A PERIOD OF CHANGE: 1900-1920
The turn of the century was a time of contradictions. On the one hand, times were prosperous; there was unbounded optimism for Colorado's agricultural, mineral and industrial future, while at the same time labor rose in rebellion and a series of violent strikes marred the first years of the new century.
Colorado's hopes were celebrated through a series of festivals and popular events meant to depict the State's rosy future. Agriculture and its importance was celebrated on a regular basis in the form of "Fruit Days." Rocky Ford, for example, held a Melon Day on September 5, to honor one of the region's most popular and successful crops. 
Meanwhile, Pueblo was the home of events that honored not only agriculture, but industry as well. As far back as the 1890's, Pueblo businessmen built a "Mineral Palace" that displayed Colorado's mineral wealth and mining technology. The place opened at Pueblo on July 4, 1890, and thousands came to see the exhibits. Leadville, during the winter of 1895-96, built an Ice Palace to celebrate the city's Crystal Carnival. The "building" was huge. It was a Norman Castle design and covered five acres. There were ballrooms, display areas and a restaurant. What was truly amazing was that the structure was made entirely of ice. The Palace melted during the summer, perhaps symbolizing Leadville's fate as a mining center.  Denver regularly held its Festival of Mountain and Plain between 1895 and 1912. This event was patterned after the New Orleans Mardi Gras and contained floats, parades and displays. Nearly every Colorado city of any size sent floats and showed its products. Leadville, Cripple Creek and Victor represented mining, while Pueblo, Lamar, La Junta and Las Animas flaunted their agriculture as did San Luis Valley towns.  Pueblo held annual festivals marking good harvests each fall. The entire Arkansas River Valley was represented by livestock, fruit, vegetable and other displays showing southeast Colorado's finest. Ribbons were awarded and farmers got to see what their neighbors were doing. The Pueblo Fair eventually became the Colorado State Fair, and permanent buildings were erected at Pueblo to house this event. The tradition continues into the present. 
During this period, industrial expansion also occurred. Because steel sales were strong and the new sugar beet industry was showing considerable promise, railroad expansion continued. In 1899, the Colorado and Southern Railway was incorporated to take over the bankrupt Union Pacific, Denver and Gulf (UPD&G) Railway which was made up of, among others, the Denver South Park and Pacific, the Colorado Central and several other mountain lines. The new Colorado and Southern had roadbed from Trinidad to Denver, and with joint control of the ailing Colorado Midland, the C&S could claim connections to Salt Lake City by way of Grand Junction.  Among the acquisitions of the C&S was the Fort Worth and Denver City that ran from Trinidad to Fort Worth, Texas. The Fort Worth and Denver was connected, in 1907, with the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad into Houston. In that year, southeast Colorado had a new transportation system that connected Pueblo, Trinidad and points north to the Texas Gulf Coast.  This provided new markets for Pueblo's steel, a fact not unnoticed by the C&S. Also, Arkansas Valley sugar beets, vegetables and other produce could be shipped south. Equally, passenger service was available from Denver to Houston by way of Pueblo and Trinidad. The C&S had extensive trackage in Wyoming and Montana that connected not only Denver, but Pueblo and southeastern Colorado on a north-south axis. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) bought controlling interest in the C&S in 1908 and has retained the line ever since.  The C&S bought the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek Railway in order to tap rich mineral markets in Cripple Creek and Victor. The CS&CC hauled ores to large smelters at Pueblo. By 1910, railroad building in the region ended, but Pueblo was now connected by four major railroads and southeast Colorado was the scene of cutthroat competition among these various lines. 
