ON THE EARLY HISTORY OF COLORADO..
the early history of Colorado the name of the territory was
Jefferson. An organization was effected on the 3d of
October, 1859, and a constitution drafted for a state, This
was the first government with authority. It existed one year
without law. On the first Monday in November, 1859, the
first territorial legislature met, and continued in session
one month. Hon. Beverly D. Williams, now of Little Rock,
Ark., was the first delegate elected to Congress from the
Territory of Jefferson. On the 26th of February, 1861,
Congress made it a territory, and, of the half-dozen or more
names suggested for it, gave it the name of Colorado. In
organizing under the name of Jefferson, there was strong
opposition in Congress, on account of a decision not to name
territories for the Presidents one of the principal reasons
being that there were "not enough to go round." It was March
4, just six days after it was named Colorado, before the
news reached Denver.
In the spring of 1864, being hungry for fresh fruit, and noticing some apples at one of the stores in Denver that looked tempting, I bought a couple, for which I paid twenty-five cents each. They were Missouri Pippins, a wagon-load of them having been hauled by a farmer from Buchanan county, Missouri, about 706 miles across the plains, to the metropolis of the new gold region. The apples quickly found a market, and they netted the freighter a very handsome profit.
At Latham station, sixty miles below Denver, on the South Platte, I bought, a few months afterward, one dozen extra choice apricots, that were brought from Salt Lake, 600 miles across the Rockies by overland stage express, for which I paid three dollars in greenbacks, and thought at the time I was getting a bargain.
The only wild fruit I ate in the summer of 1864 while in Colorado were some choke-cherries I gathered among the foot-bills, almost under the shadow of Long's Peak, and a few strawberries I picked along the Cache la Poudre near the base of the mountains, The fruits were a rich treat in those early days, because it was then impossible to obtain any such luxuries from the States.
The canned fruits now so common all over the country were almost unknown on the plains in the early '60's. The finest dried fruits we had at Latham station the latter part of 1863 and for over nine months in 1864 were peaches, grown, dried at and brought from Salt Lake. While they cost fully twice as much as the kind that came from the East, they were well worth it, for they were as much superior in flavor to the Eastern dried peach as the latter in every way excels the gnarliest dried apple.
In 1859, that memorable year of the Pike's Peak gold excitement, it is estimated that not less than 150,000 men started from various points on the Missouri river across the plains, attracted by the reports of fabulous discoveries in the new El Dorado. Probably as many as one-half of those who started out turned back, utterly discouraged, after meeting so many who had become dissatisfied and brought all sorts of evil reports. Not more than one person in ten who made the overland trip to the new gold fields in the later '50's remained there. Many of those who went out poor and remained long since became wealthy, and are among the leading and most prosperous citizens of the Centennial state.
In the spring and summer of 1860 there was an unprecedented rush of people to Denver. In the month of May that year, it was
estimated that in the mad rush there were upwards of 10,000 vehicles of various kinds on the plains in the Platte valley, destined for the new "Pike's Peak" or "Cherry Creek" gold camp.
Henry M. Porter, who was engaged in banking at Atchison in the '60's, and is now a resident of Denver, built the telegraph line from Nebraska City to Omaha, and later as far west as Fort Kearney, in the spring of 1861. Edward Creighton was president of the company.
Denver's first telegraph office was opened on October 10, 1863. The line was a branch of the Pacific telegraph, having been built into the city from old Julesburg west to its destination along the south bank of the south fork of the Platte as far as Junction, near Bijou; then for about ninety miles it followed the toll-road known as the "cut-off," from ten to twenty miles south of the Platte. The Pacific Telegraph Company was merged into the Western Union in 1865.
The first telegraph line into New Mexico was organized in the fall of 1867, and built from Denver south to Santa Fe in the spring of 1868. The following fall the line was extended north from Denver to Cheyenne.
In the early part of 1861, the tariff rate on the Pike's Peak Express between the Missouri river and Denver was as follows, on 100 pounds or less, forty cents per pound. On and after the first of July, 1861, the charges on express freight by the C. 0. C. & P. P. Express Company from Leavenworth and St. Joseph were as follows:
The first Concord stage-coach to enter Denver* was over the route of the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express; it arrived on
*IN his autobiography, entitled "Seventy Years on the Frontier," Alexander Majors says: "It is a fact, which I believe has never yet been published, that the last stage coach of the great 'Overland' line was dispatched from the town of Brighton to Denver; thus associating its name with an act, insignificant in itself, but far-reaching in its importance when it is remembered that the act marked the end of our pioneer period and ushered in the new growth of the railroad era."
the 7th of May, 1859. Time through, ten days; fare, $125. A large number of letters, enclosed in prepaid Government envelopes, were carried as express matter, on which the charges were twenty-five cents each. The distance, as traveled by the express, was 687 miles. On the route there were over fifty of these celebrated coaches, made by the Abbot-Downing Company, of Concord, N. H.
