Author: julia

The 2021 Archives Awards

Archives collections are anything but boring! These 13 items highlight some of Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History’s quirkiest, funniest, and downright strangest collections. Keep reading to see which Archives Award they won!

Oldest

Still looking good at approximately 64 million years old, these leaf fossils from Castle Rock’s stint as a Cenozoic jungle win in the category of Oldest. These leaves were falling after the dinosaurs died, give or take a few million years.

Creepiest

Winning the category by a landslide, the award for Creepiest object goes to this jar of braided hair. Its murky provenance only adds to its “hair” of mystery.

As an added bonus, its lid advertises instant coffee: “More people drink Nescafe than any other coffee!” Mmm … appetizing.

This object was also considered for the Spookiest award, but what paranormal entity would want to spend eternity in a jar of hair?

Most Likely to Cause Back Problems

Railroad irons
2017.077

Housed in the only box justifying a notation of “EXTREMELY HEAVY!!” these railroad irons win in the category of Most Likely to Cause Back Problems. Items include railroad spikes, ties, joints and nails. You can come see them any time we’re open, just make sure you have a lifting partner—preferably one who doesn’t forget leg day.

Grossest Recipe

Have you ever had a hankering for ham mousse? Really, not even a little? These 1916 instructions on how to pulverize your own salted meats into the kind of pasty texture used in desserts wins Grossest Recipe. But “Fish in Jelly” is a close second.

This recipe from Housewives Favorite Recipes and many others (the good, the bad, and the ugly) can be found in ALH’s extensive local cookbooks collection.

Goodest Boy

This winner of Goodest Boy is still warming our hearts almost a century later.

Who’s a good boy? He is! Yes, he is!

Cutest Baby

Just kidding! How could we choose? But here’s a cute baby anyway. Just look at Dale Norwood’s wee little puffy overalls!

Spookiest

Winning the Spookiest Archives Award are three Ravenloft titles by prolific local author Christie Golden. In 1991, 1992 and 1994, Golden contributed three dark fantasy installations to the 24 book-long (!) Dungeons & Dragons series, Ravenloft. Taking place in the Demiplane of Dread, characters must resist (or not) the Darklords and the Dark Powers. Spooky indeed!

Golden has written more than 50 novels and almost two dozen short stories. Maybe she doesn’t need sleep! ALH also houses two of Golden’s manuscript collections.

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Biggest Nope

The face says it all. This chilly cat wins Biggest Nope, even though we all know it probably insisted on going outside in the first place.

Coolest Nurses

Knowing that one’s nurse has trained for chemical warfare brings such a sense of comfort to patients. These World War II nurses, preparing for a gas mask drill in 1943, win the Archives Award for Coolest Nurses.

Most Questionable Medical Advice

Painkiller recipe from Dismuke’s Book of Formulas and Prescriptions by Edward E. Dismuke (circa 1890)

Dismuke’s Book of Formulas and Prescriptions (circa 1890) serves as a kind of medical grocery list. If you’re feeling down, simply give a recipe to your local pharmacist and enjoy the effects of opium, alcohol and chloroform on your symptoms! Soon after, you won’t be feeling anything at all.

And don’t forget about your cow—Dismuke’s also recommends using “purgatives” to rid your cow of “bloody milk.” Don’t expect the cow to thank you.

Needless to say, this book wins the Archives Award for Most Questionable Medical Advice.

Friendliest Book

It’s a capitalist world, and I’m a copyright girl! But not J. Frank Dobie’s Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest, With a Few Observations (1943). It wins the category for Friendliest Book. His copyright page states, “Not Copyrighted. Anybody is welcome to help himself to it in any way.” Aww, thanks, Mr. Dobie! (But profits! What about the profits?)

Best Wedding Dress

Your wedding dress might have been pretty, but was it flowing-gracefully-through-an-Honor-Guard-saber-arch-with-your-GI-Joe-Lieutenant-groom pretty?

Best Cover Illustration

Flowers of Mountain and Plain by Edith S. Clements (1926)

Twenty-five color plates illustrate 175 wildflower species found in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Originally published in 1915, this 1926 third edition is decorated with a vibrant cover in addition to its contents. An easy win for Best Cover Illustration!

Clements was a respected botanist, the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska (in 1904). She and her husband founded the Alpine Laboratory on Pikes Peak.

 

If you’ve enjoyed the 2021 Archives Awards, there’s more! Browse our website to find all kinds of digitized items, or contact Archives & Local History staff to set up an appointment to see our vault collections and other resources.

Call for Election Materials

Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History needs your election materials!

League of Women Voters Directory of Elected Officials, 1994 pamphlet.
Archives & Local History ephemera files.

