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A few months ago I noticed that in the 1870 census that was available through Ancestry.com Marshall and Amanda Felch listed Montezuma as a location where they had been residing. I actually never gave this much thought and assumed this was just a place they spent a short amount of time but I recently decided to pursue it and it was worth it. My impression of Marshall and Amanda has always been they were Vermont natives growing up tough, remarkable Civil War Veterans, early western pioneers just north of  Canon City and later on Marshall as a dinosaur digger. I always thought of their story here in Fremont County as a bit of a “Little House on the Prairie”; raising a family on a small farm. Turns out their history in this part of the world is broader than I originally thought.

I first had to take a guess on whether they were talking about Montezuma county on the west slope or Montezuma, the mining town that is in Summit County. I soon learned that Montezuma was an old silver mining town important in the early history of the region and it still exists today but is off the beaten path.  I decided to contact some friends I know primarily at the Colorado Division of Mining, Reclamation, and Safety including Julie Annear, Gary Curtiss, Jim Herron, and Al Amundson. They connected me with Jeff Graves who works in the Summit County area on abandoned mine projects and he put me onto two good books: Mary Ellen Gilliland’s book “Summit: A gold rush history of Summit County” and  the USGS professional paper on that area, USGS PP 178 by Lovering. I also checked with Colorado’s premier mining historian Erik Twitty who provided me with some historical information and other data. I appreciate their assistance very much.

I bought Gilliand’s book and soon found this reference on page 64:  … “In 1868, when a rough route over Loveland Pass opened, miners with pack trains began to pour over the Divide from Georgetown. M.P. Felch and George Turnbull put up Montezuma’s first hotel in 1868 to house the horde.” It was this reference that made it clear that we were talking about the silver mining town. M.P. Felch means Marshall Parker Felch.

I contacted some of the historical folks in Breckenridge and at the State Historical Society hoping to find a local who would know a bit more. I was lucky enough to come across the co-archivist, Karen Musolf and she put me in contact with a Mike Clary and others who led me to Kathy Hinkley, a local from Montezuma who is familiar with its history. It’s fascinating the fast friendships that develop when researching history!

Montezuma has a long and fascinating history and so does Summit County and I can only lightly touch on it only so far as its relationship to the Marshall and Amanda story. Silver was discovered in the area in 1864 and by 1865 things were bustling in Montezuma and elsewhere in Summit County. It is likely stories of folks striking it rich in the mountains were told and retold so that when Marshall and Amanda arrived in Fremont County in 1866 they heard those stories.

Sometime most likely in 1867 Marshall and Amanda must have made the journey into the Montezuma area and started checking things out. Getting to Montezuma today is not easy and I can only imagine the journey back then. On the other hand Marshall and Amanda were both hardened Civil War veterans and they were used to walking and also being self sufficient. Based on historical travel routes into that area in 1867 they would have gone into the Montezuma area via South Park, through Fairplay, up and over Georgia Pass and then taken a right turn on the North Swan and gone over a pass no longer used today called Bear Pass into the Glacier Mountain area south of Montezuma.  A trip, I might add, that was a total distance of about 130 miles today and certainly much longer and tougher back then.  Based on the records it appears they would have used a combination of mules in a pack train or mules pulling a wagon at least part of the way. 

There were three primary routes into Montezuma in 1867 that Marshall and Amanda might have used.  The first way would have been to head up from Denver into the mountains toward Georgetown, then travel over a roughed out trail over old Loveland Pass, then backtrack into the Montezuma area.   The second way would have been to head southwest out of Denver over Kenosha Pass into South Park then up and over Georgia Pass, then up and over the historic Bear Pass into the Montezuma area.  The third way would have been to come up into South Park from the Canon City/Garden Park area and follow that Georgia Pass/Bear Pass route.  By 1870 they could have possibly made it over Argentine Pass to Georgetown and by 1878 after they had left the Webster Pass and old Loveland Pass wagon routes would have been nicely done.   All of these routes are approximated below on the google map so you can explore those options.   Boreas and Hoosier Pass routes would have provided access into Breckenridge but not Montezuma at the time. 

South Park was busy with its own remarkable history and discoveries of gold primarily in the Fairplay area as early as 1859 so there would have been a lot of traffic heading in various directions from there. 

The Amanda and Marshall’s story which was greatly enhanced through the contributions of Kathy and Don Hinkly and their son Paul. Paul and his family have lived in Montezuma for many years and he knows the territory! Kathy and Don are part time residents enjoying the cool mountain air in the summers and they know the history.

Kathy and Don Hinkley with me on the right!

Kathy and Don Hinkley with me on the right, June 30,2012

Here is what I learned from Kathy. In 1870 Isaac Chapman sold a house and lot to Amanda Felch for $25 that was registered on 7-8-1870 (Book 8 page 207)  Block H lot 2. In 1872 Marshall and Amanda Felch sold the Montezuma House Hotel to Geo. Turnbull that was registered 11-17-1872  (Book 9 pages 336 & 337) Block H lot 2. The property sold for  $1,800 with all the “appurenances and hereditaments.” If you recall the beginning of this story, the hotel was operational in 1868. My next picture of the hotel and downtown Montezuma is from the western photo archives of the Denver Public Library.

