Why A New Historical Society?

When I started getting involved with efforts to revitalize 'Old' Colorado City and the Westside, I started looking around for Histories that would account for how 'Old Town' got, and kept so many Victorian era buildings.

I found very little about that 1890s to 1917 era of the Gold Mills. More - starting with Irving Howbert's "A Lifetime of Memories of the Pikes Peak Region" - a funny little book by John Fetler - a Gazette Reporter who dabbled in History - "The Pikes Peak People" and scattered articles in the State Historical Society Quarterly about the very earliest 1859-1870s. But not a single separate history of just the original "Colorado City" much less about the "Westside" after 1917 when it became a part of Colorado Springs.

I quickly learned also that the fully city-funded and so-called Pioneer's Museum - because of the sharp social, cultural and economic differences between greater Colorado Springs (moneyed, educated, Republican, upscale) and the 'Westside'  (the blue collar railroad, gold, Democratic, Union side of town) largely ignored the westside AND its original Colorado City History. In short, except for occasional displays and stories about the 1859 'Gold Rush' days - which Colorado Springs never went through - and storing and preserving papers done by long dead members of the "El Paso County Pioneer Association' - the closest thing to a Colorado Springs historical society.  

So I wrote the first modern history of Old Town in 1977 myself. Naming it 'Historic Old Colorado City - Volume 1" printed by Shirley Bond's  long time westside 'Peerless Graphics " company and it was copyrighted in 1978. It was a very slight book - 8 by 5 inches, only 11 printed pages with 7 illustrations and photographs. But because, by then I had located local artist Jack Ekstrom - whose fine-line ink drawings reflected magazine illustrations of the 1800's before photographs were printed in books  I teamed up with Jack - I providing the history, he the art, and together we produced a 12 by 15 inch fold out cartoon map rendition of 'Colorado City' looking up Colorado Avenue with all the visible images of  historical characters, events, and buildings. It was included folded up in the book. Its a complete early Colorado City History on a page. It is still being used as both a separate map - obtained by a $1 'donation' into the donation box of the Society, or as included in my booklet.

 I had already commissioned him to draw our 1900 home, and several of the Victorian Buildings, whose owners were happy to buy the originals.

While downtown Colorado Springs had destroyed its architectural heritage, the Westside was celebrating and enhancing it. In art as well as in architecture.

Here is that first book - (as a PDF file). Following, separately is the cartoon map (in jpeg format). The book and map sold for $1.50 together. And was snapped up with its light reading, great illustrations the fold out map, and low price. It was 20 years - 1996 before a full sized book was written, which I collaborated on, by Dorothy Aldrich, another Gazette Telegraph reporter who wrote Western Fiction and stories on the side.


the Eckstrom-Hughes Colorado City map

I never did a "Volume 2." When people asked me about it, I said - pointing to historically restored 'Old Town"  THAT is my Volume 2.

But I started collecting everything I could get my hands on, storing books, papers, artifacts, in an office I rented in the Templeton Building at 2502 West Colorado.

I already had also recruited my daughter Rebecca to help me, and a blind DJ who knew sound and recorders start tape recording old timers before they died. We did 100 tapes, some quite long, some only a few anecdotes. Rebecca interviewed the last racing 'Unser' - Louie - still living in Colorado Springs - while he related not only the story of the entire racing clan Unsers who came to Colorado City in 1909 - but also the death and burial of Laura Bell McDaniel the most prominent Madame of Colorado City. 

                                             First Meetings

The first gathering of the Historical Society, with about 6 people, as I remember, including, myself, Agnes Johnson, Virginia Cox, Kay Arnold, and my daughter Rebecca (with her brand new baby), met in a back room of a "Tea House" on Colorado Avenue in 1976.

By the third meeting those who were organizing the Society included

 Kay Arnold, Lucille Damico, Margaret Bofenkamp, David Hughes, Sally Brawner, Flora Belle Hull, Vera Chambon, Barbara Keller, Bertha Chilcott, Agnes Johnson Loesch, Ralph Conner, Isabelle Mosley, Leon Young, Virginia Cox, Rebecca Hughes

We named it the "Old Colorado City Historical Society"

It was all pretty informal until we started thinking about a permanent society place - even a museum - and so met over lunch at the Mason Jar restaurant. We elected in 1981 Ray Castillo the first President OF OCCHS.  He was into real estate and might find us a building. I was the second President, elected in 1982 - and served as such until 1986. For a few foolish meetings we considered a really old, but terribly run down frame building in the 2600 Block of Colorado Avenue which had been used as a kind of headquarters during the Colorado Centennial of 1959. Here is a picture of that building.

But it would take real money to do such a thing, so we abandoned that idea, and I continued to store all that I accumulated in my second floor office in the Templeton Building.

Soon we were able to work with the Trinity Methodist Church to start having our Society meetings there together with lunches and a Program. And by 1985 Ralph Conner, who had been a founding member, and who owned a small building on 23d Street next to Goodwill (which originally was a Colorado City -Westside Telephone Office, and who had a printing press was able to start our Society Publication-Newsletter called 'West Word.'  Ralph did all the work putting the West Word 'almost every month' together. The earliest issue I have is October 11th, 1985.

We had $558.75 in our general account, and $815.00 in our 'Endowment' Account. Connor was the Society Treasurer.

From the outset of the Society's legal 'incorporation' in 1980, and after receiving our Tax Exempt status in 1985, we agreed that which we then put into the Societies' first by-laws - that anything in the Fixed Endowment fund can only be spent by vote by a majority of the members, while any interest earned from Endowment investments - such as CD's or Bonds, may be expended by the Board to meet its obligations. Later we decided that any $150 Lifetime memberships would go into the fixed Endowment also. While the lesser membership dues - then $20 a year for a single, $25 for a family - and money earned from our events or sales of historical books would go into the General Fund.

