Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grout Fences and the last Indian attack in El Paso County

Grout Fences Protected Pioneers
By Violette Murphy
Excerpts from an undated newspaper clipping from the Pioneer Museum files.

Helen Sweetland Fickett heard her parents tell about the early days.  Her father William came west with a wagon train and took his first land grant in 1860 near Canon City, though he didn’t settle there.  He met Martha Dawson at a dance in Colorado City, and they soon wed.  They settled in the Fountain Valley, where there was room to raise sheep.  He and a Mr. Randall operated the Sweetland and Randall Ranch. 

In the 1860s, the Comanche and Arapahoe would sweep in from the Plains and raid the homesteads, so William built a stout four room grout house that he surrounded with a seven-foot tall grout fence.  Portholes were built into the fence walls, in case of attack, so that settlers could fire out at raiding Indians.  Grout was a mixture of lime, plaster, gravel and small stones.  It was commonly used for foundations, and less so for walls.

Mrs. Fickett told of settlers who came to stay at their house for a few days when Indians were in the area.  The Sweetlands were never attacked, but the grout fence offered security to those who lived in the isolated homesteads. 

Carl Mathews’ parents came to the Fountain Valley from Elbert in 1872.  They told him of a very large Indian encampment they had witnessed at Spring Valley, on the northeast side of the Black Forest.  These Indians were peaceful and would just visit the homesteaders there to beg for food.  Mr. Mathews said that in 1873 a bunch of Arapahoe tried to force their way into Wierman’s Mill near Monument, where settlers had taken shelter, but they were not successful. 

Mrs. Helen Foster Aiken, 90 years old, was born near Stratton Heights, about ¼ mile east of the South Nevada freeway exit.  Her father, Marcus Foster, took up a ranch near Ivywild before 1869.  Helen heard her mother tell of the day they brought the Robbins boys’ bodies into Colorado City.  The boys Franklin 3, and George 11, were killed by Arapahoe Indians on the same day that Charles Everhart, 17, was killed while out herding sheep on the mesa near Fountain.  This was the last raid in the region.  A granite memorial for the boys was later erected in Boulder Crescent Park and dedicated in 1912.   

[Editor’s notes.  The Sweetland Ranch was about a mile north of Fountain. 
Helen Foster was born in Colorado in 1868, which dates this article to about 1958. 
A 1913 Gazette article dates the massacre to September 1868, and the dedication of the monument to Sept 3 1913.  This states that Everhart was killed at the junction of Cascade, Platte, and the Boulder Crescent, where the memorial was erected.  An 1878 Gazette article places the scene of Everhart's attack near Monument.  The Robbins boys, ages 8 and 11, were out herding sheep on Mt. Washington, in the Ivywild neighborhood, when they were killed.  All three boys were buried at the Pioneer Cemetery.]


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