COBWEB CORNERS: The saga of Stratton

By Mel McFarland

       Winfield Scott Stratton had come to Colorado almost broke. He worked as a carpenter, building houses in Colorado City and Colorado Springs. When gold was discovered in Cripple Creek he dabbled in prospecting. He tried several properties near Victor. He became the wealthiest man in Colorado when he sold the Independence Mine near Victor for $10 million. His wealth did little for the man, except to give him money to dump into various projects. He was a solitary man, uninterested in things usually connected with richness. He was slowly killing himself with alcohol. He bought property and virtually gave it away for various city projects. He was one of the primary supporters for building the Short Line railroad.
       When he bought the failing streetcar line in 1900, it was on the verge of collapse. The line had not kept up with the latest trends. In the mid-1890s, the popular mode of transit had been the bicycle. It was a short-lived craze, but it was felt by the Colorado Springs Rapid Transit company. All the cars were showing their age and heavy use. A major rehabilitation was needed. The company's debts climbed as their ridership declined.
       In 1902, Stratton incorporated a new Colorado Springs and Interurban to completely reorganize and rebuild the antiquated system. Even though he was now showing signs of his condition, Stratton continued to supervise the rehabilitation of the line. For the first time since the early 1890s, the streetcar company showed a profit. During his later years, numerous stories of Stratton's odd generosity circulated through Colorado Springs and the Cripple Creek District. On September 14, 1902, Stratton died. He had lived long enough to see the third railroad reach Cripple Creek.
       Stratton could not foresee the many problems left behind by his death, but he provided wise trustees to manage his estate. He was a wise man, and had set up a trust to handle his fortune and maintain his holdings after his death. There were almost immediate protests against the announced will. He had definite restrictions for the use of his investments to support several projects. One of those was the Myron Stratton Home, named in honor of his father, which was incorporated in November 1909. The Home was to take care of many of the people who had worked hard in the area but had not shared in the wealth. Many of those came from Colorado City.