ALH collects and preserves materials relating to Douglas County’s history, and right now we’re looking for items about local elections and political campaigns to help future researchers understand our current political climate. Instead of recycling your election materials, why not send them to ALH?

Donating to ALH is easy! Contact us to set up a drop-off time and fill out a Deed of Gift, and then you’re all set.

 

Desired materials include:

1. Mailers – postcards, letters, infographics, brochures

2. Small artifacts – pins, buttons, lanyards, flags, stickers (unused)

3. Organizational records – Are you part of a political group? Do you have meeting agendas, correspondence, or other administrative documents?

4. Posters, signage (legal size or smaller preferred)

5. Materials on any issue, candidate or affiliation!

 

Re-elect Chip Stern card. Shows imagery of a deer and trees, and says "Like Living out in the country? Let's keep some country?"
Archives & Local History ephemera files.

Items don’t have to be related to the 2020 election, but they should adhere to the following:

1. Legal size or smaller – We aren’t looking for yard signs or large banners at this time.

2. Clean and dry – We cannot accept wet or mold-affected material.

 

 

 

 

Membership form for the Douglas County Republican Women's Club.
Archives & Local History ephemera files.

 

 

 

If you have any questions or wish to set up a donation, contact us at:

localhistory@dclibraries.org
or
(303) 688-7730

Douglas County Rocks! Rhyolite Quarrying in Douglas County

Men worked with rhyolite in the Santa Fe Quarry. 1997-011-0004, Santa Fe Quarry, circa 1890-1910.

Gold and silver usually come to mind when thinking about mining in Colorado. However, Douglas County made a name for itself with another geologic industry: quarrying rhyolite stone.

Colorado is renowned for its astounding variety of geological resources. Its geologic history includes supervolcanic eruptions, millennia of tropical sea sedimentary deposits, and the uplift and erosion of ancient mountain ranges. This constantly changing geologic landscape resulted in rich mineral and ore deposits like gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, gypsum, lime and clay. Sandstone, quartz and granite abound in the state, as well as gemstones.

The famous gold and silver booms of the 19th century brought miners to Colorado’s mountain towns, with activity especially concentrated around Leadville, Cripple Creek, Steamboat Springs, and southwestern Colorado.

 

Littleton Independent, June 21, 1907.
Douglas County’s Geologic Industries

Unlike in mountain towns, though, gold and silver industries were limited in Douglas County. Gold mining took place from about the 1860s to 1880s in Russellville (near the head of Cherry Creek), but it did not produce large quantities. Other local profitable deposits included coal, lime and gypsum. Local clay was used to make bricks at brickyards and plants that operated near Castle Rock at the turn of the 20th century. The Silicated Brick Company, whose plant was located at the north end of Roxborough Park, created highly durable bricks by steaming and compressing silica sand and lime.

The Quarry Story

The major geologic industry in the county was the quarrying of rhyolite, a pink or gray volcanic rock formed from ultra-thick magma ejected in violent volcanic explosions. Castle Rock in particular is known for its rich rhyolite veins due to the Wall Mountain Tuff ash flow that occurred when Mount Princeton violently erupted 36 million years ago. Hot ash and pumice compressed to form tuff (a soft material not useful for building), but some formed thick deposits of rhyolite.

Detail of rhyolite stone work on the First National Bank of Douglas County building, founded 1901. 2006-050-0022, Castle Rock Merchants Association Tour Proposal Images.

Rhyolite stone was hand-quarried and cut at quarry sites across the county, including the Santa Fe Quarry, the Madge (Douglas) Quarry, and the O’Brien Quarry. The work was astoundingly difficult, and in addition to the quarrying itself, it included the transport of water to the quarry sites and the construction of roads and rail tracks.

Silas Madge is credited with operating the first rhyolite quarry in Douglas County, beginning in 1872. In fact, the needs of its workmen spurred the construction of the historic town of Douglas, which was located a few miles south of Castle Rock. The Madge Quarry is described in detail in this article in the December 10,1948, issue of the Record Journal of Douglas County. The full article is also available in Archives & Local History’s reference serial collections, along with the Industry clippings binder, located in the Reading Room at DCL’s Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller, location. You can also browse the Archives & Local History website for more resources, including this oral history in which Douglas County residents speak about their memories of quarries.

Rhyolite Buildings in Downtown Castle Rock

See for yourself!

Other Rhyolite Buildings in Douglas County

 

Stop by Archives & Local History in Castle Rock to check out our fall 2020 exhibit about quarries in Douglas County!

 

View the exhibit now in the Archives & Local History Reading Room at the Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller, library.

