Posts Tagged ‘Life Death Iron’

Tucked away in Gamble Gulch about halfway between the towns of Black Hawk and Nederland, Colorado stand the sparse ruins of Perigo.  Perigo was a busy gold mining town in the latter years of the 19th Century and was home to several prosperous mines including the Golden Sun, Tip Top, Perigo and the Free Gold. A massive 60-stamp mill was erected at the town to crush the ores from the nearby mines.

Perigo had around three-hundred residents during it’s peak years. There was a general store, mine offices, the mill, several saloons, a social club and many private dwellings ranging from crude log cabins and tents to lavish two-story homes that would’ve been considered mansions in the day. Perigo’s social club put on plays and banquets, and tried on a number of occasions to entice the leading opera stars and actors from Central City and Denver to hold shows in the town- It is unknown, and doubtful that any ever accepted the offer.

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Perigo- A View Down Main Street Around 1890

When the mining industry collapsed in the 1890s Perigo began a steady decline into oblivion. The mines were all closed and the mill was shut down. Struggling on for a few more years was the general store that served the needs of those who still lived in Gamble Gulch, but soon, it too faded and was abandoned.

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Tourists visit the abandoned stamp mill around 1930

Sometime around the middle of the last Century a man purchased the entire town site, the mill, and all the remaining buildings and homes of Perigo.  The now ghost town of Perigo could still be visited and admired from the narrow and rocky road leading through Gamble Gulch.  Then one day the new owner was hit with a tax bill he could not pay. Gilpin County expected the man to pay property taxes on each of the structures on his property. He informed the county that all of the buildings were long abandoned and in various states of decay, but the tax man didn’t care, the law was the law and the taxes had to paid. Inviting the county tax assessor to Perigo, the owner showed him the rotten and collapsing buildings, but the county stood firm and demanded he pay up. A simple solution presented itself- If there were no standing structures on his property, the tax bill would vanish. So, unfortunately for old Perigo, the man filled the buildings at the town site with dynamite and blew Perigo off the map.

 

Today you’ll only find the twisted and shattered remains of the mill, some wood structures flat on the ground like a stack of popsicle sticks, a stone or concrete foundation tucked in the grass, and a couple of old tumbledown tin sided shacks being reclaimed by the earth.  One small Victorian era house still stands intact way back in the trees, and giant, still occupied, two-story Victorian style which may or may not be original to the site can be found near the mill wreckage.

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Twice in the past month, as part of the research I am doing for a book I’m writing, I have visited a secluded area of Douglas County, Colorado where the Confederate underground was known to have operated in the 1860s- An area where several buried caches of Civil War era arms and ammunition have been found through the years. I set out to search for any signs or evidence of these long-forgotten Confederate agents who smuggled weapons and supplies through Colorado Territory.

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Old Stage barn constructed in 1861 in Douglas County, Colorado. The Confederate underground operated in the hills nearby throughout the Civil War.

Known as the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) the Confederate underground was a secretive, fraternal order loosely based on the Masons. Active throughout the southern states, and western territories in the waning years of the Civil War the KGC possessed a tremendous amount of wealth and influence. Many high ranking officers of the Confederacy were KGC members, and thousands of rank and file soldiers were initiates in the secret order as well. Among the most notable members of the KGC were Frank and Jesse James, William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, John Wilkes Booth, General Douglas H. Cooper, Colorado pioneer Alexander “Zan” Hicklin,  James and John Reynolds (see my previous blogs regarding the Reynolds Gang in Colorado) would-be assassin Lewis Powell (Payne) and the well-known Freemason Albert Pike (who many believe founded the KGC.)

Famous Freemason Albert Pike, Thought to be the Founder of the KGC

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The primary objective of the KGC was to accumulate wealth (aka gold and silver) and weapons by any means, which usually meant robbery, for use in a future “second” Civil War against the Union. Hidden in caches across the south and west, the KGC employed agents or “sentinels” that stood guard over the buried treasure for many decades. Dating back to the days leading up to the Civil War, KGC initiates used a series of “grips” or hand signals to indicate their membership in the order- To the casual bystander, the “grips” wouldn’t seem unusual, but to a fellow KGC member they would be easily recognized.

Four famous members of the KGC demonstrating one of the Orders’ “secret” grips-

The right hand grasping or tucked inside the lapel.

Left to Right- “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Jesse and Frank James, John Wilkes Booth.

KGC initiate Lewis Powell (Also Known as Lewis Payne) attempted to kill Secretary of State William Seward on April 14, 1865. These photos taken after his arrest show him giving what former members of the KGC confirmed were secret “grips” of the order.

Also employed by the KGC in their nefarious activities was a secret alphabet or code, and messages would be carved in trees, rocks, or passed between members on scraps of paper. A first hand account given by a ranch hand of Alexander “Zan” Hicklin of a guerrilla traversing Colorado Territory  bound for Confederate lines in New Mexico in 1862 states:

“Hicklin was suspicious of the man at first. I saw him hand Hicklin a scrap of paper covered in symbols and scribbles. Hicklin then eased and provided the man with food and provisions for his journey.”

It is clear the “…scrap of paper covered in symbols and scribbles…” was a message in the KGC code vouching for the wayward guerrilla.

Key to the KGC Secret Code

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The KGC was a very real, very powerful order which lasted well into the 20th Century. Reports of second and third generation KGC sentinels standing vigil at burial sites persisted until the 1930s! In the late 1800s and early 1900s numerous cases of confrontations and even shootings at the hands of mysterious armed men deep in forests have been attributed to KGC sentinels watching over their loot. Around the outbreak of WWII, suspected KGC activity seemed to disappear.

