The Fountain Valley

These are stories about happenings in the Fountain Valley area, including notes on the Ring Ranch, 1882 water rights, the Wilson Ranch/ farmstead, the Jacksons of Wigwam, 1900-40s agriculture, 1943 plane crash, 1950 fires and the 1965 tornado.

Ring Ranch circa 1860s
Three miles west was the HB Ring and Co. ranch, located between Rock Creek and the Little Fountain Creek. The main corral was 120 feet, with a stable in the corner that had stalls and feed boxes for 26 dairy cows.  Along the west wall of the corral were about 10 stalls for their fine Durham bulls, the cattle numbering 61 in all.  There were 82 merino bucks and over 3400 sheep in total.  Mr. Ring has 45 head of horses and mules.  He was building a grout house, 20 by 40 feet and two stories, with an 18 x 32 foot wing with a cellar under it.  There was a bubbling spring nearby.  The poultry house (25 x 50 feet) was surrounded by a 50 x 100 foot yard made with 8 foot tall pickets, driven into the ground. 

[A map showing the Ring Ranch can be seen in the Lincoln Trading post article on the front page.  Harvey B. Ring shows up on the 1870 census in Fountain, Colorado, as a 46-year old rancher from New York.  He owned $7000 in real estate and $35,000 in personal property, likely livestock.  In 1860 he was a merchant living in St. Joe, Missouri.  He was not found on later censuses.]

Water Rights for Ditches using the Fountain Creek, 1882
Water Rights of the Fountain Creek, from Fort Carson Water Rights and Appropriations, by Tipton and Kalmbach, 1989.

Decree, in the matter of the Priority of Water Rights of the Terrell Ditch.

This matter having come on for hearing before the undersigned Referee and said Referee having found from the written evidence heretofore taken-  That OS Loomis, Amos Terrell, Isaac Hutchins, Jack Brown, Robt Finley, National Land & Improvement Company, are the owners of the "Terrell Ditch".  That said ditch was constructed in 1866.  That its No. is 25.  That its priority is 28.  That it has a capacity of 1 foot by 4 feet on a grade of 4 feet to a mile.  Therefore by reason of the law and findings aforesaid, it is ordered, adjudged and decreed by said Referee that said owners of the said "Terrell Ditch" have the 28th priority of water rights on the Fountain Creek. Dated February 15th, 1882. EA Colburn, Referee.

Priority of Water Rights of the Chilcotte Ditch
This matter having come on for hearing before the undersigned Referee and said Referee having found from the written evidence heretofore taken- That L Bell, OS Loomis, H Burns, George Rhodes, William Newby, HP Bosworth, J Ames, W Sweatland, WT McGee, JC Woodbury, and Reverend Sluty, are the owners of the "Chilcotte Ditch". That said ditch was constructed in the Spring of 1866 with a capacity of 2 feet by 5 feet.  That it was enlarged in Spring 1874 to 3 feet wide, both on a grade of 6 feet to a mile.  Its number is 24, and its priorities are 27 and 39.  That it is intended to irrigate 3000 acres of land. Dated February 15, 1882. EA Colburn

Chilcott, History of Colorado
Priority of Water Rights of the Bosworth & Hall Ditch
This matter having come on for hearing before the undersigned Referee and said Referee having found from the written evidence heretofore taken- That HP Bosworth and WP Sluty are the owners of the "Bosworth and Hall Ditch". That said ditch was constructed in February 1879.  That its No. is 35, and its priority is 44.  This its capacity is 1 foot by 4 feet on a grade of 6 feet to a mile.  It is intended to irrigate 640 acres of land.  Dated February 15th, 1882. EA Colburn.

Other ditches on the Fountain Creek include the Dr. Rogers, Straw, Temple and Blume, Burkes, Cottens Slough, Liston Spring, Smith, Jackson and Burke, Irvine, Iron and Irvine, Tom Wanless, Douglass, Talcott and Cotten Ditch, Owen and Hall, Bley, Gaines and Love, Liston and Love, Lincoln 1 and 2, Overton Ames and Loomis Ditch, Lock, Miller, Laughlin, Bosworh and Hall, Widefield Irrigating, Clover Irrigating Ditch, etc.

