COBWEB CORNERS: Our neighbor to the west
By Mel McFarland
At the mouth of Ute Pass is an area that was used by the Indians from the plains and the mountains. It was a relatively peaceful spot, but there had been friction between some of the tribes over the years. Each tribe more or less respected each other's right to visit, and it generally was known not to interfere or try to use the area at the same time.
When settlers started moving into the area just before the Civil War, the Indians were upset, as they had been all across the country, with the white man's ideas of ownership. At first the itinerant trappers were not a problem, because most of them were nomadic like the Indians, but that began changing when farmers and ranchers arrived. After the Civil War, the influx of settlers certainly upset the Indians' use of this area.
When General Palmer and Dr. William A. Bell spotted the area at the mouth of Ute Pass, the future plans for the area were almost parallel to that of Colorado Springs' development. Bell and E. S. Nettleton of General Palmer's company planned a spa town around the many mineral springs. The Colorado Springs Company would coordinate a development first called Villa La Fonte. The name "Manitou" was suggested by William Blackmore, also a heavy investor in the area, to honor the area's Indian heritage.
The first building in the mountain spa was already located near where the center of town would be. The remains of a few earlier, crude cabins could be found. One of these was supposed to be Uncle Dick Wootton's old cabin. The wagon road was widened, smoothed and space was prepared at a wide spot in the canyon for building a fine structure. The first major building was a hotel, the Manitou House. Later a better road up the pass was built.
This little community would wait for its growth spurt. It was quiet and virtually empty for fifteen years. I have already told the story of the first Rio Grande train to Manitou, and the Midland railway started six years later. Then the town took off. It was still later that "Springs" was added to the name. Ever heard the story (first told by Mt. Manitou Incline conductors and now those on the Cog Railway) about the two big springs to catch you at the bottom?