And the 'Mission' of the Society got refined to the Histories of (1) Early El Paso County (which until 1900 included today's Teller County), (2) the original Colorado City and (3) the 'Westside' after 1917

                                  Logs, Plats, The Bock Museum and Estate

As my association with the Society - and historical knowledge of Colorado City I was accumulating - became more widely known, I started to be offered items or documents related to Old Colorado City's history. Both area high school and college students researched and wrote papers on many aspects of Colorado City life. Some of the best research on topics such as the "El Paso Canal' and 'The Glass Factory' were written by such students.

One day I was perusing  an odd, self published book by the original ( dead before I knew him) John Bock about 'Red Rock Canyon' whose 800 acres  he developed after 1920 returning from World War I. In that book he mentioned he had had a Museum in Colorado City but that the rich folks of Colorado Springs had a 'free museum' (the Pioneer's Museum) that put him out of business. 

I hurried out to the Bock Property - owned then - 1977 - by both his son's John and Richard. I asked them 'where was the Museum your father had. They answered "In the old City Hall" which lost its identity after Colorado City dissolved itself and the westside was annexed to Colorado Springs. 

I asked them 'What happened to everything that was in it?' Their answer astounded me. "Its all out here on our property!" 

They wanted $32,000 for it. I didn't have that kind of money or I would have bought it hook line and sinker. It had a large collection of valuable weapons, like Civil War Henry Rifles. A gun store owner bought the bulk of it and the rest they sold at Ross Auction. I went there, knowing what item might be most connected to the original Colorado City AND southern Colorado ranch country - like Oxen yoke, spurs. 

I spent - bid- over $7,000 for a lot of items, many gambling items from the saloons of Colorado City.

And I had to store them at both my house and office.

Then another matter turned up. A woman named Lorraine Englert had done some of the only serious research after 1950 about the original Colorado City. Her husband Kenneth was, for a time, the head of the 'Pikes Peak Historical Society' which faded away in the 1970s. 

They learned, in 1959 that an 1859 log building - which had been the original "Gerrish and Cobb' building in Colorado City on the Avenue was going to be razed for a new structure. They bought about 10 of those notched logs and, after the both of them had retired, moved to Salida, Colorado, bought a small property and built a house. They put several of the 1859 logs from the Cobb building into the inside ceiling of their house - which had alternating white plaster, then part of a protruding log, then plaster and a log all the way across the ceiling of the room. But they only selected the logs which had bullet holes in them from the days when that log building was a saloon!

I bought the rest of the logs they didn't use - 4 of them. I knew I would have some use for them at our museum when and if we ever got one. For those 4 logs were certifiably 1859 from the same woods that the 1859 Cabin in Bancroft Park logs came from when both buildings were built.

But the more important acquisition from Lorraine came when she took me into their house, told me she had emphysema - they would have to move to California and lower altitude. But she wanted me to have all her papers about Colorado City and especially the framed 'Fosdick' Plat' and all the research she had done on it the last 20 years. That was quite an honor for me. 

The story of how she got the plat was fascinating. No such complete Plat existed in Colorado Springs or at the State level - either in the Penrose Library system, or the Pioneers Museum. It appears she wrote a story for the Denver Post about the original Colorado City sometime in the 1960s, and it was published in the Sunday Supplement called the 'Empire Magazine.' 

A man who had grown up in Denver, now worked in the National Archives in Washington DC, got the 'Sunday Post' at his home. He read the article, went into the Archives, and found an original "Fosdick Plat' map that defined, in 1959 the 2 mile long, 1 mile wide Colorado City, and all 302 of its Blocks and 9,000+ of its lots and all its streets and avenues. He made a copy by the rather poor copying technology of the day, and mailed it to her. 

That was a bonanza, for after she had also recorded on 3 by 5 cards every property transfer in Colorado City by lot and block number from early records, she was able to correlate the Plat with the records, and unlock the riddle of the changed street names, the shift of block numbers and other data about the Directors of the Land Company, and the route to Colorado City from Kansas. 

So she bequeathed to me the Plat, her shoe box of records, and meticulous decoding the block numbering system. That helped me greatly correlate the original large Fosdick Plat, with the core blocks and lots that still are in the legal County property records today. In fact my house at 6 North 24th Street, Colorado Springs, 80904, has exactly the same Fosdick Plat block and lot numbers he set down in 1860. 


 When the Society Almost Ran a Beer Hall  

As the Society grew in membership and its Treasury increased, in 1991 I agreed to serve as Board Treasurer - after two other Board members had a turn as Treasurer and had a hard time keeping up by doing our books manually. I immediately started using a computerized spread sheet which tracked the budget as well as our overall fiscal situation with little effort, which the entire Board was was able to read and follow at every board meeting.

After all the Society was running at least three fund raising events - a Bancroft Park Craft Show, a Cemetery Crawl, a Founders Day event, and participated on the request of the operators of the growing annual 3 day Territory Days Street Fair by operating tours of the 1859 Garvin Cabin, selling home baked cookies (which my dear wife Patsy did so long and well she was credited as furnishing more cookies than any other member over the years. One year we netted $1,000 from just cookie sales)

And it had obligations even though it did not have a permanent office or museum. The Board met in a Pikes Peak Bank meeting room from time to time, it was offered complete, appraised collections, and had to print and mail its newsletter, and it had to tend to the timely renewal of its CDs containing its Endowment funds.

For several years, Ralph Connor who owned a storage building stored accumulating museum items and collections. He saw the need for a permanent building, so he persuaded the Board to enter into negotiations for the purchase of the original 1890s Jacob Schmidt Beer Hall building at 2611 West Colorado. now with a furniture store which was on the market.

It was a large two story building with a full basement. Our scheme was to apply for grants from El Pomar, Gates, and Boetcher Foundations for the purchase and building improvements, while renting out the second floor as offices, use the front end of the first floor as our Museum, and use the back end for offices and storage. With one other wild idea (mine).

