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Juan Bautista de Anza, Cuerno Verde and Their Legacy in Colorado

Juan Bautista de Anza, Cuerno Verde and Their Legacy in Colorado
By Bob DeWitt – “ANZANISTA” and Anza Society Board Member

On Sunday, August 15, 1779 the 55th Spanish governor of New Mexico, Juan Bautista de Anza departed Santa Fe along the Camino Real on an arduous 27-day campaign in search of Comanche Indian chief Cuerno Verde, who had been raiding villages and creating havoc across the northern frontier of the Spanish Empire.
To further the research and understanding of Anza and this dramatic event which would forever alter the course of history affecting much of what is now north-ern New Mexico and southern Colorado, the Anza Legacy Project desires to define the route of this expedition to include the location of campsites and battle sites. Furthermore, the Anza Legacy Project desires to establish an Anza / Cuerno Verde National Historic Trail along this corridor.
The historic preservation of this route is vital in a number of aspects. Our Spanish heritage is seldom understood or taught in the primary educational system. Acknowledgment need be given the Native American tribes to include the Ute and Jicarilla Apache who accompanied Anza on this expedition. Additionally, the Comanche are a vital part of this story.
The definition of this important corridor throughout northern New Mexico and southern Colorado will not only create a greater understanding of Anza and our Spanish heritage, but additionally, the interest created can only help benefit communities located along this route resulting in increased tourism.
The Anza Society, Inc. Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution of support for the Anza Legacy Project and namely Bob DeWitt and John Anderson in this effort. While this project is new in name, it continues to build on the work of past members of the Anza Society to include scholars such as Don Garate, Ron Kessler, Jer Zyberra, Joe Myers, Wilfred Martinez and many others.
Furthermore, Spanish descendants of various research and historical organizations support efforts to promote true history. We know from various records that ancestors of Wilfred Martinez were on the expedition and that Francisco Domingo Anaya was the only person killed in the line of duty on the 1779 campaign.
There is a great opportunity for those wanting to learn more about Anza and the related characters in this colorful and important period of Colorado and New Mexico history. In Colorado Springs, Colorado, (for the first time ever,) the 24th Annual International Conference of the Anza Society will take place September 12-15, 2019. The conference features a rather impressive roster of credentialed presenters and authors from New Mexico, Arizona, Washington and Colorado who will share information on a diverse variety of topics focusing on the Southwest Borderlands and of course Anza.
Things kick off on Thursday afternoon with a Reception and Registration. As part of the reception, there will be a premier showing of a newly developed informational PowerPoint dubbed, “Anza A to Z”. Friday’s bus tour will take in historic sites and museums wrapping up the day with a dinner banquet and programs, to include a keynote address by New Mexico’s state historian, Dr. Rick Hendricks. To further make this event a most educational and memorable one, let me point out a few select Saturday topics. Dr. Joe Myers (Arizona) will start things off with “Spaniards in Colorado Pre Anza”, followed by Jeff Hengesbaugh (New Mexico) on the “Segesser Hide Paintings – New Findings”. Jeff has offered to bring along many original artifacts pertaining to the Anza period of the 1779 Comanche Campaign in Colorado and Northern New Mexico. To see and hear about these artifacts, will be most helpful in the work going forward on the Anza Legacy Project, in the efforts to locate and establish the trail. Two exciting features of this conference will be a couple of Panel sessions. In the morning, the “Descendants of Anza Panel” will share some insight into their ancestor’s past as part of the expedition. In the afternoon, following a presentation, “Zebulon Montgomery Pike’s Legacy” by the Pikes National Historic Trail Association, some of the talented individuals behind the establishment of various historic trails in both NM and CO will take part in a “Trails Panel”. Of course, there will be many other fascinating presentations.
While the full conference rate is very affordable at $185, on a shoestring, one can purchase the Saturday Daytime option to include a full day of engaging historical presentations and lunch for only $30! WOWis this a bargain or what? There are numerous other À la carte options available as well.

For complete conference details including Brochure and Schedule please request an EVITE invitation to RSVP with easily downloadable forms and secure credit card payment link.

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Cache Creek Part Deux!

  I find the Cache Creek area absolutely fascinating.  I feel this connection. Like a sense of deja vu. Maybe it is because my family stopped in Granite as they as they traveled back and forth between Buena Vista and Leadville over a hundred years ago. Or maybe the fact  it lies in quiet abandon from its booming days as one of the first gold strikes during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in the late 1850's.

So many of the gold strikes at that time are now large cities, including our very own state capitol of Denver Colorado.

Cache Creek, however, sits up above the canyon through which the Arkansas River flows. In 1861, the town of Granite,  had a population of over 3000, and held the honor of being the county seat until  1879, and is now, barely a spot in the road.

Our first visit to Cache Creek was this fall, although we drove  past it many times on our way to Leadville,not giving it a second thought.

