COBWEB CORNERS: Palmer helps Colorado City
By Mel McFarland
On July 31, 1871, the first stake was driven at Colorado Springs. The town, in addition to being in a beautiful spot, was an important railroad location. Locomotives of the era required regular water and coal stops, as well as passing sidings. Stations were located at five- to ten-mile intervals, with larger service facilities at regular intervals. The site of Colorado Springs was ideal for this function.
In the bluffs north of Colorado Springs, a local entrepreneur started to exploit a deposit that had been discovered when the railroad excavated a cut. A narrow band of black earth proved to be coal. On a nearby hill an exploratory hole became Gehrung Mine, the city's first coal producer. Within a year, two other prospect holes had been dug and coal was available for cooking and heating homes.
By Sept. 6, tracks had reached Plum (Sedalia) where 10 carloads of lumber were ready for shipping. This was the D&RG's first paying customer. The construction teams worked southward without a break, except for the occasional stormy day.
In Colorado City, the future was in question. Ute Pass was no longer a popular route into the mountains. Shorter and easier trails were being built from the Denver area.
To improve travel through Ute Pass, a better road was planned through the narrow gorge that Fountain Creek followed. Palmer's Colorado Central Improvement Company supported the plan by providing the needed financing. The road was blasted out from the granite along the creek. In places the precarious ledge was barely wide enough for one wagon. A gate controlled traffic through the tightest spot.
The new route eliminated climbing a long hill, and cut about a mile off the trip. The road would now allow passage of heavier freight wagons, even though it was still quite steep. The Leadville Wagon Road led up Fountain Creek, over the Hayden Divide and southwest along Twin Creek until it met the South Platte River, where it divided. A half dozen branches off the trail led over the mountains to the Arkansas River and Leadville. The improved access to Ute Pass brightened the economy of Colorado City. The community felt secure again, but not for long!