My Famous, Infamous Hometown!

(Ahem) County

I grew up on a farm in Sedgwick County Colorado. A farm that began as a homestead. In fact, most of the farms in the area began as homesteads. Most people could tell you who in their family had homesteaded the place, and where the original Soddy had stood.

1895 Atlas    Courtesy of:
1895 Atlas Courtesy of:

Where I Came From

Beauty, for those that look closely.
Beauty, for those that look closely.
It's flat out there!
It's flat out there!

A pastor once told my dad that shepherding farmers was like herding squirrels.

They all had minds of their own, and in order to convince them of anything was to make them think the idea was their own.

When talking to the older folks, the children of the pioneers, they would point to a lone building on the prairie or group of trees, and tell you of their adventure of walking to school. Of carrying a stick to beat the coyotes off with. Of their friends from the one-room school they attended. Of locking some bully in the outhouse, and leaving him there until morning, when the teacher happened to discover why he never showed up after lunch the day before. And, of course, attending church services in the same building on Sunday. They would tell of the general stores and post stops that use to exist near the schools.

As automobiles made travel easier, these small posts died out. Towns that had railway or highway access continued, while those that didn't died away.

The homesteaders who settled the area were tough, hardy, entrepreneurial minded individuals. Their children and grandchildren show much the same spirit. They have a hard time taking orders from anyone, and are use to setting their own schedules.

Before the farmers, there were soldiers. And before the soldiers, Indians roamed the pains, living off the land but never claiming it as their own.

The landscape is dry and flat. Tall grass and few trees mark the endless horizon. It is an area, though dry, that is loaded with history. Finding beauty in such a place takes an eye for details, but for those who look closely, beauty will be found.

courtesy of:
courtesy of:

About the Picture

"A highly important art/ historical document of the early Colorado frontier: Anton Schonborn, German-American, died 1871, attr.,“Fort Sedgwick, Colorado Territory, View from the Southeast,” 18 October 1970, field sketch, ink and wash on tan linen textured paper, 6 3/8” x 9 3/8” sight; overall sheet dimensions 9”x 10 3/4.”; dated by the artist in the lower right corner and titled in the lower center margin in Roman script."

-taken from the description under the picture, on the sellers website. (The painting has been sold)

The death of General John Sedgwick.
The death of General John Sedgwick.

Historical Tidbits

Sedgwick County was created on April 9, 1889 in the north east corner of Colorado. It had previously been part of Logan County. Three towns are to be found there today: Julesburg, Ovid and Sedgwick.

Sedgwick County was named after General / Major John Sedgwick, whose last words were:

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance. "

Seconds later, he fell with a confederate bullet hole under his left eye. Up on hearing of his death, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant repeatedly asked, "Is he really dead?" *

Fort Sedgwick, originally called Camp Rankin, was occupied by the US Army from the summer of 1864 until May of 1871, when it was officially abandoned. During this time, the post played a pivotal role in the security of the stage lines and emigrant wagon trains, the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the construction and maintenance of the telegraph lines, as well as in the final conflicts with the warring Cheyennes and Arapahoes. The meadows around Fort Sedgwick were favorite emigrant campgrounds.

The 7th Iowa Cavalry protected the Overland Trail along this stretch of the route from the Indians, and wagons going to Denver often had to stay at Fort Sedgwick until the army officers were convinced that the wagons were sufficiently able to withstand attack. For nearly seven years the Fort guarded a large portion of the Overland Trail. Soldiers of the fort protected thousands of travelers, helped move mail and supplies and fought Indians, and upwards of 100 died there in the line of duty.

When Julesburg was raided by Indians in February, 1865, it's few citizens fled to Fort Sedgwick and watched as their town burned to the ground. The small military force at Fort Sedgwick was unable to prevent the Sioux and Cheyenne from burning Julesburg and killing eighteen defenders in revenge for the Sand Creek Massacre the previous November. Julesburg was rebuilt on a new site, and the military post was enlarged and then renamed Fort Sedgwick.

Fort Sedgwick was located about a mile west of the original site of Julesburg Colorado and a mile and a half due south of the present day hamlet of Ovid, Colorado, approximately 500 yards south of the south bank of the South Platte River. At its peak, the fort was home to approximately six hundred troops and covered about forty acres. Nothing remains of Fort Sedgwick. However, the original flagpole from Fort Sedgwick was moved to Julesburg and now stands in front of the Julesburg library.

It is joked that no one ever deserted Fort Sedgwick, because they could run for three days and still be seen.

* Crocker III, H. W. (2006). Don't Tread on Me. New York: Crown Forum. pp. 219.

The South Platte River

Know for being "A mile wide and an inch deep".
Know for being "A mile wide and an inch deep".

In the town of Sedgwick

Courtesy of:
Courtesy of:

The Infamous!

There are a few memories and characters that stand out in my mind, when I think of growing up in Sedgwick County.

Trips to the ASCS office in Julesburg were always fascinating. It was one of the first places I saw a computer, and even more amazing than the computer was the lady who used it. I don't know her name, but she could type faster than a 9 dot printer could print. She was so fast that the office had two computers and printers. She would type at one, save the information on a 5" floppy disk, set it to printing, and move to the other. When she had finished with the second computer, she would gather paper from the first, tear it apart, staple and file it, then continue typing, assuming it was done printing by that time. She told me that computers where nice for correcting mistakes, but so slow that she wondered at their worth.

