Category: Blog Posts

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

Trick Is No Treat When Newspaper Falsely Claims Family Drowned

A mother, daughter, and local druggist met their deaths at Castlewood dam in November 1894. Eighteen-year-old Pearl Boyd reportedly clung to Alfred Stott as she cried out for someone to save her. Tragically, the raging water proved too much for Pearl and her mother, daughter and wife of the Castlewood Dam manager, as they, along with Mr. Stott, drowned.

The Denver Republican reported this devastating news on the morning of November 15, 1894, under the headline: “Three Lives Lost, Mother, Daughter and Guest Are Drowned.” Happily, the Denver Post exposed the article as a complete fabrication invented by the “deceased” Boyds’ 23-year-old son and brother. “Fooled the Republican: Three Denver People Surprised to Learn That They Were Drowned,” reported the Denver Post later that same day.

The source of the tall tale was Charles Boyd, who apparently had no problem spinning a yarn about his family’s death. His reputation was not stellar. Charles’s boss at the City Package Delivery Company Denver described him as irresponsible and no good.

Alfred Stott (first row, second from left) with the Castle Rock Cornet Band. Image 2020.016.

Why Charles included Mr. Stott in the ruse is a mystery. Mr. Stott, shown in the photo, wore many hats during his time in Castle Rock. He clerked in a hardware store, operated a meat business, worked as a druggist, and served as both postmaster and sheriff.

Even though the drowning was falsified, the draw of Castlewood dam was real. The Castlewood reservoir and dam was a popular Douglas County recreation spot prior to the dam’s collapse in 1933. In her oral history, Cora Deane Younger remembers picnics and boat rides there. It was completely plausible Mr. Stott, Pearl Boyd, and her mother, Mrs. G. Eliza Boyd, would want to take a sailboat out on the water.

For more information about Castlewood dam, including a copy of the Denver Post article exposing the false claim, contact Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History.

 

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

Accessing Archives & Local History

The Archives & Local History department (ALH) at Douglas County Libraries (DCL) is open by appointment only for the foreseeable future, but what does that mean for you? Following is a look at the different resources ALH has on demand and when and how you would make an appointment with our staff.

Image of the Archives & Local History Reading Room

Reading Room

The ALH Reading Room in DCL’s Castle Rock location is always open when the library is open. That means you can access all of ALH’s circulating and reference collections available in the Reading Room during library business hours. Our circulating collection, or materials that you are able to check out, includes books on archives, genealogy, local and regional history, some yearbooks, and some local history DVDs. You can also request these materials through the DCL catalog and pick them up at your preferred DCL location.

Our Reading Room reference collection must be used in the Reading Room at Castle Rock, but it is available anytime the library is open. These materials include:

  • Local, regional, and state maps and atlases.
  • Microform reader and a collection of regional newspapers on microfilm.
  • Subject binders of news clippings collected and organized by ALH staff. Use these to easily locate information on common Douglas County history topics.
  • Colorado Heritage, Southwestern Lore, and other history journals.
  • Indexes of local cemetery, obituary, and marriage records.
  • Other local history indexes, study copies, and published resources.
Image of a computer displaying the Archives & Local History website, archives.dcl.org

Online

ALH also offers many great resources online that you can access from home via our website at archives.dcl.org. You can:

Image of archival boxes stored in the Archives & Local History vault.

By Appointment

If you still need help from Archives staff, you can call, email, or submit a question to us at any time. We can work with you over the phone or via email to assist you with research requests and help you find information you need without setting up an appointment.

However, archival collections and biographical files are housed in our closed stacks and can only be retrieved by Archives staff. If you need to access these materials, you must make an in-person appointment with our team.

Items you can only access via appointment include:

  • Any materials stored in the Archives vault. This includes all manuscript collections, rare books, and many maps.
  • Biographical and Site files.
  • If you are unsure whether something is available in the Reading Room or not, please reach out to us to check!

Please keep the following in mind when scheduling an appointment with ALH staff:

  • Plan ahead. Appointments must be made at least one day in advance to allow our staff to prepare for and accommodate your request.
  • Appointments are available on weekdays, Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • ALH staff are available for 30-minute appointments. However, you may stay in the Reading Room after your appointment and complete research or work on your own if needed.
  • Please be on time. There is a 10-minute window for arrival; if you don’t arrive within those 10 minutes your appointment will be canceled. We are spacing out appointments in our small Reading Room and cannot accommodate two appointments at once. Please be timely.
  • Please wear a mask and respect social distancing guidelines during your appointment.
For up-to-date Archives & Local History hours and operations, please check our homepage or the DCL website. Also, follow us on social media for relevant updates.