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KGC cache sites were marked with a series of nondescript signs- Treasure hunters have spent years deciphering the signs of the KGC and documenting anomalies found at known KGC cache sites. A common series of markers used by the KGC, which would go unnoticed by the casual passerby, has been documented-

  1. “Hoot Owls”– Trees which have been deformed, grafted or otherwise “engineered” into unnatural shapes are the most common KGC marker. “Twin” “Triplet” or unusual clusters of trees the exact same height and age also indicate KGC activity, as they were purposely arranged in such a fashion.

Examples of KGC “Hoot Owls” found at cache burial sites in the south/west.

2. Rock Carvings– Some complex, such as those using the KGC code or symbols-pyramids, eyes, numbers, etc. Other carvings were as simple as a cross or a series of holes bored into the rock.

Examples of known/suspected KGC rock carvings (complex)

Examples of suspected KGC rock carvings (simple)

3. Marker Stones– A series of stones, often triangular or “arrowhead” shaped placed along the path to a cache, these stones would appear ordinary to most, but to a KGC agent, they would point the way to buried goods. Also used as marker stones were ordinary looking rocks that might not be of a type native or normally found in the area, for example quartz markers left in an area where there is only sandstone.

Examples of KGC marker stones from confirmed cache sites.

4) Burned out tree trunks and holes bored into tree trunks-The burned out stump was a popular KGC marker meaning “Buried cache in a hole nearby.”

(No photos available of “burned tree trunk/stump markers”- Information based on data and claims compiled/made by Military Historian Dr. Roy William Roush, Ph.D., in his book “Knights of the Golden Circle Treasure Signs”)

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Using the known examples of KGC markers, I set out to find if any of these KGC markers were present at the Douglas County site- I didn’t expect to find much, but I was surprised at what I found, and I believe that a KGC cache once existed at the site, or still exists waiting to be discovered. My findings-

1. “Hoot Owls”– I stood on a small rise over the creek bottom I was investigating and scanned the treeline looking for anomalies- Anything that didn’t look right, any tree that wasn’t growing in a natural way. I found several examples of “Hoot Owls” over a one-mile stretch of creek bed, including a near perfect “arch” made by two trees bent inwards towards each other, and a “triplet” tree of nearly perfect proportions, both pictured below.

“Hoot Owls” found at the Douglas County, Colorado site- Including an “arch” and a nearly perfect “triplet”- Highly unusual for such a large concentration of “naturally” occurring anomalies to be present in an area of less than a mile. Also of note- Each of the trees was large/old enough to date to the Civil War era.

 

2. Rock Carvings– Across the one-mile stretch I investigated I found several rock carvings of the “simple” style- A “key”, a “cross”, two “eyes”, and series of stones with between one and four holes bored into them. There were tons of boulders and rocks in the area- Only about eight had carvings, and the stones bearing “eye” carvings all had a distinct depression or hole in the ground directly below the “eye”…former site of a buried cache???

Cross, key, and eye rock carvings found in Douglas County, Colorado.

“Eye” and simple hole pattern carvings at the site-

3. Marker Stones– Rocks that shouldn’t be there, or arrow shaped stones in unusual places. I found only one “arrow” shaped stone that was 110% out of place, sitting on top of a rounded, water worn boulder in the creek. An angular, pointy stone is very out of place in a creek bed. It was definitely put there by human hands- When?  Who knows, maybe three days ago, maybe 150 years ago by a KGC agent.  What was intriguing was the huge open hole in the rocks just beyond the “arrow”  looked like a perfect spot to hide something.

“Arrow” marker stone and hole in the rocks behind it.

I also noticed red stones, all of a uniform size, placed at regular intervals along the creek. The stones were roughly fist sized, and unlike the native stones in the area. When I reached the near perfect triplet “Hoot Owl” tree, the trail of red stones stopped. I found no more for the next half-mile before I turned around and headed back.

Red marker stones found at regular intervals along the creek.

4. Burned Out Tree Trunk– I was not expecting to find a burned out tree trunk, but on a steep side slope of the tiny valley cut by the creek this old stump, clearly cut off by the hand of man many, many years ago caught my eye. It was so old that it was dry rotting and would crumble in your fingers, and the base had been hollowed out long ago by a fire.  It was the only tree cut down by human hands on the whole hillside, and was located at a steep point next to a promontory rock that caught your eye. Directly across the creek from the burned out stump was the “Hoot Owl” arch mentioned previously.

Three views of the burnt out stump, and the “Hoot Owl” arch directly across the creek.

 

5. Strange circular clearing surrounded by very old felled timber- From the burnt out stump, I crossed the creek and walked through the “Hoot Owl” arch. On the other side of the “arch” was a large patch of felled timber, very old and gray with age, obviously having been down for many years. In the center of the felled timber was a nearly perfect circular patch, void of timber with the exception of one very young pine tree and short grass. I’ve seen similar circular patches in the Rockies where meteors fell, or at the site of dormant freshwater springs. This spot was similar, but the felled timber surrounding it seemed to be situated in a uniform depth of 6-8 logs which seemed unusual to me. Is this clearing the site of a forgotten KGC cache???

Circular clearing beyond the “Hoot Owl” arch.

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Buried Confederate arms and ammunition have been found in this same vicinity of Douglas County in the past. Based on the evidence I found, I think that more waits to be discovered.

Colorado has plenty of ghost towns but what about “lost” towns- Towns that have disappeared entirely, or almost entirely from the face of the earth?  It is hard to imagine but there are “lost cities” here in Colorado. Cities and towns and settlements that have vanished almost completely over the years. Most appeared and disappeared with the boom and bust days of the gold and silver rush. Others were ranching and farming towns hit hard by the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s. Still others came and went with the fortunes of the railroads.  These make up Colorado’s “lost cities” and below is a collection of then and now photos of six of them. (Click on the circles for larger images.)

1. Querida, Colorado

Querida in Custer County was once a booming mining town laid out at the base of the Bassick Mine.  Today nothing remains but one old house, some debris from other buildings, and the massive tailings pile from the Bassick Mine.

