Retired Colonel Jack Anthony, an avid runner and amateur historian, has written a number of articles about the communities that used to exist between Colorado Springs and Palmer Lake along the railroad bed that has been made into the New Santa Fe Trail.

History Trail Run – Monument to Palmer Lake
By Jack Anthony

Santa Fe Railroad Depot, 1884 This article will take us the final three miles of our ‘History Trail Run.’   We started our journey in the January 2005 ‘Long Run’ newsletter issue and have proceeded north 14 miles from Woodmen Road to Monument.   Along the way we’ve met the Teachout, Lennox, Young, Kinner, and Pring pioneer families.  We traveled through the long gone communities of Edgerton, Husted and Pring and even met a lady called the ‘Dirty Woman.’   We’ve learned of the pioneer spirit of adventure, perseverance and courage through the eyes of teenager Elizabeth Lennox and the dedicated mother Mary Young.   The Kinner gals shared life on the Kinner Ranch and the story of their dedicated dad John.  We witnessed first hand the terrible Husted train wreck through the eyes and camera of Wilber F. Fulker.   Let’s now journey three more miles on what I feel is the most beautiful stretch of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail and a section that is right on the rail bed of the Santa Fe Railroad.  

It would be easy to write ten more articles on Monument and Palmer Lake.  In this article,  I will share just a few historical tidbits on Monument and Palmer Lake.   Lucille Lavelett’s book, “Through the Year’s At Monument, Colorado” was first published in 1975 and it is the definitive history of colorful Monument.    In June 2004, Lucille’s book was fully revised by Roger Davis of the Palmer Lake Historical Society and this fifth edition was published and expanded to 168 pages and includes 130 photographs.  Throughout my ‘History Trail Run’ series, I’ve benefited from Roger Davis and his staff at the Lucretia Vaile Museum in Palmer Lake.  “Through the Year’s At Monument, Colorado” is a must have book and can be purchased from the museum and at many local book stores in the Colorado Springs area.   My copy is autographed by Roger and it is already tattered a bit as I frequently read it and learn more and more about the Tri-Lakes area.  The Palmer Lake Historical Society and the Lucretia Vaile Museum provide outstanding information and references on the Tri-Lakes region heritage.  They have wonderfully captured and preserved the history of this area.   The photos featured in this article are courtesy of The Vaile Museum.   Here are just a few interesting facts about Monument and Palmer Lake.

Henry’s Station….and ICE!

In the 1860’s, the Monument area was called Henry’s Station.  It was named for Henry Limbach.   After the Denver and Rio Grande railroad was built in 1871, Henry’s Station became Monument.  The name Monument was chosen for the beautiful rock formations seen to the northwest.   The first train came through town on January 1, 1872.  In 1887, the Santa Fe Railroad and station were built in Monument.   Both railroads had stockyards in Monument, and the fall season was a very busy time when farmers shipped their cattle to the market.   In 1889, Monument Creek, located west of town, was dammed.  By 1892 the Monument Lake was completed.  In 1901, Doyle and Thomas Hanks built an icehouse on the lake and harvested blocks of ice.   Harvesting ice was accomplished back then by man and horse.  Ice harvests would start as early as mid December with blocks of ice up to 24 inches thick were cut from the lake.  20,000 to 30,000 tons of ice was harvested annually and shipped throughout the front range to cool and preserve food.   4000 tons were stored in icehouses with the remainder being shipped south to Pueblo and north to Denver.  To keep the ice from melting, ice cakes were packed in 12 inches of sawdust.  Many homes and businesses had their own icehouses, and the stored ice could last through the summer when packed in sawdust.  Have you ever run the trail when it’s windy?   On New Year’s Eve 1909, a 100-mile per hour wind completely destroyed the Monument icehouses just the day before an ice harvest was to begin!   The icehouses were diligently rebuilt.  
 
Pass the potatoes

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Monument area was famous for its potato harvests.  Potato growing was Monument’s chief agricultural industry back in those days.    Potato “Bake Day” in early October was a day full of fun activities, great eating, and enjoyment.  Special trains were brought people to the bake.  On October 11, 1890 the Colorado Springs Herald reported: “Yesterday was a big day for Monument for the annual potato bake.  Fully 1500 people came from all parts near and far to enjoy the hospitality.”  The annual potato bake was free to all who came, and was held west of the D&RG station and east of Monument Lake.  Can you imagine the crowd and great food?  A blight caused by the wild rose bushes put an end to the big potato crops of that era.   There are hundreds of other cool stories about Monument and its rich history…get Lucille’s book!  

On the trail to Palmer Lake

From Monument, the trail heads northwest for 3 miles to Palmer Lake.   This section of the trail offers nice views of the Front Range to the west and Elephant Rock and Ben Lomand Mountain to the north.  On July 11, 1820 Major Stephen Long’s exploration expedition came through the Palmer Lake area.  The expedition’s artist, Samuel Seymour, made sketches of the rock formation we know today as Elephant Rock and he named it Castle Rock.  Later it would be called the Arched Rock, then Phoebe’s Arch in 1887.   Phoebe is a species of bird that nests in rock crevasses and ledges.  In 1894, the name Elephant Rock was given, and that name is still used today.   When you are about a mile south of Palmer Lake, Elephant Rock dominates the northeast view.  It surely does look like an Elephant!  The trail rises slightly as it makes its way to Palmer Lake and except for the rails and ties that are gone, this scenery and view are exactly how it looked to the engineers, conductors and passengers as they would travel on the Santa Fe Railroad.  