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.

The B-Side to At-Home Preservation

The internet is teeming with guides describing the benefits of decluttering your home and how-to’s addressing the preservation of family heirlooms and archives. These guides typically cover the common “archives” we find in our homes: papers, photographs, scrapbooks, and basic digital files. But what about all of those other things we inherit and accumulate and want to preserve and keep forever? Today I’m going to take some time to cover items you might like to preserve for the long term but that do not often make the common at-home archiving list. This post addresses basic preservation techniques and exhibiting advice for vinyl records, cassette tapes, and textiles.

 

Vinyl Records or Long Playing Discs (LPs)

We get it, you miss buying CDs and now that Taylor Swift has released her new album on vinyl, you’ve purchased your Crosley tabletop turntable (record player) and are now a die-hard audiophile. But how do you actually take care of that LP edition of Lover so you can pass it on to your kids when we enter the third age of vinyl in 30 years? Look no further! For general preservation advice, check out this blog post. But here is the quick and dirty of vinyl preservation:

warped vinyl record

 

An example of a warped vinyl record, probably caused by light, heat and humidity exposure. 
  1. Stop stacking records in a pile and stop leaning them when filed on a shelf. While the album covers help records stand up and minimally protect them, vinyl is very fragile and weak and will warp if not supported or stood straight up and down on a shelf.
  2. Stop touching the vinyl! Do not pick that piece of lint off the record with your hand. Do not clench the record in the slip cover while you’re trying in vain to shove the album back into the album cover. And do not cautiously stroke the vinyl because it’s really soft. Again, vinyl is very fragile. If you need to clean the record before playing (which you should do each time), utilize a simple record cleaning kit. When handling the record, only touch the outer edge of the disc and the center where the label is. Even when the album is in its paper cover, do not pinch or grab the record; this can cause you to scratch, warp or otherwise damage the record.
  3. Keep albums away from sunlight, high humidity, very hot or cold temperatures, and dusty environments. Always keep albums in archival dust covers.

Vinyl Record display shelf

A simple record display shelf. Image courtesy of Carrie Waller of “Dream Green DIY.”

Displaying albums is a fun way to showcase your great taste in music while also covering up the nail holes in your wall. When displaying albums that you wish to also listen to and keep for a long time, be a bit more careful and specific about how you display them. First, ensure that the wall on which you would like the album to rest receives no sunlight. Any direct or even indirect sunlight will cause the album cover to fade and discolor and will cause the vinyl disc to warp, or in extreme cases melt. Next, to hang the album, my best recommendation is to simply utilize a small display shelf rather than a frame. This allows you to easily switch out the albums you showcase and easily play them. Additionally, while your whole vinyl collection should be stored in individual archival dust sleeves, make sure that the particular album on display has a dust cover, as it will be exposed on all sides to settling dust particles.

Cassette Tapes

Now, on to cassette tapes, or specifically in this case compact cassettes. If your dad is anything like mine, then you’re due to inherit about 200 mixtapes chronicling the hits from 1973-1996. Or you’re still holding on to the first piece of music you ever owned, …Baby One More Time on cassette. Regardless, you may want to keep and listen to these audio gems now and in the future (those mixtapes sure tell a story about your dad’s delve into new wave in the early ’80s), so how can you ensure their quality and playback ability? First, be aware that cassette tapes consist of audio that has been recorded onto cheap polyester base tape; therefore, it will deteriorate easily even in the best archival facilities. With that said, cassette tapes surprisingly generally seem to live beyond their life expectancy. To ensure that yours do too, follow these basic preservation guidelines:

cassette tape damage

An example of tape deterioration due to sticky-shed syndrome. Image courtesy of Imperial College London via Michelle Boyer-Kelly’s post on the University of Arizona Special Collections blog.
  1. Store cassette tapes in acid-free cases, or at the very least in their original plastic cases. Each tape should have its own case.
  2. When storing cassettes in a larger media archival box, or on a shelf, they should be stored vertically on end, and never stacked on top of each other.
  3. Keep your cassettes in a room with stable temperature and humidity. This is a good rule of thumb for all materials you’re seeking to preserve. Ideally, the temperature should range between 45-54 degrees Fahrenheit and 30-50% RH.
  4. I feel like this should be obvious, but in case it’s not: Do not under any circumstance touch the tape surface. The magnetic tape within the cassette housing is very fragile and touching or pulling the tape, especially if it’s old, can damage or break it, rendering playback impossible.
  5. For playback, or listening to your cassette tapes, first make sure that the cassette player is clean and dust-free. One of the biggest threats of playing a cassette is accidentally recording something on top of the original recording, so be sure you press the correct button. Never leave a cassette player in the playback machine; always return it to its proper storage container right after ceasing playback.

