Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Denver founded on a Claim Jump?

Jane Lorimer of Inter Neighborhood Cooperation recently asked what three towns made up the founding of early Denver? Here is what I answered,. Other historians might say something different. Other historians will retort that whatever I say is incorrect. Here is why some folks say Denver was found on a claim jump. I believe it would be more accurate to identify the names of the original founding towns as four: 1. Denver City, 2. Auraria City 3. briefly St Charles; and 4. Highland. Denver City was set up by General William Larimer. Larimer arrived at confluence of Cherry Creek and Platte on November 16, 1858. Larimer squinted across Cherry Creek and got worried when saw another town, Auraria City. So he lusted for more developable land elsewhere. Charles Nichols hailed from St. Charles, Missouri and put four logs together to set up the town of St. Charles. I can't find the Denver town referred to as St. Charles City, just St. Charles. As backup to his own east Platte diggings, Larimer walked across the ice across to the Northwest side of the river and set up the town of Highland on December 11, 1858 or sometime in 1859. Then the story goes that in spring of 1859 Larimer and his cronies bullied Nichols by telling him that he should simply give up his four log claim to St. Charles or face the end of a rope. In exchange for such urban cooperation, Larimer said he would gave him some choice lots in Denver. Nichols accepted the deal rather than a hanging. So Larimer claim jumped St. Charles. This is long before memoranda of understandings and long before Aurora and Denver started fighting over the Gaylord project. Did Nichols give up his town for a barrel of whiskey? Tom Noel, Denver's pre-eminent historian, thinks the whiskey story that Nichols sold out his town for a barrel of whiskey, is probably apocryphal. But I think we can promote the whiskey story as more prophetic since there is still lots of whiskey being drunk in lodo. Many historians say the bully rope threat story is more accurate. Nichols then sold his lots and left such unfriendly territory. This was before multiple use zoning rules. No setbacks. No dispute resolution office. Was Montana City one of the founding cities? Remember, Montana City was a bit further down south from the confluence area located at Florida Avenue and the Platte. So I would leave Montana City out of the list of 4 names considered above. So I suggest that there were 4 cities involved in Denver's founding: Auraria City; Denver City which claim jumped and absorbed the short-lived St. Charles; and then Larimer's backup town, Highland, later to become the town of Highlands in 1870's. Just imagine what those founding folks could have done with some creative tax increment financing. And some say the early Denver founders may have lusted in their corporate hearts to gobble up the town of Glendale, but it was thought to be too far out in the country to bother.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bracero exhibit at Regis

The word bracero is derived from the Spanish word brazos meaning 'arms.' Braceros worked with thier arms, their strong arms harvesting the fields of America's west from 1942-1964. The Dayton Memorial Library at Regis University, in partnership with the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, hosts this fascinating exhibit of this part of US/Mexican history from August 18---October 28. The braceros also worked for railroads and maintained tracks. The library is open until 12 midnight now for the semester since the students are flocking back to campus for another exciting year. So there is no excuse that you could not find time to come to the library. The Regis exhibit commemorates the 70th anniversary of the start of the Bracero Program in Colorado. The exhibit is entitled "Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964," and traces the history of the program which engaged nearly 5 million Mexican workers to come to the US and work in agriculture. Pictures on the Smithsonian traveling panels offer a wide range of memories of this almost now forgotten part of American history. Workers look out from the pictures with strength and pride and love of hard work. The US unilaterally ended the program because many felt that these workers took jobs away from American workers. Professor Ramon Del castillo wrote a poem for the exhibit and read it with passion. Dr. Nikki Gonzales, Regis professor and daughter of Chief Joe Gonzales of the Denver Fire Department, headed up the Regis side of the exhibit. Fr. John P. FitzGibbons, S. J., the new president of Regis, reminded the crowd that Regis was proud to host this exhibit. He then quoted from the psalms about helping those most in need and respecting the foreigners in our midst. Fr. FitzGibbons's words showed us how the exhibit speaks out to us today. Dr. Charles Collins, University of Northern Colorado, mused at the opening of the exhibit aboutf his experiences with braceros who worked on his family's farm in Greeley. Interested folks will have another chance to hear Dr. Collins talk further on Thursday, August 30th at Casa Mayan House, 1020 9th Street Historic Park on Auraria Campus. 12:30-1:30 PM. Regis is sponsoring several other speakers and panels throughout the semester. You can check it out at www.regis.edu/exhibit. I hope you will embrace the Bracero Exhibit at Regis. While you are in the library, visit the Santo Chapel on the 3rd floor holding some of the finest religious Santo art in the country. Tell all your amigos.