When I toured the large basement, I saw two large oval doors into one wall - the  original, underground 'beer coolers' which Jacob Schmidt used to store beer barrels. And I knew that when two ramshakle building were purchased and torn down right next to the Schmidt Building (which was also called the Mattress Factory building after the very large painted advertising on the buildings side) and that the City had bought the property for another needed 'parking lot' it left at least 20 feet of a grassy area rimmed by an historic decorative Hassel Iron Fence next to the Schmidt west wall.

I visualized a brilliant opportunity to put an outside - close to the sidewalk on Colorado Avenue walkway and stone stairway down to the basement level - and turn it into a Rathskeller, run by an experienced bar operator, selling a new "Jacob Schmidt" Microbrew! At that time microbrews were the rage. Some actually survived. We even registered the name with the State of Colorado! (unfortunately we never brewed the beer)

How appropriate! A 'Beer Hall' just as Jacob Schmidt had one at the turn of the century, among the 21 Saloons on the south side of Colorado Avenue during the roaring days of Colorado City's life!

And then I also set out to write grant applications for the total scheme. The one which hit pay dirt, for a commitment of $40,000 was the Gates Foundation out of Denver.

But the amount we would require to not only buy the building right on prime commercial space on Colorado Avenue, and pay for the 'up to code' improvements of the old building was too formidable for El Pomar to swallow. They turned down our grant request.  

So that project died. And we did not become the only Historical Society In Colorado (or anywhere else for that matter) that also ran a beer hall!

                           From Beer Hall to Church

But then another opportunity approached me. Across the street from my 6 N 24th Street home, as 1 South 24th Street (Pikes Peak Avenue being 0) was the 1889 First Baptist Church of Colorado City building.

The Baptists had built another church down on Colorado Avenue, and sold the old building to the Immanual Missionary congregation sometime in the 1970s or earliest.

Rev Mertsweiler, the relatively new minister for that church, seeing what he concluded I had done to get so much commercial activity in Old Colorado City came to me to see if I could help them sell their building. Their congregation in a steeply declining religion that at one time owned the entire Michael Garman building housing the large Peoples Bible College with hundreds of missionary students, was down to 7 people.

I didn't like the idea of getting a commercial use into that building right across from my family home. But I accepted his invitation to tour the building which I had never been in before.

The upstairs where the church services were held was as expected, and there was the Reverend's living quarters with full kitchen and bath, but I was stunned when I went downstairs to see a full basement, with many rooms, good dry floors, an entryway both inside and from the outside, equal to the floor  space upstairs, and a modern gas heat furnace.

I instantly saw that the old Church would make a splendid Old Colorado City Historical Center and Museum.

So I circulated that idea within the society, and as luck would have it, four things came together all at once. It was 1991.

First was that old westsider Luther McKnight - whom you remember first asked me in 1976 to help 'do something' for Old Town - was so pleased with what we did saving Old Colorado City, he surprised Ralph Connor whom I introduced to Luther and befriended him after Luther asked me to find him a "Westside Lawyer" (clearly signalling his desire to give away as a bachelor with no family something to the society), by signing over $90,000 in CD's to the Society! (and later he instructed his distant cousins from Texas that they would get his house, but when the estate was settled he wanted them to give the Society what is left over. That was another $15,000.

Secondly, what the other-worldly Immanuals really wanted a smaller building for their church. And they did not know how to do standard real estate transactions.

Thirdly, a woman, Lucille Cunningham who, as a real estate broker and property owner had done well on the westside and had joined me at the end of the 1976 Centennial to also join the Old Colorado City Historical Society as a member. She knew what could be done.

In the end the Society, with the $99,000 bought a small building in the Midland Area for the Immanual's new church, legally swapped it for the 1889 Baptist Church building - and we had our Society's History Center and Museum!

And fourthly, even though our Society did not have the money to really renovate the Church building for our purposes, just as these negotiations were going on, Colorado Voters amended the State Constitution to provide for a State Historical Fund in return for permitting Gambling in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek. Gambling taxes would fill up that fund.

Our Society, with Lucille Cunningham now the President, applied for and got $128,195 to 'restore' the exterior of the Church AND rebuild an inside 'choir balcony' we could use for many purposes. And in those first years starting in 1992, that Fund did NOT require a dollar match. (Later all such grants have to have at least 25% match)

Building that, while the outside of the 'Church' was being professionally restored, Lucille was able to get a series of lesser grants from the Gates,  El Pomar, the Boetcher Foundations summing up to $58,000 together with of 'challenge grant, money raised from a number of sources - including building a 'commemorative patio' outside where members would donate $100 for bricks in the name of their loved ones. Those funds payed for the complete 'Renovation' of the inside of the building. That was all done by 1995, 3 years after we acquired the building.

 I got one surprise from Lucille when I dropped by while some of the work was being done. She showed me the floor plans for renovation, and pointed to one room. It was named  "The Dave Hughes Computer Room!"  My reputation for technological and telecommunications savy had penetrated the minds of key members of the Society. Then a local contractor, Charlie Patterson donated all the nice cabinets that went into that room.

It wasn't long before the room was filled up with donated computers, printers, and a modem. 

Jack Eckstrom's original drawing of the 1889 First Baptist Church of Colorado City, taken in part from an original photograph from the 1890s I had purchased of the church, became the Society Logo. I donated that large drawing.





Genealogy and History of Pioneers

I correctly realized, as early as 1995 that the Internet itself had spurred many a person interested in their ancestors into net-assisted genealogical research. Genealogy Societies, meetings, groups were springing up  every where. One growing group even started using our History Center's large room on Mondays when we were closed to the public. And they were not interested in any Colorado City pioneer's history, but just their own. 

That national trend started showing up on our historical Web site when I started getting email from descendants of one Colorado City or another pioneer asking questions or correcting errors of ours (like name spellings). I began to realize that the always-connected web site of the society could gather new history as much as it could distribute the history we had.

