Naming Places, Part 4

Rico_CourthouseA little spot in Dolores County, Colorado became very popular after silver was discovered there in 1879. Other prospectors rushed to the area hoping to make their own strike.
          A little village formed as more people arrived. They called it Carbon City, then Carbonville, then Lead City, then Dolores City. Finally, the residents held a meeting to pick a new name for their community, one they could all agree on. One man suggested calling it Rico, the Spanish word for “rich.” That was what all the people hoped to become so that became the name of their town.

For more information about place names in Colorado, see Colorado Place Names by George R. Eichler (1977) or Colorado Place Names by William Bright (1993).

Published in: on March 23, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Naming Places, Part 3

Canon pintadoCañon Pintado in Rio Blanco County was named by two Spanish speaking priests – Father Domingues and Father Escalante. They passed through the area in 1776 and were struck by the colorful canyon walls decorated with prehistoric Indian pictographs. They named it “painted canyon.”
          Many Spanish names are found in Southern Colorado, which was first settled by Spanish speaking people.
          The town of Nutria in Archuletta County is New Mexican Spanish for “beaver.” In proper Spanish it means “otter.”
          The mountain pass called Raton means “mouse.” In rural New Mexico the term identified a squirrel.
          “Rito” meant a creek in the Spanish language of rural New Mexico and early Southern Colorado. Rito Gato in Conejos County means “cat creek.” Rito Hondo in Hinsdale County means “deep creek.” Rito Oso or “bear creek” is found in Huerfano County.

For more information about place names in Colorado, see Colorado Place Names by George R. Eichler (1977) or Colorado Place Names by William Bright (1993).

Naming Places, Part 2

rabbit The name Conejos means “rabbits” in Spanish. The early settlers, who came from the northern part of Mexico to what is now Southern Colorado, found an abundance of rabbits in the area. They made good eating for the settlers.
          A park in Pueblo County is called Cuerna Verde ark. The name means “green horn.” It was named for a Comanche chief killed there in 1779. 
          Culebra Creek near San Luis is named for the way the creek winds its way across the land like the slithering trail of a snake (culebra in Spanish).
          Curecanti Pass in Gunnison County honors a Tabeguache Ute chief.
          Achonee Mountain in Grand County recalls a Cheyenne named Ochanee or “one eye.” He was killed at Sand Creek in 1864.
          Apiatan Mountain, also in Grand County, is named for a Kiowa Chief known for his singing.

For more information about place names in Colorado, see Colorado Place Names by George R. Eichler (1977) or Colorado Place Names by William Bright (1993).

Published in: on March 9, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Naming Places, Part 1

AbarrWhen a few people build homes together in a new place, they soon want to give their community a name. In the days of early Colorado settlement, they also named natural landmarks – mountains and valleys, rivers and creeks.
          Some of those names seem strange to us today. For instance, why anyone would call a town Abarr or Egnar?
          Many early towns were named for Indians, probably those who were friendly.
          Antero Junction in Park County was named for Chief Antero of the Uintah Utes. A mountain and a reservoir also carry his name.
          The town of Ignacio in Southwestern Colorado honors Chief Ignacio of the Weminuche Utes.
          Yarmony was named for a Ute Chief called Yaamani. The name meant “quiet man.”
          Oh, yes, you are still wondering about Abarr and Egnar. Located in Yuma County, Abarr was named for the wife of the town’s founder.
          Apparently, the people of Egnar had trouble deciding on a name. The early settlers came there when range land was opened for homesteading. They took the word “range,” spelled it backward, and that become the town’s name.

For more information about place names in Colorado, see Colorado Place Names by George R. Eichler (1977) or Colorado Place Names by William Bright (1993).

Published in: on March 2, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Buffalo Hunting

buffalo bones“A species of animal which roamed our plains by the millions became a rare circus and zoological specimen in a period of only twenty years.” So said Percy Stanley Fritz in his 1941 book Colorado The Centennial State.
          Fritz noted the buffalo population began to decline when hunters started using guns instead of the bow and arrow.
          In the early 1870s, gun-toting hunters slaughtered some 4 million buffalo just for their hides. The railroads began to advertise “hunting by rail” excursions. Trains slowed when a massive herd of the huge animals came nearby.  Hundreds of men climbed on top of the rail car and took aim. Some fired from their windows. They left countless 1,500-pound animals dead or dying.
          Over 50,000 hides were shipped east by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1874, according to Fritz. The Kansas Pacific Railroad hauled another 125,000 hides. That same year, the Santa Fe carried 3,400 tons of bleached bones gathered from the plains. These were shipped east for use in button factories or ground up for fertilizer. Some 2 million pounds of buffalo meat was sent east as well.
          Colorado Territory’s Congressman, Hiram Bennet, tried to pass a law to protect the buffalo. His plan was rejected on grounds that it could not be enforced.
          The Texas legislature proposed a law to ban the slaughter of buffalo. General Sheridan opposed it. He said the men shooting buffalo for sport “have done more in the last two years, and will do more in the next year, to settle the vexed Indian question, than the entire regular army has done in the last forty years.”
          By the end of the 19th century, only 300 buffalo were reported to remain in the wild. Congress finally took action. They outlawed killing of any birds or animals in Yellowstone National Park, where the only surviving buffalo herd lived.
          More wildlife preserves helped the buffalo population to slowly rebound. Today, there are more than 200,000 buffalo in North America.
          Is it a buffalo or a bison?

