Picture above taken in 2012. Location of the Montezuma House hotel owned by Marshall and Amanda Felch that they sold in 1872. The hotel sat on what is now an empty lot in foreground, with older historic building being just north of the hotel.
Sarah was born on July 28, 1867 in a Denver City Cabin. Sarah will make the trip with her mother and father into the high mountains surrounding Montezuma when she is ten months old.
“Joy sat on every countenance, and there was a glad, almost fierce intensity in every eye, that told of the money-getting schemes that were seething in every brain and the high hope that held sway in every heart.”
—-Twain and Frank, Roughing It.
Gregory Gold Diggings in Colorado, May, 1859. Illustration by White From Beyond the Mississippi: from the great river to the great ocean. Life and adventure on the prairies, mountains, and Pacific Coast, 1857-1867, by Albert D. Richardson. Hartford, American Pub. Co., 1867.
There’s Gold in Them Ther Hills
The Gold Rush that began in late 1858 was not just confined to the area around Denver; it included placer deposits in the mountains and inter-mountain parks such as South Park. The first wave of miners heading into the mountains were looking for placer, or free gold in stream deposits. A prospector sitting on one knee, panning for gold next to a stream, with their trusty mule nearby, comes to mind when we envision this. Prospectors combed the mountains around places like modern day Breckenridge, Leadville, and Central City following historic animal and Ute Indian trails. The most famous of the early discoveries was the Gregory Lode up in the Central City, area.
“By the first of June 1859, Gregory Gulch from North Clear Creek to the confluence of Eureka, Nevada and Spring Gulches was literally crowded with human beings huddled together in tents, wagons, log cabins, dugouts, houses made of brush, and of every conceivable material that promised shelter.”
—Central City, Colorado – Boom & Bust – Legends of America.
It would not be long after a discovery that equipment such a rocker, sluice box or any of its variations were brought in, and a stepped-up mining operation was underway. If an operation looked especially promising, techniques such as “booming” were implemented. Booming was a process where large quantities of water was stored and then released in an instant, rushing over the edge of a hillside with the runoff directed to massive sluice boxes. The next level up was hydraulic mining; water would be stored and fired through something akin to a powerful fire hose that was aimed at the hillside, triggering the release of torrents of muddy water that ran down into sluice boxes.
Several gold dredges were also working in the streams around Breckenridge. If you were hardy enough in the 1860 and 70s to make it into the mountains of Colorado, you would have seen all of these operations in progress. It was anything but a pristine setting. Marshall and Amanda would have experienced all of this, particularly when they were descending down Georgia Pass, about where they made the turn up the North Swan toward Montezuma. The first placer gold discoveries by miners from Georgia took place in those areas.
The evidence of this type of mining is still clearly visible still today. Summit County has been reclaiming some of these areas with some quite remarkably nice results.
Hydraulic Mining. Illustration by Shell. From Beyond the Mississippi: from the great river to the great ocean. Life and adventure on the prairies, mountains, and Pacific Coast, 1857-1867, by Albert D. Richardson. Hartford, American Pub. Co., 1867.
A Motley Gathering in the Open Air
Mr. [Horace] Greeley’s presence afforded too good opportunity for speech- hearing, to be overlooked by his errant countrymen. That evening fifteen hundred people assembled, forming the first mass meeting ever held in the Rocky Mountains. It was a motley gathering in the open air, of men with long unkempt locks, shaggy beards, faces reduced by the sun to the color of a new brick, and Bowie knives and revolvers hanging from their belts. They gathered in all the freedom of the frontier. Some were reclining upon the ground, some sitting upon stumps and the half-finished walls of new log buildings, and others perched upon the friendly limbs of neighboring trees. The presiding officer occupied a log instead of a chair; and one of the speakers was clad in a full suit of buckskin with long, fantastic fringes. The meeting, in a grove of stately pines, was called to order as the light of the dying sun was falling upon the gashed and rugged peaks like a benediction.
—Richardson, Beyond the Mississippi.
