Saturday, December 13, 2014

Early Colorado Christmas Celebrations

Post written and copyright by Doris McCraw

As the Christmas and Holiday season approaches, how about some early celebrations? Imagine if you will, 1858, you have followed the siren's call to Colorado in search of the 'golden fleece' known as gold and silver. Life has been busy and the high desert with its mild weather has fooled you. Then when you do the figuring, its Christmas, what do you do? Or maybe you have traveled with your family and now you plan to celebrate in the middle of nowhere. Join me as I share some of the stories I have found.

According to the records, the area around what is now Denver had about 200 men and 5 women (four were married) and assorted children. Perhaps I should add the two towns that made up the area were about sixty days old. Plans were being made in the two camps for a festive meal. One camp was planning and candles for a tree that had been cut in the foothills. This was the German couple and trees were a part of the home country festivities. The other party had a meal of buffalo, rabbit, wild turkey, rice pudding and peach and apple pie, listing just part of the menu.

USGS Topographic Mapping Field Camp

It is written that Christmas morning that year was 'soft and genial as a May day...'. Into this lovely mix "Uncle Dick" Wootton (sp) brought his gift, "Taos Lightening". Needless to say, the day was one to be remembered, if you hadn't taken in too much of the free gift Uncle Dick brought to the party. (I'll have to tell you more about Uncle Dick later)

One family on the Arkansas river, up close to the cut off to what is now Monarch pass, had been cut off from others and the towns due to heavy fall snow storms that year of 1863.  They had been working their claim, even in the heart of winter. When Christmas arrived, they had plenty of food, but not much variety. So the one daughter decided to bring out the good china brought from their home in Nebraska and serve up a feast. According to the story, they made mock turkey, from beef, beans, substitute coffee, made from browned bran. The parents were the guest of honor. Now that is a creative young lady, who set this up with the help of her siblings.

. Harding sandstone on gneiss and schists 1.5 miles northwest of Canyon [City]/USGS. “

In the early trapper days around 1842, the northeast corner of Colorado/Utah saw a holiday take shape with the help of the Indians in the area. Their Holiday meal consisted of appalost, a type of shish kabob with lean meat and fat roasted over a low fire, buffalo cider, a liquid found in the stomach of buffalo, supplemented with washena, marrow fat and pomme blanc from the Indians.

In Leadville in 1888, Dick Berryman's Saloon offered the following bill of fare: Possum, Turkey, Roast Pig, Sweet Potatoes and Corn Dodgers.

Leadville, Colorado, mining district, subject of an early mining-geology study, 1879.

As you can see, even back in the early days, people did what they could to celebrate. I will leave you with a lovely passage from Isabella Bird's book, "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains". As Isabella traveled the Rocky Mountains, alone, she wrote letters back to her sister in England. This passage is from her time in the Estes Park area of Colorado in 1873 as she rode her horse Birdie through the fir covered area.  "...I think I never saw such a brilliant atmosphere.That curious phenomena called frost-fall was occurring in which, whatever moisture may exist in the air, somehow aggregates into feather and fern leaves, the loveliest of creations, only seen in rarefied air and intense cold. One breath and they vanish. The air was filled with diamond sparks quite intangible. They seemed just glitter and no more. It was still and cloudless, and the shapes of violet mountains were softened by a veil of the tenderest blue."

This area is known as Little Yellowstone in Rocky Mountain national Park (photo W. Lee, USGS, ...

To each and everyone, may you have the Christmas and Holiday that your heart desires.

snowfall - by the author

also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Photo and Poem:

Film and Photography on the Front Range” (Regional History Series): Colorado Springs, CO. Pikes Peak Library District 2012

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Interview with Col. Chivington

Many people remember John Milton Chivington in connection to the 'Sand Creek Massacre' which took place in Colorado in November of 1864. What others may remember is his campaign during the Civil War and Glorieta Pass. The true story lies in the story of his life from his birth in 1821 and his death in 1894. Here is a short interview with the man himself as portrayed by Ken Oyer. 

Glorietta Pass, New Mexico, USA, 2012.jpg
Glorieta Pass 2012

Why did you come to Pikes Peak Region, and where did you locate?

