Elbert County, Colorado History and Genealogy

Sunday, March 1, 2015

80th Anniversary Remembrance of the 1935 Flood

"Here Comes The Flood, There Goes The Train" will be a special 80th anniversary remembrance of the May 30, 1935 flood though Elbert and Kiowa. The event is scheduled to take place in downtown Elbert beginning at 930am, with a one-hour program by author/historian James R. "Jim"" Jones and the Elbert County Historical Society. A second show, for early evening-- in a larger venue-- perhaps Elizabeth will also be held. A meet and greet with Jim happens at the ECHS museum in Kiowa 2-4pm that day. Jim, who is flying out from Vermont for the event, would like to see see the many friends he made while writing DENVER & NEW ORLEANS- IN THE SHADOW OF THE ROCKIES during the 1990s. Follow the Elbert County Historical Society webpage as details unfold. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Going To Yellowstone (1919) by Lila Tyler

In 1919, my husband's grandfather's family drove to Yellowstone in Model T Fords. Merle Adams was twelve when they made the trip. His cousin, Lila Phillips, was 17. I recently found the story Lila wrote about the trip that she titled, "My Most Memorable Trip." She must have submitted it to a magazine or newspaper because the manuscript has a notation of "$3.00" at the top and "photo returned." The photos are from Merle Adam's photo album.

One hot morning in August 1919, two model T Fords, containing 13 people, camping gear, food, and extra car parts, such as brake linings, and connecting rods left the little town of Elbert [Colorado] for a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Being farm people, vacations were almost unknown, so imagine the excitement after weeks of preparation of starting out on my most memorable trip. My parents, Ella and Melvin Phillips with three teenagers occupied one car while my uncle and aunt, Sharold and Ethel Adams with three teenagers and two younger boys were in the other car.

In those days you didn't just pick up your sleeping bag and drive off. We rolled up bed mattresses (two full size and one single for our family), tents, bedding, pillows, towels, wash cloths, dish towels, dishes (paper was unheard of), cooking utensils, gasoline stove, food and clothing. Anything you might need for such a trip (including fishing rods) for a month you took along. What courage our parents must of had to start on such a jaunt. We also had cans of gas, oil and water. Of course there were small country stores where we could buy some supplies. I can't remember the price of gas but it was probably around 8-10 cents a gallon. Since Cheyenne Frontier Days was that week, they decided to make that our first stop. We arrived the night before the big parade, pitched our tents at the camp ground on the outskirts of the city. The next morning eight anxious kids could hardly wait to get to  the City Center for the parade, after all we had never seen real live Indians.

After a sweltering day we settled in camp and on the morrow we packed up and headed Northward for Yellowstone, over dry, dusty roads making travel very slow. At one place someone had stuck up a hand lettered sign - Speed Limit 70 Miles Per Hour. Papa, with his great sense of humor, sat up straight in the seat, gripped the steering wheel and stepped on the throttle saying, "We'll never make it, we'll never make it." What a good laugh we all had.

Each night it was a major atsk to make camp and prepare food and make beds for thirteen people.

We enjoyed Wyoming scenery very much, camping along clear pure water streams, even the Bad Lands, Hell's Half Acre, were something to view.

After about ten days or two weeks of slow going we arrived at Yellowstone with all its wonders. Roads were not paved, narrow and winding. I remember going up Mt. Washburn, which is high with narrow curves. We came upon a couple whose car was parked in the middle of the road, they were in panic. Actually, the man was on his knees petitioning God to get them off that terrible mountain. My Papa being a good Samaritan offered to drive for them to get them out of our way, and they gladly accepted. We often wondered how they made it. So my Mamma climbed behind the wheel of our car and we proceeded down the mountain.

On one mountain the brakes were wearing out and the emergency was in jeopardy, so many times the wheels had to be driven into the bank to break the speed.

