New book — Colorado Forts: Historic Outposts on the Wild Frontier

The Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library has been hosting a series of speakers that focus on western history with a special emphasis on Colorado.

The “History of the West Series” features lectures, films and discussions taking place once a month. The talks cover stories about Colorado’s coalfield wars, plains archeology, ghost towns, fly fishing in the West and many more topics unique to Colorado and the West. Continue reading

Pix from 2012 Spiritual Healing Run/Walk

Here are some pix from the 2012 Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing run/walk. Click here to read more about this annual event.

At Riverside Cemetery, Denver. Hoisting the American flag and white flag of truce has special meaning: when Chivington’s soldiers attacked the peaceful camp at Sand Creek, Cheyenne chief Black Kettle raised these two flags, but they were ignored by the attackers.

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Visiting the Sand Creek Massacre site

On a trip organized by the Boulder History Museum, a group of us traveled by bus to the site of the Sand Creek Massacre on Saturday, September 15.  I was thrilled to see a new memorial to Captain Silas Soule in a pleasant picnic area, where we later ate lunch:


The yellow display on the left is an image of Soule’s handwritten letter to Major Ned Wynkoop, describing the terrible things that happened during the massacre. On the backside is a similar letter written by Joseph Cramer, another soldier from the Colorado First Cavalry.

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Which one is White Antelope?

Although fans of Colorado history have probably heard of the most significant Native American leaders — Black Kettle, Left Hand, White Antelope, One Eye, and so on — portraits from the era are frustratingly undocumented. It would be nice to be able to point at a particular picture and say with certainty that this fellow is White Antelope and that fellow is Neva, but it hasn’t happened so far and probably never will.

Case in point: Two important portraits were taken in the fall of 1864 of the “peace chiefs” who had come to Denver to talk peace with Chivington and Evans (fruitlessly, as it turned out). A stenographer was present at this session, so we know at least the following chiefs were present: Black Kettle, White Antelope, Bull Bear. We know Left Hand wasn’t there, and there’s no mention of One Eye being there.

Here’s the most famous portrait taken, focusing just on the fellows in the middle row: Continue reading

How to make history out of fiction

A few weeks ago I watched a PBS program called “Tears in the Sand,” which tells the story of the Sand Creek massacre and other events in the history of the Cheyenne people. In an otherwise informative and moving program, I noticed some unfamiliar “quotes” from the letters of Silas Soule, a young cavalry officer who had been involved in earlier efforts to make peace with the nations, was present at Sand Creek and quickly became a whistle-blower about what really happened that day. Continue reading

19th century artist, Eliza Greatorex, sketched Colorado in the 1870s

While researching for my latest book, “Notorious San Juans,” I came across an unexpected crop of unusually accomplished women – all from the same family. The Pratt family of County Donegal, Ireland produced two remarkable women: Eliza Pratt Greatorex, a well-known artist, and her sister Matilda Pratt Despard, a writer. Eliza Greatorex later had two daughters who followed in their mother’s footsteps. Continue reading

Fort Lupton: Early trading post on the South Platte

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

Along the quiet banks of the South Platte in 1837 Colorado, a pelt trader named Lancaster Lupton and his Mexican crew built an adobe fort and began operating a trading post. Lancaster Lupton was an unlikely character for this scene. From a prominent New York family, he was not the sort of fellow you’d expect to put on a fringe coat and haggle over buffalo robes. Continue reading

Memorial for Captain Silas Soule Finally a Reality

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

If you’ve read my previous columns, you’ll remember the story of Silas Soule, a true Colorado hero who blew the whistle on John Chivington after the massacre of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek in 1864.

Every year, the Cheyenne and Arapaho hold the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run to commemorate the massacre and honor Silas Soule and others who spoke up against the actions of the cavalry that day.  Every year the event is both moving and distressing, but for many, this year’s was particularly emotional — for two reasons. Continue reading

George Pierce: Early Front Range Surveyor

At the height of the Colorado gold rush, some newcomers were better equipped than others for the savage dangers of the unexplored west – both physically and psychologically.

In the early 1860s, the flow of wagon train and stage traffic was often heavier eastward than westward.  Continue reading

The Sand Creek Massacre — An atrocity committed by John Chivington and the “Spider People”

This article first appeared in slightly different form in the Broomfield Enterprise September 18, 2007.

A couple years ago I went on a “tree tour” of Fairmount Cemetery in Denver. As we strolled around the pleasant grounds our guide named the various trees and explained their biology. At one point, as we gazed up at a beautiful white oak, a large memorial marker right in front of me caught my eye. I realized with a jolt it was the grave of Continue reading