News of silver discoveries abounded when Marshall and Amanda were living and working in Denver. The word was out and quite naturally, they like most everyone else were interested. In 1868, Amanda and Marshall go into business with George Turnbull and together they will build a boarding house in Montezuma. Montezuma was a brand-new silver mountain town at over 10,000 feet in elevation.
Incoming letters, like those from Marshall and Amanda, weren’t the only tidbits of information posted in the Rocky Mountain News. The paper also listed who was staying in prominent hotels, like the Tremont. Fortunately, these guest listings were included in the same card catalog records at the Denver Public Library, as notifications of those letters between Amanda and Marshall.
The card catalog confirms that W[William] Webster from Montezuma was a registered guest at Denver’s Tremont hotel on November 9, 1866, and again on June 29, 1867. Similarly, A. G. [George] Turnbull was listed as a hotel guest on July 9, 1867. They met and became friends. Marshall and Amanda began planning out a new phase of their life, based on their new friends’ advice. They were honest, with the best of intentions, and Francis Emerson Webster was a Union veteran—who could ask for more?
The first wave of miners trekked into the mountains looking for placer gold. Placer gold was initially found panning for gold along a mountain stream. It was relatively simple to extract, and didn’t require milling. So, as we might expect, it was so easy to do that placer gold resources were rapidly depleted.
The second wave of miners were not focused on the placer gold, but on gold or silver ore embedded in the rock itself. We commonly think of these types of discoveries as vein deposits, and at the time it was sometimes called quartz mining; not particularly simple to extract. Silver ore was mined underground and required recovery methods that didn’t exist at the time for these types of ores. Silver discoveries near Montezuma were among the earliest of the silver strikes in the Colorado Mountains.
According to the June 24, 1882 Montezuma Millrun, a prospector named Coley made prospecting trips through South Park in 1863. He went up the North Swan River, over Bear Pass, down along the west slope of Glacier Mountain, and past the site of the future Sts. John’s mine. Sts. John will be named after both the Baptist and the evangelist, hence Saints, not Saint. In 1863 Coley arguably made the first silver discovery in the Territory. No one knew where Coley had been until he returned from one of his trips. He had smelted his ore in a crude furnace, built on the site of his discovery, and when he returned to Georgetown and Empire, he showed his silver ingots.
—Sharp, A History of Montezuma, Sts. John, and Argentine– Early Mining Camps of Summit County.
Coley’s discovery was reported to be on the slopes of Glacier Mountain and quickly it led to a slew of prospectors combing the high mountain valleys in that area. A few of the lucky ones made silver ore discoveries and formed a local mining district with their own mining claim rules. In 1865, M.O. Wolf, D.C. Collier, and Henry M. Teller camped in the valley below some of these silver claims and they, like any good pioneers, decided the location would be a good location for a town. The next thing they did was to start naming some of the surrounding mountains and in honor of the riches associated with last Aztec Emperor of Mexico, they also blazed the name Montezuma on a tree near Colliers tent as this would be a good location for a town.
—Gilliland, Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado
By 1866, some of the initial discoveries evolved into silver mines. Montezuma’s J.T. Lynch developed the Old Sukey, while William Bell started the Bell Mine on the east slope of Glacier Mountain. The Silver King Mine, and another mine, the Chautauqua, were also developed in 1866. The Bolivar Mill was built just a half mile south of Montezuma.
Coley’s discovery resulted in a mine that was sold to the Boston Silver Mining Company in 1867. They named it the Saints John Mine and then combined Coley’s discovery with another nearby silver discovery called the Comstock Lode. Mines were expensive and, in this case, one mine could connect to both discoveries. The mine was proving successful, but they, like all the silver mine owners in the area, did not have a way to process the ore yet. In fact they were initially shipping silver ore all the way to Wales for processing. In 1872, the Boston Silver Mining Company unveiled a state of the art mill and soon a high-quality mining and milling operation was underway. The company even started a town called Coleyville, named for the original discoverer. Coleyville was dry so it didn’t have a saloon, but instead boasted a great library and a beautiful “Boston like” house for the mine supervisor. Coleyville was relatively close to Montezuma, and if miners were in need of spirits they headed down to Montezuma.