The Wilson Family

Joseph M. and Martha Wilson and their family came to Colorado in about 1888 from Garnet or Kincaid, Kansas.  Mrs. Wilson had tuberculosis, and Colorado Springs was considered a health resort at the time.  The change in climate was good for her.  She lived to the age of 78, and passed away in 1919.  The Wilsons lived at 231 N. Prospect in Colorado Springs, and the land between their house and Platte Avenue was still vacant fields.  The sons herded cattle for their neighbors where Memorial Hospital now stands

Joseph M. (1841-1922) and Martha Wilson (1841-1919)
        • Seward A. b 1869 IN
        • Morris b 1873 IN m. Lottie
        • Orestes (Jim) b 1874 KS m. Minnie
        • John b 1878 KS m. Margret
          • Mable born 1911
        • Joseph Jr. b 1881 Kansas d 1967 m. Rosa Oelf
Clarissa Toothman Wilson wrote:  Grandfather Wilson bought a ranch south of the Springs where Widefield Homes are now located, which was later taken over by my father-in-law, Seward.  Three uncles (Jim, John and Morris) bought ranches south of Fountain which are now being sold in five-acre plots.  One uncle purchased a ranch east of Fountain which is presently owned by Andy Kane and his wife.

John Wilson’s place was about 2½ miles south of Fountain, and was divided by the Denver & Rio Grande railroad tracks.  His daughter Mable was born on the farm in 1911, and she wrote that they owned 320 acres.  She said her father raised corn, alfalfa, oats, wheat and sugar beets, and they also had livestock, bees, a garden and fruit trees.  The 40 foot silo would be filled each fall with corn ensilage.  During harvest, there would be 12 to 15 men for Mrs. Wilson to cook for.  Extra men were also fed during hay cutting times, and there could be three cuttings a year.  The alfalfa was stacked and then delivered to various dairy farmers around Colorado Springs in the winter.  Mable remembered that her mother used kerosene lamps and a kerosene cookstove.  They would also burn corn cobs.  Then in about 1920, they got carbide lights, a stove and an iron.  When they purchased a kerosene refrigerator they “were really getting modern”.  They hauled domestic water from Fountain and put it in a cistern under the house, which they could pump into the kitchen.  A well and a windmill provided water for the horses and cattle.  The Rural Electrification Association ran power lines out to the Wilson farm some time before 1942, which provided a different life.  Her brothers stayed on the place until 1955, when the property was sold.  Mable’s brothers and her father also worked in the sugar beet fields, harvesting the beets, loading them into trucks, and then hauling them to the beet dump in Fountain.  John Wilson also served on the Fountain school board for 20 years.  

Mable recounted that her uncle Joe Wilson Jr. was in the concrete business in Colorado Springs and did the cement work at the old county court house, now the Pioneer Museum [built in 1903], the Giddings Store [original built in 1887 at Tejon and Kiowa] and the castle in Glen Eyrie [Glen Eyrie was the estate of William Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs.  The brick turreted tower was built in 1903.]  Joe also did much of the cement work of the Fountain Grade School, which was built in 1903 and razed in 1971 [Gazette Jul 28, 1971 p18].  Joe built a house south of Fountain in the mid-1910s [more on this on the people of Fountain page] and sold it and moved to a farm which is now a part of Security in about 1920.  In the 1930s because of the depression and several hail storms, he lost his farm and moved back to Colorado Springs and resumed his concrete business. 

The Jacksons

This frame and adobe ranch house was constructed near Wigwam in 1874 by Silas Jackson, one of the early pioneers of the Fountain Valley.  He homestead in the area in 1872, starting out with a 4-room adobe house (below), it was expanded by adding three framed in rooms above. 

Circa 1892. From left are John McElhinney, Walter Jackson age 6, Mrs SA (Anna) Jackson, and daughters Jennie and Ida.  