The routine was always the same. The distant person, looking for their ancestor, would go out on the net, enter their kin's name, see what came up, then add to the search words like 'colorado city' or 'pikes peak'  or 'colorado springs' and they would come across our 'history.oldcolo.com' web site, which they would search, and then, as often as not send an email - all of which I read since nobody else around the history center was interested.

One example was the Anway name and family. A woman emailed me asking whether I knew something called "The Anway Fort"  I answered, but said there is a monument on Pikes Peak Avenue named 'The Fort' but I knew that there had been an 'Anway Hotel' there too.  But we knew little about that 'Hotel' who Anway was or of information about the proprieter.

She - Joanne James - was thrilled. She was the Great, great, granddaughter of Henry Anway, had a manuscript written in 1937 written by her great grandmother Ella Anway about the whole family history. Since she lived in Colorado, I invited her to come down to visit us personnally with the manuscript, and I could not only tell her what we knew about The Fort, the Indian scares, the fortifying the hotel to become a refuge for the women and children in case of another Indian raid like the 1868 one which killed three Colorado City children. And I would take her to see the Colorado State Marker at 2816 West Pikes Peak that was put there in 1936 commemorating those events. Here she beside the marker, Harvey Anway and his daughter Ella. All added to our web site  

Joanne got a lot of information from us about what her family went through in Colorado City in those days - 1860s - we got and archived family pioneer information we never would otherwise, and through our web site our members and the general public got new looks at old history.

Repeated Web Contacts and Historical Payoffs

There is not room enough here to detail the volume of information - in the form of long manuscripts, photographs, maps - all sent to us via the Internet from Alabama to California - and England that we were not only able to post directly on our public web site, and add to our archives, but they became the invaluable stuff for research by me and our members - which we used to more fully tell the history of the region, not only online, but printed for and mailed to all our members in our 10 newsletters a year, whether they had a computer and access to the net, or not.

Just a few - the family of Dr James Garvin, who built the still standing 1859 Cabin, the decendants of Judge Stone, the English family - in London - of Charles Stockbridge, and the large family and gravesite of Jacob Schmidt, Beer Hall owner - whose line we thought ended when he committed suicide in 1916 after Colorado City voted dry in 1913, and the English family near London of Charles Stockbridge - who became mayor of Colorado City, and even the Montana descendent of Lucy Maggard the controversial owner of the first - 1860 - hotel in town.

Not only did our Web site, which David Jr designed and I populated, become a valuable historical resource itself, many of those descendents signed up - remotely - to become dues paying Society members even though they lived far away, some took $150 Life memberships, and flew to Colorado to be here, and donate substantially, to our Sesquicentennial Colorado City monument.

No less than 15 such descendants, who do NOT live in Colorado, are active Society members!

The payoff to the Society in terms of History, Membership, and Income has been great. We have only begun to tap that potential - with web cast presentations, interactive realtime interviews of distant relatives of the person we have a program on, and other uses continues to grow. We could end up with a Virtual Society as well as a Physical Society.








The History Center Launched

   After all the time it took after purchasing the History Center Building, restoring its outside with a State Historical Fund grant, and renovating everthing inside - right down to a drinking fountain - with several local El Pomar, Gates, and Boetcher grants the time was by July, 1997 to open the History Center to the public.

The society had been donated a number of 'display cases' cast off by the Pioneer's Museum but only two days before the Center was to be launched those cases were largely empty! Working for two days and one night I carried from my basement and outside storage ALL my collections I had assembled for the previous 20 years, including over $6,000 worth of items from the original Bock Museum I paid for at its auction.

I did not want the public (350 of whom attended that opening day) to be disappointed by a sparse display, so I worked my butt off getting items in there and into cases. At the time I did NOT persnickity-like record all those things filling out something called 'Deeds of Gift' with its legalistic language. That came back to haunt me years later and some members responsible for the archives (none of whom helped me before the place was open) nit picked whether I had only 'loaned' the items or 'granted' them to the Society. I just, as I usually did, got the job done with an aching back carrying boxes and heavy items, alone, for the items. Lucille Cunningham, the then President thanked me - and that was it. I never took them back out ( to digitize them) for another 14 years. And THAT caused a flap with volunteers who were not even members of the society in 1997.

Below is an extract page from West Word our Newsletter that by then was being mailed to all members, many out of state. You can see how good looking the 'Museum' was.

Since the Display room doubled as a Program Meeting room, we had to find a solution to moving around the display cases every month at least. I found on by buying a roller 'hydraulic lift' that any one person could operate, slide under the heavy glass cases which were on 2-3 inch feet, lift the entire case with items still displayed in it, then pull or push it all to a new - off to the side temporarily - location. That solved th fe problem.

So we were able, with a projector screen and folding chairs fill the center up to a maximum sometimes of 100 people for a whole series of programs.

My displays - which had lots of Colorado Saloon and Gambling Den paraphernalia - spittoon, whiskey bottles, beer jugs, hand made dominos, gambling cards, dice, Jacob Schmidt Wooden Beer Steins and drawings and photographs of gambling, red lights which had been on Brothel Row, and photographs - were very popular. And unlike anything you would find displays in the uppity Pioneer's Museum  downtown.

REAL Colorado City history - warts and all.

 For a brief time we charged for admission, but after I, as Treasurer, calculated the income we got from voluntary donations (in a jar) with the number of people who passed through not to count the bookstore sales in its room, it was clear we would make more money by not charging people to see our Museum.



Our Highest-Tech Wirelessly Connected Web Site

It was just as we fully occupied our new History Center, and I had been given space in the 'Dave Hughes Computer Room' that three things fell into place.

First of all  I had already donated one my Old Colorado City Communications computers - a robust 'NT' system, with a modem attached to it with the Society's outside line (which I could use at nights and on the two days when the Center was not open) that my conviction all the Society needed was a Web Site to really move the society into the Information age. Unfortunately a US West T-1 (1.5mbs) line into the Society would cost upwards of  $600 a month - out of the Society's reach.

