First off, we will call Sadie her official name starting in this chapter because that is what her family and descendants did.
In 2006 the hundred year anniversary of the Antiquities Act of 1906 was planned in Canon City and the focus on Marshall and Amanda. June Hines was working at the Dinosaur Depot Museum and conducting genealogical research into Marshall and Amanda during the preparation phase of the event. Up to this point no offspring of Marshall and Amanda were known about. June discovered that there was a number of offspring all originating from Sadie (Felch) Zimmerman and her husband Charles. Not only did they exist but three direct descendants; Ila Clayton, Joan Crozier, Chalyn Federick, and their families agreed to come to the event in early June. A very special ceremony was held at the grave site of Marshall and Amanda in the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery. Civil War Reenactors conducted a formal military ceremony in honor of Marshall and Amanda and presented the family with American flags.
A few years ago when I was doing a presentation about Marshall and Amanda out at the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery, Chalyn Federick called me aside and presented me with a copy of a family history book by Francis Zimmerman, one of Sadie and Charles Zimmermans children. (Zimmerman 1991). About a year later Jimmie Zimmerman presented me with the same document but a computerized (pdf) version. I read through it a few times finding many interesting stories but was initially somewhat unimpressed because of some errors but over time I realized the reasons for those errors and when I read closer it became clear that the stories of Marshall, Amanda, and Sarah were outstanding. I was also introduced to audio oral histories about Sarah and dictated by her daughter Rosezella. These audio recording were recorded before 1989 and then recently uploaded to family search. During the preparation of this and the final chapter I transcribed some of these and some special “Sadie” moments appear here and again in the final chapter.
Sadie’s future husband Charles spoke German and was pure Swiss. His grandfather Johannes (John) Zimmerman was born in 1802 in Bern Switzerland area where he grew up marrying Elizabeth Wenger in 1823. The started a family and their first child, John Zimmerman was born in 1823 followed by five other children also born in Switzerland. In May of 1832, they migrated to America following other Swiss families into east central Ohio and settling in the Ragersville area. (Zimmerman 1991) Today Ragersville is located just a few miles south of Sugarcreek, a modern day Swiss village with heritage celebrations every year at the end of September.
Once settled in, Charles’s grandfather Johannes started a successful cheese factory which should come as no surprise. Swiss emigrants continued to arrive into the area. One of those families not only originated in the Bern Switzerland area, they also had same last name of Zimmerman and they had a daughter named Magdalena. John and Magdalena met and married in 1848 remaining in the same area. They then had a family of their own, eight in total but four passed away before the age of one. Number six was Charles who was born in 1862, five years earlier than Sadie.
A few years after the end of the Civil War John, Magdalene, and the family migrated to Hiawatha Kansas and established a new homestead. (Zimmerman 1991) Hiawatha is in farm country in northeast Kansas along the old Pony Express and Oregon trail Route west of St. Joseph Missouri, a place Marshall and Amanda would have gone through in 1866.
Cripple Creek is located about thirty miles directly north of Canon City. From a mining standpoint it is a bit of an enigma because although prospectors had combed every inch of the state, what would become one of the worlds greatest gold deposits it had been prospected many times. The hidden gold was just not obvious. Bob Womack was the first to study the land and the geology and he began touting that a great but elusive deposit was there. He would hand someone a rock that assayed for gold but they could not see it as in appearance it was a dull grey rock called sylvanite. It would take some time and careful analysis to not only verify that the gold was there, just not visible. The difficulty was how to separate the gold from another mineral called tellurium. Once metallurgists figured it out, production was underway at mines and mills in quick order.
This latest major discovery was economically fortunate for Colorado as with the repeal of the federal Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 its silver mining industry took a nose dive in 1893. The demand for silver plummeted and miners across the state were suddenly out of work. From all across the state and beyond people began pouring into the Cripple Creek area on the promise of work the possibility of great wealth. By the early 1900’s, the area had become one of the greatest gold deposits ever discovered.
