COBWEB CORNERS: The birth of the Midland

By Mel McFarland

       After Manitou started as a town, Dr. William Bell pushed hard to get the D&RG to build up Ute Pass. He had extensively studied their route up the pass, and worked to connect it with his own railroad. He had built the little Manitou Park lumber railroad, but it did not connect any towns!
       Wagons brought the cut lumber down Ute Pass, and the hotel at Manitou Park did not use the railroad. The business up the pass to the hotel was brisk. The "weak link" was the long carriage ride to his hotel. The D&RG remained emphatic in its resistance to building up the pass. Bell's insistence on the project was a thorn in their side. Palmer no longer ran the D&RG, but he privately moved to help Bell. The idea of building a new railroad from Colorado Springs into the mountains and maybe even some of the mountain camps attracted some attention. Bell and Dewey Fisher, who ran his lumber railroad, presented a proposal that would use the canceled D&RG plan for a short route to Leadville and other mining hot spots, connecting with his lumber railroad. H.D. "Dewey" Fisher and Bell incorporated their company Nov. 23, 1883. Fisher, 36, had known Bell and Palmer since he operated a tie-cutting gang south of Denver. He lived in a cabin near the railroad at Manitou Park, two miles up the valley from Bell's Hotel, with his wife and two small children.
       A second group in Colorado Springs was searching for support of their own projected railroad. It was similar to Bell's and Fisher's, with a few different goal cities. Irving Howbert (who was among the organizers of Colorado Springs, the D&RG and the First National Bank of Colorado Springs) was active again in building Colorado's railroads. There were other railroads being proposed too, but these two shared enough interests that they found a common ground. In relatively short negotiations, a solution was found. In June 1884, the twin attempts were merged, forming the Colorado Midland Railway. Fisher and Howbert worked on combining the two into a workable company. Surveys were refined and concentrated - the goals would be Leadville, Aspen and Salt Lake City, Utah. It would take the help of James J. Hagerman to get the plan going.