By June Head
Charles B. Kelly was born in Ohio in 1857. Sometime around 1878, he came west with the John Silvey family, being a good friend of Frank Silvey’s. After getting the Silvey family settled in Utah, the young men went to Leadville. Kelly spent some time freighting between the San Luis Valley, Gunnison and Leadville.
He then cowboyed for the L.C. Carlisle Cattle Co. in Utah, but after the loss of a finger in a roping accident, he settled in Mancos in 1887. Kelly worked for Lew Jarratt, who owned the livery stable in Mancos, soon became a partner, and later bought the stable.
Kelly’s main business was taking tourists by horseback to Mesa Verde to view the Indian ruins. He also freighted supplies to miners in the La Plata Mountains and advertised that he would transport anyone to other parts of the country.
One of his advertisements for Mesa Verde is as follows: “Persons visiting the ruins leave Mancos at seven-thirty in the morning, arrive at Spruce Tree Camp in the Mesa Verde National Park the same day, visit the ruins the second day and return to Mancos the third day. Everything is provided for the three day trip, including conveyances, pack outfits, meals, sleeping accommodations and guide at a cost of $15 for one person; $12.50 each for two or more.”
Kelly would pick up the tourists who had arrived in Mancos on the train and take them to the Ausburn Hotel. The next day, he would pick up the tourists. In 1906, he took visitors the first 15 miles by wagon to the area of halfway bridge about 9 miles east of Cortez. It was 10 miles by horseback to the camp. The trip took about 6 hours.
The trail he followed went west from the Mancos across the Divide and then south and up the escarpment to the head of Soda Canyon and then south to the Spruce Tree Camp, his headquarters. He had built the first cabin on Mesa Verde to accommodate the tourists. Some of the people he took to the ruins were Secretary of Interior James R. Garfield, Willa Cather, W.H. Jackson, A.V. Kidder, Dr. Jesse W. Fewkes and Edgar B. Hewitt. In 1908, when Mesa Verde was made a National Park, C.B. Kelly was named the first park ranger of Mesa Verde National Park.
Information from Ira Kelly, his son, and Jean Kelly Bader, C.B. Kelly’s granddaughterAlamo Ranch of the Wetherill Family – MancosBenjamin Kite Wetherill came from the lead mines in Joplin, Missouri, accompanied by a family named Mitchell to the Montezuma Valley. He took up prospecting but left mining in Rico to go to the Mancos Valley to settle. In 1881, his wife, Marian, and the children went to Alamosa on the train to join B.K. in building a homestead in the Mancos Valley. All understood it would require the entire family‘s efforts to survive in this recently settled outpost of the American West. Their hard work yielded a sturdy home and outbuildings, including workshop and an icehouse. Irrigation ditches were lined by parallel rows of cottonwood trees.
In future years, ranch guests would find the tree-lined ditches a place to swing in the hammocks while reading books from the family’s extensive library. By homesteading and purchase, the Wetherill family had accumulated at least 600 acres by 1898. Visitors to the ranch increased in the summer of 1889. B.K. kept a ledger of notable people – the first entry was June 1, 1889. Frederick Chapin was a visitor at the ranch. Gustaf Nodenskiold visited in 1891. Soldiers from Fort Lewis, the “Hyde people” and Dr. Prudden were there. He also kept a ledger of the daily transactions plus records of tourists to cliff houses. Guests paid $1.50 per day for board and room plus extra for horses, hay and pasture. No record was found of a trip’s total cost, but it might have been about $15 – probably for a three-night and four-day trip. He kept a ledger of people from Cortez and Mancos who worked at the ranch. Sometimes he just wrote “Sheepgirl,” “Butterwoman,” Mex 1, Mex 2, “Barber,” etc. Some of the transactions shown were: overalls 70, tobacco 25, shoestrings 10, curling iron 25, and whiskey $10.
Guests signed the register and sometimes gave their address. B.K. made notations of the guests – several “Schoolmarms with typewriter” were there in the summer months. This ledger was kept by B.K. until 1898, when Al took over the business accounts.
Guiding was so in demand by 1898 that Al Wetherill could no longer handle the demands. He joined forces with C.B. Kelly from Mancos and Sterl Thomas from Cortez. One summer, more than 250 school teachers scheduled visits to the cliff houses, which required the equine resources of the entire Montezuma Valley and all the resources of Kelly, Wetherill and Sterl Thomas. In May 1900, the Hammond family from London visited for 17 days and brought servants including valet.
The last entry in the ledger was August 1901.
Al and Mary left the ranch in 1902 as the ranch was in debt. They moved to Thoreau, N.M., and started a trading post.
Information from Fred Blackburn’s book “The Wetherills – Friends of Mesa Verde”Walters Brothers from CortezDeac and Joe Walters were guides from Cortez who traveled the old Longenbaugh Trail to visit the cliff houses. It was reported to be wide enough for one horse. This trail left from the Dave Longenbaugh ranch, which was south of Cortez on County Road 27 and Road H. Ladies from Cortez went to the cliff houses with Deac Walters. They stayed overnight at Spruce Tree, where the camping ground was available to all. The cost was about $15 with everything furnished. Their sleeping accommodations might have consisted of a sleeping bag at the camping ground rather than a cabin. The trip was no doubt a three-day trip also with one day up, one day visiting the cliff houses and one day home. Mrs. Swank said in 1896 that she and her husband took a group of young people to the cliff houses. They all slept in one bed – the Swanks in the middle, boys on one side, girls on the other.
Information from family members of the Walters Brothers. June Head, historian of Montezuma County Historical Society, may be reached for questions about her article at 970-565-3880.