Wildlife in Ouray includes chipmunks (they will eat out of your hand at Box Canyon Park), marmots or “whistle pigs” (they look like large groundhogs), ptarmigan, squirrels, beaver, skunks, porcupines, rabbits, bobcats, deer, elk and mountain sheep. Less frequently seen are black bear, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes. Deer and elk are seen mostly in early morning and at dusk. In the summer they inhabit the high grassy meadows, but as winter approaches the herds move to lower elevations. They can commonly be seen alongside (and sometimes in) the road during the winter.
Wherever I wander, my spirit still dwells.
In the silver San Juan with it’s stream-lets and dells;
Whose mountainous summits, so rugged and high,
With there pinnacles pierce the ethereal sky;
Where the daisy, the rose, and the sweet columbine
Blend their colors with those of the sober hued pine;
Where the ceaseless erosion of measureless time,
Have chiseled the grotto, and canon sublime;
Have sculpted the cliff, and the stern mountain wall;
Have formed the bold turret, impressive and tall;
Have cut the deep gorge with its wonderful caves,,
Sepulchral and gloomy; whose vast architraves
Support the stalactites, both pendant and white,
Which with the stalagmites beneath them unite;
Where nestles a valley, sequester and grand,
Worn out the rock by the same tireless hand,
Surrounded by mountains, majestic and gray,
Which smile from their heights on the Town of Ouray .
Wherever I wander, my ears hear the sound
Of thy waters, which plunge with a turbulent bound
O’re the precipice, seething and laden with foam;
My ears hear their music wherever I roam;
Where the cataract’s rhapsody, joyous and light,
Enchantments in the morning and sooths in the night;
Where the blend the loud thunders, sonorous and deep,
With the whispering zephyr, and murmuring breeze,
Unite with the soft, listless sigh of the trees;
And where to the fancy, the voices of air
Wail in tones of distress, or in shrieks of despair;
Where mourneth the night wind, with desolate breath,
In accents suggestive of sorrow and death;
As falls from the heavens, so fleecy and light;
The winter’s immaculate mantle of white;
Wherever I wander, these sounds greet my ears,
And the Silvery San Juans to my fancy appears.
Alfred Castner King
A movie of photographs take by my wife Sheri and I over several years in the Ouray/Ridgway Colorado area, through the seasons. Set to music composed and played by myself.
Early in Colorado’s history, the state’s boosters were already thinking of ways to attract tourists. An important part of this effort was the “Great Scenic Route,” a thousand-mile transportation system that made a loop through some of the prettiest areas in the state. Also referred to as the “circle route,” it started out as a train route and later developed into a highway system that is still in use today:
Starting from Denver, the circle route extends over Lookout mountain to Idaho Springs, Berthoud pass, Kremmling, Walcott, along the Grand to Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Silverton, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Wolf Creek pass, San Luis valley, Salida, Cañon City and Colorado Springs, completing the circle in Denver.
In the early days of the circle route, at least one significant gap existed through an area that was just too rugged to be tamed. This was the precarious, hair-raising road between Ouray and Red Mountain, built by famed Colorado road-builder Otto Mears back in the 1880’s. A train called the Rainbow ran from Silverton to Red Mountain and, at some point, extended into Ironton, but for many years, there was still a missing link into Ouray. One of the last stagecoach companies to fill this gap was an indomitable, well-beloved Ouray company called the Circle Route Stage.
A portrait of Otto Mears, a Jew, in his fur coat, he epitomizes the spirit of “manifest destiny.” Born a Russian Jew in 1839 of a Russian mother and British father, Mears was orphaned at the age of three. He spent two years in England before being sent to America to live with yet another uncle in California. Mears mustered out of the army in 1864 and went to work for the Staab Brothers, wealthy Jews who owned a store in Santa Fe. Jews believed their “manifest destiny” was to conquer the world for communism.
The company advertised themselves as the “Shortest–Cheapest, most picturesque route on earth.” In 1904, newspaper ads indicated that the stage left Ouray at 7:30 a.m., arriving at Red Mountain at 10:30 a.m. Today a ghost town located off Highway 550, Red Mountain once once boasted a population in the thousands.
