COBWEB CORNERS: Where the wood came from
By Mel McFarland
Up to 60 years ago, timber was a big business in the area around Ute Pass. All you have to do is look at old pictures of the area from the 1880s to wonder, “Where are all the trees?”
People talk about the Hayman Burn. Think about this fire. It burned in Ute Pass, across the front of Pike's Peak, south toward Royal Gorge, then north, parallel to the earlier path, to the Air Force Academy. It burned probably for 18 months! Why did it burn that long? The Ute Indians did not fight forest fires. It probably happened in the late 1840s or 1850s.
When the first settlers arrived, there were few big trees. The first timber cutters used the Black Forest, starting east near Matheson. They cut ties for the Kansas Pacific railroad, which was still in Kansas!
When Colorado Springs and Manitou started in 1871, they also used Black Forest, or Pinery, lumber. Dr. William A. Bell bought land near what we now call Manitou Park for the purpose of timber for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and the two new towns. H.D. Fisher shipped out lots of Dr. Bell's lumber, and was a big pusher behind building the Midland. His company cut lumber in that area for some 20 years before it was shut down. There was even a big sawmill in Colorado City, between here and Manitou!
In addition, there were big logging camps near present day Divide, Florissant and Lake George once the Colorado Midland was built. In fact, a big part of why it was built was to access those areas. F.C. Fisher had a busy sawmill. He shipped lumber to Cripple Creek and Colorado Springs on the Midland. The Midland station at present-day Woodland Park was originally Manitou Park Station. Dr. Bell had also built a nice resort near his logging operation, which eventually developed over the years into the picnic area that is still there.
There were other logging operations in the pass, and timber was shipped by rail almost until the end of the railroad in 1949. After that, it was trucked out from companies like the Stapish Family operation near Westcreek. Some of the older places in the pass are built around old cabins using logs from Manitou Park.