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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Surprised by Beauty

We went to the Home Depot in Canon City today to get landscape timbers for my new flower bed by the back door. While waiting for the workers to lift the timbers to the carrier on the top of the van, I discovered the most gorgeous view out the back door. Am I fortunate to live here or what? (Please click on photo to enlarge it and get the full impact.) The trees on the right are along Fourmile (Oil) Creek, the trees at the back are along the Arkansas River, and those are the Wet Mountains behind the mesas. We often see deer feeding in this pasture.

The oldtimers called this Oil Creek because there was an oil seep on the bank further to the north. The second oil well in the nation was drilled near the seep in the late 1800s (the first was in Pennsylvania). In this area some of the earliest discovered fossilized dinosaur skeletons were excavated from the Cope and Marsh quarries along the creek. Paleontologists from the Denver Natural History Museum still excavate in the quarries in the summers and there is a Dinosaur Museum in Canon City to display and interpret some of the finds. Dinosaurs from these quarries are also displayed in some of the well known East Coast museums. [Professor Edward Drinker Cope, of the Philadelphia Academy of Science, was a cousin of Joe's Great Great Grandmother Ruth Cope Van Syoc.]

When we drive on up the creek along the narrow Shelf Road we get to Cripple Creek, on the south slope of Pikes Peak, where immense amounts of gold were mined in the 1890s (now immense amounts of "gold" are bet in the legal casinos.) Canon City and Florence shipped locally grown fruit and vegetables to the mining camp by wagon on the Shelf Road; and the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad was built up Phantom Canyon, north of Florence (which is 10 miles southeast of Canon City on the River), to carry supplies up and ship ore down for processing in the many mills in Florence. I tell Joe that with the coal mines, oil wells and 2 refineries, plus the ore processing mills, Florence must have been a noisy, smelly, dirty, wealthy place at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Our house is built on the site of one of the refineries that exploded in 1926, killing some of the workers. When I dig in my garden I find shards of old bricks, chunks of concrete, pieces of cast iron, clinkers and cinders. Across the pasture at the back of our yard is still one of the huge old smokestacks and across the highway to Wetmore is the smokestack from the other refinery.

And now the lovely old victorian brick, stone, and cast iron fronted commercial buildings lining Main Street (built with the gold, coal, and oil money) are housing antique shops, restaurants and art galleries. [The 1942 on the old post card is the card number, not the date.]


Sande said...

Yup, definitely lucky to live there - and smart enough to greatly appreciate it!! That, in itself, is a gift!
Thanks for continuing to share photos of the things you love.

Allison Ann Aller said...

It is so much richer an experience living someplace when you know its history. This is great stuff you are sharing!

Rian said...

Such a beautiful place you live. I love the pictures and your stories, too.