 

Citations

“Castle Rock Rhyolite,” Masonryofdenver.com, June 26, 2014, http://www.masonryofdenver.com/tag/castle-rock-rhyolite/

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, “Rhyolite Rock Facts: Geology and Uses,” Thoughtco.com, March 19, 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/rhyolite-rock-facts-geology-uses-4589452

Industry Clippings Binder, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History, Castle Rock, CO

Natural Resources Clippings Binder, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History, Castle Rock, CO

Activities From the Archives

Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History (ALH) has put together the following activity packages to encourage learning about what archives do and how you can use these types of collections, even from home. Each topic contains a downloadable link to instructions and resource guides, along with fun activities you can do safely at home or in your backyard. Click the links to download the activity packages, then follow the instructions for a fun learning experience!

Educational Activities to Do From Home

Image courtesy Castle Pines Connection. Page from ALH’s Sarah Bennett Walker Collections.

Flower Pressing with Douglas County’s Sarah Bennett Walker

ALH preserves some of the beautiful pressed flower herbariums from Sarah Bennett Walker, a local 19th-century botanist. Learn how to press and preserve your own flowers and get familiar with some of Colorado’s most magnificent wildflowers. Download or print this file to get started.
Site of bridge debris north of Castle Rock. 1994.001, Meacham Family Photographs.

Learn to Use Primary Sources: Douglas County’s 1965 Plum Creek Flood

In this activity, learn to use common primary sources found in archives in order to understand the past. Douglas County’s infamous 1965 Plum Creek flood is used as the theme. Then, play a fun PBS game to learn how different cities protect themselves from floods using engineering and natural resources. Download this file to get started.
Image courtesy Wild Food Girl.

Historical Recipes: Douglas County’s Wild Plum Jelly

ALH has a large collection of local, historical cookbooks. Recreate this homesteaders’ recipe for wild plum jelly using plums found in Douglas County and learn about local edible plants and what cooking in the past was like. Download this file to get started.

ALH Coloring Pages

Download and print these coloring pages from ALH’s photographs collection, and use your imagination to add color to images from Douglas County’s history. When you’re finished, show us your creations at localhistory@dclibraries.org!

Volunteer From Home With Colorado Historic Newspapers

Volunteer From Home, Help Historical Research

Front page of the Castle Rock Journal, 1881.

Are you feeling cooped up during your self-isolation? Museums, libraries and archives around the world are putting out the call for remote volunteers. DCL’s own Archives & Local History department (ALH) has opportunities to volunteer from home for those who want to stay busy with a project while giving back to the local community.

The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) makes Colorado’s historic newspapers accessible digitally, using optical character recognition (OCR) technology to make the digital newspapers searchable by keyword. However, the technology is not perfect, especially on the oldest newspaper issues. Sometimes, words appear misspelled or nonsensical. Volunteers can review OCR text for these errors. Every correction makes the newspapers that much more useful for historical research! Volunteers who correct the most lines of text even have a chance to win prizes.

Learn how to get started here. You can also download and print these instructions.

If you need further help, watch CHNC’s instructional video below. ALH would like to keep track of the DCL community’s participation, so please email us at LocalHistory@DCL.org and provide your username once you’ve registered.

 

This video provides instructions on how to correct OCR (Optical Character Recognition) text in the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. Correcting text is a great way to stay busy at home while helping your community by volunteering to make historic newspapers more accessible.

Inclement Weather Warning: The History of Snowstorms in Douglas County

2006.021.0005.0029, Cecily North Materials, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History.
A front yard covered in snow after the 2003 blizzard in Castle Rock. Even after compaction and snowmelt, the snow remained several feet deep. 2006.021.0005.0029, Cecily North Materials, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History.

Don’t We Snow It

Residents of Douglas County, Colorado, are familiar with hazardous winter weather. This year’s abundance of snowfall has reminded even our newest neighbors how intense local snowstorms can be! Yet even here, where snow is a part of life, some storms stand out as historic or otherwise unusual. Grab a warm blanket and cozy up, because in this post we’ll look at local snowstorm legends, daily life in the snow, and other snow-related fun facts from Douglas County’s historical record.
The Cherry Creek Schoolhouse as it was photographed between 1890-1920. 2013.013.0001.0008.0003, Frank Rowley Kime Photograph Collection, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History.

The Blizzard of 1913

One of the most infamous snowstorms in Douglas County’s written record was the blizzard of 1913. Intense snowfall in the first week of December trapped six children at the Cherry School for two days when horse-drawn wagons could not reach them. Thankfully, the one-room schoolhouse was stocked with plenty of firewood for the stove (a precaution taken for just such an emergency). John Jones, brother of several of the trapped children, made it to the school on the second day of the storm, but since the weather remained precarious they all hunkered down at the school for a second night, bringing Jones’s horse indoors, too. In the morning, they all trekked home over crusty ice and snow.

Read more about the Cherry School here

The aftermath of the blizzard of 1913. Men walk beside a snowdrift on Wilcox Street in Castle Rock, Colorado. 1996.010.0001, O’Brien Martin Collection, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History.