2. Independence, Colorado

There was more than one “Independence” in Colorado- This is the Independence in Teller County near Cripple Creek and Victor. Independence was one of many towns that sprawled out around the mining operations in the Cripple Creek/Victor area in the late 1890s. Today some mining structures and equipment mark the spot, and a one or two homes can still be found scattered among the workings. Most of the town however was buried under the tailings from the mine, or torn down.

3. Caribou, Colorado

Caribou was one of Colorado’s top producing silver mining towns in the 1870s and 1880s boasting a business district, hotels, saloons and schools. The silver crash of 1893 spelled doom for the thriving community located on a windswept mountainside eight miles above Nederland at nearly 10,000 ft. elevation. Most of the population left around 1895, but a few struggled on in the mines until around 1920. Today a couple of stone buildings and one tumbledown log cabin are all that mark the spot of Caribou- The rest of town having been lost to forest fires, dismantling, and the elements over the years. A few foundations can be found in the deep grass at the site but its hard to imagine thousands once lived here.

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4. Manhattan, Colorado

Deep in Larimer County northwest of Ft. Collins a couple of gold discoveries were made high on Elkhorn and Manhattan Creeks. Manhattan once had around 500 residents, but the ore was low-grade and there wasn’t much to be found.  An accident in a shaft took the lives of several miners in 1892, and shortly after Manhattan was abandoned.  Sometime in the 1950s or so, the Forest Service had the log buildings of Manhattan torn down.  All that marks the town site today is a tiny graveyard on a hillside where the miners from the 1892 accident are buried.

5.Berwind, Colorado

In the sandy foothills northwest of Trinidad numerous “company towns” existed. These towns were built by mine owners for their employees and their families. One of the larger company towns was Berwind. Berwind once had over 3000 residents, hundreds of homes, a two-story schoolhouse, railroad station, businesses, and a jail.  When the coal mines closed, the mine owners evicted the families and bulldozed the housing so they wouldn’t be taxed on the structures. Berwind Canyon today is lined with concrete foundations, staircases to nowhere, and modern day “Roman Ruins” overgrown with shrubs and trees. The tiny jail house remains and is guarded by a fat squirrel.

6. Carrizo Springs, Colorado

Carrizo Springs in the far southeastern corner of Colorado in remote Baca County was a very unusual place- It was a mining town on the great plains.  Around 1885 a group of prospectors from Missouri were looking for the Rocky Mountains and became lost as they traveled through Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and Kansas. When they had just about given up they saw hills and bluffs that they assumed were the Rocky Mountains. They began prospecting along Carrizo Creek and found some streaks of copper ore and a few streaks of silver as well. The Mexican ranchers in the area told the miners they were still a couple hundred miles from the Rocky Mountains. The miners decided to stay at Carrizo Creek and soon word spread of their strike. Around 1887 the town of Carrizo Springs was born, and one account says 2000-3000 people flocked to the settlement. Carrizo Springs lived a short, violent life. Cattle rustlers and horse thieves wandered through town from Kansas and Texas, gamblers and prostitutes set up shop in the saloons, marauding bandidos all the way from Mexico terrorized the town on occasion. Soon though it was realized the copper and silver ore along Carrizo Creek was poor and the town vanished. By 1889 Carrizo Springs was empty having lived only two years.  Today it takes a very sharp eye to spot anything marking the site- A few crumbling stone foundations, a weathered hitching post here and there, and shards of broken glass and porcelain on the prairie are all that is left.  No period photos of Carrizo Springs exist.

I just returned from a short but satisfying trip through the San Luis Valley of Colorado and a small chunk of northern New Mexico between Taos and Chama. I was out to snap a few photos of the past- The faces of the forgotten and forlorn buildings of the region- A region still very much alive, but where the past coexists side-by-side with the present.

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Garcia, Colorado

There is a unique energy in this part of the world. I can not describe it, but things just look and feel “different” in some way as you travel down the lonely stretches of blacktop that run the length of the San Luis Valley and North-Central New Mexico. There is something about this area and it’s vast openness and sweeping views, the surreal aspect of the Great Sand Dunes butting up against the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the Taos plateau and the great defile of the Rio Grande Gorge that rips through the middle of it- This is an area of intense natural beauty and quiet, peaceful, solitude. Some even say this is an area of supernatural or otherworldly energy- Cattle mutilations, UFO sightings, and the “Taos Hum” which reportedly only about 10% of people can hear, are evidence of this theory.

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Hooper, Colorado

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Along a back road in northern New Mexico

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Mosca, Colorado

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Moffatt, Colorado

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Penitente Morada, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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Tres Piedras, New Mexico

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Garcia, Colorado

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Moffatt, Colorado

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18th Century Spanish Colonial Church, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Moffatt, Colorado

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Garcia, Colorado

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico

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Hooper, Colorado

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Costilla, New Mexico

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Moffatt, Colorado

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Abandoned Church, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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New Mexico

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Costilla, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

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Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

Quite often I get asked if I have any photos of Independence. The answer is yes, but I don’t think they are very good, and I need to make a trip back to Independence to get some better shots. I took these several years ago when I just started developing an interest in both ghost towns and photography- This was also many only trip to date to Independence.

The subject matter at Independence is fantastic, I just didn’t really know much about angles, light, and framing my subject back then (still don’t know much now!)- You can see it in these photos. For me these are a fun trip back to one of my first outings with a camera.  I decided to do these in black & white, and overexpose the hell out of them because that makes the gigantic speck of dirt that was in the middle of my lens that day disappear!

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A few years ago while hiking into some back country beaver ponds high above Grant, Colorado in search of undocumented populations of Greenback Cutthroat trout I paused to rest along a small creek. I stopped to rest in a particularly steep and miserable section, and, as I hacked and wheezed in an effort to catch my breath, I began to question why I was on this hike. Staring around at the terrain, I noticed some bleached white bones poking up through the moss alongside some large boulders on the edge of the creek. I went over to investigate, assuming them to be those of an elk or deer.

