by Nancy Christofferson
One hundred and six years ago tomorrow, Nov. 4, 1905, was the establishment of the McGuire post office. Luckily, there’s more to the story than this!
Dr. Carlton Monroe and his wife Evaline Merriam Caldwell McGuire left Iowa in 1892 to make their fortunes in Huerfano County. They set up shop in Walsenburg where they went into practice with a Dr. J.M. Sleicher, who was in 1889 the company surgeon for what was then called Colorado Coal and Iron Company at the Santa Clara mines as well as for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. This guaranteed business.
Both practicing physicians, the Drs. McGuire were graduates of medical school in Iowa. They had married in 1886 and were young enough to stay in touch with the latest in medical breakthroughs. Shortly after their arrival in Huerfano County, this latest technology was “a fine electric battery of 40 cells with which to shock their patients” (modern doctors let their bills do that) that they installed in their office.
In 1895 Dr. C.M. took up a homestead “on the road to St. Mary’s”, which is roughly the Highway 69 area northwest of Walsenburg. He was located in prime coal mining territory and soon began leasing his land to different companies for exploration and drilling. Then he got into the coal mining business himself. His mine was where the McGuire post office and coal camp later were located. The Consolidated post office had been established for the camps of Rocky Mountain and Consolidated just a few months earlier, and the name was changed to McGuire. John Kirkpatrick was postmaster. The Walsenburg World noted this had been the second new post office between Maitland and St. Mary’s, with the first being Strong. McGuire was renamed Camp Shumway in 1911 and again in 1924 when it became Gordon, and stayed that way until 1938.
The McGuires proved up the homestead in 1900, but were living in Walsenburg at least part of the time. In 1898 C.M. had been appointed company physician for several mines, including the former CC&I, by then renamed Colorado Fuel and Iron, mine at Santa Clara (later New Rouse) in 1898 at the princely sum of $120 a year. This does not include the stipend charged to the miners and families he treated; the $120 was just to be on call. In 1900 he was elected chairman of the county Republican Central Committee, and in 1902 he won a seat as trustee on the Walsenburg Town Council, where he served as mayor pro tem. Back in 1896 he had been appointed county health officer and it was his bad luck to be the one to discover smallpox in the railroad construction camps, first east of Walsenburg at Cucharas and later west of La Veta in 1899. Then he had to find a suitable place for quarantine hospitals. In 1901 he called on 1,059 sufferers of La Grippe (a type of flu) in town and in the camps within just a few weeks.
C.M. and Eva bought a house at Fifth and Russell Streets (then really doctors’ row) and added four rooms, probably for offices since they had no children. He was still the official surgeon for the D&RG, and soon became the town health officer as well as the county doctor.
The one distinguishable thing, and to me the most memorable, about Dr. McGuire (despite his being credited with opening the first coal mine in the Del Carbon district) was his driving. Dr. McGuire must have been the very worst driver in Huerfano County in his day, or perhaps he just was unlucky enough to have his mishaps occur in front of witnesses, or worse – the dreaded press.
His first brush with fame, or at least the first published account, for his driving was in March 1895 when his team “took the buggy for a spin down Main Street until a post stopped them near Mazzone’s saloon”. That would do it. Just a year later he “indiscreetly tied his team to a boxcar at Cucharas and when the car moved out, so did the team. He consequently now sports a brand new buggy”. He must have been a delight for the local wagon sellers.
He started out 1898 with a sleigh accident that demolished the runners and tongue. Then in February his team “took a spin down the streets and alleys, across vacant lots, but the doctor kept his seat and after a wide circuit brought them to a standstill at his own office door”. The next year his horse ran away and demolished the buggy – another new buggy for the good doctor.
The couple’s bad luck with vehicles but extraordinarily good luck with bodily injury came to an end in June 1908. That time, the doctors’ “fast horse ran away just east of town” and Dr. Eva was thrown from the buggy. Her leg was broken. This necessitated her leaving town “for her health”, and she returned to Iowa. The incident makes one wonder why she didn’t trust her husband to treat her. Perhaps he was too busy with transacting town business – he was still a trustee – and running all over the county and town as health officer, and administering to various sick and injured miners and railroad workers. So maybe he was just too busy to treat his wife. At any rate, she returned to Walsenburg in October, presumably all healed.
By February 1910 the duo had had just about too much fun in Huerfano County, so they sold their home on E. 5th to Henry Klein and moved back to Iowa.
Dr. C.M. McGuire must have been mightily missed for his entertainment value, if nothing else.