Montezuma Colorado.

Montezuma Colorado. The building at right is the Summit House which was about a block away from Marshall and Amanda’s building, further down the street on the right. 

Some of the same buildings in the picture above are still there today but many have been destroyed over time by fires.  During our visit we walked over the exact location of the hotel. Here it is below!

location of hotel owned by Marshall and Amanda Felch

Location of hotel owned by Marshall and Amanda Felch. Hotel sat on empty lot in foreground with older historic building in picture being just north of the hotel.

Montezuma - hotel location

Location of historic hotel in Montezuma

I woke up early on Sunday morning where we were staying in Breckenridge and took a second look at the book by Gilliland as I wanted to be prepared. Here is something I found on page 64 and 65, something I skimmed over previously not really reading it.

When William Brewer visited Montezuma during his 1868 sojourn through Summit County,  he first described Montezuma:

“At last, the road turns up a side stream, growing steeper, and the forests denser than any we have seen before. At last we came to the mining town of Montezuma, whose newly shingled roofs gleamed through the trees. It looks thriving for it is a new place, a town with new silver mines of supposed great richness, to the town has its share of expectations for the future. New houses are going up – it is thriving – although above where all the grains will grow – even potatoes – for it lies perhaps 10,000 feet or more.”

William went on to talk about Montezuma’s sole lodging facility:

“We stopped at the only hotel, kept by a smart Vermont Yankee, his wife a smarter Yankee, Vermont woman…. It had three rooms downstairs – the outside or sitting room, dining room, and kitchen. The overworked woman had no female help, but the table was well served, notwithstanding the influx of eight hungry travelers in addition to the already large family. 

Her husband had gone to his ranch (nearly a hundred miles distant) for vegetables to supply his table. He returned while we were there, the coveted “grub” packed on donkeys or mules. Such is life here in the mountains.

We slept in the common garret, with perhaps eight or ten others, hardy, tired miners and prospectors, some of whom snored loud enough to wake the dead.”

It is without any doubt in my mind that he is referring to Marshall and Amanda.

Here is an interesting fact that makes the above story even better. On July 29, 1867, Marshall and Amanda’s first child, Sarah Ellen Felch, was born. Amanda was feeding the guests and keeping the two story hotel running while carrying for her year old baby.  It’s also interesting to note that almost three years to the day earlier, Amanda was in Washington D.C. for the grand review of the Union troops completing her four full years of Civil War service. Marshall was traveling with mules all the way to Canon City over trails to pick up supplies.

One piece of the story a bit unclear for me was the mention of “the already large family” which may possibly have been Marshall’s brother Henry and his wife who are listed as living in Fremont County in the 1870 census. In the 1870 census records it also mentions a person named John Browning and it also mentions a young man named Albert Felch, the son from Amanda’s first marriage to Mr. Farnham in Vermont. It should also be noted that most likely Marshall and Amanda’s second child Ned was born in Montezuma in 1869.  Marshall and Amanda’s third child, Webster Emerson Felch was born in 1870. 

Lets take a second closer look at that same hotel in light of the above information.

The Summit hotel in Montezuma

The Summit hotel in Montezuma. Guests on the front porch.

The first sawmill in Montezuma was built by the Webster brothers and it was about a half mile south along the Snake River. It may have been water driven or perhaps had a boiler to make it go. 

We were curious about the Webster Brothers and Kathy and Don were glad to help. They took us to the gravestone of Mr. Webster in a town cemetery that is fairly well hidden with no general public access.

Francis Emerson Webster

Francis Emerson Webster

Georgia Pass

We accessed Georgia Pass in relation to the Marshall and Amanda Felch Story related to their access into the Breckenridge area.  We now know that Marshall worked as a freighter in the 1866-1872 time period accessing mining camps in the southern mountains including the Breckenridge and Leadville areas.   Breckenridge’s history begins with placer mining along the Swan and Blue Rivers in 1859 shortly after the Colorado Gold Rush began.    A large amount of placer mining took place in along the Blue River and tributaries including the Swan River and French Gulch about that time.

Some of the first access into the Breckenridge area occurred in the spring of 1859 when about 100 miners crossed the pass, now called Georgia Pass. Georgia pass is named for a group of Georgia miners found gold in Georgia Gulch which is along the access to the pass near the Swan River.   A number of other discoveries took place and Breckenridge became the hub of the activity which was intense until about 1863. Historically silver mining then came into play about 1865 and placer mining methods, principally dredging came later.    During the early historic mining period particularly when silver mining took off Georgia Pass was an important gateway to the area and was likely used by Marshall Felch who would have been working as a freighter.  More of the history of the pass area is described in this website by Goodtimes adventures which operates a dog sledding business down near Georgia gulch.

