Tuesday, March 17, 2020

On the Backside of Pikes Peak - Divide, Colorado


By Davalynn  Spencer

Look for an image of Divide, Colorado, and you’ll likely find grand photographs of Colorado’s Great Divide or Continental Divide – the place in the Rocky Mountains where river systems run either toward the Pacific Ocean or toward the Atlantic and/or Gulf of Mexico, depending upon which side of the “divide” they originate.

Sunrise over Pikes Peak. Image from author's collection.
But that’s not the town of Divide, Colorado, population less than 150 souls in 2010, located 25 miles west of Colorado Springs on the north slope of Pikes Peak in Teller County. The little town was named for the dividing point of the South Platte and Arkansas rivers and is today billed as the Center of the Known Universe.

At 9,165 feet atop the summit of Ute Pass, that claim might not be far off.

The pass, first used by the ancient Ute tribes, is one of the oldest routes in the United States. Its general line remains a transportation artery today as thousands of tourists scale the mountains west of Colorado Springs via Highway 24.

In 1859, gold was discovered in the South Park area. Settlers and prospectors considered the rough and rugged Ute trail a viable route, in spite of the need to leave their wagons and teams in Colorado City and pack in their tools and food for the final 75-mile stretch. A more passable “Wagon Road” was cut in 1872, increasing the ease of reaching the gold rush to Leadville.

The Ute Pass area was acknowledged as Ute hunting grounds until it was surveyed by the U.S. government in 1870 and settlers began moving in on 160-acre plots in 1873. However, many ranches had already been established by that time.

The mountainous area was unsuitable for farming other than the open land around Divide where potatoes, lettuce, and hay crops excelled, in addition to cattle and sheep ranching. Lumbering also became a lucrative business with demand for timber increasing with mining operations and the approach of the railroad.

Many area ranchers survived by hunting, opening inns, and setting up small, portable sawmills that cut rough timber. 

In 1871 Divide served as the Spotsweed and McClellan Stage stop where teams were changed while on their way to mining camps Tarryall, Fairplay, and Leadville. 

Sixteen years later, the Colorado Midland Railroad laid tracks through Divide, bringing boarding houses, saloons, and restaurants to service railroad workers.

In my recent novella, Just in Time for Christmas, I note in the author remarks that I took creative license with the development of Divide for the purpose of my story set in 1875. At that actual time, 
the Divide area was more of a crossroads in El Paso County (no Teller County until 1899), and Colorado was not yet a state.  

Therefore, my novella opens with "The Catamounts, El Paso County, Colorado Territory, 1875."

Did you catch that – The Catamounts? My imagination soared when I read about ranches, lakes, and creeks bearing this name. A place like that had to be named Catamount for a reason. 
From the Mountain Lion diorama, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
 Avrand6, Wikimedia Commons
And in case you’re wondering, catamount is another word for mountain lion.
Mueller State Park, image courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Today, the beautiful 5,000-acre Mueller State Park draws visitors to the Divide area, as does the historic Midland Depot Complex, the Catamount Recreation Area, and America’s mountain, Pikes Peak (no possessive apostrophe in the name). 

If you’re looking for a high time, try visiting Divide, Colorado, and travel along the early migration route of the Mountain Utes that was later used by Spanish, French, and American explorers, settlers, miners, and ranchers of the Old West.

Davalynn Spencer

Davalynn Spencer can’t stop #lovingthecowboy. As the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, she writes romance for those who enjoy a Western tale with a rugged hero, both historical and contemporary. She holds the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction, teaches writing workshops, and plays the keyboard on her church worship team. When she’s not writing, teaching, or playing, she’s wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Learn more about Davalynn and her books at www.davalynnspencer.com. Become a newsletter friend and receive a free historical novella: http://eepurl.com/xa81D.