Sunday, August 28, 2016


Norton Colorado
            Norton is like many of the little Post Offices that served the early settlers on the Colorado High Plains.  It was located in a ranch house and probably took its mane from the rancher.  Small communities would grow up in the area and sometimes retain the name. 
            Today the land is pretty empty, a few trees and sheds mark where homes had once been.  Here at Norton, there was a small cemetery, which is still used.  When I pulled off the road to take some pictures, a car pulled up and stopped.  A youngster walked up and said hi, I returned his greetings.  He said I could walk out there it was okay, I replied no thanks for I did not have my boots on for tromping in the weeds.  So I took my pictures and listened to him chatter away. 

            Pointing towards the back of the grave yard, he said that is my brother’s best friend buried back there, the cross made of horseshoes.  Looking quizzical, I asked him, what happened, expecting him to relate an accident of some type.  Instead he said it was something wrong with his heart, my brother’s friend was 13 when he died.  That was a loop I wasn’t expecting.  We talked a bit longer about the country side and then he went on down the road and I went about taking more pictures of the area. 
            Norton is located along the Palmer Divide area in Eastern Colorado, elevation 6500-7000 feet.  The winters can be pretty cold and harsh and the spring storms pretty nasty, hail falling like snow.  At this elevation there is not a long growing season for farming, so it is ranching in the area.  There are thick woods that line vast rolling meadows, making for great grazing for the bovines. 

            Tucked back in one of the meadows is a ranch house that probably housed the Norton Post Office.  I found the cemetery first sand it was not until I did some research that found out there had been a Post Office nearby.  

Friday, August 19, 2016

Republican River Road

Hale Colorado

            Like so many little burgs off the main highway, the community of Hale has disappeared into the dim reaches of memory.  Situated on the Republican River in Eastern Colorado, almost to the Kansas border, Hale had been a busy little place back in the late 1800’s.  The Republican River was a busy route to the Colorado gold fields in late 1800’s.  Freighters used this route for a number of years hauling to the mountains, Wagon trains of 100 wagons or so were quiet common.  For brief time a stage line operated through the area in 1859-60.  This is the stage route Horace Greeley rode to Colorado, of “Go West young man, Go West.” 
            The French had been in this area since the 1600’s trapping and exploring, they had established outposts along the river.  The Spanish traveled through the area also, looking to see what the French were up to.  It was an area of intrigue between the European rivals until the French sold it to the United States in 1802, The Louisiana Purchase.  This brought more explorers and curious people to the New West.  Zebulon Pike traveled the area in 1812, exploring and charting the newly purchased land of the United States.  At the time the early Europeans had gotten along with the native Indian tribes, using some Indians as their guides and trading with them.  The history of the French and Spanish in the area is pretty slim and a lots has to do with the interest lying in US history, not other countries. 
            So when gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains, lots of the trails West had been laid out and mapped.  With large wagon trains rolling through, small trading posts were built by the road and a few settlers settled in.  The bottom land was rich for crops and grazing cattle.  Dotted along the Republican River from the Kansas border to its headwaters were numerous communities, mostly no more then a dozen souls living there.  With the homesteaders, the area became a bit more civilized and Post Offices came into being along the river. 
            The Hale Post Office was established in 1887 until 1945 when it was moved to another location a few miles away.  On the map from the early 1900’s, there are several other communities listed as being in the area.  One of these communities was Bonny, which lent its name to the new dam/reservoir being built in the 1950’s.  Bonny Dam gave some new life to the general store at Hale.  The store became a bait and tackle shop also selling items to the visitors of the lake and there were gas pumps. 

            Things change and Hale lost lots of its clientele as people changed the way they lived and then Bonny Lake was forced to be drained by the state of Kansas and that sealed the fate of the little country store. 
            What had been a nice flowing river had trickled into a tiny stream, the drought dried up lots of springs and tilling changed the run off.  There is still plenty of water but it is way down in the ground.  When Bonny was drained, lots of the close to surface water disappeared also.  The woods are thick offering forage and protection for the abundant wildlife in the area. 

