Tag Archives: Colorado Springs

Outlaws and Desperados

Outlaws and Desperadoes

Spencer Penrose with pal Harry Leonard, outlaws and desperados, in their twilight.

A writer’s life often requires switching gears and topics while awaiting the next step, another round of edits, a transition in story format, publication. My Work In Progress is a biography about Spencer Penrose, a mover and shaker in the early days of the Colorado Springs community at the foot of Pikes Peak. With fortunes made from mining and land development, he built roads and attractions to accommodate tourists, built the Broadmoor Resort Hotel, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Rodeo Arena, and buildings for schools and hospitals. He invested his mining fortune in the El Pomar Foundation, which continues to donate millions of dollars in grants to non-profit groups for good work and causes in the community.

In the late 1800s, Colorado Springs founder, General William Palmer, banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in his new city, in order to discourage bad behavior, outlaws and desperados. When Penrose arrived in the city, he was looking for a job and a cold drink. His prospective business partner, Charles Tutt, accommodated both needs by offering him a job, and taking him to the newly established Cheyenne Mountain Club outside the city limits where they could enjoy their favorite libations in the bar. A few weeks later, Penrose was briefly banned from the club for his involvement in a minor brawl, which disrupted the elite club and resulted in broken furniture. If his reputation as a trouble maker followed him to the freewheeling Cripple Creek mining district, it was no doubt overlooked.

By the time he moved back to Colorado Springs, the scrappy investor’s reputation was overshadowed by his shrewd investment sense and knowledge of mining ventures. He married a widow named Julie Lewis McMillan, which further settled and cultivated his behavior in public and his stature as a solid citizen with an adventurous streak and a flair for fun. The mold was set for his place as a colorful and important character in Pikes Peak area history.

Joyce B. Lohse,


Tags: , , , ,

Time to get moving


Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Ah, the writer’s life. Hours slip away while sitting in a desk chair in front of a glowing screen. Then its off to find a wayward address while fighting traffic behind the wheel to get to a program or presentation book event. Gears shift again as the holidays loom and linger, allowing attention to divert to family and feast.

It is also time to get moving. When the body feels sluggish, a walk in a beautiful park or a cemetery sounds inviting. Better yet, an outing can be combined with research. Small history museum’s continue to surprise me with the treasures they display. The latest happy discovery was the El Pomar Carriage Museum near the Broadmoor grounds in Colorado Springs. After a meeting, I stopped by to study historic vehicles and carriages, to learn, and to clear my head. It was outstanding. So much to see, so little time. What a gift to myself during the holidays. This is the finest display of vehicles and carriages I have seen south of Cheyenne’s Frontier Days Museum.


Stagecoach at the Broadmoor

Joyce B. Lohse,

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Western history, Writing Life


Tags: , , ,

Scenic Views from a Desk Chair

When I was young, one of my favorite toys was a ViewMaster. When you held the device up to your face and looked into the eye holes, a vast array of scenic views in a quasi-3D format unfolded. This was my first exposure to treasures such as the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Garden of the Gods, and Old Faithful Geyser. As I pressed the lever down, the reels transferred the beautiful images before my eyes, around and around, again and again. Little did I know that I would leave the Midwest as a young adult, and would live near these scenic areas in the Western United States during my entire adult life. To this day, I keep a ViewMaster and a few reels in my desk drawer. Since my son was more attached to his GameBoy, I felt no qualms about repossessing as my own the magical viewing device we must have given to him on a birthday or Christmas.

Cave Without A Name

Cave Without A Name

I had not indulged in a peek at these secret treasures in some time, so I recently gave it a whirl. There they were, the same scenes I relished as a youngster. I’ve visited most of these places by now, or at least something like them. For instance, I’ve never been to Carlsbad Caverns, but I’ve seen Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs, and Cave Without A Name near Boerne, Texas. The scenes there were equally as thrilling and possibly more adventurous due to their remote locations. I never cease to relish the views of the West and to appreciate the many ways to enjoy the land and its illustrious history. When time and money are sparse, or I’m feeling confined to my desk chair, I can always rely on the trusty ViewMaster to lift my soul with the beauty and wonder of the most scenic places in our country, and beyond, at least for a while.

Joyce Lohse,


Tags: , ,

Old Faces and New Places

Shrine of the Sun

Shrine of the Sun

In the early stages of writing a biography, ideas sometimes percolate on the back burner and germinate slowly through the seasons. Ideas grow as the creative cells divide. Sometimes I find myself in a locale that calls to me while I decide my next move. Usually, the place I seek is a cemetery. When I see the final destination of a person’s journey, I can visualize and speculate about the life which brought them there. Sometimes, I find inspiration, a hint of what brought them to this spot, or a familiar and surprising landmark when paths intersect.


View of the Eastern Plains from the Shrine

This past week, I drove an hour south of Denver to my former home, Colorado Springs, for a book launch. Pikes Peak Library District published another fine compilation, Doctors, Disease and Dying in the Pikes Peak Region, which included my chapter about Dr. Justina Ford. Before the event, I visited the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, high above Colorado Springs and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. On a crisp, clear fall day, the view was expansive, dizzying and breathtaking. I had the place to myself.

