RSS

Tag Archives: history

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

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,

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

 

Tags: , , , ,

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

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

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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

 

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

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
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

Tags: , , , ,

What’s in a name, Molly Brown?

Lady MargaretOne of the most remarkable facts about Molly Brown is that her name was not Molly Brown. How did it come about that such an iconic western heroine became known by a name that was not her own?

On July 16, 1867, Margaret Tobin was born into a large Irish immigrant family in Hannibal, Missouri, near the banks of the Mississippi River. The 1870 U.S. Census lists her as Maggy Tobin, age 3, with her family. In Leadville, Colorado, James J. Brown and Margaret Tobin were joined in marriage on September 1, 1886. After that, our subject was known as Mrs. J. J. Brown, or Margaret Brown. She was referred to as Lady Margaret in the Denver newspaper during the aftermath of the Titanic Disaster. In notes she wrote to her housekeeper in Denver, she occasionally simply signed “Brown” in her bold, scrawling script. Although long separated from J. J. Brown, Margaret never strayed from the Brown name.

Modern media is attributed with the popularity of the Molly Brown story, and to the nickname which stuck to its main character. In 1960, a frothy musical called The Unsinkable Molly Brown was introduced to Broadway theater patrons. The success of the play was followed closely by a movie production of the same name, in which Debbie Reynolds portrayed a singing and dancing Molly Brown. The feature motion picture film took broad liberties with the reality of her story in addition to the name change. Broadway and Hollywood supposedly changed the name from Margaret to Molly to make it more melodic for singing and dancing in the musical. As a result of broad success and a vast audience, the name stuck and was adopted as factual by many fans.

In reality, the name, Molly, was used in reference to Margaret Brown much earlier. When she died in 1932, an obituary by Jack Carberry of the Rocky Mountain News referred to Margaret as Molly Tobin, then Molly Brown, in a glib account of her story of growing up as a tomboy by the Mississippi River. The name “Molly” was meant as a slam to Margaret’s background as a poor Irish girl in an article full of legends and liberties. One such myth was that Mark Twain pulled “Molly Brown” from certain death in the riverbank during a fishing trip. The two characters probably never met, certainly not in Hannibal where they lived at different times, especially after Margaret acquired the Brown name.

The difficulty continues once you become aware of the facts surrounding Margaret’s name. The name Molly Brown is so wide-spread and well-known that it is difficult to avoid, even when doing research. The trick is to figure out how to bite your tongue when you hear her referred to as “Molly Brown”, or to find a way to politely correct and educate the offender about the truth and the correct usage of the name without committing additional offense. Chances are Margaret might not mind. After all, she was fond of saying, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, as long as they say something.”

Joyce B. Lohse
Learn more about MARGARET BROWN from my book,
Unsinkable: The Molly Brown Story
http://www.LohseWorks.com or http://www.FilterPressBooks.com

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,