COBWEB CORNERS: The early Manitouans

By Mel McFarland

       I have talked a bit about the growth of Manitou over the years and about the relationship between Colorado City and Manitou. This time I would like to look at their very early days.
       I have read that Isaac Scales was the first to build at Manitou. The story is that he came here for his health from Massachusetts. I have also heard that Uncle Dick Wooton was one of the first. He had a place in Manitou, not far from the Garden of the Gods. He did not stay long, but as the story goes, his cabin could be seen along the road to what is now Manitou downtown. Another cabin, which later expanded into a hotel, was in present-day Soda Springs Park. It was the Rustic Hotel, whose proprietor, Mr. Nye, was well known in the region for his promotional skills. He even worked for the Colorado Midland.
       The town site of Manitou started from land purchased by Dr. William A. Bell, General Palmer and other backers of the Denver & Rio Grande railroad. Using Irving Howbert as their agent, they started buying land in the late 1860s. The town site was laid out in 1872, mainly by the same men who laid out Colorado Springs. The town of Manitou, however, was not suited for the same kind of orientation as flat Colorado Springs.
       Theodore Pine, also out in the West looking for a cure to health problems, made his mark in Manitou. An artist from Chicago, he lived in a little cabin which eventually grew into the Navajo Hotel, also known as the Barker House.
       It was the number of hotels which marked Manitou's early growth. The Manitou House, completed in August 1872, and the Cliff House, in 1873, were the first of the grand hotels. There was a financial depression in the country during 1873 and '74, which had an impact on this area's growth. Even General Palmer's railroad stalled just south of Pueblo on its way to Walsenburg.
       In 1875 the Nichols family arrived in Manitou and bought the Cliff House from F.A. Keener, who had picked it up not long after it opened. The hotel then saw considerable improvement and development.
       One of my favorite things about the development of Manitou, as well as Ute Pass, was the random use of rented tents. These later became cabins, and can still be found in little cottages, even in bigger houses.