COBWEB CORNERS: Return of an early cattleman

By Mel McFarland

       Back in 1919, W. H. Bowman returned to this area on a visit. At a meeting with friends in Colorado Springs, he was entertained by stories of the area's popularity. “I came to this region from Ohio in 1866,” Bowman responded, “and ran cattle on the range near Fountain for nine years. We had rounded up the largest herd in this part of the state and were sitting around a campfire one night when one of the cowboys rode up with what was considered a great piece of news. 'What do you think?' the cowboy said. 'Some crazy easterners are going to build a town on that dry mesa this side of Colorado City.'” There was a burst of laughter, and throughout the evening the cowpunchers vied with one another to make jokes about this insane undertaking. They wondered who would live in the town. “Prairie dogs,” said one. “Rattlesnakes and owls,” another shouted.
       By 1872 the town was real, and Mr. Bowman had moved to town, taking a job with the new First National Bank. "I was at the Pring Ranch (one of the largest ranches in the county; it ran from near Monument to east of Fountain) when Territorial Governor Gilpin stopped by and spent the night," Bowman said. On leaving the next morning, Gilpin left behind a small herd of horses he had been moving to Denver. Later, on business in Denver, Bowman called on Gilpin to remind him of the horses and to ask how much he was asking for his stock. "Oh, about a hundred dollars," the governor replied. This was too expensive for Bowman. He sent the horses up on a train, and billed Gilpin for the trip.
       It is hard to imagine how open this area must have been. Even in the 1880s travelers were often welcomed in ranch houses, because there were very few towns, and some of those did not have hotels. Before trains, travel time from Pueblo to Denver could be several days, depending upon the weather. Colorado City was a two- day trip from Pueblo. East of Colorado City, there was hardly a town until Kansas. There was later Hugo, which was only there because of the railroad. (Remember Limon is northeast, and that is also a railroad town!)