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Guidebook of the Western United States: Part E. The Denver & Rio Grande Western Route


On leaving Colorado Springs the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad follows down the valley of Fountain Creek, which is irrigated and under intensive cultivation. For a number of miles Cheyenne Mountain is the most conspicuous object on the west (right), and the abruptness with which the mountain ends and the plains begin is striking. As explained before, this abrupt junction of plain and mountain is due to a great fault, which bounds the mountain on the east and brings its hard rocks into contact with the soft, flat-lying rocks of the plains. (See fig. 13.) Consequently there are no hard sandstones to form foothills, as there are about Manitou and many other places along the Front Range.

FIGURE 13.—Section showing fault at foot of Cheyenne Mountain.

The railroad continues its southerly course down Fountain Creek, and the traveler whose destination is the Pacific coast or some intermediate point is apparently getting no nearer his destination than he was at Denver or Colorado Springs. He may have wondered why it is that the Denver & Rio Grande Western, an important link in one of the great transcontinental railway systems, should, after starting from Denver, go due south 119 miles, to Pueblo, before attempting to cross the mountain range in a westerly direction. It is generally assumed that the road was built southward in order to reach the valley of the Arkansas and that this valley affords the best route through the mountains. This can hardly have been the reason for the southward extension, however, for other roads cross north of Pueblo and Canon City, and hence there must have been some other reason for the course pursued by this road. The explanation of this southerly course is bound up in the general railroad history of this mountainous region, a brief account of which is given in the footnote below.18

18Considerable difficulty was experienced in the early days of Colorado in getting moneyed men interested in the construction of railroads in or across the mountains, but by the persistent efforts of those who had become identified with the movement to develop the natural resources of the State capital was obtained and the building of railroads was begun.

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad was incorporated October 27, 1870. The leading spirit in the organization and building of the road was Gen. William J. Palmer, a Philadelphian by birth, who had received his early railroad training on the Pennsylvania Railroad under the presidency of J. Edgar Thompson. He served with distinction in the Civil War and earned the rank of brigadier general in the Army of the Tennessee under Gen. George H. Thomas. Upon the conclusion of the war he became managing director of the Kansas Pacific Railroad and was placed in charge of the construction of the last division, extending from Kit Carson to Denver. Here he accomplished the almost impossible task of building 150 miles of railroad in the same number of days without having materials of any kind to begin with. It is doubtful if this record in railroad construction has ever been equaled. When this road was completed, Gen. Palmer became interested in the mountain region of Colorado and, like the true empire builder that he was, foresaw wonderful possibilities in creating a system of transportation that should cover the entire region. In speaking of him, William J. Beyers, founder and for a long time editor of the Rocky Mountain News, says:

"The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, with its numerous branches in the mountains, was Gen. Palmer's conception. It was a comprehensive scheme, by many regarded as Utopian, because it contemplated the construction of hundreds of miles of railroad through a country practically uninhabited and generally considered unfit for habitation. Aside from a few white settlers at Pueblo, small Mexican settlements at Trinidad, a village of pioneers at Colorado City, small bands of Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, and scattered settlers at some other points, there were not enough inhabitants for the nucleus of a community anywhere on the proposed line. But Gen. Palmer's prevision penetrated farther than the vision of others who looked with doubt and suspicion on the enterprise. He proposed to lay tribute on the hidden treasures of the mountains and to stimulate production of the precious metals by affording facilities for shipment and to encourage the farmer and ranchman to occupy the plains for the purpose of agriculture and stock growing by affording the means of quick transportation to distant markets. It was gigantic, a daring proposition, but not visionary, for the man who conceived it was able to procure the necessary capital to complete the undertaking. No single agency has done more to establish mining camps and open valuable mines in Colorado than the projection and completion of this vast and complex system of mountain railroads."

In 1870 only one road, the Union Pacific, had been built across the continent, and this road was north of Colorado, where the low passes presented no great difficulties. Gen. Palmer's scheme was not to build an east and west line but a north and south one. As stated in the first annual report of the board of directors:

"The idea of a north and south railway, following the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains from the principal city of the new West—Denver—southward to Mexico, arose from a conviction that this belt of country had especial advantages in its location, climate, and natural resources."

It was urged that a railroad in this direction would traverse a belt of country having an excellent climate and well watered by mountain streams; that it would be closely adjacent to the mountains, which contain silver, gold, lead, copper, iron, and other metals, as well as abundant supplies of timber for manufacturing and construction; that it would tap several fields of coal well suited for making steam and for general manufacturing; and lastly, that it would control the freight business in this isolated territory and would levy tribute on any east and west road that might be constructed through it.

The main line of the Denver & Rio Grande, according to Gen. Palmer's scheme, was to extend from Denver to Pueblo, thence up through the "Big Canon" (Royal Gorge) of the Arkansas to Salida, thence southward through Poncho Pass to Alamosa on the Rio Grande, and thence down that stream to El Paso and on to Mexico City. A loop was to extend south of Pueblo through La Veta Pass and connect with the other line at Alamosa, and still another line was to be built through Raton Pass south of Trinidad. Branch lines were projected into the mountains at many points, two of which had Salt Lake City as their objective. A map of the system as originally planned is given in Plate XXXI.

PLATE XXXI. MAP SHOWING DENVER AND RIO GRANDE RAILROAD AS ORIGINALLY PLANNED. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Gen. Palmer was a great believer in the economy of construction and operation, in a mountainous country, of a narrow-gage road, so after careful consideration and investigation of such roads abroad, a 8-foot gage was decided upon for the new road. This did not meet with general approval, and for a long time it was referred to as the "baby railroad," a name which seems singularly appropriate when the rolling stock of that day is compared with the rolling stock of the present time. (See Pl. XXVII, A, p. 48.)

