Archives Technician Joan Gandy will talk about her research and findings on early African-American settlers of Douglas County. You’ll hear about the experiences of African-Americans moving west in the post-Civil War era, the stories of African-American pioneers who settled in Douglas County, and the research methods used to uncover these histories.
During the event, you’ll hear about the Reeds’ cattle farm in Parker.
You will also learn about William Foster, who lived in Douglas County while working for the railroad.
Joan will also present information about Oscar Quarles, who worked as a roundup cook for the H.X. Cattle Company.
To help celebrate and honor our veterans, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History (ALH) rounded up five interesting veteran oral histories from our collection. This was not an easy task, given that we currently have 283 oral histories available online in our digital collections; 119 of those are specifically part of the Veterans History Project (more on that below).
We felt that these five veterans’ stories are a good representation of the many other stories and histories in our collections.
Edmund Bennett, a Chicago native, attended Morgan Park Military Academy, a high school military academy in Chicago, from 1942 to 1948. At 18, Bennett joined the Illinois National Guard, and in 1949, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Shortly after he attended boot camp in South Carolina, the Korean War broke out in 1950 and Bennett was sent to Korea to fight in the war.
After learning of his father’s severe illness in 1951, Bennett was reassigned to San Diego, California, for the remainder of his three-year enlistment. However, as Bennett neared the end of his service, he learned about Embassy Duty, and in 1952 he signed up for a transfer to Rome, Italy, where he enveloped himself in the local culture and made friends with locals, including actor Sebastian Cabot, Italian director Vittorio De Sica, and American actor Don Adams. After choosing not to reenlist in 1955, Bennett attended the Don Martin School of Radio and Television, which led to his lifelong career in the television industry and working with Metropolitan Life. Listen.
Shirley Curtis, a fourth-generation Colorado native, enlisted in the United States Army when she was 18. She traveled to Virginia for basic training at Fort Lee, and in her oral history interview she discusses her first encounters with southern segregation.
After attending leadership school in Virginia, Curtis transferred to Fort Mason outside of San Francisco, where she spent time doing ship maintenance. In December 1952, Curtis was discharged from her duties, only to reenlist in the Army one month later. In March 1953, Curtis was transferred to Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy, where she was stationed for four years. After returning to the U.S. for some time, Curtis was stationed again in Europe, this time in Frankfurt, Germany, before returning again to the U.S. to lead personnel teams at various bases until her retirement in 1972. Curtis then had a 22-year career as a federal police officer. Listen.
Joseph Pearlman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Brooklyn College for four years in the Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program from 1957-1961. In October 1961, Pearlman was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to a security police unit for three years before leaving active duty in 1964.
In 1968, Pearlman joined the active reserves as a human intelligence officer through the 1970s. At the time, Pearlman also pursued his Ph.D. in higher education administration and history at the University of Colorado-Denver. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1981, Pearlman began working with the Pentagon; in 1982 he accepted a position there in intelligence and moved to Washington, D.C., until 1986. After retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force in 1986, Pearlman took a brief three-year civil service tour in Japan before retiring to Denver, Colorado, in 2005. Listen.
Kathryn Haines joined the United States Navy after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Washington in 1943, after which she worked for some time in design for Boeing Aircraft. In late 1944, Haines joined the U.S. Navy via the last Officers Training Class (OTC) for women offered during WWII at Northampton, Massachusetts. After completing training, Haines was assigned to the Naval Communications Annex in Washington D.C., where she did electrical design work. After the war ended in 1945, Haines left the military and moved to Michigan, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She later moved to Denver with her husband and family where she received her master’s degree and embarked on a career in special education. Listen.
LeRoy Dies attended the University of Nebraska until the spring of 1969. In fall of that year, he received his draft notice to join the United States Army. After reporting for duty in Omaha, Dies was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana for eight weeks of basic training. Dies was then accepted to the Non-Commissioned Officer School at Fort Benning in Georgia. There he continued his infantry training alongside leadership classes for 12 weeks. Upon completion of the program, Dies was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry in Vietnam in March 1970.
In his interview, Dies discusses the conflict of being drafted into the U.S. military during wartime and his experience with reconciling his perception of war when at home in the U.S. with the experience of being on the front lines. In Vietnam, Dies’ main objective was to identify enemy threats around base at Quan Loi. Dies also discusses his experience with locating booby traps, learning the combat style of the Vietnamese, and his personal experience during the invasion of Cambodia. After nine months in Vietnam, Dies was injured in combat and reassigned to finance at the Long Binh base, where he spent the remaining four months of his active duty. After his experience in the military, Dies focused on helping Vietnam veterans as a substance abuse therapist. Listen.
About the Veterans History Project
The Veterans History Project is coordinated by the American Folklife Center, which is part of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress coordinates with libraries, archives and similar organizations throughout the entire U.S., including DCL Archives & Local History, in order to collect, preserve and make available veteran oral histories that cover many different military experiences.
The project seeks to enable others, now and in the future, to hear the stories of U.S. veterans and to learn from their firsthand accounts of war and military life. ALH works with the Library of Congress on the Veterans History Project to ensure that the veteran histories of Douglas County, Colorado, are told, preserved and accessible by the public.
To access all of our oral histories, including those that are part of the Veterans History Project, browse the Oral Histories collection on the ALH website, or search by topic. If you are interested in being interviewed for an oral history or as part of the Veterans History Project, please contact the ALH department either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (303) 688-7730.
