COBWEB CORNERS: The floods of 1864

By Mel McFarland

       Over the years there have been a few memorable floods in this area. I have been researching the history to find out about some of the earlier ones. I know Fountain Creek caused considerable damage to the Colorado Midland at times between 1887 and 1949, but all of these did not necessarily damage Colorado City or Colorado Springs. In 1913 there was a bad flood on Monument Creek, which cut connections to Colorado Springs. It happened again in 1935 and almost again in 1965. Most of the damage in 1965 went north through Denver.
       A big flood occurred in 1864, when this area was still just lightly settled. On June 10, a storm cloud gathered over Cheyenne Mountain. At 4 in the afternoon it cut loose. The cloud worked its way north over Colorado City and headed on to Monument. The streams in North and South Cheyenne Canyons rose by feet. Soon the swollen streams included Bear and Ruxton, each causing problems as they became dozens of feet across.
       At around midnight, a wall of water rushed down Fountain Creek into the canyon west of Colorado City. This canyon is now the site of Manitou. In 1864 hardly anyone lived there. When the water reached Colorado City, the noise brought people into the dirt streets. A few cabins along the creek washed away, but the rest of the town was well above the creek and that saved most of the homes.
       Fountain was not as lucky. Some of its residents lived right next to the junction with Jimmy Camp Creek. A dozen or so houses vanished. A family of eight was lost in just one house.
       In the morning the destruction was quite visible. Trees torn out of the ground around Ute Pass were found well south of Fountain. Logs that had been homes turned up in Pueblo. In one house near Fountain, a few of the families' chickens survived in the remains of the farmhouse. Many of the people lost were never found.
       Unfortunately, this was not the last flood in 1864. A late-summer torrent washed down Monument Creek to the Fountain, flooding what would eventually be Colorado Springs to a depth of more than five feet. This was followed by hordes of grasshoppers!