Settling West of Pikes Peak

Post copyright by Doris McCraw






Despite the 1859 Pikes Peak or Bust gold rush, the area up Ute Pass and the west side of Pikes Peak had no settlements until you reached Fairplay in the South Park area. The town of Colorado City, founded in 1859, was one of the last stops before heading up to the gold/silver fields on the southern route.

The Fremont expedition traveled through the area between 1842-44 and in the 1870’s there was the Hayden survey. Around 1870 the Costello family moved from Fairplay and set up ranching near the Ute pass route. The Welty family also started ranching in 1871 south of the Costello ranch near what is now Cripple Creek Colorado.

Hayden Survey 1873- South Park area
Hayden Survey 1873- South Park area

By 1871 the Costello Ranch was a stopping off point and place to replenish supplies for the miners heading further west.  Soon the elder Costello had set up a hostelry and general store and in 1873 a post office located there. Costello named the town/post office, Florissant in honor of his home back in Missouri.

This was still an untamed land and the Ute Indians would stop by the Costello’s, sometimes as many as thirty would join the family for a meal. There were still some conflicts, which most tried to avoid, but the clash of cultures was to be expected.

Chief Ouray and wife Chipeta. Ouray was known and possibly visited Costello’s Ranch

Others had joined the small community almost from the beginning with ranches being located close by. With abundant forest nearby, a sawmill was constructed. One ‘story’ is that Mary Reynolds, knowns as ‘Dirty Mary’, along with a husband, if the history is correct, had a ranch and sawmill, and Mary was also the local mid-wife.

In 1878, Adeline Hornbeck bought/homesteaded the area between Florissant and the ranches to the south. Her property was the first to locate on what is now the National Florissant Fossil Beds, which were created during the volcanic period that created the Cripple Creek/Victor gold mine district. This same volcanic activity may also be responsible for the gemstones located north and a little west of the area. (If you watch the Weather Chanel’s “prospectors”, some of the claims are in this area.)

For more information on Adeline, here is the link to the post I wrote about her:

This area is the eastern most of the region where my novella, “Home for His Heart” takes place.

Home for His Heart:Will Clara be able to escape her past and can Sam find her before it is too late.

“Sam! Sam, saddle up!” shouted Paul. “All hell has broke loose. Where are you?”

“I’m here, by the barn,” answered Sam. “What do you mean, all hell broke loose?”

“Saddle up and I’ll tell you on the way.”

Riding toward town, Paul explained. “Shortly after you left, this man came rushing into town. How he managed to stay on his horse, I don’t know. He was talking about dangerous men…warning…fire. It was hard to understand what he was saying. He was in bad shape.”

“Any idea who he is or where he came from?” asked Sam.

“No, and that isn’t all. It may be coincidence, but as we were taking him to Sally’s, Fred came staggering out of Clara’s house. Said someone hit him when he went back for his pipe, and Clara’s gone missing!”

“What do you mean, missing?”

“Sam, I mean Clara is nowhere to be found.” Paul stated. “I headed to Clara’s and the house was in shambles, as if there had been a fight,” said Paul.

Sam felt a crack in the fence of the prison he had put around his heart; the heart he had been protecting all these years. If he’d turned around when he thought of Clara, she might still be in her house. She would be safe. Like usual, he hadn’t been there when he was needed.

Paul must have seen what was going through his friend’s mind. “Stop your beatin’ up on yourself, and let’s find Clara,” Paul demanded.

“What about the man who came riding in? Can he tell us anything?” asked Sam.

“He’s out of it. Someone has gone to get Dirty Mary. She may just be a midwife, but the nearest thing we have to a doctor. Hopefully she can help,” said Paul. “I was planning to backtrack him and hoped you could try to track where Clara had gone.”

“Of course,” Sam said. “I’ll do my best.”

“That’ll be good enough, my friend. I know you’ll find her,” Paul said with conviction.


Until next time, see you in the library!

“Film and Photography on the Front Range” (Regional History Series): Colorado Springs, CO. Pikes Peak Library District 2012
Product Detailsavailable on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords

19 thoughts on “Settling West of Pikes Peak

  1. Love your historical pieces on the Old West, Doris. I do notice in your lead you have Colorado City being founded in 1959. Do you mean 1859?


    1. Linda, the more I research, the more I want to know. Of course, in my mind everyone wants to know it too. (Smile). Glad you liked the excerpt.Hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Doris


    1. Stephanie, I agree, so many books, do little time. I’m so happy to have the time back to dig into ‘the rest of the story’.

      Also thank you for the compliment on the excerpt. Still working on that part of my new ‘job’. *Smile* Doris


  2. Enjoyed the cliffhanger and the background. I am doing some 100 year homesteading history articles for our local paper and it is so fun to dig into their homesteading history and learn family stories. Love historical fiction. Neva


    1. Thank you Neva. Adeline and the Florisssant Valley are pretty fascinating, add to that there proximity to Cripple Creek/Victor and, no pun intended, what a gold mine.
      I would love to hear some of the history you find. It is humbling to think how these people came to a place no one else was. Doris


  3. Love this post. I am doing so much research on the little mining towns and Indians for a short story. This is right up the same alley. I enjoyed the blog story. Thanks Cher’ley


    1. Thank you for the kind words Cher’ley. I think my passion for the history of my adopted home just gets into my blood so deeply, I have to share. Of course I also loved the stories of my home area. Here is to a success with your new story. Doris


  4. Very interesting post, Doris — brought to mind some of the things you told me when we visited in August. Our western heritage/history is so very interesting — I’m thankful to be part of this Rocky Mountain culture!


    1. It my be my adopted home, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. You are right, we have so much to be thankful for, to be able to learn and share such a rich heritage.

      Thank you for you support, and yes this is all part of the story of this region. Doris


  5. Great post, Doris. Since I’m not likely to visit these areas anytime soon, I love reading about the history of them in your writing. Your excerpt is intriguing!


    1. Nancy, glad you enjoy them, for I love sharing the history of my adopted home.

      Thank you for the kind words about the excerpt. Still learning that skill. *Smile* Doris


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