The Mysterious Madam – The Life & Times of Laura Bell McDaniel

So very excited! Two very old and dear friends are in the process of telling the story of Laura Bell McDaniel-Madam of infamous fame. I have known Lee Michels and Jan MacKell Collins for years and not only know their quailty of research but their shared passion for Laura Bell McDaniel!

The Mysterious Madam – The Life & Times of Laura Bell McDaniel

Laura Bell McDaniel's amazing life story entwines the threads of intrigue, mystery, wealth, corruption, politics and prostitution into the fabric from which her life was cut. The enigmatic madam proves the exception to the rule about women in the prostitution industry who fought for their cause and won, at a very high price.
Colorado native and living history presenter Lee Michels has delved into Laura Bell’s story, and those of the American West soiled doves, for over 37 years. Ms. Michel's vast and relentless research has led her down the path of the mysterious madam, branching off into portraying Laura Bell with riveting, living history presentations and co-penning her true rags-to-riches story. The host of characters she crossed paths with during her life is astounding and the ending, equally stirring, teases your imagination to this day.
Co-authoring this in-depth reflection on a determined woman’s journey through a man’s world of the Old West is Jan MacKell Collins. Her 30+ years of intensive research about Laura Bell and Colorado City 's red-light district adds true-life dimension to this burgeoning work. Ms. MacKell Collins has written several books, plus literally thousands of articles on the history of the West, with a special attention for the women and prostitutes that helped shape the modern America we know.

Cache Creek Part Deux!

  I find the Cache Creek area absolutely fascinating.  I feel this connection. Like a sense of deja vu. Maybe it is because my family stopped in Granite as they as they traveled back and forth between Buena Vista and Leadville over a hundred years ago. Or maybe the fact  it lies in quiet abandon from its booming days as one of the first gold strikes during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in the late 1850's.

So many of the gold strikes at that time are now large cities, including our very own state capitol of Denver Colorado.

Cache Creek, however, sits up above the canyon through which the Arkansas River flows. In 1861, the town of Granite,  had a population of over 3000, and held the honor of being the county seat until  1879, and is now, barely a spot in the road.

Our first visit to Cache Creek was this fall, although we drove  past it many times on our way to Leadville,not giving it a second thought.

It is these hidden secrets, these stories untold  I hope to discover and share as I begin my research into this area. I always have to discover as much as I can about an area. I'm never satisfied with just a simple coating of history, no, I find myself immersed in digitized newspapers, digging deeper and deeper until I discover its very roots.

One of the first things I noticed as we walked through this area on our way to the creek, was how clean it was. This area was once filled with over 3000 placer miners looking to strike it rich. Not only were there men, but there was equipment. Large equipment used to blast away the side of the mountains in the hydraulic method of mining used at that time. But as we walked around, it was one of the first things I noticed, there was no trash. No rusted metals, no old tin cans, no old broken bottles in various hues of greens, blue, and purples, as one finds in old glass. It was as if someone had come in and swept the area clean.
I did discover a few remnants of rusted pipes, which I am sure were used in the blasting away of the mountain side.

Cache Creek was at the height of its gold producing when production came to a sudden halt in 1911. This was due to an environmental law suit brought on by those who lived down stream. In fact, this was the first environmental lawsuit in the state of Colorado. Remember this was back in the day when the last thing anyone thought of was the impact on the environment.

 According to an article written in 1903,  for 38 years the Cache Creek Placer ran its tailings through their bed rock flume.  The way Cache Creek is located there really was no other way for the tailings to be disposed of than running them down the Arkansas River which affected the residents of Canon City. At the time of the article, they didn't hold up much hope  their pleas would be listened to, however , in 1911, mining in  Cache Creek came  to an end.


Gold Fever on Cache Creek

Pikes Peak or Bust

The cry of the 59'ers resonated across the country when gold was discovered in the Kansas Territory in 1859, ten years following the California Gold Rush of 1849.

George A. Jackson's discovery along Chicago Creek is today Idaho Springs and Green Russell's found his pot of gold near the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, near Denver Colorado.

