Chief Ouray, Chipeta, and the Rudds

By  Loretta (Stevens) Bailey

Flour and utes
March 11, 1875, Cañon City Times: “On Saturday, while a squad of Utes were packing their ponies in front of Champion Mills, Talbot the wide-eyed scenery man, thought he saw a good subject for a new view. He drew a bead on the multitude of primitives, but when it was discovered came (a) sudden scattering of the Utes and the view was spoiled. They think the camera is bad medicine and they can’t stand it. Subsequently, the artist through strategy secured a negative of the crowd from the second story of Shepherd & Co.’s wagon and manufactory.” (Present day 1st and Main Street); Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center


Outside of the R.G.R.M. & H.C. are two log cabins, a stone house, an enclosed carriage, and a conglomerate rock with a plaque.  The larger cabin, built in the 1860s, belonged to Anson and Harriett Rudd and held the distinction of being the first cabin in the area to have a wooden floor.

When Harriett and Anson were looking for a place to live, she wanted to live here by the river where the banks were abundant with wild berry bushes and grape vines.  (Bears liked this location for same reasons as well the white settlers and Utes).[1]

Their son Anson Spencer Rudd was born June 23, 1861 and he was the first white child to be born here. He survived to adulthood, which was not common for this time period. Mortality rates among infants were high.

The smaller cabin was built in the 1860’s by W. C. Catlin on the south side of the Arkansas River. Mr. Catlin owned the first brickyard and used convict labor to make bricks.  (In the 1970’s, inmates from Old Territorial Prison dismantled the logs and moved the cabin to its present location by the Rudd Cabin.

The stone house was built in 1881 with stones quarried from the Territorial Prison and use of convict labor.  Anson and Harriett moved from the cabin to the stone house and resided there for over twenty years.

The carriage belonged to Joseph H. Maupin who arrived in Cañon City in 1865.  He became a very successful jury lawyer. Mr. Maupin had just hung out his shingle when he was hired for his first case; a local lynching happened the night before and involved prominent cattlemen.

The conglomerate rock was quarried at Cowen’s Rock Quarry.  This quarry was located north, just off of Highway #50 on the east side, about four miles out of town.

Take some time to browse around the small park. Imagine what it may have looked like in the 1870’s when Ouray and Chipeta visited the Rudd Cabin site with other Utes. From early accounts, what seemed to be quite a draw for the Utes was the smell of fresh baked bread and sweet piano music coming from inside the cabin, compliments of Harriett Rudd.

You can see the inside of the Rudd Cabin accompanied by a tour guide Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm.  There are also numerous files inside of the history center for Fremont and Custer Counties and staff to assist.

Inside the museum, a tour guide will accompany you through the galleries where impressive artifacts and paintings are exhibited with informative placards.


Chief Ouray & Lovely Ute Maiden, Chipeta

Then:  Ouray, leader of the Colorado Utes in the southwestern mountains, was born in Taos, New Mexico in 1833. His mother was Jicarilla Apache and his father Tabeguache Ute.  Ouray’s childhood was spent herding sheep for Mexican ranchers.

He learned to speak Spanish and preferred this language to the Ute’s. He also mastered English.  Later in life, these languages would allocate recognition and acceptance from President McKinley for Ouray as a negotiator for peace treaties. Ouray became well known for his gentle manners, quick thinking, and negotiating skills.  Ouray showed friendliness toward the white settlers.

In 1859 he took Chipeta, a Tabeguache Ute, as his companion and loved her through his life.  They had no children though Ouray had a son from a union before Chipeta. His five-year old son was kidnapped by the Cheyenne, a tragedy that seemed to haunt him the rest of his life.[2]

Delegates to Washington, 1868
Group of delegates to Washington D.C., Chief Ouray in middle, 1868; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
Chipeta Bowl
According to the gift receipt, this was made by Chipeta, wife of the Ute Chief Ouray and the jar was presented as a gift to Captain B. F. Rockafellow in the 1880s; from the collection of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

The earliest European explorers and American explorers were Zebulon Pike, John C. Fremont and fur trappers that came to this area.  The Native Americans tribes of Utes, Cheyenne, and Apache inhabited Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and High Plains.

Now:  Let’s go even closer to the place where the Utes lived in what is presently called the Florence Cañon City Basin.  The landscape likely resembled what we see today.  The plants and animals would mostly be the same but in fewer numbers and buffalo no longer roam the area.