Smelting, along with steel, was one of Pueblo's primary sources of industry. As early as 1880, Meyer Guggenheim became interested in smelting near Pueblo. The Colorado Smelting Company opened a plant in 1882 at Pueblo. In 1884, plans were announced to build another smelter here. The New England and Colorado Mining and Smelting Company opened its facilities in 1885, but it closed a year later for lack of work. Nevertheless, local smelting was consolidated by Guggenheim in the late 1880's. This Philadelphia family controlled most smelting in the region. In 1888, Guggehheim built a new plant at Pueblo after the local Chamber of Commerce persuaded him to locate in that city.  By the early 1890's, copper ores from Arizona and New Mexico were being processed at Pueblo, as were Leadville, Cripple Creek and Victor silver and gold ores. Pueblo's mills worked during the 1890's turning out finished materials. The high point of Pueblo smelting came in 1901, when the industry processed $24.5 million in ores. From here on, milling declined.  The situation had changed dramatically in 1899, when the American Smelting and Refining Company was created in New Jersey. American proceeded to buy up virtually all smelters in the nation, including the Colorado Smelting Company and the Pueblo Smelting Company plants at Pueblo. One of the combine's backers was Standard Oil of New Jersey.  The Guggenheim's Philadelphia Smelting and Refining Company of Pueblo was not swallowed by the American trust. The family held out against intense pressure to sell. Finally in 1901, the Guggenheim corporation sold their mills to American Refining and smelting was monopolized.  While the creation of this huge combine was significant for mineowners, it was outright ominous for the common working man. Labor lost its ability to bargain with owners who were physically close to their plants. Smelting workers found themselves facing a huge, nameless bureaucracy interested in profits, not people.
Pueblo's steel industry was in the same position. As demand rose, and with the organization of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in 1892, steelworkers and, more importantly, coal miners found themselves losing all rights to CF&I's management. Workers in Pueblo's steel plants were relatively skilled and therefore they tended to be better paid and treated. However, this was not the case in the coal fields. Colorado Fuel and Iron had mines around Walsenburg (Fred Walsen's little settlement) and Trinidad. To house miners, towns were built. Primero, for example, was founded in 1901 and was considered a model for company towns. Other similar towns arose. As coal production increased, new sites sprang up. Segundo, Tercio, Frederick, Starkville, Morley, Tobasco, Berwind, Toller, Rouse, Lester, Jobal and Pictou all represented company towns in southeast Colorado.  Colorado Fuel and Iron was justifiably proud of its towns, with their medical care, schools, company stores, and the most modern sociological design. However, company policies such as payment in script, inflated prices for houses and goods, long days, and management's refusal to bargain made for considerable resentment and tension in the coal fields.
Labor violence first flared, ironically, at Cripple Creek where gold miners went out on strike in sympathy for workers in the smelters of Pueblo, Denver and Leadville. Demands included an eight-hour day, the right to strike, collective bargaining and, most importantly, recognition of unions. While working conditions were important, union recognition was considered the true goal. The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) pulled their men from the mines of Cripple Creek in 1903. In response, the State, at mineowner request, sent in the militia. The Cripple Creek strike quickly devolved into terror, including the famous Independence Station bombing in June 1904. Wholesale violence broke out; mines were burned, stores looted and newspapers ransacked. By mid-1904, mineowners had hired enough scab labor that the mines were reopened, the union was broken and the WFM was forced into oblivion. 
Now the stage was set for coal miners in southeast Colorado. The first coal strikes began in the Boulder County fields during 1910. By 1913, unrest had spread into southern Colorado, and in September of that year coal miners throughout Huerfano, Las Animas, Pueblo and Fremont Counties voted to strike. An eastern-based union, with considerable experience in coal strikes, represented Colorado's miners. The United Mine Workers (UMW) were determined to unionize Colorado's fields. To do so they sent in organizers like John Lawson and the famous Mary Harris, "Mother Jones", a well-known Socialist. Demands were different from those at Cripple Creek. The UMW wanted a ten percent wage increase, an eight-hour day, health and safety regulations, the right to select living quarters and the right to have other than company doctors. Above all, recognition of the UMW was demanded.  In response, various companies, most particularly CF&I, threw the strikers out of their homes and brought in strike breakers, hoping to keep up production. Tent cities were soon formed by displaced miners, including a large contingent at Ludlow about 18 miles north of Trinidad. The Colorado state militia was called in to "restore order" and in the process, swooped down on Ludlow in search of "illegal" organizers. A fight broke out, and fire swept the little colony, killing two women and 11 children. Additionally, five miners and one militiaman were killed. The tragedy became known as the Ludlow Massacre. The day, April 20, 1914, became a rallying point for the UMW, but to no avail, for President Woodrow Wilson sent in federal troops who rapidly broke the strike.  The UMW was forceably removed from Colorado's coal fields. But miners did gain concessions, such as wage increases, an eight-hour day, a Workman's Compensation Law (passed in 1915) and the Industrial Commission Act. Out of this strike came a "company union" sponsored by CF&I that supposedly represented the miners and gave them a voice for grievances. The so-called "Rockefeller Plan" was hailed as an ideal way to thwart unions while retaining control of workers. The plan was named after John D. Rockefeller, part owner of CF&I. 