Those children were lucky. The same blizzard was not so forgiving to 77-year-old George Busbee, mail carrier for South Platte and West Creek. Visibility during the storm was so poor that his horse-drawn stagecoach tipped into the river, soaking him in ice-cold water. He released the horses from the overturned coach and rode one to a nearby cattle shed at Campbell’s Flat. Unfortunately, he could not go any farther and his frozen body was found days later.

Hear the story as recalled by Dorothy Roerig in her 1992 oral history.

Across the county, the 1913 blizzard halted transportation. Franktown citizens were snowed in for so long that mobility was limited for nearly seven weeks, during which time “many quilts were started and finished.” Photographs taken after the blizzard show men walking outside Castle Rock’s Keystone Hotel (now Castle Café) alongside snowbanks reaching up to their hats.

 

Good Reasons to Let It Snow

Colorado snowstorms are not all death and destruction, though. A lighthearted snippet in the July 7, 1905, volume of the Castle Rock Journal reported that snowfall on July 2 disrupted Independence Day baseball games and racing celebrations in Leadville. “The regular Fourth of July snowstorm is ahead of time,” it quipped, tongue-in-cheek.

Just like today, a favorite snow sport of Douglas County’s historical residents was sledding. It wasn’t just a pastime for children, either. Some early 19th-century adults in our photo collections slid down the Arapaho Glacier near Boulder (pictured at right). And sometimes, when Perry Park’s ponds freeze over, you can still catch families ice skating and playing hockey, like they did in this photograph on Lake Waucondah, taken in 1972.

Aside from snow sports and play, Colorado’s snow is also incredibly important year-round. Snowpack provides drinking water and irrigation and keeps our plants and animals healthy.

Of course, we can’t forget that one of the best things about a good snowstorm is the excuse to snuggle up, as these Douglas County couples did in late January of 1883:

 

If this post makes you feel the need to get cozy yourself, here’s a fun wassail recipe from Archives & Local History’s local cookbooks collection. After all, we “don’t know if it will snow, but have a cup of cheer!” This item is part of Archives & Local History’s Library Staff Recipe Booklets, accession number 2019.036. View it and many more unique recipes in our local cookbooks collection at DCL in Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller. If you’re interested in learning more, ask Archives & Local History staff about how you can access original recipes, historical photographs, and more.

Citations:

Cherry/Pratt School research reference file. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History. Modified August 2019. Accessed December 16, 2019. https://cdm17197.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/documents/id/39/rec/1.

Douglas County Historical Society typescripted history of Franktown. Undated. Franktown Clippings Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History. Castle Rock, Colorado, United States.

George Busbee Perishes in Blizzard. Record Journal of Douglas County. December 19, 1913. Accessed December 3, 2019. https://www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org/?a=d&d=TRJ19131219.2.5&srpos=7&e=–1859—1945–en-20–1–img-txIN%7ctxCO%7ctxTA-blizzard——-0-Douglas-

Roerig, Dorothy. Interview by Johanna Harden. Audio Cassette. Denver. March 17, 1992. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History. Castle Rock, Colorado, United States. Accessed December 3, 2019. https://cdm17197.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/doh/id/186

Food Culture in Douglas County

2012.004.0013, Thanksgiving dinner, 1950-1960, Helmer Family Visual Materials, Archives & Local History Collections.

Feasts & Family

Fall and winter are seasons of festivity in North America. Whatever holiday traditions you celebrate, chances are they involve feasting and family. In the words of late chef Anthony Bourdain, “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” Archives & Local History houses a substantial collection of local cookbooks, both historical and modern. They capture food culture in the Rocky Mountain region, from rough-and-tumble buckskin and gravy cooked on a campfire to the refined art of creating a perfect meringue at high altitude. The history of food and cooking can say a lot about the cultural identity of a community, and that concept certainly plays out in Douglas County.

Living off the Land

A culturally peeled Ponderosa pine tree. Courtesy of forestry.usu.edu.
Before settlers came along, Utes in Douglas County ate dried fish. They seasoned and preserved the fish with salt, which originated from their neighboring bands in Utah. The use of horses increased Ute consumption of bison, making hunting the vast and powerful creatures easier. Pine sap was a nutritious dietary supplement in spring, and the peeling of inner pine bark remains a sacred medicinal tradition today. (For more, see the Pikes Peak Historical Society’s article “Ute Culturally Scarred Trees.” Please note that as of 2019, the Southern and Mountain Ute tribes have released an official statement asserting that the Ute “prayer tree” or “bent tree” is a farce and not associated with Ute cultural traditions. Read more here.) From considering just these few food traditions, we learn about Ute trade networks, the impact of horses on their transportation and hunting, seasonal changes in diet, and the treatment of certain trees as sources of both food and spiritual and medicinal healing.
M.J. King straining milk, circa 1940. 2003.046.0001.0001, Cherry Valley/Spring Valley Historical Society Grant Photos, Archives & Local History Collections.

