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Colorado Treasures

Manitou Incline

Manitou Incline full of tourists

People often ask how I find the treasures of information about people for my biographies, along with nuggets of details about Colorado’s colorful history. I have a system, which boils down to “making the rounds” to various hot spots and collections pertaining to my subject. Whenever possible, I begin at the cemetery. By visiting a family plot, I get a sense of dates and family members during the final days of a character’s life. Then I work backwards, visiting libraries, archives, repositories, museums, houses, statues, and monuments.

Until recently, I often visited archives and repositories to look up files and read microfilm. Now, we have the luxury of studying many of these documents online. Although most of us know better than to believe what we read in the newspaper, articles contemporary to the person’s life give us many details about the times in which they lived. The trick is to follow up these leads and road maps to primary evidence and public records to substantiate what we find. In Colorado, the manuscript collections at Denver Public Library and History Colorado’s library allow access to special documents and collections. The Colorado Archives office in the Department of Revenue’s basement is an especially rich assemblage of information.

I am constantly on the lookout for graphic images and photos of the places where my character worked, lived, and played. I have a secret weapon … post cards! My growing collection of vintage post cards contain scenes as they appeared during the lives of my pioneer subjects. Several of these images often appear whenever I give PowerPoint presentations about Colorado history, and also are included in my biographies. They flesh out the scenery as it appeared during Colorado’s early days.

My current work-in-progress is Spencer Penrose: Builder and Benefactor, due for publication from Filter Press later this summer. Penrose built many important buildings and landmarks in the Pikes Peak Region, such as the Broadmoor Hotel, the Pikes Peak Highway, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Manitou Incline, and many other attractions. The El Pomar Foundation, established by Penrose and his wife, Julie, is responsible for millions of dollars in grants donated to non-profit organizations in Colorado. The Penroses were colorful characters who worked hard to improve their growing community, and to make it a better place for its citizens.

Joyce B. Lohse
www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Western history, Writing Life

 

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2014 Women Writing the West Conference

WWW ConferenceMid-October marked the culmination of a year and a half of planning for Women Writing the West’s 20th Anniversary Annual Conference in Golden, Colorado. The result of work by Colorado’s WWW Conference Planning Committee to plan the event spread among several venues was a huge success. The City of Golden was a perfect fit for our group. A synopsis of highlights will give those with a passion for the craft of writing an idea of the content of a really good writers’ conference, and the priceless value of this particular sold-out conference of 150 attendees.

Thursday, October 16 – provided a bonus day of activities at the Table Mountain Inn, full of panels, critique sessions, an annual board of directors meeting, and networking. In the evening, a reception at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum took place for readings by WILLA literary award winners and LAURA short story winners. A special quilt featuring squares hand-stitched by WWW members was introduced for the conference raffle, which benefits the WILLA Literary Fund.

WWW Raffle Quilt

Friday, October 17 – featured a full schedule at the Golden Hotel of panels and presentation about the business of writing, marketing, and trends in e-publishing. Private appointments with editors, agents and publishers were available. Author Margaret Coel captivated us with her stories about writing 20+ mysteries set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. LAURA short story awards were presented at the lunch banquet. In the evening, a feature film, The Cherokee Word for Water, was presented at the American Mountaineering Center. The film, about the life of first female Cherokee tribal leader, Wilma Mankiller, was followed by a Q&A session with members of the film production and Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, and from the local Cherokee Circle.

Saturday, October 18 – Following the annual WWW business meeting in the morning, participants enjoyed another full day of panels and presentations. A Luncheon honored WWW Founders and spotlighted WILLA Finalists. Later in the afternoon, Joyce Meskis enchanted us with stories from her many years as owner of the famous Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver. A booksigning session hosted by Who Else! Bookstore with networking capped off the afternoon. Evening brought the annual WILLA Awards banquet. Author and founding member Sandra Dallas presented an inspiring keynote speech. When the winner was drawn for the WILLA Fund Raffle, we were happily surprised when she insisted that the quilt stay with WWW.

WWW Conference Booksigning
Sunday, October 19 – Many conference attendees stayed for a Sunday morning gathering at the Briarwood Inn. Some wore historic costumes to the delicious high tea brunch. We were entertained by WWW founding member Corinne Brown, who portrayed five famous women from Colorado’s history. She did amazing costume changes when switching characters. It was a fantastic finale to a successful and memorable 20th Anniversary celebration and conference for attendees and members of Women Writing the West.

Joyce at Golden HotelJoyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
 

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Same Road, Different Day

Greeting CommitteeWriting feels all-consuming at times. When I have been pushing hard on a historical biography, a change of scenery can jolt my brain like a bolt of lightning. Once again, I found myself on the highway near Meeker when we encountered an unlikely greeting committee. Traffic came to a halt as literally hundreds of sheep surrounded the automobiles.