Should you find yourself wishing to display your cassette tapes, follow the same guidelines for displaying LPs.

An example of the archival storage of cassette tapes. Image courtesy of Gaylord Archival.

Textiles

Whether it’s your wedding dress, an autographed NFL jersey, or the quilt your great-grandmother left you, textiles are common items we acquire that require some TLC to ensure they last for generations. Textiles can be particularly difficult to preserve due to the natural fibers they’re composed of, which renders them particularly susceptible to deterioration and damage. But by following some basic preservation principles and techniques, you can make sure that grandma’s coat lasts for many years to come:

deteriorating textile

An example of how delicate fabrics can deteriorate over time. Image courtesy of the Government of Canada and this great guide to caring for textiles.
  1. If possible, never fold textiles. This is especially important for tapestries, blankets and rugs. The best method for storage is to roll textiles around a dowel covered with archival tissue paper (acid-free). However, should folding be the only method possible, do not fold textiles tightly, rather utilize the least number of folds possible and place archival tissue paper between the folds.
  2. From there, store textiles in an airtight container, or an archival box. For very heavy items, make sure that the container is able to support the item and consider storing it on a lower shelf. Avoid storing linen in a wooden wardrobe or on wooden shelves. Wood can harbor mites and pests and can damage materials when affected by seasonal humidity. For textiles, you want the humidity to be between 40-50% RH.
  3. To combat pests, preventative measures are best. Do not use mothballs in containers with textiles, as they are not very efficient at deterring pests and they can be harmful to textiles. Instead, place pest traps in the same room as the stored items. Finding pests in the traps should alert you to a potential problem you should address.
  4. When cleaning textiles, the best method is actually to vacuum them with a low-powered hand vacuum. For particularly fragile textiles, place a fine screen (like one you would purchase from a hardware store) on top of the object and vacuum through that. The screen method helps prevent damage to fabrics that are fraying or contain embroidery or beading. Never dry clean old textiles; the harsh chemicals used will damage delicate fabrics and textiles.
  5. Textiles should be periodically taken out of storage, aired out, and checked for pests or damage. When textiles are ready to be placed back into storage, fold them along different lines if they must be folded and replace any archival tissue paper.

Exhibiting Textiles

displaying textiles

An example of a garment displayed in framing behind UV filtering glass. Image courtesy of Museum Textile Services.

First, make sure that the item is of a good enough quality and condition for exhibition. Anything too fragile or already damaged may be better suited to staying in storage. Additionally, some textiles, like large quilts, may be too heavy to be hung on a wall. If you pair both of those together, you encounter the possible situation where an item may be heavy and fragile and, therefore, cannot support its own weight. In these situations, hanging or exhibiting can cause the textile to tear, stretch or weaken.

If you have found a textile that is perfect for exhibiting on your wall, you’ll first want to be mindful of sunlight; do not display on a wall with direct or indirect sunlight. For very rare or fragile textiles, you may even want to consider displaying them behind UV filtering Plexiglas. Plexiglas is better suited to displaying historical materials than standard glass, given that it is more difficult to break, and broken glass shards can damage a textile. Next, if you go the framing route, you’ll need to use a specific method and materials that will ensure that your football jersey remains in tiptop shape. The method of adhering textiles to backing or hooks can be somewhat complicated, so check out this guide made available by the Minnesota Historical Society and this one by The George Washington University Museum. These guides also provide information about both how to properly frame textiles and how to hang them simply on the wall (spoiler alert: it does not involve thumbtacks!).

Still want to flip this post over and check out the A-side of at-home preservation? Please reach out to the Archives & Local History department at Douglas County Libraries with any questions, or check out these online at-home preservation resources for common items:

Additional Resources:

Gambling Operators Bet on Douglas County

For decades, dodgy entrepreneurs gambled with the law, bringing cards, dice, slot machines, and other games of chance to area risk-takers. Douglas County gambling joints included a pool room in the Castle Rock barber shop, Woodbine, the Orchard Club, William Rubby’s place, Round-Up Ranch, and a northern Parker establishment reportedly run by a collaboration between African American entrepreneurs and Chinese immigrants looking to avoid Denver crackdowns.1

Readers of the Denver Post “may have come to the conclusion that there is nothing going on in Douglas County except a lot of gambling,” wrote editor Virgil A. Case in the Record Journal of Douglas County on Dec. 23, 1938. Case argued the operators of these illegal establishments did not belong among the “good, honest, law-abiding folks” of Douglas County. “The Lord knows we don’t want them, and we welcome their return to Denver at once.”2

Photograph of Ova Elijah Stephens, aka "Smiling Charlie"
Photograph 86.296.4145, History Colorado Online Collection; courtesy of History Colorado, Denver, Colorado.

