When my husband and I moved to Colorado four years ago, we joined our community's historical society and the History Colorado Center. As Colorado became a state in 1876, its history is relatively new, and we were excited to learn more about it.
Please Click on to enlarge--Photos from a 2016 exhibit at Hiwan House,
Evergreen Colorado--Chief Colorow on the Left
Native Americans lived in Colorado for thousands of years. The earliest traces of Paleo Indians, date back around 13,000 years ago, from artifact evidence found at an area called "Lamb Springs" near Littleton, Colorado. Click here to read my post about my visit to Lamb Springs. One of the first recorded Native Americans, that was influential during the early 1800's, was Chief Colorow, a member of the Ute Native American tribe that frequented this area that is now known as Jefferson County, along many other areas of Colorado. He was so well known in this vicinity that many local places are named after him, including an elementary school, a park, a road and trails, a cave and so on. Colorow was one of the most well known Utes in Colorado during his lifetime. Born a Comanche around 1813, he was captured as a child by the Muache Utes in New Mexico, who raised him. He was given the nickname "Colorado" (Red) by the Mexicans living in the San Luis Valley area because his skin had a reddish cast compared to the more brown skin of the Utes, and soon it was shortened even more to "Colorow." Colorow was six feet tall and skilled with horse rearing and training. He soon lead his very large family and tribe all over Colorado, wintering on the plains near red rock formations, where they could hunt deer and bison, as well as hunting and foraging in what he called the "shining mountains." He knew the early Spanish settlers, the fur trappers and traders, and the military men that were in Colorado at the time, and was able to co-exist and trade with them. When gold was discovered in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, however, and settlers began streaming in from the east in the late 1850's, the Ute way of life was soon to change as their hunting grounds and living areas were slowly being taken away from them. Eventually, defeated by conflicts, broken treaties and being forced to live on a reservation in Utah, Colorow passed away of pneumonia in 1888.
To read more about Chief Colorow click through here to his biography in the Colorado Encyclopedia.
Please click on to enlarge--more about Chief Colorow from the 2016 Hiwan House exhibit
The school children in Jefferson County learn about Chief Colorow, as part of the local history, and one of the charming legends about him was his voracious appetite. It is said he grew to be close to three hundred pounds! He is said to have had a special love for white settlers biscuits and would ride from homestead to homestead demanding the women of the house make biscuits for him and his braves, often stuffing them into his clothes to bring back to his tribe.
The Ken Caryl Ranch Historical Society recently made an excellent ten minute Youtube video about the Utes and Colorow that you might enjoy watching to learn more about these native people, and specifically Chief Colorow.
One of the places that Colorow and his tribe stayed on the Front Range is a formation of Fountain Formation red rock sandstone called "Colorow Cave." This large formation of rocks is now part of private property, and is called the "Willowbrook Amphitheatre," and used by the Willowbrook Association for special events. Our community history society was invited to visit the cave, which was a very exciting event for all of us.
The top of the formation is open to the sky, but there is enough overhang to provide some shade and shelter from inclement weather. It was easy to imagine Colorow and his tribe seeking shelter here during summer thunderstorms or to escape the mid day sun, and to enjoy the warmth of the stored reflected sun's heat during the cold nights.
You can see how large this "cave" was by noticing one of our society member's grandchildren standing on the left side of the cave.
Although a flagstone floor with electrical outlets were added to make the space conductive to social functions, the rest of the cave formation was left natural.
I was startled by an owl in flight when I walked around the outside of the cave formation.
The owl perched on a distant layer of the rock formation, waiting patiently for me to leave.
The view of the Willowbrook community from the top of the hill, where the cave is located, was very bucolic. Again, it was easy to imagine Colorow riding his horse down from the surrounding foothills to settle with his tribe to hunt the animals grazing on what was once all grasslands.
Before we left the area we also went to see the remains of a structure that is thought to be from the pioneer days, possibly a stagecoach stop?
Seeing the ruins reminded me of the little Dutch house that was fortunately saved in Brooklyn long ago for future generations to see. It reminded me how important it is for communities to work together to preserve their history, as they progress towards the future, so that their history is not lost to time.
Do you know your community's early history and most famous resident? Do you sometimes wander in their footsteps and imagine the life they lead?
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