English Second Sons and Remittance Men
Englishmen began to arrive in the valley (Custer County, CO) in 1871 mostly as land speculators and for the beauty of the valley. Known as second sons or remittance men for the monthly allowance they received, the men were just as likely to be the fifth son and to have no regular income as a result of family ties. They did bring education, culture and afternoon tea to the valley.
Ula, the English community center, was the first town in the valley. Postal service began in December 1, 1871 and continued until May 4, 1891. In September, 1871, Joseph A. Davis and his father, Frederick, homesteaded on Taylor Creek. They built a log cabin and lived in it until Joseph built a better house, which became known as the Ula Hotel and housed a general store.
The community was possibly named for an Indian chief by the name of Ula. Mary Bell, the wife of Dr. Bell, describes meeting him at the Denver and Rio Grande platform in Colorado Springs in 1871. The Ula name appears on the first Denver and Rio Grande Railroad annual report on a map that identified company properties in the valley. In the Cragin papers C.W. Talbot claimed that Ula was the local spelling for Ouray. In Muriel Wolle's books she reported that John Davis sent the name Ouray to the postal authorities and it came back Ula; however, the original document completed by Davis lists the name Ula rather than Ouray. Many of the valley myths can be traced back to Muriel Wolle's books which recorded great stories but weak history.
The Ula cemetery was established in 1872 on land donated by William Kettle. The Wet Mountain Valley Library Association was founded in 1874. The library was open daily, and the collection contained English, French and German classics.
In 1875, Joseph Davis discovered the Howard mine. The Verde, which opened the same year, was later sold to the Humboldt Company. At its peak, the town had 365 residents. There were two general merchandising stores, a restaurant, meat market, livery stable and two saloons by 1879. The first Episcopal Church service was held in 1870, and in 1879, a church was built. The Ula Ditch Company provided water for the cattle, and principle crops-hay, wheat, oats, rye, barley and potatoes. The first schoolhouse was at the far end of Main Street, but was later moved to the hill south of the hotel, about a quarter of a mile.
In 1876, Mr. Heisterberg and Mr. Falkenberg built a store in Ula. from 1879 to 1888 it housed the post office. Dances and plays were held in the hall above the store, and Catholic Church services were performed whenever a priest was available. Barbara Falkenburg recalled that "six years elapsed at one time between these visits."
Reprinted with permission from "Custer County at a Glance" Featuring Rosita, Silver Cliff and Westcliffe by Joanne West Dodds.