Track laying was begun at Fifteenth Street in Denver on July 27, 1871, and the road was completed to Colorado Springs, 75 miles away, by October 21 of the same year. Construction was pushed southward rapidly, and the road reached Pueblo June 29, 1872. It is interesting to note in the first report of the company that an estimate of the passenger traffic between Denver and Colorado Springs (then just organized) was 13 persons each way daily. To-day the road handles during the summer season an average of nearly 1,500 persons a day between these places, to say nothing of those who travel over the Santa Fe and the Colorado & Southern railroads.

As the road needed fuel, and as it had not penetrated any field of coal suitable for use in locomotives, a branch line was built up the Arkansas Valley to the coal field near Florence in the same year (1872), and this line was extended to Canon City in 1874.

In 1872 negotiations were undertaken with the Mexican Government for the extension of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad to Mexico City, but they were not successful, though later the plans for this extension found expression in the Mexican National Railway.

By the time the Rio Grande road reached Pueblo, the Arkansas Valley began to attract the attention of other railway companies, and many plans were conceived to build railroads, but nothing came of them, and the Rio Grande was left in supposed undisputed possession of the field. A little later the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, a Boston corporation with apparently unlimited capital and energy, entered this field without regard to any assumed prior rights of the Denver & Rio Grande.

In 1872 the Santa Fe was in operation as far west as Fort Dodge, Kans., and a subsidiary of that road, the Kansas & Colorado Railway Co., was incorporated to build a line up the Arkansas Valley. It was understood that the Santa Fe proposed to make Pueblo the principal commercial center of the mountain region and to build several extensions beyond Pueblo, especially to Canon City and through the Royal Gorge to the mining camps in the mountains, as well as to Denver and other places along the mountain front. It was rumored that the Santa Fe was heading for Raton Pass, south of Trinidad, which was claimed by the Rio Grande as a part of one of its southern routes. All these plans threatened seriously the very existence of the Denver & Rio Grande, which accordingly made preparations for a vigorous defensive campaign, but the panic of 1873 stopped nearly all construction work on the Rio Grande as well as on most other roads in the country.

Four or five years later, as confidence was restored and money became plentiful, work was pushed ahead on all the lines entering the Rocky Mountains. The Rio Grande resumed work on one of its branches through La Veta Pass into San Luis Park, reaching Alamosa July 6, 1878.

The first indication of an actual clash between the rival roads occurred in February, 1878, when the Santa Fe plotted to occupy Raton Pass, through which one of the surveys of the Rio Grande had been run and which was therefore practically occupied by that road. Hundreds of men and teams were suddenly rushed into the pass by the Santa Fe, which built its line through the pass before the Rio Grande could stop its progress. This sudden move created consternation in the offices of the Rio Grande, and for a time it seemed impossible to avoid armed conflict. Although much bad feeling was created by this action of the Santa Fe no actual bloodshed occurred, and that road was allowed to retain possession of the pass.

The great contest between the two systems, however, was that for the right of way through the Royal Gorge. As the Santa Fe had been successful in its sudden move in Raton Pass, it planned a similar attack on the Royal Gorge before the Rio Grande had time to defend its own property. The Rio Grande, however, had possession of the telegraph lines and so was apprised of the proposed attack. Accordingly, the Rio Grande planned as a defensive measure to begin grading in the Royal Gorge on April 20, 1878. The general manager of the Santa Fe heard of this plan and wired an engineer at La Junta to proceed to Canon City immediately and occupy the canyon before the Rio Grande forces appeared. The engineer arrived at Pueblo at 3 o'clock on the morning of the expected move. He tried to charter a train on the Rio Grande to carry him to Canon City but of course was refused; then he hired the best horse he could obtain and started at break neck speed to ride to Canon City, 45 miles distant. He had to reach the canyon before the engineers of the Rio Grande, so he spurred his horse to top speed, but when he was within 3 miles of his destination it fell dead. The engineer ran on into Canon City, raised a force of several hundred men, proceeded to the mouth of the canyon, which is admirably suited for such a purpose (Pl. XXXIII, B, p. 71), and fortified his position before the Rio Grande force appeared. The ease with which the engineer of the Santa Fe raised a force of men at Canon City was due to the fact that the Rio Grande had become very unpopular through its autocratic habit of ignoring the wishes of the citizens of the region, so the people were glad to have an opportunity to assist the Santa Fe in order to "get even" with the Rio Grande.

The Santa Fe was operating through a subsidiary corporation, the Canon City & San Juan Co., which had a charter for a line in the canyon extending for 20 miles from the lower entrance. Both roads had graders at work in the canyon, and it is not surprising that fights were frequent and that many men were arrested. The Santa Fe obtained an injunction restraining the Rio Grande from continuing its work, and the Rio Grande obtained one preventing the Santa Fe from grading any more of its road bed. About the last of May, 1878, the cases came up before Judge Hallett, of the United States court at Denver, but the judge postponed them and in the meantime enjoined both parties from working in the disputed section and placed each under a bond of $20,000.

On June 1, 1878, Federal Judges Hallett and Dillon rendered a concurrent opinion that the Santa Fe (Canon City & San Juan Co.) be permitted to resume grading in the canyon until the case could be more thoroughly examined in July. The case was ably argued in July by both sides but was again postponed. On August 23 Judge Hallett handed down a decision which granted to the Canon City & San Juan Co. (Santa Fe) the right to construct its line as surveyed—up the gorge for 20 miles. The Rio Grande was restrained from interfering in any way with this work but might proceed (if it could do so without interference) to build a parallel line, and if it became necessary might, on application to the court, be allowed to use the tracks of the rival road.

The Rio Grande appealed from this decision to the Supreme Court of the United States and began construction above the 20-mile limit of the Santa Fe, but as its financial condition was desperate and as it had been denied the right to the Royal Gorge there seemed to be no other course but to bow temporarily to the stronger road. Accordingly, on December 2, 1878, the entire Rio Grande system, embracing 337 miles of road, was leased to the Santa Fe for 30 years, the Santa Fe engaging to proceed with the work of constructing the line through the canyon to Leadville while awaiting the decision of the United States Supreme Court. Although the lease was ratified by the stockholders of the Rio Grande, it was ratified under pressure, and from the beginning it was a constant source of irritation.