In 1891, the town of Cripple Creek didn’t exist. Two years later there was; “twenty-six saloons and gambling houses, four dance halls, twenty-four grocery stores, ten meat markets, nine hotels, nine laundries, three large bathhouses, eleven clothing stores, ten barber shops, nine assay offices, seven bakeries, six bookstores, forty-four lawyers offices, eight stenography offices, thirty six mining stock and real estate offices, eleven parlor houses and twenty six one-girl cribs. There were also five fraternal lodges and a dozen or more literary and social clubs.” (Sprague 2016)
Getting to Cripple Creek
“From the south, a second route into the Cripple Creek District was via Shelf Road, a precarious and dangerous trail that wound around steep canyon walls with cliff-hanging drop offs. Then miles outside of Cripple Creek, the road branched in several directions, but the Shelf Road served as the main trail for many years. Originally used by Native Americans and later by fur trappers, Shelf Road was the quickest way to the Cripple Creek District from Canon City.
The Canon City & Cripple Creek Toll Road was established along Shelf Road in 1891. The road was so named after Canon City business leaders attempted to improve the old trail by blasting literal trails out of the canyon walls in 1892.
Despite its precarious curves, the improved road could accommodate the first stage lines of David Wood and John Montgomery Kuykendall…. Two stage stops, Marigold and Eldred, provided fresh horses, food, and supplies… From 1892 to 1897, Gideon Thomas and his two sons established a freight route via the Shelf Road and other trails.” (MacKell 2003)
Francis; When Charles was about 30 years old  he went to Colorado to work in the Russian Camps. Because of his Swiss parentage, he understood the German language. He soon understood the Russian language sufficient to communicate with them and therefore was made a foreman. (Zimmerman 1991)
Francis’s older sister Rose will later confirm Charles had arrived in Cripple Creek.
It seems almost a natural thing for a young unmarried man to be interested in heading into the mountains of Colorado where a great new gold discovery had taken place. By 1892 Hiawatha Kansas was probably only a day’s train ride away. Perhaps he could have loaded up one of his favorite mules in a box car used to carry stock and was ready to ride when he got off.
The route from Canon City to Cripple Creek went directly past the Felch Ranch. In 1892 and 1893 Amanda was alive and well. The ranch house was always open for business from borders or someone looking for a meal and that would have included Charles. Twenty five year old Sarah was strong, healthy, and attractive, intelligent and well educated, a great rider and had a love for horses and she was there at the ranch to give her mother assistance.
Charles Zimmerman took a job as a foreman for Russian miners at Cripple Creek most likely in 1892. The introduction to a Colorado Boom town must have been unimaginable to a farm boy from Kansas. His integration into such a place when an event would present something he could hardly even imagine.
A labor strike was well underway the day Charles and Sarah were married on April 4, 1894. Between the time they first met and when they were married Cripple Creek must have been at the forefront of conversations.
Maybe they could etch out a good living up there but in their minds must have the thought of living in that debauchery.
Charles might have been a maybe, but Sadie must have been a definite no. It was more than Sarah was willing to do and they would find another path.
The Battle of Bull Run Hill
The Silver Crash in Colorado had put a whole lot of miners out of work in 1893. From all across the state they began heading to Cripple Creek. Like all good capitalists, the mine owners took the opportunity to lower their wages. Miners began to organize, a labor union was formed, and the miners went on strike on February 7, 1894. This would culminate in a massive strike that came to a head on May 25, 1894 when striking miners established a camp on Bull Run hill and took control of the Strong Mine, a major producer.
On the morning of May 25 the sheriff deputized a force of 125 ex Denver police officers who arrived at the base of Bull Run Hill on that day. The miners responded by blowing up the shaft house hurling the structure 300 feet into the air and then dynamited the steam boiler showering the deputies with timber, iron, and cable. The deputies fled and not long afterward the sheriff deputized 1,200 more with the money supplied by the mine owners and the strike would not be settled for a couple more months. Related events spilled over into Colorado Springs.