Monday, August 20, 2012

St Rocco's

Jane Jacob's in her axial work on what makes America's cities special, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, talks about the importance of church neighborhood events for building community, an understanding of diversity, looking to civic renewal a bright future, turning things from darkness into light. While Jane probably never attended St. Rocco's Festival in North Denver, the yearly summer processions sponsored by Italian fraternal organizations at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church fit like a Venetian velvet glove within her theory. Church festivals and processions through the neighborhood build diversity for residents. They bring a spirit of renewal, gene unity, a yearly spiritual cleaning after all the sorrows, the family fights, the crime, any harms which beset a neighborhood during the year. I really look forward to the processions at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on 36th and Navajo. I smile so much my face muscles begin to hurt. I see lots of friends from high school and students from Regis. My cousin, Captain Brian Gallagher, DPD, always volunteers to do traffic control for the procession. Grazzie mile, Brian. Let me share with you why this festival engenders such great fun and an amazing uplift to our spirits. I believe Marie Dispense invited me to my first St. Rocco's festival when I was a freshman in high school with her beautiful daughter, Mary Carole. I wanted to be there, if Mary Carol with her bobby socks rolled was going to be there. I didn't want to be square. I wanted to be "cool." When I was in high school, being Italian equaled "cool squared." The Potenza Lodge takes charge of the St. Rocco procession. The saint's statue with his sporty Tyrolean hiking cap gets gently hoisted on a portable platform and placed at the entrance of the church surrounded by kids, flowers, and flags. A small dog is carved into the St. Rocco statue because of the oral legend passed down for centuries now for mother to daughter and fathers to sons in Potenza, Italy. St. Rocco injured his leg and a dog came to him and tended unto him. St. Rocco's finger points to his wounded leg healing with the assistance of his dog. I am surprised the groups seeking protection for animals have not picked up on St. Rocco. Before the procession the faithful can pin money to an scarf placed around St. Rocco's neck, like a bride's dress at a traditional Italian wedding. The belief holds that the money becomes a petition for healing, for forgiveness, for help with a marriage, for the kid to get a job, for the economy, as divine providence healed St. Rocco. The money becomes a prayer. St. Rocco, deliver us. Remember the band in The Godfather when Michael gets married in Sicily? I swear that band flew in for the St. Rocco procession. The hearty band's music really livens the whole festival up. The band builds tension and increases the take for the church allowing bidders time to collaborate how much they want to give this year. St. Rocco, spare us from the recession. The band plays and the bidding begins. Who gets to carry the statue? Families begin bidding for the privilege of carrying the saint's statue through the neighborhood. Tension builds, the band plays again, families confer and pool their resources. Families bid again, the tension builds more. This is an election year, competition is good. Families can also bid on who gets to carry the flags, the American flag always gets the highest bid followed by the Potenza Lodge procession banner. Finally, to me the most touching part of the whole festival and procession, can be found in youngsters from the church giving flowers to women along the procession route. You just don't get this pastiche in Cherry Hills Village and other gated communities. So thanks to Potenza Lodge and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church for blessing Denver such ethnic old world diversity. And St. Rocco, send us some rain, por favore.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Tomorrow at Denver’s historic 4 Mile House Park, Professor Tom Noel and I will be leading folks in our annual reading of the full Declaration of Independence. The reading will start about 1pm, but fun for all the family can be had if you get there early. We thank Congresswoman Diana DeGette for giving us copies of the Declaration and the Constitution from her office supply. They serve a good hamburger and brat lunch with potato salad and baked beans at the park. The park also celebrates our independence with hay rides, and a stage coach rides. You just line up for those events. And Daniel Knifechief from North Denver, a Native American friend, shows kids what living in a teepee is like. The civil war soldiers always set off a few canon shots just in case the British might be thinking about reclaiming their former colony. Visitors can see many early American crafts: quilt making and sewing; horse shoe clanging on hot anvils; and the gift show is open. The Denver Concert Band always lifts the spirits of all with their rousing patriotic marches and melodies. And during the Declaration’s reading, we try to get the crowd roaring “Down with King George.” Last year the crowd picked up the refrain like a bunch of Tea Partiers at a make up your mind rally. I will have voter registration sign-up sheets available for anyone who wishes to register. I took the course at a neighborhood meeting on how to help sign up residents to vote. I am a veritable walking voter registration site. And feel free to join in on the reading of your favorite grievance old King George III. The park is at 715 S. Forrest Street, in Denver, not quite Glendale. There is a charge for admission, but it’s well worth it. Up the Republic.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Patent Office the past; and a President

