The New Empire of the Rockies: A History of Northeast Colorado
BLM Cultural Resources Series (Colorado: No. 16)
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The Early Twentieth Century

From the end of the Panic of 1893 until 1920 northeast Colorado experienced a new phase of development and change. Some older industries disappeared, while new ones took their place and earlier projects, came to fruition. Basic economic pursuits, like farming, took new directions as farmers continued trying different crops and techniques. From 1900 to 1920 two new forces played an ever-increasing role in northeastern Colorado's life; cities and the Federal government. The rapidity with which change took place astounded residents. It appeared as if the "frontier boom" repeated itself as activity across the region took on new proportions. Nowhere was this felt more than in northeastern Colorado's cities. From 1900 to 1920 the region's urban population more than doubled. Towns, large and small, saw the crush of this movement. Growth had other impacts, including a return to prosperity. New businesses opened, bank deposits grew and real estate prices rose. As population increased, towns found themselves without traditional leadership. In some cases, particularly Denver and Colorado Springs, old society found itself not only submerged in a flood of newcomers, but its members were aging and slowly dying. Denver's "old inner circle" fell. Original state builders including David H. Moffat, Walter Cheesman, Charles J. Hughes, Jr., Fred Z. Solomon and others died between 1900 and 1920. Even before death they found that their power was eroded by the deluge of "new rich". By 1920 a new elite was formed to mold the city's destiny. Colorado Springs had a like experience when the community's founder, William Jackson Palmer and a number of his associates passed on. These vacuums led to the development of a new society and encouraged a period of town promotion. [1]

Between 1900 and 1920 growth caused even more growth for the cities of northeast Colorado. Speculators and promoters flocked into the region to establish themselves locally and then proceeded to scour the nation for new immigrants. Promotions highlighted previous development pointing to intense expansion of agriculture and industry. Booster information fell on receptive ears. Sounding like their counterparts in the nineteenth century, promoters of the 1900s again painted pictures of unlimited opportunity in Colorado, while minimizing the effects of the recent depression. Often literature was in general terms and citizens from all walks of life were encouraged to relocate to northeastern Colorado. [2] Newcomers responded to this propaganda and as they arrived, the local economy underwent more diversification. Often, new businesses did not last as industries failed to survive and older units dominated. However, this was not the case in all fields. Some, like smelting, languished in the early twentieth century, as did mining, generally, until World War I. To replace minerals plus other industries that were hurt by the 1893 depression, boosters undertook to entice new manufacturing to Denver and Colorado Springs. Among the newcomers were food processing, including meat packing and produce canning. However, some grandiose schemes did not materialize. One was the Pioneer Iron and Steel Company, to be build in Denver. There was talk of the metal works by local interests in 1902 and 1903, but nothing came of this promotion. Despite failures, the regional economy did experience a certain degree of diversification because older industries had been crippled by the Panic of 1893. [3]

The region's mineral industry was hardest hit by events at the close of the nineteenth century. Without the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, prices stayed low well into the 1900s, when a slight revival occurred. In Gilpin and Clear Creek Counties the upturn was short-lived due to labor disputes. The Western Federation of Miners, (WFM) a union that gained strength during the 1890s, organized workers in the mining camps of northeast Colorado at the turn of the century. Union efforts were lessened by economic problems of the times, especially as mineowners cut wages and laid-off men in an attempt to keep their properties open. By 1903 the WFM felt confident enough that when operators tried to institute new pay reductions, the union called a strike. While the work stoppage was brief, it was enough to cause hardship for owners and forced marginal operations out of business. [4] Despite setbacks, miners in Boulder, Clear Creek and Gilpin Counties were still optimistic about the area as a continuing source of precious metals. Unwilling to give up, mine operators in Clear Creek and Gilpin counties banded together to support the Argo Tunnel and Mill near Idaho Springs. The tunnel connected mines as far away as Central City with the mill in an effort to reduce transportation costs. Part of this new spirit came from new gold discoveries around Wall Street and at Jamestown in Boulder County. The ores were of a lower quality than previously mined and claimholders decided that a cheaper milling method was needed to make the mines profitable. This led to construction of a large stamp mill and concentrator works at Wall Street, the remains of which can still be seen. Wall Street, Sunshine, Sunset and other communities in the area saw overnight growth. Prosperity tapered off through World War I, but by then the richest deposits were nearly exhausted and processing costs were rising. These two factors made mining unprofitable and companies closed. Silver also enjoyed a brief resurgence during World War I, but this "boomlet" passed by 1920. That year generally marked an end to northeast Colorado's precious metal industry, except for small scale, localized operations. [5]

This Boulder County tungsten mill, 1917, represented the boom that took place during World War I. F. L. Hess Photo, Courtesy USGS.