The newspaper article notes that the building was gone, but there is no date or title on the clipping.  Based on the typed notes at the bottom of the page, it may have come from the Bulkley files.

Mr. McElhinney was a hired hand on the Jackson homestead, and later married Jennie.  The census shows that Silas Jackson was born in Ohio in 1819.  He used military scrip, a cash entry and a homestead land claim to acquire 520 acres along the Fountain Creek at Wigwam, which is about 10 miles south of Fountain.  The 1880 census shows he and his family living near the Cottens.  Anna Jackson was born in Canada in about 1845.  The daughters were born in Iowa in 1867 and 1872.

Progressive Farming in the Fountain Valley
     [written to support the nomination of the Joesph Wilson Farmstead to the State Register of Historic Places, spring 2011. PR Owens]

In 1861, John Adams Nash published “The Progressive Farmer”, offering advice on the use of fertilizers and soil amendments, crop rotation, the knowledge of soil structure, plant physiology and animal husbandry to increase yields.  Some of these practices were used in the Fountain Valley, as evidenced by a series of meetings offered by the county agriculturalist in 1914.  Topics presented included farm accounts, building silos, raising alfalfa and sugar beets, and practical demonstrations in fruit tree pruning and dairying [“Farmers and Businessmen meet in Fountain”, Colorado Springs Gazette Mar 11, 1914].

Besides the knowledge of modern farming techniques, the valley farmers depended on wells, windmills and ditches to irrigate their land.  The earliest ditches date to the 1860s.  The development of the Big Johnson Reservoir project brought more land under irrigation and also affected settlement farther east of the Fountain Creek. 

An article in the Sep 10, 1903 Gazette [“Fountain Valley’s Prize Sugar Beets” p21], notes that 30,000 acres would be put under cultivation through the efforts of capitalists now surveying ditches and reservoirs for the Fountain Valley Land & Irrigation Company (FVLI).  Within two to three years, they expected to harvest 10,000 acres of sugar beets, which would yield a crop worth $700,000.  $1,000,000 would be expended on a sugar beet factory in Fountain, and $125,000 a year would be given out in payroll. 

In 1905, W.C. Johnson, President of the FVLI, signed a contract for funding so that work on the reservoir could begin.  The company announced that they would build a sugar beet factory once the reservoirs were complete [Gazette Sep 14, 1905].  In 1910, the residents of Fountain purchased a 20-acre tract near the Denver & Rio Grande depot from Asa Coan for $3000 and presented to the canning company to build a beet factory on [Gazette Mar 23, 1910 “Fountain’s Population to be doubled by canning factory – final arrangements”.]  Perhaps they were trying to hurry the FVLI along with their promise, and create jobs for themselves.

The Gazette published annual editions boosting the various attributes of the county, and the FVLI Company made use of these.  In 1911, an article stated that the reservoirs and canals were complete, and abundant water was stored.  The soil was rich, deep, free from stones and ready to irrigate.  Alfalfa grown in the valley was yielding higher returns than any other place in the world!  They had flat or rolling land available for purchase.  [Gazette Oct 18, 1911]. 

But it appears that not all was rosy between the FVLI Company and the farmers.  A 1913 article entitled “Farmers in the Fountain Valley vote to create the Fountain Irrigation District” suggests that cooperation was lacking.  The article states that this will “probably mean that the water rights, ditches and reservoirs of the Fountain Valley Land and Irrigation Company will be taken over through the issuance of bonds to the extent of $500,000 on the farms invoiced.”  This would bring 8000 acres of land in the district under cultivation, and the irrigation district was empowered to levy taxes on the farms.  The article notes that the ditches were not in shape to carry the water well, and the program would repair the ditches.  Dams are already planned for one or two places.  Fountain was surrounded by farm lands and orchards, and was noted for its alfalfa, blue stem hay, oats, small grains, and orchards of plums, cherries and apples. [Gazette Feb 23, 1913 p88  “Fountain Valley, Land of Promise”].