Douglas County’s Gambling Heyday

Following the end of Prohibition, crime family-connected Ova Elijah Stephens became one of the most prolific of these industrialists, overseeing Douglas County’s gambling heyday. Known as “Smiling Charlie,” Stephens opened the Blakeland Inn in 1933. The property sat on the east side of Santa Fe Drive near the border of Douglas and Arapahoe counties. Stephens openly advertised steak dinners and dancing girls but offered additional undisclosed entertainment, including roulette, craps and slot machines.3

Photograph of the Bombed car of gambler Leo Barnes
Bombed car of gambler Leo Barnes, Rh-108; courtesy of Western History and Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library.
After three years of running the table, Stephens’ luck ran out. In June 1936, Judge Arthur Cornforth issued an injunction ordering the closure of the Blakeland Inn, citing its reputation as a gambling joint catering to the “wealthy sporting element of Denver and other places.”4 Soon, Stephens’ problems with law enforcement expanded exponentially when he and his compatriots attempted to murder former business associate Leo Barnes with a car bomb. On Dec. 8, 1936, Barnes sat behind the wheel of his parked car on Grant Street in Denver. Moments later, the dynamite placed inside exploded, destroying the car and seriously injuring Barnes.
Image of a page in the 1940 US Federal Census
Census 1940, courtesy of Ancestry.com.

A few months earlier, Barnes had worked for Stephens as manager of the dining room at the Blakeland Inn. Following the injunction against Blakeland, Barnes attempted to open his own joint a quarter-mile away by renting a place called Cottonwood Ranch. From October to December 1936, the Cottonwood raked in a profit of $8,600—roughly equivalent to $150,000 in 2019. However, Barnes neither met Stephens’ demand for a third of the profits nor heeded his warning that “if he went it alone he would not live a week.”5

A jury found Stephens guilty and he reported to the Colorado State Penitentiary, where he resided at the time of the 1940 census.6 “Many a tear will not be shed by Douglas County people if Stevens [sic] is retired from circulation for a long time,” reported the Record Journal on April 23, 1937. “And a lot more tears will remain unshed if a group of ‘criminal’ lawyers were sent along with Charley [sic] to keep him company.”7

After Stephens’ conviction, the Cottonwood reopened under the new name Broad Acres. Not long after the resurrection, an investigation in August 1937 uncovered wide-open gambling, and Douglas County commissioners opted to revoke Broad Acres’ liquor license as punishment.8 The steady stream of salacious news had taken a toll on the county’s reputation.

Newspaper clipping of a gambling notice by the District Attorney
Record Journal of Douglas County (1938, Sept. 23). Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.

Excising the Vice

Over the years, local officials and residents attempted to excise the vice in their midst. In 1937, the district attorney for the fourth judicial district reiterated police officers’ right to enter any place with suspected gambling activities by breaking down doors and partitions, seizing gambling paraphernalia, and destroying confiscated items, all without a warrant.9 In 1938, district attorney Clyde Starrett offered half of the fines obtained to any witness whose testimony could be used to close the gambling establishments in Douglas County’s north end.10

Law enforcement experienced some success. In 1939, O.N. Sandholm pled guilty to operating slot machines in a couple of resorts near Deckers, paying a $50 fine and $20 in fees. “If there are any other slot machine owners who want to contribute heavy fines to the county school fund, they should step right this way, and the sheriff and his men will accept their money and hammer their machines into junk,” wrote the editor of the Record Journal on July 7, 1939.11

Photograph of the Matthew Plews House
Matthew Plews House, 2008.050.0001.0005.0002, DCL Archives & Local History collection.