As a Methodist minister, I was sent by the church, from Omaha, Nebraska, to Denver in 1860, where I served as a Presiding Elder in Denver's First Methodist Episcopal Church. 

As a side note, if you wish to know more about this church here is a link to a brief history:
What about your family life, your parents, your wife and children?
I was born on January 27, 1821 to a farm family in Lebanon, Ohio.  My father died when I   was only five years old and the burden of providing for the entire family fell to my mother     and older brothers. I married my first wife, Martha, in 1844, the same year I became a         minister.

How do you see yourself and what would you want your legacy to be?
I went to my grave standing by my decision and my actions at Sand Creek, a battle which eventually became my biggest burden in life and that ruined any political aspirations I had. I would prefer to be remembered as a Civil War hero for my actions at Glorietta Pass, New Mexico. I would also like to be remembered as a minister with enough bravery and passion to speak out against slavery in pro- slavery towns.

Any words you would like to share about your life not included above?
History will sometimes judge a man entirely based upon certain portions or aspects of his     life rather than the entire life; what that man did, or failed to do, can very well become his      legacy whether or not he wishes it. His legacy is not always his choice.

As Ken, what about Chivington do you find most interesting or complex?
I would have to say that I find it interesting (perhaps odd) that Colonel Chivington
could be a man of God and stand so vehemently against slavery, and yet find it in himself
to despise the Native Americans as much as he did.

Thank you Ken for taking the time to share you knowledge about this very interesting and controversial man. If you would like to hear more from Chivington, join him at the Historic Chapel in    Evergreen Cemetery, 1005 South Hancock Expressway, Colorado Springs, CO., on Sunday September 21 at 2 PM. Cost is $10 per person. For more information or to reserve  your seat, contact:
Historic Chapel, Evergreen Cemetery

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Legacy that is James 'Jimmy' Burns

Perhaps one of the most interesting, yet mostly unknown benefactor of the Pikes Peak Region is James 'Jimmy' Burns'. Burns with his partner were responsible for one of the most productive mines in the Cripple Creek/Victor mining district in the early days. To learn more of this man's legacy read on.

Burns Mausoleum in Evergreen Cemetery

Why did you come to Colorado Springs?

Chance and fate really brought me here. I had tried several careers before moving to Colorado Springs. I tried being a merchant marine, a lawyer (or at least went to school for it), a machinist, a small time miner in Peru and even a cotton broker. Sometimes I made money, sometimes I lost it. After losing a lottery winning I got word that a few of my sisters and my brother had moved to a new town out in Colorado called Colorado Springs so decided to try my luck there.

What made you believe you could find gold in Cripple Creek, since so many were already there?

Yes, I was a bit of a late comer to the Cripple Creek Mining District. I had no real mining experience but after seeing so many others go and actually find something, I with my partner James Doyle decided to try out our luck. It was a rough go in the beginning as every inch of Battle Mountain seemed to already have been claimed but after much searching we found a postage stamp sized piece of land and went to work.

Store Fronts in Victor, Colorado

How about your family life, your parents, your wife and children?

I was born to an Irish father and a Scottish mother, John and Ellen Burns. They immigrated to North America and finally settled down in Portland, Maine. My two oldest sisters were born in Scotland, the rest of us in the US. We were a pretty close family and remained so throughout most of our lives. In 1900 I met and married the most beautiful women I had ever seen, Olivia Belle Parker. She provided me with a son, James Jr. in 1902, and a daughter Gladys in 1904. It turned out that Gladys was probably the only good thing that happened to me in all of 1904 but that’s another story. Another son, Wilson came along in 1911. I have tried very hard to be a good husband and father and I would like to think that I have been. They all mean the world to me.

How do you see yourself and what would you want your legacy to be?

A good question! I see myself as a man who tries hard, always keeps trying, and has been successful because of it. I have made enemies but I have made many good friends and I hope that it’s those friends and my family that will define my legacy. It the end, being known as a good man will be a good enough legacy for me.

As Ron, what drew you to continue your research on Jimmy?

