1910 heading 1910

View of Ft. Peabody

Built solely for the purpose of keeping a certain class of citizens out of a county, Fort Peabody is the highest sentry post of its kind in the USA. The guardhouse and remains of a flag mount and sniper nest, squatting on top of a 13,365-foot ridge in southwestern Colorado, have been approved by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places as a site important to the state's history. It is also a site of significance to the nation's labor history.
sentry post

Fort Peabody's mute wood and crumbling stone tell the story of conquest, class struggle, and the role of government in the labor disputes of a century ago. The cartridges found at the site speak volumes of a time when the Colorado National Guard (CNG) could be sold to businessmen and used to oppress citizens, and to gain control of legal, political, and economic authority.

The sentry post, which commands a breathtaking view above Imogene Pass between Ouray and Telluride, was built in 1904 during the height of statewide labor disturbances. At the time, the Western Federation of Miners was managing legal strikes in the San Juan district, Cripple Creek district, Colorado City, and other regions of the state. The CNG Troop A, First Squadron Cavalry specifically built the post on the county line to prevent union miners or their sympathizers from entering San Miguel County, and to thwart deported men, classified as "undesirable citizens," from returning home via Imogene Pass.

Troop A was under command of Captain Bulkeley Wells, mine manager of the Smuggler-Union Mining Company. The CNG unit was actually created by Wells and approved by Governor James H. Peabody in January 1904, the members mustered in on January 11. Membership consisted of Wells' Smuggler employees, friends, and cowboys from the west end of the county. The cowboys offered to serve without pay, furnishing their own horses and weapons. Wells paid for their ammunition and rations, housing them in his company's buildings, thereby making it evident that CNG soldiers were in his personal employ. Troop A sentries occupied Fort Peabody after Wells took command of the district on February 21, 1904.
MaryJoy Martin, author of the award-winning book on labor history, The Corpse on Boomerang Road: Telluride's War on Labor 1899-1908, nominated the site for the National Historic Register in November 2004. "The process takes a few months," Martin said, "but the research can take much longer." She said Fort Peabody was occupied until martial law was revoked in the district on June 15, 1904. She said evidence indicates the post may have been occupied as late as 1908, since Wells used his mining company employees as sentries. The guardhouse was never used for anything else.
The USDA Forest Service acquired this property from the Idarado Mining Company in 2002. Leigh Ann Hunt, archeologist for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, and the Forest Heritage Program Manager said, "It is a miracle this little stone hut survived to the present day." Hunt believes it is essential "to have its historical importance documented in the form of a National Register nomination, which will assist us in managing it for the future."

Ft. Peabody 1910

The site was surveyed and mapped by Jonathon C. Horn, a co-owner and Principal Investigator at Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc. of Montrose, Colorado. "Fort Peabody has the most incredible view of any historical site in the state," Horn said. He identified cartridges from the site as consistent with those used by National Guard troops in 1904. Several different calibers were in use, and the .30-40 Krag cartridge with the "W.R.A. Co. 30 U.S.G" headstamp found at the site, "may indicate that National Guard troops were using cast off U.S. military rifles," according to Horn.
The first sentries at this post were armed with rifles and bayonets and their own sidearms. Two or three men on duty at the post slept in the small guardhouse. A flagpole was mounted on the highpoint above the pass at 13,365 feet and the US Flag was said to be visible from the valley west of Telluride. A small stone shelter was built a few dozen yards below the flagpole mount. This was the "sniper nest," where a sentry perched with his rifle trained on the pass road.
The story of the labor struggles in San Miguel County has been fully documented in Martin's book. She believes, "Fort Peabody is probably the only remaining structure exclusively representative of Colorado's labor troubles in 1903-04. Its inclusion on the National Register will make certain this dark era isn't forgotten. Such things as those nightmarish abuses of power should never happen in a democracy."
Mt Sneffels through the guardhouse ruins
To read the story of Fort Peabody
in the context of Telluride's labor history, see the book
The Corpse on Boomerang Road: Telluride's War on Labor 1899-1908
Corpse on Boomerang Road
Western Reflections Publishing Company
P.O. Box 1149
Lake City, CO 81235
Fax: 970-944-0273
Email: publisher@westernreflectionspublishing.com
For a preview of the book, visit these links:
Preview the bookTMM logoRead excerpts

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