If you’d like to volunteer with ALH to conduct oral history interviews or be part of the oral history process (transcription or copy editing), please visit volunteerconnectdc.org to check availability of volunteer opportunities.
Douglas County was established in 1861, and throughout its 157-year history many tales and legends have been shared among citizens. Spooky stories have enchanted Douglas County residents since its early years, and as years go by, more and more stories are both made and forgotten.
You can discover many interesting tales from both the county’s early years and recent past by browsing through historical newspapers. Here are just a couple spooky discoveries I found lurking in Douglas County’s history.
The Phantom Telegraph
In early March 1891, the Rocky Mountain News published a story that no doubt sent shivers down the spines of its readers. The story, titled “Trailing a Specter,” told the “true story” of a phantom telegraph sent by a spirit from the beyond. During the last week of February and the beginning of March that year, employees at a telegraph office in Denver received a message from an office signed “AZ,” however, there was no such office. You see, each telegraph office was given a signature abbreviation so the receiver would know which office sent each message. Denver was D, Boulder G, Colorado Springs CG, and so on. But AZ was unregistered.
Assuming there was an error in the transmittal, the Denver office allowed the message to be sent through and received something rather cryptic:
For those of you unable to read Morse code, the message states:
“I grave was my a in man easy who rest in not my will time I on deciphered earth, is drank message considerable this and until one divide night or was ridgeway killed continental on the what as is known known is as what the on continental killed ridgeway was or night divide. One Until and this considerable, message drank is earthly deciphered on I time will my not in rest who easy man in a my was grave. I Llaksah d r”
The telegraph message was still quite indecipherable and meaningless, even after being translated from code. After the employees began responding to the AZ sender in order to clarify the message, they received the additional response of “1, 3.” The night chief understood that this probably meant the message was coded and for them to read the first and third words in sequence, which then revealed the following transcription:
“I was a man who in my time on earth drank considerable, and one night was killed on what is known as the continental ridgeway or divide. Until this message is deciphered I will not rest easy in my grave. R.D. Haskall”
Now, some of the employees were quite spooked at the idea of a ghost sending messages along the wire; however, most others believed they were the subjects of a hoax. To try and better understand the cryptic message, the operator responded with “I don’t understand” and they immediately received the following encoded message:
“I was a telegrapher who at one time worked in New York state, and in 1848-9 caught the gold fever and came west. As I said, I drank considerable, and one night in a drunken brawl I was killed on the old Pueblo trail, a few miles from what is now Palmer Lake, on the Continental Divide. My spirit has roamed about and until I make known the cause of my death, I cannot rest in my grave. The telegraph pole from which I am sending this is planted directly over my grave, the butt of the pole resting on my breast. I will call you up regularly for three nights, and if I raise you, answer. My message reads backward the same as forward. H.”
Upon receiving this message, most of the operators were certain that someone was playing a big joke on the station. Two operators decided to catch the prankster in the act and made a trip south to Douglas County to find the telegraph pole outside of Palmer Lake.
Two days later, the two operators found themselves counting telegraph poles outside Palmer Lake. They eventually found what they believed to be the haunted pole and sat down to see if something would happen. Before long, “they felt a strange feeling creep over them, and then transfixed, they saw something that they are not likely to forget. From the bottom of the hole they were watching, they noticed a dim, blue light. A white vapor arose, which gradually took form and in a few moments had assumed the shape of a man in white, holding in his right hand a telegraph key.” At the same instant, the Denver station received the following telegraph message:
“Your two investigators here. They have seen me. Farewell to earth. I have been heard and seen. I am satisfied. Good bye. H.”
Whether this instance was a very elaborate hoax or indeed a communication from the beyond can only be surmised by the reader’s interpretation of the experiences of the Denver telegraph employees’ experience.
Tales of the Old Stone Church
The Old Stone Church on Third Street in downtown Castle Rock has had several different tenants in the recent past; however, according to local legend, the old church has had many long-term tenants as well.
Built in 1888, the Old Stone Church was originally the home of the Catholic St. Francis of Assisi congregation. At the time of its construction, St. Francis of Assisi was the only Catholic Church in Douglas County. The congregation remained on Third Street until September 1966, when the church moved to its new location on Fifth Street.
After the move, the church building transferred to private ownership and was converted into a restaurant. Currently, the Old Stone Church is known as Scileppi’s restaurant; however, since 1966, there have been a few different owners of the property. What is currently the second floor was once the church’s choir loft, and some parts of the original building have been covered up while other parts have been altered to accommodate the building’s 21st-century role.
Since the remodel of the church into a restaurant, workers and patrons alike have allegedly glimpsed ghosts and specters that supposedly haunt its premises. According to legend, the choir loft is where the ghost is seen most often. The specter of a little girl is said to have been seen in the old church by previous employees and customers of the Old Stone Church restaurant back in the 1990s, according to an article in the Douglas County News-Press. Additionally, the article states that staff experienced chairs moving of their own accord, dishes flying through the air, and “weird electrical disturbances,” such as lights going on and off. The kitchen is also supposed to harbor a lot of paranormal activity. Apparently, a lot more than the church’s rhyolite structure has survived over these last 130 years in Castle Rock.
To learn more about Douglas County’s history — spooky or not! — visit the Archives & Local History website or follow us on social media. You may also visit the ALH department at Douglas County Libraries in Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller. To browse old issues of Douglas County newspapers, visit coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.