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From Rouse to Rouse

ROUSE — Today, Jan. 2, the old coal camp of Rouse would be celebrating its 125th birthday – would be, that is, had it lived past its 10th birthday. Rouse was named for Samuel F. Rouse, a cofounder of the Colorado Fuel Company in 1883. The company owned six coal mines but only three were located in Huerfano and Las Animas counties – Rouse, Sopris and Pictou. Rouse was the company’s third project and thus was called Mine No.3. Development of the mine began in March 1888 when tents were pitched at the site about six or seven miles south of Walsenburg and buildings began to go up. The mine itself was opened in April. Soon there were homes, a boardinghouse, offices and other company buildings. The first coal was shipped in September . By the following May, Rouse was the biggest coal mine in the State of Colorado. Plans for the new mine included shipping some 2,000 tons of coal daily to Texas via the Denver, Texas and Fort Worth Railway, which eventually became a part of the Colorado and Southern. Trains came from the main line via a spur at Rouse Junction, east of Rouse. An article about the camp appeared in the Walsenburg World on Aug. 2, 1889. It explained the Colorado Fuel Company was led by John C. Osgood, president, and J.A. “Kibbler” (actually, Kebler), general manager. At the time of the writing, the company had spent $300,000 in “putting in their mammoth plant.” Four slopes were in operation. Miners were earning 60 cents a ton to make from $3.00 to $6.00 per day. Machinery foreman C.H. Stephenson had a crew of 40. A large 40 horsepower fan, with another in the process of construction, ventilated the mine. There was a 50 by 60 foot boiler room, a blacksmith and a carpentry shop. Employment varied between 400 and 500, but the camp was expecting to house some 800-1,000 when all the families had arrived. Production was 50-60 broad gauge railroad cars per day. At the time, beginning in May 1889, the product was sold to the Burlington Railroad. For this reason, Rouse was occasionally referred to as the Burlington mines. Further, the Colorado Supply Company of Denver had just completed construction of a 33 by 100 foot store with a basement and offering merchandise costing more than $10,000. The post office was in the store, and A.E. Johnson was store manager as well as postmaster. The previous Sunday had been a banner day with 90 railroad cars of coal shipped. Walsenburg was understandingly enthusiastic about the growth of the mine because, with Walsen and Pictou, the town sat in the center of a burgeoning, triangular commercial area. With every mine payday, Walsenburg merchants made another healthy bank deposit, and barbers, saloon keepers, milliners, grocers, clothiers, etc., thanked their lucky stars for these new markets. The merchants banded together to finance a hack line, leaving each point hourly, to transport shoppers between Rouse and Walsenburg. In September 1889 Rouse was said to have a population of 500, the same as La Veta. Counting the Colorado Supply, there were three groceries in town. In December, Walsenburg contractor W.A. Kearns won the bid to build 24 more houses. That same month, the mine sent out 2,500 tons of coal produced in just 10 hours. Colorado Fuel Company merged with Colorado Coal and Iron Company to become Colorado Fuel and Iron in 1892. The company later had a weekly publication, Camp and Plant, which in 1902 reported a rivalry back around 1890 between its two biggest producers. “When Sopris placed a fountain in her school house front yard, Rouse built an ornate fence around hers. When Sopris planted trees and a lawn around her school, Rouse placed on the cupola of hers a sixteen hundred pound bell, the musical peal of which could be heard for miles around. When Sopris gave notice of an elaborate grand ball, Rouse constructed a stage, had scenery painted, and gave an entertainment by local talent …” About 1892 both camps got the new innovation called “kindergarten.” Rouse thus had the first kindergarten class in Huerfano County. 1893 brought large fires that demolished much of the camp’s business houses. In January, six buildings were destroyed, and the following May, seven. Then in July, five more were burned. However, this was the same year the new Osgood School was completed, costing $2,000. CF&I official John Osgood himself donated a piano to it. About the same time, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches were built. School enrollment that year was 230, compared to 134 in La Veta and 277 in Walsenburg. Three teachers were employed for the seven-month term. A private school opened under the guidance of Telesforo Garcia to provide bilingual classes. He had 40 students. During the early 1890s dozens of African American miners and their families were brought in by CF&I from Tennessee and Alabama. Production did nothing but grow, as did the population; by 1895 it was estimated Rouse had 1,500 residents. On the other hand, in 1893 water began entering the mine in a serious way, and pumps were installed but could not gain ground. The workings had undermined nearby natural springs. In 1896 Rouse got her own electrical plant. Most of its energy was directed to running the huge new pumps fighting to keep the tunnels dry. It was said the pumps drew out at one time 1,500 gallons per minute, a quantity at the time sufficient to supply a town of 8,000 inhabitants. By 1899 the new company physician was Dr. W.S. Chapman, fresh from the Spanish American War. Masquerade balls, oyster suppers and baseball games (sample score, Rouse 30, Pictou 22) were the favored social events. Enrollment surpassed 300. Bids were advertised to dig timbered shafts 700 feet long for the water pumps. Too late! One day the superintendent entered the mine and found it to be “drowned.” It was certainly not fit for operation. It was determined to move the camp four to five miles south to the former Santa Clara mines that CF&I had operated a few years earlier. The first of the homes passed through Pryor camp on their way to “New Rouse” in June. It was a slow process, but every movable building was hauled slowly off, via four-legged horsepower, taking weeks to cover the few miles, until everything was gone. The building exodus lasted more than one year. The few structures not moveable were dismantled and the materials hauled off. At least one, the company stable that housed 22 horses and mules, was moved as far south as the Engle mine east of Trinidad. Others went not south to New Rouse but north to Walsenburg, and were remodeled for homes. The site was completely cleared. Eventually the tunnels collapsed and the water was pushed to the surface, where it was utilized by neighbors for irrigation until the supply was exhausted. The post office also moved, and never, evidently, missed a delivery. In September D.R. Hindman resigned as postmaster and the new mine superintendent, John P. Breen, took over. Postal records show the office in continual operation from Jan. 2, 1889 until Nov. 30, 1929.