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The Castle Pines Connection serves residents of the Wildcat Mountains, a name pioneers and historians gave to the Colorado high country paralleling I-25 from Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree south to Castle Rock. Since the first territorial road (Daniels Park Road) bisected our mountains, there was no shortage of colorful characters parading through what are now private properties on the ridges of Douglas County.  We bring these grizzled and gutsy settlers alive again, vividly sharing their stories of grit and achievement in these Castle Pines.

Wildcat Lore is dedicated to digging a bit deeper in the attic of Douglas County history to better understand the life and motivations of local pioneers.


Woodbine Ranch: sin, redemption, and deliverance

By CPC | September 1, 2020
Photo of Woodbine Ecology Center sign

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner Joe Bucknam, traveling salesman from Iowa, found his way to Denver with wife Minnie in 1907. Finding fascination in the Sedalia area, they founded the Woodbine Ranch in Jarre Canyon in 1915. The main lodge was a substantial, multi-use building. Decorated to Joe’s rustic tastes, it showcased vintage weapons,…

The saga of Isaac Jegirtha Noe

By CPC | August 1, 2020
Photo of Jegirtha Noe

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of the Douglas County History Research Center Born in 1850, Isaac Jegirtha (I.J.) Noe hailed from Charlestown, Indiana. After a common education, he devoted his early years to farming. That was, until he fell in love and married Jennie Caine of Clark County in 1878. Meanwhile, his…

The Nicksons: Another Plum Creek seduction

By CPC | July 1, 2020
Photo of George and Sarah Nickson

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photo To study Douglas County’s early history is to dig into events around the headwaters of Plum and Cherry creeks. Nowhere is it more colorful than the upper Plum Creek basin, where John Perry, Ben Quick and John Kinner harnessed their lives to the spectacular high-country meadows. In…

Perry Park: The essence of Douglas County part II

By CPC | June 1, 2020
Photo of Perry Park Country Club clubhouse today

Unfinished symphony By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photo Hotel Nanichant was completed in 1889 to accommodate visitors to the planned Village of Lake Wauconda, its Native American name meaning echo. In 1891, Bela Hughes’ son-in-law, Charles Roberts, built his own home there calling it the Manor House. It is still in use today as the Perry…

Perry Park: The essence of Douglas County part I

By CPC | May 1, 2020
Photo of

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner; information sourced from Fading Past: The Story of Douglas County, Colorado by Susan Consola Appleby Periodically we golf at Perry Park. When on the course, it is impossible not to be drawn into the sheer, raw beauty of the place. Like Roxborough Park, this tucked-away enclave captures true Colorado…

The highs and lows of Benjamin and Mary Quick

By CPC | April 1, 2020
Photo of The Quick home of 1884 as seen in January 2020

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner Ben Quick was born in Monroe County, Ohio in 1828. Orphaned at 10, he took interest in carpentry and by 16 had become a carpenter’s apprentice, moving to Missouri with his brother Cornelius. Daring to dream big, when word of the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill rocketed eastward in…

It’s a Hard Knock Life

By CPC | March 1, 2020
Photo Kinner Homestead 192

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Carol Oliver Lyons Long before Little Orphan Annie appeared in American cartoons in 1924, comparable hardship stories like hers played out daily in the American west. Such was the early life of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Field and her family, originally from Wesleyville, Pennsylvania. As an 11-year-old, Lizzie came inauspiciously into…

McMurdo Gulch Civilian Conservation Corps

By CPC | February 1, 2020
Photo of Red Rocks Amphitheater in winter under construction.

By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photos The stock market crashed on Black Friday in October 1929, ending the Roaring ‘20s. That day marked the beginning of the greatest economic downturn these United States have ever known. President Franklin Roosevelt sought ways for the federal government to stimulate the economy. One program was the Civilian Conservation Corps…

Gone for Colorado

By CPC | January 1, 2020
Photo of CD for Juni Fisher Gone for Colorado

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Juni Fisher Historical research is fascinating. One clue leads to another and remarkable stories are unearthed. Jarre Canyon west of Sedalia has plenty. Juni Fisher, award winning singer, songwriter and entertainer memorializes her colorful Sedalia heritage in her “Gone for Colorado” album. Alphonse Jarre came to…

