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"A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing and the lawn mower is broken."
– James Dent  
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  Volume No. 9 Issue No. 6 June 2012  

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Historical Perspectives
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  El Paso County's first town
  And the American Indian chief who protected it
  By Kathleen Wallace

   In 1833, Jimmy Hayes became the area’s first white settler after he built a cabin 10 miles east of what would eventually be known as Colorado Springs.
   His cabin was referred to as Jimmy Camp, and there he established a cordial relationship with the plains American Indians – Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Black Feet, Crow, Comanche and Sioux. He traded beads, axes, firearms and alcohol for pelts.
   Every year at the end of July, the American Indians of the plains traveled what is now called Ute Pass, following the buffalo into the mountains to South Park, where they sought water, grass and respite from the hot, arid plains.
   There, the plains tribes hunted buffalo and fought their ancient enemy, the Ute, until it was time to travel to their winter campgrounds.
   When passing through the eastern end of Ute Pass, the American Indians would stop at two springs: one which was sweet and the other foul.
   The American Indians called the sweet spring “Medicine Fountain” and left offerings of beads, knives, arrows and bows for the manitou (an American Indian word for “great spirit”) that resided there.
   They believed the two springs had been formed when two hunters, one Comanche and one Shoshone, hunted on the same ground.
   The Comanche hunter, Waco-mish, had been unsuccessful at hunting and grew jealous of the Shoshone hunter, Au-sa-qua, who had killed a fat deer. In a rage, Waco-mish drowned Au-sa-qua in the stream. The death caused Wan-kan-aga, the father of the Comanche and Shoshone, to appear. Wan-kan-aga swung his elk-horn war club, bashing out the brains of Waco-mish, who fell into the spring, which instantly turned foul and undrinkable.
   Then, Wan-kan-aga struck a hard, flat rock overhanging the stream with his war club, and the rock opened into a round, clear basin that instantly filled with bubbling, sparkling water.
   According to the legend, the murder of Au-sa-qua was followed by a long and bloody war between Comanche and Shoshone tribes and was the source of enmity between the American Indians of the plains and the Ute Indians (a Shoshone tribe) living in the mountains beyond Ute Pass.
   In 1859, the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux battled the Utes in the Rockrimmon area. With several hundred warriors on each side, the battle lasted for almost the entire day. The Utes were finally victorious and drove their enemies back to the plains.
   To protect his band from the Utes, the Arapahoe chief, Niwot (whose name means “left-handed”), settled his people near the newly formed white settlement called Denver City. He told Horace Greeley he had no memory of a time of peace with the Utes and his people were always at war with them.
   It was at the contentious eastern entrance to Ute Pass that, in 1858, settlers from Denver City decided to establish the first town in what would become El Paso County.
   On paper, one group of settlers mapped out a town that would be built on the mesa, where, 13 years later, Gen. William Palmer founded Colorado Springs.
   The settlers called their town “El Paso” (Spanish for “the pass”) and sold lots before they were platted. But with a log cabin, a couple of tents and some wagons, El Paso fizzled as a town.
   The real first town was established in 1859. Another group of settlers formed the Colorado Town Co., claimed 2 square miles on the approach to Ute Pass and called it “Colorado City.”
   The founders expected that being near Ute Pass would make Colorado City a major supply hub for gold mining operations that were just starting up in South Park and Blue River. They chose the name “Colorado” because the Blue River mines were thought to be on the headwaters of the Colorado River.
   In less than a year, Colorado City had 300 cabins and a government called the El Paso Claim Club, with a president, secretary, recorder and the power to empanel jurors.
   The early lawmakers conducted official business in one room of a three-room building, slept in the second and kept a bar in the third.
   In 1861, the United States Congress formed the Territory of Colorado with Colorado City as its capitol and El Paso County as one of the territory's original 17 counties.
   But the Civil War intervened with Colorado City's future. Confederate raiders harassed travelers on the Arkansas River trail, causing them to switch to the South Platte trail to Denver instead. New roads west of Denver took newcomers straight to the gold mines in the mountains.
   After just five days as the capitol, the territory's lawmakers voted to move the capitol to Golden.
   With the capitol gone and Ute Pass by-passed, El Paso County settlers turned to agriculture.
   The plains American Indians continued to travel Ute Pass, passing through Colorado City and stopping to make offerings to the manitou in the spring.
   The annual treks ceased in 1864, when the plains American Indians started robbing wagon trains, stealing horses and threatening settlements – activities that escalated to the murder of several settlers and led to the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado's Kiowa County.
   During the massacre, a 700-man force under the command of U.S. Army Col. John Chivington killed and mutilated as many as 163 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho, two-thirds of whom were women and children, on Nov. 29, 1864.
   “I have come to kill Indians and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians,” said Chivington, also a Methodist preacher.
   Unlike the plains American Indians, the Uncompahgre Utes, under the leadership of Chief Ouray, remained friendly with white settlers.
   Ouray was born in Taos, New Mexico, in 1833. He spent his childhood among Mexicans, working as a sheep herder and speaking Spanish. He eventually learned English, Ute and the language of the Apache.
   At the age of 18, Ouray (whose name means “arrow”) joined the Uncompahgre Utes – his father was their leader.
   Like most Utes, Ouray was short at 5 feet 7 inches. He abhorred whiskey, never used tobacco and did not swear or use obscene language.
   History records many instances in which Ouray acted to ease tensions between Utes and settlers.
   On one occasion, Ouray shot a Ute for cutting firewood in a settler's enclosure. On another, he broke the arm of a Ute named Johnson who, in Ouray's opinion, had brought disgrace upon the Ute for stealing horses and refusing to return them. Another time, Ouray surrendered a Ute who killed the owner of a horse the Ute had stolen.
   In 1879, Ouray negotiated the surrender of the leaders of the Meeker Massacre, in which White River Utes killed Nathaniel Meeker, an agent of the reservation where they had been relegated, along with Meeker's 10 male employees.
   The next year, Ouray and his wife, Chipeta, were nearly lynched by an angry white mob when they boarded a train in Alamosa, Colo., on their way to testify before Congress about the massacre. They tried but failed to negotiate a treaty allowing the Uncompahgre Ute, who had not taken part in the massacre, to stay in Colorado.
   The Ute Removal Act of 1880 forced the Uncompahgre and White River Ute to relocate to the Uintah Indian Reservation in Utah, where Ouray died that same year. His body was buried in secret near Ignacio, Colo.
   Chipeta continued as a leader of the Utes and died on the reservation in 1924. A year later, the bones of both Ouray and Chipeta were buried in Montrose, Colo.
   “The early settlers of Colorado owe Ouray a debt of gratitude, and a monument to his memory should at some time be erected by the people of this state,” wrote Irving Howbert, a participant in the Sand Creek Massacre, in 1914.


 
  

Pictured are Chief Ouray and his second wife, Chipeta (White Singing Bird), who continued to lead the Uncompahgre Ute Indians after Ouray’s death in 1880. http://wikipedia.org
 

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