Miles of sheepThe herd extended beyond our vision. I rolled down my window to enjoy the sounds of plantive bleats and the clanging of bells around their necks. Then there was the aroma which was not so pleasant, and the window went back up. The sheep had all recently been sheared, and we marveled that they had been relieved of so much precious wool. How high would it reach if piled all in one place.

Sheep herder on horsebackIt was also refreshing to see that the sheepherder was on horseback, with his sheep herding dog trotting alongside. With so many ATVs roaring through the woods and across the plains, horses can still move at the same pace as their charges and give the job a personal touch. Cowboys are still riding the range near Meeker.

Blue Mountain sheepThe same weekend, more sheep were moving to summer pastures near Blue Mountain. This outfit was much smaller, and getting the job done in the same way, with a herder on horseback. These are the sights we live for in the west, and food for the starving soul of an overly-engrossed author.

Joyce B. Lohse, 5/6/14
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

 

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Elusive Historical Markers

Meeker
Meeker Massacre Historical Marker

How many times have you passed a historical marker, thinking that you would stop to see it “next time”, only next time never comes? As we were driving through the Rio Blanco, or White River Valley in Colorado last week for the umpteenth time, my hubby surprised me by stopping at the historical marker. I always wondered where the Meeker Massacre took place, and whether this marker might enlighten me. It did.

White River Valley
White River Valley

History lends character to this serene river valley. Although the West was dotted with similar skirmishes, this one is particularly interesting due to the involvement of Chipita, wife of Ute Chief Ouray. When the Utes gathered the surviving women and children from the families of the victims, Chipita went to their aid. Imagine their grief and fear that day. She opened her heart, shared their tears, and gave them comfort and shelter. To her, they were grieving families who needed her help, and nothing more.

Joyce B. Lohse, http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
 

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Riverside Cemetery Halloween Crawl

Riverside Cemetery

“Eliza and John Routt” at Riverside Cemetery

Although I’ve spoken and presented programs to about 150 groups up and down Colorado’s Front Range and beyond, I’ve never before portrayed one of my biographical characters. It was a blast! What a great way to really turn back the hands of time and embrace history, and to enjoy the most beautiful fall day imaginable in Denver’s historic boneyard.

My subject was Eliza Routt, which was a no-brainer to me as a portrayal. Eliza, the original first lady of Colorado and the first woman registered to vote in the state, was my ancestral first cousin from my mother’s family. We even share some resemblance. When Tom “Dr. Colorado” Noel invited me to portray her character at this year’s Halloween Crawl at Riverside Cemetery, I hesitated but only slightly. I forged into unknown territory. Dr. Tom is a first class act and it was a supreme honor to be included in his merry group. I took great pains to prepare my grand four minute speech for an audience of 200 history buffs, and it paid off. I was paired with a wonderful gentleman named John Stewart as the Governor, and our presentation came off without a hitch, with historic gems and amusing moments enjoyed by an appreciative crowd.

To prepare for the day, I augmented my Victorian outfit with a straw hat, which I decorated with streaming ribbon, and silk hydrangea blossoms fixed in place with a hot glue gun. The hat sheltered me during an afternoon in direct sunlight. My speech was originally totally written out, then highlighted for important topics, then pared down to an outline list by subject, then further filtered onto a folded recipe-sized card containing simple key words and subjects, which I never removed from my pocket. It was my insurance in case of memory lapse, and I was happy to know it was handy, although not needed.

The fun and enjoyment of this re-enactment did not quite equal the surge of writer’s rush experienced at the end of a manuscript. However, it was great fun as a more casual and recreational event. Given the opportunity, I would step back in time again, especially if I have the opportunity to channel my cousin Eliza. She is a great character, and a great presence from which to view the past during the wild and exciting days of early Colorado. The only changes I would make would be to carry a quilted bag for modern items such as camera and sunglasses, and a change to more comfortable shoes to continue the jaunt around the cemetery to watch the other speakers.

To learn more about Eliza and her partner, Governor John Routt, read my award-winning biography:
First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado, FIlter Press, 2002. Go to:
http://www.LohseWorks.com or http://www.FilterPressBooks.com

Joyce Lohse, 10/30/13
http://www.LohseWorks.comRoutt Headstone Symbol

 

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Late Summer Reading

With a lull in my Colorado book tour, I thought I would share reviews of books I have read this summer. As administrator for Women Writing the West, I am fortunate to meet many talented and interesting writers on my journey. These books were written by folks I am proud to call my peers and friends.

As far as my plans go, I will be spending some quality time with family and friends over the next few weeks, and I will acquire and consume some delicious Palisade peaches from Colorado’s West Slope. After I wipe the peach juice from my chin, I will be Wyoming bound for my 40th Reunion with Yellowstone Savage pals. Watch for a report of more good times and Savage adventures in Yellowstone Country.

