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My Famous, Infamous Hometown!
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.
Where I Came From
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.
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"A highly important art/ historical document of the early Colorado frontier: Anton Schonborn, German-American, died 1871, attr.,“Fort Sedgwick, Colorado Territory, View from the Southeast,” 18 October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)
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.
An Outsiders View
- Ovid the poet would go off like a stink bomb in Ovid the town | Books | guardian.co.uk
And that gives me a warm glow. What better indication of the continuing relevance of one of my favourite poets than his ability to shock Baptist America to its humourless core?
The South Platte River
In the town of Sedgwick
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.
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!
- Sedgwick, Colorado, Ghost Sightings
Day in Sedgwick, Colorado is exactly the same as daylight anywhere else in the United States of America, but there are weird things going down in this town in the dark hours. Many ghost reports have been conveyed by the people who live here.
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: