COBWEB CORNERS: Early Colorado City

By Mel McFarland

       In 1858 a party from Lawrence, Kansas, staked out a town near where Fountain and Monument Creeks meet and called it El Paso. After staking out streets and lots, they found no takers for their property. West of them, L.J. Winchester, Richard E. Whitsitt, L.N. Tappan, and M.S. Beach were among a group of men who located their site in a more sheltered spot they called Colorado City. In just a few months there were 230 houses of all sizes, hotels, stores, saloons, shops and a church or two. The population in the spring of 1860 was between 1,000 and 1,500, with perhaps a dozen women.
       Other communities were tried in the area, including Red Rock, but each faded as fast as it was settled. Most of the residents chose to live in Colorado City. Most had crossed the plains to find their fortune. Many traveled on into the mountains, but a few stayed on, finding some success in the little town.
       The challenge to the success of the town was Ute Pass. There were many seekers of fortune passing through Denver and Pueblo, but Colorado City was more difficult. Ute Pass, as the Indians had used it, was not really well suited for wagons. One thing the area did have was good farm potential. Between 1860 and 1864, the land proved quite prosperous, but the Colorado City area had failed in improving access to the West. In the years of the war, many of the houses were empty and many of them were torn down. Some of the material was used to improve the survivors' homes. By 1865, the town was barely a shadow of itself.
       To make things worse, in 1864 and 1865 there were several incidents between the farmers and ranchers in the area and the Indians. Several people were killed. Things got better when the war was over and soldiers were available to protect towns. In 1866, the first real improvement was seen in Ute Pass and things started looking up. Then came the visitors from the east like General Palmer.
       With the building of the Denver and Rio Grande, Colorado Springs popped up near the site of old El Paso. Some thought it was the end of Colorado City, but it was only page two...