Trinidad and Walsenburg were not the only areas to be struck. Canon City and Florence mines were also the sites of labor strife. The Canon City Coal District's major mines were located at Rockvale, Brookside, Williamsburg, Chandler, Coal Creek and Bear Gulch. The Rockvale-Williamsburg mines were serious producers, and these towns contained thousands of miners and their families. As at Trinidad, working conditions and union recognition provoked a strike in 1913. As the southern fields went out in September, so too did Canon City. There was little violence until April 20, 1914. After Ludlow, union miners and mine guards fought pitched battles at Rockvale and Chandler. There was one fatality, the threat of bombings, and other destruction. The state militia was called in on April 27, 1914, and an uneasy peace was restored.  The Canon City mines went back to work in the summer of 1914 as did Trinidad's operations. The strike was broken and miners had to be contented with "company unions."
While labor warfare was the by-word on the eastern plains, places like the San Luis Valley and South Park remained calm. South Park, faced with declining mines and mills, turned to agriculture as its mainstay. Cattle ranching, hay raising and sheep grazing all stayed the park's weakened economy. The great mining centers of Fairplay and Tarryall all but disappeared. Fairplay survived only because it was Park County seat and the park's main service center. Population decreased to some 300 in all of Park County by 1900.  The other South Park towns lay along railroads. The Denver, South Park and Pacific, now part of the Colorado and Southern, was the main employer at Jefferson, Como, Garo and Antero Junction. Places like Hartsel and Antero were sustained by the Colorado Midland.  Both railroads transported cattle out of the area and provided a limited tax base for Park County. However, the trains were doomed by 1915 due to changing transportation modes.
The advent of automobiles and trucks during the early 1900's hurt shortline railways. In fact, the first gasoline auto of record in Colorado was owned by Dr. F.L. Bartlett of Canon City, proud driver of an Oldsmobile. He took delivery of his car in 1901 and the motor age had begun in southeast Colorado.  By 1902, some 200 cars were registered in Denver alone, and the rapid spread of motor cars did not bode well for railroads. The Colorado Midland, already in deep financial trouble, was abandoned in 1921. Passenger service had ended in 1918. The loss of the Midland was not serious, since the DSP&P was still in business. Cattle ranchers and hay raisers at the south end of the South Park were the big losers. 
The San Luis Valley saw somewhat better times during the first years of the 20th century. Agriculture, as always, continued to expand. Since irrigation ditches were in operation since the 1880's, and because most lands were taken up along the major drainages, there were few new areas that could be farmed. Nevertheless, north of Alamosa, marginal lands were sold for farming purposes. The Mosca Land and Farm Company was set up in 1891 to provide land for tenant farmers. By 1900, the town of Mosca had the largest flour mill in the valley, a newspaper and other such "signs of civilization." Mosca was a commercial land venture designed to provide vegetables and wheat for export.  Another new farm town in the northern reaches of the valley was Garrison. During the panic of 1893, Garrison went broke and was partly abandoned. In 1896, the place was renamed Hooper. Farmers began to develop farmlands around the immediate region. That things were going well, was seen in the fact that the Denver and Rio Grande built a line from Villa Grove to Alamosa, passing both Mosca and Hooper. This then connected Poncha Pass with Alamosa and the Durango branch.  Water became a major problem for settlements north of Alamosa. Not only was the water table too high, but there were also salinity leaks. By the early 1900's, many acres were so waterlogged that they were abandoned and overgrown by greasewood and rabbitbrush. Nevertheless, projects were attempted, between 1911 and 1921, to solve these problems. Inasmuch as most river water was already taken for irrigation needs, farmers at the northern end of the valley drilled artesian wells. They were fairly inexpensive to tap and provided considerable water. The many wells drilled caused the water table to drop, and several surface lakes dried up. During the 1950's, the artesian boom caused considerable drainage of the valley's water supplies and as a result, the Bureau of Reclamation has undertaken the Closed Basin Project to try and save what water is left. 
