Saturday, May 02, 2009

Elbert County, then and now...

We continue our series of then and now shots with the few buildings in Elbert County, Colorado which I was not only able to find in the Denver Public Library archives; but that still remain in existence out on the eastern plains of Colorado.

A little historical background: Elbert County had the middle of the three routes which comprised the Smoky Hill Trails from Kansas to the gold fields near Denver back in the late 1800s. The trail that bisected Elbert county was the riskiest of the three, known as Starvation Trail when one party of would-be gold miners had to resort to cannibalism to survive.

I headed out of the house after lunch, riding under heavily overcast skies and temperatures in the high 40s. It was a bit brisk as I was on Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer which has very little in the way of wind protection.

I made it through Elizabeth and reached the road to Elbert, on the western edge of Elizabeth with no issues. Just shy of 50 miles into the ride, I made it to Elbert.

Wikipedia: The community is named for a past Colorado territorial governor and state Supreme Court Justice Samuel Hitt Elbert. Elbert was a bustling center until May 31, 1935, when Kiowa Creek, a stream next to the community, flooded suddenly and washed away half of the community. It now is the location of only a few stores, churches, and houses. The majority of Elbert residents are involved in the agriculture sector.

Elbert Community Center
For a photo of the Russell Gates Mercantile Store, Circa 1910
link to DPL: Call# chs.x6849

One of the buildings which was not affected by the flood of 1935 was the Presbyterian Church which remains on its original site:

link to DPL: Call # x-8104

I wandered about the town some more but found no evidence of buildings that might be historical in value. I headed back north and towards the town of Kiowa.

Kiowa is where the Elbert County Courthouse is located, I also tried to find the old school house but it apparently has been razed for the newer high school buildings that stand there today. The courthouse however, is still in operation:

Elbert County Courthouse, Kiowa, CO
Circa 1910
 DPL: Call# X-2197

Leaving Kiowa, I headed back westward towards the town of Elizabeth. A bit larger town than either Kiowa or Elbert, it even boasts an "old town" section.

No historical photographs that I could find from DPL of the stuff in Elizabeth. However, here's what I found of interest perhaps:

Railroad Crew living quarters

The following building is on the main drag through Elizabeth, can't really miss it due to its height and the big 1897 numbers proclaiming when it was built.

The I.O.O.F., or Internal Order of Odd Fellows is according to Wikipedia:

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) is an altruistic fraternal organization derived from the similar English Oddfellows service organizations which came into being during the 1700s, at a time when altruistic and charitable acts were far less common.

I'd never heard of the I.O.O.F., so I learned a bit today. Never a bad thing in my opinion. I headed on home, retracing my route and enjoying the brief periods of sunshine that had begun to make their appearance. The eastern plains I rode through remain mainly horse country with encroaching suburbia making steady inroads. You can still, if you wander about enough, get a feel for what things were like for the pioneers crossing them on their way to the gold mines near the mountains.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I ride with an altruistic group of oddfellows.

The section house is very interesting. Company houses were not know for luxury, and railroad life was incrdibly tough. The worst job in the world was to be a railroad brakeman, on a freight train, in the winter, of 1895.

Convicts had it easier.

Charlie6 said...


thanks for the history tidbits...I can't imagine how tough the life of a railroad worker must have been.....however, I believe my great-great grandfather, who my dad tells me helped build the US railroads had it pretty tough as well....

He apparently slaved away with the Irish and fellow Chinese on the railway construction, then apparently mistakenly trusted a friend with his money, a friend who ended up disappearing.....not much else is told about him though, I should find out more.

As you know, diversity training and cultural sensitivity were not part of the railroad foreman's training back in those days.