Montezuma, Colorado between 1879 and 1883? Picture consists of frame buildings and dirt street. A man stands with a shovel, others sit on wooden steps; a horse-drawn buckboard chassis is in the thoroughfare. The Rocky Mountain House has a balcony-topped open porch; the hotel opposite has a sign: “Summit House.” The false-fronted building with double doors is the Town Hall, originally William Lusher’s meat market. At 10,268 feet elevation, Montezuma is the highest occupied community in the United States. Photograph courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western Photo Archives, call number X-11085. Note that the buildings further down on the right would be about where Marshall and Amanda’s boarding house was. It may be visible, but hard to make out in this distant shot.
Montezuma is located today south and east of the Keystone Ski Resort at over 10,200 feet in elevation. In the 2010 census it had a population of 65, although the population in the summer may mushroom up to two or three hundred. The main street through Montezuma is wide, surprisingly wide even by today’s standards. In the early days, the main street was bustling with activity. They needed to accommodate wagon trains, mules, cattle, horses, and all the people.
Marshall and Amanda didn’t officially arrive until 1868. It seems logical though that in 1867 Marshall took a scouting expedition there with help and guidance from George Turnbull and the Webster Brothers.
“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.”
— Gilliand, Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado
Marshall and Amanda would have started prepping over the winter. They needed to be ready to leave as soon as the snow was melted enough to cross Georgia and Bear Pass. There were wagon roads part of the way, but not in the high rough-rocky locations that they would need to cross, but there were enough interested miners that by late spring, those miners were certainly clearing snow out of the blocked-up sections of the trail.
Remember when Marshall and Amanda put together an oxen and wagon outfit? Marshall came west on the Great Plains, with a wagon pulled by a team of oxen. There was a semblance of a wagon road and the terrain was relatively flat. That outfit wouldn’t work for this next phase; they needed something different.
Donkeys, Burros, Asses, Hinnies, and Mules
The outfit of choice most freighters were selecting for the Rocky Mountains was a pack train; some sort of combination of donkeys, mules and hinnies. First off, a donkey, burro, or an ass, are the same thing. They are a distinct species, Equus asinus; now you know where the name ass comes from. Mules are combinations of a female horse (mare) and male donkey (a jack or jackass), a hinny is a combination of male horse (stallion) and a female donkey (jenny). For argument sake, we’ll call them mules from here on out and in most cases that’s what they were.
Mules are an integral part of the story of the west. Kit Carson, the famous mountain man, who guided John C. Fremont on his western expeditions, always rode a mule. Experienced mountain men considered mules to be stronger, sturdier, surer-footed, and less liable to spook when compared to a horse. Mules could eat feed of lower quality, withstand greater temperature extremes, and many believed they had special innate abilities that might just save your life in a tight pinch.
—Sides, Blood and Thunder.
Freighting goods on mule trains into some of these hard-to-reach places was the logical choice until adequate wagon roads were built. Many smaller mines remained isolated and pack mules were used for a very long time.
Marshall may or may not have “traded in” his oxen for a new outfit at the nearest mule “dealership,” but one way or another they acquired a pack of them. Marshall and Amanda may have ridden the lead horse or mule and trotted the mule train behind them. Marshall and Amanda would have assembled something to help carry Sarah as well for at least one of the journeys.
Picture of mule train in diorama exhibit at the South Park City Museum, Fairplay Colorado.
Marshall and Amanda packed everything they needed to survive for at least a month or two, bringing along tools and other building construction essentials. They may have brought along the wagon at least part way, but on those high mountain passes a wagon was probably way more trouble than what it was worth. Those rough cobbled trails probably broke many an axle or wheels and in a most uncomfortable position.