Pioneers Set the Table

The food culture of non-native Douglas County residents is, of course, quite different from that of the Utes, centering on sedentary endeavors such as agriculture and cattle-raising. Early Douglas County homesteaders primarily raised cattle because hilly geography is not highly tenable to farming. A few chose to farm wheat, like the Lowell family along East Plum Creek, and potato crops were profitable for a time in Larkspur and Greenland. The Cherry Creek Valley focused on dairying ventures, and German immigrants there ran the successful Cherry Creamery for decades. The Carlson-Frink Creamery in Larkspur also ran well into the 20th century. Some ranches, like the Diamond K near Highlands Ranch, raised poultry and small sheep herds.

 

Halley Oltmans with a herd of cattle,1900-1916. 1993.005.0045.0003, Helen Oltmans Personal Papers, Archives & Local History Collections.

Outside of Douglas County, other agricultural crops and products thrived. In 1880s South Platte Valley, sugar beets proved to be a major crop, and Colorado’s famous Palisade peaches from the Grand Valley first appeared around the same time. However, beef has always been king in Douglas County, especially along West Plum Creek. Douglas County ranchers remain avid participants in Denver’s Western Stock Show, and popular 4-H Clubs thrived in the mid-20th century. This passion for (and proximity to) cattle is clear in the recipes of pioneers and ranchers, which often include variations on beef and dairy.

Food Culture in Your Life

Douglas County today is growing more than ever, once again changing the landscape of local cooking and food culture. New residents bring different food traditions, longtime residents continue theirs, and other traditions will form from combinations of both. No matter what we’re eating this holiday season, take the time to consider how your meals bring community and identity into your life.

Recipe for the preparation of beaver tail, from Pioneer Potluck by the State Historical Society of Colorado. Archives & Local History Collections.

 

Citations:

Official statement of the Southern Ute and Mountain Ute Tribes regarding bent “prayer trees” myth: https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/gazette.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/ba/0ba72f0e-db3a-11e9-a388-a3c4eae174c4/5d841760ee247.pdf.pdf

Anderton, Laurel, Darren McAvoy and Michael Kuhns. “Native American Uses of Utah Forest Trees.” May 1, 2011. Forestry.usu.edu. Accessed October 18, 2019. https://forestry.usu.edu/news/utah-forest-facts/native-american-uses-of-utah-forest-trees

Becker, Cynthia. “What did the Ute Indians eat?” Chipeta: Ute Peacemaker: Thoughts on Reading, Research and Writing. WordPress.com. Accessed September 17, 2019. https://chipeta.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/what-did-the-ute-indians-eat/

Douglas County: Natural Cattle Country. Ranches, Agriculture & Farming Clippings Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Collections.

Hooper, Linda. “Journeying Through a History of Colorado Food.” June 18, 2019. HistoryColorado.org. Accessed September 17, 2019. https://www.historycolorado.org/story/going-places/2019/06/18/journeying-through-history-colorado-food

McConnell Simmons, Virginia. Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Boulder, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 2001.

Reynolds Kaelin, Celinda. “Ute Culturally Scarred Trees.” 2003. Pikespeakhsmuseum.org. Accessed September 17, 2019. http://www.pikespeakhsmuseum.org/ute-culturally-scarred-trees/

Schlupp, Larry. Big Changes in Agriculture. Ranches, Agriculture & Farming Clippings Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Collections.

Sinclaire, Joann. For use of D.C. Historical Society Ranches, Agriculture & Farming Clippings Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Collections.

 

Indigenous Peoples & Archival Silence

 

Representatives present at the Treaty of 1868 negotiations, pictured in Washington, D.C. Denver Public Library Digital Collections, X-30677.

 

The Archives & Local History (ALH) department at Douglas County Libraries collects and preserves historical materials relating to Douglas County. As you might expect, ALH maintains documentation on subjects such as homesteading, ranching, historic buildings, family histories, and railroads, to name just a few. When processing a new collection, archivists analyze and select materials based on factors like historical or enduring value. This selection process has powerful consequences:

“There are three types of powers that are possessed by the archive: control over collective memory, control of preservation, and specifically to the archivist, the interpretation and meditation between records and users…These powers shape what and how we learn.” (MooreAbstract, 2014)

Basically, the materials within ALH help build the language used to tell the story of Douglas County. What ALH collects and what we miss are of equal importance.

Wait. What isn’t documented matters? But don’t archivists select and preserve all the important stuff?