Secondly, I had already formed a 'Technology Committee' of both volunteers, and our only part time general purposes paid staff member Paul Idleman. Its purpose was to brainstorm how best for us to use a Web site to 'distribute' Old Colorado City's history to the world, to use the computer for Society Administrative purposes (and my use as Treasurer of its Spread Sheet capabilities), as a place to store digitized photographs, current and historical, and put into a Data Base, all the archived collections the society had and which would grow.

But then came the lightning strike out of the Blue.  

I got a call from the National Science Foundation for whom I already was doing research projects for both Education and Field Scientist data gathering by the new Unlicensed (thus free connectivity) Spread Spectrum Wireless Technology.

They had absolutely no reason to know I had anything to do with Historical research, much less was a founding member of an Historical Society. But they knew I knew, by now, how to get the most out of Unlicensed Spread Spectrum Wireless - for education, research, and other public purposes in remote or other disadvantaged places.

They said "Dave, we have a $15,000 grant we can't get any Museum to apply for. They just don't know what they would do with the money, technologically."

And any grant from the NSF has to have an advanced engineering or scientific payoff.

I instantly knew that we could make a zero cost, high bandwidth link from the History Center to drive its web site, and as a side benefit connect up the very small Westside Carnegie Library which had no - and was not going to get a high speed wired link to the Library District.  I could from my Old Colorado City Communications Company premises, two blocks away, interconnect the wireless link to the full T-1 line connected world internet at a trivial connection cost to myself.

I jumped on the opportunity. I said that if the NSF paid for all the hard ware and software required, I would connect up the small Old Colorado City Historical Society and its Center and its Web site that I was involved with but which it could not afford to link to the net wired. And I think I can also link a very small neighborhood library to it also.

It was a deal. They were ecstatic.

And to make the deal even sweeter - they said that my project would be eligible for one of their $5,000 'stipend' grants for an Undergraduate to learn from me as a Principle Investigator how the real scientific and engineering world works. An Internship.

It had to be an 'undergraduate' in a college or university. And I had to work with that person to better prepare them for graduate or salaried work in real companies or institutions.

I agreed to that also - $15,000 for wireless equipment, and $5,000 for an Intern.

So I quickly applied to them for the $15,000 grant as a project pioneering "Local History by Wireless' citing the potential for small museums and libraries to be connected to the closest Internet at very little, or no cost. It was promptly granted.

And as soon as that was awarded to the Society, I purchased five 902Mhz Frequency Hopping radios and associated directional antennas and cabling from a Canadian Company. They were called 'Hoppers'. And could relay if needed, and operate in different bands. I already knew they probably would work through Bancroft Park and its large trees to my Old Colo City Comm premises roof. The only question was, would it also penetrate the Michael Garman building in between.

And the Old Colorado City Branch Library  was an easy direct shot from the same roof.

And as I calculated, those Hopper's worked fine - right through the trees and to the directional dish antenna on the roof of the Templeton Building. All I had to do was run the heavy cable from the back of the antenna down to inside my OCC office, put one radio there (the other and a directional rod antenna I placed in the attic of the History Center above my computer room) set them up - and voila! We had free broadband Internet connectivity from the world wide web to the Old Colorado City Historical Society's own web site. (and later I put another radio and a directional rod antenna in the tiny Carnegie Library a block away, a switch for several computers the library would furnish for their customers and voila II. The tiny Old Colorado City Public Library became the first of TEN Pikes Peak Library District branch libraries (some large) to be connected to the Internet - free to them and their patrons many of whom came there only to use those computers - looking for work and other things,  

I then also went looking for a suitable Intern.

While the NSF naturally thought I would head for the Engineering Department of a University, such as the University of Colorado Colorado Springs campus, or Colorado College's, I surprised everybody. I made a bee-line for UCCS's History Department!

And asked whether they could recommend an 'undergraduate' who was good in Colorado History, used and was familiar with  personal or college computers.

They came up with the perfect candidate - a young woman - Ladonna  Gunn (actually from Rifle Colorado) was married and a few years older than most other students, but was going to graduate by springs with a Bachelor of Arts in History, and would be pursuing a Master's degree also.

She was a natural. I offered her the position, and since she and her husband lived in Wetmore, Colorado, 50 miles away, and she drove to classes several times a week. This would work fine since she could do work for us under my supervision parts of at least 2 maybe 3 days a week.

She did a terrific job after I introduced her to the intricacies of wireless, Internet, and web site management. With her already solid background in Historical Research she not only visited the large Penrose Library and the Pioneer's Museum which had old manuscripts from some of the pioneers, she was able to start populating the Web Site with facts, stories and some early photographs she researched. And wrote and signed short historical pieces. 

Our Tech Committee came up with a front page design for the web site that made it easy for people with web browsers to really search the site - and we began - very early in the culture of web sites - to make an impression on the local history-interested public. But even more importance, just as this site started operating in 1997, the wave of 'genealogical research'  started. Everyone wanted to find their ancestors online.

And soon we had not only distant descendants of early Colorado City pioneers find us and history about their own kin, but start sending us documents, maps, photographs that NO local institution had ever seen about their lives in the original Colorado Territory. Which we in turn put on the web site. Furthermore many of them became dues paying, even Lifetime, members of our Historical Society and contributed as much to our historical research and they got. 

My foresight in getting a society website up for a tiny historical society about a long-gone pioneer town paid off big over the next 15 years. 

And we gave solid 'Proof of Concept' to the National Science Foundation who funded the radios, that the smallest and most remote Historical Societies and their Museums could be connected world-wide, via the Internet and unlicenced wireless connectivity.