This is a complex story that is impossible to tell or even adequately summarize in a paragraph or two. It is well told in Sprague’s book “Money mountain: the Story of Cripple Creek Gold” (Sprague, 1979). If you ever travel to Cripple Creek where mining continues at a magnitude no one could have imagined in the 1890’s, there are entire book cases full of books about the history of the Cripple Creek area for sale.
Francis: “He heard of Sarah Ellen Felch, because she was a noted horse woman and an outstanding horseback rider. She had won several prizes at the Colorado State Fair. He determined to take her horseback riding. Those who knew Miss Felch, said to Charles, ‘you’ll never make it’ but he did. They were united in marriage April 4, 1894.” (Zimmerman 1991)
Rose; “when you live in a mining camp and there at a time in Cripple Creek my father said that he ‘wanted to get a cook’ and he said ‘Sarah Ellen Felch’, and they all laughed at him, yet he had a week off and he went and he married my mother
…my mother married my father because she knew he was a clean man, and he wasn’t messing around with lots of women where a lot of the other men in this camp and the mining town did. She knew that my father was a virtuous clean man.” (Rasmussen 2018)
A conversation piece that may have touched off the relationship was a common interest in horses and, apparently also mules. Sarah loved horses and Francis would later write; “In his late teen years he [Charles] owned a very spirited team of sorrel [light reddish brown] mules and a fancy surrey”. (Zimmerman 1991) We can guess that mules wouldn’t measure up to a horse in Sarah’s mind, but for sure it would spark a lively and fun debate.
Sarah was married to Charles Zimmerman on April 4, 1894 at Garden Park Colorado. (Roosevelt-Standard 1928) The official wedding certificate shows their marriage date to be April 4, 1898 but this is a mistake. Among other confirmations of the correct date is at the bottom of their wedding picture where if you look closely, the date April 4, 1894 is present. Charles was not as tall as Sarah which is most likely why he is standing in the picture and she is seated.
Where Do We Go from Here?
The first time I saw that picture above of the two of them beautifully dressed at their wedding with their rather forlorn or serious expressions I thought; “What’s up with that…who pulled out the life out of the wedding party”
Considering all the things that were happening in Cripple Creek, it was a mess and must have felt like a bad option. The logical alternative choice in those days was farming but availability of good farm land at a reasonable price must have seemed daunting especially when considering that Marshall and Amanda had barely scraped out a livelihood on their ranch. You couldn’t pay a lot for a farm or you would undoubtedly go under financially.
The Lower Arkansas River Valley
In Colorado the lower Arkansas River Valley is commonly thought of as the Arkansas River after it leaves the mountains and before it arrives at the Kansas border. This was one ribbon of green that early settlers trailed along west during the dramatic transformation of the Great Plains. In Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas the ribbon of green crosses an arid land that settlers were interested in but it needed a water source that they could count on for farming. The historic story of the Lower Arkansas River Valley is largely told through the development of Irrigation Ditches.
“Only that portion of the lands in Colorado lying contiguous to, and on each side of the streams, designated as valleys, can, on account of the extreme aridity of the climate, be cultivated. It is practically impossible to put water upon the great plains proper, so far as present experience goes, on account of their elevation, not taking into consideration the want of a sufficient supply in the streams for such a purpose.” (Van Hook 1933)
About the time Charles and Sarah were getting married, there was a dramatic increase in the number of canals going from eight to twenty three in the 1884 to 1893 period. The amount of water being carried was twenty times the amount than was available in 1884. The first major canal or ditch was the Rocky Ford followed by the Fort Lyon and a number of others. (Van Hook 1933)
The Colorado Canal Company
In 1888, T.C. Henry envisioned building a canal to transport irrigation water from the Arkansas River near Boone to the Kansas line and irrigate a million acres of land north of the Arkansas River. Mr. Henry started building the canal with his own money, but quickly sold it to the Bradbury family, who in turn sold it to the Colorado Canal Company. By 1891 the first water was released into the canal, but the original goal of irrigating a million acres was in reality irrigating 57,000 acres and the canal stopped in Crowley County. This irrigation system brought a burst of growth in the population of the area, and the dry prairie flourished.(Barber 2019)
Charles and Sarah migrated down to the lower Arkansas River Valley shortly after being married and there they settled. Very little is known of what they did but all the indicators point to farming or farming related work. They appear to have lived primarily in the Ordway area which experienced a mini boom of activity after the opening of the Colorado Canal that opened up some dry prairie to farming.