Peaches

Palisade Peaches

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Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey
by Christina Nealson

What would it be like for you and your partner to downsize your belongings until everything you both own fits into an RV so you can head down the road with freedom and abandon? If you have ever seriously wondered about it, read Christina Nealson’s wonderfully written odyssey of five years on the road. While eloquently describing the wonders of the Rocky Mountain West, the landscapes, the wildlife, the majesty of nature, she pulls no punches about the difficulties of living in close quarters, and acknowledges how the tensions that arise can strain and snap. This book was a great summer read that leads the mind to new places and ideas, and I couldn’t put it down until I had finished. My only disappointment was with the sadness that sneaked into this situation without the satisfaction of an uplifting solution. Unfortunately, real life is like that sometimes. Christina picks up the pieces and carries on like a trooper.

http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Me-Wild-Western-Odyssey/dp/1478291354/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376582767&sr=1-1&keywords=drive+me+wild+christina+nealson

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Rescue In Poverty Gulch
by Nancy Oswald

It is not often that I read a historical YA which I can enjoy from an adult viewpoint. Rescue In Poverty Gulch was a delightful read which achieved a rich blend of historic adventure for young people and enchanting entertainment for a general audience. Nancy Oswald’s well crafted storytelling and characterization blend to share the predicaments of Ruby and her obstinate burro companion, Maude, during the wild and exciting boom days of the Cripple Creek Mining District. Ruby, a half-orphan raised by her struggling father, relies heavily on her friendship with the hapless donkey as a stable force in her life. Her world begins to crumble when a fire threatens to level the town, and she fears that her vanished father and donkey will never return from the rubble. I could not put the book down until I learned the outcome. Hopefully, Ruby and Maude will share more adventures in the future.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0865411093/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

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Rough Breaks: A Wyoming High Country Memoir
by Laurie Wagner Buyer

Laurie Wagner Buyer has written a beautiful follow-up memoir to her book, When I Came West. In the first book, she followed her heart and romantic notions of life in the wilderness with a mountain man to spend eight years in relative isolation learning about survival in the Montana mountains. Her latest book, Rough Breaks, follows her saga to the next stage, working on a large Wyoming cattle ranch, falling in love with the ranch owner and the cowgirl lifestyle she has chosen, in spite of ongoing hardships and a seemingly endless string of “rough breaks”, which continually intrude in her happiness and enjoyment of her surroundings. This book was a reality check for all of us who came out west seeking cowboy or cowgirl dreams, a western lifestyle, and a good, reliable cow pony. Ranch life can be a backbreaking endeavor which beats down the spirit and creates impossibly frustrating and heartbreaking situations. Laurie is tough as nails to endure so much and still find the beauty and focus on the treasured moments to convey through her writing. This was a riveting read which I could not put down until it was finished. It leaves me looking for a follow-up retrospective during what is hopefully still unfolding as a time of peace for Laurie in a very different segment of the West.

http://www.amazon.com/Rough-Breaks-Wyoming-Country-Memoir/dp/0806143754/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376582725&sr=1-3&keywords=Laurie+Wagner+Buyer

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Thumbs up from Joyce for all of these great books — well done!

Joyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

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Summer Road Tour

Little Burro

Little Burro

As summer moves along, my road tour of book events and history presentations at Colorado mountain towns and historic sites is moving forward. Next stop after Leadville was Estes Park, a busy tourist community at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. Their genealogical society hosted a seminar which featured a military records theme this year. With his strong Civil War history, my character General William J. Palmer fit in very nicely with their program. It was a fine and fun day shared with an enthusiastic audience who was extremely knowledgeable about genealogy and history.

Please note a change in the upcoming schedule. Due to a change in plans and logistics, my research partner, Christie Wright and I, have withdrawn our appearance at Burro Days in Fairplay the last weekend of July. We will reschedule our booth of Western History Books for Burro Days in 2014. With plenty of time to plan ahead, it should be a great time to meet with history buffs and enjoy the burro races in historic Fairplay that weekend.

One more correction … the August 2 presentation about Baby Doe Tabor will take place in the Idaho Springs Library, NOT the Georgetown Library! My misunderstanding entirely. Idaho Springs is the place.

Earlier this summer, my fictionalized memoir, A Yellowstone Savage, was published as an electronic book through Amazon.com. After the listing went live on Amazon, a free download was offered for three days. If you missed out, do not despair! Another free download of A Yellowstone Savage will be available to tablet hounds for two days, on Friday, August 2 and Saturday, August 3. Don’t miss this chance for your free preview copy of a fun read about adventures while living and working in Yellowstone National Park.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CTSA7BI
on Friday, August 2 or Saturday, August 3, 2013.

To check for updates and the latest details of my western history presentation schedule around the Denver and Front Range area, check at this site, or at http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

More details will follow.
Joyce B. Lohse

 

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