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Sunday, February 1, 2015


Post by Doris McCraw

Ross Martin and Robert Conrad.

Lately I've been revisiting "The Wild Wild West" when I need break from all that is going on. The pure unadulterated fun of watching James West and Artemus Gordon maneuver their way through absurd situations is beyond joy for me. If you have watched the series, you know they have all kinds of 'inventions' and that the two not only use, but have to overcome. Here is a link on an episode from season one if you are so inclined: Ross Martin was wonderful as the ever inventive Gordon, and Robert Conrad, does anyone remember him with the battery on his shoulder saying "I dare you to knock this off", was West. This television series ran from Sept. 1965 to April 1969, with two follow up television movies in 1979 and 1980. Watching the antics, the show was designed to be a James Bond in the Old West, made me think about the other unbelievable characters and places in Colorado's history. The people and places are real, but the stories? You be the judge.

First up, Mountain Charley, aka Elisa Jane Forest Guerin. The story goes that Horace Greeley met up with the young lady in 1859 in the Gregory diggings while she was trying to light a cigar. It seems Charley had married at fourteen (or twelve as she later stated) and was a widowed mother at sixteen. She had cut her hair and put on men's clothes to hunt down the killer of her husband. One source says she dressed as a man, but never tried to hide the fact that she was a woman. She drank, prospected and swore with the best of them. She was armed with a revolver or two and a knife in her boot. Eventually she met up with her husbands killer in St. Louis and again on the trail to Golden, a town just outside Denver. That she failed to kill him, or he her both times is funny and sad. After the attempt in Colorado, her husbands killer confessed all and Mountain Charley married a bartender named Guerin. She later wrote her autobiography "Mountain Charley, or the Adventures of Mrs.E.J. Guerin, Who Was Thirteen Years in Male Attire".

Robert Ford, undated.

Next, Edward 'Red' Kelly, also known Edward Capehart O'Kelley, the man who killed Bob Ford in Creede, Colorado. Yes, that Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James. One story has Kelly killing Ford over the story that Ford had accused him of stealing Ford's ring while in Pueblo, Colorado. Another version has Kelly being told by con man "Soapy Smith" that he would be famous for killing Ford. That Kelly had a temper seems to be well known. He was caught and tried for the murder of Ford and sentenced to life in the Colorado State (Territorial) Prison in Canon City, but he only served about eight years before he was paroled. Two years later he was killed in Oklahoma City after a fight with an officer in that town. More on Kelly can be found at: 

The town of Boreas (the Greek god of the north wind) stands at the top of Boreas Pass, a train route from Como to Breckenridge, Colorado. This high mountain town came into existence due to the mineral in the area and the train that traveled through there. Dyersville, founded my the intinerant preacher Father Dyer, is just a few miles west down the pass. During the long cold winter of 1899 when trains couldn't make it through about six young men skied from Breckenridge over Boreas and onward to Denver. One summer the P.T. Barnum circus train came through the pass. When the train failed to climb the grade the animal trainer had the elephants push the train to the top of the pass.

Boreas Pass section house, DSP&P RR.

Finally, no story of Colorado and the bizarre would not be complete without a word about Nikola Tesla. Tesla arrived in Colorado Springs in 1899. He told his backers he was going to send a wireless signal from Pikes Peak to Paris. During one experiment Tesla burned the dynamo at the El Paso Electric company and the city of Colorado Springs lost all power. For more on Tesla's time in Colorado Springs you can visit the following web site:

As a history buff these stories whet my appetite for more. Each and everyone may end up as part of the stories I continue to tell, both fiction and non-fiction. Here is to your stories and the pieces of history that inspire them. You can read more on my love/hate relationship with research at the following link:
Happy writing. (Now back to mine, SMILE!)

Doris Gardner-McCraw 
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

Photo and Poem:


  1. Thanks for the cool entertainment. You've given me a history lesson--and tv lesson--about events, place, and people I never knew about. I see I know very little about the history of Colorado.
    65-69? No wonder I don't recall the tv series you mentioned at the beginning. We had two pre-schoolers, and those were the years I drove 30 miles every day for two years--summers included--to finish a B.S. degree at Texas Tech (mostly science courses and the required number of hours for a teaching certificate in secondary education. I did not watch tv, but our kids did a little. My husband worked at two jobs 16 hours a day so I could go to college.
    Off topic, but just saying. I do love the story about Mountain Charley!
    P.S. Did Ford Motor Company name their little car Tesla after this man?
    I'm glad I'm finally becoming more acquainted with you.
    Keep writing.