They had seven children back then but two passed away. The first three children were born in Olney Springs near Ordway, the second three in La Junta and the last one was born in Ordway. All towns are within 15 miles of each other in the lower Arkansas River Valley. Their eighth and last child Charles Othniel was born in Utah. Francis, the writer of the family history was the last child born in Colorado, Francis Moroni and his name indicates another transformation in the family story.
- Anna Magdalene born March 1, 1895
- John Colburn (Johnny) born March 12, 1897
- Rosezella Samena born February 22, 1899
- Irene Amanda born November 30, 1900
- Ned Avard Zimmerman born June 16, 1903 (passed away six months later)
- Sarapeta Zimmerman born April 18,1905 (passed away in January of 1907
- Francis Moroni Zimmerman born October 4, 1906 in Ordway Colorado
The family portrait above appears to have been taken in 1907. The youngest baby Francis Moroni was born on October 6, 1906. He looks to be about a year old or so in the picture.Standing in the back is Emma who was adopted. From left to right is Rosezella, Charles, Irene Amanda, Sarah Ellen, Francis Moroni, Anna Magdaline, and John Colburn. Photo courtesy of Family Search.
The Hatcher Utterback Excavations
On May 9, 1900, John Bell Hatcher lead paleontologist and one of the most well-known dinosaur excavators was working for the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh wrote to his supervisor Dr. Holland notifying him that he had secured an agreement with Marshall Felch to excavate dinosaurs at the old quarry, writing;
“I enclose you herewith copy of an agreement I made with Mr. Felch relative to working the old bone quarry on his place near Cañon City, Colo. This is the place where Marsh got all his skulls of Jurassic Dinosaurs & the best of his Jurassic mammals. The bones Mr. Felch had out, he shipped to Marsh shortly before the latter’s death… paying $25 per month for the privilege”
At this point in his life John Bell Hatcher was the most well-known fossil collector in America and in the 1900 and 1901 period in addition to everything else he was involved in was organizing and managing three separate excavating projects, one in Nebraska, one in Wyoming, and this one at the old quarry. Hatcher assigned lead excavators at each location and the one assigned to Canon City was W.H. Utterback. Utterback would be the man Marshall would be in contact with when the project started.
On October 28, 1900 Marshall wrote one of the last letters he ever wrote to Hatcher in response to a letter Hatcher had written to him; Marshall wrote;
On My dear Mr. Hatcher
Yours of the 22″ inst. came in due season. I will do all that I can in shewing Mr. Wetterback where to work to the best advantage in opening up the old quarry again.
I had hoped that you would come in person, for a stranger unless he fully understands field work, and especially the expense and difficulty of getting out fossil specimens from sand rock may think the undertaking too much. However a trial will shew whether he can make a success of it or not.
With kind regards I am
Marshall’s spelling was not good on this letter, which is unusual for Marshall, but his honesty is still intact. Marshall’s intent was to show Utterback the general area where he had in the old quarry when the major work ended 1887. Marshall was clearly sharing the probable difficulty of the work and indicated that a trial excavation would demonstrate whether or not the quarry had any remaining fossils.
Utterback wrote a few days later to Hatcher on November 2, 1900;
“I have no place to board as you were mistaken in the young man being married. That was a woman there temporary. The old man is in very poor health and keeps his bed the greater portion of the time. Since the women left, they have been trying to do their work themselves. Of all the dirty filthy places I ever struck that lays over all. No man can live as they are doing and have health. I shall put up my tent and get a stove and board myself.”