The annual Gazette booster edition of 1914 extolled advances that year.  To summarize:
            The town of Fountain is a progressive farming community.  It completed a mountain water system last summer, bringing water by pipe from the little Fountain Creek. Nearly all the residents of town have put the water into their homes, and are preparing to put in flowers and lawns this spring.  In time Fountain will bloom as a rose.  A good plumbing shop and an automobile store and garage have been built in town.
            A dairy business has been established nearby at Charter Ranch, one of the oldest and largest cattle and hay ranches in the county.  They plan to introduce pure blood Holstein cows, and begin poultry and thoroughbred breeding. 
            Sugar beet production rose 400% between 1912 and 1913.  There are plans to plant a large acreage in cabbage this year.  There were great quantities of the old standard, alfalfa, and Mexican beans last year.  Congressman Taylor’s 320-acre homestead law has made great corn fields just east of town.  A three-foot snow from last fall is slowly melting into the ground, assuring big dry farm crops the coming season.  (Feb 22, 1914 p71, “Fertile Fountain Valley Growing by Leaps and Bounds”.)

The booster article of 1915 read “1914 was a banner year in El Paso County Agriculture. Products worth Two Million”.  Of the total agricultural products produced in 1914, about $1 million was made on these crops, in descending order of value: corn, oats, hay forage, alfalfa, millet, rye, wheat, milo, barley, sugar beets, potatoes and beans. Dairy products accounted for $700,000 and poultry and eggs for $300,000 in produce.  Garden vegetables yielded $194,000 in produce. (Gazette Feb 21, 1915)

Sugar Beet Farming circa 1900 Information gleaned from files at the Fountain Museum.
Sugar beets were raised on the mesa north of Fountain, along Hwy 85/87, Old Mesa Road, and Fountain Mesa Road, in the 1940s.  Don Colbert had a farm there, and Louis Cimino raised beets where Janitell Middle School and other businesses stand.

When the beets were ready for harvest, school children could be excused to help, and make a little spending money. The sugar beets were delivered by horse drawn stake bed wagons to the sugar beet siding, which was located south of Illinois Street by the south bound railroad station. The beets were loaded into railroad boxcars and shipped to the Holly Sugar processing factory in Swink, Colorado.  Sugar beets required not only intensive labor, but quick reliable transportation to the factory, before their sugar content degraded.  Holly Sugar and The Great Western Sugar Company established factories near the rail lines, linking themselves to outlying growers. Thus a centralized network bonded the farmers to the factory.

Horse drawn beet topper

Fountain Valley's Prize Sugar Beets (Gazette Sep 10, 1903)

Thirty thousand acres will be put under irrigation in the Fountain Valley, through the efforts of the capitalists now surveying for the ditches and reservoirs of the Fountain Valley Land & Irrigation Company.

Within two or three years 10,000 acres of this land will be put in sugar beets and a crop worth $700,000 will be placed on the market in this city.  When the plans for the erection of a beet sugar factory are carried out, $1 million will be expended on its construction.  The Fountain Valley will become one of the largest sugar beet districts in the state.

Bomber Crash, Sept 1943
Article from the Greeley Daily Tribune Sep 29 1943, published on

A parachute saved one Army man's life, but 11 other crewmen in a heavy bomber died when the plane crashed yesterday near Fountain, 10 miles south of Colorado Springs. Lowry Field of Denver, home base of the Liberator bomber, announced that it crashed on a routine training flight. Sgt. William Baker bailed out and was not injured. Residents of Fountain had reported that a bomber circled the town apparently in trouble, then appeared to come down in a wing-over. Mrs. Clara Peebles, wife of a deputy sheriff at Fountain, said she saw something fall which she believed at first was a wing of the plane, but later appeared to be a man parachuting down. The plane crashed into the side of a hill.  The parachutist reportedly landed on a farm.  The names of the 11 dead were announced as: 1st Lt Maynard B Bookmiller of NYC and Denver, 2nd Lts William G Drum of San Francisco, Samuel M Schaad of Williams, CA, Joseph M Losonsky of NYC and Denver, and Ira L Camp of Newberry, SC. Also killed were Sergeants Bernard A Willey, Forest Hill, WV, RE Whiteside of Hampshire, TN, Leroy G Quattrocelli of Southbridge, MA, and John E Myrek of West Sand Lake, NY; Capt Charles C Clancy of Albuquerque, NM, and Cpl John Emery of San Francisco.
[Additional information on this crash can be found in Toots Toothman's 1976 letter in the Main Street article on the front page.]