We enjoyed the hot springs, especially Morning Glory Pool which was beautiful in color and depth. We were intrigued by the bears as long as they stayed their distance. One camp where were were, there were movie men wanting to get a bear in action. They had strung a rope between two trees and hung lucious looking ham and bacon on it and focused their camera ready to snap Mr. Bear when he got the meat. Everyone went to bed expecting to hear and see excitement during the night. Morning came, the hams still hanging untouched but the canned milk and other provisions left at the foot of the tree had been cleaned out, and no one heard a sound. Disappointment reigned.

We camped near Old Faithful and saw it shoot many times. Mamma had a small Brownie Camera and took many pictures which now are very faded but hope they can be printed.

We spent eight days in the park and walked over terraces and saw many things the average tourist never sees. Whenever possible, we camped along creeks or small streams. All had pure water there.

We were from dry land and never had the pleasure of fishing so we tried our luck with little result. My sister, Verna, and Cousin Merle caught a small trout probably three inches, they were so excited they rushed back to camp to show their catch.

We left the park via the Idaho gateway, seeing the rich farm lands and fruit orchards on into Utah. The old Ford had taken a beating and had to be overhauled for connecting rods and brake linings which our dads did themselves. (They could do anything.)

One day the two cars got separated, each thinking they were behind, traveled at top speed to catch up. My uncle decided it was time to camp so they did, and we came upon them. We kids just knew we would not see our cousins until we got home.

We got to Salt Lake City and were really broke, about twenty-six cents was all we could scrape up between us. Mamma gathered three or four of us kids and went to a a bank and truthfully told our plight and came out with the cash we needed for the remainder of the trip.

We toured the Mormon Square and attended the noon organ recital which was impressive. We drove out to Saltair and tried floating in the salt water. The first thing I did was to get "upset" and my head went under, if my daddy had not been close, I'm sure I would have strangled to death, guess that experience made me afraid of water so I never learned to swim well.

Our folks were getting weary with all the work and little play so we started homeward. At Vernal, Utah, more repairs had to be done on the cars before crossing the mountains.

When we got to Berthoud Pass it was so steep and rugged in places the old Fords had to have some help so we got out and pushed. Those curves were a far cry from today's paved roads.

In all, we were gone five weeks and each one was really glad to see Elbert County. Indeed, it was a memorable trip.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Family Search Adds Colorado Statewide Marriage Index

Just in time for Valentines Day, Family Search added the Colorado Statewide Marriage Index 1900-1939 to its battery of databases and indexes this week. The index was a WPA Project in the late 1930's and early 1940's. The cards are arranged by the groom's last name.

Go to http://familysearch.org Scroll down the home page to "Browse By Location" and click on "United States." In the left column of this page, click on "Colorado" and "Colorado, Statewide Marriage Index 1900-1939" will appear. Despite the title, marriage records dated before 1900 are in the index as you can see in my husband's great-great-grandparents' index card above.

This collection isn't indexed. Click "Browse Collection" and pick the name range the surname of the groom falls under. You may browse card by card or you can skip to images using the image number box at the top. The image above is number 4264 Edwards, Luther M. - Epler, Daniel L. (Yes, this made the searching a little easier!)

More information about the original card index and the database can be found on the Western History and Genealogy Blog of the Denver Library.

Have fun and good luck!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Share Your Story of Colorado History

History Colorado has a fantastic new contest called "Share Your Story." Colorado residents are invited to dress up as your favorite Colorado history figure, snap a picture of it, and share your story in 250 words. If you enter by November 13, you may just win an overnight get-away for a family of four to Glenwood Springs!

The “Share Your Story” photo contest will be open to Colorado residents 18 years of age or older beginning on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 at 8 a.m. MT and ending on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, 11:59 p.m. MT.
Photo submissions can include yourself, your kids, or your whole family dressed up to tell a Colorado Story. Dress up to look like your favorite Colorado characters and figures—an adventurer of centuries past, perhaps a Colorado sports figure, or a picture of you in a uniform or a costume that relates to your cultural heritage and family legacy in Colorado; or maybe you’ll invent a futuristic character — someone you think has yet to leave their legacy on Colorado’s history.

