COBWEB CORNERS: A little about Manitou
By Mel McFarland
When we left off last week, Gen. William Palmer and Dr. William Bell had met young Irving Howbert, El Paso County clerk. The two shared some of their ideas with him and hired him to start buying up land they liked.
In summer 1871, Palmer's Denver and Rio Grande railroad was starting south from Denver, building a few miles of track a day. On July 31, 1871, the first stake was driven on the prairie east of Colorado City near where Fountain Creek met Monument Creek. Also that year, preliminary surveys were done on the path of the railroad line south to Pueblo. The Denver and Rio Grande construction crews reached Colorado Springs on October 21, 1871; however, it was five days before the first non-construction train arrived. Regular service started on January 1, 1872. A few buildings were going up in the town, including a rough station, nothing more than a log cabin, which was the town's first hotel and restaurant.
At the mouth of Ute Pass, Dr. Bell and another friend of General Palmer's, E. S. Nettleton, planned a spa town around the many mineral springs. The Colorado Springs Company would coordinate a development that was first called Villa La Fonte. The name Manitou was suggested by William Blackmore, also a heavy investor in the area, to honor the area's Indian heritage, even though the local Indians did not know the word. The first buildings in the mountain town were already located near where the center of town would be, a few earlier, crude cabins scattered along the hillsides. A wagon road up Ute Pass was widened and smoothed, and space was prepared at a wide spot in the canyon to build a fine hotel, the Manitou House. It, would be owned by Dr. Bell. He built his home, now known as Briarhurst, a bit further down toward Colorado City. It was a long time before the word "Springs" was added to Manitou's name!
In 1880, the D&RG built track to Manitou. Up to then the town had not grown much, but the railroad gave it a really good boost. Our little community, Colorado City, would see its best growth a few years later when the Colorado Midland started.