Colorado City’s big birthday
Historical Society quickens memories with monument, music, time capsule

       The town, failing financially after 58 years, was annexed to Colorado Springs in 1917. Its orphaned name, Colorado City, was later grabbed by a new town that grew up south of Pueblo.

A moment after unveiling the new monument next to the cabin in Bancroft Park, Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) President Joanne Karlson steps aside to let the public get a better view during Founders' Day Aug. 8. The monument, offering illustrated highlights of Colorado City history, represents the OCCHS' main project for this year's sesquicentennial celebration of one of the region's earliest towns.
Westside Pioneer photo

       But such identity losses made no difference to the hundreds of people who attended the 150th anniversary of the original Colorado City Aug. 8 in Bancroft Park. After a day of historically geared entertainment and a craft fair, loud applause followed the unveiling of a new monument that commemorates permanently the exploits, contributions and overall story of the town and the surrounding area known as the Westside.
       Organizing the event was the all-volunteer Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS). “We were very pleased with the many people who came and stayed the better part of the day,” said Joanne Karlson, OCCHS president. “It was truly a celebration.”
       The unveiling of the monument was the day's featured event. Funded by a grant and donations gathered by the OCCHS over the past year, the 6-foot high, 4-sided, rose-granite structure displays eight scenes reflecting the Westside's past.
       Another high point was the 72-member New Horizons Symphonic Band's performance of a march that had been written 110 years ago for Colorado City's Midland Band. The latter band had folded along with the Colorado Midland railroad in 1920, and the whereabouts of the march's score was unknown to local historians until this year.
       The event emcee was Dave Hughes, a longtime Westside civic/historic preservation leader, who had played a major role in organizing the monument plan as well as in finding the Midland Band score (its original publisher still had a copy) and convincing New Horizons band leader Ed Nuccio to play it.

Dancers from the Victorian Society of Colorado Springs perform in front of the Bancroft Park stage Aug. 8 as part of Founders' Day, organized by the Old Colorado City Historical Society. They later gave members of the public a chance to join in and learn some steps.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “Founders' Day went even better than I expected, given the packed program - dancers, big band, ceremony, very authentic Civil War display, shootout reenactment, large crowd and Farmers Market hubbub. Looked to be at least 1,000 people in little Bancroft Park.” Hughes said afterward. “And I think the two highlights - the playing of the Midland Band March - to a very enthusiastic audience - and the ceremonial gift of the monument to the City were just right.”
       Founders' Day is an annual celebration by OCCHS members, but they wanted to give it extra touches in 2009 for the 150th (also known as the sesquicentennial), Karlson explained. Sandwiched around the Founders Day event was an art show in the OCCHS' History Center featuring Old Town paintings by Jack Ekstrom Aug. 7 and the burial of a 150-year time capsule in the History Center courtyard Aug. 12 (which is the actual date Colorado City was founded in 1859). The watertight lid on the metal container instructs that it not be opened until the year 2159.
       “There's a lot of us who are pretty tired,” Karlson said after Founders' Day, noting that the majority of the OCCHS volunteers range in age from their “late 60s to early 80s.” She estimated that at least 30 of them were involved in some form or another in the Founders' Day activities, and added a plea for younger citizens who might want to become volunteers.

Reenactors of the Dodd Company, a Canon City-area unit which fought in a Civil War battle in 1862, set up a tent encampment in Bancroft Park for the occasion.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The monument required raising $11,500 during the better part of the past year. In-kind donations along the way helped ease the cost pinch: the Historical Society received for free artist Johnnie Johnson's illustrations, Ideal-Concrete's preparation of the monument base area and the A-1 crane company's monument installation.
       Stone engraver Dick Wilhelm of Wilhelm Monument Company was among those present for the unveiling. He said the stone was extracted from a family-owned quarry between Lyons and Estes Park, and he cut the illustrations and lettering into the 2 tons of stone by hand. “It felt like a noble task,” he said. “It's been kind of fun.”
       Other entertainment at Founders' Day included an encampment by a small contingent of reenactors representing Dodd's Company, which fought at a Civil War battle in New Mexico in 1862; 19th century dance demonstrations, including several in which the public was invited to take part, by the Victorian Society of Colorado Springs; a dramatization of Colorado City's Laughlin-Devlin gunfight and murder trial in 1860; and about 25 arts/crafts booths. The Old Colorado City Library also had activities in conjunction with the event.

A close-up of a few members of the New Horizons Band, which performed the historic Colorado Midland Band March.
Westside Pioneer photo

Westside Pioneer article