Attempts at other development continued during the early 1900's. Near La Garita, a small boom took place when the Oklahoma Land Company sponsored a lottery for local lands. Mineral Hot Springs was developed as a tourist spot, and by 1911 even had a post office. The center of the valley saw crop diversification at the turn of the century. Vegetables became a major cash crop and truck gardening arose around Center, Colorado which was platted in 1898. In 1909, the Costilla Estate Development Company attempted to sell the high lands around Culebra and Costilla Creeks. The company built Sanchez Reservoir to water the area and laid out the townsites of San Acacio, Mesita and Jarosa. Some Japanese truck farmers later settled at San Acacio.  Costilla Estate was not the first land company in this area. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church founded a colony at Jarosa, where they operated a cooperative farm and in 1910 they established an agricultural academy. In 1911, a post office was opened at Jarosa and when the San Luis Southern Railroad arrived, the little settlement prospered, for shops and other railway facilities were built here.  The San Luis Southern Railroad was one of the last independent roads built in Colorado. It ran from Blanca to Jarosa, and served to connect with the Denver and Rio Grande at Blanca. The San Luis Southern hauled vegetables, potatoes and other local crops to the D&RG where they were transshipped to Denver and other points. The railroad, started in 1910, still operates and serves the same purpose, connecting the center of the valley with the Rio Grande.  In 1913, another short line was constructed from Sugar Junction (2-1/2 miles east of Monte Vista) to Center. Operations on the San Luis Central Railroad began September 1, 1913. This line carried sugar beets, vegetables and potatoes to Center, where it also connected with the Rio Grande. The San Luis Central was the last railroad built in the valley and still serves this region on a seasonal basis. 
As mentioned, the automobile's introduction in the early 1900's revolutionized transportation throughout the nation. Not only was mobility greatly increased, but new service industries developed because of automobiles. For instance, the Gates Rubber Company, in Denver, became the largest western manufacturer of tires, belts and other parts for cars.  Additionally, gas stations, roadside cafes and places to stay sprang up along improved roads. Under increasing pressure, the state and counties were forced to improve wagon and stage roads for cars. In this way, today's state and county highway system began. The rapid increase in automobile ownership culminated in something called the Goods Roads Movement. The Colorado Good Roads Association was founded in 1905, and in 1908 became the Rocky Mountain Highway Association. Its lobby efforts helped create the State Highway Department.  The state was forced to admit that cars were here to stay and began road building. In 1905, Skyline Drive at Canon City was built, while 1911 saw the opening of a road to the Royal Gorge. Using convict labor, a state road was built in 1899, from Pueblo to Leadville. It later became U.S. Highway 50.  Road building was given a boost when, in 1916, Congress passed legislation by which the Federal government would double every dollar the state invested in highways. Federal aid led to national highway construction, including paved roads along the old Santa Fe Trail, up the canyon of the Arkansas, and north from Pueblo to Denver using the older, heavily used wagon routes. The Southern Transcontinental Highway or the "Rainbow Route," (U.S. 50) followed the Arkansas from Holly to Pueblo and then climbed over Monarch Pass. 
As railroads were abandoned, old roadbeds were turned into automobile highways. In 1918, the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad was torn up and the Victor Auto Club converted the Phantom Canyon into a dirt auto road. When the Short Line Railroad was removed in 1924, it became the Corley Highway; operated as a toll road until 1939 when it was renamed the Gold Camp Road. 
