Learn about the historic events that took place in our region and how they helped influence the shaping of this nation.
Bent’s Fort, The History: A massive, two-story adobe structure, Bent’s Fort was the epicenter of a trade empire that developed along the Santa Fe Trail and extended across vast tracks of U.S. and Mexican territory. Built in the early 1830s by William and Charles Bent and their French business partner, Ceran St. Vrain, the Fort slept upwards of 200 people and provided the only significant stopping point between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe. Its success as a trading post rested largely on the strong relations the Bent’s fostered with the Cheyenne, Sioux, Arapahoe, and Hispano cultures through marriages, friendships, and business partnerships. Six hundred miles from the nearest U.S. town, the Fort became the central staging point for the U.S. invasion of Mexico before it was abandoned a few years later.
Boggsville, The History:
Following the decline of the fur trade and the abandonment of Bent’s Fort in 1849, Boggsville became the center of commerce along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. This was a new form of commerce, one with its roots in agriculture. From a small settlement, Boggsville bloomed into a tight-knit community with twenty structures and a mix of Anglo, Hispano, and Native American residents. An Ellis Island of the West, it was a place people came to and dispersed from, a refuge of cultural tolerance during times of increasingly tensions between Native Americans and new arrivals. Boggsville served the commercial interests of settlers, miners in the Rocky Mountain Gold fields, and four military posts in the region. Residents included Kit Carson, founder Thomas Boggs, their related wives, Josepha Jaramillo Carson and Rumalda Luna Bent, as well as John Prowers and his Cheyenne wife, Amache. Boggsville’s importance waned with the arrival of the railroad in 1873, but the site remained occupied until 1970.
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Sand Creek Massacre Site, The History:
In late October, 1864, Chief Black Kettle, one of the leading advocates for peace on the Colorado plains, led a group of 600 Cheyenne men, women, and children to Sand Creek, where they camped under the protection of the American Flag. The move was made following a personal meeting with Colorado Governor John Evans, in which Black Kettle sought to distinguish his group from the warring bands of Indians that roamed the plains. “I want [all the soldiers] to understand that we are for peace, and that we have made peace, that we may not be mistaken by them for enemies” The statement was made to Evans in the presence of the commander of all the troops in the Colorado Military District, Colonel John M. Chivington. Yet the village was attacked shortly after it was erected, with Chivington leading the 700 troops that massacred over 150 people. Most of these were women, and children. All the while, 2000 Cheyenne camped to the north, including a majority of the young braves, awaited word from Black Kettle that the peace had been secured. The atrocities committed at Sand Creek were unthinkable, and, as word spread across the plains, violence erupted on a cataclysmic scale—violence which the ensuing congressional and military investigations condemning Chivington could do little to contain. The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site stands as a memorial to those who worked for peace and lost their lives.
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Camp Amache, The History:
At the dawn of World War II, there were approximately 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the United States. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which lead to the U.S. government’s forcible detention of nearly the entire West Coast population of Japanese—110,000 in all—at ten inland internment camps. A blatant civil liberties violation, the move was upheld on multiple occasions by a divided United States Supreme Court. President Ronald Reagan would later call the episode a complete “failure of political leadership.” The Granada Relocation Center, outside Granada, Colorado, housed approximately 7,500 of the West Coast detainees. Approximately 63% of these Japanese Americans were U.S. citizens. None had political ties to imperial Japan. The dirt-floored barracks and communal buildings at Camp Amache, as the Center was later known, occupied an entire square mile of treeless prairie, surrounded by barbed wire fences and six guard towers, equipped with machine guns. In the face of abrasive nationalism and outright racism, the Japanese at Amache grew and raised their own food and much of the food that supplied other Internment Camps. Japanese, doctors, dentists, and nurses staffed the hospital. Japanese firemen, professionals and educators operated a fire department, library, theater, and schools. In 1943, when the U.S. government allowed Japanese born U.S. citizens to enlist, 953 men and women from Amache volunteered to serve the country that forcibly detained them. Thirty-one were killed in action. Following the end of the war, after three years of occupation, Camp Amache was quickly dismantled—a seeming effort to erase what had taken place, it’s buildings dimantled or sold and moved elsewhere.
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Comanche National Grassland: Vogel, Picket Wire, Picture and Carrizo Canyons:
Geologically scenic, the ancient canyons follow the Purgatoire River Drainage. An amazingly rich variety of wildlife is supported by the riparian ecology, which can best be seen early in the morning or just before sunset. Hiking trails take you to the canyon bottoms and mesa tops, while walking through shortgrass prairie and juniper trees. American Indians lived in the canyon 300 - 800 years ago and left rock art that is visible on the canyon walls. Each of the four canyons is unique from Jurassic Era dinosaur footprints, historic Roarke Ranch, Mexican Casitas, Barlow and Sanderson Mail and Stage Line remnants and Crack Cave.
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Dust Bowl Era, Federal WPA Projects:
Though the dire economic conditions of the Depression affected all of Colorado, drought and dust storms hit Baca County especially hard. Over half of county residents were on relief during the 1930s, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided a desperately needed source of employment. As a work relief program, the primary goal of the WPA was to employ as many as possible, so most of a project budget was spent on labor and as little as possible on materials or plans. As a result, projects emphasized the use of local materials, and in Baca County, the WPA used locally quarried sandstone for most projects. As you drive around the county, look for the numerous stone bridges and culverts constructed by the WPA.