A longer summary of that NSF Project can be found at:


Suffice it to say, for 14 years the History Society had broadband wireless access to the Internet at no cost to itself and a trivial (even unmeasurable) 'added cost' to my Old Colorado City Communications high speed connection to the Internet for my business and NSF project purposes. Until I closed down my telecom business after US West (then called Qwest) after 13 years extended DSL service 3 miles from downtown to Old Colorado City - and the Society could afford that telephone-line based lower speed broadband.  Also Comcast television extended its cable internet services to the area, but which, for the Society, would be costly to add to its already existing voice line service.

And the small Old Colorado City Library had, for almost 10 years, equally free Internet service for the handful of patrons who daily approached the libraries desk top computers. Until the large Library District added a big chunk to its annual budget and extended dedicated fiber broadband to all 10 of its branch libraries.

Little old Colorado City Historical Society was far ahead of all of them, and in the next chapter I will describe just what it did for the Society AND the long disappeared history of the original Colorado City AND its long fogotten pioneers, information about whom was never collected properly by the El Paso Pioneers Association or the original Pioneer's Museum when they or their direct descendents lived.


Suffice it to say the Society has held scores of programs - historical lectures, performances, meetings in its General Display room which can seat over 100, since the Center was opened in 1995.


Here is a sample of a well addended one in 2006. It is a 4 minute extract of the 50 minute program by Mark Gardner, musician and expert on early eawest music.


Just Click on









The Maturity of the Old Colorado City Historical Society 1997-2010

OCCHS's growth period, both with facilities, programs, projects, and active volunteers, which really started after we had an ample History Center in 1992 and the building was redeveloped, grew steadily until it surpassed 300 dues paying members by 2009.

I took on three vital roles for the Society, which I carried out until I retired from being so active after the successful Sesquicentennial (1859-2009) Celebration of the original Colorado City.

1. I took over being the Treasurer of the Society in 1997 and undertook to put the Society and the History Center on a solid financial footing. We revised the By-laws of the Society, an IRS 501c3 non-profit tax-exempt Colorado corporation, to reflect two important provisions which I insisted upon.

First we formed an Endowment Fund, the expenditure of any of its funds required a vote - eventually in writing - by all members wherever they were. And we specified that all "Lifetime Memberships' - $150 had to go into the untouchable Endowment Fund. Donors could specify - in such matters as memorials to members who died - whether their bequests went into the Endowment,or operations, or for specific projects.

But I also got inserted that the Interest, from earnings of the Endowment fund could be expended by the Board as its discretion for operating or other purposes.

Since we had built up by 1997 about $50,000 in the Endowment Fund, and operated with about $10,000 in our operating fund, and we used Bank and S&L CD's for our 'investments' we had some money added to our operating fund flexibility. But I had in my mind a clear long term goal, which few others in the society had. And that was that we should strive as a financial goal to achieve at least $450,000, whose Interest at 6%, could support a part or full time employee that would be needed.

At the end of every year, my spread sheets which every board member was walked through at every board meeting (and a copy for member viewing tacked to the office bulletin board), summed up where we were or had been (profit or loss) for all our fund raising events and the profits from our bookstore against my projection of what would be needed at least through the lean winter early spring months. If my projections showed we could make it to summer with our cash on hand, I would transfer to the Endowment Fund the surplus. That tactic built up our Endowment from the original $50,000 to over $100,000 by the time I resigned as treasurer. I was proud of that.

And even when, in 2009 CD interest rates plummeted, I got the board to buy tax free bonds yielding from 5 to 6+ %. So our annual income from 'investments' began to exceed our annual operating costs. Many smart members who knew finance complemented me on my wise management of the Society funds.

That was all separate from the grants we had to pursue for repainting the exterior of our large structure, and raising the funds for an $11,000 Sesquicentennial Monument - gift to the city in Bancroft Park August 2009 the actual month of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Colorado City.

2. My second task I alone, then later with the help of son David, brought a  steady, if not spectacular, flow of income into the society came through its Web Site that I - alone - kept operating and building up. Using the Paypal as a secure means for donations or purchases, or even tickets online, several thousands of dollars came in by that means. It should have, and could have been more, but Board members, none of whom were very computer or Internet savy just neglected to support the Society's online presence.

3. Finally I became THE most knowledgable historian of the original Colorado City and early El Paso County 1859-1917, and for the "Westside' from 1917 right up to the beginning of the redevelopment of Old Colorado City in 1976.

I wrote frequently historical articles in 25 years worth of  the Society 8 page West Word Newsletter that was published 10 times a year, mailed to all members, and extras were available in the Center. I was frequently invited to city-wide Service Clubs, organizations, schools, and libraries to speak on the History of Old Colorado City.

During the sesquecentennial year of 2009 I and arranged for the large Gazette Telegraph newspaper to carry a two page illustrated summary of those 150 years of history - founding, Civil War, decline and growth, the railroad, and Gold Mill era, and the Redevelopment of Colorado City.

Front Page of  Short Colorado City History

Second Page of Short Colorado City History

I then helped the society raise the $11,000 required to build, while I designed, the 7 foot monument that now stands next to the Bancroft Park's 1859 Cabin, illustrating and captioning the 8 seperate periods of Colorado City's History that I had concluded were the major events of the original historic town. Johnnie Jackson produced the drawings that were then etched by Wilhelm Monuments into the Rocky Moutain Rose Granite stone work. $5,000 came from the little known "Ackerman Fund" created by Jasper Ackerman whom I knew from Fort Carson days, the remainder from direct donations, several thousand dollars via the OCCHS Web Site's PayPal payment system.


This monument sits next to the 1859 Cabin in Bancroft Park, on the Westside of Colorado Springs, right on Colorado Avenue.

I also, just in time for the 150th anniversary, found - with the help of a cousin of mine, Warren Wilson, who lived in the east - Pennsylvania - and was an amateur musician who knew many of the comunity band publishers, the original 50 page musical score of the once famous (1899-1920) Midland Railroad Band whose piece written just for it had not been heard in over 70 years.

