COBWEB CORNERS: The Grand Colorado Exposition

By Mel McFarland

       In 1882 there was a Grand Colorado Exposition in Denver. The event was held in July to promote the state to visitors as well as residents. In May it was discovered that El Paso County was the only county in the state that had not committed to set up a display! A committee of local businessmen organized to correct the situation. Now, in 1882, many of the county's current features had yet to develop. El Paso County had a bit of industry and just a touch of mining, but was mainly an agricultural area. Even tourists were not coming to the county in the numbers they would a decade later. So what would El Paso County look to promote?
       Wool was high on the list! El Paso County was the state's leader in wool production. Over 125 tons of wool shipped from El Paso County in 1881, and that was the lowest in several years. Many of the county's sheep were being moved to Wyoming and Kansas. An area east of Colorado Springs produced large amounts of wool. Next on the list was coal! Former Colorado Springs Mayor Matt France managed the largest coal field in the county at Franceville. His mines produced over a hundred tons of coal a day. Plus, there were several other small operations north of Colorado Springs.
       This may surprise you, but next was plaster. Several plaster mills near, and in, Colorado City were turning the limestone found all over the county into plaster. Other operations were cutting the same stones, but using it for buildings in and around the county.
       The northern part of the county was known for its lumber. Cut trees were also being brought down Ute Pass and from the area around Cheyenne Mountain for construction in fast-growing communities all over the state.
       Also on the county's exposition list were the expected wheat farming and other grains, but one of my favorite items was artwork. The citizens in the county felt that there could be no display about El Paso County without Mr. Charles Craig. He was a major artist in the area for many years. Some of his work is still featured today at Pioneers Museum.
       I wonder what we would display for an exposition today! Electronics? Military?