            Hale still has its road sign, the old store still stands and there are a couple houses in the area.  For now it is the occasional rancher going through the area checking on the cattle.  The stagecoach that stopped nearby is no more.  The boaters and fisherman now go other places.  High overhead floats the Eagle, a reminder that some things do not change. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fort Wallace

Fort Wallace Kansas

         Situated on the plains of western Kansas, The Army post is but a memory.  Built to protect travelers on the smoky Hill Trail from Indian attacks during the 1860’s.  Ft Wallace was one of many garrisons the Army constructed on the prairie.  The post cemetery is the only reminder that an Army garrison had been in the area.  Wallace Township cemetery is south of the military graveyard, and is probably the main reason the site did not become a collection of ruins. 

        When Ft Wallace was abandoned in the 1880’s, many of the soldiers that had been buried there were exhumed and reburied at Ft Leavenworth, Kansas, except for the soldiers that had died of cholera.  There were numerous civilians buried there also, they were given a wooden grave marker with a short eulogy about their death and there are some graves of scouts the Army used.  There is also a memorial for the soldiers that were killed by Indians during the Indian wars. 
        It is a rather somber yard to pause in and ponder.  One tends to forget the turmoil and hardship people had to endure back then.  Nearby is the Pond Creek state station and then the town of Wallace, an end of tracks railroad town.  The site of numerous bloody conflicts, among the Indians, the travelers, railroaders, gamblers and assorted wild times on the plains. 
        The state operates a museum at Wallace, Kansas and here at the Ft Wallace Museum, one can see many of the travails people faced when traveling the prairie during the 1860’s and 70’s.  The museum is on the site of the Pond Creek stage stop, just south of the railroad tracks and a couple of miles from Fort Wallace.  Here at the museum one can see the relationship between the people of the plains, their moments of tragedy, the joys of success and the celebrations of life. 
        The scouts the Army hired were not military, they were civilians, contracted to the military.  The scouts were the eyes and ears of the Army.  They knew the terrain, where the water was and had dealt with the Indians in the past.  Many had been Mountain Men, trappers and had made numerous trips across the plains. 
        One of the more famous scouts was Kit Carson, who had been chief scout for Colonel John Fremont, when he made his trips across the west.  The Pathfinder had taken various routs across Kansas to the Rocky Mountains, with trapper Kit Carson as his scout and guide. 
        Two of the scouts still buried at the Ft Wallace cemetery did not have a long life.  They were involved in the Battle of Beecher Island, where they lost their lives.  Beecher Island was one of the unusual fights with the Indians.  A party of Indians surprised a group of soldiers and killed some of the troopers before being driven off.  But the soldiers were trapped in the Aricakree River bottom by the Indians. 
        After an extended siege, the Indians withdrew from Beecher Island, when Troops from Ft Wallace could be seen on the horizon riding to the rescue.  The soldiers had been able to hold off the Indians with their repeating rifles.  It was also during this battle that the Indians lost one of their most feared warriors, Roman Nose.  Roman Nose was a revered warrior among the Cheyenne Indians standing over 6’5”, a giant of a man. 

        The site of the Beecher Island Battle has some conflict as to the actual site.  There are some that say the government is wrong that the fight took place further to the west in a steeper ravine.  Then things like that make for interesting conversation.  One thing for certain, the troops were from Fort Wallace.  There were numerous other battles the troopers of Ft Wallace were involved in.

        In the 1880’s when the fort was abandoned, it sat empty for some time with a caretaker.  With settlers moving in and homesteading in the 1890’s, the building material at the old fort became prized.  The settlers would sneak into the fort at night and haul out loads of lumber and stone for their home.  When the caretaker did nothing and was in different, the settlers stared driving their wagons in during daylight and scavenging what they wanted.  Today parts and pieces of Fort Wallace spread into the surrounding land.