Colorow and His People

ColorowThis story is about an Indian chief who used intimidation and psychological warfare, more than warfare to keep the whites out of his land.
Colorow was a 300-pound surly leader of a band of Northern Ute. His weight was the result of his love for biscuits covered in syrup, which he regularly got by intimidating settler housewives in the Denver area.
But Colorow wasn’t always that size. As a boy he was a Comanche captured by the Ute. However, because of his skills in battle and his leadership qualities, he was made a chief. Although Colorow never really declared war with the whites, he was a persistent thorn in their sides. In 1876 the Ute owned 32 million acres in western Colorado, and Colorow and his people made sure they kept it by threatening and intimidating any miners or settlers who entered the area.
In 1878 a new Indian agent arrived in town. Agent Nathan Meeker’s objective was to transform the Ute into farmers. At the same time Colorado elected a governor on the platform that “the Utes must go.” It was only a matter of time before the sparks lit the gunpowder. And it happened when Meeker, fearing an uprising…because he cut the Ute’s rations to a bare starvation point…called in troops. Colorow ambushed the troops, killing 13, and wounding 43. At the same time another group attacked Meeker’s family, and killed all of them. A truce was arranged. And the Ute who killed the Meekers were punished, but Colorow’s attack was considered an engagement of war.
Again in 1887 a skirmish broke out. As with the one before, it was needless. This one ended when both sides ran out of ammunition.
Finally, on December 11, 1888, Colorow died. It has been estimated that Colorow’s persistent psychological intimidation of any white entering the Ute lands probably delayed the settling of the central Rocky Mountains by at least a decade.


On September 25, 1867, Oliver Loving, one of the great pioneer Texas cattlemen, died at the age of 55.  Incidentally, the story of his deOliver Lovingath may have a familiar ring.

Oliver Loving was born in Kentucky, and moved to Texas at the age of 33 where he engaged in farming and freighting.  And finally, at the age of 44, when most men are choosing a quiet life, Loving got involved with cattle, and driving them to places where they had never been.

In 1858 he took Texas longhorns to Chicago along what was to be later known as the Shawnee Trail.  About a year later he took cattle up to Denver to supply the needs of the gold miners.

Following the Civil War, Oliver Loving teamed up with Charles Goodnight and in 1866 they established the Goodnight-Loving Trail that went from Texas to Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The second year they took the trail they encountered a number of Indians, causing delays in the drive.  To assure the buyers that the cattle were on the way, Loving and Billy Wilson went in advance of the cattle to Fort Sumner.  Along the way they encountered some Indians. And in a skirmish Loving was shot in the wrist and side.
Thinking he was going to die, Loving persuaded Wilson to leave him.  But Loving didn’t die.  For seven days he crawled, without food, until he encountered some men who took him to Fort Sumner.  Gangrene had set in his arm, but an inexperienced doctor chose not to amputate.

When partner Charles Goodnight arrived in Fort Sumner, he was excited to discover Loving had survived.  But the news was not good.  The gangrene had gotten so bad that even after amputation, Loving died three weeks later.

If the story of Loving’s death sounds a bit familiar, it’s probable because you’ve watched the movie Lonesome Dove, and remember the character, Gus McCall, said to have been patterned after Loving.


Wind WagonIn the 1860’s when a pioneer family headed out west, they usually did it in a covered wagon pulled by horses or oxen. One man, Samuel Peppard, didn’t have horses or oxen, but that didn’t stop him.

On May 9, 1860 Samuel Peppard headed out west. This was during the time of the Pike’s Peak gold rush, and Samuel wanted to do some gold prospecting. He didn’t have any horses or oxen, and he didn’t want the obligation and expense of taking care of them.

But, he did live in the Kansas Territory. And anyone who has been through Kansas knows it’s pretty flat, and the wind tends to blow rather strongly. Being a creative person, Peppard decided to take advantage of the resources at hand, and so he designed the world’s first wind-sailor. Built like a small boat, it was about 8’ long and 3’ wide, and it had four large wagon wheels. Weighing about 350 pounds, it was designed to hold 4 people.