As I dug them out of the moss and mud, it became apparent that these bones were very old, and they belonged to an animal much larger than an elk or deer. I found the mandible bone and it was halfway dissolved by time and the elements, a handful of large teeth, and several leg bones.  I had no idea what kind of animal this was, but it was large, and it was definitely out of place at 12,000 feet elevation where the mountains meet the sky, and the trees stop growing.

I contemplated what I was looking at. How did this huge animal make it up here to this remote gulch at the top of the world? Why did this animal come up here? How did this animal die? After I had rested up, looked over all the bones, and pondered this mystery, I decided to continue my trek up the steep slope to the ponds above. Before leaving the bones though, I decided to photograph them and take the mandible bone I had found back down the hill with me.  As I left the site, a few feet away, higher up on the hillside, I stumbled upon the old rusty head of a shovel. I inspected it, and found a “U.S.” stamp on the shaft.This area was picked over by prospectors for many years, and I figured the shovel must have fallen out of a pack long ago.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time, I was there to fish, so I put it back on the ground and went about my journey to the ponds.

After I returned home I posted the photos on a website/forum that dealt with identifying and dating unknown bones. I received several responses, and the mutual consensus was that I had discovered some very old horse bones. One of those who responded was a Professor at an English University (I honestly can’t remember which one, or his official title) and he requested some detailed photos. I sent him more photos, and, in his opinion, judging by the advanced decay of the bones, that they were around 150 to 160 years old. This opinion would date the horse bones to around 1860-1870. Paired with the old shovel I had found near the bones, I decided it must have been a prospector’s horse that fell and met it’s fate on the steep slope many years ago. I put the old horse jaw on a shelf and forgot about it. Little did I know these bones would set me on the path of a mystery that has never been solved.

The 150-160 year-old horse bones I found high in Geneva Gulch.

The 150-160 year-old horse bones I found high in Geneva Gulch.

A few more years went by, and, as my interest in the area grew and I delved deeper into researching the history of the area around Grant, Colorado, I first learned of the old “Reynolds Gang” legend. A legend about a group of bandits that terrorized the South Park region of Colorado in the summer of 1864. Much has been written about the Reynolds Gang over the years, and I won’t go into depth regarding the legend, I’ll just give the short version and how it relates to my find-

The Reynolds Gang robbed several stage coaches in the summer of 1864 between Fairplay and Kenosha, Colorado. A posse was summoned to hunt the gang down. One night, high in Geneva Gulch near present day Grant, Colorado, the gang was ambushed by the posse. A gunfight broke out, and one member of the gang was killed. He has been identified through the years by numerous sources as “Owen Singleterry” or “Singleterry”. His head was removed from his body by a member of the posse and taken back to Fairplay, Colorado where it was displayed in a jar for many years as a macabre trophy.

The remaining members of the Reynolds Gang scattered into the wilderness. Somewhere along the way, either shortly before the ambush, or immediately after, brothers Jim and John Reynolds, the leaders of the gang, buried an estimated $20,000 in stolen gold and currency somewhere in the mountains above Grant, Colorado. Of the remaining gang members five were captured, stood trial, convicted of robbery, and were executed by Colorado State Militia near Franktown, Colorado in late 1864. Three men escaped the posse- John Reynolds, Addison Stowe and another unnamed bandit, and supposedly disappeared to New Mexico.

A man was shot seven years later in 1871 while attempting to steal cattle from a ranch near Taos, New Mexico. On his death bed he confessed to being “John Reynolds” of the Reynolds Gang, and he drew a map showing where he and his brother Jim had buried the gold and currency in 1864. He also stated on his death bed “You go up Geneva Gulch a ways, and follow the mountain around to the right. You’ll find a horse carcass where he mired in the mud and we had to leave him. Then up around 12,000 feet at a swamp you will find the gold. If you can find the horse, you will find the gold.”

When I read this story, I remembered the bones I had found, and began to wonder if I had stumbled onto the clue John Reynolds mentioned on his death bed “If you can find the horse, you will find the gold.” I had moved a few times since my find, and the old jaw bone was now buried in a box somewhere among my things. I finally found it, and stared at it, wondering what stories it could tell.

The old horse mandible

The old horse mandible

I have spent countless hours ever since studying the terrain, looking at satellite images, graphing, mapping, reading every single tidbit and varying account of The Reynolds Gang I can find. I have stacks of old maps, documents, newspaper clippings regarding the legend. I’ve found other evidence in my quest that has led me deep into other quests- And the seemingly simple, cut-and-dry case of a few outlaws robbing stagecoaches has developed into a complex case study in the sociopolitical climate of Colorado and it’s little known, but potentially at the time, vital role in determining the outcome of the Civil War. In a previous blog I have written, which can be found here: Exonerating The Reynolds Gang I go into the facts regarding “The Reynolds Gang”  and their actual status as Confederate soldiers of the Third Texas Cavalry Regiment acting on military orders from Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper to disrupt Union supply trains in Colorado Territory.

General Douglas Hancock Cooper

General Douglas Hancock Cooper

At this point we will return to Owen Singletary, the bandit killed in Geneva Gulch in July of 1864 who had his head cut off and put on display. The facts I uncovered and presented in my previous blog on The Reynolds Gang was that Owen Singletary (or Singleterry in some accounts) was, undeniably, enlisted in the Wells Battalion, Third Texas Cavalry Regiment, Confederate States Army, where he held the rank of Private. Singletary rode out of Ft. Belknap in then Indian Territory with around 50 other men of the Wells Battalion on orders to disrupt Union supply columns in New Mexico and Colorado Territory. Singletary was among the 25 men who crossed the old Granada Military Road in far northern New Mexico Territory with Jim and John Reynolds, and, crossed into Colorado Territory where the buttes meet the prairie near present day Branson, Colorado. Singletary was among the “…unknown group of heavily armed men in blue uniforms…” that were seen lurking in the forests near the little settlement of Canon City, Colorado in early July of 1864. He was among those who stayed the night a Giuraud’s Ranch near Fairplay in mid-July 1864. He was in Geneva Gulch on the night of July 29, 1864 when the gunfight broke out. It is claimed in nearly every written account of the skirmish, that Owen Singletary was killed in the gunfight, his head taken as a trophy. But was Singletary really killed on that July night over 150 years ago?