The Arkansas River flowed through the basin with Grape Creek, Stout Creek, Four-Mile Creek, and Adobe Creek as some of the tributaries.  Cold and hot springs were on both sides of the river. Soda Point was at the south end of Skyline Drive and the Hot Springs Hotel was on the south side of the river.

Utes used both springs for healing and spiritual purposes. Through the basin, there were many springs, now mostly gone. On Four-Mile Creek (Garden Park north of Town), there was an oil seep, which was used for medicinal purposes and grooming.  The oil was used as hair grease, which the Utes used with bear grease on their hair.  Speaking of the bears, some fur trappers told of seeing bears soaking the hot springs![3]

Utes Nomadic Tribes

Living in the Florence Cañon City Basin

Then:  In the Ute traditional view of the natural world, Father Sky created the sun, moon, stars and earth. Mother Earth provides what is needed by those who show reverence and respect.  For Utes, this was a vast and varied land, sometimes gentle and sometimes severe, where they survived by living respectfully in harmony with their environment.

Some scholars presume to trace the Utes back to around 10,000 years ago, in the Colorado-Utah-New Mexico area.  The Utes were pushed into the mountains by pressure from the stronger and more established Plains Indians and were likely the first Indians to live and travel in what is known now as the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

The Utes were primarily hunters. Men made weapons; bows and arrows, spears, and arrowheads made from flint, obsidian or chert.  A process known as “knapping” was used to sharpen the stone’s point so as to have deadly force when shot.

Now: Some of the evidence of the Utes inhabiting the basin has been preserved and protected by R.G.R.M.& H.C.  Artifacts include arrowheads, spear heads, a gun with Native American designs on the butt, tepee poles, early photographs, and files.

Then:  On foot, Utes were accomplished hunters in the mountains or plains.  Early Utes stalked and hunted antelope, deer, elk, buffalo, and jackrabbit.  It was the jackrabbit that provided them with most of their food, clothing, and blankets.

The women did the gathering of wild potatoes, onions, roots of yucca plants, berries, and pinion nuts.  They did some corn planting along creek bottoms, leaving the cultivation and watering to the Great Spirit.  Fishing was done mostly by the young, old, and women in high mountain creeks and lakes teeming with trout and suckers. Their nomadic life-style, given to wandering for thousands of years, never changed.

Sometimes, when the big and small game animals were hard to find, women gathered roots, pinion nuts, berries, and grasshoppers to supplement.  Winter would be miserably cold and snow piled high. The ground would not be visible until the spring melt. At times, very little food could be found and traditionally the Utes did not store-up food.

Meanders & Squatters

The Utes would use large dogs to pull the travois (later the Spaniards introduced horses). The travois would be made by tying two long logs together, then stretching an animal hide between the logs. Travois would be filled with their scant possessions as the tribes would constantly wander in search of food.

Shelter was made of brush in warm weather and tepees in cold weather.  Women did the gathering of brush and hastily built the flimsy structures.  The building and raising of tepees were left to the women entirely.

Tepees were 3 or 4 long poles tied together at the top and covered with animal hides.  Buffalo hides were preferred as they kept the tepee warm in the winter and cool in the summer. If buffalo hunters were not successful, hides from deer, elk, and small game animals would be used.

The women prepared the hides for the tepees and then raised and crossed the poles at the top for the basic structure and stretched the animal hides over. The mighty warriors and hunters would not help. It would be lowering themselves as this was “women’s work.”

Practical, Decorative Clothing & Foot-Wear

Clothing and moccasins worn by the Utes were usually made from buckskin (deer hides) and finely beaded.  Buckskin was soft, pliable, light in coloring, and practical clothing for all.  The Utes buckskin clothing was coveted by other tribes because of its excellent craftsmanship.

Fringing was used to decorate sleeves, leggings, and moccasins. Elk’s teeth were often used to garnish and bedeck the fringes, which were fastened on them in rows. Elk’s teeth were more valued than any other decors and the males were known to wear “scalp lock” on fringed garments.

Badger claws were used with beads and beautifully crafted. The claws had a natural curve and taper that formed a circular banding about the neck and shoulders. The glitter from beads and luster from badger claws contrasted on dark material, giving an attractive appearance.

Elaborate crested feather head dresses made of wild fowl feathers would flow down the male’s back, sometimes touching the ground. Beaded panels, weasel, and otter skins were attached to the head bands just above the ears.  Full regalia was worn for celebrations and dances.

