Trail Under Siege / Rising to the Challenge
Trail Under Siege
Indians of Colorado’s High Plains
Kiowa and Comanche Indians migrated to these prairies in the 1700s, followed by Cheyennes and Arapahos in the early 1800s. The region’s vast grasslands, thick bison herds, and brisk fur trade made for prosperous, if not entirely harmonious, living; the allied Cheyennes and Arapahos warred frequently against the Comanches and Kiowas (who gradually moved south of here) until 1840, when the tribes agreed to a historic peace. In 1851 the United States granted most of eastern Colorado to the Cheyennes and Arapahos, but when gold rushers began stampeding through here after 1859, strife erupted anew, this time between whites and Indians. On tragic episode (the 1864 Hungate Massacre) occurred about fourteen miles northwest of Kiowa. Though they fought for their homeland, the Indians were badly outgunned and outnumbered; by 1869 they had been banished from Colorado’s plains forever.
Smokey Hill Trail
Denver-bound travelers could save distance and time on the Smokey Hill Trail but only if willing to risk death by Indian attack. The trail bisected the Cheyennes and Arapahos’ treaty granted homeland, and the tribes kept it under siege almost continuously in the late 1860s. On branch earned notoriety as the “Starvation Trail” after an 1859 gold rush
Rising to the Challenge
Women and Ranching
When not cooking, doing laundry, or milking the cows, Emily French could be found building furniture, climbing on roofs to install stovepipes, and branding cattle on her sister’s homestead about ten miles southwest of here. Such “men’s” chores often fell to women on nineteenth-century Colorado ranches, where the imperatives of work knew no gender; when duty called, women baled hay and mended fences with the best of them. Many also kept the family books and held the purse strings, as well as raising children, sewing clothing, and fulfilling other traditionally “female” roles. Visitors from back east often thought it scandalous to find women mounting their horses astride (instead of sidesaddle) and laboring alongside men. But in a frontier environment, it didn’t matter who did the work only that it got done.
Kiowa’s devastating May 1935 flood had one positive outcome: It brought the Civilian Conservation Corps to town. Among the most successful of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the CCC employed jobless young men in public works projects. A crew arrived a week after the flood to haul away debris; four months later, the corps established a permanent camp to address the disaster’s chief cause; soil erosion. Using the Carnahan ranch (five miles south of here) as a proving ground, the CCC taught area landowners to use check dams, diversions ditches, and contour furrows to keep topsoil and groundwater in place. Kiowans embraced the techniques as well as the roughly two hundred CCCers, who spent much time and money in town. By the time the CCC camp closed in 1941, it had helped Kiowa wash away the flood’s painful memory.
Erected 2001 by Colorado Historical Society. (Marker Number 272.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the History Colorado marker series.
Location. 39° 20.802′ N, 104° 28.023′ W. Marker is in Kiowa, Colorado, in Elbert County. Marker is on Colorado Street (County Route 86), on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Kiowa CO 80117, United States of America.
Other nearby markers.
Categories. • Native Americans • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers • Wars, US Indian •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 7, 2011, by Charles T. Harrell of Woodford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,258 times since then and 33 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on August 7, 2011, by Charles T. Harrell of Woodford, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.