Source: Where the Buffalo Roamed, by Gilbert King,


Was Chipeta Really A Queen?

Chipeta___Queen__4985269937fc5If she was not a queen, why did I use the title Chipeta: Queen of the Utes for my first book about her?
          The reference to Chipeta as “Queen” came from an incident that occurred on August 27, 1872. It was the opening day of a treaty council with the Utes and U.S. Government representatives.
          A reporter for the Rocky Mountain News was present. He offered a sarcastic description of Chipeta:
“This afternoon the commissioners were waited upon by the queen of the Utes – Madame Ure [Ouray] I suppose she is called – who swept down in all her royal stations, attired in a skirt of buckskin, a pair of moccasins, an old shawl, and a lot of uncombed hair.”
          The reporter used the word queen to make fun of Chipeta.
          The first definition of “queen” in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is “the wife or widow of a king…or a tribal chieftain.”
          Ouray was not a chosen Ute chief. However, government officials saw him as a chief. He spoke for the Ute delegations that met with officials in Washington.
          Ouray and the Indian Agent both spoke Spanish well. After discussion with the delegation members, Ouray stated the Ute positions in Spanish. The Agent translated into English. For this reason, the men in Washington saw Ouray as the spokesman, and therefore, the chief.
          In the eyes of the U.S. Government, Chipeta was the wife of a tribal chieftain. “Queen” was a fitting title.
          As I researched Chipeta’s life, I came to appreciate her strength. She demonstrated courage in many challenging situations. Her life was not easy. In the end, she was honored by her people as a wise and respected elder.

The book is available from Western Reflections Publishing: <a href="

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ute Women in World War I

Ute Women Red Cross 1918 The Ute women in this 1918 photo are knitting socks for the Red Cross.
          After the United States entered World War I, Mrs. L.W. Curry met with the chiefs of the Uintah and Uncompahgre Ute reservations. She explained the work of the Red Cross. 
 SOX         The Indian Agent reminded the Utes that some of their own young men would serve in the war. Sixty-six Utes of military age had already signed up for the first draft in 1917.
          As a result of Mrs. Curry’s visit, 450 Utes joined the Red Cross and paid the $10 membership fee.
          The Utes held a fundraising event for the Red Cross. It included a horse race, demonstrations of Indian dances, and a sale of women’s fancy work. The event raised $435. 
          They also subscribed $50,000 to the Fourth Liberty Bond campaign which helped fund the war effort.

Story from Chipeta: Queen of the Utes. The book is available from Western Reflections Publishing

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Communication Helps

Fort Duschene 1884In late August, 1881 the Uncompahgre Utes were forcibly moved from Colorado to Utah. They settled on a reservation named for Chief Ouray. It was next to the Uintah Agency.
          Five years later, the Bureau of Indian Affairs decided to combine the two reservations under one Indian Agent. The Bureau decided a military base was needed to keep the peace between the Uintah and the Uncompahgre Utes.
          In late August 1886, General Crook marched a company of troops across the Ouray reservation. Panic spread among the Utes as runners carried the news of an invastion of soldiers.
          No one had bothered to inform the Utes of plans for a military post.
          The troops arrived at their destination to meet a contingent of mounted warriors, painted and armed for battle.
          Fortunately, the Indian Agent arrived just ahead of the troops. He was able to facilitate a peaceful meeting with General Crook.
          Fort Duchesne was built and eventually housed 250 soldiers.

Information from Chipeta: Queen of the Utes. Used with permission.


Published in: on February 2, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Utah Utes 1918

60-3vegetation         In 1918, Congress authorized money for improvement projects on the Ute Reservation in Utah.
          The Secretary of Interior, Franklin K. Lane, could withdraw $350,000 for the Confederated Bands of Ute Indians. He could spend $50,000 to benefit the Ute Mountain Utes. 
          The Uintah, White River and Uncompahgre Ute bands would share $200,000.
          And $100,000 could be used for the Southern Utes in Colorado.
          The Secretary was also authorized to distribute accrued interest on the fund through June 30, 1919. The interest was to be used to “promote civilization and self support among these Indians.”
          Congress wanted a detailed account of how this money was used. The report was due by the first Monday of December, 1920.
          According to Lane’s report, $10,000 of principal funds was spent for irrigation projects on land allotted to the Uintah, White River, and Uncompahgre Utes in Utah. Some of the money was used to maintain existing irrigation systems. He reported $12,000 to aid public schools in the Uintah and Duchesne County school districts of Utah.
          Where did the rest of the money go?

From Reports of the Secretary of Interior, 1919

Platform Peculiarity

grasshopper on leafOn August 25, 1876, the Republican Party of the brand new State of Colorado met to choose their candidates for office. They also adopted an eleven point campaign platform. Most of the points stated what was wrong with the Democratic Party’s positions. But, item #9 was unique. It was about grasshoppers!

“9. The General Government should by some systemic plan study and determine as nearly as possible the origin and peculiarities of the grasshopper plague which periodically ravages large portions of the western half of the Union, and in good time expend its aid to the people in guarding against and preventing such wholesale losses to the agricultural population as they now suffer.” (Reported by The New York Times, August 27, 1876)

LocustBut, these were not ordinary grasshoppers. They were Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus). These hungry critters ranged through the western United States until the end of the 19th century. They are now extinct. Scientists believe that westward settlement killed the locust. Plowing and irrigation destroyed the egg cases that the locust buried in the ground.


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