In light of the Waldo Canyon fire west of Colorado Springs, and the High Park blaze (now contained) west of Fort Collins, I thought I’d show some love for the majestic Centennial State. One of Colorado’s many 14’ers (mountains over 14,000 feet tall), Torreys Peak rests on the Continental Divide in North-Central Colorado.
With all the state’s Rocky Mountain beauty, it’s easy to forget the plains in the eastern part of Colorado, stretching to Kansas. I picked out this postcard as a child because it showed a different kind of beauty the state has to offer. Additionally, the plains are relevant to the Waldo Canyon fire in terms of one of the ingredients that made it possible: Wind. Colorado Springs rests at the foot of Pikes Peak in the southern Front Range, beyond which are the plains. When wind from the plains climb west over those great mountains, the altitude shifts compress it in such a way that creates forceful gales, the Chinook Winds, named after a similar phenomenon in Oregon that blows east from the Pacific.
O.G. Dining Rooms, ‘Ocean Grove’ near Pinon, Colorado, 1897. Photograph by Thomas McKee, courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Department. The signs say “O.G. DINING ROOMS 16 TO ONE” (anyone know what they meant by that?), “Ocean Grove,” “Tourists without Baggage must pay in advance,” and the best: “Ladies without Bloomers not allowed on the Beach.”
Oddly, I did not find this postcard in Pinon, or even in Colorado, but at San Francisco’s legendary City Lights Bookstore.
I learned from the DPL Western History Digital Collections (cool stuff! http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/), that Tom McKee was the first photographer in Montrose County, in far-west Colorado where Pinon is located. Most of his photographs of Pinon feature workers of the Cottonwood Placer Company. They called themselves klondikers, or “Klondykers” as they wrote on a wooden board in one picture, leading me to think Cottonwood was a silver mining company. It seems likely that the men in my postcard were also employed Cottonwood Placer Co.
After finding these photographs and this information, I then sought a picture of Tom McKee, who is said to have been friends with Ute Chief Ouray, for whom the county southeast of Montrose is named, and with Ute chief John McCook. The photograph I found of him was with McCook’s sister: http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15330coll22/id/19403/rec/4 (Another of McCook’s sisters had married Chief Ouray.)
Crystal Mill, Gunnison County (northeast of Montrose and Ouray). People started mining silver here in the 1860’s. The town of Crystal was incorporated in 1881, its population peaking a little over 400. But by 1915, only eight people lived in Crystal, leaving its mill a much-photographed landmark in a ghost town.