 

Archival Silence

Ideally, archivists collect mindfully. But certain factors impact material selection. Sometimes, documentation of a certain subject simply doesn’t exist—it is destroyed, lost, or never created at all. In other cases, archivists make questionable choices shaped by current events or biases, subconsciously (or explicitly) valuing some materials over others. What results is a lack of documentation in areas, termed archival silence. That silence shapes understandings of history.

Archival silence becomes an especially malevolent phenomenon in the study of marginalized, oppressed, misunderstood, or otherwise devalued peoples. Specifically, centuries of racism and the devaluation of nonwhite voices have resulted, in some cases, in a dearth of representative, multilayered documentation of nonwhite peoples.

 

Documenting Douglas County

Few white contemporaries felt compelled to resist the typecast of the “savage Indian,” and when they did, suppression could be severe. Captain Silas Soule testified against Colonel John Chivington’s acts at the Sand Creek Massacre and was murdered in retaliation.

One instance of archival silence within ALH is the lack of primary sources from indigenous peoples of Douglas County, especially early in the county’s history. Since local indigenous peoples did not make records through writing in the 19th century, most related documentation in ALH’s collections exists in the form of memoirs and news reports created by white settlers and their descendants. Few of these really capture a broad sense of indigenous experience. The remembrances of settlers rarely describe the political context of settler-indigenous relations, or they are based on stereotypes and personal experiences rather than on measured considerations of the circumstances surrounding indigenous discontent. This means that primary sources about Douglas County’s indigenous peoples are somewhat limited in their scope and often derogatory toward the peoples they describe. As a result, the history of indigenous peoples in Douglas County is primarily told, and understood, from the perspective of white settlers.

Settlers in early Douglas County adhered to sentiments consistent with those across the United States. National conversations in the years before and during Colorado’s admission to the Union painted a skewed picture of indigenous peoples, partly in order to justify the claiming of the continent. Journalist John O’Sullivan coined the term “Manifest Destiny” in an 1845 article advocating for the annexation of the Oregon Territory:

 

“And that claim is by the right of our Manifest Destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.”

 

Progress & Property

American Progress, painted by John Gast in 1872, remains the archetypal image of Manifest Destiny.

White Americans in the 19th century took this to heart, believing that Westward expansion; the development of agriculture, industry, and resource extraction; and the assimilation of nonwhite peoples were sacred rights and godly duties. Sensationalized, one-sided, and sometimes downright untruthful news articles highlighting indigenous-settler hostilities further perpetuated the archetype of the “savage Indian” across the nation.

Like in other parts of the west, homesteaders had their own reasons to subscribe to racist notions. The Homestead Act of 1862 entitled any American to 160 acres of land on the condition they settle and “improve” it for a period of five years. This meant that indigenous peoples living in the west became obstacles to settlers’ homesteading aspirations. Naturally, indigenous peoples resisted what they viewed as invasion. Settlers viewed their resistance as barbaric aversion to civilization, holding fast to convictions that private property trumps thousands of years of indigenous semi-nomadic lifestyle. These concepts played out in Douglas County as the traditional hunter-gathering lifestyle of local indigenous bands conflicted with white models of property ownership and development.

Some settlers did not recognize the broader political context surrounding relations between indigenous peoples and the U.S. government. Intertribal conflict, confused treaty negotiations, failure to adhere to tenets of completed treaties, murders of tribal elders, deliberate destruction of bison herds, and other strains on hunter-gathering practices all contributed to flaring tensions between settlers and indigenous peoples. Although each band responded differently to these tensions, settlers tended to hold all indigenous peoples accountable for the actions of one group or individual. Both peace-seeking and hostile groups faced the same consequences.

 

Daniel C. Oakes, Denver Public Library Digital Collections, Z-4893.
Petition for Ute removal by Douglas County residents. Rocky Mountain News, Sept. 2, 1867, page 1.

One scenario near Perry Park highlights the diversity of indigenous response to homesteaders. In 1867, a group of settlers near the present-day Larkspur area petitioned Indian agent and pioneer Daniel C. Oakes for the removal of Utes from Colorado, stating that they had “become so annoying and troublesome, that it is impossible to endure their impudence and audacity any longer.” (Daily Rocky Mountain News, Sept. 2, 1867, page 1, “A Petition for the Removal of Plum Creek”) Less than a year later, when a small band described as Cheyenne or Arapaho attacked local whites, five Ute men joined settler Pete Brannan (who had signed the petition for their removal) in tracking the raiders. Another unidentified indigenous man, who lived with the Langley family, guarded their wagon during their escape to a nearby fort.

Friendly Utes did not see their goodwill rewarded. In early March 1868, the Treaty of 1868 established the first Ute reservation in Colorado, slashing their previous treaty-held lands from 56 million acres to 18 million acres, which would be

“set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians herein namedno persons, except those herein authorized to do so…shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in the Territory described in this article, except as herein otherwise provided.”

