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The town of Mustang

Mustang

by Nancy Christofferson
1938: Just 10 families remain at the old community of Mustang, including Alma C. and Clarence Eklund, who have presided over the post office since the area was settled in 1907 as Larimer. Eklund also published a newspaper there for six years.
HUERFANO — Perhaps the 1938 item in This Week in Walsenburg History, Dec. 1 concerning Clarence Eklund and the community for which he was postmaster and publisher needs some explanation.
In 1906 nearly 50 families, most natives of Sweden, came from Chicago to Huerfano County to settle some 3,000 acres of agricultural lands. These lands were in the far north part of the county, near the Denver and Rio Grande railroad tracks as well as the Huerfano River. In 1911 the D&RG entered an agreement with the Colorado and Southern to make the route a joint one with each company helping to maintain the right of way. The Swede’s official burying ground was named Evergreen Cemetery, which is almost on the Pueblo-Huerfano county line, and most easily accessed through Pueblo County. According to some maps, the community was IN Pueblo County.
It is unclear whether the settlers were promised water for irrigation before they purchased their farms, or if they had a plan to bring water to their properties themselves. Besides the Huerfano, the only water courses were Pope (later renamed Mustang) Arroyo and, to the south, Apache Creek and Orlando Reservoir. Nevertheless, their intention was to have irrigation for the fields and orchards they planned to cultivate.
Most of the families arrived in May 1906. According to the old newspapers, this was a good year for crops, so the settlers were probably well pleased with their new homes, of which at least 40 were built.
The new settlement had very little impact on Huerfano County, and this being so, there was little mention of its beginnings in the Walsenburg World. Due to the community’s location, it was just as easy to board a train heading north to Pueblo as to board a train to ride the 25 miles southeast to Walsenburg, and so it seems the Swedes may have done their shopping for farm implements and building supplies in the former metropolis rather than the latter.
The new settlement was named Larimer. One of the first items written about it was the farmers’ purchase of a “traction engine” with which they were “gang-planting” their crops in April 1907. Shortly thereafter, on July 1, 1907, the Larimer post office was commissioned.
The little town was centered around ground platted by one C. Vallentin on Dec. 21, 1906. It must have been on that site that the store and post office were located. Clarence Eklund and his wife Alma shared the duties of postmaster and assistant, and Clarence published the newspaper, the Larimer News, for six years. Clarence had moved here from Denver, rather than Chicago, and had been a mail carrier, he said, for 18 years.
In 1907, the farmers indeed got irrigation, and their efforts seemed communal to share the water and land.
In 1909, the community built itself a school, and it became Huerfano County District No. 39.
Then on Jan. 21, 1914, the Larimer post office was closed, and appeared the same day four miles distant in a place called Mustang. It is said the new name was chosen by the Colorado and Southern railroad officials. The move was no doubt caused by the abandonment of the old D&RG tracks now that it had joined with the C&S route.
A mention was made in the newspaper in 1926 about the Eklund Mercantile Company. The Eklunds were still running the post office as well.
Clarence must have been the entrepreneur of the community, as in 1928 he shipped no less than 75 cases of eggs, each containing 30 dozen, into Walsenburg. That winter he mentioned it was the hardest and coldest he had witnessed in his 21 years in the county.
By this time Elma Sefton was teaching the Mustang School, still in District No. 39 despite the name change and move. This was the last year of school for Mustang’s scholars.
In fact, it is probable that many of the original settlers had moved on, whether to return to Chicago or strike off in new territory. A few families remained, such as the Younbergs, Hawkinsons, Issacsons and Jacobsons.
In 1938, only 10 families remained, and the citizens’ average age was 70. The irrigation had dried up, resulting in the failure of crops. The planned orchards may never have thrived, due to good old Huerfano winds and drought. There were a number of deaths- after all, these folks were getting up there. Many were buried in the Evergreen, also known as the Mustang, cemetery, while others were sent back to Chicago. The young people, like many in those Depression days, had probably left for the cities to find work.
The school district was officially abandoned in 1938, and its tax base of $295,000 consolidated with the nearby Apache and Turkey Ridge districts.
Alma Caroline Eklund died in January, 1939. Her husband took over operation of the post office until it was closed in March 1940. In 1941 he remarried and moved to Pueblo – the end of an era, and the end of Mustang.
Only a few interesting happenings occurred in the vicinity of Mustang. One was the discovery of a coin dated 1809 by John Younberg and his plow in 1936.
The other was the insistence of R.R. Holderman in 1940 that he’d found Aztec markings in Mustang Canyon signifying lost treasure. Holderman was an amateur archaelogist. He believed the Aztecs had used the canyon to trap animals, like buffalo, after roundups on the adjacent prairies. He said he found evidence of their camp. Mustang Canyon was a favorite of the railroads, having a large and deep pool of water, fed by a 60-foot waterfall. Holderman went so far as to hire divers to explore the pool, but they found it too murky for any further discoveries. His reputation intact after this incident, he later served as the county secretary of the Agricultural Adjustment Agency from 1938 to 1942, when he was replaced by his wife.