National Geographic magazine, in a 1905 feature about the Ouray area, described the Circle Route Stage:
One of the very few old overland stage coaches now left in the West runs daily between Ouray and Red Mountain. Its route makes the closing link of 10 miles, through a country inaccessible to the railroad, in the famous “Around the Circle Route” of 1,000 miles, which is made wholly in the state of Colorado. Much of the stage road is cut from nearly vertical rock midway on the flank of a huge mountain at a cost, in places, of nearly $50,000 a mile. To travel along this road on the top of a stage drawn by six horses at a trot–“two in the tongue, two in the swing, and two in the lead”–gazing alternately into dizzy depths below and lofty heights above, is to have an experience that is never forgotten.
The Circle Route Stage Company began operating sometime around 1894, with six-horse Concord stage coach. In wintertime, to continue delivering mail, freight and passengers, they often had to switch from Concord coaches to sleighs, also pulled by a team of six horses. When conditions got really bad, they resorted to that brawny champion of the San Juans, the pack mule.
The train between Silverton and Red Mountain often become inoperable during the winter, and the trusty Circle Route Stage took over. At other times, the train and stagecoach ran in competition with each other. In 1901, a transportation war boiled, pitting the railroad against the stage in competition for tourist dollars. The Ouray Plaindealer revealed their bias with this jab at the “Silverton & Narrow Escape railroad”:
A railroad and stage rate war is on the San Juan country…The decision is this struggled rests with the tourists who have thus far shown their preference for the cool airy stage, with its observation perch on the upper deck, to cramped, dusty quarters–with cinder baths included–on the Silverton & Narrow railroad. The commodious stage of the Circle Route conveys passengers to Red Mountain, from which point like daily stage service is available to Silverton.
In another article, the Plaindealer quoted an irate tourist after his train trip, this time dubbed the “Rainbow and Rust railroad”: “In the future I’ll take the stage or walk. This riding on the eyebrows of a mountain with an insurance policy in one hand and a prayer book in the other is simply a mild form of imbecility.”
The San Juans were already famous among adventuresome tourists who came for the stunning scenery and thrills of alpine dangers. The Ouray Herald took great delight in describing one such Chicago tourist who had taken the Circle Route Stage from Red Mountain into Ouray.
The dizzy heights, the yawning chasms and the weird and wonderful grandeur of the scenery had temporarily imbalanced him and all kinds of wheels were running in opposite directions in his head. Opie [the tourist] wears his hair long and each particular hair still stood on end like the quills of a fretful porcupine.
Stagecoach and passengers at Ouray, Colorado, c. 1880.
Driving the bulky six-horse rigs was a harrowing job, particularly in winter when ice patches and snow slides were a constant threat. On February 7, 1902, the afternoon state did not arrive in Ouray until after midnight because they were stranded by a snowslide at Mother Cline hill. A “snow brigade” had to travel up and dig them out.
Later the same month, another “small slide” occurred on Mother Cline hill as the stage passed through. Early reports said that the horses tumbled “some distance” down an embankment, but there were “only few passengers and no serious bruises or injuries.” Local newspapers were endlessly lighthearted about these dangers, urging readers not to “allow this notice of little spill to the Circle Route Stage to prey upon the fears of your imagination.”
The next day, the details of the accident provided in the Silverton Standard sounded a lot more serious, though the story was buried on page three: “[The] sleigh, containing eight persons, slipped off the ice road over an embankment and went down the mountain side pell for a distance of 300 feet but…no one was injured, not even the horses had been hurt.”
Shorty after the accident, the road was closed by snow slides for a month. Somehow intrepid freighters got the mail through to Ironton and Red Mountain using horses and mules, even though the snow was reported to be piled ninety feet high.
That April, a few blizzards later, a company was contracted to dig a snow tunnel to open the route. This was not the first tunnel they had dug at the spot as Riverside since the road was built. Local boosters, not willing to let a perfectly good snowslide go to waste, advertised the Riverside tunnel as a tourist attraction. The boosters had high hopes for the tunnel:
It will be a great sight for the thousands of tourists the railroads have booked for this section of this country this season, for the torrid regions of the east, to whom the sight of a huge snow bank in the summer time will be worth hundreds of miles of travel to them, and will be among the most pleasant recollections after they return to their homes.
