Here is the main post for Elizabeth O Robinson Baxter (1850-1924), Ancestor #3/52
At Wikipedia, the history of the town of Granada, Colorado seems to begin and end with World War II and the Granada War Relocation Center, located west of Granada as a Japanese American internment camp, known (unofficially) as Camp Amache. Yet people who know the pioneer history of southeastern Colorado and Prowers County will make the distinction between the town of Granada of the Wikipedia post, and the town as it first existed in the 1870s, or “Old” Granada as it is sometimes called.
Elizabeth Robinson Baxter’s oldest son, George Baxter, was the second child of eight and the last child to be born on the family farm in Indiana. Shortly after his birth in June of 1872, Alonzo and Elizabeth moved their family to the 160-acre claim in southeastern Colorado. George would live to be 77 years old, one of Prowers County’s oldest pioneer residents. He took his position as a life-long resident seriously, spending the years after his retirement as an enthusiastic amateur historian. You might even say that George had his own blog, which consisted of about 80 entries in the Lamar newspaper, titled “Prowers County. . . Past to Present.” All of the entries were carefully saved by someone, cut from the newspaper and pasted into a scrapbook–all 80 entries without a date or the title of the newspaper in which they appeared. The series probably appeared in the Lamar newspaper sometime in the early 1940s.
One of these entries focuses on Old Granada, Bent County’s (later Prowers County’s) only town in the 1870s (1). George writes about Old Granada as if he were an adult remembering the decade of the 1870s, but since he was born in 1872, these “memories” he writes of are memories “as told to George” by someone else.
Old Granada may have started sooner, but it must have really gotten off the ground when the railroad was extended there in 1873. During the town’s most prosperous era, 1873-1875, Old Granada boasted of four saloons, three dance halls, and one gambling joint. But, writes George, “there was less drinking in proportion than there is today, and even less, I believe, than in prohibition days.” The saloons enjoyed their best business on Saturdays when the cowboys, bad men, and settlers came to town. It was a time when “notorious outlaws” hung around the town, says George, men like “Mysterious Dave” Matthews, “Doc” Holiday, Charles White, “Chalk” Beason, Frank Boggs, George Curry, Clay Allison, Jack Allen, Charles Bassett, Ben Thompson, and Ed Masterson, brother of Bat, both men gunfighters, buffalo hunters, and lawmen. There was no jail in the town, and those who violated the law were told to “get out.” Very few, says George, refused the order.
While the town of Old Granada had its gunfighters and bad men, it also had children from the families who lived in the area. The schoolhouse in Old Granada, according to George Baxter, one of its students by the late 1870s, was a frame building, taught by Mrs. W.W. Jones. (2) However, George must have been remembering things a bit differently than his younger sister, Daisy. In her article written for The Colorado Magazine in 1947, “Pioneer Conditions in the Arkansas Valley,” Daisy writes of going to school about a mile away from their father’s claim, a one-room sod house with walls two feet thick, attended by ten students and a teacher, Mrs. Hume. (3) Daisy was born in 1876, four years after George, and the small sod schoolhouse she mentions must have been near their father’s timber claim, five miles east of Old Granada. It’s certainly possible that the sod house was the original sod structure that housed the Baxter family before they built their frame house in 1873. However, regardless of whether the children attended a one-room sod schoolhouse or school was located in a frame building in town, it’s apparent from the 1880 census record, which shows all of the children “at school,” that school for their children was a priority for the people of the Granada community.
These old west towns were built, bloomed or boomed for a short time, and then declined and eventually became the ghost towns of the cowboy television shows that those of us who are old enough remember watching in the 1950s. This cycle seems to have been the fate of Old Granada. After booming for three years, the town began its decline in 1876 when many settlers and businessmen of Granada moved to Coolidge, Kansas, another boom town that was right across the Colorado/Kansas border. The decline was reasonably gradual, since there are records of children attending the frame schoolhouse in the early 1880s. The site of Old Granada was finally abandoned in 1886 and sold to new owners. People moved on to towns like Coolidge, Kansas or the newly-created Lamar, Colorado.
New Granada would come later, starting in about 1886 during the new boom period of 1886-1889. However, that was a different place and a different town, and shouldn’t be confused with the Old Granada of the 1870s.
This photograph comes from George A.H. Baxter’s papers. On the back, in pencil, is written “1897, Granada.” Bonus Question: What’s missing in this photograph?
Notes and References
(1) Part VI, “Prowers County . . . Past to Present,” as told by George A.H. Baxter.
(2) “Experiences and Observations in Prowers County,” Vol. 11, no. 4, 136-140, The Colorado Magazine, by George Baxter. Information is taken from the original typescript of the manuscript, in my possession.
(3) “Pioneer Conditions in the Arkansas Valley. The Colorado Magazine, 1947, Vol. 24, no. 3, 114-118, by Daisy Baxter Jefferson.