The Band before 1920, when it ended when the Midland Railroad was shut down  by the Golden Cycle Mill who owned it in its last days


I persuaded a local community band to rehearse it, and their 70 piece band played for a large crowd on Founders Day 2009, when we also dedicated the Mounument.

And here it is as recorded at the last indoor rehearsal of the New Horizon's Band

Click here for the Midland Band March

Midland Band March

And as they appeared outside in the historic Park on Founder's Day, 2009. 

 The New Horizons Band in Bancroft Park on Founders Day


4. And the last Tour-de-Force historical thing I did - which was far and away more accurate, meaning full, and a solid contribution to local history than what the over promoted Pioneer's Museum with its $2.3 million city budget ever researched or  accomplished (for the Pioneers Museum, while nominally about the entire city of Colorado Springs - of which the Westside and original Colorado City had been for 92 years -  in fact only really displayed and honored General Palmer's 'Little London' )

 I found, purchased for the society, and had digitized an ORIGINAL 28 inch 'Fosdick Plat' which laid out every element of the original Colorado City, every of the 302 blocks and 9,255 lots, every street and avenue  AND in a series of West Word Articles detailed the Fosdick's themselves (still with descendents in Colorado), the Plat as it was printed in 1861, how the original town design was intended to be - what it actually became, finally the key for anyone with an original Colorado City address, how to find the exact current building or lot where their forebearers had a home or business.

 Here are the three Westword Issues of 2011 in PDF format 

Westword Fosdick 1

WestwordFosdick 2

Westword Fosdick 3


                                        Territory Days Celebrations


There were manu Territory Days Celebrations and Reenactments between 1975 and through as least 2012.


Here is one in which Reenactors of 'Dodd's Independent Company' formed in 1862 from Canon City which fought the Texas Confederate Rebels at Valverde

in New Mexico and helped beat them. It is a Video

Click below on

Dodds Independent Company Reenactors


            Last Thoughts about OCCHS

For 36 years, from 1975 through 2011, I helped organize, promoted, served on its Board as both President and Treasurer the last 10 years, donated hundreds of items I collected - and often paid for, totallying over $10,000, wrote over 37 lead articles in it West Word publication, organized and participates in its fund raising as well as pro bono activities, made scores of speeches in it Center and across the Pikes Peak Region, created its Unique Web site connected to the Internet via an unprecedented  National Science Foundation Grant,  spent $20,000 out of my own pocket digitizing its collections, wrote and landed numerous and substantial El Pomar, Ackerman, and State Grants  and did everything I could to build its treasury, reputation, and long term potential as I could.

Only when many volunteers aged or got tired and moved on, and new members, most of whom were never from either the Westside and my wife Patsy lay dying in early 2011, did I step out of hands-on guidance and work for the Society

                                 My Lasting Legacy from the Old Colorado City Historical Society

Even the somewhat younger (in their 50s and 60s) members of the society, have chosen NOT to pursue my Vision which would result in both a Physical Society and History Center Museum AND a Virtual Society which would exist in Cyberspace and thus be visited from anyone in the world forever via the Internet, I have taken all the Colorado City History I accumulated over 35 years, and, in its original Web Site form, and placed it here reachable via this Legacy Web site, under the original web address which I paid for originally when the Internet was new, and the link that I still own.


Here it is. Just click on it and you will be revisiting the original Old Colorado City History Site. Which, as much as anything else I did for the revitalization and renewal of the original Colorado City and the Westside of Colorado Springs, is my legacy.



HERE, BELOW is an email exchange I had , in 2014, with Ladonna Gunn who helped me build the first Web Site for the Historical Society.

            You children may or may not remember Ladonna Gunn from Wetmore, whom I was able to hire for just a limited time from a $5,000 'Intern' grant on top of my $15,000 NSF Grant to the Hist Society to connect up the first OCCHS Computer wirelessly to my OCC Communications office and thus out to the Internet. That gave the Society its first Web  site in town which, I had guessed, would be found by all these people who used their early connected computers for their genealogical searches for their ancestors who had been in the original Colorado City at one time or another. 

It was clear to me by 1980, that people would use their personal computers, connected to the world-wide web, to search for their ancestors. Today, 2014, that has been enshrined in the service "Ancestry.com". But that was an original idea before the 1990s.

I was dead right - that computer got me email queries from many descendants of the earliest OCC pioneers who searched for the term "Colorado City' that no amount of local research OR aimless efforts to find across the US local names would have found. They included the complete families of Dr. Garvin (1859 cabin), Melancothon Beach. Anthony Bott, Lucy Maggard, Stockbridge, Wade (the 12 year old girl who came across the plains and wrote about it),  Judge Stone, Waycott, who built the Opera House (Meadow Muffin bldg), Jacob (Beer Hall) Schmidt family, Anway (who ran The Fort), Buzzard,  Edwards, Anway - and others including Civil War vet in Fairview. They all FOUND US because I set up and connected the computer -  we didn't find them. And of course the Society would NOT have a copy of the Original Fosdick Plat had not a couple in Montana, who had one, contacted me in 2010 via the Society's web.

When I got the $15,000 NSF grant (which the NSF pushed on me from Washington because they couldn't find any 'museums' to apply for a grant they had ready to award) they also had a $5,000 stipend that could be used to fund an 'intern' so long as he or she was an UNDERgraduate, to get familiar with what computer scientists do in the hopes they would enter the field.

I took that too, but instead of heading for the Computer Science Department at UCCS, I made a bee line for the History Department, and asked them if they had an undergraduate student, who was into Western History, and who, at least had used a personal computer. They suggested Ladonna Gunn, who as it turned out, was older than most undergrads, trying to get her college degree, from Rifle Colorado, who lived with her husband (who was an engineer working in a plant near Canon City) and some horses near Wetmore, had to drive the 50 miles to attend classes, and then in between help me get the OCCHS Web site developed. She  was a gem, and even knew enough about academic and museum history practices to go down into the basement and show old Liz Guisse (who only worked with the artifacts) the proper way to record them. (but like bull headed Barbaro after her, refused to use the national methods of museums, and wanted to invent her own way)

Ladonna, not only researched, wrote up, help design its Western image look and feel, and put online, OCCs web, stories that she dug out of  Penrose Library, and followed up on what I got from remote OCC relatives by email but also, did an evaluation of the tiny Old Colo City Library where I had DONATED a computer, pair of radios, linked it to my internet connection in the Templeton Building, donating the bandwidth to it (AND OCCHS) making it the FIRST Library in the Colorado Springs region to be connected to the net, for patron use.

