COBWEB CORNERS: That terrible summer

By Mel McFarland

       Last week I told about the summer of 1864. Flood waters on the Fountain stripped away the spring crops. Later, what had escaped was eaten to the ground by grasshoppers. Another event was about to scare everyone from Fountain to Denver.
       The Utes, our mountain Indians, usually came down to the plains to hunt. The area known as Black Forest was a favorite. Some do not realize how big the area is, extending about a hundred miles east from the Front Range. Out on the plains were the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Sioux and other Indian tribes that traveled hundreds of miles every year. The Plains Indians rarely traveled into the mountains, but some would visit the area of the boiling springs that we know as Manitou. They and the Utes generally did not like each other and occasionally fought for the right to hunt in this area. In fact, the two groups spoke different languages.
       Until that time, the settlers and Indians in this area had gotten along fairly well. Occasionally the Plains Indians would camp on area ranches where they had traditionally stayed. In summer 1864 things changed. Indians killed a family of settlers 40 miles northeast of Colorado City, and other hostilities were reported. A few weeks later, a band of Indians suspected of being raiders were found to have scouted Colorado City from a nearby hill.
       Men from Colorado City gathered and watched that area. A few days later a party of Indians came out of the mountains and headed east, probably about where Garden of the Gods Road is today. The Colorado City men surrounded them, asked their intentions and relieved them of their weapons. But the Indians made a break for it, riding away on their ponies. The Colorado City men fired several shots, killing three of the Indians, then returned to Colorado City to plan for protection in case of attack.
       No real raid was ever brought down on Colorado City or Fountain, but the Territory of Colorado organized a militia called the Third Colorado to help protect the citizens living along the Front Range. The problems with Indians were not over, and the unit would see some action.