 Today, Cache Creek, little more than a bump in the road, was once one of the largest placer gold mining operations in the state. Located west of the town of Granite Colorado, in Northern Chaffee County, Cache Creek operated from 1860 to 1911. It became the first settlement of note in the upper Arkansas Valley. Three hundred people settled along the creek that first year. The following year, the population of gold hungry miners increased to over 3000!

Have not been able to located actual pictures of Cache Creek at this time. This is an excellent example how placer mining was conducted on Cache Creek.

Small independent placer mining first took place along Cache Creek from 1860 to 1863.  Significant increases in production took place in 1884 with the introduction of “booming” and again in 1889 when hydraulic placer mining was introduced. The water was diverted from Lake Creek to Cache Creek by a 16 mile long Cache Creek Ditch. Nearly $3,000,000 in gold is reported to have been produced from the placers. These operations continued until 1911 when the entire operation was shut down in one of Colorado’s first environmental lawsuits.

I wonder if the miners who spent most of their time with bent backs and standing in ice cold water looking for those elusive nuggets ever took the time to stop and appreciate the  natural beauty that surrounded them.

 The Earth Is Pure Muck!

Since major mining operations ended, a slow and natural recovery of the Cache Creek area began.  The Bureau of Land Management recently acquired the land that includes Cache Creek.

 This acquisition was made primarily for wildlife habitat and open space but it is also recognized for its significant mining history.  The Cache Creek Area has been of interest to the small scale placer mining community because placer gold was left behind when major operations were shut down in 1911.

 And Mucks A Good Thing

 The country is rugged but not so rugged we could not carry our pans, sluice, metal detector, back packs etc in a short bit until we found the creek and set up operations.

The Best Things in Life Are Dirty!

My operations consisted more of rock hunting and fish watching than gold panning. Also getting myself lost at least a couple of times, not realizing I was only a few yards away. Note to self, this usually happens and I need to figure out something else when I decide to wander off so I really don't get lost!


Buffalo Soldiers in Colorado

  Celebrating the history of the west is remembering and honoring the unsung  heroes who made our country what it is today.

The history of the Buffalo Soldier laid hidden away in dusty old archives until the first book was written in 1967, which brought the history of these men to the public.

The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West, Revised Edition
Shortly after September 11, 2001, we were organizing a miltiary themed walking tour for Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. I had invited a dear friend of mine who was a Buffalo Soldier reenactor to share this history at the Spanish American War site, since the 10 US Cavalry Buffalo Soliders played an intrical part in the Spanish American War and the charge up San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt.
 Buried amongst these few veterans of the Spanish American War, was George Mason, a member of 10th US Cavalary, an actual Buffalo Soldier. From that day, so many years ago, these men, who in their 70's, come out, dressed in full uniform to pay their respects to the fellow comrade in arms and to pay honor to all the veterans who have payed the price for the freedons we take for granted today.

The Buffalo Soldier played a very important part in the settling of the west and in Colorado itself.  Here are a few places you can visit to learn more about this history

Colorado Buffalo Soldier History


A Sense of Place

 A journey into your family history, is often like opening an old musty book, filled with forgotten stories, and interesting people.

My journey didn't start with the musty old book but a place. A place unlike any other, filled with forgotten stories and yes, interesting people.

The story begins at one of the most beautiful places in Colorado. Along the foot of Mount Princeton, lies what is left of the Friskey Ranch, and where my journey into my family history began.
My earliest memories are of spending many summer days at "Gus's Cabin" named for my great uncle Gus Friskey who built the cabin in about the late 1890's early 1900's. We cooked on a wood burning Majestic wood stove, brought water up from the creek and basically lived as pioneers. There were no hand held games or cell phones, well heck back in that day, there wasn't even the Internet, so we
spent our time playing along the creek, or in the old corrals.

My greatest joy was walking from Gus's Cabin to what we called the "Old House" located a short distance up the road. There could be found broken pieces of worked flint and if we were really lucky an arrowhead or two. Definitely evidence of Native American habitation long before it became a ranch.

