Drive By History, Part 3: National Humane Alliance Fountain

It says thusly:
Presented by
The National
Humane Alliance
Hermon Lee Ensign

B50 Note: Between 1906 and 1912, the National Humane Alliance presented somewhere around 125 Horse Watering Troughs to cities and towns across the country, including Denver. Hermon Lee Ensign, who died in 1899, dedicated his fortune to funding the National Humane Alliance in order to “spread about humanitarian ideas among the people.” Such education, Ensign hoped, would instill in people, “especially the young, ideas of humanity both to the lower animals and to each other.” The fountains were produced in Vinalhavan, Maine. One of the fountains was recently relocated to a park in Derby, Connecticut — the community has a web page that offers great information.

The Denver fountain is located in a small paved triangle in the Civic Center District, where Colfax, Tremont, and 13th intersect. Unfortunately, the fountain no longer works, and the basin is filled with soil, which makes it hard to recognize its original purpose. The following photo was taken by Harry Rhoads in 1920 (courtesy of the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library).

Humane Alliance watering fountain at the intersection of Colfax & Tremont photo by Harry M. Rhoads. 1920.

Silas Soule, Assassinated

Captain Silas Soule in 1865. Courtesy of Byron Strom.
Captain Silas Soule in 1865. Courtesy of Byron Strom.

Rocky Mountain News
April 24, 1865 p. 2 c. 1

The Homicide Last Night

Our city was thrown into a feverish excitement last evening by assassination of Captain S. S. Soule, of the Colorado First. The sad affair took place about half past ten o’clock, and was evidently coolly and deliberately planned, and as systematically carried out.

For some time past the Captain had been in charge of the provost guard of the city and neighborhood, and his duties in that capacity had, as a natural consequence, created many enemies. Threats against his life have been freely and frequently made – so we are informed – and no longer ago than yesterday he said that he was expecting to be attacked.

In the evening he and his wife were visiting at the house of a friend and returned home between nine and ten o’clock. Shortly after, a number of pistol shots were fired in the upper part of the city, evidently to decoy him out, and the Captain started to ascertain the cause. Whilst passing along Lawrence Street, Near F, and directly in front of the residence of Dr. Cunningham, he seems to have been met by the assassin, and the indications are that both fired at the same instant, or so near together that the reports seemed simultaneous. Probably the Captain, expecting to be attacked, was in readiness, and when the other man presented his pistol, he did the same, but the intended assassin fired an instant soonest, with but too fatal effect.

The ball entered the Captain’s face at the point of the right cheek bone, pressing backward and upward, and lodging in the back part of the head. He fell back dead, appearing not to have moved a muscle after falling. The other man, from the indications, was wounded in the right hand or arm; how severely is not known. His pistol was dropped at his feet and he immediately started and ran towards the military camp in the upper part of the city, leaving a distinct trail of blood where he passed along. When the shots were fired they were standing about four feet apart, face to face.

Within less than a minute after the fatal shot, one of the provost guard and Mr. Ruter reached the spot. The Captain was already dead, and his murderer had disappeared. They alarmed Dr. Cunningham, and a guard was sent for. A number of persons, soldiers and civilians, soon gathered around, and after a few minutes the body was removed to the building occupied by the officers of the Headquarters of the District.

The excitement this morning, when the facts became generally known, was intense. Hundreds of citizens visited the scene of the tragedy, and it has formed the burthen of conversation throughout the city all day. Patrols were dispatched in every direction, and it is hardly possible that he will escape more than for a day or two.

Probably he will be overtaken to-day. Of his identity we shall at present refrain from speaking, though there is scarce a doubt but it is clearly known. The cause is said to have grown out of an arrest made by the Captain in the discharge of his duty as Provost Marshal.

Captain Soule was highly respected by his brother officers, and beloved by the men in his company. He was married in this city on the 1st inst., and consequently leaves a young wife to mourn this terrible and untimely fate. It is the hope of all that his murderer and his accomplices will be speedily brought to judgement, and a punishment meted out to them such as the base crime deserves.

B50 Note: Silas Soule was assassinated in Downtown Denver (on Lawrence Street, between what is now 15th and 16th) on the evening of April 23rd, 1865, just three weeks after his marriage to Hersa (Coberly). Silas Soule is best remembered for his presence at the Sand Creek Massacre, where he refused to allow the men of his company to fire on the peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho encamped there. He was also present at the Camp Weld Council, where he was photographed with Black Kettle, White Antelope, Amos Steck, Ned Wynkoop, and others.