Professor Brewer of Yale
William Henry Brewer, born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the year1828, grew up with a keen mind, an interest in everything around him, and an encyclopedic memory. By the age of 20, he was taking classes in New Haven Connecticut at the School of Applied Chemistry (aka Yale and later Sheffield Scientific School), a part of Yale College. Four years later he was one of the first six graduates of what would become a prestigious school. This advanced education was hardly the end of his quest for knowledge, his interests also included mineralogy, geology, botany, German, French while simultaneously exploring the world.
European science was significantly ahead of where things stood in America in the 1850’s and Brewer continued his studies under leading German professors in the universities in Heidelberg and Munich Germany. He returned to the United States, working in teaching capacity, and using his new knowledge and educational techniques when an opportunity of a lifetime was unveiled.
The State of California authorized funding for a geologic survey of the entire state and the survey included botany, something Brewer was getting more and more interested in. Professor Josiah. D. Whitney, a geologist, was put in charge. Whitney who knew about Brewer, offered him the position of first assistant and naturally he accepted. The position started in 1860 and continued through 1864. Brewer conducted field work in the summer and compiled his notes during the winter months in San Francisco. He was joined in his last field season by the great geologist Clarence King. The scientific survey of California was completed and no one understood the geography of the state better than Brewer. His notes revealed that he had covered 13,507 miles of field work during the survey, of which 6,560 miles were on horseback or mule, and 2,772 miles on foot.
His next position would be as a Professor of Agriculture in the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale. Brewer would remain with Yale and until his retirement in 1903, completing a remarkable body of work.
— Chittenden, Biographical Memoir of William Henry Brewer, 1828-1910
Professor Brewer continued field work whenever possible for the rest of his life. In 1869, Professor Brewer along with Professor Whitney and four Harvard geology students explored the geography and geology of the Rocky Mountains while adding new additions to his botanical collections. Brewer wrote letters to his wife Georgiana describing the trip that were compiled after his death into a book entitled “Rocky Mountain letters, 1869: letters written to my wife during a trip to the Rocky Mountains July to September, 1869”
— Brewer and Rogers, Rocky Mountain Letters, 1869.
Within these letters, William Brewer described his experience staying at Marshall and Amanda’s hotel. His description was short, but remarkably insightful, revealing little details about their lives, that otherwise would have never surfaced.
A Smart Vermont Yankee and His Wife, a Smarter Vermont Yankee Woman
When William Brewer visited Montezuma during his 1869 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.”
If we combine this information with the fact that Marshall was identified along with George Turnbull as building the first hotel in Montezuma in 1868, there is no doubt whatsoever who Brewer was talking about.
—Gilliland, Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado
Henry, Kate, and Albert
William Brewer stated Amanda had a large family at the hotel she was running. The term “large family” implies three or four up to maybe six or seven individuals. The only family we know for sure was Amanda, Marshall, and baby Sarah. Back in Vermont, Amanda had a slew of younger sisters and half-sisters while Marshall had a lot of younger siblings and cousins including his cousin Lawrence. Out here, there was a shortage of labor, and good help was essential. It would be particularly tough for one person to run a boarding house. Newly arrived immigrants supplied much of this labor.
One person that may fit the bill as a member of a “large family” is Marshall’s brother, Henry. Henry and his younger brother Charlie greatly admired Marshall and Amanda. Henry Howard Felch fell in love with Agusta Kate Bradish and they were married on September 11, 1866 in Piermont, New Hampshire; a wedding Marshall and Amanda certainly attended. Four years later, Henry and Kate are recorded in the 1870 Fremont County Census. They came west sometime between 1866 and 187,0 but most likely in 1867. Now they were a part of the relocation effort.
When Marshall and Amanda made their trip west, Albert was left behind with the Colburns in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, but in the 1870 census he was in Montezuma. He was only ten in 1867, so if he came west then he must have been accompanied by someone; Henry and Kate seem like the logical choice. The transcontinental railroad had made it all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming by November of 1867 and Henry, Kate, and Albert could have taken the train all the way to Cheyenne and a stage to Denver. The trip by late 1867 or 1868 would have been much easier than the trip Marshall and Amanda experienced only two years earlier, bringing eleven-year-old Albert along would not have made Henry and Kate’s trip that much more difficult.
