JoAnn and were lucky to do a downtown walking tour with Kevin Rucker, historian and professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver on Friday, the 17th of August, 2012. Kevin is also a coordinator with the lower downtown historic district in Denver or lodo which does great things in the way of historic preservation. We were taking the “Gold Camp to Paris on the Platte” tour featuring some of the more interesting aspects of early Denver and also a few ghost stories! You must be 21 years of age to take this tour but honestly I heard nothing as bad as what you hear in five minutes on a TV commercial but rules are rules. We were learning about Denver around the time Marshall and Amanda arrived in 1866 when it seems anything went.
One of the things we learned about early Denver was it was a wild and crazy place with a lot of prostitutes and about 17 opium shops. Above is Kevin down in the basement of the Blake Street Vault showing us a bottle of something called laudanum, a derivative of opium. This building was originally a saloon that was built in 1863 out of brick…right after the great fire of 1863 which led to the “brick ordinance”! Chances are very good that both Marshall and Amanda saw this saloon when they first arrived in Denver. Check out Blake Street Vault’s photo’s page for some of the historic pictures of this colorful part of Denver in its early years.
Denver only barely existed in 1858 but with the first gold strike it quickly ballooned in population. Early Denver is a story of claim jumpers, swindlers, war deserters, speculators, and those inflicted with a disease that Mark Twain coined “Sudden Riches Disease”. It is also a story early Colorado history and its growth from a territory in 1861 to statehood in 1876. The engraving below represents a scene that took place in the 1868 to 1870 time period.
Near the beginning of the tour, we started at the Market on 1445 Larimer Street in the heart of LoDo and I have this and a few other sites on this map. [mapsmarker layer=”1″]
We learned about some of the very early Denver buildings and their fascinating stories. Almost directly across the street from the market is a covered walkway in the Kettle arcade building with murals in the ceiling of early Denver. Kevin shares some of the early history of Denver and these murals help tell the story. On one drawing is Robert Speer and Soapy Smith, another features William Larimer (below). One mural features Little Raven an Arapaho Chief. The story of Little Raven is connected with the Sand Creek Massacre which took place on November 29, 1864. The “Indian Wars” lasted from 1864 to 1869 a time period when Marshall and Amanda would have been traveling for several weeks from St. Joseph Missouri to Denver.
I had a chance to ask Kevin about their wagon trip and the fact that they would have traveled past Ft. Sedgwick (originally called Camp Rankin) near the town of Julesburg Colorado. Sedgwick is named for the Union General Sedgwick well known as the union commander of VI corps who was killed at the battle of Spotsylvania. He would have been a general very familiar to both Amanda and Marshall in the Civil War but they probably did not know that one day they would be traveling by wagon past a little fort named after him. In addition to his fame in the Civil War he served in the Mexican American and Indian Wars and Kevin knew some of those stories.
Well anyway, let me show you a few historic pictures of this part of Denver which are courtesy of the Western Archives of the Denver Public Library and tell you a little bit about them.
Chances are that when Marshall first arrived in June of 1866 he probably could not afford to stay in a hotel. Here is a picture of a tent camp along Cherry Creek about the time he would have arrived. Amanda did not first come to Denver, she came later in October of 1866.
I’ll add more to the Denver story at a later date. I’ve ordered an 1866 business directory of Denver with historic pictures.
Marsh and Cope both came through Denver and in a future post I may look at it from the time period when they were here. There is also much more to the Denver story for Marshall and Amanda, for example their first daughter was born in 1868 in a building that stands where Union Station is today, well before the first Union Station Bldg was constructed. Most likely Marshall and Amanda not only learned about Canon City in those times but about other mountain towns such as Montezuma.
One last picture from the tour: JoAnn and Kevin in front of the oil and vinegar store in Lodo. They not only have great stuff to sell, they are in one of the original brick buildings from lower downtown Denver and may have one of the oldest surviving brick walls inside.