From the beginning, the government failed to provide promised rations and did little to nothing to curb illegal encroachment by white settlers. As a result, the late 1870s saw a rise in conflict. Starving Utes, without rations and prevented from hunting or even from leaving the reservation by U.S. soldiers, rebelled. In 1881, the government responded by clearing all remaining Utes from both Indian Agencies established in the treaty, driving them onto reservations in Utah, just as Perry Park settlers campaigned for 14 years earlier. Today, the only remaining Ute bands in Colorado are the Mouache and Caputa, who reside on the Southern Ute Reservation in southern Colorado.

 

What Can Be Done?

How did 19th-century indigenous peoples of Douglas County feel about their situation? How did they respond? What did their day-to-day relationships with settlers look like? What stories would they choose to tell? These are the questions that ALH documents do not answer. The one-sided story of the indigenous peoples of Douglas County exemplifies how problems arise from archival silences. Indigenous-settler relations in the 19th century were complex, multidimensional, and often quite dramatic. But when existing documents tell versions of only one tale, we are left with a patchy understanding of the truth.

For these reasons, archival silences can be a challenge to address. But with careful selection and consideration, a sense of balance can be reached. ALH counteracts its archival silence on indigenous peoples by collecting beyond Douglas County and by providing reference books on indigenous history and culture in Colorado. For example, ALH’s Native Americans subject binder includes many documents relating to the Sand Creek Massacre. (Though the massacre did not occur in Douglas County, its national significance makes it a highly researched event.) Recently, ALH has made efforts to counteract the Ute-bent “prayer trees” myth, which has been officially renounced by the Southern and Mountain Ute Tribes. (Read the official statement here.)

Further efforts to represent a multidimensional history can help to re-forge Douglas County’s collective understanding. Its sense of indigenous history can evolve from one dictated by historical bigotry to a broader, more truthful picture.

 

Citations:

Memoirs by Priscilla Swinney, Native Americans Clippings Binder, Archives & Local History Collections.

“Heroes History Forgot,” Native Americans Clippings Binder, Archives & Local History Collections.

“Treaty with the Ute 1868.” Firstpeople.US. Accessed October 4, 2019. https://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Treaties/TreatyWithTheUte1868.html.

MooreAbstract, “The Great and Powerful…” October 23, 2014. Listheory.prattsils.org. Accessed September 17, 2019. http://listheory.prattsils.org/tag/archival-silence/.

“Ute History and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.” ColoradoEncyclopedia.org. Accessed September 6, 2019. https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/ute-history-and-ute-mountain-ute-tribe.

“Los Pinos Indian Agency.” ColoradoEncyclopedia.org. Accessed September 6, 2019. https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/los-pi%C3%B1os-indian-agency.

“Southern Ute Indian Tribe History.” SouthernUte-NSN.gov. Accessed September 6, 2019. https://www.southernute-nsn.gov/history/#targetText=The%20Southern%20Ute%20Reservation%20is,Council%20elected%20by%20the%20membership.

Official statement debunking the Ute “prayer tree” myth: https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/gazette.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/ba/0ba72f0e-db3a-11e9-a388-a3c4eae174c4/5d841760ee247.pdf.pdf.

 

The Monster of Plum Creek

“Monster of Plum Creek,” Legends & Oddities, Douglas County TV.

Eerie Encounter

Thursday, April 27, 1954. Minutes after 10AM.

Tom Sliger, Frank Barton, and Warren “Buck” Jump were gathered on the banks of Plum Creek about six miles south of Littleton when one of them spotted something moving in the distance. They passed a pair of binoculars among them in order to get a better look at the strange scene unfolding 400 feet away.

An alarming creature peered back at them through the shrubs, its face a “sickening-looking green with a mouth about 4 inches across.” The eyewitnesses later described it as looking “like one of those Halloween faces.” Another saw “a wild man with [a] grayish-green face, large slobbering lips, and an ape-like crouch.” Jump claimed that the monster was not green, but a hair-covered man, probably “deranged,” who had likely escaped from his caregiver.

As the creature moved out of the bushes, it broke large branches with its monstrous strength. What happened next was even more disturbing—the creature gripped a dead chicken by the neck, swung it overhead, and tossed it up to 20 feet in the air.

Sheriff John Hammond, Sheriff Hammond Collection, DCL Archives & Local History, 2011.003.0037.

Monster Mania

After the frightened witnesses described the incident on local KGMC radio, excitement swept through the Plum Creek area. Over the following weeks, residents claimed other sightings and put forth their theories. Local jailor Al Dash insisted that the monster was really an ex-prisoner he had released the same morning it was first spotted, a man Dash described as a “combination Yogi and Voodoo cult addict” who spent the majority of his time in jail standing on his head.