Semi-precious minerals also gained attention during the early years of the twentieth century. Tungsten caused a mania reminiscent of earlier rushes. It is a metal used in steel alloys to harden the final product. The "black iron," as it was called, was known for many years. However, not until after 1900 did this mineral became commercially valuable. Tungsten had no use when it was first encountered during the early 1870s and in fact was cursed by the miners around Nederland and Caribou because it was interlocked with silver. When the metal was correctly identified, little development happened because the steel industry had its needs met by Pennsylvania and other states near the eastern plants. Boulder County road crews did find a use for tungsten when they put the crushed mineral on roads in place of gravel. [6] The situation quickly changed, after 1910, when steel companies needed more tungsten than they could get from traditional suppliers. Organizations were created and they sent men to Colorado to find claims and to start mines. In Boulder County some silver mines found waste piles in greater demand than silver or ore itself. Would be miners flocked to camps near tungsten deposits and a boom was underway. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the arms race that preceded it, increased production at tungsten mines, caused by a world-wide demand for hardened steel. As orders for armaments flowed in from all sides, American factories paid higher prices and mines were opened to supply the nation's blast furnaces. As the United States entered World War I during 1917, mining activity remained high. By mining activity then Boulder county mines produced 80 percent of America's total output. The boom continued into 1918 until an epidemic influenza swept the western United States. Boulder County's tungsten camps were hardest hit of any towns in Colorado. Hundreds died from the flu which some people connected with local tungsten mines. Finding replacement workers was difficult and as the ranks of labor thinned, mines closed. At the same time, events elsewhere caused problems for the region's tungsten industry. On November 11, 1918, an Armistice went into effect and the war was over. Steel demand dropped dramatically and so did need for Colorado's mineral. The final blow came in the early 1920s when new Chinese mines opened and produced a better ore at much lower cost. While it lasted, the "black iron" boom helped foster local economic growth and prolonged the life of a few camps in Boulder County. [7]

Vanadium was another steel oriented mineral extracted from the hills near Nederland, Jamestown and Caribou between 1910 and 1920. This mineral developed as an auxiliary to some tungsten operations since vanadium was part of "black iron's" ore. The primary source of vanadium, a radioactive element, was actually on Colorado's Western Slope. However, pockets found in northeast Colorado were developed commercially. An outgrowth of this mineral was the development of processing plants for both vanadium and radium in Denver. After discovery of the x-ray, demand grew and the "Queen City," being near a source of supply, became home to small companies that converted raw ore into marketable products. As the market for radioactive materials declined after 1918, this cottage industry disappeared, due partly to Belgian Congo pitchblende supplying world needs at lower cost. [8]

The mines that proved most stable from 1900 to 1920 in northeast Colorado were fuel producers. Coal fields in eastern Boulder County, producing since the 1870s, continued to grow during this era. Primary users of local coal were homeowners and small businesses. The low grade of the fuel limited its industrial use. However, as the area's population increased, so did demand for home heating, thereby assuring colleries a secure market. Further southeast, in Elbert, eastern Adams and in Arapahoe counties, coal mines opened to produce lignite for the same consumers. After World War I broke out, demand for this mineral grew even more and prices rose accordingly. Because most area coal was not of industrial quality, production did not skyrocket, but rather grew just enough to keep pace with local need. Even without huge wartime needs coal mines were profitable and, by 1920, remained in expanding production. [9]

Petroleum, a somewhat new energy source, became popular during the early twentieth century. Northeastern Colorado evolved into one of the state's leading oil producers. By 1910, oil slowly replaced coal as the most used fuel in America. At that time geologists suspected that large deposits lay under the plains of northeast Colorado. Test wells were drilled and gushers followed. Overnight towns like Fort Lupton and Hudson were household words as attention focused on these new oil fields. Major petroleum companies and smaller operators all searched eastern Boulder, Larimer, Weld and Adams counties looking for promising formations. This then extended eastward onto the plains. Oil "mania" spread, and taking advantage, con men offered phony stock in wells or set up bogus drilling companies to separate the investor from his money. This phase passed as serious operators developed local oil resources. The first area was known as the Boulder Field or the Boulder Dome. To the east was the Wattenburg Field. Excitement died down in a few years but wells continued to produce handsomely. By 1920 northeast Colorado lost its reputation as a major oil region due to new fields in Oklahoma and west Texas. [10]

Another non-precious mineral that saw increased use during the early twentieth century was limestone, it was widely used in concrete manufacturing. Increased consumption of this building material led to closure of stone quarries near Fort Collins and Loveland. Cement was in demand during the early 1900s, and northeastern Colorado, thanks to Ideal Cement Company of Denver, became one of the West's largest concrete producers. Limestone was also used in sugar beet processing and as that industry grew, demand increased. Mining in the region, as an industry, changed from the "romantic" business of gold and silver to more mundane extraction of coal, oil, stone and other semiprecious minerals. [11]