Palmer Lake…the many names

On September 29, 1871, the D&RG track reached the divide between the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers drainages.   The train station at that point was originally called Divide.   The lake was a critical stop for the railroad as a water supply for the steam engines, as it was the only natural water supply available. D&RG trains and a few years later Santa Fe Railroad trains would huff and puff their way up to the Divide and then take on water there.   The Palmer Lake community and lake have been known by many names and you’ll soon know them all.   In 1872, Camillus A. Weiss was the train station’s telegraph operator and postmaster.  For the next 15 years, the post office at the lake was called Weissport.   The D&RG train station went by several different names.  Maps and railroad schedules made between 1872 and 1888 refer to the train station by the names Divide, Divide Lake, Loch Katrine or Lake Station.   In 1882, Dr William Thompson, a dentist from Baltimore practicing in Denver, purchased land in this area and laid out plans for a health resort and vacation community.  Helping him was Mr. Arthur Visick.  They planned to develop a community called Loch Katrine which would occupy about 320 acres east of the lake.  In the next month, they also drew up plans for Glenside in the area that was southwest of the lake.   One of the new town’s trustees suggested they name the town after the region’s famed General William Jackson Palmer.   In late 1883, General Palmer sent a telegram from New York and in it he reluctantly agreed to his name being used for this community.  General Palmer never did live in his namesake town!  On November 27, 1883 the Town of Palmer Lake was officially platted; plans were laid out and approved for this new community.   Loch Katrine never really materialized, but Glenside grew into a wonderful community we know today as Palmer Lake.  Dr Thompson was the first mayor of Palmer Lake.  In the 1887 timeframe, he built the 5,700 square foot Victorian style Estemere Estate during the “Ambitious 80’s” of the region.   On February 23, 1889, the Town of Palmer Lake was officially incorporated.  

A lake by any other name

The body of water we now know as Palmer Lake also experienced many “name changes”.   An Army expedition, led by Colonel Henry Dodge, visited the Rocky Mountains in 1835 and mapped a body of water which they named Summit Lake.   Afterward, the name changed to Divide Lake, and even Loch Lomand.    Finally, the name Palmer Lake stuck!    Icehouses were built on the south end of the lake and provided ice to the railroad for use in “refrigerator” and dining cars.   In 1882, the Palmer Lake pioneer citizens started to enlarge the lake to its present 10 acres size.  A boathouse, public park, fountain and covered pavilion were added to help attract tourists.  It is believed an underground spring originally fed the lake.   In dry years, water has been piped down from the two reservoirs in the canyon between Chautauqua and Sundance Mountains in which North Monument Creek flows. These reservoirs were built by the railroad to replenish Palmer Lake.

Palmer Lake was quite an attraction back in those days.  Trainloads of people would come on both railroads to visit it and experience the beautiful area—especially the colorful wildflowers.  Since then, Palmer Lake has prospered and flourished into what we see today as a wonderful community with a rich history.  Next time you are running the trail, why not park at the Palmer Lake trailhead, enjoy your run and then add to your workout a walking tour of Palmer Lake and a BIG ice cream cone or some other treat from one of the many fabulous eateries in Palmer Lake.  Also, the Palmer Lake Elementary School sponsors a 4-mile trail race each 4th of July that starts at Palmer Lake and ends in Monument.  This fun run is a wonderful trail run, has a splendid down hill grade and is a fund raiser for the school.

Our journey is complete.  I welcome any and all questions or comments…perhaps I can craft continued ‘History Train Run’ articles answering the questions I receive.  Send them to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Run on and listen closely as you will hear the voices of pioneers and communities of the past.

Photos (Courtesy of The Vaile Museum)

1.  Elephant Rock, 1895
2.  D&RG railroad tracks and white Icehouse west side Summit Lake, 1872-4 timeframe
3.  Santa Fe Railroad Depot, 1884   
4.  D&RG Depot and Judd Eating House (left), 1882


 
Elephant Rock, 1895 -- Courtesy of The Vaile Museum

Elephant Rock, 1895                                  Courtesy of The Vaile Museum

 

D&RG railroad tracks, white Icehouse west side Summit

 

 

D&RG railroad tracks, white Icehouse west side Summit Lake, 1872-4 time frame

Courtesy of The Vaile Museum

 

Santa Fe Railroad Depot, 1884 -- Courtesy of The Vaile Museum

 

 Santa Fe Railroad Depot, 1884                     

Courtesy of The Vaile Museum 

 

D&RG Depot and Judd Eating House (left), 1882 -- Courtesy of The Vaile Museum

 

D&RG Depot and Judd Eating House (left), 1882
Courtesy of The Vaile Museum
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