Chicago hitman brings rodeo to Sedalia

By CPC | December 1, 2019
Graphic Wildcat Lore logo

By Joe Gschwendtner: photos courtesy of Denver Public Library The Roaring ‘20s in the Wildcat Mountains did not lack excitement. Bootlegging and gambling were rampant, especially in Larkspur, where the Feds found and busted the two largest moonshine stills in the county. Their proprietors would do 3-5 years in the pen. Perhaps the headline event…

Shot through the heart

By CPC | November 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society Yes he was. Tom Campbell. Dead. Finished off with a bullet in George Manhart’s dance hall in Sedalia on Saturday, May 6, 1899 as reported in The Castle Rock Journal at the time. Campbell, aka Thomas Jackson, was a tough customer. Well-known in Douglas County…

Larkspur: What’s in a name?

By CPC | October 1, 2019

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society As we left 1871 Huntsville in the throes of death in our Wildcat Lore last month, commerce shifted rapidly south to Larkspur. This was due in no small measure to relocation of the post office and arrival of the Denver & Rio…

Huntsville: Stage stock and stockade

By CPC | September 1, 2019

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society Named for Colorado’s fourth Territorial Governor, Huntsville history was fleeting but colorful, beginning in 1859. Located on the Territorial Road north of Larkspur, Huntsville owed its existence to lumbering, clay extraction, traveler accommodations and security. In 1858, Iowans Sarah Ann and James…

The Wildcats by rail: A ghost town journey

By CPC | August 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Brett Wiebold Readers may recall the grit and determination of General William Jackson Palmer in bringing narrow gauge rail service to Douglas County. Yet few know of the places it served, many of them ghost towns today. Please join us back in time on the southbound Denver & Rio…

Cheese Louise! The dairy industry in Douglas County

By CPC | July 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Scott Terhark Collection, Douglas County History Research Center, Douglas County Libraries Not long after the Homestead Act opened the West, some Douglas County settlers became farmers and ranchers. Rolling terrain of small valleys and gulches with low density population offered vast open areas rife with protein-rich grasses ideal for…

A milling town gone coaled

By CPC | June 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Newspaperarchive.com People and towns came and went in the early days of statehood. Had it not been for an obscure notation on a map, the once thriving town of Lehigh would have been a forgotten Wildcat town. In 1878, coal was a valuable commodity in an industrializing world. When…

“Wildcat Corner” unveiled in The Village at Castle Pines

By CPC | May 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos by Terri Wiebold In late March, the formerly bare-walled community room at the Castle Pines Homes Association building received a makeover. A once humdrum meeting space, it now includes a mini-museum focusing on the first 100 years of Wildcat Mountain history. No small project, the curation began from scratch. The process…

Epic Oaklands pioneers: Henry. H. and Julia Curtis

By CPC | April 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Archives & Local History – Douglas County Libraries In 1849, Henry H. Curtis took Julia Paddison to be his bride in South Wales. He was 19, she 21. Seems that Henry, an apprentice jeweler was summoned to repair the Paddison family clock. Clearly, time was on Julia’s side, as…

Sticks and then bricks

By CPC | March 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Kevin Grenier, Douglas County Historic Preservation In Douglas County’s early years, hillside lumber yielded logs which were the basic building blocks of construction. Whether log cabins or storefronts, wood carried the day. Rhyolite was used periodically, but for larger and commercial projects. It was also in limited supply, even…

D. C. Oakes: Famous and Infamous

By CPC | February 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Heritage Collection “History of City and Arapahoe County,” 1880 Major D.C. Oakes struck pay dirt in the California Gold Rush. Returning to Iowa in 1853 to marry, he invested his $6,000 profit in a contracting business. When the business faltered and money dwindled, he chased rumors of gold in…

Hattie Beeman: Forged by Fire

By CPC | January 1, 2019

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Sedalia Historic Fire House Museum and Gardens Harriet (Hattie) Davis Beeman was made of tough stuff. Kevlar before its time. Born in Denver in 1885, at age 9 she moved with parents and family to a farmstead on Upper Riley Hill Road (Daniels Park). She attended Round Top School…

Sedalia: What’s in a Name?