Ranching was another part of northeast Colorado's economy that underwent significant modification between 1900 and 1920. Hard times in the 1890s had two effects on stockraising in this area. First, as homesteaders abandoned their claims, range grass slowly reclaimed the plains. In some counties this allowed ranching to regain its dominant position. The other important impact on cattle operators was forcing them to give up open range ranching. This in particular, made cattlemen include feedlots as part of their operations. Stockmen found the job of conversion eased as sugar beets became popular. The processed beet pulp was highly nutritious for cattle and it became readily available. Ranchers who made changes soon found themselves hybrids, half ranchers and half farmers, spliting their time between growing feed and tending herds. Blurred traditional employment lines meant there were few "pure" cattlemen or farmers left in the region. Another trend was an increasing number of ranchers who ran sheep to supplement cattle. This continued until World War I when beef prices rose sharply. [12] Even with new ranching methods, some stockmen in northeast Colorado refused to give up their old ways. As late as 1907, trail drives were still held by area ranchers to move herds into market or to a railroad. After that time this practice was abandoned, except for short distances. The drive changed due to gasoline powered trucks, and because nearly every rancher was close to a rail line as railroads built new branchlines during this period. [13]

Open range grazing on public lands also became a thing of the past, especially after 1900. In 1891 Congress addressed the problem of land fraud that took place under both the Timber Culture and the Desert Land Acts. That body decided the General Land Office (GLO) did not have necessary manpower to enforce land laws properly and that as long as the statutes were in effect these abuses could not be stopped. The only solution was selective repeal, which Congress did in the General Revision Act of 1891. At the same time, Congress empowered the President to withdraw lands from private entry and set them aside as Timber Reserves. By the early 1900s considerable land along northeastern Colorado's front range was withdrawn. Once reserved, the Timber Service, at first part of the GLO and later transferred to the Department of Agriculture, excluded lumbermen and ranchers from these lands which led to problems, mostly on the West Slope. There were also conflicts in the eastern Rockies because many ranchers and sheep men depended on the high country for summer range. The government also sought to promote range conservation. Land use conflicts continued into the early twentieth century when a system of grazing allotments and fees was established by the new Forest Service. Protests over Federal "intervention" came from northeast Colorado stock and timber interests, but their outcries were mute compared to those heard in Rifle, Glenwood Springs or Craig. This was due, in large part, to their relatively small numbers within the total population of this region and a strong conservation ethic felt by northeastern Coloradans. [14]

By far the greatest changes in regional agriculture took place in farming, not ranching. The advent of sugar beet raising and processing was a significant local event. The 1890s saw farmers in irrigated areas, near the front range and along the South Platte Valley, heavily in debt and without cash crops. The orchards and fruits they had previously grown no longer commanded high prices and growers searched for replacements. This led, by the turn of the century, to sugar beets as a popular source of cash. [15]

Beet sugar's history started with Napoleon during the first decade of the 1800s. Because of war with England, France was cut off from her suppliers in the West Indies. To make up this deficit, France undertook a program to foster domestic sugar production. From here cultivation of sugar beets spread to much of central Europe. By the Civil War a few in this country were talking of beet sugar as a replacement for cane sugar. During the 1870s, as farmers filled the South Platte Valley, some experimented with beets. They discovered that beets would grow well in Colorado's climate if fields were well irrigated. Throughout the late nineteenth century testing continued, but few farmers took up beet growing because there was no market. [16] Factories to process beets appeared in the West during the 1880s. Plants were constructed in California, Nebraska and Utah, but the return on beets grown in Colorado and then shipped out of state was so low that no one considered beet cultivation feasible for Centennial State growers. During bad times, at the end of the nineteenth century, regional farmers reconsidered their situation and tried to attract money into the South Platte Valley in order to finance a beet factory. Charles Boettcher and John Campion, two Colorado mining magnates recognized this state's potential as a sugar producer. While both men were closely tied to Denver business, they found that the most attractive offers of assistance came from Mesa County on the west slope. In 1899, with aid from the east slope investors, Colorado's first sugar factory was opened at Grand Junction. Trouble with Mesa County farmers soon caused the Denver group to re-evaluate its choice. [17]

Sugar beets became a major crop in northeastern Colorado during the early 1900s. The Great Western plant at Longmont, Colorado processed thousands of tons of beets yearly. A. E. Turner Photo, Courtesy USGS.

By 1901 Boettcher's attention was on the South Platte Valley. That year both he and Campion financed construction of a beet sugar plant at Loveland. Farmers quickly responded and the factory had more beets than it could process. This interest led others, including groups of farmers, to build beet refining facilities in northeast Colorado Sugar became the region's watchword during the early 1900s. Towns along the South Platte, such as Fort Collins and Greeley were alive with talk of this new industry and how their cities could be the heart of Colorado's sugar business. The agricultural college at Fort Collins conducted seed studies to help farmers find better strains. An agricultural boom was underway in northeast Colorado by 1905 as "beet mania" spread. [18] Boettcher was pleased with beet sugar's first years in northeastern Colorado. Rapid expansion and large initial profits were soon attracting financiers from outside the region. In 1905 Boettcher and Arthur Havemeyer of the American Sugar Company entered into an agreement resulting in the Great Western Sugar Company. These partners bought five regional plants and, with the Loveland operation, formed the corporation's core. Such interest on the part of venture capitalists encouraged South Platte Valley farmers to expand beet production more. By 1910, as the "boom" leveled off, over 79,000 acres were devoted solely to beet growing. New irrigation systems and reservoirs were also built to cash in on this bonanza. Great Western constructed factories up and down the South Platte and in towns like Longmont and Windsor. The sugar corporation helped finance water projects, factories, and it even built its own railroad, the Great Western Railway, to connect local farmers to company facilities. The one problem that both corporation and growers experienced during the "boom" was a serious labor shortage. [19]