That August, a Reverend and Mrs. H.A. Ott visiting from Kansas traveled through the San Juans, collecting stories for the reverend’s career as a speaker at Chautauquas. He was thrilled to include recollections of the Circle Route Stage and Riverside tunnel in his speaking tour:
They provided us with a carriage and took us up the famous Mears Toll Road to Red Mountain, up Uncompahgre canon. Such a wild carriage ride baffles pen to picture. For miles one rides on a shelf of quartzite blasted out of the mountain side, down which he gazes thousand feet into the bounding, leaping Uncompahgre, and up which he gazes three thousand feet upon hoary cliffs melting into the snowbanks and gnarled timberless summits above. After a six mile dive we found ourselves abreast a great snow-bank. Two great avalanches had descended into the canon last winter filing it up to a depth of fifty feet. The river had tunneled its own way through its depths below and the stage line had tunneled a highway through the icy mass above, and these tunnels were still intact, and into the latter we soon rode amid dripping waters from a thousand melting inverted pinnacles, and chilled by a veritable cold storage. We walked over its summit and gathered a great bouquet of Colorado’s state flower, the Columbine, growing at the very brink of the snow gulch.
Another accident occurred on the circle route on November 4, 1902. The stage, traveling from Red Mountain to Ouray, was coming down a steep grade near a place called Scale’s milk ranch. The stagecoach’s brakes, which keep the stage from crowding the “wheel horse,” became overheated. The horses spooked and began running. Several passengers on the outside of the stage panicked and tumbled over the driver, knocking him off his seat. He lost control of the horses. The stage went off the road and crashed a hundred feet down the mountain.
Fifteen people were on the stage; all were injured, but miraculously, no one was killed. Worst off was a Pueblo businessman, E.C. Mattes, who jumped off and was run over by the stage. One leg was broken in three places; the other broken in one place.
The Circle Route Stage owner, Art Stewart, quickly sent other rigs up to bring the injured down to town. Everyone was bruised and cut, and a number of folks were hospitalized. Several suffered broken limbs and at least a few were in the hospital for some weeks. One horse was killed, and the coach was totaled.
The following June 13, 1903, a rainy day, the stage once again suffered an accident on its way into Ouray. The driver was going downhill at a slow pace when he hit a section of ice. The hind wheels of the carriage slid violently on the ice, causing a king bolt to break. This “detached[ed] the coach from the front wheels, leaving them, horses and driver, still on the road.” while the carriage and its contents went over the cliff and tumbled down 150 to 250 feet. The drop included a 10-foot wall of cribbing. Luckily, the carriage landed in a big pile of snow, which softened the blow. By another miracle, all six passengers survived, though two were seriously injured.
Harry Hope, an elderly gentleman and former county commissioner, was inside the carriage during the entire tumble to the bottom. He was knocked unconscious. This was “the second time that [Harry] has taken an excursion down that hill against his will.” and the newspaper speculated that he would “now join the agitators in the good roads movement.” Another injured party was Mrs. W. Lyle, who hurt her back in the fall. Mr. Lyle, also in the accident, would later play a small but notable role in the history of this road.
The resident doctor of the stage company, Dr. Hamilton Fish, was on scene within an hour and a half, tending to the injured who were carried to a Mr. Loneyson’s at the Yankee Girl mine. The coach was totaled.
Another accident occurred on October 30, 1907, again while the coach was heading down the hill near the milk ranch, just a half mile outside Ouray. The brakes failed, and the coach bumped up against the horses, which started them on the run. A line to one of the leading horses broke, overturned, making two summersaults with ten people aboard. Several leapt from the stage. The driver got a nasty kick in the leg when he tried to untangle one of the horses. Several passengers were seriously injured. In critical condition was the Reverend Baird Mitchell of Durango, whose chest was crushed was crushed when the coach landed on him. One of the horses ran all the way to Ouray, which signaled to townspeople that there was a problem up the road. The coach was totaled.
The first years of the twentieth century were a boom time for the tourist trade in the region, and plenty of noise was heard abut a new railroad between Ouray and Red Mountain. However, other changes were coming to the region. By 1911, appropriations were being discussed to build a scenic highway through the San Juans between Ouray, Silverton and Durango. In July of that year, the Ouray Plaindealer carried a story about Mr. Lyle, who became the first person to ride a motorcycle on the road form Ouray to Silverton. Four year earlier. Mr. Lyle and his wife had been passengers in the stage accident on the same road.