Where the buttes meet the prairie near Branson, Colorado- Approximate location where the Third Texas Cavalry crossed the frontier into Colorado Territory in 1864.

Where the buttes meet the prairie near Branson, Colorado- Approximate location where the Third Texas Cavalry crossed the frontier into Colorado Territory in 1864.

Guiraud's Ranch near Fairplay, Colorado where Owen Singletary spent a night in July 1864.

Guiraud’s Ranch near Fairplay, Colorado where Owen Singletary spent a night in July 1864.

As I’ve studied the legend and read the numerous accounts of the events in Geneva Gulch on the night of July 29, 1864, I have discovered a number of conflicting stories, and recently while researching the family tree of the Singletary’s I came upon some strange discoveries. I’ll start with the conflicting or unusual aspects of the accounts of The Reynolds Gang, and then return to the Singletary family tree-

The most glaring detail of the case is what happened to Owen Singletary’s corpse after he was supposedly killed in the gunfight in Geneva Gulch?

The accepted story line is the rest of The Reynolds Gang dispersed in separate directions fleeing the posse who was hot on their tails. The posse took possession of Singletary’s corpse, cut off his head and left his body to rot somewhere near the site of the skirmish.  Although the most simple of the accounts regarding Singletary’s fate, it makes the most sense and leaves no questions other than what happened to Singletary’s corpse after it was left to rot? The logical answer to that is the corpse simply decomposed and was swallowed by time, earth and the elements leaving no trace.

But then we find other accounts that state Jim and John Reynolds buried Singletary’s body, and marked his grave by breaking off a knife blade in a tree trunk. The knife blade marked Singletary’s resting place, and pointed in the direction of the buried treasure nearby. The question here becomes if the rest of the gang had fled the skirmish in haste disappearing into the woods, how does Singletary’s corpse reappear in the narrative as being buried by the Reynolds brothers in a crudely marked grave? Did the Reynolds brothers remain in the area and return to give Singletary a proper burial? I highly doubt the accounts stating Singletary was buried by the Reynolds brothers because hard evidence points to the fact that the Reynolds brothers were being tracked southward across Colorado Territory and were seen by Colorado State Militia, on a rise crossing into New Mexico Territory where their trail went cold. There was no time for them to bury Singletary.

Another version of the tale states that many years later a treasure hunter ventured into Geneva Gulch in search of the gold and found “…a headless skeleton, and white felt hat nearby…” This treasure hunter claimed it to be Singletary’s bones and hat. This story would corroborate the accounts stating that the posse took his head and left his body to rot in the elements. But, I question this account because the treasure hunter did not bother to collect any of the bones or the hat he supposedly found, and was not able to confirm exactly where he found them. But, given the benefit of the doubt, treasure hunters are not in the business of collecting bones and hats- they are after the treasure itself. Furthermore, if the treasure hunter had in fact found these concrete clues, why would he give an exact location of his find?  Another interesting aspect of the old treasure hunter’s account is the “white felt hat” he claims to have found- If the harsh elements of Geneva Gulch could reduce a clothed corpse to a pile of bleached bones over the years, how could a felt hat remain?  Would the elements not reduce the hat as well? Would rodents and birds not haul it away bit-by-bit to make nests? It seems highly unlikely a felt hat could survive for years in these conditions, but one part of the hat story could confirm it as true- The old treasure hunter said the felt hat was “white”, members of the Confederate Cavalry wore “butternut” felt cowboy hats. Butternut was a very light gray/yellow color, that after fading in the sun for years would certainly appear white. Furthermore, the first officially accepted account of The Reynolds Gang describes them as an unknown military unit, heavily armed, wearing blue. Confederate Cavalry often wore a motley assortment of uniforms, including pre-war light blue Federal uniforms. It is not unrealistic to think The Reynolds Gang, who were as evidence has proved, enlisted Confederate soldiers, might be wearing bits and pieces of their military uniforms.

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A surviving example of an actual Confederate “butternut” cavalry felt hat. Easy to see how it could be called “white”.

One other account states it was not Owen Singletary who was killed in the skirmish, but another of the gang named “Jack Stowe”, but we find no records of a “Jack Stowe” being part of the Third Texas Cavalry Regiment. An “Addison Stowe” was, however, a well-documented character in the narrative and is described in detail in my previous blog regarding the true history of The Reynolds Gang. Addison Stowe had long connections to Colorado and was one of the “Mace’s Hole Confederates” captured along with the Reynolds brothers in 1861 who subsequently was jailed in Denver, escaped, and joined the Third Texas Cavalry a couple years later. This singular account stating it was a man named “Stowe” and not Singletary who was killed in the gulch is the most peculiar and vague of the accounts. Why would this one account stray from the others regarding who was killed in the fight? What happened to Addison Stowe following the gunfight? Who was the “Jack Stowe” killed in this version of the legend?  Were “Addison” and “Jack” one in the same? Were they brothers or relatives? Had “Jack” come along and joined the gang after they crossed into Colorado Territory? John  Reynolds claimed Addison Stowe was one of two men who escaped with his group and fled to New Mexico Territory and freedom in 1864. I’ve often discredited this account of “Stowe” being killed and not Singletary, but as in every great mystery there is always a twist. This is where we return to the Singletary family tree.