Since the first time I saw the big white marble family mausoleum and it’s classic styling at Evergreen Cemetery, I was drawn to finding out more about him. Who was the person that would build that kind of monument to himself? What I found is a very interesting person with a rags-to-riches tale whose contributions to Teller and El Paso counties seems to have been nearly erased or forgotten. Some people still remember the Chief Theater but how many people know why it was called the Burns Building? I wanted to be able to bring his memory and the memory of his accomplishments back to light.

James 'Jimmy Burns', is brought to life by Ron West a 6 pm on Thursday, September 11, 2014, at the Historic Chapel in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cost is $10 per person. For more information or to reserve your seat contact:

Historic Chapel, Evergreen Cemetery

Monday, August 25, 2014

Heart of Gold - Two Madams

Laura Bell McDaniel and Blanche Burton were two Madams in the area now know as Old Colorado City. Both were determined to make their way in the world. Not only were they successful, they were also philanthropic. Their final resting place is Fairview Cemetery near the area they made their mark. Here is your chance to hear about these women in their own words.

Pikes Peak, from near Colorado City, looking up the valley of the Fountain qui Bouille. Elevation of the peak is 14,216 feet. El Paso County, Colorado. 1870. usgs photo library

What brought you to your current avocation- in other words how did you become a madam? 

Laura BellI wanted nice things. I wasn't going to get them as a shopgirl or seamstress. 

How about you Blanche? As a divorced woman of the 1880's it was difficult to procure employment above that of a maid. Being Irish made it that much more difficult. So I decided to become an entrepreneur and work for myself
Are you married or were you ever married?
Laura Bell - Married twice. I married Samual Dale when I was 20 because he wanted to travel. When I wanted to settle down in Colorado, he moved on after I had my daughter Pearl. I then married John Thomas "Tom" McDaniel in Colorado. He left after some trouble there. 

Blanche yes-but divorced

Do your employees' like working for you?
Laura Bell - I only employed the top of the line young women. I took good care of them and saw that they had nice things and were well cared for. They enjoyed the house. 
If you could give young people any advice, what would it be?
Laura Bell - Don't become who the world thinks you should become. Become who you know you are. 

BlancheEducation is the surest step out of poverty. An education will allow you to make your own choices and not be subjected to the choices you are limited to without an education.
Final question- what about this character do you love and why?
Diana - Laura Bell was a strong woman who knew her mind and what she wanted in life. She went after it and obtained all of the things she wanted on her own terms. 
DianneWho would not love the first madam of Cripple Creek. Blanche in her later years helped out the less fortunate. She did it not for show, but because she felt it was the neighborly thing to do.

To learn more about these Colorado City Heart of Gold Madams join them at the Historic Chapel in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs on Thursday August 28, 2014 at 6pm in honor of Fairview Cemetery. For directions and more information contact:

Historic Chapel, Evergreen Cemetery

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pearl DeVere-Cripple Creek Madam

Post written and copyright by Doris McCraw 2014

Colette LaBate as Pearl DeVere
In 1897 Cripple Creek had rebuilt itself from the disastrous fire of 1896. The Cripple Creek-Victor mining district was booming. The labor war of 1893-94 was over and the miners had won a victory over mine owners for eight hour/$3.00 day. The women who entertained the miners were back. One little girl, Mabel Barbie, observed a funeral that she would later write about in her book, "Cripple Creek Days", that placed one of the madams of the district into our hearts and minds. That madam: Pearl DeVere. This gracious lady, thanks to Colette LaBate, has returned to answer some questions. Set back and listen.

What brought you to your current avocation- in other words how did you become a madam?

Although I became involved in the underworld through an acquaintance earlier, I chose to enter the profession as a business choice. I knew it would allow me the social access and upward mobility I desired.

Are you married or were you ever married?

Unofficially I  may have been married up to three times. Officially there is no known record that I was ever married.

Mt. Pisgah Cemetery, Pearls final resting place.

Do your 'employees' like working for you?

Yes. The luxury of my parlor house allowed for a fairly easy life for the time period.

If you could give young people any advice, what would it be?

Be thankful for your comfortable life and the amazing opportunities you have. You have choices that never existed for the people who came before you.