Maybe the “large family” that William Brewer spoke of included Marshall, Amanda, Sarah, Henry, Kate, and Albert, a total of six. One question remains; Brewer said that Amanda didn’t have any female help. Maybe Kate was in Garden Park at the time, ill, or otherwise indisposed at the time.
Montezuma, Colorado, looking north: Lennewee Mt. in the distance at the right, approximate date between 1883 and 1885. Picture courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western Photo Archives.
Montezuma sits at over 10,200 feet. It has a lot of snow that today supports a nearby ski industry all winter. Montezuma in the 1860s and early 1870s would shut down in the winter and the miners and other residents would winter at a lower elevation. High passes would not be completely clear until late June, but, with some digging, miners could push through earlier.
Marshall and Amanda’s ranch in Garden Park sits north of Canon City at 5,500 feet. Garden Park was, and is, an ideal wintering location here in Colorado; we like to call our area a banana belt. Garden Park area was also known historically as a breadbasket for early mining camps. When William Brewer stated “Her husband had gone to his ranch (nearly a hundred miles distant) for vegetables to supply his table,” the ranch’s role in supplying food is evident.
Traveling to Montezuma from their ranch in Garden Park in 1868 was a long trek, but otherwise not any more difficult than getting there from Denver. Marshall could ride a mule or horse, while trailing his pack mules behind. The mules were fully loaded bringing supplies up to the boarding house. A route along Current Creek nicely connects the Canon City area into South Park. With all the tolls coming out of Denver, it was probably less expensive coming up from the Canon City area.
A bit more tricky, but possibly a lot more profitable, would have been to use the same mules to pull his farm wagon carrying containers of locally produced oil. He could peddle the oil maybe in Fairplay and store the wagon there, until he made the return trip. Unlike his dad, Parker, who freighted shoes, maybe Marshall peddled oil.
One of the reasons that Marshall and Amanda decided to obtain land in the Canon City area were the several hand-dug, or drilled oil wells, located just south of their property. Those wells were being managed by James Murphy who not only represented the Boston Company owners, but maybe also was a border at their ranch. The crude oil was basically refined and sold for lamp, heating, and lubricating oil. It didn’t have wide distribution, and typically sold in the Canon City market. For example, the Felch family probably burned some of this oil in lamps at the ranch, or maybe used some to lubricate some farm equipment. The best reasonable production estimate was from Mr. Murphy himself. He said there was about 4,000 thousand gallons of oil or about 100 barrels produced annually. This is a very small amount in the grand scheme of things, but there was some production, and any other oil in this part of the world came from back east, with a lot of transportation costs. An 1865 Rocky Mountain News report stated that some cans were being manufactured so that: “A supply of Colorado coal oil may soon be expected in market.”
—Donald H. Kupfer, Ph.D., “CANON CITY’S OIL SPRING, FREMONT COUNTY, COLORADO: COLORADO’S FIRST COMMERCIAL OIL PROSPECT (1860); AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE FLORENCE OIL FIELD (1881).”
The family could grow some vegetables, raise some chickens, pigs, and cows and everything prepared for transport. The mules could tote both oil and food to the hotel. The trick to financial success would be to always have your mules hauling something, both coming and going. The only obvious thing coming out of Montezuma was silver ore. At the time it was packed out of the high mountains and then reloaded into wagons where it continued on its journey.
Our Three Sons
Three sons will be born to Marshall and Amanda over the next four years: Edward in early 1869, Emerson in the spring of 1870, and Willy in 1872. Edward (Ned) Weld Felch was born on February 28, 1869, and like his older sister Sarah, his birth year has been confusing. No birth certificate has been found to date, but a review of the 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900, and 1910 census all point to Ned being born in 1869. Ned was described as “the first white child born in Garden City [Park].”