While researching the Singletary bloodline I came across some interesting entries- I learned that Owen Singletary came from a large family. His father was named Evan Savera Singletary and was born in 1813 in North Carolina. Evan Singletary moved to Texas where he was a farmer. He was married twice and fathered eleven children.  Evan Singletary joined the Confederate Army (Corporal, Quinn’s Company, 1st Frontier District, Texas State Militia) in February 1864, proceeded in service by two of his sons- Owen Singletary (Private, Wells Battalion, Third Texas Cavalry Regiment) and Joseph Singletary (Teamster, Wells Battalion, Third Texas Cavalry Regiment). Clearly, the Singletary family was sympathetic to the Confederacy and served throughout the latter stages of the war.

Of note regarding the service of the Singletary family is that brothers Owen and Joseph both served in the Wells Battalion, along with the three Reynolds brothers- Jim, John and George, but it does not appear that Joseph Singletary accompanied the rest of the Battalion as they crossed into New Mexcio and Colorado Territory in 1864. Records show that Joseph was listed as “in the Choctaw Nation” in 1865 when the conflict ended. One footnote in the family genealogy states Joseph did in fact venture into Colorado with the rest of the Regiment, but there is no explanation of how, when or why he returned to Indian Territory and finished up the war among the Choctaw. This has me asking the question was Joseph Singletary the mysterious third man who escaped south into New Mexico with John  Reynolds and Addison Stowe? Was “Joseph Singletary” actually the man killed in Geneva Gulch in July of 1864, and did his brother Owen Singletary escape the ambush and return to the Choctaw Nation assuming his brother’s identity?

Why would I speculate that Owen Singletary survived, escaped and returned to Indian Territory under his brothers identity? One account of the story brings  Owen Singletary’s fate into question and gives no account to what became of him- This is the claim that it was a man named “Jack Stowe”  and not Singletary that was killed. If this “Jack Stowe” was killed, that means Owen Singletary survived. But if an “Addison Stowe” escaped to New Mexico with John Reynolds, who was killed on July 29, 1864? If Owen Singletary and Addison Stowe both escaped the man who died in Geneva Gulch is a mystery. Could  a Confederate Pension application issued in 1899 solve the case?

Among the Singletary family records a note appears that on June 2, 1899 Owen Singletary applied for a Confederate Pension under application #1228976, and was approved the pension under certification #119620. Apparently, Owen Singletary who had been listed as “dead” since July 29, 1864 was once again alive and collecting his Confederate Pension 35 years after his death! What is more interesting is that his mysterious brother Joseph Singletary, who may or may not have been in Colorado in 1864, was never mentioned again after April of 1865 when he was listed as a Teamster detailed to the Choctaw Nation by Brigadier General Cooper- He never applied for a pension, and no record of his death exists

. It strikes me as highly unusual that the surviving son disappears from the record in 1865, and the “dead” son who was supposedly killed in 1864 is granted a pension 35 years later in 1899.

What are the circumstances regarding Owen Singletary’s miraculous resurrection and return in 1899? I’m waiting for copies of the pension records, and hopefully some light can be shed on this strange case. Did Owen assume Joseph’s identity and fade off into the sunset in 1865, taking with him the secret of the Reynolds Gang treasure? Did Joseph survive and claim Owen’s pension in 1899? Does the fate of the buried gold lay in the hands of the Singletary family to this day?  Is there a headless skeleton in Geneva Gulch waiting to tell it’s story? It is a confusing, convoluted mystery that may never give up it’s secrets.

A few days after my father had passed away unexpectedly, my brother and I decided we needed a road trip to clear our heads, reminisce about the old man,  and share some laughs. My brother asked me if we could visit southern Colorado, an area he had never seen before, and I gladly obliged. We hopped in the car and headed for the foothills in the area between Pueblo and Trinidad- Colorado’s great coal belt. I’d visited the region several times on my own, and I knew my brother would enjoy the scenery and history of the area.

We buzzed south down I-25 passing the huge, dormant, Colorado Fuel and Iron steel mills of Pueblo which line the interstate. These huge rusty, dilapidated, structures with their towering red brick smokestacks were once the backbone of Pueblo- Employing thousands of men through the years and providing a “life” for many families, families whose descendants still call the area home. Today, the giants are silent, their smokestacks crumbling, and the neighborhoods of tiny houses around them, still occupied by the proud families who sprang from the mills, sit in a state of slow, but steady decay, the windows of their corner stores and saloons boarded up, and one more empty house each time I visit.

Crossing the Arkansas River the Colorado scenery changes, and the arid rolling hills give off a totally different feeling than the rocky, pine covered slopes of the area closer to Denver. Here, Colorado takes on a definite high desert, “wild west” aspect. There is also a distinctly Hispanic culture in this area- This land was Mexico for many years, and prior to that it was Spain’s northernmost territory in the new world. The first settlers of the region, dating back to the 1700’s with a few roaming shepherds and ranchers, were of Spanish origin, and that culture remains strong to this day in these parts.

It is down in the narrow canyons and bluffs of this area, where the mountains meet the plains, that we found Colorado’s coal belt, or, more accurately, the remains of Colorado’s coal belt.  West of I-25, and south of Walsenburg to Trinidad lays an enormous coal pocket, and throughout these hills we find the trace remnants of the company towns that once stood here. Places like- Tabasco, Berwind, Starkville, Morley, Hastings, Tollerburg, Tioga, Cokedale…the list goes on and on. But one name stands out among the rest “Ludlow”.

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A simple sign along the interstate a few miles north of Trinidad reads “Ludlow Massacre Memorial Exit 27” I’d visited Ludlow once before, and snapped off a few pictures in haste as the sun sank behind the mountains in the west, but I’d wanted to come back and spend more time in this place.  I thought my brother would appreciate these hallowed grounds as well, so we took Exit 27 and just a mile or two west of bustling I-25 Ludlow came into view.  A few tumbledown buildings marked what was left of the main street in town, and the railroad tracks that hauled the coal out of the dumps here still pass by.

