by Kelsey Speaks
The year 1908 established much of what is now taken for granted by Colorado and Huerfano County residents. A focus on life in rural communities and the importance of conservation began to take hold in the minds of many Americans. President Theodore Roosevelt made significant changes in the preservation of natural resources, establishing the widely known Grand Canyon National Park, as well as creating the Rio Grande National Forest on July 1, 1908 here in Colorado. Additionally, Roosevelt appointed a special Commission on Country Life to study the various social, economic and environmental issues of rural America.
As the nation began to focus on rural areas and natural preservation, related changes were taking in Huerfano County. The area was rapidly growing. The population of Walsenburg had reached 4000 and George Mayes moved to the Cuchara Valley to build his summer resort, “Cuchara Camps.” The resort, which included several cabins by 1910, is considered to be a precursor of the Cuchara community.
ROUSE- A coal camp just south of Walsenburg.
The boom in Huerfano County was paralleled by the boom in the Colorado mining industry. Morely Camp, just south of Trinidad became the most active mine in southern Colorado. Additionally, Colorado mines began to purchase dynamite locally after Du Pont built a plant just south of Denver. The mining camps required more than explosives however. Electricity made its way to the city of Denver and the surrounding mining camps with the construction of Barker Dam, which began in 1908.
Changes were taking place in the northern part of the state as well. The Democratic National Convention was held at Denver’s Convention Hall, which was located at 14th and Curtis Streets. Coincidentally, exactly 100 years later, the Democratic National Convention will again be held in Colorado’s capital. Additionally, the State Capital was considered to be officially completed with the plating of gold leaf applied in 1908. The project cost $14,680.
The landscape of Colorado was rapidly changing, with the advent of industry and a boom in local communities. However, these changes also brought a shift to the mindsets of many of Colorado’s citizens. Employees of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad carried out a strike during 1908. One worker was arrested during one of three fistfights occurring during the strike.
Major milestones were also accomplished in the recognition of gender equality during the year. The University of Colorado Law School graduated its first female student in 1908. Additionally, the importance of motherhood was recognized nationwide on May 10, the first official celebration of Mother’s Day in the United States.
All in all, the year brought significant changes to the Rocky Mountain region. Industry flourished as mining and construction boomed. Rural areas began to see growth, which raised concerns about conservation of natural resources in the state’s and nation’s rural areas. Just as the landscape was changing, a new focus was given to both worker’s and women’s issues, which coincided with the effect of an election on the citizens of the state.