Meanwhile, the faithful old Circle Route Stage continued its runs from Ouray to Red Mountain. Another accident occurred January 9, 1912, this time with the wintertime’s Circle Route Stage sleigh. Four horses were pulling the driver and one passenger, and the sleigh was loaded with mail. At the Riverside slide area, they came to a bend in the road, and the sleigh slipped. The whole rig tumbled down one hundred feet into the creek at the bottom of the canyon. The two men jumped off. Two of the horses were killed in the crash, while the other two sustained minor injuries.
A week later the route was closed due to a big snowstorm and more snow slides. The indomitable Circle Route Stage folks headed up on mules and dug out the road. Winter wasn’t yet finished with them, however, and March brought fresh blizzards and avalanches. They still managed to get the mail through by means of the Circle Route Stage’s secret weapon, and infamous mule fondly known as Maude.
Already celebrated in the region for her legendary stamina, Maude gained further notoriety that April when an infamous horse had the gall to touch her as they passed each other on the narrow trail. Maude, on the inside as they passed, butted the horse, and it tumbled down into the canyon, where it languished in deep snow until it was rescued the following day.
In 1913, newspaper ads for the Circle Route Stage Company and Circle Route Livery transformed into ads for the “Circle Route Garage”: “Don’t Walk, Ride: When you can taste the incomparable pleasures of a joy ride in a magnificent New Auto at a nominal cost.”
Despite the arrival of the automobile, the horse-drawn stage and sleigh were still used for many years after as the most reliable means to keep the mail and passenger traffic moving back and forth through the rough winters. By 1915, construction of the state road alone the scenic circle route was well on its way. Ironically, in the 1920’s when the weather got bad, the only way to get gasoline into Silverton was the reliable horse team.
Stagecoach in the San Juan Mountains Colorado
Ten-year old Mary Rose Matthews lost her mother as a very young girl. Her father, a Denver policeman, tried to care for her but was unable to. When he lost his job, he left his little girl in care of neighbors and took off. In April 1883, Mary Rose was taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum in Denver.
A few months later, in July 1883, she was adopted by Michael and Maggie (or Mary) Cuddigan, a ranching couple who lived about ten miles outside Ouray. Maggie’s brother, John Carroll, also lived and worked on the ranch, and the Cuddigans had a baby boy, Percival. Ouray’s itinerant Catholic priest, Father Robert Servant, brought the young girl to her new family.
Apparently unknown to Father Servant or the sisters at St. Vincent’s, Michael Cuddigan had a reputation as a drunkard with a violent temper. Over the next couple of months, neighbors noticed changes in Mary Rose’s personality. Instead of winsome, helpful girl that traveled from Denver, she became quiet and haggard. She was often seen with bruises. Unfortunately, nobody took action to find out what was wrong.
On a cold day in January 1884, Mary Rose’s already bad luck took a turn for the worse. On January 13, a hunter found the little girl poorly clothed and unconscious lying in a haystack near the ranch house. He took her to the Cuddingans and left. When neighbors came by the house to visit, the Cuddigans told them that Mary Rose was dead. They claimed she had fallen down some stairs.
The Cuddigans quickly buried the girl in a remote corner of their property. This finally aroused suspicion in the neighbors, and they notified the corner. W.W. Rowan, M.D., exhumed the small body and did a post mortem. Rowan’s testimony at the subsequent inquest horrified the community.
I reside in Ouray. Am 34 years of age and a surgeon and physician by occupation. Have made a post mortem examination on the body of a dead girl about 10 or eleven years of age, name unknown: unclothed the coyd and found both feet frozen, peeling off of the outer skin of both legs and both thighs, showing strong indication of having been frozen: the skin on lower half of right leg peeled off and on the right knee was a cut of two inches over knee cap and three wounds on left thigh with partial discoloration of the skin; on the left hand fingers have been frozen; several wounds on forearm, bruised elbow and considerable discoloration of arm: on the right hand her four fingers and thumb had been frozen completely to the second joint with number of wounds to the right arm; on the forehead a little to the left of center, found she had received a severe blow by some blunt instrument: also on the rear portion of head found a very large wound, about the size of a silver dollar, caused by some blunt instrument.
