Train of Thought

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) once played a large role in the history of Cañon City. It also brought a man to the city after whom one of our streets is named.

Colonel William Henry Greenwood was born on March 27, 1832 to Asa and Lucy Greenwood in Marlborough, New Hampshire. After graduating Norwich University in 1852, he was employed by the American Central Railroad. When the American Civil War began, he enlisted in the 51st Regiment Illinois Volunteers and gained the title of colonel. In later years he established himself as a civil engineer and was recruited by General Palmer for the D&RG.

Greenwood served as the general manager of the railroad during construction of the first division towards Cañon City, after which he was appointed general superintendent until the line finished at the city. He and his wife, Evaline, made their home in Cañon City in 1872. Their home stood at the southwest corner of Main and 6th Streets. Greenwood owned large plots of land throughout the city, including the land he donated for the original D&RG Depot, formerly at 16th Street and Greenwood Avenue. In 1880, Greenwood was employed as the most reliable man to undertake the survey necessary to chart a line between Mexico City and the Pacific Coast. The Palmer and Sullivan Company undertook the task of creating the rail line between the two locations and Greenwood was sent down to Mexico. However, it was to be his last assignment.

On August 29, 1880, Greenwood was near Rio Hondo, eighteen miles from Mexico City, surveying the area. He was accompanied by an assistant engineer and a servant but was separated from them when he went ahead at a faster pace. He was seen by his companions as he came upon a ravine and descended the hill. They hastened to reach him but only a short time later they came upon his body in the road with two shots; one through his chest and left hand and the other through his right hand. His horse and gun were missing but his watch, paper, and money were left untouched. It is likely the culprits had no time to take the items off his body as his companions arrived shortly after. His funeral was attended by not only Americans, but English, French, German, and Mexican dignitaries. He is buried at Mexican National Cemetery in Mexico City.

William H. Greenwood was a well-respected man and Greenwood Avenue still bears his name today. Happy Birthday Colonel Greenwood!

Colonel W.H. Greenwood, yr. unknown; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Colonel W.H. Greenwood, yr. unknown; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

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