A Tailing Tale
This week’s Tale comes from Charles and Mary Ramstetter of Golden Gate Canyon. Charles was born in the old Eight-mile house in Golden Gate Canyon and Mary grew up in Golden.
Charles and Mary run a commercial cow-calf operation in Golden Gate Canyon. They have four children and four grandchildren. Their registered cattle brand, read by brand inspectors as “c lazy three,” names their press.
C Lazy Three Press publications has won a total of nine awards, including the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award for Legacy Fiction.
This week’s story of “The Terror of the West” is an excerpt from their book “John Gregory Country: Place Names and History of Ralston Buttes Quadrangle,” which is available at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
Mary also authored “The El Dorado Trilogy” available from Baker & Taylor, Amazon, and clazythreepress.com.
The Terror of the West (Smith Hill)
Smith Hill takes its name from road builders E. Smith and N.K. Smith who, with their Enterprise wagon road, opened two separate stage routes between Clear Creek’s N Fork and the Gregory road.
Stagecoach drivers were the best liked, most honored people in the country through which they traveled. Their dress was the finest, their clothing made to order, boots and hats of the best designs. Autocrats of the road at all times, their orders were expected to be obeyed with the greatest celerity. Their salaries averaged $300/month in addition to the perks, which were considerable.
They were not tipped with mere coins, but with silk handkerchiefs, good cigars, silver-mounted cigar cases, gloves, boots, hats, etc. Passengers riding on the seat with the driver treated him to drinks and cigars on the road. Drinks were also free at the stations. However, drivers seldom drank on the road and many not at all, owing to their being temperance men.
Compiled from: Thomas, W.R., Lectures on History, in The Trail, 1916, v. 9, no. 2, p 5-7)
When the mountain road to Central City was the terror of the West, the chief among those who handled the reins in and out of Denver was Bill Opdyke, who drove the
mountain line to Central City. That was a route that required the maximum of skill and endurance, and Bill drove it for years. He was a man of powerful form, with an arm like a piece of steel, bluff, hearty, good-natured, daring, and unexcelled in the management of a coach-and-six.
One of the long descents to Central City route was known as Smith’s Hill. Down this Bill was accustomed to drive at a furious gallop, and sometimes on a dead run.
The Dutchman’s ranch was a few miles this side of Black Hawk, to which camp the Dutchman made a daily trip with milk. Returning home late in the afternoon, he would be ascending Smith’s Hill with his old horse and cart just about the time the coach came along. The milk peddler frequently got in the way of the coach, and Bill used to curse him roundly. The old Dutchman paid no attention to the warning, so one day Bill calculated the distance and took a wheel off the cart as neat and clean as if cut with an axe, without even checking the speed of the coach, and leaving the milk man a picture of consternation and despair.
For several days, the Dutchman disappeared from the hill. He was having his cart repaired. The day he drove it home I (W.R. Thomas) was sitting on the box with Jake Hawk, whose run it was that day, and as we started down Smith’s Hill grade, Jake called my attention to the old fellow, near the foot of the hill, beating his horse in a frantic attempt to make a turnout ahead of the coach. He got there in safety, and as the coach swept by at its usual speed, the Dutchman looked up and, seeing Jake Hawk on the box, exclaimed with a tone of relief: “Mine Got! I dot it var de Opdyken!”
ANOTHER SMITH HILL STORY:
(Daily Mining Jour., Apr. 25, 1864)
“Accident: Dr [?] coming from Denver with a loaded team, seems to have met with quite a severe accident in descending Smith Hill. The lock broke and the load rushed ahead breaking the neck-yoke when the team started to run. Finally the wagon came in contact with a rock and jerked the passengers off in front; the wagon passed over the Doctor’s legs and body, and it is [?] has seriously injured him. The teamster got clean without injury.
Published September 21, 2014 in the Weekly Register-Call
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