As soon as the Santa Fe obtained control of the Rio Grande it proceeded to carry out its plan of concentrating business at Pueblo, and in so doing it used the Rio Grande merely as a feeder for its main line. This policy naturally aroused the opposition of the old officers of the Rio Grande, and charges of irregularities by both companies were freely made. The Rio Grande officials were trying in every way to find some valid reason for abrogating the lease, which had become to them almost intolerable.

In the spring of the next year (1879) the great struggle for the possession of the Royal Gorge was resumed. Armed parties from both sides re-entered the canyon in anticipation of an early decision of the Supreme Court in April the Rio Grande people, exasperated to the lighting point, began preparations to retake and hold, at the muzzle of the rifle if necessary, the entire system, which they claimed was being operated in violation of the principal condition of the lease. The Santa Fe learned of this contemplated action and issued strict orders to its men not to obey any instructions or orders except those of its own officers. There was trouble, however, at several places along the line; stations were broken into and considerable property was destroyed.

While the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe were waging their contest over the occupancy of the Royal Gorge, Congress passed an act which specified, among other things,

"That any railroad company whose right of way, or whose track or road bed upon such right of way, passes through any canyon, pass, or defile shall not prevent any other railroad company from the use and occupancy of the said canyon, pass, or defile for the purpose of its road in common with the road first located."

This act was approved March 3, 1875. On May 6, 1879, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision which gave to the Rio Grande the prior right to construct its road through the Royal Gorge according to the first survey made through the canyon in 1871-72, but in accordance with the law of 1875, quoted above, it recognized that the Santa Fe could not be prevented from building a line also, and where the canyon is too narrow for both roads from using the tracks of the Rio Grande. Although this decision was a victory for the Rio Grande, this road had not succeeded in having the lease annulled and was in the anomalous position of having the first right to the canyon but being stopped from occupying the roadbed on the north side of the canyon that had been graded by the Santa Fe and of having its whole system under lease to the rival road.

While these points were being considered, the attorney general of the State entered a suit to enjoin the Santa Fe from operating a railroad in the State of Colorado. This case was heard by Judge Bowen at the obscure town of San Luis, in Costilla County. Judge Bowen enjoined the Santa Fe from operating the Rio Grande Railroad and from exercising corporate rights within the State. This decision gave the Rio Grande opportunity to regain control of its own road under judicial authority, and accordingly the sheriffs of the counties in the State were instructed to take possession of the property and turn it over to the Rio Grande officials. Wild rumors were afloat that the Rio Grande had organized fighting forces that were attacking the Santa Fe men at several points along the line. The offices of the Santa Fe at Denver were broken open and occupied by Rio Grande men. The governor was petitioned to call out the militia to stop bloodshed, but he left the matter entirely in the hands of the sheriffs of the counties.

Counsel for the Santa Fe appeared in the Federal court at Denver and moved to quash the "Bowen injunction." In the meantime the Rio Grande had retaken most of its stations, offices, and rolling stock. Great excitement prevailed, and some blood was shed. On June 12, 1879, Judge Hallett declared Judge Bowen's decision to be null and void, and on June 23 he decided that the Rio Grande had unlawfully retaken property and should immediately restore it to the Santa Fe; then, if the Rio Grande so desired, it might institute proceedings for the cancellation of the lease. He also decided that the Rio Grande might take possession of the narrow part of the Royal Gorge by paying to the Santa Fe the cost of construction. On July 14 the Federal court ordered all work stopped in the canyon pending an examination by a commission of engineers to determine the cost of construction. While these court proceedings were in progress the Rio Grande engineers erected fortifications and stopped the Santa Fe graders at the 20-mile limit specified in their charter.

On January 2, 1880, the Federal Supreme Court rendered its long-expected decision as follows:

"That from the mouth of the canyon to the mouth of the South Arkansas River [Salida] the Rio Grande was to take and hold the prior right of way; that it might take the road bed of the Santa Fe in that part by paying for it at the rate determined by the commissioners; when paid for, all injunctions and restraining orders to be dissolved and set aside, and the Santa Fe was perpetually enjoined from interfering. From South Arkansas River to Leadville the prior rights belonged to the Santa Fe by reason of prior location."

Soon after this the long fight between the two railroads was terminated by a compromise agreement in Boston by which the Rio Grande was not to build its contemplated line to El Paso, Tex., nor its proposed line eastward to St. Louis, the Santa Fe was not to build to Leadville, the lease was to be canceled, and the Rio Grande was to pay the Santa Fe for all grading it had done in the canyon. Thus ended one of the longest and most bitterly contested railroad wars that were ever fought in this country. In the legal battles some of the most noted lawyers of the West were employed, and the encounters in the field were marked by deeds of heroism and bloodshed that were worthy of a better cause.

Thus we see that the Denver & Rio Grande, originally planned as a north and south line, was compelled to become an east and west line, much to its ultimate advantage, and although it made a most vigorous effort to reach the Rio Grande with its main line, it failed to do so.

After the compromise construction was carried forward rapidly, and the narrow-gage line reached Leadville in July, 1880. The first line across the Continental Divide—the line over Marshall Pass—was completed to Gunnison in August, 1881. The line over Tennessee Pass—the present main line—was completed in the following year. The line from Marshall Pass was pushed westward, reaching Grand Junction in November and the Utah State line in December, 1882.

About this time the Pleasant Valley Railway of Utah, extending from Provo to Clear Creek, was purchased by Gen. Palmer and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and extended eastward to the Colorado line under the name Rio Grande Western Railroad. This made a through narrow-gage line from Denver to Salt Lake City, which was completed to Ogden a year later. The laying of a third rail to give standard gage between Denver and Pueblo was completed on December 28, 1881, and the main line from Denver to Ogden was changed to standard gage by the autumn of 1890.

Several of the branch lines of this system are still narrow gage, and the traveler who wishes to see Marshall Pass and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison will have ample opportunity to compare the narrow, cramped cars and small engines of the narrow gage with the modern equipment of a standard-gage line.