Over 2,000 monster-hunting enthusiasts (and one airplane) crowded Plum Creek, searching for evidence and hoping to catch a glimpse of the green-faced monster. A second sighting in which a woman spotted the creature in her headlights near the City Ditch Bridge on Plum Creek Road only fueled more interest.

Sheriff John Hammond, skeptical and irritated by the hazards posed by the crowds, insisted the whole thing was a hoax. The real danger, in his practical opinion, was that a trespasser looking for the monster would be shot. His disbelief in the monster would be vindicated a week after the sighting, when Jump admitted that it had all been meant as a prank. A friend of Jump’s, who Hammond maturely refused to identify, had dressed in a costume, though it “was not green at all. The touch of color was added through the process of imagination so often figuring into such deals.”

Unfortunately for no-nonsense Hammond, this would not be his last experience with cryptids, which are defined by the Oxford Dictionary as animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated, such as a yeti. Jump’s confession only ignited rumors that it was fabricated to cover up the inability of Hammond’s office to locate the monster. In 1966, Hammond soundly rejected claims of a UFO sighting in Daniels Park in Douglas County. Yet as skeptical as he felt, Hammond admitted in a news interview that the 1954 appearance of the Plum Creek Monster, hoax or not, had not been the first. In the interview, he alluded to another sighting of a green monster in 1924.

Indeed, Jump claimed that the monster had been sighted “half a dozen times in the last 20 years.” Of course, Jump’s credibility at that point was questionable. Nonetheless, the Plum Creek Monster entered into Douglas County lore, even earning its own episode on Douglas County TV’s Legends & Oddities program, which ran from 2001 to 2005.

Sasquatch sighting, Patterson-Gimlin film, frame 352, 1967.

Cryptic Curiosity

The Plum Creek Monster sighting coincided with emerging interest in cryptozoology, a pseudo-science centered on the pursuit of cryptids. In 1955, just a year after the monster sighting, Bernard Heuvelmans published his book On the Track of Unknown Animals, considered a momentous work in the world of cryptozoology. The 1950s saw an increase in civilian-reported UFO sightings and investigations into cryptids.

These frightening encounters, or perceived encounters, were in part products of both a highly suspicious Cold War culture and a response to increased top-secret governmental activities, such as the “Space Race,” the search for alien life, and the development of mind-blowing war technologies such as nuclear weaponry. While reliable evidence documenting cryptids remains sparse or nonexistent, debate over their existence ensues between enthusiasts and skeptics from both amateur and academic backgrounds.

Stranger Things, Season One poster, 2016.

Spooky Sensations

Fascination with cryptids, science fiction, and paranormal mystery has embedded itself into American pop culture. Fictionalized paranormal television shows have remained wildly popular for decades, from The Twilight Zone, which ran from the late 1950s until 1964, to Netflix’s 2016 megahit Stranger Things. Today, television series like Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot and the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens continue to entertain. Whether these shows are popular due to genuine interest in cryptozoology or their outlandish nature depends on whom you ask.

Perhaps Douglas County resident Marianne Braden said it best in her poem about the Plum Creek Monster:

 

Some people still carry a dread obsession,

In spite of a young man’s alleged confession;

In the still of the night, when the world is at rest,

And I have all around me, the ones I love best,

I can vision this creature and say with a sigh,

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

 

Watch Douglas County TV’s Legends & Oddities “Monster of Plum Creek” episode below.

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Citations:
Conclusion: Post-War America. Boundless US History. Accessed August 12, 2019. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ushistory/chapter/conclusion-post-war-america/
“Green Faced Ape” Seen Near Littleton news clipping. Legends & Oddities Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Reading Room.
Green Monster Tale Scares Plum Creek news clipping. Legends & Oddities Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Reading Room.
History of UFOs, the History Channel. Updated June 7, 2019. Accessed August 12, 2019; https://www.history.com/topics/paranormal/history-of-ufos.
The Legend of Plum Creek by Marianne Braden. Legends & Oddities Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Reading Room.
Northern Douglas County Recovering From ‘Green Ape’ Hoax of Last Week,” Douglas County News-Press, May 6, 1954; https://www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org/?a=d&d=DCN19540506.2.4&srpos=12&e=–1940—1960–en-20–1–txt-txIN-%22hoax%22——-2-.
Nothing to It, Says Sheriff news clipping. Legends & Oddities Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Reading Room.
Plum Creek Monster May Be Ex-Inmate news clipping. Legends & Oddities Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Reading Room.
Sheriff Calls Teens’ Report of UFO “Dream” news clipping. Legends & Oddities Binder. Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Reading Room.