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To the north of Ludlow there is a small picnic ground with a few tall trees and a couple of sheds and a parking lot. Most people probably stop by just to use the public restrooms and to get out of the hot Colorado sun without ever noticing the fenced in area just beyond the picnic tables, and the monument of a man, woman and child within the fence. This is the Ludlow Massacre Memorial erected by the United Mine Workers of America to honor those who died in the massacre of April 20, 1914. There is also a strange steel door, painted white on the ground, within the fenced in area of the memorial. When opened there are stairs leading down into a dark abyss.

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What was the Ludlow Massacre? And why is it important that we all remember it? Why is it not taught in our school system?  Because Ludlow was dangerous to the ruling class of big businessmen. What happened at Ludlow changed the way American businesses treated their labor.

To simplify a long and complex story, the Ludlow Massacre was the tragic culmination of tensions between the working class and the managing class/governing class in what became known as the “Coal Wars” of 1913-1914. Massive social, political, and economic changes swept the country from the mid-1800’s through the early 1900’s as a result of the industrial revolution. Some got rich, some lost everything, while most toiled away for just enough to barely scrape by. Among the people most affected by these changes were coal miners across the country. The widening gap between the “haves” (mine owners, managers, and politicians in their pay)  and the “have nots” (the miners and their families) led to strikes, confrontations and armed clashes between the two groups, culminating in the April 20, 1914 massacre at Ludlow where eighteen people (mostly children) were murdered by the Colorado National Guard sent to protect mine owners and break the strike.

Colorado National Guard and Mine Goon Squad

Colorado National Guard and Mine Goon Squad at Ludlow 1914

Miners and their families were forced to live in “company towns” which were small private kingdoms bought and paid for by the mine owners. In these company towns, the mine owners controlled nearly every aspect of the lives of their employees. Mine employees were paid in virtually worthless “scrip” which were tokens or paper “money” that were only valid at the company store or saloon. The company store and saloon, were owned by the mine owners and they were generally stocked with cheap, poor quality goods that were sold at tremendously inflated prices to the workers. Often, the miners did not have enough scrip to pay for the necessities of life, so the mine bosses benevolently extended lines of credit to the miners and their families. These lines of credit were often over extended, and the miner had no choice but work whatever hours and shifts the mine owners demanded, because they were in such in deep debt to the boss. This was a way mine owners and their cronies turned the working class into indentured servants with no way out. The miners had little choice but to tolerate the conditions, as everything they had from their homes to the shoes on their feet and the food on their table was owned by the mine bosses.

Ludlow Railroad Station

Ludlow Railroad Station and Company Store

On top of the crippling economic practices inside the company towns, mine bosses also limited the freedom of speech, religion and education- Churches and schools were set up in the company towns, but they were staffed by preachers and teachers hand selected by the bosses. Private police patrolled the company towns and cracked down on anyone critical of the mine owners or the conditions in the town. These police were nothing more than brutal thugs and bullies who kept order and silence through fear.

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Conditions inside most company towns were awful. The powerful mine owners were allowed to get away with outright abuses and borderline slavery because, as is all too familiar today, the bosses had the money to pay off politicians and police who would then look the other way.

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In 1913 and 1914 life in the Colorado coal camps became intolerable, and the miners went on strike. A series of skirmishes and confrontations ensued, and finally, the mine owners called on their paid off politician friends to intervene. The Colorado National Guard arrived by rail to the numerous coal camps and company towns  that lined Berwind Canyon, among them Ludlow.

Ludlow Saloon

Ludlow Saloon

The striking mine workers and their families were living largely in a tent city at the time, and when hostilities boiled over between the striking miners, the company goon squads, and the Colorado National Guard, chaos ensued. Members of the Colorado National Guard and the company thugs who were aching for a fight opened fire on the striking miners, many of whom were armed as well. The gun battle between the two sides sent the wives and children of the tent colony running for cover. Many had dug pits under their tents as makeshift shelters in anticipation of such an event.

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A fire soon broke out in the tent colony, and amidst the smoke, flames and mayhem troops of the militia opened fire into the tent colony with an assortment of outdated military rifles and a few Colt-Browining M1895 “Potato Digger” machine guns. The screams of the wounded and dying permeated the miner’s camp.

When the bullets stopped flying, and the fires had been put out, the Red Cross arrived on the scene to find the charred battlefield still smoldering. As the miners and the Red Cross began to survey the damage, they came across a scene of unspeakable horror, when they found the scorched bodies of eleven children and two women in one of the makeshift pit shelters under a burned tent. The youngest victims of the massacre were found here, aged three months and six months old. In future accounts of the tragedy this became known as “The Pit of Death”. In all, eighteen men, women and children died in the Ludlow Massacre- some by bullets, some by fire. Among the dead lay the entire Costa Family.

“The Pit of Death”

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Public outrage and unrest ensued throughout the region as news of the slaughter spread as fast as the flames did across the tents of Ludlow. Riots, beatings, gun battles, and overall maniacal rage between the warring factions over the following days became known as the “Ten Day War”. Order was finally restored when the United States Army was called in to disperse the Colorado National Guard and the hired goon squads of the mine bosses.

The repulsive slaughter of the innocents at Ludlow turned the tables in favor of organized labor, and in following years working conditions for the “average” American greatly improved. The eight hour work day became industry standard. Overtime was paid for any hours over eight you worked in a day, and overtime was paid for any hours over forty in a week. Gone were the abusive company towns and the cut throat company store. Working conditions and safety measures improved across mines, mills and factories nationwide. Wages and benefits were drastically improved.