The first time out, the wind blew the wagon over. So Peppard reconstructed the sails, rudder and brakes. By now everyone called it “Peppard’s Folly”.

With three of his friends aboard, Peppard raised the sails, and “Peppard’s Folly” took off across the prairie. Depending on the strength of the wind, it got up to 30 miles per hour.
On days when there was no wind, Peppard and his three friends just sat back, smoked a cigarette, and swapped stories.

They traveled about 500 miles before a dust devil came along and turned the wind wagon into a pile of rubble.
Peppard and his friends finally made it to Denver, but like most seekers of gold, they didn’t find anything.
Peppard later went back to Kansas, and lived to the ripe old age of 82. But he was always known as the guy who sailed to Denver.


Being first wasn’t always important in the Old West.  But, it made all the difference in one race.  And, the objects of the race didn’t even move an inch.Printing Press copy

In 1859 the Pikes Peak Gold Rush was a bust.  The settlements of Cherry Creek, Montana City and Denver City were on the verge of becoming ghost towns when another gold vein was discovered, and people came running.

John Merrick decided the area needed a newspaper.  He bought an old press and headed to Cherry Creek.  Not seeing any reason for haste, Merrick took his time putting his newspaper together.

But, four days after Merrick had arrived; William Byers arrived from Omaha, Nebraska also with a printing press and the same idea.  Byers immediately located an office in the best building in town.  It happened to be an attic of a tavern, and the roof leaked so bad a canvas had to be hung over the press to keep it dry.

A race was on.  Bets were placed, and everyone cheered on their favorite editor.  Finally, on Saturday evening, April 23, 1859, William Byers’ Rocky Mountain News hit the streets just twenty minutes before the first copy of John Merrick’s Cherry Creek Pioneer.  In the news industry, a scoop of twenty minutes is like a lifetime.  So, John Merrick sold out and left for the gold fields.

William Byers had the area to himself.  However, his troubles weren’t over.  There was a battle between the two neighboring towns on either side of Cherry Creek.  So Byers couldn’t be accused of favoritism, he moved his equipment to a building that was virtually astride Cherry Creek.  Not a good move.  Four years after he started his newspaper, the area flooded, and washed away the building.  His press wasn’t found until 35 years later.


On January 7, 1901 Alfred Packer was released from prison after serving 18 years.   Why was he in prison?  Cannibalism.

Back in the 1860’s Packer was a prospector in the Rocky Mountains.   Because of the meager pickings, he supplemented his income by serving as a guide in the Utah and Colorado wilderness.

In early November 1873, Packer left Bingham Canyon, Utah, leading a party of 21 men bound for the gold fields near Breckenridge, Colorado.  After three months of difficult travel, the party staggered into the camp of the Ute Indian Chief  Ouray, near present-day Montrose, Colorado.  The Ute graciously provided the hungry and exhausted men with food and shelter.  Although the Ute advised the men to stay in the camp until spring, Packer and five other men decided to continue the journey.

Two months later, Packer arrived alone at the Los Pinos Indian Agency, looking surprisingly fit for a man who had just completed an arduous winter trek through the Rockies.  At first Packer claimed he had become separated from his five companions during a blizzard and survived on wild game.

Later Packer confessed that four men had died naturally from the extreme winter conditions and the starving survivors ate them.  When only Packer and one other man, Shannon Bell, remained alive, Bell went insane and threatened to kill Packer.  Packer said he shot Bell in self-defense and eventually ate his corpse.

Packer was tried and a jury convicted him of manslaughter.  He remained imprisoned in the Canon City penitentiary until 1901 when the Denver Post published a series of articles and editorials questioning his guilt.

After his release Alfred Packer around Littleton, Colorado, maintaining his innocence until the day he died in 1907.

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