Where have all the flour (mills) gone? Historian wants to know
Local historian Merell Folsom is curious about Colorado City's early flour mills, and if anyone has information on them, he'd like to hear it.
What the retired high school teacher is fairly sure of is that there were three of them. This is the number reported in “Memories of a Lifetime in the Pikes Peak Region,” by early pioneer Irving Howbert in 1925; and “Historic Old Colorado City,” by Dorothy Aldridge in 1996.
What isn't known is very much about them. According to Aldridge, a group called Flannigan, Colton and Whittmore built the first flour mill in 1862. In the special sesquicentennial publication by the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) in 2009, there's a photo, the earliest known shot of Colorado City, that shows the city from a distance. In that photo (which is used by permission on this page), Westside historian Dave Hughes labeled several sites One of them, near Fountain Creek and present-day 25th Street, he labeled “flour mill.” However, he said last week, that's “only my guesstimate, based on the size of the building and the location, where one would have to be. But I've never seen anything that pins it down precisely.”
A second mill was reportedly built by early businessman Henry Templeton. An Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) article by LaDonna Gunn in 2008 states that it was named the “Hawkeye Mills.” The article adds that Templeton powered it with “a string of horses,” and he and a crew “built a ditch to supply water” to it. Where was it? Gunn's article doesn't say, but it's referenced in an “I Remember” column that Folsom found by Charles Dudley” in the Gazette Telegraph in 1963. Dudley writes that Templeton's granddaughter (Genoa Armbruster) told him that her mother (Edna Smith) had “often described it to her,” saying the mill was between 26th and 27th streets, had a “large water wheel” and “made good flour.”
Howbert's book mentions “two [mills] at Colorado City, with the first built in 1862 and the second “a year or two later,” both of which “operated to their full capacity much of the time for a number of years, grinding wheat raised in El Paso and adjacent counties.”
But like the Flanigan mill, as Hughes pointed out, the exact location of Templeton's mill is not known.
The third mill is the biggest mystery. Folsom has found a 1918 obituary for Jerome Weir, which includes the statement that he “erected a flour mill near Colorado City, which he disposed of after a short time.” The Aldridge book states only that its builders were “Judd Weir and Ben Hall.” In neither source is a date or location provided.
Howbert's book states that “a third [mill] was erected farther up Fountain Creek, near what was known in later times as the Becker place.” [Another local historian, Mel McFarland, said this would be the area of modern-day Beckers Lane.] “However,” the Howbert book adds, “the latter mill never was used to any great extent.”
Folsom is somewhat surprised at not finding extensive information on the early Colorado City flour mills, in part because they were very large buildings. Also, they were important to survival by allowing early settlers to make bread and other baked goods.
Adding to the mystery is a color drawing, dated January 1874, (and appearing in Mark Gardner's 1999 book, “In the Shadow of Pikes Peak”), of “Colorado Springs, Colorado City and Manitou,” showing two “flouring mills” along Fountain Creek in the area of Colorado City. But Folsom was not sure if their drawn locations match those described above.
In any case, he would like to see informational signs along the Midland Trail through the Westside, and, he suggested, info about the flour mills (with confirmed locations, if such info is ever known) could be included.
Anyone who might know about the Colorado City flour mills are welcome to call Folsom at 630-2240. “This could be a little community involvement here,” he said. “I hope we would get a nibble, at least.”
Westside Pioneer article