But crackdowns by law enforcement failed to keep Stephens away. Before his conviction for attempted murder, Stephens purchased a ranch from the Plews family.12 Neighbors may have disapproved of Stephens’ illicit activities, but they appreciated the improvements his presence brought to County Line Road, including electricity and additional phone lines.13

Mugshot of Smiling Charlie
Photograph 86.296.4150, History Colorado Online Collection; courtesy of History Colorado, Denver, Colorado.
After serving five years in prison, Stephens returned to his home at Fly’n B Ranch, known today as Fly’n B Park, and used it as a temporary location for his gambling operations as he looked for a permanent space.
Photograph of Wolhurst Mansion
Wolhurst, X-12099, courtesy of Western History and Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library.
In 1944, Stephens purchased Wolhurst, a sprawling 51-room mansion originally built in the 1890s for Senator Edward Wolcott, located a mere mile away from his home and just north of the Douglas/Arapahoe county line. Eager to take advantage of Douglas County’s lax law enforcement, Stephens built a tunnel from the Wolhurst mansion, conveying gamblers to the casino on the Douglas County side.
Photograph of the interior of the Wolhurst Club Bar
Wolhurst Club Bar, X-12118, courtesy of the Western History and Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library.

“They couldn’t gamble in Arapahoe County because old Chick Foster [Arapahoe County Sheriff], he wouldn’t allow any gambling, but the sheriff in Douglas County, he looked the other way,” said John Bowen in an oral history interview from 2010.14

Stephens lost big in the early morning hours of March 10, 1946. Around 3 a.m., 13 unmasked robbers, one armed with a machine gun, made off with $13,000 cash from Wolhurst. In a mere 15 minutes, the bandits swept through the massive estate, forcing guests—many of them prominent Denverites—to turn over their wallets and jewels.15 Fearing for their reputations, all of the victims denied any disturbance took place, and Stephens sold off his own property to reimburse his patrons for their stolen loot.16

Advertisement for Blakeland
Blakeland Inn newspaper advert. Image from “Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family” by Dick Kreck.

Stephens refused to fold even after the bad break. Around 1954, he reopened Blakeland as a full-scale gambling hall with membership cards required for entry. But a raid in February 1956 forced him to cash in his Douglas County chips. Stephens and his wife were arrested and required to pay $3,300 in fines. The court ordered Blakeland padlocked, and all the confiscated gambling equipment was chopped up and burned at the Castle Rock dump.17 Having played all his aces, Stephens’ gambling enterprises in Douglas County finally went bust.

In the following years, as the stigma of gambling diminished and Colorado approved laws legalizing gambling in certain cities, the demand for black-market casinos declined. Ending its game of cat and mouse with illicit gambling operators, the state turned the tables, finally wising up to the fact that the house always wins.

Citations

1 Record Journal of Douglas County (1963, Aug. 15). Gambling Denied in Douglas Co. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org; Record Journal of Douglas County (1968, May 23). 7 Arrested From Apparent Gambling. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
2 Record Journal of Douglas County (1938, Dec. 23). Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
3 Kreck, Dick (2009). Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing.
4 Record Journal of Douglas County (1936, June 26). Blakeland Inn Closed by Court Order On Gambling Charge. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
5 Smaldone v. People, 88 P.2d 103 (Colo. 1938).
6 Year: 1940; Census Place: Canon City, Fremont, Colorado; Roll: m-t0627-00463; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 22-2. Retrieved from Ancestry.com.
7 Record Journal of Douglas County (1937, April 23). Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
8 Record Journal of Douglas County (1937, Sept. 3). Sec’y of State Finds Gambling At Broad Acres. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
9 Record Journal of Douglas County (1937, Jan. 22). District Attorney Asks Co-Operation To Enforce Laws. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
10 Record Journal of Douglas County (1938, Sept. 23). Notice. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
11 Record Journal of Douglas County (1939, July 7). Slot Machine Owner Is Fined $50 and Costs. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
12 Record Journal of Douglas County (1954, Feb. 11). ’Farmer’ Stephens Is In Dutch With D.A. And Revenue Dept. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.
13 John and Kate Bowen – oral history interview, Douglas County Historic Preservation Board Oral History, 2010.060.1000, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Dept., Castle Rock, Colo.
14 John and Kate Bowen – oral history interview, Douglas County Historic Preservation Board Oral History, 2010.060.1000, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Dept., Castle Rock, Colo.
15 Green Bay Press-Gazette (1946, March 11). Report $150,000 Colorado Holdup. Retrieved from Newspapers.com.
16 John and Kate Bowen – oral history interview, Douglas County Historic Preservation Board Oral History, 2010.060.1000, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History Dept., Castle Rock, Colo.
17 Record Journal of Douglas County (1957, June 13). Stephens’ Gambling Club Paraphernalia Destroyed. Retrieved from coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.

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.