A U.S. Patent Office satellite location is coming to Denver. Good news for our city and our state. This is a significant economic shot in the arm for Denver and Colorado in more ways than one and will pay dividends for many years to come. It will pay major economic dividends "for basically zero taxpayer money." It was a truly collaborative effort that included bipartisan support in government, the business community, academia, and from local leaders across the state. (As I am fond of noting, when I served in the Legislature, the spirit of cooperation was usually there and many of us worked across the aisle on efforts that were good for the state.) Denver's relatively low costs for commercial real estate leases and other expenses were a key reason the city got picked. Having a patent office here will likely spur patents locally, as well as investment and the relocation of tech companies here. Officials estimate a $439 million economic impact on Colorado in the first five years a patent office is open -- and with little or no taxpayer money, since operations are funded by patent fees. Historically, the issuance of patents was one of the earliest endeavors of the federal government. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution states, "Congress shall have the Power... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Congress passed several patent acts during the first half century following the ratification of the Constitution. These acts include the Patent Act of 1790, the Patent Act of 1793, and the Patent Act of 1836. It is important to examine the provisions outlined by these acts, and analyze the impact of each upon American scientists of the time. The provisions outlined by this series of Congressional legislation are the foundation upon which the modern-day Patent Office is based. The modern concept of the patent had its origins in 15th century England and the original Thirteen Colonies had some form of patent law, however it was Thomas Jefferson (among others) that influenced the development of a national patent system in 1790. Though he influenced the development of the system and was an innovator and inventor in his own right, Jefferson never obtained a patent. Only one U.S. President has ever obtained a patent. Who you ask? On May 22, 1849, Abraham Lincoln received Patent No. 6469 for a device to lift boats over shoals, an invention which was never manufactured. The great emancipator, savior of the Union and magnificent word-smith later said: “The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fixing the City's Budget 'fix'

Mayor Michael Hancock, hopefully with the support of council, will ask the citizens of Denver to de-Bruce our city on the November ballot as part of the strategy to meet the city's budget deficit. I predict City Council will support the Mayor in putting the ballot measure to de-Bruce before the voters. And the voters, if they vote to de-Bruce, would allow the city to keep monies(about $67 million)currently being returned to voters in the form of credits under TABOR. To de-Bruce,a proper noun turned into a verb, requires a vote of the people. While our budget shortfall is about $90 million this year, the Mayor believes that allowing the city to retain this money in the city coffers would do much to alleviate the shortfall for Denver's city libraries(allowing service levels to be returned to earlier levels)and other needed city services. I suspect lots of voters don't even realize they get these credits. I am starting a survey. I agree with the Mayor and I look forward to talking with as many voters as possible to encourage them to support this move. But a possible glitch to the strategy to fix Denver's budget shortfall surfaces. Denver Public Schools is looking at putting $500 million on the ballot at the same time the city tries to de-Bruce. Nevertheless, I look forward to talking with you about these budget changes. Sounds like someone has to start working on the 'strategy' here on these issues.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 17

I recently attended the Elder Abuse Awareness Day sponsored by Denver DA Mitch Morrissey at the Pavilion at City Park. Attendance was up from last year and while I was not on the official program, Mitch invited me to regale the crowd of 70 folks with a song. Instead of my usual Colorado Song, I asked, "Why is June 17, 1972 an important date in American history?" Only one older gentleman from Arapahoe County answered back to me, "Watergate." I gave his an auditor's round pin as a reward for remembering history. Yes, the Watergate scandal started on June 17. The headline in Washington Post of June 18 read: "5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats' Office." I re-read it, and it was a long story. The Democrats' office was located in the fancy Watergate Apartment complex in Washington.On his rounds through the building, Guard Frank Wills saw the tape which one of the White House burglars placed over the lock of the office door. He called Washington police and they arrested the five burglars. What ever happened to Frank? In 1974 after Nixon resigned the presidency, Regis University invited Senator Sam Ervin, Democrat of North Carolina who chaired the committee to investigate the White House break ins to speak on campus. The day of the senator's speech, I was honored to host Senator Ervin for lunch at the old Bratskellar located in Larimer Square. Courtlandt Doyle, a long time Democratic activist from North Denver went with us. He thanked Senator Ervin for saving our Republic. Everybody in the place came up to thank him for what he did for the country. Courtlandt paid for the lunch. Senator Ervin who endeared himself to the nation during the Watergate hearings by whimsically referring to himself as "just a country lawyer," shared with us that he worked closely with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters from the Washington Post who worked on the story which brought down Nixon, our modern day Macbeth.