Monday, May 31, 2010

A Visit to Lake City, Colorado

We took a day off from construction work and made a day trip to Lake City, Colorado, just over a few hills from Montrose. Nancy and I went to college many years ago just down the road in Gunnison, where folks from Lake City go to get groceries, just 75 short miles away. Lake City is famous, or maybe infamous, because of Alferd Packer, the only convicted cannibal in the United States. It's quite a story and I trust you can google the subject and get all the information you want. But to make a long story short, (and this is from my memory) he and his mining buddies were trapped in the mountains above Lake City over a bad winter in the late 1800's. Alferd got hungry and 'he done killed and et the five fellas mentioned above.' Apparently, Alfred was first hailed as a hero before folks got suspicious. The rest, as they say is history. If my memory serves, the judge convicted Alferd with something like these words. "Alferd, there were seven Democrats in this here county, and you done ate four of em. I sentence you to hang until you're dead, dead, dead."I don't think there are that many Democrats residing in Hinsdale County today. Hinsdale County is the least populated county in Colorado and one of the least populated in the U.S. (Texas and Hawaii each have some pretty sparsely populated counties.) The population of Lake City, at least in the past, tended to be wealthy, middle aged Texans who spent only the summers in town. White, rich Texans are not known to be Democrats. Lake City is the county seat of Hinsdale County, mainly because there are no other settlements in Hinsdale County. The population of the county was around 790 in the 2000 census, and I reckon there's a few more living there today, at least in the summer. Well, you are probably asking yourself "What does Lake City look like on a goregeous day in summer?"

Well, it's beautiful, if somewhat quiet. This is the Hinsdale County Courthouse. I'm sure you can imagine the high level wheeling and dealing that goes on behind those handsome doors. Our visit took place on a Sunday, so it was quiet and peaceful on this particular day. But back in Mr. Packer's day there were probably large numbers of citizens carrying flaming torches and pistols, standing around this very courthouse, screaming for his hide.

Here's the city park. They don't allow dogs in the park so I couldn't take Fergus over there. But it seemed beautiful and tranquil from across the street.

This is one of the major buildings in town. It has a historical plaque affixed to it, as does the building pictured below.

I know your next question. No, you don't have to be a miner or a merchant to patronize this bank, but it doesn't hurt either.

We saw an individual ride by on a bicycle, so it's not quite the sleepy little town you probably imagined it to be.

Here's another picture of the Miners and Merchant's Bank Building. It was a Sunday, so there wasn't much going on. Most residents of Lake City probably went to the bank on Friday.
And here's the Hinsdale County sign on the only paved road into town. If you want to leave town on another road, you'd better have a four-wheel drive vehicle and it had better be summer because the only roads out of Lake City are high and rocky and generally covered with snow. We'll probably make another visit to Lake City and Hinsdale County very soon. We'd like to drive over Engineer Pass, some 12,000 feet high, sometime this summer after the snow is gone.


Anonymous said...

This definitely looks like a little "jewel" of a town. So reminiscent of other times. It looks like a fun place to visit.

Take care, Luke

Anonymous said...

If you come during the week you can go upstairs in the courthouse to the same courtroom where Alferd's first trial took place and sit in the same chairs folks sat in then. The very eloquent decision by Judge Geary is open to be read.

And, yes, we go from about 800 fols i the winter to 3,000 to 4,000 in the summer. Our "summer people" are wonderful and come from TX, NM, OK, CA, AZ, MI and many other states.

Come again soon!

Linda Matthews
Back Country Navigator

Peggy said...

After being in Italy and seeing all their cool stuff, this reminds me how neat our country is with all our authentic little towns and very American places. We just don't have hundreds of years of history yet!