COBWEB CORNERS: Forts built for protection in early years

By Mel McFarland

       One of the earliest structures by a white man in El Paso county was a fort to protect against Indian attacks, built in 1860 in a settlement called Wig-wam, south of what would become Fountain. The probable builder, John Irvine, had two sons, John Junior and M.B., who would become an early mayor in Colorado Springs. The fort was said to be the first floor of a huge house. The wall was about five feet tall. An old newspaper story even tells of Irvine having stacks of rifles ready for any difficulties! Some say that old nails can still be found in the dirt, perhaps from this building. At any rate, today the walls still stand. The location was used as a corral for a long time.
       Forts in the region, like the one at the Irvine place, were not separate structures but were built into homes. Another near Fountain was the Mason place, just north of the Irvines. The Indians had a technique where they shot flaming arrows onto rooftops, so forts had fireproof roofs, with earthen or sheets of red stone. It is said that the Masons had two small stone buildings that were home forts.
       Other forts were in Monument and Colorado City. No battles were known to have been fought at them, but there were problems in the area and some settlers were killed.
       Such incidents were caused by Indians who were "visiting" from out on the plains. A plaque outside the early fort in Colorado City (also known as the Anway Hotel at present-day 2818 W. Pikes Peak) states that it was built of logs and "used in defense against the Indians in 1864 and 1868."
       I have done stories about the Colorado City Indian raids in the past. They are explained in detail in Irving Howbert's autobiography, "A Lifetime in the Pikes Peak Region."
       The Monument forts could be found up to a few years ago, but a recent construction project took out the last known fort. The Anway Fort marker, erected in 1936, was stolen last January, but the Old Colorado City Historical Society recently replaced it. People drive by the Wigwam wall and never know its significance!