By CPC | December 1, 2018

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society Ironically captured primarily in black and white, Sedalia’s story is actually quite colorful. She had four names. She was sold out. She vied for county seat. She was set upon by grasshoppers in 1873. And, she experienced a shootout at the Round Corral. Let’s start…

Sylvester Richardson’s hard-knock life

By CPC | November 1, 2018

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner Sylvester Richardson was a driven man. Raised in New York’s Catskill Mountains, he worked in the family vineyard near the Hudson River. No vintner he, and in his 30s dreaming bigger dreams, Richardson migrated west, first to Wisconsin. There he attempted to capitalize on his horticultural experience by starting…

Career options in early Douglas County

By CPC | October 1, 2018

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Our Heritage and People of Douglas County FARMING: Early pioneers had limited options for a livelihood. Most were in agriculture of some kind, as subsistence was the first order of business. Through trial and error, settlers found the workable methods, soil and water sources that could support their needs.…

Willis Walker: Pioneer and Multi-tasker

By CPC | September 1, 2018

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of US Patent office and Douglas County Library History Research Section Willis Walker likely often lived in the shadow of his wife Sarah, known nationwide and internationally for her work with Colorado wildflowers.  On closer historical inspection, we find that Willis was no shrinking violet. Born in 1858 and later…

The mystery woman at Hidden Pond

By CPC | August 1, 2018

By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photo In 2003, Castle Pines Village excavations gave rise to a Nancy Drew-style mystery. While digging utility trenches for Hidden Pond Road, construction workers uncovered the grave of a young woman, most likely buried before the Homestead Act of 1862 opened these lands up to private ownership. Unidentified bodies are a…

LOST AND FOUND: THE SAGA OF WILLIAM HEADLAND

By CPC | July 1, 2018

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of The Bureau of Land Reclamation (U.S. Government) William Headland was an early homesteader in the Castle Pines Village area. Having paid $200 cash for his 160 acres in 1870, his holdings centered on Saxon Place. By 1880 he had comfortably settled in on his ranch and found himself a…

John B. Karcher, French expat, firebrand and saloonkeeper

By CPC | June 1, 2018

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of the Castle Rock Journal John B. Karcher of Sedalia was a Frenchman by birth. A large landholder in Alsace Lorraine, he was politically and socially active and a 32nd degree Mason. In his late 30s he was expelled from France because of his anti-Napoleonic tirades. His property was seized…

Tweet Kimball: The heart of Cherokee Ranch & Castle

By CPC | May 1, 2018

Part three of three By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Cherokee Ranch & Castle Much has been said and written of Tweet Kimball, Cherokee Ranch owner who died in 1999.  What often remains uncaptured is her essence.  At her very core she was a naturalist, appreciative and dedicated to her world of animals, the environment…

Tweet Kimball: A woman for all seasons

By CPC | April 1, 2018

Part two of three By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Cherokee Ranch & Castle Last month, we tracked the history of the Cherokee Castle and Ranch after Tweet Kimball acquired it in 1954. Indeed, her impact on virtually everything she touched and those she encountered was outsized. Comfortable in rugged ranch hand garb or equally…

Tweet Kimball: Larger than life

By CPC | March 1, 2018

Part one of three By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of John Lake and Meg Anderson Were there a Colorado Mt. Rushmore, Tweet Kimball’s profile might well be chiseled there. Born in 1914 Tennessee, where women wielded limited political power, Bryn Mawr-educated Mildred Genevieve Montague “Tweet” Kimball never got the message. After acquiring Charlford Castle in…

Wildcat Mountain Castles II

By CPC | January 1, 2018

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner The Lawrence C. Phipps Jr. who purchased the Kistler and Welte properties and named it Highlands Ranch was connected and wealthy, the son of a Carnegie steel magnate and U.S. Senator from Colorado. His position in life allowed for many uncommon opportunities, and he seized them often and successfully.…

Wildcat Mountain castles

By CPC | December 1, 2017

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Josephine Marr’s “A Historical Journey” and the Douglas County History Research Center Riveting history often includes stories of places larger than life. In the northern Wildcat Mountains, there were two castles of note: the Springer Cross Country Mansion and the Cherokee Castle. Somewhat on the smaller side, neither compared…