Tourism was, traditionally, a railroad function. For years the Denver and Rio Grande; the Colorado Midland; the Denver, South Park and Pacific, along with the transcontinental lines, advertised Colorado as a tourist mecca. Not only were long-term visitors sought, but the weekend trade was also encouraged. The Rio Grande, for instance, advertised the Royal Gorge and its famous "Hanging Bridge," while the Colorado Midland ran "Wildflower Trips" into South Park on Sundays. The Florence and Cripple Creek touted the Phantom Canyon Route for its scenic beauty, while the Rio Grande lured visitors into the San Luis Valley by promising them scenic vistas while on the way to the fabled San Juans.  The use of travel and tourism by the railroads was badly eroded by the new automobile which threatened the very survival of some railways. The automobile brought in not only more tourists, but also increased demand for access roads. In 1912, the Forest Service was authorized to build "highways" in National Forests and to allow for select cabin and lodge sites within the timber reserves. This opened whole new worlds for car drivers, tourists, campers and summer settlers. Public camping areas became quite popular as was seen in the establishment of the Royal Gorge Park during 1906. Here some 2,000 acres were deeded to Canon City by Congress, and the Royal Gorge soon became a major tourist attraction. By 1923, there were 643,000 annual visitors to 250 campgrounds throughout Colorado, thus attesting to the new relationship between tourists and cars. The suspension bridge over the Gorge was opened in 1929, increasing tourism even further. 
Colorado was always known for its healthy climate. Colorado Springs, for instance, was the site of several clinics for lung disease. Sanitariums were built at Buena Vista and Canon City to serve the very ill. Mineral waters and the clear air were drawing points. The many mineral springs in the region were bottled, diverted, or made into swimming pools. Mineral waters in the San Luis Valley were developed, too. Mineral hot springs are common in the valley, which is an area of considerable geothermal activity. Mineral and Valley View were the better known sites, but places like O'Neil Hot Springs, Hunt Springs, the Mishak and Russell Lakes, and something known as Shaw's Magnetic Springs (near Del Norte) all drew health seekers. The waters were alleged to cure virtually any ailment and are still in use today by those hoping for relief.  Mineral Hot Springs has a few current visitors, while Valley View Hot Springs is now a private nudist resort.
While tourism was, and remains, a major source of the region's economy, agriculture came to the forefront in the teens, due to war. The progress of American entry into World War I was contiguous to reform and changes in society wrought by the Progressive Party's demands. The Progressives, heirs to the Populist legacy, succeeded from about 1910 to 1914, in electing politicians who were able to implement "drastic" reforms like a graduated income tax, referendum, recall, the secret vote, Prohibition, and the initiative. Men like Edward P. Costigan and Judge Ben B. Lindsey represented Colorado Progressives who helped bring about change in government.  For southeast Colorado, one of the more important outcomes of this movement was President Woodrow Wilson's refusal to become involved in World War I. That conflict broke out in August 1914 among Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and various allies. The United States remained neutral, which proved a considerable bonus for American business and the farm community. The mining industry soon benefited from increased exports. Production rose dramatically in southeast Colorado's coal mines, while agriculture found prices skyrocketing and manufacturing could hardly keep up with demand. The advent of war was a fortunate circumstance for Colorado, because 1914 was a depression year. Mineral prices were low, and agricultural demand was down. The strikes of 1913-1914 took their toll on coal mining. Thousands of miners, farmers and laborers were out of work. By 1915, things were so bad that a Committee of Employment and Relief was set up; state, county and private funds were used to help the destitute. Road building was a popular way to provide "make work" jobs, and in this way many county and state highways got built. 
The war's demands for base metals like lead and zinc helped revive a sagging mining industry. Leadville produced the mineral for which it was named, while in other areas copper and zinc were mined. There was also a demand for tungsten, uranium and molybdenum. These minerals were not generally found in commercial quantities in southeastern Colorado, although molybdenum was discovered near Leadville on Fremont Pass. From these finds, the Climax Molybdenum Company (AMAX) developed a large mine, and by 1936 was producing 88 per cent of the nation's supply of this industrial mineral. Of more significance was that Leadville was saved from the possibility of becoming a ghost town as the silver industry died. 
The war also had consequences for the steel and coal industries. Steel production at CF&I in Pueblo rose to meet ever-rising needs for ships, tanks, arms and other war goods. Increased rail traffic caused coal demand to rise, as did steel making. Coal was exported from the region by railroads like the Santa Fe and Missouri Pacific, which gained considerable traffic. Pueblo's economy was doing well by 1916. So were lands eastward along the Arkansas River. 