Final question, for you Colette,what about this character do you love and why?

Once she made her choice of profession, she made it the very best it could be. For that reason, even thought she was only in Cripple Creek for a few years, she remains one of its most renowned and beloved citizens.

Thank you Colette. For more information about Pearl you can hear her speak at the Historic Chapel in Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, Colorado on Sunday August 24 at 2 pm. For more information contact:

Historic Chapel, Evergreen Cemetery

You can also read more about the funeral in the book "Cripple Creek Days" by Mabel Barbee Lee

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Why Founders Day?

Post written and copyrighted 2014 by Doris McCraw

On Sunday July 27, 2014 the "Think You Know History" series continues with a special Founders Day Celebration at the Historic Evergreen Cemetery and Chapel. This free event celebrates beginnings, Colorado Springs; Colorado and the wonderful history of this region. For more information

Founders Day! Why celebrate something that happened so many years ago? The question is probably what most folks today wonder. It is much like the old house that has stood the test of time and is no longer considered relevant to the modern world. When something is not considered important, you get rid of it. Yet what price do we pay when we no longer care about what came before?

George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher, wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If we do not learn the past; learn from the past, then not only can we not remember it, we are condemned to repeat it. The gift we can give ourselves and our future generations is the gift of knowledge. Not just names and dates, but the events, environment and mindset of those earlier days. How do we do that?

Many of us when we talk of knowledge think of the stuffy classroom, the required papers and the rote learning of “Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492.” But knowledge and learning can be, and is so much more.

For some of us, it is days spent reading newspapers and literature from the past. It is verifying facts and figures, not just accepting what one person said, for they may have been biased. For others it is taking part in or listening to lectures - historic speakers. Perhaps trips to museums, or living history museums are the order of the day.

One way to capture the time, the feel and the memory of those early days, and teach children, is to take part in events that were so much a part of our past. The celebrations, the food, games, music all are ways to experience what it may have been like for our fore-bearers.

So why Founders Day? Because it is a chance to interact with history, the chance to experience the fun and maybe learn a thing or two. It is also the chance to actually speak with people face to face. Now that can be a novel concept these days.

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To read the story of Colorado's first film commissioner, Karol W. Smith, check out "Film & Photography on the Front Range" which can be purchased at
Cover for Home For His Heart
Available for purchase from:
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Sunday, June 8, 2014

He Served His Country

Looking at History

Post copyright by Doris McCraw

For those who know me, history is a big part of my life. As we honor the people who served our country both overseas and at home, I want to take a moment and remember a Colorado native whose service is not widely remembered.

Born in Mesa County Colorado in 1918 his family moved to Fremont County before he was five.He had two siblings, a brother and sister, but he was the oldest. The family had a restaurant in Florence, Colorado. The whole family helped out, with the parents meeting each other as they changed from morning to evening shift.

At thirteen he got a job in the local theater house and worked for the family owned theaters even after returning home from the war. It took five years to graduate high school because he was working. To find a job in 1931 during the depression is a feat in itself.

He joined the marine corps prior to Pearl Harbor and was stationed in California. A year later he was stationed on the staff of Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner:,  

Allied sailors and officers watch General of the Army Douglas MacArthursign documents during the surrender ceremony aboard Missouri on 2 September 1945. The unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the Allies  officially ended the Second World War.

While on staff it was decided that in addition to written reports, they also wanted photos of the missions. He learned his craft as a photographer while on the ship from Pearl Harbor to the Pacific Theater. Fortunately there was a sailor on board who had studied photography who helped with the learning process of not only how to shoot the photo, but develop the negatives.

By the time he reached  Iwo Jima he had learned his skills well. He earned the bronze star with a V for valor of Iwo Jima. According to his son, his father said he had went ashore on Iwo prior to the invasion to photograph the area.  He also photographed the surrender of the Japanese aboard the Missouri.

Upon returning home he resumed his work in the movie theaters and practiced the skill of photography he learned aboard ship. He died June 30, 1992 of cancer.

Who was this man? Karol W. Smith, best known as the man who helped created the first state film commission in the United States and was Colorado's first state film commissioner.