Though no connection was ever proven, Ned Wynkoop maintained that Soule had been murdered in retaliation for his testimony against Colonel John Chivington in the congressional inquiry regarding Sand Creek. Both Silas Soule and his wife Hersa are buried at Riverside Cemetery in Denver.

For more biographical information on Silas Soule, visit Byron Strom’s site,

Denver’s Victory Gardens

— by Barbara Masoner

In 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt took the bold initiative to plant a vegetable garden on the White House’s South Lawn. She called it a Victory Garden. Due to severe food shortages in Europe, Eleanor knew home gardens were imperative to feeding millions of American troops overseas and preventing shortages at home. During World War II over 20 million Americans answered Eleanor’s call to action, producing approximately 40% of our country’s produce. School groups and scout groups cleaned up vacant lots and planted community gardens. Factory workers transformed empty lots adjacent to their work places into vegetable gardens that were tended during work breaks. Americans were involved because they wanted to support the troops while saving some money at home.

The City of Denver quickly responded by establishing a Victory Garden Office. On March 28, 1943, just months after Eleanor Roosevelt’s call to action, Mayor Stapleton dedicated Denver’s first Victory Garden. Stapleton said, “The City of Denver believes this is the most important community project that we have ever undertaken.” The community garden was located at East Eighth and Elizabeth, now Congress Park. Denver Urban Gardens continues this tradition by providing technical support to community groups, institutions and individuals throughout Denver.

Victory Garden, WWII Promotional Poster
Victory Garden, WWII Promotional Poster
Denver’s slogan was a “Victory Garden on Every Lot.” Denverites did their part by planting 41,500 gardens that first season and by 1944 over 50,000 Victory Gardens were spread across the City. Denver’s Victory Gardens were valued that first growing season at $578,125. To help Denverites start up a backyard plot, the City of Denver devised a “Model Victory Garden.” A list of vegetables that did best in our climate was provided as well as soil preparation and planting instructions. Colorado State College (now CSU) provided the “technical advice necessary to insure success.” CSU Extension Offices continue to provide valuable information on gardening in our unique climate.

A new Victory Garden movement is sweeping the country and our state. Michael Pollan, a journalist for the New York Times and Professor at UC Berkeley, is leading the charge. His article, Dear Mr. Next President… Food, Food, Food, discusses how vegetable gardens are eloquent solutions to: public health, the local economy, global warming, and education. In response to this article and at many groups’ bequests, Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the White House’s South Lawn in March.

Colorado communities are a part of this energetic movement. Leading the effort is Grow Local Colorado. Grow Local is a new project being developed by community leaders, gardeners, locavores, farmers and businesses to help more people grow more food locally. Partners in this effort include representatives from Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Public Library, Denver Urban Gardens and representatives from the City and County of Denver. Their website is a resource hub for information, expertise and partnership in establishing your own food garden in your home, business, or public space. Grow Local’s goal is to establish 2009 gardens in the Metro Denver area by May 30, 2009. Their site also connects people wanting to grow food with unused space, resources and expertise.

Be a part of this exciting movement. Start a new vegetable garden or help a neighbor with theirs. In a few months you’ll reap the benefits of your labor.

B50 Note: Barbara Masoner is happy that earth day is here and the snow is gone so she can get busy in her own garden. For more local gardening information, she encourages you to visit Grow Local Colorado. If you are interested in the history of urban gardening in the United States, visit Sprouts in the Sidewalk.

The Rockmount Building: 100 Years Young

—by Steve Weil

The Rockmount Building celebrates its 100th birthday this year, but the history of the site goes to 1859. As my family has been working at this building for 3 generations it feels like part of the family. I began researching the building several years ago after I discovered it was designed by Fisher & Fisher who designed some of Denver’s finest buildings. I have a huge archive on the building as well as our business Rockmount which is notable for making the first western shirts with snaps and Papa Jack who was the oldest CEO. On display in our store is a triptych panel of photos of the building and the street over the years.

We have the original abstract of the building, which dates to 1859. It has signatures of many of Denver’s founding fathers: Amos Steck, David Moffat, Frederick Ebert and others who tie in to the city’s history prominently.

Amos Steck was the first mayor and for whom the Elemementary School is named. David Moffat and others brought the railroad spur from Cheyenne to Denver without which we would be Cheyenne and they would be Denver. Frederick Ebert platted LoDo and the roads to the Central City mines. He and his wife gave the land for the first school. Today Ebert Elementary is named for him.

Of note is that Wazee was part of China town, though most people think its border was Blake. The Rockmount abstract shows Chinese owners in the 1880s. Many of their businesses were off the alleys.

The Wolff Building, circa 1909. Designed by Fisher & Fisher. Photo Courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society.
The Wolff Building, circa 1909. Designed by Fisher & Fisher. Photo Courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society.