Mural at shrine

Familiar history through art at Shrine of the Sun

I was thrilled and watchful as I climbed the narrow staircase of cool stone outside the majestic tower made entirely of rock and mortar, except for the metal of the inside staircase, rails, and doors. In the entrance, I spied a familiar face. Was that General William Palmer on that painted mural, welcoming travelers on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad? I was back home now, on familiar turf, encountering an old friend from Colorado history. Was the clanking sound I heard above an uneasy spirit, or another pilgrim in this fortress? No, it was just a flagpole rope, caught by the wind, batting the metal flagpole. Perhaps the sound was demanding my attention, urging me forward.

This grand and glorious place, created by Builder of the West, Spencer Penrose, was built as a shrine to his entertainer and philosopher pal, Will Rogers, after his death in a 1935 airplane crash. The shrine also contains a chapel where the Penrose’s cremains were buried later. This enchanting haven could definitely qualify as the starting point for a new story and writing adventure.

Joyce Lohse


Tags: , , , ,

Save the Pioneers Museum!

After an exceptional week of book and history activity, I come away with troubling news. I am not often motivated to make a political statement. Although I choose my battles carefully, this situation calls for action.

Colorado Springs, my home for 18 years, is on the cusp of an election which will make or break the city’s future. Without a tax increase, one of the casualties will be the closure of the  Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. This important historical resource in the old county courthouse is the repository of the region’s history. The staff are exceptional caretakers, the displays significant, and the acquisitions critical to researchers, educators, historians, and authors. Without access to this amazing resource, my biography of General William Palmer would not be complete. Although I am grateful and fortunate that I was able to study Palmer’s historic photographs, letters and journals for my research, I cringe to think that others might not have access to this important repository and the capable guidance of the museum staff. The thought of this museum closing is truly heartbreaking.

If you would like further information about the affect of these ballot issues, please go to the following link:
If you lack the time or inclination to read the article, and you live in C. Springs, please vote YES on 2c, and NO on 300 in November, and encourage other residents to do so. Palmer founded this city on the premise that residents would benefit from an exceptional quality of life. The future of this beautiful city is at stake.

— Joyce B. Lohse, 10/4/09

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 4, 2009 in Western history


Tags: , , , ,

A Colorado Castle

Last Monday, I had the good fortunate to visit Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs for a private tour. Our guide was Len Froisland, 25-year historian for the castle. Women Writing the West members Dianne Hartshorn, who portrays Queen Palmer around C. Springs, and publisher Doris Baker of Filter Press completed our group.

General William Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, originally built Glen Eyrie in 1872 when he married his wife, Mary Lincoln Mellon, known as “Queen”, a nickname since childhood. The house was restored in 1881, and again, beginning in 1902, when it took on the appearance of a stone castle. Palmer’s instruction to architects was to build a home that would endure for a thousand years. After one hundred years, the house has done very well. Currently, it is owned by the Navigators, a Christian organization, which maintains and utilizes the property as a retreat and conference center, with facilities open to the public for afternoon tea, bed and breakfast, and tours.

The house is remarkable. Inside, custom woodwork was used to decorate throughout. Special attention was given to fire prevention after Palmer’s Antlers Hotel burned in 1898. Palmer was extremely innovative in his attention to detail and his desire to create a self-sufficient compound for himself and his family. A power station, creamery, and greenhouses were built close at hand without disturbing the sprawling lawns, staggering vistas, and striking rock formations on the grounds tucked against the Rocky Mountain foothills. Scottish landscape artist, John Blair, designed the layout with beautiful landscape treatments, pathways and rock bridges. A school house was built in the early 1880’s to provide the children with private schooling, guarding them from possible kidnap during the raging railroad wars while rivals struggled to dominate transportation routes through the mountains.

During reconstruction of his home, William Palmer traveled throughout Europe with his daughters collecting artifacts and decorations to complete the mansion. Although most of those items are gone now, they have been replaced with similar furnishings. Many of his collected touches, such as Dutch tiles around fireplaces and fixtures, still exist. Queen died at the young age of 44 in 1894, before the castle was rebuilt, although the plan implemented some of her original ideas. William Palmer suffered a horseback riding accident in 1906 which left him paralyzed. He continued living life as best he could in the sprawling mansion until his death in 1909.

For more information, refer to:

General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer
by Joyce B. Lohse
Filter Press, 2009, “A Now You Know Bio”


Posted by on August 4, 2009 in Western history


Tags: , , , ,

Summertime Book Events

Our Palmer Tribute at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs was a grand success. Folks came out to learn more about General Palmer and to visit with Dianne Hartshorn and myself, to discuss books and history. Once again, I found myself in a cemetery, surrounded by history and stories of pioneers. I had not previously been inside the little chapel, built in 1909, which turned out to be the perfect venue for the gathering.

I especially enjoyed visiting with my pals from Women Writing the West: Filter Press publisher Doris Baker, Doris McCraw, Gayle Gresham, and Dianne Hartshorn. It is always a pleasure to encounter and share time with friends who are members of this outstanding group of talented writers. For information about membership, go to: .

The busy summer continues with upcoming book events in Leadville, Parker, and Longmont in August. Leadville Boom Days is a special way to get in touch with the Old West. The parade down Harrison Street at 10 a.m. on August 8 will be full of horses and horse thieves, miners, dance hall girls, school marms, gamblers, you name it. If you go, stop by the Book Mine and say Howdy! I will be signing books there most of the afternoon.

Joyce Lohse, 7/21/09


Posted by on July 21, 2009 in Western history


Tags: , , , ,