So Ladonna went on, got her degree, and brought technology to the County Library in Canon City (landing them some substantial grants for technology), then in Grand Junction, and now in Elko Nevada, as she followed her engineer husband's work.  

Had not I donated the first OCCHS computer, linked it to the net with the NSF Grant, paying out of my pocket for the T-1 line from my office for some 20 years, to the net downtown, gotten Ladonna to populate and help design the look and feel of the the web site, and supply many OCC stories and brief biographies. the Old Colorado City Historical Society would never have flourished in its early days. And likely would have folded before now, trying to be a 'traditional' very small physical Museum, in a city with a large tax supported Museum (and which ignored and still does, Colorado City and early El Paso County history.

And it is clear the current regime now running OCCHS STILL does not understand the value and importance of the Internet, to collect and not just disseminate, history. Had they listened to my scheme that would have BOTH a Physical Museum, history center, for locals, with archives, AND a 'Virtual Museum' on top of it with digital replicas of ALL its artifacts and documents, reachable by the net, world wide, it would be prospering by now, rather than struggle to pay its bills with its small and local scale operations and part time - by only volunteers - accessibility.             

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Please Forward to Ladonna Gunn
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2014 21:53:28 -0700
From: LaDonna Gunn This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
To: Dave Hughes This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hi Dave:
What a treat to hear from you after all of these years!  Thank you for your kind thoughts and for the link to your website.  I spent just a few minutes browsing it, which certainly brought back great memories.  What I learned from you about computer technology and history has served me well since working with you on the NSF grant.
My husband, Tracy, and I have been in Elko for two years.  We were not thrilled having to leave Colorado, but the life of a mining engineer is . . .  well, shall we say, never dull.  It is true, I am currently working as the youth librarian, but the television coverage is a regular community information spot.  I have not done anything spectacular, but I do enjoy the job.  Before we left Colorado, I had finished my master's degree in history and was teaching American history at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) at the Montrose Campus.  I was also working part time with Delta County Libraries as their grants and public relations manager, and involved in the local history in Cedaredge--I was on the board of the historical society, served on the town's culture and recreation board, and helped revitalize the town's historic preservation board.  So, my current position as youth librarian with the Elko County Library is quite a stretch for me.  Truth be known, I am quietly hoping for an opening in the history department at Great Basin College here in Elko.  Just like you, my true passion is history.
Thanks again, Dave, for tracking me down.  Your email made my day.  I cannot wait to spend a little more time browsing your website and refreshing my memory of Old Colorado City.
Keep in touch.
LaDonna Gunn
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
P.S.  I believe that one of your sons knows John Gavan.  John and his wife moved from Colorado Springs to Paonia a few years ago and started working part time with Delta County Libraries as our "IT guy."  Before I left Delta County Libraries, John was doing some amazing work for the library district.  What a smart man.
-----Original Message-----

From: Dave [mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]
Sent: Tuesday, October 07, 2014 4:55 PM
To: Jeanette Hammons; dave (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); David Hughes (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); Rebecca Clark (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); Ed at Home (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Subject: Please Forward to Ladonna Gunn

Jeanette Hammons, Library Director
  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Would you please forward this note to Ladonna Gunn. I could not spot her email address on your site.

Dear Ladonna

Voice from the past. When that guy who lived in Rifle, Colorado recently won the Lottery, I remembered that it was your home town. And I recently encountered your name on many brief 'Colorado City' History pieces that you researched and we put online when you were doing work for the Old Colo City Historical Society under the National Science Foundation Grant I procured back in 1997. You helped out so much developing the History society's Society's Web site.

A lot of water has passed over the dam since then. The Society, with its History Center and programs I helped start in 1976, still is operating, though I stepped away from being fully active in it after being Treasurer for over 10 years, leaving it in sound financial condition.

But once I left, my successors did not have the computer skills – or understanding the potential value in a growing Web ( if for nothing more than genealogical contacts -  site we had way back then)  and they let the Web Site slide a great deal.

Because of that, I decided to insure that all that history of the original Colorado City and early El Paso County was going to be preserved online, if only on my personal system. My three adult children have helped me do that, as well as record my life's work in a powerful web site that my wife wanted me to continue, after she was gone. (she died three years ago, and I am now 86, but still forging ahead.)

That site was named by them  'Dave Hughes Legacy Site” or http://davehugheslegacy.net

If you go to that site, click on the 'Early Colorado City History' link, then you get to the history.oldcolo.com section. Under which if you access the People/Bios, item you will see many of the pieces you did (some which I have added to slightly).

In fact ALL the files, stories, of the original site are there. Even every Newsletter from 1985 to last month – full of stories of pioneers from their descendants,  is in full text and graphics there too.

My son David (just a kid – he has turned 60) remarked that your credits are still there in many, many early files. So you still get credit for work you did 20 years ago! And they will remain there, even after I am gone for I have made arrangements for its perpetuation on a hosting service, that my kids will tend to. By the way, I will be buried in one of the 5 unused burial plots that Anthony Bott – the Colorado City town founder in 1859 – left. Ironic.

When son David looked you up he saw you were in Elko, Nevada, the Youth Services Librarian there, and even have been interviewed by television for your work. Congratulations!

So this is just a note to tell you how much help you gave me in the early days of the Historical Society after it acquired its permanent location.

Dave Hughes
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