Work in beet fields was hard. Thinning and cultivation required hand labor, much of which was spent crawling and squating. Farmers were unable to do the work themselves even with help from family members. Anglo field hands were few in number and unwilling to do "stoop labor". To meet this shortage, Great Western stepped in by recruiting campaigns on the Great Plains and overseas to find workers. [20] One ethnic group particularly receptive to Great Western's offers were the Volga Germans or German Russians. These people were of Germanic origin and had settled on the Russian steppes during the reign of Catherine the Great. They settled in Russia until the late nineteenth century when new restrictions by Czar Alexander II limited their freedoms. At the same time, agents for American land companies sought immigrants to move on to the American Great Plains. German-Russians were accepted by other Coloradans; however, the foreigners' habits of self-segregation and the continuation of old customs like the German language led to occasional charges of clannishness. [22]

The outbreak of World War I, in 1914, increased tensions with Coloradans of Germanic heritage. Most of this was a spill-over of patriotic feelings, but on occasion flag-waving was used to mask jealousy over the Volga-German success. The European war caused the German-Russians to seek further ethnocentricity while at the same time they gave up some outward manifestations of their cultural heritage. Even with this period of hostility, acceptance of the new settlers was good in northeast Colorado and since the early twentieth century German-Russians have made significant contributions to this region. [23]

Even with the influx of Volga-Germans, beet producers still found themselves short of help. Great Western and other various other growers associations continued to look for new labor supplies. They found two groups and used them between 1900 and 1920. Japanese-Americans along the Pacific Coast were eager to move to Colorado when they heard of job opportunities. Entire families came east and worked in the beet fields. Like the German-Russians, they saved their earnings and bought land. Some supplemented beet crops with truck gardens and they sold their vegetables to local markets. Of the Japanese-Americans who relocated to the South Platte Valley during the twentieth century, some went other places in Colorado, like the San Luis Valley. Beet hands brought in from Mexico were somewhat different. Large numbers spent the growing season in the region and then they returned home during the winter. Some came with their families while others moved wives and children to Colorado only after the husband had spent a year or two acquiring enough money to bring kin from Mexico. Mexicans were the least accepted newcomers. In some towns they faced both segregation and physical violence. [24]

As the sugar boom progressed and all available irrigated land was put into beets, new settlers looked to the dry plains as a place to farm. Memories of the disastrous years during the 1890s faded and settlers edged their way onto the prairie. A combination of factors helped this movement. Primary was the introduction of new wheat strains, especially Russian varieties that were far better in an arid environment. The development of hybrids, suited to dryland farming, was given special emphasis by Federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by the state's Agricultural College at Fort Collins. Farmers could minimize wind erosion yet maximize soil water retention so that what rain that did fall would be better utilized. The concepts of field rotation and fallow plots was used for further water conservation. [25] The early 1900s also witnessed a new round of land speculation. Denver newspapers, businessmen, land locators, colonizers, the State Board of Immigration and speculators undertook campaigns to "sell" Colorado's dryland farming potential. These activities publicized recent developments, while minimizing earlier failures. Another device promoters used was to lobby Congress to revise homestead legislation, allowing individuals to claim more than 160 acres. They saw this matter as critical to the success of any new attempts at dryland farming because both the Timber Culture Act and Desert Land Act were repealed. [26] From 1900 to 1909 there was a groundswell supporting change in land law, to improve homesteading possibilities on the arid plains. While 160 acres was adequate for a family's needs in the humid Midwest, such a tract could not do well in Colorado without major irrigation. Calls for legislative revision came from several Plains states. Congress responded in 1909 with passage of legislation providing for 320 acres homesteads, in certain dry regions. This was called the Enlarged Homestead Act. Promoters felt the new law still did not go far enough. Three years later the Borah Act was passed. It relaxed residency requirements. Instead of five years occupancy, a settler now only had to spend seven months each of the "prove-up" years. During this same time, funds were allocated by both Federal and state governments to conduct field tests on dryland techniques and crops. An experimental agricultural station was located at Cheyenne Wells and another at Akron. [27]