Perhaps "The Great War" benefitted agriculture the most. As trade routes between Europe and the United States were disrupted, demand for food increased. War ravaged France, and England; Russia, too, needed staples. The American farmer was prepared to help. Sugar beet production rose to meet the need. So too, did cattle and sheep exports. The market for red meat was strong, and cattlemen expanded their herds. Wool was needed for uniforms, and sheep grazing greatly increased to provide the cloth industry with raw materials. Even the Spanish-American War of 1898 had not provided this kind of demand. In any case, beet sugar, cattle, and more importantly, wheat prices rose and farmers smiled. This era also marked the last great homesteading period on the eastern plains. During this time, thousands of settlers arrived and took up the most marginal lands in southeastern Colorado. The area south of the Arkansas River to the Oklahoma line and north of the Arkansas to about Cheyenne Wells, was homesteaded between 1914 and 1920. What was left of the "Great American Desert" was plowed under. Dryland farms took over and Turkey Red wheat was planted everywhere. By 1919, wheat was selling for $2.02 a bushel and there was no end in sight.  The Federal Government, responding to complaints that homesteads of 320 acres (Enlarged Homestead Act of 1911) were too small, enacted the Stockraising Homestead Act in 1916. This legislation provided for homesteads of up to 640 acres if livestock grazing also took place. No cultivation of the land was required, but range improvements were. However, many such homesteads became wheat farms. One feature of the new law was that mineral reserves were withheld for the government. In this way, many acres of the eastern plains of Colorado became "split estate," that is, privately owned surface and federally reserved minerals.  Massive dryland farming on the eastern plains created settlements that served as post offices, general stores and implement dealers. Little towns like Monon or Konantz, in Baca County, date from 1910. This developmental pattern was typical throughout the southeastern plains. Duncan, New Troy, Rule and Maxey, all in Las Animas County, also date from 1910 and served the dryland boom. 
The sad part of this last great homestead effort was that it devastated fragile soils of the high plains. Once the sod was stripped away, erosion set in. Runoff caused heavy gullying, while winds blew topsoil across the nation. The problem was complicated by a basic lack of moisture, severe overplanting and serious overgrazing. Nevertheless, with wheat selling for over two dollars a bushel, farmers did not care about the damage being done to the land. By 1918, food demand was so great that virtually every available acre was under cultivation. The American farmer was feeding not only America, but Europe as well. 
The United States entered World War I in 1917. Colorado, of course, provided its share of men for the front. In addition, victory gardens were planted, Liberty Bonds sold, clothing and bandages were sent to the front, and those who were Germanic by birth were presumed "un-American" and were cruelly persecuted. The German language was banned from schools, and local German newspapers were shut down. This show of "patriotism" climaxed in 1919 during the Great Red Scare.  In November 1918, a peace treaty was signed. Germany was vanquished, and the world was serene once more. While the nations of the earth celebrated, the "war boom" bubble burst. By 1919 this country was in a post-war depression. Farm prices dropped like a rock, and manufacturing was deeply hurt by a lack of orders. The plains of Colorado were badly damaged by the economic crisis, and the "Roaring Twenties" were not happy times for southeast Colorado. The economy was weak, and soon mother nature was going to turn against the farmer and his abuses.
2. Frank Hall, History of Colorado (Chicago: Blakely, 1895), Vol. 3, pp. 480-483; Ubbelohde, Benson and Smith, ibid., p. 239, and Carlyle C. Davis, Olden Times in Colorado (Los Angeles: Phillips, 1916), pp. 337-351.
17. Barron B. Beshoar, Out of the Depths (Denver: Colorado Labor Historical Committee, 1942); George A. McGovern, The Great Coalfield War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972); and George C. Suggs, "The Colorado Coal Miners Strike, 1903-1904," Journal of the West, 7, (1973), pp. 36-52.
31. Athearn, Coloradans, op cit., p. 220; Fritz, op. cit., p. 400; and Ubbelohde, Benson and Smith, op. cit., p. 237. Also: LeRoy R. Hafen, "The Coming of the Automobile and Improved Roads to Colorado," Colorado Magazine, 8, (1931), pp. 1-16.
Last Updated: 20-Nov-2008