COBWEB CORNERS: The original ‘Uncle Dick’
By Mel McFarland
Richens L. Wooton arrived in this area in 1858. At the time he was with a freight wagon outfit. The team had left Kansas City with flour, sugar and other merchandise bound for settlements and camps in the West. The hope was to trade for furs and leather goods with the Indians and Mountain Men. It was during this time that he earned the nickname “Uncle Dick.” He had already taken on the look and character of a Mountain Man. The plan was disrupted by gold being discovered on Cherry Creek. The new camp needed the wagons' merchandise, and a store was quickly set up. Within days, a log cabin were among the first buildings in the village called Denver.
Wooton did well. After a couple of years, he started moving south. It is said that he tried hunting and trapping in the area that would become Manitou. In the early days of Colorado City, there was a pile of logs near Camp Creek, called "Uncle Dick's Cabin." It was said he had lived there before moving down on the Fountain. In 1861, he settled nine miles north of Pueblo on bottom land, where he raised corn and wheat. To help get through the rough times, he opened a store in Pueblo. He did well, both with the farm and the store, but disaster struck in 1864. A flood swept down from the meeting of Fountain and Monument Creeks during a series of storms. By the time it reached Wooton's farm, the water was said to be 18 feet deep and half a mile wide. Little survived on the farm, and then a hailstorm finished him off. There were rumors of problems brewing with the Indians. Wooton sold off his land and store and moved farther south.
He settled in a valley not far from Trinidad. Raton Pass was a rough approach on the Santa Fe Trail. He contacted the owners of the land and negotiated a plan to improve the pass. Wooton's work resulted in the Raton Pass Toll Road. The idea of paying to use the route upset many travelers, but Uncle Dick usually won out. Ten years later, the Santa Fe and Rio Grande railroads were looking for routes to New Mexico. The two railroads raced to Trinidad, but the Santa Fe got the upper hand when Uncle Dick found their settlement better. Wooton ended the toll road, and spent the rest of his years at his ranch, holding a pass for free passage on any Santa Fe train.