World War I played a key role in the spread of dryland farming. The United States became food supplier to the warring nations that demanded basics like wheat and corn. Production from existing farms could not possibly fill the need, so more settlers invaded the plains. As they did, the inadequacy of 320 acre farms became quite apparent. New pressure was put on Congress to further modify existing homestead laws. Adding to the clamor were ranchers who sought to increase their range. Cattlemen pointed to the fact that limited forage was available on the plains, and if parceled out in 320 acre blocks, it could not support viable ranch operations. Mounting pressure finally forced Congress to take action. In 1916 the Stock Raising Homestead Act was passed. It allowed an individual to claim up to 640 acres in arid places. These varied modifications of national land policy, up to 1916, led to the settlement and transfer onto private ownership nearly all public domain in northeast Colorado. [28] Farmers poured onto the plains between 1910 and 1920 to take advantage of liberal homestead laws. Yuma County became state leader in acres of dryland crops planted. Prosperity seemed easy to anyone who would take up public land and plant crops. These views were reinforced by wartime demand for food. The new bonanza encouraged farmers to buy more land and to expand their production. A series of fortunate wet years during the late teens led to the most marginal of land being put into production. [29]

One of the more unique promotional schemes of the times was the Dearfield colony, near Fort Morgan. Founded in 1911 by Denverite Oliver T. Jackson, this new community was to be for blacks, a place where they could build their own Utopia. Jackson was also a black and had been in Colorado since 1887. As Jackson tried to popularize the colony in Colorado he found meagre local response. But as news of the town travelled east, settlers moved in. By 1911 farm land was purchased and sixty families moved into Dearfield townsite. From then until the early 1920s this colony and its dryland farmers flourished. By 1921 some 700 people occupied the place and it appeared that Jackson's dream was reality. However, after wartime prosperity passed, residents became dissatisfied and left Dearfield. By the end of that decade, most had given up and the town withered away. Jackson's great experiment became one more of the many agricultural ghost towns in northeast Colorado. [30]

The Federal government's role in the dryland farm "boom" during the early twentieth century was another example of ever-increasing influence that events in Washington, D.C. had on the history of northeast Colorado. Most of this governmental change came from land policies. The General Revision Act of 1891 began the trend away from disposal of the public domain. Initially, the Timber Reserve system was applauded by northeast Coloradans. Area residents had first hand experience with the scars that man left behind on the forests. The mining and smelting frontier denuded hillsides in the region as had uncontrolled lumbering. Not only was this damage unpleasant to look at but it was also unsafe. Rain and snow eroded soils and polluted watercourses, the lifeblood of area farmers. Rock slides and avalanches caused by devegetation were also dangerous. The 1890s drought finally convinced regional residents of a need for conservation, despite violent protests from other parts of this state. [31]

Almost as soon as the new law went into effect the government began withdrawing western lands for timber reserves. First was the Pike's Peak Timber Reserve (1892), north and west of Colorado Springs. This was followed, in 1902, by withdrawals that eventually became Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. In 1905 control of forest lands passed that created the United States Forest Service. In 1920 the Colorado portion of Medicine Bow National Forest (1905) was separated and renamed Colorado National Forest. Roosevelt National Forest was created in 1932, made of parts from older Forests and Timber Reserves. Setting aside these lands was just one part of the Federal conservation program. Backers of federal forests saw that not only should industry be prevented from destroying these resources but also that the government must take positive steps toward management of its land. Critics claimed natural resources were locked away forever, but soon after creation of the Forest Service they were proved wrong. As early as 1899 reserve administrators undertook the controlled use of resources, primarily in the form of grazing permits limiting use of forest ranges. The main defender of this policy was Gifford Pinchot. At first he was unable to do more than criticize the Timber Service, but after creation of the Forest Service where Pinchot worked, he was made Chief of this new agency. Pinchot's policies of use fees and control of forest lands, supported by President Theodore Roosevelt, led to a new round of protests in Colorado. Most residents of the northeast corner opposed their fellow Coloradans and came out in support of the newly revised rules. By 1910 anger subsided and the Forest Service was accepted in most of Colorado. [32]

Enos Mills, seen here in 1916, was a major promoter for the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. W. T. Lee Photo, Courtesy USGS.

The Stanely Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, was a popular tourist spot at the turn of the century. This 1916 photo shows the hotel just as Rocky Mountain National Park was about to open. W. T. Lee Photo, Courtesy USGS.

Another conservation thrust was the establishment of national parks. During the early twentieth century such creations were aimed at preserving national scenic wonders. The park movement gained momentum in the 1900s as the conservation movement blossomed. It was felt, at first, that only the most spectacular areas, like Yellowstone, should become National Parks. Northeastern Colorado had little to offer because most of the scenic areas were already developed. However, the Rockies along the Continental Divide, west of Estes Park, were relatively untrammelled and they already had an established tourist reputation. During the late 1800s, and into the early teens, area boosters lobbied Congress to set aside a National Park. The first formal park proposal was put forward in 1909 by Enos A. Mills, a local conservationist who wanted to preserve the Rockies. Mills wrote several books and lectured on the wonders of the mountains. A need for a National Park to serve as a visitor playground was expressed. Denver and other northeast Colorado businessmen picked up on this idea and furthered the Mills campaign, seeing that increased tourism equalled more profits. In 1915 Mills' work bore fruit when Colorado Congressman Edward T. Taylor introduced a bill for the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. Once open to the public the park was an overnight success. Because of its proximity to Denver and the ease of access offered to visitors from around the world, this new facility quickly became one of the most popular National Parks in the West. [33]