Recently the company has been reorganized, and the name Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad has been adopted for the entire system.

Elevation 5,577 feet.
Population 595.
Denver 88 miles.

Elevation 5,386 feet.
Denver 93 miles.

Elevation 4,882 feet.
Denver 112 miles.

Near milepost 85 the Santa Fe Railway crosses the Denver & Rio Grande Western by an overhead bridge, and a short distance farther on it crosses to the right bank of Fountain Creek. Three miles below the overhead bridge is Fountain, the largest village in the southern part of El Paso County. The lower part of Fountain Creek valley is not particularly interesting to the traveler. There is little or no irrigation, and success with dry-land crops depends upon the amount of precipitation, which, according to the Weather Bureau, is only about 11.6 inches annually. In time of drought the valley is brown and desolate, but when showers are abundant all the plains are green and smiling. On a clear day the traveler may obtain glimpses of the distant mountains. Toward the northwest he can see Cheyenne Mountain, dominated by the towering summit of Pikes Peak, fading into the blue and hazy distance; on the west he may be able to distinguish the outline of the Wet Mountains, showing faintly in the distance; and far away to the south he may catch the faint blue of two peaks which are commonly known as the Spanish Peaks but which might more properly be known by their poetic Indian name Wahatoya (meaning twin breasts).

Elevation 4,668 feet.
Population 43,050.
Denver 119 miles.

As the train approaches the point where Fountain Creek joins Arkansas River the traveler is made aware of the presence of Pueblo by the pall of smoke that overhangs this "Pittsburgh of the West," as the citizens like to have it called. Pueblo is essentially a manufacturing community and is the largest town of this kind in the Rocky Mountain region. Indeed, it is generally considered the greatest manufacturing center between Missouri River and the Pacific coast. Pueblo is in the Arkansas Valley,18a which is well watered and capable of supporting a large population. Already the valley is well farmed, but with the construction of storage reservoirs to hold the water in the upper courses of the river and deliver it as it is needed below for irrigation the valley would support many times its present population. Pueblo has abundant railroad connections, both for the receipt of crude material to be manufactured and for the distribution of the manufactured products. Coke can readily be obtained from the Trinidad field, on the south, which is the greatest field of good coking coal in the West, and coal for fuel can be obtained from the same field or from the Canon City field, on the west. Iron ore is available in southern Wyoming and possibly in other parts of the mountain region, and altogether Pueblo is remarkably well located to become a large and prosperous manufacturing city.

18aOn June 3-5, 1921, a succession of flood waves occurred in Arkansas River as a result of heavy rains of "cloud-burst" violence in the drainage basins of several small streams tributary to the Arkansas above or near the city of Pueblo. The highest flood wave and the one that caused the greatest damage reached Pueblo during the evening of June 3, when a stage 6-1/2 feet above the tops of the levees was reached. At this time water 10 to 15 feet deep flowing through the lower parts of the city drowned many people and wrecked scores of buildings. The property losses caused by the flood in the Arkansas River valley aggregated nearly $20,000,000. The flood is described in detail in U. S. Geol. Survey Water-Supply Paper 487, The Arkansas River flood of June 3-5, 1921.

At Minnequa, a suburb of Pueblo, on the mesa to the south, is the great plant of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Co. There also are smelters for the reduction of the gold and silver ores of the mountain region, as well as other manufacturing plants. Pueblo is the county seat of Pueblo County. Here is the State Asylum for the Insane, a "palace" for the display of the mineral resources of the county, and numerous business blocks, hotels, and amusement parks.

Pueblo is one of the historic places of Colorado. The first record of occupation of this region by the white man is that of the exploring party of Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike, which camped at "The Forks," as he called the confluence of Fountain Creek and Arkansas River, in November, 1806, and built a log breastwork for defense. The party made this camp before they attempted to scale the great peak which they saw far off and which is now known as Pikes Peak. The next American party to visit the site of Pueblo was that of Maj. Long, in 1820. After this time it was visited by many explorers and hunters, and James Beckwourth—a mulatto who had lived among the Indians—claimed the honor of establishing in 1842 the first permanent settlement where Pueblo now stands. Here was built an adobe fort, called Fort Napeste, which is said to have been the Indian name for Arkansas River. In 1859 a settlement was begun on the east side of Fountain Creek, which was called Fountain City. A year or two later a rival town was laid out on the banks of the Arkansas and named Pueblo. For a number of years the growth of these pioneer settlements was slow, and it was not until the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad reached the Arkansas in 1872 that the settlements consolidated and began their phenomenal growth.

On leaving the station at Pueblo the train begins its real westward journey. From Denver to Pueblo its course has been nearly due south along the mountain front, but when it turns west at Pueblo it must travel 41 miles before it again comes to the foot of the mountains, for the range that forms the mountain front from the north line of the State to Colorado Springs terminates in Cheyenne Mountain, a few miles south of Colorado Springs, and here the mountain front is offset to the west 25 or 30 miles, to a point west of Canon City. This southern range, which is the Wet Mountains, continues southward for some distance and dies out, and still farther south there is another westward offset, the Sangre de Cristo Range, which extends as far as Santa Fe, N. Mex.

The course of the railroad from Pueblo is directly up Arkansas River to its headwaters at Tennessee Pass, near Leadville. East of Canon City the river has cut for itself in the plain a valley which ranges from half a mile to a mile in width and from 50 to 150 feet in depth. As the railroad is generally only a few feet above water level the traveler has few opportunities of seeing the country through which he is passing, except at places where the hills recede or their height is less than usual. The principal views that he gets will be those of the valley bottom and of the cliffs that bound it on either side.

The region through which the train is now passing, as well as that which it has traversed since it left Denver, was once included in the fanciful Territory of Jefferson,19 which was fully organized and carried on for a number of years but which failed to be sanctioned by the United States Congress and consequently never had any legal status. The episode is interesting as giving an early indication of that "push" which is generally regarded as characteristic of the people of Colorado.