The Bridge over Fountain Creek  1950s

A one-lane bridge, made from steel girders, used to connect W. Illinois Avenue and Crest Drive on the south end of Fountain.  (This image from Mapquest shows it approximate location.)  A road continued west to homes and farms off of Charter Oak Road, now on the other side of the Interstate.  There was also access to Fort Carson via Butts Field.  When Interstate 25 was built in the 1950’s, the bridge was moved to its new home at the west end of Carson Road, off Highway 85/87.   This bridge over Fountain Creek gave soldiers access to Fort Carson.  When Highway 16 and later Mesa Ridge Parkway were established, the bridge was blocked off.  It is no longer used, though it still stands today. 

December 1, 1950: Stories run in the Colorado Springs News
Fire Threatens Fountain
The town of Fountain was greatly endangered by a fire on Jan 17, 1950. The fire started on the Johnston place, north of Fountain. The origin of the fire is not unknown, but it is supposed to have started by a broken high tension wire. It started at 12:30 p.m. and was finally put out the next day. The wind was about 65 miles an hour and was blowing from west to east. Fountain was endangered and a lot of the inhabitants were ready to evacuate.  There was also a fire that started on Cheyenne Mountain. It spread very fast because of the wind and it could not be put out. The fire jumped the highway and burned a great deal of Camp Carson. Some of the ranchers north of Fountain were in danger. The fire was not put out until the next day.   -----Jane Leonard
Pottery Has Wide Sales
In the small town of Fountain, 13 miles south of Colorado Springs, there are about 600 residents. There are many small businesses, such as a drug store, shoe shop, and many other things. The Rocky Mountain Pottery Shop, south of Fountain, is owned by John Chancellor. The pottery is sold all over the state and also many other states. They started the pottery shop in 1936. The Chancellor’s came from Missouri.
-Christine Farmer 

Seven of Eight Farms Now Have Electricity!
Back in 1935 only one of 10 farms in the United States was electrified. Today, the government reports, seven out of eight American farms have electricity—and thanks to the Rural Electrification Administration, whose annual survey showed that on June 30 there were 5,053,760 farms with electricity and 800,00 without, most of the latter being in difficult-to-reach areas.  Colorado has a number of REA organizations bringing electric light and power to many thousands of farm homes and rural areas, including towns. The immediate Pikes Peak region has service from three such groups: the Mountain View REA, the Inter Mountain REA, and one that comes up from La Junta out of the Arkansas Valley.

Damage from 1965 tornado, Old Pueblo Road
The 1965 Flood

Millions of dollars in damage were wrought by the flood of Jun 17, 1965, the latest in a long history of floods on the Fountain Creek.  Hailstones as big as tennis balls fell in Stratmoor, Security and Fountain.  Water cresting on Jimmy Camp Creek, with waves 8 feet high, bent the bridge on the road leading to Little Ranches.  Residents east of Fountain were forced to wade the stream or drive miles around. 
Muddy water poured down Santa Fe Drive, washing a huge gully at the north end of the bridge south of town.  The bridge across Crew’s gulch, on Hwy 85/87 near Security, crumpled.  Several persons attempting to cross the Harrison interchange drowned.  East of Security on the Clarence Foster ranch, residents climbed into tall cottonwoods to escape.  During flood stage, Fountain Creek was 10-12 feet deep, and up to a mile wide across areas of the countryside.
Parts of Old Pueblo Road were washed out, and for nearly a year travelers took countless detours through ranch house yards along the route.  Near the Hanover interchange, where Old Pueblo Road joins the interstate, a high narrow steel bridge is the only one in the area that withstood the flood.