The Federal government's role in northeast Colorado during the early twentieth century was not limited to land and resource management. One lesser effect of federal involvement was the expansion of Denver's commercial area. At the turn of the century, the U.S. Postal Service introduced Rural Free Delivery (RFD), including parcel post. No longer did farmers have to go into town for their mail; it came to them. It was practical for rural residents to mail order items from Denver's merchants. Some retailers in the Queen City took immediate advantage of this new service by setting up special departments for mail order and by advertising in newspapers. This was the first step in mass marketing. Improvements in communication decreased rural isolation, while spreading the lifestyle of cities to the hinterland. Later, other improvements, like radios and cars increased urbanization of the plains. [34] Another mark of this century in northeast Colorado was the growth of military facilities. This started when the United States prepared for an active role in World War I. The Army was interested in building a hospital in Colorado. Towns made offers to the War Department but Denver, with a parcel of land to turn over to the Army, won the competition and Fitzsimmons Army Hospital was built on the east edge of the city. [35]

These same years marked the end of another era, that of mainline railroad building. By 1902 local promoters attacked a problem that had plagued Denver since the 1860s; lack of a rail route directly west of the city. During the late nineteenth century there was talk of such a route but little was done. One of the foremost proponents of this idea was David H. Moffat. Having seen the northeast region grow for forty years, Moffat was convinced that its commercial position would only be secured after direct standard gauge rail connections were completed westward. Responding to the call, Moffat founded the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway (DNW&P) in 1902. The purpose was to build northwest, up South Boulder Creek, then over Rollins Pass and across Middle Park. From here it would follow the Colorado (Grand) River to a point near McCoy, Colorado before turning north to Steamboat Springs. In northwestern Colorado the rails would stretch on to Salt Lake City by way of Craig and Vernal, Utah. Such a route not only gave Denver a much shorter line to Utah but it also provided the frontier segment of Colorado with rail service. [36] As he announced these plans, Moffat got competition. Edward H. Harriman and George J. Gould controlled both the Union Pacific and Denver and Rio Grande railroads. They were well-known rail magnates and both stood to lose business if the Moffat scheme succeeded. Moffat found it impossible to attract capital to his company because of their opposition and he was forced to finance most of the railroad himself. Another problem Moffat encountered was rugged terrain that had to be conquered as rails inched their way up the front range. Nevertheless, by 1904 trains were running to Arrow on the west side of Rollins Pass. Moffat continued promoting the road until his death in 1911. When his estate was settled, it was discovered that he had died penniless; the DNW&P consumed his entire fortune. [37] In addition to serious financial problems, another factor plagued the Moffat Road, as the DNW&P was called. That was a costly operation over 11,000 foot Rollins Pass. A tunnel under the Continental Divide was needed. Those who replaced Moffat at company headquarters, especially William Gray Evans, realized this. As rails moved toward Craig in 1913 Evans began a campaign to secure financial aid from either the city of Denver or the state. He met with no success. When the Moffat Road was taken over by the United States Railway Administration (USRA) during World War I, the company's officers tried to convince Federal officials to build a tunnel, but to no avail. By 1920 the Denver and Salt Lake, (D&SL) as it was renamed, had built only to Craig and it still lacked a practical route through the Continental Divide. [38]

The Moffat Road, along Coal Creek Canyon, was a feat of engineering as this 1909 photo shows. M. R. Campbell Photo, Courtesy USGS.

The Moffat Road was not the only northeast Colorado rail company to encounter financial problems during the first twenty years of this century. The Denver and Rio Grande, under George Gould, found itself grossly over-extended and in poor operation condition by 1920. This was due, in large part, to Gould's use of the Rio Grande's credit to build the Western Pacific from Salt Lake City to Oakland, California. The Colorado Midland never did recover from the 1893 depression. During the early teens Albert E. Carlton, of Colorado Springs, bought the company but was unable to save it. He presided over abandonment in 1918. The year before, two other companies, the Argentine Central near Silver Plume, and the Gilpin Tram at Central City, were dismantled. The Colorado and Southern, (C&S) a child of the 1890s, was made up of parts of the Denver and New Orleans, the Colorado Central and the Denver, South Park and Pacific, all previously owned by the Union Pacific. In 1908, the C and S was sold to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. [39]