  2. Celia, I am glad I could bring a little fun and learning to the table. That time frame for me was a busy one, but not as intense as yours. I admire your families dedication to building a future. I had seen a few of the shows back then, but DVD's have come in handy.
    For me, the history of my adopted state is endlessly fascinating to me. I find these stories as I search for my women doctors, and for just fun research. Mountain Charley's story is a good one, whether totally true, who knows.
    And yes, Ford did name their car after Tesla. If you ever want to see what science and science fiction fans are like, follow the Tesla fans, We have people from all over the world come here and ask about his work here etc.
    Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Best on the new book, folks will love it. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines.

  3. WOW, Doris! What a lot of information here that I'd never known before! I was especially interested in Tesla. Remember when that movie came out a few years back--I think it was called The Prestige, and David Bowie played him. At the time, I didn't understand when there was a scene with all these light bulbs lying there on the ground. Later, when my son got older and was so interested in Tesla, he explained that Tesla had been able to create power from 26 miles away! No one has been able to discover how he did it. So now that my son, Casey, is working on his masters, this is one of the things he's wanting to explore for his thesis. Even though I'm no scientist, that thought fascinates me. Very good post--I really enjoyed this!

    1. Thank you Cheryl. Tesla is an endlessly fascinating person. He was brilliant, not easy to deal with and died in poverty in New York, but all that we have today, alternating current, wireless technology, etc. is based on his research. His fans are amazing and he and his concepts are used in a number of books and movies. I wish your son the best on his masters. I love that Tesla is getting the recognition he deserves after all these years. (I'm a pseudo fan) Doris

  4. I did enter a moment but it didn't take. Doris, I loved that show. I really don't know much about the history of Colorado. Mainly, I just love the snow capped mountains, fields of wild flowers growing in the meadow, and pristine mountain lakes. My first visit to Colorado was in 1973. It was beautiful and folks were implementing their ideas in building their homes with solar and wind power which I thought was really cool. I visited off and on since I had a sister living in Bailey until the early 90's until she moved back to Iowa. I went back in 2003 and was sad to see condos and apartment s built into the beautiful red rocks of Garden of the Gods and so many small towns had grown and smoke stacks filled the horizon with plumes of gray smoke being belched into the sky. I guess nothing stays the same. Mountain Charlie sounds like quite the character, a woman with true grit.

    1. Barb, I have seen a lot a changes here in Colorado also, some of them I'm not fond of. Like you I love the mountains and the flowers. Now I drive a bit to see the wildflowers, but Pikes Peak is outside my door.

      Mountain Charley's story is a good one, even if only half of it is true.

      I'm also having fun revisting the show and the memories it brings. Thanks for stopping by and glad you re-entered your comments. Doris

  5. I didn't get to see many episodes of Wild, Wild West. I think it's interesting that some of the episodes were based on real history. It's sort of Steampunk western style. I bet it was a whole lot of fun watching it.
    I liked this blog, Doris. All the best to you!

    1. Sarah, I didn't see all of them the first time around, I think that is why I'm enjoying them again for the first time. It does have the feel of Steampunk. So glad you enjoyed the post. Best to you also and I'm looking forward to more stories of you 'fictional family' Doris

  6. Interesting little pieces of history you don't normally hear about. Wild Wild West was a big hit at our house in the 60s, and we pretty much never missed it. The spy aspect of it was a major part of the draw, since we watched The Man From UNCLE and The Avengers, along with all the other spy shows on TV. I was so disappointed in the big screen adaptation a few years ago. Really awful.

    1. JD, for me it's the little pieces that are so much fun and add to the stories I write.
      I also loved The Avengers and Man From UNCLE, those were the days for spy shows. Like you, the big screen adaptation lost the sense of fun the TV show had and I didn't like it either. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

  7. Very interesting post, Doris. I've only visited Colorado once and that was in the 80's. I'm sure like most areas of the US things in the area have changed, but I hope not too much. It was such a beautiful area. I was a fan Of Wild, Wild West and remember many of the shows. I never dreamed any of them had a bit of truth in them. Thanks for the post.

    1. Agnes, Colorado is beautiful and although there have been some changes the mountains have stayed the same grand and beautiful vistas they always have been.
      The Wild Wild West was such a fun show, and while fictional show, I think all stories have a nugget of truth to them. Doris

  8. It seems history is filled with interesting people and their stories. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You are welcome S J. There are some great places to photograph and when you add the history behind some of those places, well, to me that's heaven. History is so full of stories and places waiting to be discovered.