View of Georgia Pass looking west with Mount Guyot near the top

View of Georgia Pass looking west with Mount Guyot near the top right.  We were able to see Mt. Guyot when we went up the ski slopes (on a chairlift) on the west side of Breckenridge on the 10th of July.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Access to the pass from Breckenridge is along a route that becomes steep and rocky the last two or three miles.  Most of the traffic we saw that day were four wheeler’s which had a much easier time than we did but we arrived safe and sound at the top although it was so windy it made flying the drone almost impossible.   The four wheel route is described nicely in traildamage.com.   The “South Park” side is accessible by two wheel drive vehicles and we saw one at the top of the pass when we arrived.   We returned to Breckenridge by heading down the pass to Jefferson and returning to Breckenridge via Boreas Pass which is a gravel but two wheel drive route that was historically a train route completed in 1882.

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Argentine Pass

The eastern side of Argentine Pass was accessed on July 8, 2015 by Dan, Chris, and JoAnn Grenard.  The western side was accessed on July 9, 2015.  The east side of the pass is accessible by four wheel drive vehicles and the west side which is nicely accessible to a trail-head that enables foot access up the old route along a rather dramatic valley climb. This post describes the look and feel of both the west side and east side with photographs and some rather dramatic drone footage.

Historically Argentine Pass was used from about 1869 to about 1883 time period for access to both Montezuma and the placer mines along the Blue River in the Breckenridge area.  A need for access developed in response to a silver rush that began about 1865.  Much needed access routes into the region were needed to carry a wave of eager prospectors into the area.     Marshall and Amanda Felch were some of these early entrants into the area and they have a fascinating story of their own.   Webster pass actually provided the initial access into the Snake River Valley (Keystone and Montezuma area) but access was also needed from the Montezuma area to Georgetown.    In 1869 a toll road was built from Georgetown to Montezuma by way of Argentine Pass.  The costs of building the route were supported by charges against wagons and stock using them.  It is probable that the Felch’s would have used Argentine Pass in the 1869 to about 1872 time period when accessing Georgetown and Denver from Montezuma.

East Access:  Access from Georgetown is to the south along the Guanella Pass road then diverting west and following Leavenworth Creek a distance of about 15 miles.  This is a four wheel drive route described in various four wheel drive books and online sites including one called every trail.  The route is rough and rocky until you reach the Waldorf and then becomes more challenging.  We went up on a day when it was raining lightly to moderately most of the day and stopped at the Waldorf Mine area before heading back. We’ve heard mixed reports on driving to the top where you would be able to see to the other side in a dramatic vista but not drive further as it is a foot trail on the other side.

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West Access

The historical story behind both the east and western access is fairly similar.  Today access on the eastern side is excellent following the Peru Creek Valley which connects to the Snake River just below Montezuma, a relatively short tributary that joins the Blue River in the Dillon area.   This nicely developed access appears to be the result of a major reclamation effort going on in in the Pennsylvania Mine area near the base of Argentine Pass.  Access stops in the upper part of the Peru River Valley about a half mile above the Pennsylvania Mine but continues on a nicely developed foot trail up to the top of the Pass.

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Webster Pass (AKA Handcart pass)

JoAnn and I were lucky to connect with the Hinkley’s. We called Kathy and she and her husband Don arranged to have their son Paul take us up to the top Webster pass, a pass he was intimately familiar with. Paul is a welder by trade and a man that takes on work that needs to be done including road work when needed. A few years ago he was contracted to do road work on Webster pass.

Webster Pass is a four wheel drive road and the day we were there it was hopping with four wheelers, most of whom had no interest in the history and just wanted to see how fast they could go up and down the roads (I hate to admit it but it looked like a lot of fun!) I wanted to see Webster Pass because it may be a route used by them when it was called handcart pass before it was developed into a more formal wagon road by the Webster Brothers.  I also wanted to see it because Marshall and Amanda’s third child Emerson Webster is named after the Francis Emerson Webster whom along with his brother,  Webster Pass is named after.

Paul Hinkley, Don Hinkley, and myself at the top of Webster Pass

Paul Hinkley, Don Hinkley, and myself at the top of Webster Pass

On Webster Pass - looking north toward Montezuma

On Webster Pass, a little over 12,000 feet in elevation – looking north toward Montezuma

Webster Pass - Looking south toward South Park (in the distance)

Webster Pass – Looking south toward South Park (in the distance)

googleearth_WebsterPass2

looking east at Pass. Montezuma is to the left, South Park is to the right.

Webster Pass is located about five miles south of Montezuma Colorado and accessed primarily on four wheel drive roads.  The route is nicely described in a website called Trail-damage.com.   Our goal was to access the pass from the north side which is considered the easier side. The south side was currently blocked by a snow bank near the top of the pass.  It was all very bumpy but relatively easy for us other than the last switchback that seemed more like a ditch than a road.

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The story of Marshall and Amanda in Montezuma is one that I’m only able to introduce. There is a lot more to the story that has yet to be discovered. I came away with a deeper appreciation of these remarkable people and I also came away with a deeper understanding of the people who came to places like Montezuma. Scoundrels were not uncommon but there were a lot of good people too. Marshall and Amanda must have developed a strong friendship with the Webster brothers. By the way, Francis Emerson was also a civil war veteran who fought for the Union!