Ten days later on November 12 Utterback again commented on Marshall’s health writing; “My heaviest expense will be in fitting up a place to live. Mr. Felch is sick all the time and it is impossible for me to stop at his place.”
This letter reveals the continued decline of Marshall’s health over the years. The last time Marshall wrote about it was to Professor Marsh almost ten years earlier on February 10, 1891;
“I was taken very bad with my old complaint – heart trouble – on the way there and had to be carried to my friends room – which I did not leave for ten days and then to come directly home – and for the next two months was in a very critical condition a good deal of the time, and the only time I went to town up to the 5’ of July last I had to have a bed made in the wagon to ride on”
After the death of Amanda at the end of 1893, Sarah married Charles and moved down to the Orway area. Marshall no longer had someone to pick up the slack. The young man that was living with Marshall is his son Ned who from Utterback’s letter was apparently not able to handle domestic duties particularly well. Ned lived with Marshall most of the time up when Marshall seemed to be almost continually bedridden.
On the November 17 Utterback wrote;
“Mr Felch told me when I first arrived here that the bone area was confined to a strip 30 or 40 feet wide in the centre of the old quarry. There is a depression or as Mr Felch calls it the bed of an old stream about 40 feet from the west end that he says all of the bones were found in. Mr Smith was down and put in a half a day with me at the quarry the past week and he gave me considerable information. He says that it will be a waste of labor and money to strip off the west or east ends as there has never been anything found but fragments in either place. I have commenced on the east side and am running a cut about 20 feet wide to the north line of the 25 feet. He says 40 feet in width will more than cover the ground in which they worked before…. I think you were badly deceived regarding the length of time it would require to strip it. Every foot of the ground has to be blasted with the exception of a foot or so on the surface that is air slacked.”
It is clear that Marshall gave Utterback very clear and honest directions on what to expect and what he had found. Additionally, one of Marshall’s old collectors Smith was still around and according to Utterback provided “considerable information” about the quarry. Utterback’s comment “I think you [Hatcher] have been badly deceived” is a theme that Utterback will repeat again and again over the next few.
There is no doubt that Marshall is at the end of his life. Augmenting the problem may have been that he was possibly taking pain medications. Certainly he was at times incoherent. On July 20, 1901 Utterback wrote; “Hatcher please address me as below as old Felch is crazy half the time and is causing me a great deal of trouble with my mail.”
The complaints culminated when John Bell Hatcher arrived and Utterback convinced him that Marshall not only deceived them about the probability and ease of finding fossils but that he had deceived them about ownership of the land. Hatcher wrote to his supervisor at the Carnegie on August 12, 1901;
“I arrived here a few days ago & found things in rather a bad way… Mr. Felch was trying to play us false, but fortunately I was on the ground in time & have nipped the whole thing in the bud so that I feel sure all will be well now. To do this I had to go into the real estate business here taking you in as a partner knowing you to be loyal to the museum. I have filed on 4 claims under the names of W.J. Holland & J.B. Hatcher & I feel sure we have here the key to the development of the Sauropoda & I propose to corral everything in sight.”
This move implies that Marshall had leased the property the quarry sat on to the Carnegie for $25 a month but that Marshall did not own the property. In other words he was leasing them something that the government owned, like selling the Brooklyn Bridge. Hatcher took the unneeded step of locating mining claims on the land to obtain what he thought legal right to be on the property.
Marshall was forced to utilize his homestead patent rights in 1885 so he applied for a homestead patent of 160 acres of land under the Homestead Act of 1862. That parcel of land included the old quarry and patent number 2572 was signed by President Benjamin Harrison on March 4, 1891 giving full title. Marshall and Amanda clearly owned the property he was leasing to Hatcher and did not deceive anyone. On the other hand, it is probable that Marshall was depressed and mentally unstable at the time so he obviously did a poor job of describing what he had. The misunderstanding was no fault of Hatchers ,but rather Utterback who seemed to have a lot of complaints about a lot of people.