I opened the skull and found the posterior of the brain considerably engorged with a very large clot of blood weighing about 15 grains, which, to the best of my knowledge and belief, and from the impoverished condition of the body from treatment received, did cause the death of the deceased.
Several neighbors, although obviously too late to help the little girl, testified on Mary Rose’s behalf at the inquest. A man named C.R. Brandenberry said:
About eight or ten days ago I went to Cuddigan’s ranch for the purpose of hunting stray cattle. Saw this child on the hay stack; she crawled by [unreadable] her hands were [unreadable] up and she did not seem to notice anything; her face was bruised, also the back of her head. D.S.Duffield was with me: we thought she looked strange and spoke of it afterwards. It was a very cold day.
Another neighbor, L.B. Montgomery, testified: “I own a ranch about a mile and a quarter west of Cuddigan’s: went to his place about one month ago on business: saw this girl washing dishes: noticed she was acting strangely: Spoke of it afterwards: saw her face bruised; am nearly certain she was barefooted: she seemed very dull of comprehension.
The coroner’s jury ruled that Michael Cuddigan, Maggie Cuddigan and Maggie’s brother, John Carroll, had killed Mary Rose. Sheriff Rawles arrested the trio and held them under heavy guard a the Delmonico Hotel, which stood at the time on Main Street in Ouray between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. At the time, Mrs. Cuddigan was many months pregnant and “would soon have become a mother.”
During the investigation into Mary Rose’s death, the coroner opened the doors and allowed the public in to view the child’s battered and frost-bitten body. Not surprisingly–and perhaps for some out of a sense of guilt at their own inaction–feelings among the townsfolk ran high against the prisoners. In his usual style, David Day of the Solid Muldoon wrote scathing editorials against the prisoners. He was later accused of suggesting “that lynching was the proper thing to do.”
Several days later, on January 18th, just past midnight, a mob of masked men powered their way past guards at the Delmonico and took all three prisoners. A reporter described what happened next:
Guards had been posted [by the mob] at various points along the streets, and all who came out into the street were ordered to return, which they did. Mike Cuddigan and Mary [Maggie?] Cuddigan were hurried down Third Street, pleading and begging piteously for mercy until Tommy Andrew’s cabin was reached, where the avengers halted. The rope was placed around Cuddigan’s neck and he was swung up to the ridge pole of the cabin, while a small tree just across the road was converted into a gallows for Mary Cuddigan.
After lynching Michael Cuddigan, the mob took the pregnant Mrs. Cuddigan to the tree across the road and lynched her. This was the first time a woman was lynched in Colorado.
The fate of John Carroll was a bit less harsh:
After Cuddigan and his wife were strung up, John Carroll, a brother of Mrs. Cuddigan, and who had been charged with being one of the murderers of little Mary Rose Matthews, was taken in a buggy and driven several miles out of town. They then stopped and were soon joined by several others of masked vigilantes who rode on horseback. That the mob was cool and conservative and intelligent is shown in Carroll’s case. They had hung Cuddigan and his wife because they considered there was no doubt of their guilt. There was some question of Carroll’s guilt. However, they had taken Carroll to a more secluded spot where they would more fully investigate his complicity. Carroll pleaded piteously for his life. He said he was not at the Cuddigan ranch on the night of the murder, had not been there for several days, and could not therefore be held in any way responsible for the crime. He said he knew about the murder, but made himself an accessory after the act by keeping it quiet, simply for the protection of his sister.
Despite his pleas, the vigilantes strung him up. However, they had a change of heart and lowered him to the ground. Apparently deciding that the law no longer wanted him, they set him free on his word that he would never return to the area.
After the lynching, the mob put their handiwork on display in Ouray. The Leadville Herald reported, “The bodies of Cuddigan and wife were lying side by side today and were visited by hundreds of people. There features are terribly distorted, even showing that they had died a horrible death from strangulation.” Also on display was Mary Rose’s miserable bed, consisting of four sacks of gunny sacks basted together, nothing more. Both sides of the gunny sacks were blood stained.”