Not all of northeast Colorado's railroads experienced such hardship during the early years of this century. The Denver, Boulder and Western (DB&W), reorganized from the old Colorado and Northwestern (C&NW), from Boulder to the mining camps of that County, prospered because of increased mineral activity. Its lines were extended to Ward and Eldora. The route was called "the Switzerland Trail of America" because of its twisting rails and spectacular scenery. The DB&W became a favorite of tourists seeking one-day excursions. However, prosperity was short-lived and by 1920 the line was scrapped. Equally prosperous were trolley lines and interurbans in Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. The Colorado and Southern built and operated the region's only true interurban, the "Kite Route." This system used its parent company's rails from Denver to Boulder and had lines to Marshall, Superior and Eldorado Springs. [40]

A contributing factor to the decline of railways was the rapid spread auto roads in northeast Colorado. From 1900 to 1910 the region was caught up in a craze that swept the country during the late 1890s. The Good Roads Movement was initially supported by bicyclists, but it picked up more followers as automobile use increased. Road users lobbied the state legislature to fund highway construction and improvement. Being ever conscious of the potential for increased tourism, Denver and other front range cities supported this. Taking small steps at first Colorado's General Assembly, later joined by county governments, began projects to construct or pave local roads. Rural residents, seeing these improvements, clamored for work on their farm roads. Between 1910 and 1915. smaller communities benefitted due to the Good Roads Movement. At about the same time (1919) the Federal government undertook construction of a coast to coast highway. When US 40 was laid out, it crossed east-central Colorado and passed through Denver. This was the first of many such pathways that were built in the 1920s. In 1913 the first automobile made it to the top of Pike's Peak and drivers lost their fear that cars could not be driven in the mountains. Taking the family runabout into the hills for a vacation became a most popular pastime from within and outside of northeast Colorado. World War I increased the use of autos and trucks to haul goods while stimulating new efforts at road building. By 1920, northeastern Colorado was completely involved in the "Auto Age." [41]

The years 1900 to 1920 were a period of significant change for northeast Colorado. Possibly no other era, with the exception of gold rush days, had more impact on the region's history. Older lifestyles passed and new began. World War I led to considerable prosperity and indicated that the sweeping changes were good. As the 1920s dawned, nearly every northeast Coloradan felt that this new decade held nothing but prosperity. It did not take long for reality to shatter these illusions.

Chapter X: Notes

1Lyle W. Dorsett, The Queen City, A History of Denver, (Boulder: Pruett, 1977), pp. 188-192, hereafter cited: Dorsett, Queen, and Marshall Sprague, One Hundred Plus, A. Centennial Story of Colorado Springs, (Colorado Springs: Colorado Springs Centennial Inc., 1971), pp. 18-22, hereafter cited: Sprague, 100+.

2Dorsett, Queen, pp. 120-122, 126-129.

3James E. Fell, Jr., Ores to Metals, The Rocky Mountain Smelting Industry, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979), pp. 246-250, hereafter cited: Fell, Ores, and The Denver Post, January-July 1903.

4Cornelius W. Hauck, Narrow Gauge to Central and Silver Plume, (Golden: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1972), pp. 106-108, hereafter cited: Hauck, Narrow, and James Edward Wright, The Politics of Populism, Dissent in Colorado, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), pp. 235-237, hereafter cited: Wright, Politics.

5Nore V. Winter, James S. Kane, Ellen Beasley, Kathy London and Liston E. Leyendecker, "Level I Historic Cultural Resource Survey of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland", (Lakewood, Co: United States Forest Service, n.d., n.p.,) hereafter cited: USFS, "Level I.", and Hauck, Narrow, pp. 106-109.

6Percy Fritz, "The Tungsten Boom," in: A Colorado Reader, edited by Carl Ubbelohde, (Boulder: Pruett, 1962), pp. 293-295, hereafter cited: Fritz, "Tungsten", and USFS, "Level I." n.p.

7Robert G. Athearn, The Coloradans, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1976), pp. 234-236, hereafter cited: Athearn, Coloradans, and Fritz, "Tungsten".

8Kathleen Bruyn, Uranium Country, (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 1955), pp. 28-35.

9Dorsett, Queen, pp. 126-130, and USFS, "Level I," n.p.

10Athearn, Coloradans, pp. 256-258.

11Guy Peterson, Fort Collins The Post, The Town, (Ft. Collins: Old Army Press, 1972), pp. 60-63, hereafter cited: Peterson, Ft. Collins, and USFS, "Level I," n.p.

12Richard Goff and Robert H. McCaffree, Century in the Saddle, (Denver: Colorado Cattleman's Association Centennial Commission, 1967), pp. 230-234, and Evadene A.B. Swanson, Fort Collins Yesterdays, (Ft. Collins: Swanson, 1975), pp. 50-52, hereafter cited: Swanson, Ft. Collins.

13V.V. Hargrave interview, Civil Works Administration, Colorado State Historical Society, Volume 351, hereafter cited: CWA, CSHS; S.A. Munson interview, vol. 351, CWA, CSHS, and Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Neuman interview, vol. 351, CWA, CSHS.

14Munson, CWA, CSHS, Neuman, CWA, CSHS, and USFS, "Level I", n.p.

