A Little Look at a Little Colorado Town

I’ve been reading A Bridge to Yesterday by Emma Riggenbach. This book is a history of my town, Monte Vista, Colorado. One of the soul-stirring items is the description of one of the early residents, a woman who drove a surrey “with the fringe on top.” The book is fascinating for a very limited audience. It has newspaper clippings, photos, minutes from early city council meetings, all very interesting if you happen to live here and are interested in that sort of thing.

The “old west” was not — now I know — all that long ago. Monte Vista, as the author of this book describes, saw a lot of fist-fights, but no gun fights though, as she writes, there was a mass murder. To make a long story short, a man got up early one morning, grabbed his rifle, and took off across the country on foot. He killed four of his neighbors and then himself. Riggenbach writes, “Five lives were snuffed out, the happiness of five homes broken up, two women widowed and six minor children orphaned.” No motive was ever discovered and the conclusion was that Mr. Bailey, the killer, had just lost his mind.

This was never a really “wild-and-woolly” place like a lot of “Wild West” towns were, but Monte Vista wasn’t a mining town, either, where passions run high. It had a train running through it — as a lot of American towns had back in the day — schools, churches, banks, two movie theaters, two news papers and even an opera house. My impression from the book is that from the beginning, Monte Vista just wanted to be a nice place for people to live. Many of the early traditions have endured and others have fallen away. The founder had visions of grandeur that never came true, but I think — if they saw their town now — they might be OK with that.

The featured photo is from A Bridge to Yesterday. What’s interesting about it is that building is still a real estate office.


8 thoughts on “A Little Look at a Little Colorado Town

  1. Interesting article. Love the surrey with the fringe on top, one state west.
    Once question that my detail oriented brain is confounded about. The mass murder. Killed 3 neighbors and himself. Makes 4, not 5. Maybe his wife as well? Not a pleasant trait to have this editor’s pickiness, but its there. Snow flurries up here, no significant accumulation.

    • He didn’t kill his wife. I think (and I gave the book back this morning) he killed the wife of one of the men he killed.

      I think an editor’s pickiness is a useful trait. I can’t apply it to my own work, but I’m good at finding it in others work which is either annoying or helpful depending. We have a snow sky but nothing… 😦

  2. I love that there is continuity in your town – to have the building still be in use as a real estate office is wonderful!! I once took a class on animal behavior and the instructor was discussing methods of introducing animals so that they would get along. His favorite method for rabbits and cats was to but two together in a small space and then take them for a harrowing ride in the car with lots of bumps and swerving and even donuts in parking lots. The idea was that adversity would cause them to bond and they would then be amendable to living together based on their mutual experience of surviving trauma. I think it might work in the short term but would never want to subject any animals to that kind of terror…. But that just might be part of the bonding that was occurring in the pioneer population.

    • You just described why this politically disparate population puts getting along with neighbors above any political affiliation or beliefs. In this giant harsh valley there are 40k people, most of whom don’t live in towns. Trump signs went up, Biden signs went up, but the farmer in the Trump field undertook to feed the Biden guy’s cows. My rabid Trump follower neighbor was the first person outside to help when the reckless driver ran over my mailbox. ❀

  3. Does this book talk about the people buried in Rock Creek Cemetery or their families? I visited a little bit ago and something about it resonated with me. Hesitant to get the book, however, if it doesn’t have what I’m looking for.

    • The book has quite a few pages dedicated to the settlement at Rock Creek and the cemetery, some basic information about some of the families, their names, and where they came from. A good person to talk to is the director of the Rio Grande County Museum, Louise Colville https://www.riograndecounty.org/museum

      Tell her you read my blog and she’ll know who I am. πŸ™‚ Good luck!

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