Territory Days in Colorado Springs honors history of state’s first capital

Once upon a time, in a town not that far away, scandalous activity was keeping the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union up at night.

It was the late 1800s, and Colorado City (now Old Colorado City) was the last bit of civilization before folks headed west to chase their fortune in Cripple Creek.

It was also a time when townsfolk couldn’t decide whether to turn the town dry in the hopes of cleaning up the city or continue swilling their beloved hooch. Gold seekers were on board with the latter, guzzling enough devil’s brew to pickle their livers before seeking out pleasures of the flesh at nearby brothels.

Thousands will fill the streets of Old Colorado City during Territory Days this Memorial Day weekend. Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette.

In 1910, according to then-newspaper Colorado City Iris, rumor had it that a flock of buzzards flew over the city. Once they got to a particular group of brick houses on Washington Street (now Cucharras Street), where dens of iniquity were run by Laura Belle McDaniel, known as Queen of the Colorado City Tenderloin, and Mamie Majors, the birds were forced to throw their claws over their noses to stanch the stench of prostitution. They then flew to the chlorination mills to get a breath of fresh air.

Stories like these filled newspapers at the time, said Suzanne Schorsch, treasurer and publisher of the Old Colorado City Historical Society. She’s writing a book about Colorado City’s colorful history with the help of the Pikes Peak Library District’s special collections on microfiche.

"It kills your eyes, and it kills your neck, but there are some interesting tidbits there," she said.

While you might run into an imbiber or two, you probably won’t run into any gold seekers or bordello owners at Territory Days in Old Colorado City this weekend. But you can pay homage and honor those long-gone days with music, food and entertainment. About 50,000 people flow through during each day of the three-day event.

The free festival began in 1975 to celebrate the small section of town that was once the Colorado Territory’s first capital, even before Denver. The cabin in Bancroft Park was the state Capitol.

Territory Days draws tens of thousands to Old Colorado City over Memorial Day weekend for music, food, vendors and family activities. Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette.

"It was the richest spot in the state," said Jim Wear, Pro Promotions president and Territory Days organizer. "That was in the heyday of gold in Cripple Creek, and it was a massive trade area. We try to keep true to the Old West and celebrate Old Colorado City tradition with Territory Days where we can."


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