—Zimmerman [Felch], Sarah, Interesting Facts in History of the Felch Family.
Emerson Webster Felch, Marshall and Amanda’s second son, is named after Francis Emerson Webster, one of the Webster Brothers who ran the sawmill and later developed Webster Pass. The 1870 census records that Emerson was three months old at the time the census was recorded in mid August of 1870 so he must have been born in May. Emerson’s birth in early 1870 precludes any option that his older brother Ned was born in 1870. In addition to the census data, this firms up that Ned was born in 1869.
Willy, Marshall and Amanda’s third son, was born in 1872, but like Emerson we have no record of the month and date. Willie may have been named him after Abraham Lincoln’s third son Willie, but was most likely named after eleven-year-old Willie Johnston. Willie, a five-foot-tall drummer boy with the Vermont third (Amanda’s regiment). He was a medal of honor recipient for bravery during the seven days battles, unusual for anyone that young, much less a drummer boy. It’s a powerful tale told beautifully in “Willie Went to War” and it is a story that Amanda would have known well.
—Péladeau and O’Connor, Willie Went to War
A pack team in Montezuma taken in the early 1900s. Men and pack burros pose in Montezuma, Summit County, Colorado. The saloon behind them (Montezuma Pool Hall) is a two-story frame building with a false front; signs by the door read: “Anheuser Busch Pale Light Beer.” Photo courtesy of Summit County Historical Society and Denver Public Library photo archives, call number X-11107
The Boarding House
The Webster brothers built the first sawmill in Montezuma less than half a mile south of town. It was operational and in full production when Marshall and Amanda arrived. Milled lumber enabled Marshall and George Turnbull to build a frame building with a pitched roof and siding on the outside and inside. Standard tools of the day like hammers, saws, axes, knives, and shovels could be expected on the job site. They may have bought or hauled in some square-headed nails to tie the building together. In addition to the sawmill, the Webster Brothers had a store three doors down the street, that may have stocked most all the hardware they needed. There were certainly a few carpenters around that could have been hired to help; maybe the Prussian John Browning who was living with them in the 1870 census was one who helped. As they built the hotel, they certainly packed mud and pine needles (chinking) along the outside edges of all the wood planks. Anything like old rags, fabric, to newspaper could be packed into the inside edges. Cold biting winds were common in the high mountains and a tight building would cut down on the amount of firewood or coal you would have to burn. Most buildings, other than storage or industrial buildings, had windows, so naturally the hotel must have had some. One way or another they built the two-story building William Brewer spoke of.
“…It had three rooms downstairs – the outside or sitting room, dining room, and kitchen. 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.”
—-Gilliland, Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado.
The “common garret” would have been upstairs, based on the definition of a garret. There were probably two rooms up there, one for guests and the other for the family. Other than a cooking and heating stove, no plumbing or any other conveniences would have been present. The bathroom was naturally a privy out back, maybe one of those upscale models with two seats.
The hotel would not be the only real estate Marshall or Amanda would own. In 1870 Isaac Chapman sold a house and lot to Amanda for $25. This was registered on 7-8-1870 on Book 8 page 207 of the Territorial Records and shown on the Montezuma city map of the time as Block H lot 2.
—Hinkley, Sally, personal interview with Sally Hinkley, historian from Montezuma.
Illustration entitled “About Full Here” from Richardson, Beyond the Mississippi.
Amanda would participate in other real estate transactions over the next few years. Ownership of property was an important reason that women would advocate for the right to vote in a few years. Anything less was “taxation without representation,” a rallying cry of the suffrage movement.
Life in a Silver Mining Camp
Forests were stripped almost barren providing timbers for buildings, mines, and roads along with firewood. Historic pictures of mining towns, including those around Montezuma, commonly display barren hillsides. There were no sewers and no place to haul garbage so your dump would be outside your back door but you could probably get rid of table scraps with your pigs or chickens.
