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Sunday, November 1, 2015


Post copyright by Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

East of the Great Mountain and West of the Sun
Helen’s Colorado Springs 1873

Image result for images helen hunt jackson
Helen Hunt Jackson

In 1873 Helen Hunt arrived in Colorado Springs. This was ten years after the death of her husband in 1863 followed by her two children in 1854 and 1865 respectively. That arrival and subsequent observations became part and parcel of her essay “Colorado Springs” published in August of 1874 in the New York Independent approximately nine months after her arrival in town.

So what was really happening in this town that she wrote about?

At the time Colorado was still a territory with S. H Elbert as the territorial governor and M.A. Shaffenburg as the United States Marshall.

We know the town had a population of around three thousand. The town was “governed by the following trustees.”: Matt. France, W. H. Macomber, C.T. Barton, A. H. Weir and J. T. Wilson. They even had a town herder by the name of Thomas Hughes.

As Helen says in her essay “it might be said that three years ago the town of Colorado Springs did not exist….that it is also known as “The Fountain Colony””…. Helen felt that The Fountain Colony was a better name for, “ there is not a spring of any sort whatever in the town...” The trustees of the Fountain Colony as she stated in the essay, were “men of means, position, and great executive ability.” (It should be noted the city and the Fountain Colony trustees were separate entities) The Fountain Colony Board consisted of: Gen. Wm. J. Palmer, President, Henry McAlister, Jr., Executive Director, Gerald De Coursey, Secretary, Wm. P. Mellen, Treasurer, M.L. DeCoursey, Assistant Treasurer. The Trustees: Wm. J. Palmer, Dr. Robert H. Lamborn, Col. Josiah C. Reiff, Col. W. H. Greenwood, Wm. P. Mellen and the Chief Engineer, E. S. Nettleton. Furthermore she states these men are, “enthusiasts in their determination to exert their controlling power in the right direction.”

One of those directions was in the “contest of wills” between them and the liquor dealers/manufacturers. This contest appears to have gone on for some time and in 1873 at the time of Helen’s arrival the town was trying yet again to deal with the liquor issues. .

This is the only mention of the growth pangs of the town. She then moves onto a description of the scenery in and around the town. But there was so much more going on in the area.
View of Garden of the Gods and Glen Eyrie (Palmer's Home)
In August of that year there was discussion and later voting on whether to retain Colorado City as the county seat or move it to Colorado Springs. The results of the voting: Colorado Springs became the new county seat of the county of El Paso, in the territory of Colorado. This change would eventually help fulfill the vision of men like Gen. Palmer and others who were called by Helen, “enthusiasts in their faith in the future of the region.”

The financial crisis of 1873 also touched Colorado Springs. At the end of October of that year the bank of Wm. B Young & Co. had to suspend operations due to the drains on the deposits of the bank. This was the result of the financial panic in part caused by the failure of Henry Crews and Company of New York. At the same time the “El Paso County Bank” was opened. The men who formed this banking house were: W. S. Jackson, who was the Secretary/Treasurer of the Denver & Rio Grande Railway as well as Mr. Wolfe, Mr. White and Mr. Goodrich. (This is the same W. S. Jackson that became Helen’s second husband.)

Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region received a boost with the Signal Corps deciding to place a signal station on the top of Pikes Peak. The local paper would print the readings that were taken at the top of the mountain. The Colorado Springs Company also purchased from a Mr. Nat Colby the entrance to Cheyenne Canyon, so that “the enjoyment of its beauties may be assured to visitors for all time.”

Although not mentioned directly in the Colorado Springs essay Helen would speak at length about Cheyenne Canyon.

North Cheyenne Canyon

One of the last events that happened that year was the death of Judge Baldwin. His death on November 3 created a mystery that is still unsolved to this day. (His body was found in a well and the circumstances were not conclusive as to whether it was foul play or accident.) This may have occurred just before or around the time Helen arrived in Colorado Springs.

Regardless of the events, both positive and negative, as Helen stated in her essay “for those alone whom I might possibly win to love Colorado Springs as I love it, I repeat that it is a town lying east of the Great Mountain and west of the sun." Helen continued to experience and love this city at the foot of Pikes Peak as a place of both beauty and growth for the remainder of her life.

Updated reprint from a copyrighted post in 2010 by Doris A. McCraw

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at : (fourteen short of one thousand posted haikus as of 11/1/2015)


  1. I thought it interesting that Colorado Springs has no springs. The west had some of the strongest women on the planet. It's as if someone put out a call for all strong women to go west. LOL An interesting article about Helen Hunt and Colorado, Doris. All the best to you.

    1. One things for sure, the women were noticed here in the West. Maybe because there were not quite as many. They were strong and made themselves known, just have to find them.

      I have always loved the fact the Colorado Springs doesn't have springs. There are those who will say there was one, but it went aways with the growth of the town. Haven't been able to verify that story. Thank you for stopping by and for your wonderful support. It means a lot. Doris

    2. I grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon where there aren't any falls. There were so-called falls there at one time; however from pictures I've seen, they were more like rapids. When the river was dammed in 1921, even the rapids disappeared.

    3. Ginger, I didn't know that. What a fascinating story. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your knowledge. I love learning new things. Doris

  2. Doris--a lovely post on the history of Colorado Springs. I've been there a few times and really enjoy the locale. I've hiked to Helen Hunt Falls. It's beautiful.

    1. Kristy, the falls are beautiful. I've a few pictures, but wanted to show some other places. One thing I enjoy, looking out my window and seeing Pikes Peak.

      When you start in on the history, it is a constant source of fun. I love the stories. This town was not your typical western town, but in some ways it was. If your ever in the area again, let me know. Doris

  3. I lived in Colorado Springs in 1972 and loved being able to hike in The Garden of the Gods Park. I wasn't aware that their were no springs in the area of the township. Women had to be strong in those days to get their voices heardd.

    1. Linda, I'm in the Garden of the Gods a lot. I love that place. With mild winters, a person can hike almost year round. A lot ot love here.

      When you start looking for the women here, you do find they were strong and had minds of their own. Although we tend to forget, they were instrumental in creating this region I live in, and the West in genteral.

      When I hike the Garden the next time, I'll take a few extra trails for you. Doris