COBWEB CORNERS: A forgotten explorer
By Mel McFarland
One of the names I run across all the time is a man not heard of much. I thought I would spend some time with him today. He was a traveler and later began doing a bit of writing about where he had been. It is that for which he is remembered in his home country.
George Ruxton was an Englishman, born in 1821 west of London. At age 17, he found himself in Spain fighting with a group from England in an unsuccessful Spanish revolution. He was in Spain for two years and learned the language while he was there. He returned to England but eventually traveled to Canada and Africa.
It was his trip to Mexico in 1846 for which he is remembered around here. He was sent to Mexico by the English government, but he did not stay there. He put together an expedition northward. He traveled to El Paso and followed the Rio Grande River north into present-day Colorado. Earlier, you might remember Zebulon Pike ran into trouble in the San Luis Valley and was taken to Mexico when Mexican soldiers spotted his company. Ruxton had the benefit of permission from the Mexicans, who at the time were at war with the U.S.
Ruxton kept extensive notes of the country he passed through, including observations about the animals, plants and people. He was occasionally harassed by Indians. He traveled through Santa Fe and Taos and followed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, crossing onto the Eastern Slope north of La Veta Pass. After stopping at a village on the Arkansas River near present-day Pueblo, he made two trips up Fountain Creek, The first was close to a disaster when a blizzard pinned him down. A second took him all the way to Manitou's springs. He followed Ute Pass as far as South Park. From this visit we have Ruxton Creek in Manitou. He made his way back to Taos, but later returned to our area and traveled down the Arkansas before returning to Mexico and then home to England.
From his lengthy notes, he wrote great tales of this area in magazines and newspapers of the time. This writing led to a couple of books which were eagerly read by his countrymen. He made a return trip to Colorado. But at Pueblo in 1847, he fell from a mule and died a short time later. He was just shy of 27 years old! His travel stories became an inspiration for many English and Eastern American visitors.