19Few persons of the present generation, are aware that a Territory, called the Territory of Jefferson, was organized in the mountain region of Colorado and Wyoming at the time of the great "rush" to the Pikes Peak region, and that not only was the Territory organized but a serious attempt was made to organize a State without the preliminary steps of passing through a Territorial form of government. Such a statement now reads like fiction; but when this attempt was made the people were in deadly earnest and imagined that by taking vigorous action they could compel Congress to recognize and legalize their action.

When the Territory of Kansas was organized, in 1855, it included all of what is now known as Colorado that lies east of the crest of the Rocky Mountains. Thus the site of the city of Denver as well as all of eastern Colorado was within the jurisdiction of the Territorial government of Kansas. The control by that government was merely nominal, and as its seat was far off and difficult to reach the people of the mountain district were inclined to pay little attention to its authority.

When gold was reported in the Pikes Peak region, late in 1858, the few pioneers here became imbued with the idea that this was the richest part of the continent and that when its wonderful stores of the precious metal became known people would flock here in numbers so great that some sort of government other than that afforded by far-off Kansas would be necessary for the protection of life and property. These pioneers, although they were but recent arrivals, did not believe in waiting for action by the Territory of Kansas or by Congress; they proceeded to organize a government which they hoped Congress might approve and legalize. In the autumn of 1858 a few men from the settlements about Cherry Creek (the site of Denver) assembled for the purpose of creating a new State or Territory, in the Pikes Peak region. This new political division was to be considerably larger than the present State of Colorado, as shown by the accompanying sketch map (fig. 14), and was to be called Jefferson, in honor of the President of the United States, who had been instrumental in executing the Louisiana Purchase, which included most of this region. This convention met in Denver City in April, 1859, and passed a series of resolutions preparatory to the organization of the State of Jefferson, hoping by this action to start it full-fledged upon its career of statehood. The convention also issued a call for a general election on May 9 of delegates to a State convention to organize the State of Jefferson.

FIGURE 14.—State of Jefferson, as proposed in 1858.

The delegates met in Denver City June 6, 1859, and appointed committees to frame a State constitution and to report at an adjourned meeting on August 1. Before the time for this adjourned meeting the people began to realize the great expense of a State government, and many decided to favor a Territorial form. The result of this difference of preference was a compromise resolution to submit both propositions to the voters. The election was held on September 5 and resulted in the decisive defeat of the proposal for statehood and in favor of a Territorial form of government.

On October 3, 1859, a call was sent out for an election of delegates to a convention to organize the Territory of Jefferson. Many of the participants in this movement fully realized its illegality, so in order to be on the safe side they prepared a county ticket, to be voted on at the same time, providing for the election of officers of Arapahoe County, Kans., and also of a delegate to the Kansas Territorial legislature. An editorial in the Rocky Mountain News of October 6, 1859, says:

"So it goes; one day we understand that we are cut off from Kansas; the next we have cut ourselves off and will pay no regard to Kansas legislation but have an independent government of our own; and the very next, when there is a chance for a petty office under Kansas laws, there are hundreds ready to enter the lists, and before their certificates of election are dry in their pockets you will hear them lustily advocating 'independent government' and 'let Kansas go to the dogs.'

"Here we go, a regular triple-headed government machine. South of [parallel] 40 we hang on the skirts of Kansas; north of 40 on those of Nebraska. Straddling the line, we have just elected a Delegate to Congress for the Territory of Jefferson; and ere long we shall have in full blast a provisional government of Rocky Mountain growth and manufacture."

The convention assembled on October 10 and formed a Territorial constitution, which was ratified by the people at an election held on October 24. The name Jefferson was retained for the proposed new Territory.

Although the leaders recognized the illegality of their actions, Territorial officers and a legislature, the "First General Assembly," were elected. The legislature began its first session in Denver City November 7, 1859. The Rocky Mountain News was an ardent supporter of the Jefferson Territorial government and in its issue published after the meeting of the legislature made the following glowing prediction of the future of the Territory;

"We hope and expect to see it stand until we can boast of a million people and look upon a city of a hundred thousand souls having all the comforts and luxuries of the most favored. Then we will hear the whistle of locomotives and the rattle of trains arriving and departing on their way from the Atlantic and Pacific. * * * The future of Jefferson Territory, soon to be a sovereign State, is glorious with promise."

The first session of the legislature was marked by the enactment of many general laws and special acts, and the members seemed to have been imbued with the idea that they were building a great mountain commonwealth, but in the following year interest in the Territorial government of Jefferson began to wane, as the people realized that their efforts were likely to be fruitless. Not entirely disheartened, Gov. Steele issued a proclamation for the annual election of officers in the autumn of 1860, as provided in the constitution, but in this proclamation he warned all candidates that they would be expected to serve without compensation. This warning was given because of the growing belief that the local Territorial government would not be recognized by Congress and that all acts of its legislature would be declared invalid.

The second general assembly convened in Denver City on November 12, 1800, but on account of opposition by the city to the continuation of the legislative farce, it adjourned on November 27 to Golden. The principal inducement for this action, according to the News, was that "board is offered at $6 a week—wood and lights and hall rent free." The members, however, lost interest in its proceedings, and after 40 days playing at lawmaking the last Jefferson legislature passed away. According to a statement in Smiley's History of Denver,

"Jefferson Territory made its last gasp in June, 1861. On the sixth day of that month Gov. Steele issued from Denver a proclamation announcing the arrival of Gov. Gilpin and the institution of the Government of the Territory of Colorado under the act of Congress signed by President Buchanan February 28, 1861. * * * Thus ended the most interesting and picturesque endeavor of an isolated community to establish and maintain within itself a government of and by law that the student of self-government will find in the history of this country."