“Lots of chemicals were used in the milling processes and waste rock and tailings piled up alongside streams…The Blue River ran brown from mining disruption.”
—Gilliland, Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado
Animals including cattle, goats, pigs, horses and Marshall’s mules were brought into the camps and the stench of manure and other decaying material was everywhere, particularly in the summer. “Fireplace and cookstove smoke hung in inversion clouds over mountain valley towns. Smelter fumes killed trees and shrubs, pervaded valley towns. Road dust in summer choked the lungs of pedestrians.”
—Gilliland, Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado
Children’s graves in Summit County cemeteries document the severity of diphtheria, smallpox, scarlet fever and pneumonia. The fact that Sarah, Ned, Emerson, and Willie survived this environment is another testimonial of success to their mother and father.
Colorado Mountains are one of the great places to visit most anytime, but my favorite times are late June and late September. The great vistas from mountain passes, glacier carved meadows, diversity of wildflowers, high mountain streams, aspen trees, and wildlife are the stuff of poems, songs, and photographs. The Ute Indians and early explorers experienced it in an even more special way.
Once silver was discovered, it didn’t take long before the mining, milling, and associated activities dramatically altered the landscape. Residual damage remains today and cleanup efforts are prevalent today, particularly where mountain streams carry contaminated water from those mines, tunnels, and mills.
Most pioneers recognized the inherent beauty before them while simultaneously understanding their need to survive.
One of the interesting comments in Amanda’s testimony about Marshall in his 1890 pension deposition was “The boys would be drinking and quarreling outside and that made him nervous, suppose his sickness helped to make him nervous.”
—Rodney Chipp, “Case of Marshall P. Felch, No. 401703.”
When I first read this testimony, I believed that Marshall came away from the Civil War with post traumatic stress disorder PTSD; now that I’ve read about the noise present in mining towns like Montezuma, I realize that any of us would have struggled with the noise, but soon other symptoms will reveal that Marshall did have PTSD.
“streets chorused with the activities of a busy town day and night – freighters yelling to ox teams, screeching wagons, water-sellers peddling wares, patent medicine men hawking remedies, street fights, braying burros, dogs yelping in packs, wandering livestock mooing, bleating, or bellowing. A visitor to early Creede, Colorado summed it up with this complaint, ‘I couldn’t sleep with all the noise…hollering, yelling, horses galloping, wagons chuckling, hammering, pounding, sawing, shooting’.”
—Gilliland, Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado
The Montezuma House
Marshall and Amanda together sold all of their interest in the hotel to their business partner, George Turnbull, on November 17, 1872, for $1,800. The sale was handled by Joseph Phelps, a territorial Justice of the Peace. The terminology used at the time for what they sold included the terms appurtenances (the furniture and other items in the hotel) and hereditaments (right of ways or easements) associated with the property.
“… with all the appurtenances and hereditaments…consisting of one large cook stove, one large box heating stove, several bedsteads tables, benches, and other items such as kitchen utensils….
—-Hinkley, Sally, personal interview with Sally Hinkley, historian from Montezuma, June 30, 2012
Eighteen hundred dollars was a tidy sum and would greatly facilitate their transition to living full time at the ranch. 1872 was their last summer in Montezuma. During the interview, Sally Hinkley presented a historic Montezuma photograph taken in 1913 of a building with a Montezuma Hotel sign on the front. This is probably the same building that Amanda and Marshall managed forty-one years earlier, although based on the early descriptions of the building, it had been significantly transformed. This building and many others were destroyed in a fire in 1915.
Pulling up stakes
Montezuma remained isolated and difficult to get to, but it continued to grow. The Sts. John milling operation was up and running by 1872, and mines continued to expand and increase in numbers. The 1872 Mining Law was passed into law and standardized processes for mining claims were now in place.
On March 3, 1869, the Georgetown and Snake River Wagon Road Company was organized. This company gouged, hacked, blasted, and otherwise built territorial Post Road No. 14 over the 13,207 foot Argentine Pass connecting Georgetown to the Dillon area, with a branch from the historic town of Chihuahua to Montezuma.
