Families tell history of a Route 666 ghost town

Thursday, May 3, 2018 2:32 PM
A state highway truck used for work at Ackmen, in about 1922.
Hadley Street in Ackmen, Colorado, in 1921. Ackmen was about a half-mile west and 1½ miles south of Pleasant View.
Courtesy of Jerry Fetterman

An old map of Ackmen, Colorado.

By June Head

Montezuma County Historical Society

Ackmen was a dryland community that was bypassed by the construction of U.S. Route 666, now known as U.S. Highway 491. Ackmen’s residents moved to the newly established community of Pleasant View along the highway.

Ackmen was located in the area of County Road 15.5 and Road AA that descends into Sandstone Canyon about 3 miles south of Pleasant View. The community was gone by the 1940s. The first store in Ackmen was built by James and Lura Hadley and purchased by “Ogg” Weimann, who later built a new one. The street was called Hadley Street. The interviews about Ackmen follow.

Bessie Hollen White, 2017Many old-timers know of Ackmen, but why this name?

The story goes that a group of people had met to name the town and get a post office. After a while, someone said, “We’ve got to act, men.” The town was named Ackmen. The post office was established on Nov. 5, 1917, and remained until 1941.

My father and mother lived for seven years in western Kansas during the Dust Bowl. In 1926, they moved to Canada and to Ackmen in 1934. We lived on County Road CC about a mile from the old highway. I started to school in 1936 at Ackmen, walking 3 miles. My grandparents lived in Ackmen, where they had some cabins. Truck drivers would stay at night with them because the roads in the winter were so bad they had to stop there or get stuck down the road. My Gramo would fix meals for them.

Ackmen had a post office. Farmers Telephone established service in 1920. “Ogg” Weinmann operated a store with groceries, some clothing, used furniture, and hardware for several years. My Granddad Hollen had a store for a few years after 1932. Clarence Wooten had a garage to fix the few cars and a gas station. They had the school with two teachers. The old highway (Highway 160) was just dirt. When Highway 666 came through, it was a godsend if you could get to the highway – you could get to town to the doctors. You could take your cream and eggs and all kinds of other things.

In the late 1930s, my brother carried the mail for Noel Hadley, who was the mail carrier, in the winter. It had to be done on horseback and wagon in the winter. He would ride the horse on Tuesday and Thursday. On Saturday, he had to take the wagon to take packages and groceries. This was a free service as people could not get to the store. It would take him all day as it was about a 17-to-18 mile trip.

In the late ’30s one night in November or December, Alice Pigg Lancaster called Dad. Her sister in-law was having a baby. They had called Doctor LeFurgey from Dolores. He said he could drive his car to Pleasant View and wanted Dad to take the mail wagon and horses to meet him and take him to the Piggs’ home. Of course, Dad said he would. Dad put some blankets in the wagon for the doctor to cover with. LeFurgey had his own “toddy” to keep warm. They stopped by neighbors for coffee and sandwiches. Dad never forgot the night. The baby was fine. (White, 2017)

Alice Pigg LancasterMy dad took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush around 1900. We later rented farm land in eastern Colorado. An article in The Denver Post said the Army had pushed the Indians off their land in Montezuma County, and it was open for homesteading, so we came on Thanksgiving Day, 1916. You had to pay $1.25 an acre for 160 acres, live on it six months, clear 10 acres, and it was yours. It was good land, but water was scarce. My father built a log house, just two rooms, but put up a shingle roof. All the other homesteaders put logs on their roof, then bark, then mud. When it rained, we were the only people with a dry place, so all the other families would come and sleep in our house.

We made our own bread and soap, grew corn and raised hogs. We washed our clothes on a washboard. The hardest thing was getting drinking water. We had no way to drill deep wells, so we had to get water in barrels in a wagon. We might have to go 20 miles in one direction, and we’d store it in a cement-lined cistern. Sometimes, a mouse or rat would get in the cistern, and you didn’t drink the water! Winter was easier as we melted snow and icicles.

Alice taught 2 years at Ackmen and it was her first teaching job. She mentioned that the school kids would go to Sandstone Creek as an outing. (Alice Lancaster, 1991)

H.H. ‘Beab’ Beaber, 2017“Beab” was editor and owner of the Pioneer Chieftain Newspaper at Ackmen. The first issue was published on Friday, Jan. 2, 1920. His mottos were “One School, one Flag, one Country, America for American” and “With a Mission and without a Muzzle.” Beab and Mary were off to a start in this small village, where they also served as the postmaster and postmistress for the Postal Service. The first subscribers were J.W. Hadley, J.D. Blosser, William Eggers, E.L. Wright, William Tillman and John King. They published news from the dryland area and the Montezuma Valley including Dolores and Cortez. They hired one hand to help with all the duties. On a good day, they could print 300 copies a day with an old Washington Hand Press. Unfortunately, the old highway (160) through the drylands to Dove Creek was rebuilt and rerouted not long after the newspaper was founded. The post office and the school were closed. (Jerry Beaber, 2017)

John Walter ErtelJ.W. Ertel was born in Ohio on June 15, 1892. They left the area in 1904 in search of a drier climate for his mother. Upon their arrival in Denver, Walter took a job at Martin Mortuary, where he worked during the day and studied to become a mortician at night.

In 1917, Walter and his brother in-law Bill Lenz homesteaded 320 acres in Ackmen. For the first couple of years, they split their time, working summers in Ackmen and returning to Denver to work in the winter. In 1919, Walter was able to live full-time on the homestead in Ackmen. He also moved his parents out with him, and his mother soon became the postmistress of the Ackmen Post Office. In 1921, Walter bought the Omo and Ames Mortuary in Cortez. Mr. Omo decided to retire in 1923, so the Ertel family relocated to Cortez. (Ertel family, 2011)

Calvin Denton and Mrs. Noel HadleyCalvin Denton had a bean shed with a bean cleaner. The Noel Hadley family lived next door. They had an agreement that Calvin would not run the bean cleaner on wash days. Later, Calvin Denton purchased the store. Lois Hadley had the telephone office. When the residents moved to Pleasant View, Mr. Denton moved his store there. Denton later sold the store to John Wright. Mrs. Hadley moved the telephone office to the “front room” of their home in Pleasant View. (Mrs. Lois Hadley, 1960s)

Colorado Conservation CampThe CCC camp was west of Ackmen and was building the new highway. Ackmen was a tent city for the road crew in 1922. The CCC boys liked to dance, so many dances were held at Ackmen. (Leon Weinmann: 1970s)

Bob Hollen, father of Bessie White, played the banjo for the dances and was paid $5 for the evening.

Lowell CampbellW.I. and Lillian Campbell and children lived in Ackmen about 1921. Lowell attended school in the second grade. The family lived in a board frame house north of the school. The home was heated with a wood-burning stove and used kerosene lanterns as there was no electricity. Water was hauled by buckets from their neighbor, Mr. Weimann, who had a gas-driven pump for his well, and a pressurized water system. The town consisted of a few homes, the school, Weinmann’s mercantile and the telephone office. The school was a one-room school, and classes were taught from the first through eighth grades. The students beyond the eighth grade made arrangements to live in Cortez and attend school there. (Jerry Fetterman – Campbell, 1981)

Bessie White, Jerry Fetterman, Jerry Beaber, Fred Blackburn, Walter Ertel Jr., Lois Hadley and Alice/Al Lancaster contributed information about Ackmen. Without their help, Ackmen would remain a mystery ghost town. June Head is historian of Montezuma County Historical Society, phone 565-3880. She may be contacted for comments or questions.