In the disturbance of the earth's crust that produced the mountains the rocks of the plains were thrown into low, broad folds or were sharply broken where the stresses were most severe. Folds of this kind may be seen by the traveler between Pueblo and Canon City, but they are so slight that he can hardly recognize them without following closely the rocks outcropping in the cliffs. Thus, a short distance west of the station at Pueblo the traveler may notice on the south (left) that the cliffs are composed of a dark shale, which is the bottom bed of the Pierre shale, of Cretaceous age. A little farther along a chalky rock rises from below the river, and the dark shale can be seen only in the upper part of the cliff, and within a short distance it disappears altogether. The chalky rock is the Niobrara, which in many places consists largely of limestone but here consists mostly of calcareous shale and thin beds of limestone having a total thickness of 600 or 700 feet. Farther west the Niobrara also rises to the tops of the cliffs, and near milepost 122, it gives place to the Carlile shale, which is about 210 feet thick. Half a mile farther on this shale is replaced by a bed of massive limestone (Greenhorn), which like the others rises gradually westward in a great fold, described below. Below the Greenhorn limestone lies the Graneros shale, which in its upper part contains considerable sandstone in thin layers. This formation is 200 feet thick.

The fold in these beds, which is here cut directly through by Arkansas River, has lifted them into a broad, flat dome. The center of this dome is marked by a thick bed of sandstone (Dakota), which is just brought to the surface near milepost 126 but which the river has not yet succeeded in cutting through. The rocks dip slightly in all directions from this central part. If the traveler has been following the formations from Pueblo he has seen at least 1,200 feet of rocks rise from below river level. Originally these rocks may have formed a large hill at this place, but the river has kept them washed away possibly as fast as they rose, and to-day, except for the dip of the rocks, there is no evidence on the surface of such a dome.

From the center of the dome near milepost 126 the beds dip up the river in the direction in which the train is moving, and they disappear beneath the river in reverse order from that in which they appeared on the east. At Livesey siding the Greenhorn limestone has reached water level. It soon disappears, and then the beds lie nearly flat for a long distance.

All the rocks thus far exposed along Arkansas River except the Dakota contain marine shells, which indicate that they were laid down in the sea, and as these rocks are widely distributed through the United States and Canada the sea must have covered most of the continent, or at least a wide area extending from north to south. It certainly extended eastward into Iowa and westward as far as the Wasatch Mountains. The Rocky Mountains were not then in existence, for this region was occupied by a shallow sea in which animal life swarmed, much as it does in the warm, shallow seas of to-day, and many of these forms were covered with mud and almost perfectly preserved.

Elevation 4,887 feet.
Denver 135 miles.

About three-quarters of a mile beyond milepost 132 Turkey Creek enters the valley from the north (right). Up this creek there are extensive sandstone quarries from which much stone has been taken for constructing buildings at Pueblo. The quarries are connected with Pueblo by a branch railroad. At Swallows the Denver & Rio Grande Western crosses to the north side of Arkansas River and about a mile farther on it passes under the Santa Fe, which a short distance beyond crosses to the south side of the stream.

Elevation 4,996 feet.
Denver 143 miles.

Elevation 5,051 feet.
Population 473.
Denver 146 miles.

West of milepost 142 the railroad crosses Beaver Creek, a large stream that joins the Arkansas from the north, and a little farther on is the station of Beaver. A short distance to the northwest is Beaver Park, which is noted for its apples, cherries, and small fruits. The land is irrigated from Beaver Creek, which derives its supply of water from the mountains on the north. At Beaver most of the formations already described or mentioned have disappeared, and the Pierre shale lies at the surface. The Niobrara formation rises again farther west, and at the towns of Cement and Portland it is used extensively in the manufacture of Portland cement.20 The first cement mill to be seen is that of the United States Portland Cement Co. on the north (right) of the railroad, and a mile farther on, at Portland, the Colorado Portland Cement Co. has an extensive plant on the south side of the track.

20Portland cement is an artificial product consisting of 60 to 65 per cent of lime, 20 to 25 per cent of silica, and 5 to 12 per cent of oxide of iron and alumina, and it has the useful property of hardening or "setting" under water. It is obvious that Portland cement may be manufactured from a variety of raw materials, provided the mixture has the chemical composition noted above. The most successful plants, however, are those which obtain all the necessary raw materials from the same quarry. Thus, limestone is needed for the lime and a sandy shale for the silica, iron, and alumina, but commonly an impure limestone may furnish all the materials, or, in other words, it may be a natural cement.

At Portland and Cement two beds of limestone in the Niobrara formation are used. One of these beds is fairly pure and carries about 88 per cent of carbonate of lime; the other is less pure and contains about 71 per cent of carbonate of lime. The essential process in the manufacture of cement is the formation under intense heat of a material that has the proper chemical composition. First, the raw materials must be ground to a fine powder, dried, and intimately mixed; second, the mixture thus prepared must be burned at a high temperature until it unites chemically and physically into a clinkered mass; and third, the clinker must be ground very fine. The fine mixture of the raw materials is burned in large steel cylinders that are slightly tilted and rotated by machinery. The fuel generally used is powdered coal, which is forced into the cylinder at its lower end. The mixture is fed into the cylinder at its upper end and in the intense heat of the burning coal is fused into a clinker, which falls out at the lower end of the cylinder. This clinker when ground very fine forms the Portland cement of commerce.

A short distance beyond milepost 147 the Denver & Rio Grande Western crosses the Arkansas and remains on its south side for 8 miles. West of Portland the rocks dip gently toward the west, the formations seen in the dome below Swallows are all below water level, and the surface of the country is composed of the Pierre shale. This shale is soft and does not form steep cliffs, and consequently the traveler here may see more of the surrounding region than he could farther east. Soon after passing milepost 147 he may see far on the right, if the atmosphere is clear, the summit of Pikes Peak, towering high above the surrounding plateau. The peak is frequently obscured by clouds which gather about its summit and stream off to the east in long banners of misty white, In the sunshine of a clear day it shows yellow or rosy red, but when the evening shadows fall or the mountain is partly obscured in the distance it is blue and hazy. The mountain is more than 30 miles from this point.

Elevation 5,199 feet.
Population 2,629.
Denver 152 miles.