15No Author, "The Growth of the Sugar Beet Industry in Colorado," The Trail 7 (December 1914): 11-16, hereafter cited: No Author, "Beets."

16F.S. Harris, The Sugar Beet in America, (New York: Macmillan, 1919), pp. 10-19, hereafter cited: Harris, Beet, and Swanson, Ft. Collins, pp. 50-53.

17Harris, Beet, pp. 17-20, and Dorsett, Queen, pp. 188-190.

18Hargrave CWA, CSHS; Dorsett, Queen, pp. 188-191, and Swanson, Ft. Collins, pp. 50-52.

19A.H. Cutler interview, vol. 351, CWA, CSHS; Gary Morgan, Sugar Tramp, Colorado's Great Western Railway, (Ft. Collins: Centennial Publications, 1975), pp. 6-8, hereafter cited: Morgan, Tramp, and Kenneth W. Rock, "Colorado's Germans From Russia," in: Germans From Russia In Colorado, edited by Sidney Heitman, Ft. Collins: Western Social Sciences Association, 1978), pp. 74-75, hereafter cited: Rock, "Germans."

20A.H. Cutler, CWA, CSHS; Georgina A. Cook. "Fact and Fiction, German-Russian Sugar Beet Farmers in Colorado," in: Germans From Russia in Colorado, edited by Sidney Heitman, (Ft. Collins: Western Social Sciences Association, 1978), pp. 106-017, hereafter cited: Cook, "Russians", and Swanson, Ft. Collins, pp. 60-61.

21See: Rock, "Germans," and Cook, "Russians."

22Hans Christensen interview, vol. 352, CWA, CSHS, and Swanson, Ft. Collins, pp. 49-62.

23Dorsett, Queen, pp. 180-182, and Athearn, Coloradans, pp. 235-237.

24Swanson, Ft Collins, pp. 60-52.

25Paul Bonnifield, The Dust Bowl; Men, Dirt, Depression, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979), pp. 40-41, hereafter cited: Bonnifield, Dust; Nell Brown Propst, Forgotten People, A History of the South Platte Trail, (Boulder: Pruett, 1979), pp. 186-187, hereafter cited: Propst, Forgotten; J.L. Donahue, "Dry Farming," The Sons of Colorado, 1 (September 1906): 11-14, hereafter cited: Donahue, "Dry;" and Dorsett, Queen, pp. 122-125.

26Ora Brooks Peake, The Colorado Range Cattle Industry, (Glendale, CA.: Arthur H. Clarke, 1937), pp. 64-66, hereafter cited: Peake, Range; Propst, Forgotten, pp. 186-187, and Dorsett, Queen, pp. 122-125.

27"Yuma County Colorado Promotional Literature," vol. 352, CWA, CSHS, and Hargrave, CWA, CSHS.

28Peake, Range, pp. 64-67, and Propst, Forgotten, pp. 198-201.

29Athearn, Coloradans, pp. 233-234.

30Ibid., pp. 172-173, and Dorsett, Queen, pp. 172-175.

31Peake, Range, pp. 85-88, and USFS, "Level I", n.p.

32See: G. Michael McCarthy, Hour of Trial, The Conservation Movement in Colorado and the West, 1891-1907, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977), and USFS, "Level I," n.p.

33Merlin K. Potts, "Rocky Mountain National Park," The Colorado Magazine, 42 (Summer 1965): 216-223; Athearn, Coloradans, pp. 230-232, and Dorsett, Queen, pp. 125-127.

34Margaret C. Detamore interview, vol. 341, CWA, CSHS; A. Cutler CWA, CSHS, and Dorsett, Queen, pp. 128-131.

35Dorsett, Queen, pp. 126-128.

36Edgar C. McMechen, The Moffat Tunnel of Colorado; An Epic of Empire, (Denver: Walhgren Publishing Co., 1927), pp. 32-44, and Rocky Mountain News, July 1901-July 1902.

37See: Edward T. Bollinger, Rails That Climb, (Golden: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1979).

38See: Edward T. Bollinger and Frederick Bauer, The Moffat Road, (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1962).

39Morris Cafky, Colorado Midland, (Denver: Rocky Mountain Railroad Club, 1965), pp. 158-185; Robert G. Athearn, Rebel of the Rockies, A History of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), pp. 190-215, and Hauck, Narrow, pp 104-109.

40Herbert M. Sommers, My Recollections of a Youngster's Life in Pioneer Colorado Springs, (Colorado Springs: Dentan & Berkeland, 1966), pp. 20-23; Hauck, Narrow, p. 104; Peterson, Ft Collins, p. 64, and USFS, "Level I;" n.p.

41Mrs. Flusher interview, vol. 354, CWA, CSHS; J. Oliver Graham interview, vol. 352, CWA, CSHS; J. Oliver Graham interview, vol. 352, CWA, CSHS; Sprague, 100+, pp. 30-32; Athearn, Coloradans, pp. 259-260, and Propst, Forgotten, pp. 192-193.

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Last Updated: 20-Nov-2008