“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Bennett in Arapahoe County, Colorado — The American Mountains (Southwest)

High-Five Plains Towns / Ten Miles a Day

High-Five Plains Towns Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, November 29, 2013
1. High-Five Plains Towns Marker
High-Five Plains Towns
Watkins, Bennett, Strasburg, Byers, Peoria, Deer Trail, Agate, Godfrey, Cedar Point, Riverbend—most of these Colorado high plains towns were founded around the time when the Kansas Pacific Railroad arrived in 1870. Five of these towns, Watkins, Bennett, Strasburg, Byers, and Deer Trail, all became busy agricultural shipping centers. Through the first half of the twentieth century these five communities, now along the east I-70 corridor, were the very picture of Main Street, USA—rural, self-sufficient, and distinctive, with strong local identities. But maintaining those identities became increasingly difficult after World War II, as Denver’s steady advance threatened to wipe out the line between town and country. In November 1996, the five time-tested communities launched the High Five Plains Foundation, a joint initiative to promote local economies, manage growth, and preserve the region’s traditions and quality of life. By integrating their past into the future, the High Five communities hope to keep an important part of Colorado’s history alive.

Photo of turn-of-the-century
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(Caption) Bennett, early 1900s. Bennett grew up near the junction of the Smoky Hill Trail North and the Fort Morgan Cut-Off of the South Platte Trail. Courtesy Comanche Crossing Museum

Photo of Strasburg:
(Caption) Strasburg, 1916. On August 15, 1870, workers drove the last spike of the Kansas Pacific Railroad at Comanche Crossing in present-day Strasburg. Courtesy Comanche Crossing Museum

Photo of Byers:
(Caption) Byers, 1900. Originally called Bijou, Byers started out as a station and settlement on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. The town’s first postmaster, Oliver Wiggins, changed the name to Byers in honor of William N. Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News. Courtesy Comanche Crossing Museum

Photo of Watkins:
(Caption) Watkins, early 1900s. Situated on the Boxelder Creek, Watkins developed around a Kansas Pacific station called Box Elder. It was later renamed Watkins in honor of a local rancher. Courtesy Deer Trail Tribune

Photo of Deer Trail:
(Caption) Deer Trail, 1919. Deer Trial is acknowledged by the Pro Rodeo Association and the Colorado State Assembly as “The Home of the World’s First Rodeo.” Courtesy Deer Trail Pioneer Historical Society

Ten Miles a Day
Kansas Pacific Railroad
It is no coincidence
High-Five Plains Towns Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, November 29, 2013
2. High-Five Plains Towns Marker
that the West blossomed just after the Kansas Pacific Railroad's completion in 1870. The next generation witnessed the heyday of the cattle culture, which depended on Kansas Pacific railheads from Denver to Dodge City; the rush of prairie homesteaders, who shipped their produce to market in its boxcars; and the rise of industrial mines, whose ores rode the line to eastern factories. Even as it helped construct a new frontier empire, the Kansas Pacific weakened the old one. The railroad ran through the heart of the Plains Indian nations, dividing their buffalo herds and expediting wars against them. As an economic pipeline and an engine of conquest, the Kansas Pacific played a central role in the transformation of the West.

August 15, 1870, was perhaps the greatest single day of railroad building in history. The Kansas Pacific tracks had surged to within fifty miles of Denver; a second construction team, advancing eastward from the city, stood just over ten miles distant. At dawn on this notable day an American flag and a keg of whiskey were placed halfway between the two crews, and the rhythmic calls of the gandy dancers commenced. By three in the afternoon the workers had bridged the gap; they laid ten miles of track in ten hours, a feat not matched before or since. Moreover, the Kansas Pacific made it possible to ride coast to coast without ever leaving the rails——the
High-Five Plains Towns Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton
3. High-Five Plains Towns Marker
Union Pacific still lacked a bridge over the Missouri River and required passengers to be ferried across at Omaha.

Photo of track being completed:
(Caption) Laying the track Colorado Historical Society

Railroad map: Colorado Historical Society

Photo of locomotive:
(Caption) Kansas Pacific engine No. 51 was lost near this location in the Kiowa Creek flood of May 21, 1878. It was identical to KP No. 68, the Baldwin 4-4-0 pictured here.
Courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Ag 82.86.40
Erected 1998 by Colorado Historical Society & the Historical Society of Bennett. (Marker Number 218.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Railroads & StreetcarsSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Colorado - History Colorado series list. A significant historical date for this entry is May 21, 1945.
Location. 39° 44.215′ N, 104° 23.844′ W. Marker is near Bennett, Colorado, in Arapahoe County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of 15th Avenue and East Colfax Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 15th Avenue, Bennett CO 80102, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 3 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Front Range Flight
Marker Sponsor image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, November 29, 2013
4. Marker Sponsor
Dedicated to Preserving
our Prairie Heritage
by the
Historical Society
of Bennett
(here, next to this marker); First Transcontinental Railroad (approx. 3½ miles away); Comanche Crossing Centennial (approx. 3.9 miles away).
More about this marker. Located at the Colorado Department of Transportation Rest Stop near Bennett, just off Interstate 70, exit 306. Now closed due to lack of funds, the marker is still there. Best access is from the gravel parking lot on the southeast corner of 15th Avenue and E. Colfax Avenue.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 19, 2017. It was originally submitted on November 30, 2013, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 1,075 times since then and 33 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on November 30, 2013, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 17, 2024