As the harder rocks disappear from view and the softer Pierre shale takes its place, the surface of the country becomes more nearly level and the hills less prominent. In this shale oil was discovered before Colorado was admitted to statehood. Florence is the natural center of the oil field, which was developed by sinking a great many wells and to-day produces more oil than any other oil field in the State.21

21Oil was first discovered in the Florence field in 1872, when an oil spring was found on what is now known as Oil Creek, a stream that enters Arkansas River a few miles east of Canon City. A small still was put in operation that year, and the oil that flowed from the gravel in the stream bank was distilled for local use. It is said that this spring is still flowing at the rate of about 20 gallons a day.

The first deep well was drilled in the field in 1876 and struck oil at a depth of 1,187 feet. From this beginning the field was developed in and around the town of Florence. It extends southward for about 4 miles and westward for about 3 miles. The quantity of oil produced in this field in 1918 was 134,895 barrels, and the total quantity produced since the field was developed has been more than 10,500,000 barrels. The oil has a paraffin base and is a light oil, yielding a large percentage of gasoline.

The Florence oil field is apparently different from any other field in this country, as the oil is found part way down on the east side of a large structural basin or syncline. The oil does not come from sands, as the drillers call any coarse-grained rock that carries oil, but from the fine Pierre shale. It does not, however, appear to be in the pores of the shale but in cracks and crevices. In drilling wells in this field the tools often drop several feet, and sometimes the bailer—a long tube by which the oil or water is bailed out of the well—has been lost in one of these crevices. Altogether, this field is an anomaly and is not well understood by geologists.

Another curious fact is that the oil which flows from the spring noted above, as well as from others that have been discovered more recently, does not come from the outcrop of this shale but from the Morrison formation, which underlies the shale and is beneath the Dakota sandstone.

The Florence oil field is the largest field of its kind in Colorado and has been a steady producer for a long time. Two refineries are in operation, and the oil is piped to the railroad from different parts of the field as well as shipped in from other fields in the State for refining.

Refineries at Florence convert the crude oil into many marketable products. As the train approaches the town oil-well derricks and oil tanks may be seen on both sides of the railroad. From Florence a branch railroad turns to the south (left) and runs through the heart of the oil field and to Coal Creek, where there are coal mines that ship their product both east and west over the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.

During the early days of mining in the Cripple Creek gold district the entire output of ore was refined at Florence. Nine enormous reduction mills were operated in this vicinity until the Golden Cycle mill was built in Colorado City, when trouble with labor caused the ore to be sent to Colorado City and Denver. The mills continued to operate for a number of years but were finally closed. One of these—a million dollar plant—is still standing on the north side of Arkansas River about half a mile north of Florence.

About three-quarters of a mile west of the station the railroad crosses Oak Creek, and from this crossing the traveler may see off to the southwest (left) the distant slopes of the Wet Mountains and nearer, but still 3 or 4 miles distant, the white-banded hills that mark the outer rim of the Canon City coal field,22 a basin of Laramie rocks which lies almost entirely south of the railroad and which furnishes fuel for many of the industries of Colorado. At a point 1-1/4 miles beyond the station at Florence the Canon City branch of the Santa Fe Railway crosses the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad by an overhead bridge. This branch, which is one of the principal outlets for the coal of the Canon City field, runs to Rockvale, one of the large mining centers. Just beyond the bridge the Chandler branch of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad turns to the left and enters the same field, for both roads depend upon this coal for use in their locomotives, and they also distribute much of it throughout the country for domestic and manufacturing uses.

22The Canon City coal field is a small structural basin, or syncline, in the Laramie formation south of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad and extends from a point a short distance west of Florence to the foot of the Wet Mountains. The coal-bearing beds on the east side of this basin dip westward at angles of 2° to 5° except at the northern margin, where the dip ranges from 5° to 15°. Their outcrop here, which is broader than it is on the west side, is 2 to 4 miles wide and about 12 miles long. It contains all the large mines of the field, eight in number, that ship their product by rail. The west side of the basin is formed by a narrow belt of nearly vertical or overturned rocks less than a quarter of a mile wide. The coal beds that are worked range in thickness from 2 to 6 feet. The coal is a high-grade domestic fuel, bituminous and noncoking. The moisture in the coal as it comes from the mines ranges from 9 to 15 per cent, and the heat value ranges from 10,500 to 12,000 British thermal units.

Mining was begun in this field in 1872 to supply fuel for the locomotives of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The production of the field grew steadily, and in the last four years it has averaged about 850,000 tons a year. The total quantity of coal mined to the end of 1920 was about 23,300,000 short tons. It is estimated that the quantity of coal still remaining in the field in beds 14 inches or more thick is 992,000,000 short tons.

Near milepost 154 two prominent cliffs may be seen across the river. The lower 110 feet of these cliffs consists of dark-green shale (the upper part of the Pierre shale), and this is capped by about 40 feet of massive sandstone. This sandstone may be the lowermost member of the Laramie or it may represent the Fox Hills sandstone of the north. Which sandstone it is has not been definitely settled.

Nearly half a mile beyond milepost 154 is Brewster, a signal tower at the point where the Santa Fe crosses the Denver & Rio Grande Western to the left and continues to Canon City on the south side of the river. On the south (left) is the dump of an abandoned mine on a coal bed directly overlying the sandstone described above. Old prospect entries on the same bed show on the north (right) a little farther on, and a quarter of a mile beyond milepost 155 the Denver & Rio Grande Western crosses Arkansas River and remains on the north side to a point beyond Canon City.

Just before reaching milepost 156 the railroad makes a cut through a cliff of sandstone that projects from the right. This sandstone, which dips about 10° S., as shown in the accompanying diagram (fig. 15), is the lowest sandstone of the coal-bearing rocks and forms a part of the northern rim of the basin. The younger rocks near the middle of the coal field terminate to the south in the high ridge or escarpment of light-colored sandstone, which is a conspicuous feature of this field.

FIGURE 15.—Sandstone bed at base of coal-bearing formation at crossing of Arkansas River near mouth of Oil Creek. Sandstone dips southward.

