A tale of pioneers and western traditions

3 weeks ago 6

(SOUTHEAST COLORADO) —  Southeast Colorado is the "Heart of the Old West." The area is rich in history and family tradition, passed on by the pioneers. But it also has a wild and checkered past, and a town that came about through a hijacking.

Pioneers thought the area was the nicest spot on the Sante Fe Trail, this side of Council Grove, Kansas, and decided to create a homestead.

'They said, 'Thank God there's trees up,'" said Caroline Hedge, Assistant to the Curator at the Big Timbers Museum in Lamar. Hedge said the early settlers were called from the trail by a large grove of Cottonwood trees. "It had a whole ecosystem under those trees. There were grapes, there were plums, there were medicinal plants Indians used."

Originally cattle country, the land changed with the introduction of irrigation in 1875. "That started all the population coming," said Hedge. And with the availability of water, came farming.

"A rich valley for orchards, grapes, vegetables, fruit," said Kathleen Scranton, Curator at Big Timbers Museum. "With the irrigation, we settled on alfalfa and sugar beets, mostly, for many, many years," said Hedge.

Then in the late 1880s, the Sante Fe Railroad rolled into town.

"The town founders, they were professionals," said Hedge. "They started towns along the railroads, okay? They wanted a town here but they wanted it around the railroad station, but M...

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