Visit http://www.facebook.com/HistoryColorado?sk=app_95936962634 for more information and to Share Your Story!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Elbert County Museum Opens Sunday May 29th

The Elbert County Museum opens for the summer this Sunday, May 29th! If you haven't visited the museum before, be sure to stop in for a glimpse of Elbert County history. And if you have visited before, there is always something new! This year's special exhibit is "Yesterday's Tools: Tools from the Home, Barn and Machine Shop."

Main Street features Dr. Denny's office, a bank, a mercantile, and post office. The post office is special to my family because it is the counter of the old Elbert Post Office where my father-in-law was postmaster for 35 years. I feel like I am walking into the old post office and that Warren should be standing at the window!

Here is a link to a
short video about the Elbert County Museum at Our Journey. Click on Elbert County Museum. The post office counter is in this video.

The museum is open Thursday through Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the summer.

Be sure to visit the Elbert County Historical Society and Musuem
website for more information.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Denver & New Orleans Railroad in Elbert County, Colorado

Terry Courtright has prepared another informative piece about Elbert County History!

This information is taken from the comprehensive and thoroughly illustrated book “Denver & New Orleans—In The Shadow of the Rockies” by James R. “Jim” Jones (published by Sundance Publications, Ltd., 1997), which is available through the Elbert Library.

In 1881, former Colorado Territory governor John Evans and associates began work on the Denver & New Orleans Railroad. It was to be the first standard gauge route to cross the Palmer Divide and would be a strong competitor to the Denver & Rio Grande along the Front Range on the way to joining with the Fort Worth & Denver City RR on the Canadian River in New Mexico, which in turn would interconnect to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. The D&NO route generally followed Cherry Creek southeast from Denver, crossing it in present day Parker, and climbing along Hilltop Road entered today’s Elbert County by mid December, 1881. From there the route meandered down to Running Creek at today’s Elizabeth, and then continued south closely following county roads 17-21 and 106 to Elbert Road and the present town site of Elbert by mid January, 1882. The town of Elbert was moved from 7 miles southwest to the present location to be along the railroad and became an important stop. Before the end of January, construction had exited Elbert County, following Kiowa Creek and today’s Elbert Road south to cross the Palmer Divide at Apex, then on to Eastonville, Falcon, east of Colorado Springs and on to Pueblo by the end of April, 1882. The railroad seemed always to struggle financially and through several reorganizations by 1898 was known as the Colorado & Southern Railway. In the early 1900’s, only limited freight and “mixed” trains were running the rails between Denver and Colorado Springs. On May 30, 1935, a great flood swept down Kiowa Creek and washed out much of the tracks in and south of Elbert. Nearly half of the buildings in Elbert were destroyed and 6 people from Elbert and Kiowa lost their lives. Because repairs to the tracks was not economic, rail service south of Elbert was discontinued, and to Elizabeth and Elbert only limited schedules were run. Truck and automobile routes were improving and the train was no longer necessary to rural areas. By the end of October, 1936, the railroad through this part of Elbert County was completely abandoned.

In the railroad’s heyday, it was an important method for getting farm and ranch products to the cities and necessary merchandise back out to the rural communities. The trains carried the mail on a daily basis. Sheep, cattle, horses and hogs; milk , cream and cheese from local producers; lumber and timbers; coal; and a wide variety of produce including potatoes, beans, corn, wheat and other grains were all carried more seasonally. Mercantile stores were located along the route and their warehouses were often positioned beside the tracks. Passenger traffic was important on a daily basis before the roads became easily travelled and before the automobile was widely in use. And it was especially popular to take Sunday picnic excursions from the cities to Elizabeth and Elbert to view wildflowers and escape the summer heat. While the Elbert County Fair was held in the fields south of Elbert, several passenger trains from both Colorado Springs and Denver would bring people out for the festivities.

Although continuing development is removing traces of the road bed in many areas (as the grade is used for roads, and the fill is hauled away for other purposes), the abandoned route can still be seen from several county roads as shown on the accompanying map. Respect private property, refer to Jim Jones’ book for more details and enjoy your search in Elbert County!