Colorado History and Genealogy Project

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El Paso County Colorado ~  1870

This county lies immediately south of Douglas, below the great "Divide." It has Greenwood on the east, Pueblo on the south, and Park County on the west of it. Pike's Peak is located in this county; also, the celebrated soda springs, first described by Fremont in his account of explorations in 1843-4, and the equally famous "Garden of the Gods." The country, as a whole, is beautifully diversified with mountain, plain and valley. The dashing Fontaine qui Bouille leaves the mountains at the base of Pike's Peak, and runs southward through the whole breadth of the county. Its valley is very fertile, and has been somewhat thickly settled along its whole extent. The county contains nearly 1,500 people, chiefly engaged in farming and stock raising.

In the northern portion of the county lies the beautiful valley of Monument creek, named from the natural curiosities of rock scattered along its banks.

Colorado City is the county seat, and only town of importance in the county.

The following concerning Southern Colorado, contributed by that famous "prospector," Dick Irwin, will be found quite interesting: "The southwestern portion of Colorado furnishes the theme of many a camp-fire story. Twas here that Bill Williams was killed, in 1850, by the Utes, near the dead camp of Fremont's expedition of 1849. General Kit Carson made himself famous by exploits in this region, and died, a few years ago, at Fort Garland. Ruins of Aztec towns are found in many places. Tradition says the civilized Indians abandoned their cities, rushed to the rescue, over 200 years ago, when Cortez besieged Mexico, and Montezuma called to his assistance the worshipers of the sun; and the faithful went to fight for their God. Some of those ancient buildings, situated on the high mesa of the Colorado of the West, contain as many as 300 small rooms, and are yet in an excellent state of preservation. Most of these are built of cedar, well fitted and plastered, but some are made of stone, and many have cellars.

The Pagosa hot springs, on the San Juan, are a remarkable natural curiosity, and the waters are said to possess wonderful medicinal properties. Hot springs are found in other localities. This section of Colorado has been the 'stamping ground' of many an old trapper and explorer, and quite a number of them lie yet where they died, unburied. Camp-fire tales, that warm ambition or freeze the blood with terror, tales founded on fact, with Kit Carson, the Bents, St. Vrain, Bill Williams, Col. Pfieffer, the Autobeas, Roubideaux, and other old mountaineers, as central figures; or Indian and Mexican atrocities, the Ute and Navajo wars, the Taos massacre, and the fiendish Espinosas, all have additional interest when told near the scene of their enactment. Most of the heroic band of old mountaineers have passed away. Many of them, after carrying life recklessly through the troubles incident to a change of government and continual war with 'our red brethren,' settled down to civilized life, ranching, and Mexican wives. None of them ever went back to the States. Col. St. Vrain lives in Taos. Tom Tobin (or Autobeas) has a ranch on the Trenchera, near Fort Garland; his brother Charley lives on the Huerfano, and both are extensively engaged in stock raising.

'Old Col. Pfieffer' (not yet quite forty-five) wanders, almost alone, among the scenes of his warfare and the graves of his comrades. He was a careless boy, fresh from the military institute in Stockholm, Sweden, when he first came to the far west, in 1847. He was always noted for his cool daring, and soon was distinguished as a good Indian fighter. He took an active part in the long series of wars with the Comanche, Apaches, Utes and Navajos, that have kept back progress in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, and are not quite over yet. He was lieutenant-colonel under General Kit Carson, during the Navajo campaigns of 1863-4-5-6, when 11,000 of those 'lords of New Mexico,' who called the Mexicans their herders, were compelled to surrender to a small force, mostly volunteers, and were removed from the San Juan Country to the Basque Redondo Military Reservation. Many wild stories are told of his exploits. On one occasion, in Santa Fe, he wrapped a 'serape' around his head, and went into a store that was on fire, and brought out two kegs of powder that were charred and blazing. At another time, with a knife in his right hand, he killed a grizzly bear that was chewing up his left arm. He fought a duel, once, with two Capote Indians. The weapons were camp-knives. He killed them both, though badly used up himself. When the Apaches killed his wife and children, at the Ojo del Muerte (Spring of the Dead), in 1863, he was shot through both legs. In fact, there is hardly room for a fresh cut or bullet hole on his body; and still he lives, but lives unhappy. Since his family were killed his only pleasure has been revenge.

It was a bad day for the Apaches when they killed old Pfieffer's family. He made several trips, alone, into their country, staying, sometimes for months, and always seemed pleased, for a few days, on his return. If there was no party going his way, in a few weeks he was off again, with his horse and trusty rifle. He was always accompanied by about half a dozen wolves, in the Apache country. 'They like me,' he said, once, 'because they're fond of dead Indian, and I feed them well.' Col. Pfieffer, when not out in the mountains, makes his home at Fort Garland and Conejos. He, too, will soon be gone.

Rocky Mountain Directory & Colorado Gazetteer

Source: Rocky Mountain Directory and Colorado Gazetteer, 1871, S. S. Wallihan & Company, Compilers and Publishers, Denver, 1870.

 

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