Another character that will always live in my mind is Denny. He ran an old fashion barber shop. A man of medium height with greasy black hair, who smoked. I never saw him wash some one's hair before cutting it, but I did meet many fascinating people who loitered there. I recall a checker game set in one corner.

Growing up, I heard stories of the Saber Tooth Tiger remains found, when excavating for the bridge that crossed the South Platte River. It always made me happy to know Colorado was the first place dinosaur bones where found.

The local museum was one of my favorite places to visit. In it one could find lace making equipment and indian skulls, a two headed calf and buffalo skin robes.

the lens was clean
the lens was clean

Is it Haunted?

" A little different, huh? This is the old beet factory and its water tower, in Ovid. I wanted you to see all the spots."

A friend in Ovid sent me this picture after a trip downtown produced some strange results on her camera. The pictures taken before and after are perfectly clear -- No Spots!

Comments 18 comments

Cathy profile image

Cathy 7 years ago from Oregon, USA

Wow! Excellent hub! I think dinosaur finds are exciting , too. There are only three towns in the county? Gees...our's is crammed with around 15 I think. Well written, I especially like hearing about pioneer days. And the typing speedster is a kick! I can picture that! Thanks for the hub

49er profile image

49er 7 years ago from USA

I agree with Cathy, this is a very interesting and cool hub. Major Sedgwick sure had some famous last words.

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

fascinating - it's hard to imagine somewhere that recent.

Did your grandparents settle in the area?

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America Author

Cathy:  I had fun thinking through all the things I grew up with, that seemed commonplace, and researching to fill in the bits and pieces of history that I knew. Thank you for making the request.

49er:  General Sedgwick's last words were a favorite amongst those who lived there, although, I had grown up with the impression that he was shot down by Indians.

LondonGirl:  My great-grandpa did much to help settle the area.  He homesteaded one quarter (160 acres) of the farm that I grew up on.  He owned a bank that collapsed during the great depression and before that, a general store.  He and another man laid out the town of Paoli, CO for the railroad.  My grandfather was born in the house that I grew up in. 

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

what is the difference between a farm and a home stead?

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America Author

A 'home stead,' in this sense, is a 160 acre parcel, that the government gave out, in order to get the land settled. When the pioneers came west, they would find a piece of land that they wanted, and 'stake a claim,' then get a certificate from the government to that claim. In order for the land to belong to that person, they had to 'prove up' on it by living on it for a minimum of 6 months a year for five years in a row. They also had to build a house on it that was at least 12 X 12. The land was used for farming, ranching, and trees, depending on the area.

A farm is large acreage used to grow vegetables and grains. Where I grew up, many also raised cattle, as the land is not well suited to farming.

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

thanks for the explantion, much appreciated

lafenty profile image

lafenty 7 years ago from California

I just recently moved out of a town with a population of about 500. Even though I wasn't a native of the town, it was very interesting to know the people whose families have been there for many generations. Small town living may not be for everyone, but it's a worthwhile experience. Thanks for the interesting hub.

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America Author

Lafenty: Thanks for sharing. I would agree that small town living is not for everyone, but then each town I have lived in has had it's own flavor. No two have been the same.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

Wonderful hub, wonderful story. I usually think of Colorado being mountainous, thanks for bringing this different Colorado to light. Homesteading, a fascinating idea, both romantic and hardscrabble.

Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 7 years ago

A great hub and touching story. I too love small towns and their people and have lived in several---this thing they call progress does destroy some of these great places.

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America Author

The plains and small agriculture towns are two of my favorite things. Next time I travel there, I will be getting pictures that better portray how I see the area.

Jarn profile image

Jarn 7 years ago from Sebastian, Fl

Sedgwick certainly has quite a history. I've heard those last words before. The place looks just like the town where my dad grew up in Montana. Fort Benton was a homestead before it was a military installation. Great-grandad was one of the first settlers.

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America Author

Jarn, Fort Benton?!? We went to Fort Benton, MT last year on vacation, because my husbands family owns a farm there! His Great-great grandfather settled a now extinct nearby town.

emohealer profile image

emohealer 7 years ago from South Carolina


A very detailed history of Sedgwick, thank you! I really appreciated the picture at the end with the orbs, these are very common but to have so many, very interesting, it generally indicates an area is "important or protected".

I am not as familiar with Sedgwick but was stationed at Ft Carson, Co. in the mid 80's and got married at Helen Hunt Falls. A very beautiful area adn as your article has shared, very rich with history. thanks again for a great hub!

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America Author

Emohealer: Thank you for that information about the picture with the orbs. I did find the number of them unusual, but did not know it was significant.

S Leretseh profile image

S Leretseh 6 years ago

Good narrative here. Enjoyed all of it. However, if I were you, I would REMOVE the word "infamous" from your title. You describe a GREAT place ... with a very colorful history.

How about this for your title: My Hometown - Its Rich and Colorful History

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 6 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America Author

S Leretseh, Thank you, and I will consider your suggestion. :)

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    Dances with Wolves

    The book, Dances with Wolves, by Micheal Blake, is fictionalized history, at best. It may not even be about Fort Sedgwick.  The author spelled it Fort Segwick. I included this feature as jog for the memory, as it is the only reference many have to the area. 

    I enjoyed reading this book, but please, do not look to it as a historicaly accurate novel.  Fort Sedgwick, of Sedgwick, Colorado, was never abandoned.

    For historical reading, try:

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