In 1878, Post Road No. 40 over Webster Pass was built by William and Emerson Webster, in partnership with the Montezuma Silver Mining Company.
The same year a wagon road was built over Loveland Pass, mostly in response to the new discoveries in the Leadville area, but this road afforded much better to access to Montezuma as well.
In spite of what looked like a bright future for Montezuma, Marshall and Amanda decided to pull up stakes. Not only was life in Montezuma tough, they also even had competition from the Summit Hotel down the street. They had toughed it out over five summers, now it was time to go full time at their ranch in Garden Park.
Marshall did his best, but with the severe pain in his left side and difficulty in breathing, something in a lower elevation and less intense was in order. Freighting and ranch work in Garden Park probably seemed like a cake walk. They owned a ranch. It was time to settle down and live their lives there.
June 1913: Buildings from left to right: Montezuma Hotel (operated by Mrs. Black), residence, the Allen barn and the Rice barn. These buildings as well as several others on that street were destroyed by fire in 1915. The two barns were empty at the time, and the Allen barn was dynamited in an unsuccessful attempt to save buildings further down the street. Picture is from a three-ring binder that Sally Hinkley had from an unknown source.
Brewer, William H, and Edmund B Rogers. Rocky Mountain Letters, 1869: Letters Written to My Wife during a Trip to the Rocky Mountains July to September, 1869. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI, 1992.
“Central City, Colorado – Boom & Bust – Legends of America.” Accessed January 26, 2018..
Gilliland, Mary Ellen. Summit: A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado. Silverthorne, Colo: Alpenrose Press, 2006.
Hinkley, Sally. personal interview with Sally Hinkley, historian from Montezuma. Notes, July 2, 2012.
Donald H. Kupfer, Ph.D., “CANON CITY’S OIL SPRING, FREMONT COUNTY, COLORADO: COLORADO’S FIRST COMMERCIAL OIL PROSPECT (1860); AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE FLORENCE OIL FIELD (1881).”
Péladeau, Marius B, and Tony O’Connor. Willie Went to War. Newport, Vt.: Vermont Civil War Enterprises, 2005.
Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean. Life and Adventure on the Prairies, Mountains, and Pacific Coast, 1857-1867, by Albert D. Richardson. Hartford, American Pub. Co., 1867. New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1968.
Rodney Chipp. “Pension Application: Marshall P. Felch.” Pension Application Deposition. Canon City: Pension Office, November 6, 1890.
Sharp, Verna. A History of Montezuma, Sts. John, and Argentine– Early Mining Camps of Summit County. Montezuma Colo.: Summit Historical Society, 1971.
Sides, Hampton. Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West. New York: Anchor Books, 2007
Sprague, Marshall. The Great Gates: The Story of the Rocky Mountain Passes. Boston: Little, Brown, 1964.
Twain, Mark, and Elizabeth Frank. Roughing It. New York: Signet Classics, 2008.
Zimmerman (Felch), Sarah. “Interesting Facts in History of the Felch Family.” Roosevelt Standard. February 15, 1924.
Grinders, Claws, Darwin, and Dinosaurs: The dinosaurs that Marshall Felch would not have been discovered, at least not by him, if it were not for scientific advancements that began primarily in Europe and slowly began to find their way to America. The European advancements included the great work by French paleontologists such as Cuvier who started comparing the anatomy of all animals noticing similarities and differences. Scientists in Great Britain began to unravel the mysteries of the layers of the earth beneath our feet and that our Earth had a history, a history that could be told. Darwin helped paint the overall picture of life during the Earth’s history when he presented the origin of species by natural selection. America dipped its toe into Earth history and science rather inadvertently around the time of the American revolution with discoveries of relatively recent fossils such as mammoths and giant sloths but scientifically it remained a scientific backwater until around the time of the Civil War. Dinosaurs remained relatively unknown.