For anyone who has delved into their family history, the straight road you thought you were on, usually takes a few twists and turns into unexpected directions.

It was always believed that after my ggrandfather Charles Friskey died in Colorado City (today's westside Colorado Springs) in 1879, his widow, Johannah Sophia Carlotta Friskey and her four sons purchased the ranch in 1880. They do appear in the 1880 census for Chaffee County so we know for sure they were in the area.

The internet can be a wonderful tool when doing research, however, it is usually responsible for throwing in a monkey wrench or two. I was searching for any information regarding the Friskey family in Buena  Vista, and came upon the application that the "Ranch" along with other landmarks in the area, was being considered for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places! Which in and of itself is pretty darn cool. However, the property was listed as the Smith-Friskey Ranch. So after speaking with the firm  conducting the historical and archeological survey, I discovered the Friskey's did not purchase the property in 1879-1880 as always believed, but in 1890-1900. The exact dates will have to be pinned down after going through the abstract of the property.

 Putting this new piece into the puzzle adds a new dimension. Johannah Sophia Carlotta immigrated from Germany (Saxony) about 1870 and did not speak English.  The property is located a distance of a few miles from town. Widowed  with 4 young boys, 16, 14, 4 and 2, how would she support herself and her sons. The two oldest could work, however, they still needed food and a roof over their heads. Back in those days, a person took care of themselves and their families and didn't look for handouts.
Nor did she remarry as was often the case if a woman found herself widowed with a family to care for.
 So on to discovering a missing 20 years in this family's history. I wonder what surprises will be discovered?



Saddened to learn of the passing of  Donna Dow, an Oregon. cousin.  A cousin I had never met although we had talked on the phone and exchanged letters. The real hand written letters.
Our grandparents were siblings. My grandfather, Thomas Milsom married and stayed in Colorado, and his sister Nellie Milsom Mahon married and moved to Hepner OR.
I love finding and connecting with my cousins as they often have bits and pieces of family history, oftentimes,   that one missing piece, that pulls everything together.
Thank you Donna  for the picture you shared of my grandfather, Thomas Milsom and his sister Nellie.This picture, although we don't have the exact date, would have been taken between 1885 and 1890 in Leadville, Colorado.
Her younger sister Betty, who I first met when I think I was 12, shared with me other pictures of our great grandmother that I never knew existed.
When doing your family history, connect with your 2nd or 3rd cousins. I have discovered the most amazing information, searching out cousins. These will usually be the grandchildren or great grandchildren of your grand parents or great grandparents siblings.

Just be careful what you ask, for the information you may discover.  That's a post for another day.


South Park Perils! New Book Available!

 There is nothing I love reading more than stories of early Colorado.

South Park Colorado is a lot more than the home of Cartman  and the boys. It is a rugged and beautiful area located in Central Colorado, surrounded by majestic 14ners. It is an area we  spend a great deal of time in, exploring the many isolated areas. Of course many of those areas aren't as isolated as they used to be, since more and more people are moving in to stake their claim to their little house on the prairie. South Park  was home to the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in the late 1850's. The towns of  Fairplay, Tarryall, Garo, Como still remain, a few, like Buckskin Jo are only memories.

The area was the hunting grounds of local Native Americans, as great buffalo herds filled the park. Antelope, coyotes, and buffalo can easily be spotted on almost any given day.

My husband and I spend our anniversary weekend in Fairplay every year at the Hand Hotel, a quaint get away we cherish each year.

The history of the area is a rich history of the old west. Filled with tales of hangings, cattle thieves and the exploits of the murderous Espinoza brothers, who terrorized the area, in  1863, while the rest of the country was involved in the Civil War. Colorado was anything but quiet at that time, and Christie Wright brings to life many of those infamous stories in her newest book

South Park Perils
Short Ropes and True Tales
of Historic Park County, Colorado.
Only $15.95 with FREE shipping