Music & Dance & Chanting

The Bear Dance was passed down through many generations and was a sacred belief. In late winter and early spring, Utes came over the trails from winter camps for their biggest gathering. It was the season when the most powerful and fearsome animal that the Utes knew, the bear, was awakening from hibernation. It was the season when the first hint of green touched the plants and was the season of the Bear Dance.

Percussion drums made out of animal hides tied over hollowed-out logs were sharply tapped during the dance. Two main types were the hand drums and larger drums that several Utes could play at one time. All members of the tribe would join in the dancing and chanting. Ones who could not stand sat close-by.  Even the infants, safely tucked in on their papoose boards, were present.

A more solitary form of music the Utes played came from carved flutes. Some of the materials used for this haunting sound were hollowed-out stalks from sun flowers and corn or wood.

Now: The base of Skyline Drive, on west side close to the Arkansas River, may have been the gathering place for the Utes in the Florence Cañon City Basin. One might drive up Skyline Drive and park on top to observe the landscape. Let your imagination go and wonder about sites sounds and smells you would experience back in time.

Art by the Utes in the Basin

Then:  Petroglyphs (craved on rocks) and pictographs (painted on rocks) were like road signs, advertising trails and campsites and events that occurred on the trail.  Both pre-historic people and horse-mounted Utes and animals were captured on stone pages.  Places chosen by the Utes recording their history were usually by hot or cold springs, giving us glimpses today into their circle of life.

Traditional hair styles for the Ute males were the two braids over the shoulders. Females and children had long hair parted in the middle. Bear tallow (bear fat) was used on hair to make it look shiny.  Cropped hair usually meant the person was in mourning.

Burial Mysteries

Utes were often buried in rock crevices or caves with rocks covering the spot. Many personal possessions to be used in the afterlife were buried with the bodies.  Some items were given away as gifts while other possessions, even the lodge, were destroyed.  Burials took place a sufficient distance from camp to keep away the spirit of the deceased, or the camp itself was moved.

Persons of lower ranks, including women, were buried less ceremoniously and often in shallow graves, perhaps covered with rocks. Occasionally, Ute bodies, with their possessions, were placed on platforms in trees.  Women in mourning slashed their skin, wailed, cut their hair, darkened their faces with pitch and ashes, and wore old clothing. A number of so called burial grounds have been found in Ute country with rock mounds but it is believed to mark sites of battles instead of graves.[4]

It caused quite a stir when this discovery made the front page of the newspaper. Hard rock miners were dynamiting when two skeletons were exposed.  When researching the Ute burial practice, this discovery favors a grave for the Utes.

Burial Grounds
Ute burial Grounds in Temple Canyon erected July 4, 1930. Floyd Walrath standing next to monument in late 1940’s. Photograph from Loretta (Stevens) Bailey

Cañon City Daily Record, 1942

Two human skeletons both moderately well preserved were uncovered in a shallow grave between two huge boulders at the Dale Hoover Quarry on west Eight-Mile Hill, Thursday. They were thought to be of Indians.

The skeletons were uncovered by an employee of Ed Sandoval of Cañon City. Both were in the same grave.  One with the head to the east and one with the head to the west. 

The bodies were buried between two large boulders, which formed a narrow crevice.  One of the boulders had been blasted away and Sandoval was removing loose dirt when his shovel hit bone.

The skeletons have been brought to Cañon City and will be given a burial after officials complete an investigation.

My next blog will be about “Bumback Springs” and another grave found on Eight-Mile Hill not far from the Springs.  Present day location Highway #50 and Highway #9.

[1] Ruth Stinemeyer, Cañon City’s Famed Hot Springs Resort, (1997), 3.

[2] Stinemeyer, Cañon City’s Famed Hot Springs Resort, 3.

[3] Virginia McConnell Simmons, The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, (Boulder, University Press of Colorado, 2000), 1.

[4] Wilson Rockwell, The Utes: A Forgotten People, (Montrose, Western Reflections Publishing Company, 2006).

Works Cited

Rockwell, Wilson. The Utes: A Forgotten People. Montrose: Western Reflection Publishing                   Company, 2006.

Simmons, Virginia McConnell. The Ute Indiana of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.                              Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2000.

Stinemeyer, Ruth. Cañon City’s Famed Hot Springs Resort. 1997.


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