It is these hidden secrets, these stories untold  I hope to discover and share as I begin my research into this area. I always have to discover as much as I can about an area. I'm never satisfied with just a simple coating of history, no, I find myself immersed in digitized newspapers, digging deeper and deeper until I discover its very roots.

One of the first things I noticed as we walked through this area on our way to the creek, was how clean it was. This area was once filled with over 3000 placer miners looking to strike it rich. Not only were there men, but there was equipment. Large equipment used to blast away the side of the mountains in the hydraulic method of mining used at that time. But as we walked around, it was one of the first things I noticed, there was no trash. No rusted metals, no old tin cans, no old broken bottles in various hues of greens, blue, and purples, as one finds in old glass. It was as if someone had come in and swept the area clean.
I did discover a few remnants of rusted pipes, which I am sure were used in the blasting away of the mountain side.

Cache Creek was at the height of its gold producing when production came to a sudden halt in 1911. This was due to an environmental law suit brought on by those who lived down stream. In fact, this was the first environmental lawsuit in the state of Colorado. Remember this was back in the day when the last thing anyone thought of was the impact on the environment.

 According to an article written in 1903,  for 38 years the Cache Creek Placer ran its tailings through is located there really was no other way for the tailings to be disposed of than running them down the Arkansas River which affected the residents of Canon City. At the time of the article, they didn't hold up much hope  their pleas would be listened to, however , in 1911, mining in  Cache Creek came  to an end.
their bed rock flume.  The way Cache Creek


Gold Fever on Cache Creek

Pikes Peak or Bust

The cry of the 59'ers resonated across the country when gold was discovered in the Kansas Territory in 1859, ten years following the California Gold Rush of 1849.

George A. Jackson's discovery along Chicago Creek is today Idaho Springs and Green Russell's found his pot of gold near the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, near Denver Colorado.

 Today, Cache Creek, little more than a bump in the road, was once one of the largest placer gold mining operations in the state. Located west of the town of Granite Colorado, in Northern Chaffee County, Cache Creek operated from 1860 to 1911. It became the first settlement of note in the upper Arkansas Valley. Three hundred people settled along the creek that first year. The following year, the population of gold hungry miners increased to over 3000!

Have not been able to located actual pictures of Cache Creek at this time. This is an excellent example how placer mining was conducted on Cache Creek.

Small independent placer mining first took place along Cache Creek from 1860 to 1863.  Significant increases in production took place in 1884 with the introduction of “booming” and again in 1889 when hydraulic placer mining was introduced. The water was diverted from Lake Creek to Cache Creek by a 16 mile long Cache Creek Ditch. Nearly $3,000,000 in gold is reported to have been produced from the placers. These operations continued until 1911 when the entire operation was shut down in one of Colorado’s first environmental lawsuits.

I wonder if the miners who spent most of their time with bent backs and standing in ice cold water looking for those elusive nuggets ever took the time to stop and appreciate the  natural beauty that surrounded them.

 The Earth Is Pure Muck!

Since major mining operations ended, a slow and natural recovery of the Cache Creek area began.  The Bureau of Land Management recently acquired the land that includes Cache Creek.

 This acquisition was made primarily for wildlife habitat and open space but it is also recognized for its significant mining history.  The Cache Creek Area has been of interest to the small scale placer mining community because placer gold was left behind when major operations were shut down in 1911.

 And Mucks A Good Thing

 The country is rugged but not so rugged we could not carry our pans, sluice, metal detector, back packs etc in a short bit until we found the creek and set up operations.

The Best Things in Life Are Dirty!

My operations consisted more of rock hunting and fish watching than gold panning. Also getting myself lost at least a couple of times, not realizing I was only a few yards away. Note to self, this usually happens and I need to figure out something else when I decide to wander off so I really don't get lost!


Buffalo Soldiers in Colorado

Celebrating the history of the west is remembering and honoring the unsung  heroes who made our country what it is today.

The history of the Buffalo Soldier laid hidden away in dusty old archives until the first book was written in 1967, which brought the history of these men to the public.

The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West, Revised Edition
Shortly after September 11, 2001, we were organizing a military themed walking tour for Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. I had invited a dear friend of mine who was a Buffalo Soldier reenactor to share this history at the Spanish American War site, since the 10 US Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers played an important part in the Spanish American War and the charge up San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt.
 Buried amongst these few veterans of the Spanish American War, was George Mason, a member of 10th US Cavalry, an actual Buffalo Soldier. From that day, so many years ago, these men, who in their 70's, come out, dressed in full uniform to pay their respects to the fellow comrade in arms and to pay honor to all the veterans who have paid the price for the freedoms we take for granted today.

The Buffalo Soldier played a very important part in the settling of the west and in Colorado itself.  Here are a few places you can visit to learn more about this history

Colorado Buffalo Soldier History