Main Street in Buckskin Joe

You can read more about Smith in the book: "Film and Photography on the Front Range"
It can be purchased at or

Monday, June 2, 2014

To Live History

To Live History

This post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw and reposted from Writing Wranglers and Warriors

What is it like to live history? There are numerous ‘towns’ and ‘ranches’ that allow visitors to watch living history. Some of the more famous are Colonial Williamsburg and Plimoth Plantation. In Colorado there is  Rock Ledge Ranch. There are those who recreate historic battles from the Revolutionary War on.
Then there are people who take on historic character. I know Ben Franklin (Christopher Lowell), Theodore Roosevelt (Don Moon) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Richard Marrold). Of course there are those who are unique to Colorado history.  Pearl DeVere, the Cripple Creek madam who died of an overdose of laudanum, Poker Alice, a poker player  in the Old West, Wm. J. Palmer founder of Colorado Springs and his wife Queen and James Burns, the Cripple Creek magnate who was one of the owners of the famous Portland Mine on Battle Mountain near the town of Victor, Colorado.
Theodore Roosevelt The Bad Land Years
All the people who have this passion to pass along history, to create characters as in the living history sites or to research and bring to life people from the past, do so to keep the stories alive. From the period correct costume to having the facts straight, to them the best way to remember the past and learn from it is to relive it and share it.
I too have this passion for history, be it the early women doctors, the labor wars in Cripple Creek/Victor or the founding of Colorado Springs and Colorado, I want to share the wonderful information I find. I also have made it my mission to bring the life of Helen (Hunt) Jackson back to public consciousness. For over twelve years I have researched and performed as this amazing woman. For me and those others who have this passion it is not an option to not do this. We live history because we don’t want to lose history. History is the stories of our lives. As writers we tell stories, as historic characters we do the same. As I prepare to take part in the “Think You Know History” series, I want to share the passion to live history.

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Below is the link to my non-fiction piece on the first state film commissioner in the United States included in this book.
“Film & Photography on the Front Range” can be purchased online at:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Oscar Films So Far...

As most know, I tend to write on this blog when something just needs to be said, or I want to pass on my thoughts. Both count and in this post, the opinions are mine and mine alone.

To understand the following comments, some background. Over the last six or so years a film friend and I make a point to see the best picture nominations. This was fairly simple when there were only five, now with nine or more ridiculously difficult to do. Still we do make the effort, but at the cost of tickets and the quality, well, I wonder should we continue.

There were great hopes for this years crop of nominees, but alas so far that hope has been dashed on the ragged edge of reality. For the most part, the films are not engaging. I have seen five and will give a brief statement about each and why I don't think it was that good.

HER: Creative for the sake of creativity.  Not Oscar worthy for just that reason. No real story and for me the best performance was Scarlett Johansson as the voice. She was almost worth the price of admission.

NEBRASKA: Bruce Dern was pretty good. The choice to film in black and white probably did the best favor for this film. Otherwise it really didn't engage me. A few good scenes but not enough to carry a film.

AMERICAN HUSTLE: The performances were amazing. The story was horrible. No continuity, and there was no one, I mean no one of the major characters I really gave a hoot about. One minor character I cheered for. Otherwise what a wash. As a friend said when walking out...what was that all about?

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE: It could have been a powerful story, but how many times can you stand to see the sky scanned for two minutes and not see anything else. You could leave the film for ten to fifteen minutes and not miss a thing important. Poorly executed story and editing. Re-edit and take out about forty five or so minutes and making it tighter would have served this film well.

GRAVITY: A good film, nicely told story and they stopped it at the right time. Is it an Oscar film? Not really but so far it is the best of the lot. The story here also failed with over long shots, but not as bad as the above film.

So there you have it. What I thought might be a good year for films so far is not. When film makers get back to telling a story and forget about all the bells and whistles we could have a good year. Take a bit of reality, add some myth and characters you care about and then we will talk. Seems reality TV has made its mark on film and that is not a good thing. Movie makers, please stop thinking we don't care about people and spend your and our time with being clever. Just tell a damn good story in a way that we can care about.