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,


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.

Captivating Tidbits

Berkely PlantationA friend recently critiqued my new manuscript. It is the story of the nineteen year old employee of the Edison Electric Company who wired the White House for electric lights in 1891.
          The following week, my friend visited her daughter back East. On a siteseeing trip, they visited Berkeley Plantation. It was the ancestral home of the Harrison family, which included President Benjamin Harrison.
          The tour guide talked about Mr. Harrison becoming president and moving to the District of Columbia. But she did not mention his being responsible for bringing electricity to the White House. So, my friend raised her hand.
          “Wasn’t he the President when the White House was electrified?” she asked.
          When the tour guide said “Yes,” everyone in the tour group turned to look at my friend. No doubt they wondered where she came up with that odd bit of information. The tour guide went on to tell the group how everyone in the President’s family was afraid to touch the electric switches so they had a servant push the buttons to turn on the lights. 
          “I wanted to raise my hand again,” my friend told me, “and tell them the name of the young electrician who was specifically hired to turn the lights on and off. But, I decided they had heard enough from me.”
          It’s those little moments that make life fun.

Published in: on January 12, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Most Viewed Posts 2014

Yucca Blooms

Yucca Blooms

                                                                     It’s time for the annual review. What posts most interested readers of this blog during the past year? What did they search for and what did they find?

Most frequent search topics in 2014:
#1 Ute Food
#2 Chipeta
#3 Meeker Massacre

Most viewed posts in 2014:
#1 What did the Ute Indians eat? (Posted January 7, 2013)
#2 Did Chipeta have children? (Posted January 13, 2013)
#3 Indian Schools in Colorado (Posted February 7, 2011)

Most viewed posts since the blog began:
#1 Greetings at Christmas (a WWII card)
#2 What did the Ute Indians Eat?
#3 Books for Children
#4 A Road from Salt Lake City to Denver 1861

And, the search requests that most entertained this blogger:
“Did Chipeta have edgication when she was a child?”
“Did Chipeta have a kid?”

Published in: on December 29, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Holidays

Xmas D&F Tower

Look carefully at this festive 1920’s Denver street scene and you will find a lighted Santa Claus with a packful of presents above the clock on the Daniels & Fisher tower. Christmas tree shapes, formed by strings of lights, are visible at the base of the tower. The massive Daniels & Fisher Department Store occupies the rest of the block. Sixteenth street is decorated with lighted ropes of evergreen stretched above the street and centered with wreaths. 
Today, only the tower remains.
May memories of Christmases past light your holidays. 

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Published in: on December 22, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bitter Enemies

Cheyenne Warrior “The Utes and the Southern Cheyenne illustrate the bitter hatred and mortal fear that many tribes have for each other.” That was the view of Richard Irving Dodge in his 1882 book Our Wild Indians. Dodge spent many years in the West during the 1800s.
          “The Utes are a mountain tribe, the Southern Cheyenne a Plains tribe,” Dodge explained. “Any single Indian of either tribe, on his own ground, counts himself equal to at least three of the other [men of another tribe].”
          “Brave as they undoubtedly are, the Utes go upon the Plains with fear and trembling…[T]he Cheyennes will scarcely venture at all into any Ute Country…Though always at war with each other, it is rare that anybody is hurt, each being too wary to venture far into the territory of the other.”
          Dodge relates an 1874 hunting trip by “some fifteen hundred Sioux and Cheyennes. [They] went well up on the head waters of the Republican [River] in search of buffalo.”
          A few Ute warriors slipped into the [Cheyenne] hunting camp during the night. At daybreak they stampeded the hunters’ ponies. They drove “over two hundred head into the mountains.”
          According to Dodge, there were “near four times as many [Sioux and Cheyenne] warriors as are in the whole Ute tribe…” Yet, he reported that the Sioux and Cheyenne “preferred to lose their ponies to taking the risk of pursuit [into Ute territory].”

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882.

Storytelling on the Plains

IndianStorytellingOn winter evenings in an Indian camp, “storytelling was the most popular amusement next to dancing.” Richard Irving Dodge visited many camps in his years on the western plains. And many times he joined the crowd in a lodge (teepee) to listen to stories.
          “A good story-teller was a man of importance among the Plains Indians,” said Dodge. “These stories are as marvelous as the imagination of the inventor can create, bumbling gods and men, fabulous monsters and living animals, the possible and impossible, in the most heterogeneous confusion. There is little point or wit in them, and scarcely any dramatic power, except the narrator be telling of some personal event, when he also acts the scene with all possible exaggeration.”

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 336.

Published in: on November 10, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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