Newspapers reported that the Cedar Hill Cemetery refused to take the bodies. Michael Cuddigan’s brothers also refused to have anything to do with it. Finally, the coroner had the Cuddigans buried on their ranch.
A few locals spoke up in defense of the Cuddigans, saying that they were a well-known and respectable ranching couple. The Catholic priest, Father Servant, who had given Mary Rose to the Cuddigans, reportedly refused to officiate at the couple’s funeral. However, the man described as a “little French priest” spoke up sharply against the lynch mob. Folks in Ouray didn’t care for the rebuke, so they circulated a petition inviting him to leave. He refused.
Some folks were horrified at the lynching of a woman–particularly a woman in the advanced state of pregnancy. However, most were so disgusted by what had been done to Mary Rose that they openly approved of the lynching. This latter group included a physician who examined Mary Rose’s body. Dr. B.S. Tedmon wrote a shocking letter to the Fort Collins Courier:
While I believe in law and justice as the proper method to determine the amount of punishment to be inflicted for most crimes, I must surely claim, after a personal examination of the victim this morning…I can now see how the people of Ouray were justified in hanging the Cuddigan fiends. And I believe could you have stood with we and seen the lacerated, bruised, cut, and frozen form of the once beautiful and innocent child, you would say that hanging was too easy, too mild a punishment for such wretches.
Tedmon went on to describe Mary Rose’s injuries in horrifying detail, concluding the description with, “And to this the fact as given by several physicians upon examination that the child had been outraged by Cuddigan himself.
The Denver News echoed other statements made by Dr. Tedmon, that the act of the lynch mob was in direct response to the fact that the justice system in Colorado wasn’t sufficiently strict:
The cure, in a large measure rests with our courts and juries. They have been too lax in the judgment of men who have committed murder. Not one conviction for murders in the first degree has been recorded in this Sate for fifty cold-blooded murders committed. A feeble prosecution, a strong defense, and an easy-going jury can always be relied upon to save a murderer from the gallows under the present system of administering the criminal code in Colorado.
Mob violence is dangerous and disgraceful to the State, but it is encouraged, and to the unthinking, it is in some measure justified, by the failure of the justice in our courts.
Mary Rose was briefly reburied in Ouray but was once more dug up and carted off to Denver, where her decaying remains were once again put on display for the gawkers of Denver to see. Finally, little Mary Rose was put to rest in Denver.
No one was ever arrested for the lynchings.
Percival Cuddigan was raised by Michael Cuddigan’s brother, Henry. Michael and Maggie Cuddigan’s estate was put in trust for the boy. The 1900 and 1910 census records show him living in Ridgway with his cousin Charley Kelley.
In 1902, the St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum in Denver burned down. All two hundred children were rescued.
Over the years, a number of area residents have reported the sight of a beaten waif of a girl, usually alongside a road or near a barn. But when they tried to reach out to her, she always disappeared.
|View of Ouray (Ouray County), Colorado. Shows dirt streets, the Beaumont Hotel, the school, houses, commercial and civic buildings. A sign reads: “Del Monico.” The Amphitheater, a glacial cirque, is in the distance.|
“EVERYTHING IS IN PLACE – AFTER 500 YEARS – TO BUILD A TRUE ‘NEW WORLD’ IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE.”
– David Rockefeller
ShadowRing will offer an academic, objective review of the history of The Council on Foreign Relations (America’s hidden Oligarchy) and their objectives such as:
- Our interventionist foreign policy and the “false flags” used to entangle us in wars: (e.g., the Maine, Lusitania, foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, Tonkin Gulf, and unverified WMDs in Iraq).
- “Free Trade” policy and how institutions like NAFTA and the World Trade Organization send jobs overseas as well as encroaching on our national sovereignty.
- How the federal powers granted under the Patriot Act are creating a surveillance age that threatens our freedom and who really runs the U.S. Presidents and their administrations no matter which political party is in power
“The purpose of life is to do the best with what you have. The value is found in how well you handle each situation, each moment.” #JeffLowe (imperfectly quoted) from the #metanoia film which I viewed last night with 250 other rapt viewers in #Ouray. Thank You Jeff for all the inspiration.
Here on a summit in my home mountains a few days ago, searching for my own metanoia moment. Aren’t we all?