mainly for its perceived virtue. Appalled at the progress of gambling in Denver and throughout the Territory, the Legislature passed a law prohibiting all manner of games, from monte down to seven-up. It also amended all municipal charters so that no town or city could sanction gambling by ordinance or license, or even by leniency.
Mike: The gambling houses of Denver were among the finest in the country, and the suppers and refreshments served here of the finest.
Mike: While the hospitality of the proprietors was freely extended to all "producers," whether they bought white or blue chips of the game.
Steph: No discrimination here folks.
Steph: It was not long, however, before the inevitable and always recurring demand for these roads to ruin renewed itself in such shape and with such force that public sentiment modified the terrors of the anti-gambling law, and left it like many other prohibition statutes, practically a dead letter. It was used thereafter merely as a restriction.
Mike: Open and demonstrative gambling was denied, and the private club-rooms were tolerated so that the police always held knowledge in the local underworld. The power to close a gambling house at pleasure, however, liable to abuse, was, nevertheless, a great point gained in the enforcement of law and order, and the city of Denver began at once to take rank with those of the East, in respect to efficient government control.
Steph: In total, 1866 was a doubling year, and about three hundred houses were erected during the building season, some of them being substantial structures. Prices of real estate began to advance, in anticipation of railway connection with the East. The grasshopper was not a burden in 1866, as it had been in 1865, and farming operations were resumed with major activity around Denver, which had become the recognized center of business activity. The entries of public lands in 1866, up to November, were 250,000 acres, nearly double that of any previous year, and all entries were made by actual settlers. In 1866, the mines yielded double the production of 1865, and Denver almost doubled in population.
Mike: The early hardships only solidified the resolve of Denver's citizens and made them more determined to not just survive but to thrive. When the Union Pacific Railroad bypassed Colorado on its transcontinental route, Denverites raised $300,000 and built their own railroad to meet the Union Pacific in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Soon after, the Kansas Pacific Railroad crossed the plains to Denver and, when a major silver strike was hit in Leadville in the 1870’s, Denver was a boomtown once again.
Steph: Oh, that’s circus noise, but you know what I mean.
Steph: Right, so what did we learn from this little history lesson Mike?
Mike: One, Colorado is an independent state and Coloradans will work hard to do what we want. We don’t need any outside government telling us how we run our state. We’ve clearly proven that. Not just in the last few years, but with our founding, that was basically part of it. We can govern our own state, we the people, we the citizens of Colorado.
Steph: Local works, right. Number two- floods happen and when they do they can absolutely level anything in their path. If the snow pack was of any large amount in the mountains the spring runoff can strike without warning. Including in the middle of the night. Seek high ground quickly.
Mike: We also learned that fires also happen and thankfully our fire departments have advanced in both skill and equipment, so thank a fire fighter today.
Steph: Last thing we learned was an unfortunate incident of the Sand Creek Massacre.
Steph: Um. I never knew that before.
Mike: I didn’t either.
Steph: And that’s just frickin awful.
Mike: It’s just a dark cloud that hangs over Colorado.
Steph: For real. Nasty business. Of course all of our links will be in our show notes. Check out our actual website for this episode at This Is Colorado.net and we want to know what you guys think so far. This is our 3rd episode.
Mike: We are completely and totally new to this so any feedback that we get is definitely going to help us make it better. We are rookies but we want to become seasoned vets.
Steph: Right. So in addition to that if you have any constructive criticism please share. We also would like to know what you’d like to learn about as far as these little reports go. So connect with us send us an email. All of our contact info is at ThisIsColorado.net.
Mike: Mike and Stephanie signing off.
Steph: See ya later.
Mike: Have a good one.
Steph: Kay, bye.