The great flood in Cherry creek, May 19,1864, was quite disastrous to early Denver. Property belonging to hundreds of people was destroyed. Among the losses were the city hall with all its contents--safe, records, and all; the Rocky Mountain News plant, a total loss--not a single article, including half a dozen presses, was ever found. The new Methodist church, built of adobe bricks--the foundation resting in the bed of the dry creek instead of on rock, according to Scripture melted and was washed away like sand.
There was a decided contrast in the buildings of the Rocky Mountain News and the Methodist church, although it appears both were somewhat alike regarding the chosen location. The News structure was a frame, the church adobe. But either house was built according to the injunction so
Office of the Overland Stage Line
at Denver, 1863.*
plainly laid down in the Scriptures. The foundations of
both were placed in the (at that time) dry, sandy bed of
Cherry creek, instead of "on a rock." The terrible flood
came almost in a twinkling, on the night of May 19, 1864;
several feet of water with a mighty rush came down the
valley; both structures were crushed like egg-shells, not
the slightest remnant of either having ever been found. A
large number of other buildings of various kinds were swept
down the raging torrent. The loss was estimated at hundreds
of thousands of dollars, and a number of lives.
*By permission of the Denver History Company.
and almost constant uneasiness. To add to the hardships, practically no rest was given by the Indians. Six companies of cavalry were called for by the governor to serve on the plains. As a result, flour and nearly all kinds of provisions were high and scarce. In Denver a panic was narrowly averted. A load of salt sold at $100 a barrel. Hay and grain were scarce and hundreds of head of stock perished. Labor was four to six dollars a day.
In the spring of 1865, when I made my last trip across the plains on the stage-coach, provisions in Denver had gone up to almost fabulous prices. Flour sold for $15 to $20 per hundred; potatoes, $15 per bushel; corn, $10 per bushel; beef, 40 cents per pound; hams, 45 to 50 cents per pound; eggs, $1.25 to $1.50 per dozen: and nearly everything else in the eating line in proportion. The price of a meal at the stations of the stage company down the Platte--no better than some of the fifteen-cent meals gotten up to-day--was $1.50 to $2. East of Denver, down the South Platte, hay sold to the freighters at $100 a ton; wood was scarce at $75 a cord; lumber could not be purchased short of $150 to $200 per thousand feet; and, for a wagon and team (five yoke of oxen), $25 a day was the price charged.
As early as 1866 the commerce of the plains had grown to gigantic proportions. To illustrate the value of Colorado transportation, it was shown that the shipments--taken from the report of a committee appointed at a railroad meeting favoring the route of the Union Pacific railway via Denver and through Berthoud Pass and over Gen. Bela M. Hughes's route, thence to Salt Lake--exceeded 100 million pounds; and that, for three years previous, the average cost of transportation bad been ten cents per pound, making a total cost to the Territory of Colorado and the Government of over ten million dollars.
In the summer of 1866, the Union Pacific railway having been completed from Omaha west as far as Fort Kearney, Neb. (but on the north side of the Platte), that part of the stage route between Atchison and the old military post was abandoned for staging and the coaches and some of the stock were shortly thereafter transferred to the route west of Fort Kearney and the balance to the Smoky Hill route, some distance to the south. After that the mail from Kansas and Missouri destined for Colorado was carried from Junction City, the western terminus of the Kansas branch of the Union Pacific. The stage line, however,
soon fell into the control of Wells, Fargo & Co., but, for reasons best known to themselves, was operated for some time by the United States Express Company.
In the Missouri Democrat, St. Louis, August 7, 1866, appeared the following:
EXPRESS FORWARDERS TO ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD
And Carriers' of the Great Overland Mail, via Missouri Pacific,
Union Pacific Railways and Smoky Hill.
TABLE OF DISTANCES
From Junction City to Denver.
COACHES LEAVE THE TERMINUS OF THE UNION PACIFIC RAILWAY DAILY.
