COBWEB CORNERS: This time he gets here!
By Mel McFarland
After finishing his railroad survey to California, General William Palmer returned to Colorado for the Denver Pacific's groundbreaking on a line from Denver north to Cheyenne. The railroad Palmer worked for was renamed the Kansas Pacific in 1868, he was made a director. That summer, he sent a survey team south from Denver to map a route along the mountains. A ridge about 50 miles south separated the drainage of the South Platte and the Arkansas Rivers. The climb to the summit was gradual and steady. In a gap at the west end of the ridge, where it met the mountains, there was a small lake. South of the lake the land dropped almost as gradually. The survey proved the route could be used to build a railroad, but the Kansas Pacific did not want to build that way!
In 1869, Palmer and Bell made their first real visit to the little community called Colorado City. This trip helped inspire Palmer to seriously consider starting his own railroad. Palmer and William Bell met young Irving Howbert, the El Paso County Clerk and 10-year area resident. The two shared some of their ideas with him and invited him to help develop their project. He would assist by acquiring property under their instructions. One of the areas that attracted Palmer and Bell's attention was at the mouth of Ute Pass.
That same year, Palmer met William Proctor Mellen, an eastern lawyer looking for investment projects. Palmer's enthusiasm for the West spread to Mellen. Palmer was introduced to Mellen's young daughter, Mary Lincoln "Queen" Mellen. In September, he returned to Colorado City to explore. In January be wrote to Queen of his dream of a railroad under his supervision, made up of his friends, with no big rivalries or jealousies, where former members of his regiment could work and share the profits.
Palmer was looking for more than railroad land. Howbert set out to buy a parcel Palmer called "Bijou" to be his future home with Queen. It was on the south side of the geographical divide that would someday carry his name. Bijou had a grand view of the plains and the mountains, abundant timber and water, and curious rock formations. Most of this area we know now as the Air Force Academy! Palmer, however learned of another property that was a bit more isolated, with better weather and scenic beauty. It would become known as Glen Eyrie.