Hatcher separately had hired another collector by the name of Axtell to work at the old Cope Lucas Quarries about this same time. The excavation history of both quarries and what was found is nicely told by Lowell Dingus in the book; “King of the dinosaur hunters: the life of John Bell Hatcher and the discoveries that shaped paleontology” (Dingus 2018)
Overall the work at the old quarry had limited success and Utterback left the area at the very end of 1901. Less than six weeks after Utterback left the area Marshall Felch took his own life.
The Suicide of Marshall Felch
News of Marshall Felch’s death was reported in the Canon City Clipper on February 11, 1902;
Coroner Little and Deputy Sheriff Hawkins went out yesterday morning and returned in the afternoon. They ascertained that there were living at the ranch Ned Felch, a hired man and housekeeper. Mr. Felch was found about five clock Sunday evening in a tent adjoining the house, dead from the effects of a gun wound.
The cause is supposed to be melancholia arising from chronic illness. He was 67 years of age. He was a great student and possessed a very superior mind. For many years he was engaged by Prof Marsh, of Yale college, in exhuming the bones of extinct saurians, which were found in an excellent condition. He took an active part in the civil war.
He left a note of farewell to his son, Ned giving directions for the disposition of his body. He also left a note for the coroner and bequeathed to him a stack of pamphlets on paleontology.
He was survived by one son Ned, and a daughter, Mrs. Zimmermann, residing at La Junta.”
On the 13th of February the Canon City Record reported;
“A note addressed to the coroner from the deceased contained several strange requests. He also bequeathed a number of pamphlets in paleontology which showed he was quite a student of antiquities. The deceased had been in poor health for several months and at the time of his death had been suffering from melancholy. He spent a great amount of time studying deep literature.”
About a week later the Elbert County Banner reported on February 21, 1902;
“Marshall P. Felch, one of the oldest and best know residents in that section of the state, committed suicide at his home in Garden Park, eight miles north of Canon City, at a late hour Sunday.
The Canon City Times reported on February 13, 1902;
“Mrs. Sadie Felch Zimmerman arrived in the city Monday from La Junta in response to the news of the death of her father, Marshall P. Felch.”
Marshall’s story could have ended here but it doesn’t, there is one big surprise left. It turns out that Marshall Felch was a much more interesting and complicated man than we have previously realized. We will tell the ghostly tale of Capt. Felch, an honest, brave and heroic Civil War veteran who solves a most unlikely murder mystery in the next chapter.
Barber, Annette. 2019. “History of Crowley County.”. June 15, 2019. http://www.crowleyheritagecenter.com/index.php/about-us/history.
Dingus, Lowell. 2018. King of the Dinosaur Hunters: The Life of John Bell Hatcher and the Discoveries That Shaped Paleontology. 1st ed. new york: Pegasus Books.
MacKell, Jan. 2003. Cripple Creek District: last of Colorado’s gold booms. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub.
Oral History about Sarah Ellen Zimmerman. 1989. MP4. Sarah Ellen Felch Zimmerman. A9814973-D4C0-4D07-90C8-37ADEDE132EF.m4a. familysearch.org. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/memories/KW8W-RF8.
Sprague, Marshall. 1979. Money Mountain: The Story of Cripple Creek Gold. University of Nebraska Press.
Van Hook, Joseph O. 1933. “Development of Irrigation in the Arkansas Valley.” Colorado Magazine, 1, 10 (January).
Zimmerman, Ruby Christensen. 1991. Life Story of F.M. and Ruby Zimmerman. F.M. Zimmerman.
Next Chapter: In Life and Death – Yours, Gertrude
Marshall Felch’s remarkable dinosaur excavation will be his legacy, but after the Civil War, he was better-known Capt. Felch, the Civil War veteran and mountain freighter who bravely encountered spirits from the afterlife that in turn helped him in solve a heinous murder in the minefields of Colorado. This ghostly tale is not only good reading, it reveals a layer of Marshall’s persona we would never have known otherwise.