Tag Archives: Pikes Peak

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,


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A Bittersweet Homecoming

When we left Pikes Peak behind for opportunities in Denver in 1992, a piece of my heart stayed behind. Fortunately, I have been able to maintain many strong connections with Colorado Springs, and have enjoyed new associations through my work as a writer and historian, in my role as a biographer, and in preserving stories of the west. My work has allowed me to enjoy Colorado Springs on many new levels.

This week, I returned to Colorado Springs to celebrate the launch of the latest book from the Pikes Peak Library District, Film and Photography on the Front Range. The book is a fine collection of stories about photographers in the Pikes Peak Region based on a history symposium on the topic presented a year ago. I was thrilled that a chapter I wrote and presented, “Artist’s Glen: A Tale of Two Photographers”, was included in the collection. It is the story of a pioneer viewist named William Hook, and a modern photographer, Paul Idleman. Although their work was separated by more than a century, they had much in common in their lives and their photographic quests.

As usual, the folks at Penrose Library and the other participants in the project were a dream team who combined their specialties regarding history, photography, and publishing. It was exciting to work with them, and a splendid honor to be included in the project. The book launch included a presentation by history professor Kathryn Sturdevant about female photographer, Laura Gilpin, which I found particularly interesting because of my special interest in Women Writing the West.

Unfortunately, the day and the celebration was tinged with sadness. The forests west of Colorado Springs were on fire, and the beautiful city at the foot of Pikes Peak was in peril. Those present were subdued and burdened with worry for those who were in danger of losing their homes and possessions. Everyone was affected, and knew people who had been evacuated. Expressions were of dazed confusion. If able to do so, does one carry on with everyday tasks, or is the guilt of such an extravagance too much to carry?

I am grateful for the celebration and to those who came out to welcome the publication of a special book and resource, and to the great people who worked on it. My heart is heavy as I leave Colorado Springs in a haze of worry and ashes. As I left Pikes Peak behind, I reacted as Kathy Sturdevant said Laura Gilpin would react. I took a photograph.

Joyce B. Lohse

Film and Photography on the Front Range
can be purchased from Clausen Booksellers
in Colorado Springs or the Pikes Peak
Library District.


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Tourist Season

Pikes Peak Tourist

A Pikes Peak Tourist

With spring well underway in the Rocky Mountains, thoughts naturally turn to tourist destinations and new ways to enjoy them. Our current culture did not invent the concept of traveling for fun and education. Far from it. The West can look to western expansion to explain much of its history, good and bad. After the Civil War, young men scrambled to find their fame and fortune in the West. Pioneers and tourists came in many packages. They were immigrants from different countries, and men and women from all walks of life.

Pioneer view photographers provided exciting images of natural wonders and scenery to those back east. With the arrival and connection to transcontinental train lines in Colorado in 1870, tourists came to see for themselves the scenes they had witnessed only in photographs.

Pioneer view photographer, William E. Hook, was one of those photographers. In addition to the numerous scenic views he shot all over the West, he sold photographs to tourists by the hundreds and thousands. When they departed on burros up the Pikes Peak Trail, he took their photo, printed while they were gone, then sold them a souvenir photo when they returned. During the summer months, business was booming.  As Hook said, “You can only realize the height of Pikes Peak on looking down from the summit, and all appear to try the experiment.”

Joyce B. Lohse, 4/26/11
“Artist’s Glen: A Tale of Two Photographers”
June 11, Pikes Peak Library District History Symposium


Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Western history, Western Travel


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News from Pikes Peak Country

This past weekend, Pikes Peak Library District presented their 6th Annual History Symposium, Rush to the Rockies! The 1859 Pikes Peak or Bust Gold Rush. It was their usual interesting, informative, entertaining, and classy affair, attended by about 200 regional history enthusiasts. I attended this time as a guest instead of as a presenter. My friend, Gayle Gresham, was one of the presenters this year. Another friend from Women Writing the West, Cynthia Becker, sat with me in the audience. PPLD brings together the best researchers in the region to preserve and share their brand of history, which is then compiled for publication. My work was included in a compilation about General William Palmer, published in March. Next year, I hope my essay about Dr. Justina Ford will achieve the same honor with inclusion in the compilation about Doctors, Disease and Dying in the Pikes Peak Region.

Again this week, I drove the 60 miles south to my former home, Colorado Springs, to speak to the Pikes Peak Genealogical Society. I enjoyed visiting with members and felt an instant rapport due to our shared enthusiasm for genealogy. Last week, I presented a history talk to the Colorado Women Flyfishers. It was a great time in an unusual venue. I managed to find a couple of links between Women of the West and flyfishing. It was a fun stretch.

Next week, I will present Colorado History to the Highlands Ranch History Society. After that, I have a small break before a presentation in Boulder in July, and at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, also in July. In August, I will be at Parker Days, and at Boom Days in Leadville, and a presentation for the Longmont genies. Then off to UCLA in September for Women Writing the West. Phew! Busy times. Summer is a great time to get out and enjoy history.

Joyce Lohse, 6/11/09
For more information and presentation schedules
go to:

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Posted by on June 11, 2009 in Western history


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