After passing the point of sandstone described above the railway runs through a broad valley, which has been cut in the same shale as that seen at Florence. This shale (Pierre) and the soft underlying formations extend to Canon City, and to them is due the breadth of the valley at and below that town. Here in the valley, where an ample supply of water can be had from Arkansas River and its tributary streams and where the crops are protected from frost by the mountains on the west, fruits—particularly apples—are grown in abundance. It is said that 50 per cent of the State's apple crop is raised in the vicinity of Canon City. Near milepost 157 apple orchards can be seen from the train, and they continue in almost unbroken masses to Canon City.

Oil Creek, so named because oil once seeped from the ground along its course in Garden Park north of the railroad, is crossed a short distance west of milepost 157.

About 8 miles up Oil Creek, in an open space at the foot of the mountains known as Garden Park, the bones of some of the most wonderful animals that the world has ever known have been found. They were embedded in the Morrison formation, and a large quarry was opened for the sole purpose of obtaining them. The skeletons or the casts of the skeletons are exhibited in most of the museums of this country. The most abundant remains are those of giant reptiles called dinosaurs. Many of these animals were 20 feet long and resembled no animal now living except possibly the diminutive so-called horned toad of California. Plate XXXII, A, represents one of these lizards, called Stegosaurus, as he is supposed to have appeared when he was alive and roamed through the swamps that then covered much of this region. This particular species was a vegetable feeder, but he needed protection from other dinosaurs that were carnivorous, so he was compelled to grow a bony plate of armor.

PLATE XXXII. A (top). AN ARMORED DINOSAUR (STEGOSAURUS). Stegosaurus (plated lizard) lived long, long before man existed on the globe. His bones were found in the Morrison formation in Garden Park, 6 miles north of Canon City. The animal was 20 feet long, 10 feet high at the hips, and protected from the onslaughts of other equally powerful but carnivorous lizards by great bony plates along the back. His food consisted of the vegetation that grew on the low marshy land of that time.

B (bottom). TRICERATOPS, THE LAST OF THE DINOSAURS. Triceratops (three-horned face) was the last of the great dinosaurs. Bones of this animal have been found in the vicinity of Denver. A mounted skeleton in the National Museum, Washington, is 20 feet long and 8 feet high at the hips. The most peculiar thing about this animal is the great bony "frill" covering and protecting his neck. From painting by C. R. Knight, made under the direction of J. B. Hatcher.

Dinosaurs inhabited the earth during Cretaceous time and continued to thrive on into Tertiary time, but they finally and suddenly disappeared. The last survivor appears to have been Triceratops, shown in Plate XXXII, B, a skeleton of which was found years ago in the vicinity of Denver.

Footprints of dinosaurs have been found also in sandstone that was then the sandy shore of some lake or estuary. Plate XXXIII, A, shows some of these tracks that were recently found in Arizona. Similar tracks were found years ago in the brown sandstone of the Connecticut Valley, and specimens may be seen in most museums. At first these three-toed tracks were thought to have been made by birds, but when the skeletons of the dinosaurs were found it was realized that the supposed bird tracks were made by reptiles.

PLATE XXXIII. A (left). DINOSAUR TRACKS. The huge dinosaurs shown in Plate XXXII sunk deeply into the sand as they fed on the rank vegetation or hunted their prey along the sandy beaches of the lakes. The sand has been hardened into rock, and to-day the three-toed tracks show almost as perfectly as they did on the day they were made. Photograph by H. E. Gregory.

B (right). PORTAL OF THE ROYAL GORGE. The great cliff that forms the east portal of the Royal Gorge seems to bid defiance to those who might wish to explore the canyon above, but once this rugged gateway is passed the traveler finds that for several miles the canyon walls are not precipitous but recedes gently, as shown on the left. Photograph by N. H. Darton.

After crossing Oil Creek the traveler may obtain on the left a general view of the mountain front back of Canon City—the mountains through which the Arkansas has cut its wonderful canyon, the Royal Gorge. In this view the gorge itself can not be readily distinguished, for it is so narrow and winding that from no point of view can it be seen as an open cut. The low gap that is most prominent from this point is the canyon of Grape Creek, which enters the Arkansas from the south (left) just above Canon City. After passing through several miles of apple orchards the train arrives at the station of Canon City.

Canon City.
Elevation 5,344 feet.
Population 4,551.
Denver 160 miles.

Canon City is rightly named, for it stands at the mouth of the greatest canyon penetrated by any railroad. It is the seat of Fremont County, which was named in honor of the "Pathfinder," Gen. John C. Fremont, who in returning from his second expedition in 1842 followed the Arkansas downstream from its headwaters until he emerged from the mountains at the place where Canon City now stands. The first recorded exploration of the canyon was that of Lieut. Pike, who camped with his little party near its eastern portal on December 5, 1806. They built a block house of logs on the north side of the river, wandered about in the mountains to the north nearly a month, and on their return to their blockhouse nearly lost their lives in the Royal Gorge. The next visit of which there is a record was that of Dr. James and Capt. Bell, of the Long exploration party. On July 18, 1820, these men left their camp at the mouth of Fountain Creek (Pueblo) and rode up the Arkansas to the foot of the mountains. The seven mineral springs near the mouth of the Royal Gorge were named Bell's Springs in honor of Capt. Bell, who discovered them on that trip. After this visit the canyon was probably seen by many hunters and trappers, for several trading posts were maintained on the river. During the "rush" of gold seekers in 1859 and 1860 a town sprang up near the mouth of the great canyon and was named Canon City. Like most of the towns of that time Canon City had a varied experience and was at times nearly deserted. By 1868 it had achieved some prominence, and the Territorial penitentiary was located here. The discovery of petroleum in the county in 1872 helped the new town very much, for thousands of gallons were collected and sold to the people of other settlements. Since then its growth has been steady, for the climate is agreeable, the region is well adapted to fruit raising, and the town affords an outlet for the coal mines to the south. The scenic features have heretofore been only slightly exploited but will doubtless attract many visitors.

The description of the scenery along the railroad west of Canon City begins on page 73.

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Last Updated: 16-Feb-2007