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Sunday, December 2, 2018

First Ladies of the Pikes Peak Region - Helen (Hunt) Jackson #history #writing

View of Pikes Peak covered in clouds
photo (c) by rhe author
The next lady in the series is one many people know: Helen (Hunt) Jackson. Since there is a great deal of information on this lady, this post will cover an 'interview' and information about the writing of the book "Ramona" near the end of her life.

For information on the early ladies in the series:
Elizabeth McAllister
Cara Bell

Grace Greenwood

Lucy Maggard

Image result for images of Helen Hunt jackson
Helen (Hunt) Jackson from Wikipedia
First an 'interview':

As you were traveling to the west you made some unique observations. Would you share some of those thoughts?

Prairie, unfenced, undivided, unmeasured, unmarked, save by the different tints of different growths of grass or grain; great droves of cattle grazing here and there; acres of willow saplings, pale yellowish green; and solitary trees, which look like hermits in a wilderness. These, and now and then a shapeless village, which looks even lonelier than the empty loneliness by which it is surrounded, - these are all for hours and hours. We think, “now we are getting out into the great spaces.” “This is what the word ‘West’ has sounded like.”

You seem to like the lower elevations as opposed to the high peaks. Why do you think that?

I think that true delight, true realization, of the gracious, tender, unutterable beauty of the earth and all created things are to be found in outlooks from lower points—vistas which shut more than they show, sweet and unexpected revealings in level places and valley, secrets of near woods, and glories of every-day paths.

You are quoted as saying there are nine places of worship in Colorado Springs. What are the?

There are nine “places of divine worship” in Colorado Springs, -- the Presbyterian, the Cumberland Presbyterian, the Methodist, the South Methodist, the Episcopal, the Congregationalist, the Baptist, the Unitarian, and Cheyenne Canyon.

Helen Hunt Falls -North Cheyenne Canyon
Photo (c) by author 
What do you do when the snow covers the ground?

... winter..... memory and fancy will have their way; and, as we sit cowering over fires, and the snow piles up outside our window sills, we shall gaze dreamily into the glowing coals, and, living the summer over again, shall recall it in a minuteness of joy, for summer days were too short and summer light too strong. Then, when joy becomes reverie, and reverie takes shape, a truer record can be written....

Ruth Odell wrote one of the early biographies of Helen. It was published in 1939. Her book talks about the writing of "Ramona" and the end of Helen's life. I share some of that with you here:

According to Odell, Helen wrote Ramona in New York between Dec, 1883 and April 1884.


Berkeley Hotel, New York

Wrote first words of Ramona on Dec. 1, 1883

Pg 210-211 of the book says:

"The novel which Helen hoped so ardently would “tell” in a manner in which A Century of Dishonor had not was written with lightening speed. She was frightened at the intensity of her own interest, which drove her to compose at the rate of from two to three thousand words in a day. It was as if she were haunted and obsessed. So loath was she to stop writing that her concentration resulted in two serious attacks of illness. …..From time to time she drove herself to write a short story, an article....but with the feeling always that she was suffering an actual deprivation in having to turn away from the thing she wished to be doing.....By late February she had finished twenty chapters."

Below is a timeline of the release of the book.

April 12 of 1884  the 'Critic' announced that Mrs. Helen Jackson would soon publish the first long novel under her own name.

May 1, 1884 'The Christian Union' noted that it would begin in a fortnight a serial presentation of the novel Ramona.

On a side note, "Ramona" has had at least 300 printings since that date.

Time line of Helen's last months

June 28, 1884 Helen broke her hip. The fall of 1884 she went to CA .

By Feb 1885 she became seriously ill of what she believed to be “malarial poisoning”.

From Page 212 of the Odell book:

When she could no longer postpone it, the doctor sent a telegram to her husband, who arrived Aug 2. Ten days later the end came. Subsequent dispatches gave the cause of her death as cancer. Fortunately she had not known.

Evergreen Cemetery Colorado Springs
Photo (c) by the author
Helen made her home in Colorado Springs from 1873 to her death in 1885. She supported the growth of the new town, wrote glowing articles and even supported reading and libraries. Her final resting place is in Evergreen Cemetery next to her second husband William S. Jackson.

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

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. I learn something new about Helen Hunt Jackson every time you write about her. [Thank you ;-)] The waterfall is stunning, and a bit eerie. Does it always have the spectral image of a woman in white with her arms raised, or is my imagination running on the vivid side?

    1. No, your imagination is not running wild. When the water levels are low you can get that image. If they are running high it's a different thing entirely.

      I'm glad you learn a bit more each time. She is an endlessly fascinating person to me and I love sharing information about her. Dorsi

  2. Doris, I loved that beautiful description you gave of the open vistas in Colorado in the beginning of your interview--must be an introvert's dream to live there.
    I cannot imagine consistently writing 2,000-3,000 words every single day. Helen certainly seemed like a woman obsessed. Writing takes me out of the real world and into one I can control, so it is in some ways self-medicating to take the sting out of living in a world full of strife. I have also been so deep into the story I'm writing at times that I do not want to stop, but I get tired. Unlike Helen, I stop to eat and rest. I am intrigued by her behavior on some psychological analytic level, but I am glad I am me and not driven like a demon as she seemed to be.
    A delightful interview and very interesting article, Doris.
    I wish you many blessings and success.

    1. Thank you Sarah. I love living here. Helen's story is one of endless fascination for me. She was in fact, at least in my research and very complex person. Like you, I find 2000-3000 words a day intimidating. I do know she rose every morning about 5am and spent until noon writing on most days. That shows in the amount of work she had published in her lifetime.

      I am glad you enjoyed the post and I wish you all the best in your upcoming endeavors. Doris