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For a few sweet decades following Ludlow, largely in part due to the efforts of labor unions and Federal legislation, life became better, and in many cases good for the average American worker. It seemed the only people unhappy with the changes were the large employers who saw a small dip in their profits as they were required to start treating their employees like humans.

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As always, things change. The average American, enjoying unprecedented wealth and free time to enjoy it, became more and more materialistic and competitive with their neighbors, who were also enjoying new found wealth and freedom. The rat race was born, and our great lust as Americans to “out do” or “one up” our neighbor to show them that we were the “best” or “more successful” then them began to alter our minds on a deep level.

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More and more American workers two or three generations removed from Ludlow began to ask for more hours, more overtime, a second job…because, driven by our own profane consumerism and “need” to be the best, we became willing to give up the eight hour day, or forty hour work week the families of Ludlow died for. Few of us had ever heard of Ludlow. Fewer of us cared. We wanted the biggest and the best of everything. No, we didn’t want it, we NEEDED it. We absolutely, under any circumstances, HAD to have it.

So, we burned the hard won rights of the Ludlow miners to fuel our incessant lust for new gadgets and status symbols. In the 1990’s, many generations removed from Ludlow, Congress quietly did away with the laws requiring employers to pay overtime for anything more than eight hours in a day. Almost overnight across industrial America, the twelve hour shift reappeared after many years under moth balls. With the twelve hour shift, only two shifts are needed, and the business owner saves money even if they pay overtime to the workers- Because the entire second shift of workers can be eliminated. No more hourly wages for the second shift, no more benefits packages, no more vacation time- By reverting to the two-twelve hour shift model, the business owner gets fat raking in the money that would have otherwise been spent providing a stable job with livable wages to the entire second shift.

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Sadly, we American workers, blinded and driven by our consumerism, greed, and societal expectation that we participate in the rat race wound up collectively in a mountain of insurmountable debt. So, when the big boys in the suits behind the scenes dictated that the workers would be required to work twelve hour shifts, those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs gladly accepted the offer. The bosses “rewarded” us with a four day work week in most cases, and blind to the monumental shaft we were getting, we all flocked forward with smiles on our faces thinking “Wow, eight hours of overtime every week and a three day weekend! This is the best!”

The fat cats got fatter, the middle class shrank with the elimination of the second shift, and those of us who held on to our jobs greedily accepted our “new deal” thinking we were doing alright.  But, just like before, greed and materialism blinded many. “Maybe I’ll start working a few Saturdays and Sundays, the boss always needs help, and I can use some more cash to pay down some of the bills…or better yet, to buy that new boat!” No boss has ever turned down someone willing to work seven days a week for half of the money they would have made on the old “anything over eight is overtime” law. So the average American thinks they are getting a good deal and making tons of money, when in fact they are earning less than they would have under the old laws, and the entire second shift is standing in the unemployment line sucking up welfare that comes out of, you guessed it! YOUR paycheck! Taxes give you less money, which means you have to work more hours to pay for the boat and the bigger house and the newest phone to “one up” your neighbor…and the only person making any money at all is your boss.

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Our societal illness has led us to back into the shackles of indentured servitude to our Employer-Masters. Without our Employer-Masters we are nothing, so we willingly accept their corrupt and one-sided “new deals” justifying the immense screwing we are allowing ourselves to get, because of our own greed. We stand blank-eyed and emotionless as our employers cut our benefits each year, and we jump for joy and dance like excited puppies, tails wagging when our Employer-Masters toss us a bonus now and then, or benevolently “offer” us overtime which we suck up gladly like the money driven whores we have all become. In the mean time our Employer-Masters are busy making deals behind the scenes with politicians and regulating agencies which allow them to keep pumping us full of chemicals and poisons long banned in other countries as known carcinogens. Safety measures are skirted by the suits, and we all think they care for us because they give us ear plugs and safety glasses and paint yellow lines on the floor so we don’t get run over by forklifts, all the while the walls, roofs and pipes of America’s factories are crumbling and just months away from caving in a crushing the workers beneath them.  All those bonuses and overtime wages represent but a small fraction of what the boss man is pocketing each month in savings by working us like dogs, eliminating the second shift, skirting environmental and safety laws, and allowing our nation’s facilities to crumble in order to save a buck or two.

Our yearly wages, bonuses, overtime and benefits are but a small fraction of what we COULD HAVE all made if we had remembered the lessons of Ludlow and stood up for the rights won following the massacre. Instead, we became complacent. We allowed the laws to be changed, we allowed ourselves to become blinded by consumerism and greed, and now, we’ve allowed ourselves to become indentured servants again- Like the miners of Ludlow.

Unlike the miners of Ludlow, I don’t think the average American worker today has the backbone to stand up for what is right, and to put their life on the line for it. The rich will get richer, the middle class will continue to shrink, and the poor will grow by leaps and bounds.  Perhaps, sometime in the distant future, when things get so bad again as they were at Ludlow, the American worker will rise up and fight, but it won’t happen today in our current mindset- The lesson of Ludlow has been lost, and the few who know of Ludlow don’t care…at least not right now at this moment.

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It is my personal opinion that everyone, especially those with children, before working that next day of overtime, or three more hours because the boss asked you to, go visit the memorial at Ludlow. Read the names of those who died at the hands of their employers. Pause and stare hard at the names of the innocent children, some so new to this life they had yet to speak their first words. Then, open that heavy white steel door on the ground and gaze long into the black abyss- “The Pit of Death” where those eleven children were found dead. Then ask yourself what is truly important in your life- Overtime for that next toy to impress the neighbors or spending the day on the back porch grilling hot dogs with your kids instead of being at work? Does that black pit you just looked into represent the abyss of your own greed and materialism? Will you stand up and say enough is enough? Or will your insatiable greed for “things” enable the monster that will one day eat your children?

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“Remember when one gazes long into the abyss, the abyss gazes long into you.” -Nietzsche