Surrey Ridge: the rest of the story

By CPC | November 1, 2017

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Amy and Dave Flanagan Last month, The Connection left readers with Arthur (Art) Ceresa and his wife Mary, “a gracious woman,” who slowly, shrewdly gained control of today’s Surrey Ridge area from the Schweigers and brothers Joseph and Alois Kroll at the astounding per acre price of $6.25. The…

The Austrians: Surrey Ridge

By CPC | October 1, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner Joseph Kroll and John Schweiger Sr., likely met in the Leadville mines after emigrating from the Austrian Empire around 1870. With modest savings and presumed collaboration, they found their way to our Wildcat Mountains. Through Homestead Act acquisitions and the diligence of Max and John Schweiger Jr., the families…

A motley crew: A veteran, drayman and sheriff are more Wildcat Mountain pioneers

By CPC | August 1, 2017

By Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of “Walk with our Pioneers – A Collection,” by Alice M. Thompson In our July segment of Wildcat Lore, we encountered the Wolfensbergers, Reynolds and Bardells, homesteading risk-takers in these Wildcat Mountains. Dreams came true only for the Wolfensberger families while the others were crushed by accidents and poor health.…

“I’d do it again” – teaching snapshots of Sarah Gleason

By CPC | March 1, 2017

By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of “I’d do it again” by Sarah A. Gleason, Copyright 1982, Century One Press   Sarah Gleason was an only child of Irish immigrants born in Colorado City.  She taught school in Douglas, Weld and Jefferson Counties from 1926 to 1978 and was widely recognized as an extraordinary teacher.  During…

Schools and schoolmarms

By CPC | February 1, 2017

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner; photo courtesy of Douglas County History Research Center Public education was so important that it was addressed in the Articles of Confederation by our Founding Fathers.  The 1785 Ordinance for the Western Territory provided for schools by reserving sections NW16 and SE36 of every township open to homesteaders.  Local…

Wildcat Mountain highway in the sky

By CPC | January 1, 2017

  Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner Sixteen years after the Wright brothers’ epic 1903 first flight, night-time navigational aids (other than bonfires) were non-existent.  With the demand for airmail growing ever stronger, night flight was inevitable.  Two pilots, Don Bruner and Jack Knight, figured it out.  Artificial beacons on high terrain could be used…

Rhyolite: Tuff stuff launches early economic boom in Douglas County

By CPC | December 1, 2016

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner Thirty-six million years ago a massive volcanic eruption near Mt. Princeton hurled molten rock and gases into Douglas County.  Traveling nearly 100 miles per hour and landing in parts of Park and Teller Counties as well, the quick cooling ash created 15-30 foot layers of “Wall Mountain Tuff” classified…

Giants of the Wildcat Mountains

By CPC | November 1, 2016

Turn-of-the-century Douglas County pioneers were tough and uncomplicated. They lived in the moment. Dreams of their future were marred by hostile Indians, locusts, parched lands, dried-up streams and rattlesnakes. Long-term planning didn’t come naturally. Surprisingly, there were two remarkable people, mere miles apart, who envisioned the future of our county and acted in unique ways…

Beans, biscuits, and New Memphis

By CPC | October 1, 2016

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner Events in Colorado history didn’t really accelerate until the 59ers swarmed the Pikes Peak region, Russellville (near Franktown) included.  By 1861, Colorado would become a territory and in another 15 years, attain statehood. Those 17 years to statehood were tumultuous. No one suffered greater upheaval than the Native American. …

Happy Canyon and other Wildcat Mountain lore

By CPC | September 1, 2016

Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner Wildcate Lore Beginning this month, The Connection will be featuring a column titled “Wildcat Lore.”  As it turns out, the Castle Pines Connection serves residents of the Wildcat Mountains, a name pioneers and historians gave to high country paralleling I-25 from Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree south to Castle…

Historic Greenland School Open House

By CPC | May 1, 2012

Information provided by Douglas County; photo courtesy of the Larkspur Historical Society Recognizing and celebrating the month of May as Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month, Douglas County will offer a rare glimpse into the operation of one-room schools of the early 1900s with tours and an Open House of the historic Greenland School on Saturday,…