Each adult passenger is allowed 25 lbs.
of baggage, but neither Gold Dust, Bullion, Coin, Bank or
Treasury Notes will be carried under designation of
The locomotive that brought the first train into Denver had already become historic. For four or five years it had done service in the Platte valley during the construction of the Union Pacific, and was the first iron steed to enter Cheyenne, the first to cross the Black Hills, the first to climb over the summit of the Rocky Mountains, the first to cross the Wasatch range, the first to enter the Salt Lake valley, and the first whose shrill whistle was heard in the Colorado metropolis.
The first train over the Kansas Pacific reached Denver at 6: 45 P. M., August 15, 1870, and thus the Colorado capital was placed on the line of a great transcontinental railway. After crossing the plains ten or twelve years on foot, on horseback, in prairie schooners hauled by oxen or mules, and by the old stage-coach, the pioneers were delighted to see a Pullman palace-car. The first one to enter the city of Denver was the "Comanche," which rolled in over the Kansas Pacific road on October 7, 1870.
The historic old Planters' House, which so long remained a familiar landmark on Blake and Sixteenth streets, and in which was the headquarters of the overland stages, had a quartette of distinguished guests on September 6, 1868: Roscoe Conkling, W. B. Hazen, Louis Agassiz, and Gen. W. T. Sherman. On the 11th of September, 1866, two years before, General Sherman visited the city and was banqueted at the Planters'.
In connection with the early history of Denver, a number of additional interesting and truthful incidents might be mentioned,
"Salt bacon, dried apples, beans and coffee comprised the chief articles of diet in the early days of Denver; flour, when to be had; fresh meat, when game abounded. Glass windows were scarce, and only two or three cabins had board floors. One lady, by sewing together gunny-sacks for a carpet and covering her log walls with sheets and table-cloths, gave her mansion an appearance of almost aristocratic refinement and comfort. Stools, tables and pole bedsteads were the staple furniture, while rough pine boxes did duty as bureaus and sideboards. The vacant places in the lower part of the embryonic city were occupied by Indian lodges, enlivened by squaws dressing the skins of wild animals or cooking dogs for dinner; naked children playing in the sand; and braves lounging on the ground, wearing no clothing except a narrow strip of cloth about the hips. Such was the picture in 1859. It was not materially changed in the spring of 1860, except that more and better buildings had arisen and the population amazingly augmented. All roads leading to the mountains were lined with ox or mule trains with white-sheeted wagons, winding their way slowly to the newly discovered and exceedingly prosperous gold-mines."--Richardson's Beyond the Mississippi.
--From Richardson's "Beyond the Mississippi."
As late as April, 1866, salt was 12 to 14 cents per pound in Denver; dried peaches, 45 to 70 cents; sugar, 36 to 38 cents; flour, per 100-pound sack, $15 to $18; meal, $11 per hundred; bacon hams, per pound, 30 to 40 cents; bacon sides, per pound, 25 to 40 cents; shoulders, 28 to 30 cents.
The first child was born March 3, 1859; a son of Jack McGaa--the mother an Arapahoe.
Miss Mary Walrod, daughter of Abraham Walrod, was the first white girl born in Denver.
The first religious services were held in December, 1858; Rev. C. W. Fisher, Methodist, officiating.
On the 1st of January, 1859, Auraria had fifty cabins; Denver, twenty; Montana, twenty.
The first city election took place December 19, 1859, and John C. Moore was chosen mayor. The first meeting of the city council was on January 21, 1860, when the mayor's message was received.
The first theater built was the Apollo. It was on Larimer street, between E and F streets, and was opened October 24,1859, by Thorne's troupe, in "Richard III."
Jack Langrishe, the "free and easy" actor, went from Atchison to Denver early in the '60's, and some time afterwards built a theater that would seat about 1000 persons. It was a frame structure, two stories high, not unlike some that had already been built there. The performances took place in the second story, while on the first floor was a drinking saloon, with numerous frontier gambling attachments on the side. Faro, poker, roulette, monte, chuck-a-luck and a number of other exciting games of chance so long played in the West were in progress at all hours of the day and night--and they kept going seven days in the week. There was no let-up in the games and devices for fleecing the innocent. Four out of five who played lost. Some would sit down with hundreds of dollars of dust in their pockets and often play all day and night at a sitting, occasionally winning large amounts, but more often losing the "last shot in the locker." When one would "go broke" or tire of playing be would drop out, but there was some one standing near by ready to take his place. While the rush of travel across the plains continued, virtually without any let-up until the Indian outbreak on the plains in 1864, the gambling-houses, theaters and dance-halls were busy places, and took in piles of money.