Trail Under Siege / Rising to the Challenge

Trail Under Siege / Rising to the Challenge (HMUS5)

Location: Kiowa, CO 80117 Elbert County
Country: United States of America
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N 39° 20.802', W 104° 28.023'

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Trail Under Siege

Indians of Colorado's High Plains
Kiowa and Comanche Indians migrated to these prairies in the 1700s, followed by Cheyennes and Arapahos in the early 1800s. The region's vast grasslands, thick bison herds, and brisk fur trade made for prosperous, if not entirely harmonious, living; the allied Cheyennes and Arapahos warred frequently against the Comanches and Kiowas (who gradually moved south of here) until 1840, when the tribes agreed to a historic peace. In 1851 the United States granted most of eastern Colorado to the Cheyennes and Arapahos, but when gold rushers began stampeding through here after 1859, strife erupted anew, this time between whites and Indians. On tragic episode (the 1864 Hungate Massacre) occurred about fourteen miles northwest of Kiowa. Though they fought for their homeland, the Indians were badly outgunned and outnumbered; by 1869 they had been banished from Colorado's plains forever.

Smokey Hill Trail
Denver-bound travelers could save distance and time on the Smokey Hill Trail but only if willing to risk death by Indian attack. The trail bisected the Cheyennes and Arapahos' treaty granted homeland, and the tribes kept it under siege almost continuously in the late 1860s. On branch earned notoriety as the "Starvation Trail" after an 1859 gold rush party met a disastrous end, but the Smokey Hill became a main highway in 1865 when the Butterfield Overland Dispatch began running stagecoaches over it. With fortified stage stops every few miles (including one right here), the route was reasonably well defended, but passengers never rested easy; the war cry might go up at any moment. Enough people took their chances, though, to keep the Smoky Hill Trail busy until the 1870 opening of the Kansas Pacific Railroad.

Rising to the Challenge

Women and Ranching
When not cooking, doing laundry, or milking the cows, Emily French could be found building furniture, climbing on roofs to install stovepipes, and branding cattle on her sister's homestead about ten miles southwest of here. Such "men's" chores often fell to women on nineteenth-century Colorado ranches, where the imperatives of work knew no gender; when duty called, women baled hay and mended fences with the best of them. Many also kept the family books and held the purse strings, as well as raising children, sewing clothing, and fulfilling other traditionally "female" roles. Visitors from back east often thought it scandalous to find women mounting their horses astride (instead of sidesaddle) and laboring alongside men. But in a frontier environment, it didn't matter who did the work only that it got done.

Civilian Conservation Corps
Kiowa's devastating May 1935 flood had one positive outcome: It brought the Civilian Conservation Corps to town. Among the most successful of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs, the CCC employed jobless young men in public works projects. A crew arrived a week after the flood to haul away debris; four months later, the corps established a permanent camp to address the disaster's chief cause; soil erosion. Using the Carnahan ranch (five miles south of here) as a proving ground, the CCC taught area landowners to use check dams, diversions ditches, and contour furrows to keep topsoil and groundwater in place. Kiowans embraced the techniques as well as the roughly two hundred CCCers, who spent much time and money in town. By the time the CCC camp closed in 1941, it had helped Kiowa wash away the flood's painful memory.

HM NumberHMUS5
Series This marker is part of the Colorado: History Colorado series
Marker Number272
Year Placed2001
Placed ByColorado Historical Society
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 at 11:20am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13S E 545923 N 4355386
Decimal Degrees39.34670000, -104.46705000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 20.802', W 104° 28.023'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 20' 48.12" N, 104° 28' 1.38" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)303
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 237-299 Comanche St, Kiowa CO 80117, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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