History of the Rockmount Building:

Built in 1909, this building has been Rockmount’s home for 3 generations since 1946. First our warehouse, we later moved our offices here in 1980. After nearly 50 years of wholesale only we opened the retail store and museum in 2002. We undertook a historic renovation to preserve the building in 2004, returning the first floor much to its original state.

This “Prairie” style building was designed by Fisher & Fisher, perhaps Denver’s Finest architects. Where as many earlier nearby buildings are soft brick this is a costly construction with fully fired brick throughout and heave timbering far exceeding structural requirements. Warehouses were once architectural gems reflecting the commercial lifebood of a growing community on the frontier. This was a time when warehouse architecture expressed the great pride of other citadels such as civic, chuch, and corporate edifices.

The Rockmount building reflects Louis Sullivan’s Modern Commercial design, the emerging Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Beaux Arts movement, which Arthur Fisher studied in New York. This building is a complete departure from the more derivative Victorian classical motif style, characterizing much of the neighborhood.

1909 – 1927 Wolff Mfg Co. (wholesale plumbing showroom & warehouse)
1928 – 1938 Colo Wholesale Drug Co., later Mckesson-Colo Wholesale Drug Co., Mckesson & Robbins Wholesale Drugs
1940 – 1946 U.S. Government Work Projects Administration Warehouse
1946 – 1980 Joy Mfg. Co. Mining Machinery, Schloss & Shubart Machinery & Engineering
1946 – Present Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co.
2002 – Rockmount opens Retail Store & Museum
2004 – Exterior, 1st floor historic renovation, basement garage added

McKesson Drug Co., September 1, 1938
McKesson Drug Co., September 1, 1938

Inside the Rockmount Showroom
Inside the Rockmount Showroom

B50 Note: Steve Weil is the president of Rockmount Ranch Wear. The company was founded by his grandfather, Jack A. “Papa Jack” Weil, who is considered the father of Western Wear. Steve’s father, Jack B. Weil, joined the company in 1956, and Steve joined in 1981. Today, Rockmount is sold widely around the world.

The Rockmount Building will be open on Saturday and Sunday, April 18th and 19th, as part of Doors Open Denver 2009, a program of the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs. For more information, maps, and a list of participating sites (there are lots of them!) visit the Doors Open Denver website.

Drive By History, Part 2: Camp Weld

It says thusly:

This memorial is the property of the State of Colorado

This is the Southwest corner of
Camp Weld
established September 1861 for
Colorado Civil War Volunteers,
Named for Lewis L. Weld, first
Secretary of Colorado territory.
Troops leaving here Feb. 22, 1862
Won victory over Confederate Forces
at La Glorieta, New Mexico. Saved
The Southwest for the Union
Headquarters against Indians 1864-65
camp abandoned 1865

erected by
The State Historical Society of Colorado
The Mrs. J.N. Hall Foundation
and by
The City and County of Denver

B50 Note: This monument is located at the corner of 8th and Vallejo Streets in an industrial section of Denver criss-crossed by highways and overpasses. Check out the “Drive By History” series of unnoticed monuments in Denver.

On September 28th, 1864, the Camp Weld Council was held at this location. At this meeting, territorial governor John Evans met with Cheyenne and Arapaho Chiefs, including Black Kettle and White Antelope. The Arapaho and Cheyenne left the council believing that if they returned to Fort Lyon (in what is now Southeastern Colorado) they would be able to live in peace with the white settlers. Two months later (on November 29th, 1864), their camp at Sand Creek was attacked and many were massacred by Colorado Volunteers under the command of Colonel John Chivington.

A transcript of the meeting is available on Kevin Cahill’s very informative site, This photograph was taken following the Camp Weld Council, and includes many of the participants (photo courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society).

Camp Weld Council, September 28th, 1864. Standing L-R: Unidentified, Dexter Colley (son of Agent Samuel Colley), John S. Smith, Heap of Buffalo, Bosse, Sheriff Amos Steck, Unidentified soldier. Seated L-R: White Antelope, Neva, Black Kettle, Bull Bear, Na-ta-Nee (Knock Knee). Kneeling L-R: Major Edward W. Wynkoop, Captain Silas Soule.
Camp Weld Council, September 28th, 1864. Standing L-R: Unidentified, Dexter Colley (son of Agent Samuel Colley), John S. Smith, Heap of Buffalo, Bosse, Sheriff Amos Steck, Unidentified soldier. Seated L-R: White Antelope, Neva, Black Kettle, Bull Bear, Na-ta-Nee (Knock Knee). Kneeling L-R: Major Edward W. Wynkoop, Captain Silas Soule.