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Colorado's Mountain Man & Very Smart Business Man - part 1

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Buck Conner

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I just .
I just tried a different way to input longer articles rather than several different headers.

Mike (meauxtown) Thompson and myself were talking about Marino Medina's rifle. Mike got a chance to handle the rifle a while back.

I have handled it several when Medina's rifle was still in Loveland at the Library. I lived 4 miles from Medina's Crossing (his toll bridge location) west of Loveland CO, his daughter Lena was buried on our property and Louis Papa (Medina's step son would come to our place to visit his step sister). I found a pair of leather breeches left on our property for years (Mrs. E. Gates who wrote about Medina and Charley Hanson [Museum of the Fur Trade] knew who they belonged to when seen). Both had pictures of Medina wearing them at a ball in Denver (Marino was a fancy-dan and liked to show off at up-scaled affairs. Papa use to wear his step-fathers clothes at parades in Loveland and Ft. Collins around the turn of the century. Mrs. Gates found an old newspaper article that Louis had gotten hurt up the Buckhorn Canyon in the early 1900's. Figured they removed the breeches when taking him to Loveland.

Read on:

We had a famous mountain man living in our area, just a few miles down the road. He was known to have traveled on this land in his adventures.

A Famous Mountain Man

According to local historians, mountain man Mariano Medina, for whom the Mariana Butte area is named, arrived with his wife in 1858 and built a cabin near the Big Thompson River two years later, becoming the first permanent settler of the area.

Sometime before 1864, Medina reportedly buried a friend at the site and soon after buried two of his children there. He built a low stone wall around the cemetery and kept it neatly whitewashed. By the time he died in 1878, the cemetery was full, and he had to be buried outside the walls, according to published reports.

"The cemetery was viewed with curiosity mixed with respect by settlers and travelers, who expressed surprise at finding it so well kept in such an uncivilized land."

"Mariano Medina Colorado Mountain Man" by Zethyl Gates).

First created as the Medina family cemetery, friends and acquaintances were also buried in the cemetery outside the sandstone walls surrounding the Medina plot. The earliest grave at this site was of a family friend buried prior to 1864. This was followed by two of Mariano Medina's children in 1864. The cemetery was surrounded by stone walls that were neatly whitewashed. The entrance was topped with a Blue Cross, a symbol of Medina's Catholic faith.

I'll continue this story and how we have connections with this man on the family property. We will share what was found while cleaning up a century of junk left by the forefathers of this ground, Medina's family included.

Breeches in the Fur Trade
by Buck Conner​
After reading an article entitled "The Well-Dressed Explorer" by Jeff Gottfred of the NWBC located in Calgary, Canada, he mentions David Thompson's leather trousers and long wool socks, along with Samuel Johnson's dictionary's remarks of trousers used in outposts and common wear on the frontier.

I have always felt that one of the problems in living history has been the dating of men's clothing, especially civilian clothing, seems to be volumes on the subject - except women's clothing. After years of research on what is correct and what is questionable, military clothing is extremely helpful in dating civilian wares. For an example, the British Army went from the fly front to the fall front knee breeches in the “Clothing Warrant of 1768“. The military usually changes fashion late, the front fly was probably going out of civilian styles in the early 1790's. If portraying a fashionable gentlemen from Philadelphia, Annapolis or St. Louis, you would be wearing fall front breeches or trousers. But if you were a farmer in the same period you would likely have fly front's. Fly front breeches were developed around 1650 and in a hundred and fifty years, change was the tightness and size of the waistband going from 4 - 6 inches in 1730 - 1750, to 2 - 2-1/2 inch range found on late 1830 - 1850 fall fronts.
This article reminded me of an item I found back in the early 1970’s when living in northern Colorado, northwest of the town of Loveland in a small valley called the Buckhorn Canyon (named by Mariano Medina, the Colorado Mountainman). Medina was reported to have shot and killed several young Utes that had stolen horses from his place of business west of Loveland and had rode them a few miles up this canyon when Medina caught up with them. This same canyon was where it was reported that his daughter was buried.

part 1
 
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Buck Conner

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My ex-wife’s family had several hundred acres homesteaded in the late 1800’s of which only half was farmable, the rest was used for pasture and a small sandstone quarry, it was narrow in width and followed the Buckhorn Canyon ridge down into the valley. Only a few miles from the Big Thompson River that Mariano Medina had his toll bridge on for years, charging according to the numbers wanting to cross the river. Namaqua: Mariano's (or Marianne's) Crossing later became known as Namaqua. According to the local newspapers, these charges helped newcomers make up their mind up about settling on one side or the other of the Thompson. Small settlements started springing up in the area like Berthoud, Campeon and Medina Flat's rather than pay Mariano‘s fees. "His post was a known location for the "pony trade", "Whites", "Mexicans" and "Indians" traded on a regular schedule here in the Big Thompson Valley..." reported the Denver Rocky Mountain News. This horse trade attracted many groups of Indians, they counted theirs and Mariano's wealth by the number of ponies one owned at "Marianne's Crossing".

My ex father-in-law told me as a young boy growing up in the valley he could remember when the Utes would come to town and everyone would gather their tools and vegetables and store them inside until they passed, he said they were looked upon as gypsies and known to steal loose items laying around and sell those items in town for whiskey. This seemed to be the only problem as he recalls was ever present with these people that lived at the northern end of the canyon.

Around 1935 the local college - CSU in Fort Collins was called to look at a grave site that was uncovered in the sandstone quarry on this property. It was decided to be possibly Native American, a women buried sitting up. The college would return in a week to remove the body and look for additional clues at the site. In that time period the local farmers feared that removing the remains could bring a curse on the valley and decided to cover the grave not giving permission to anyone to touch the site. My father-in-law had the pre-mix concrete company pour an 8" slab on top of the grave and then pushed 3 to 4 feet of dirt and riff-raff (broken rock from the quarry) on the slab. When the college showed up a few days later, seeing what had been done demanded the county court to issue an order to remove the body (believed to be Medina's daughter, Lena). After several meetings with the valley farmers and county commissioners, the subject was dropped.

Mariano Medina: His first name was Mariano, his surname has seen different spellings; Medina, Modena and Medena are the more common found. Mariano Medina is what Mrs. Zethel Gates has found on court records, titles and legal documents. Mariano Medina established the first permanent settlement on the right (south) bank of the Big Thompson River in 1858. Mariano’s homestead consisted of a traditional Spanish-style plaza surrounded on three sides by his neatly whitewashed log home, trading store, saloon, corrals and a post office. The settlement was originally called Miraville, then Mariano’s Crossing, Big Thompson Crossing, and by today’s name Namaqua as I‘m sure you are aware of. Mariano is credited with establishing the firsts business, first school, first church, and first cemetery in the valley. Known an excellent horseman and horse trader swapping for worn out stock for his healthy animals he had fattened on river bottom grass. Overland Mail in 1862 selected Medina‘s settlement as a home station. The significance of this first community of “Indians and Mexicans” was discounted by later white settlers.

part 2
 

Buck Conner

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Now that you have a little history of this area we'll get back to the trousers, forty years later I’m building a new fence on this property and find a small pocket, not really a cave per say. A friend claims we were looking for rattlesnakes, not building fence, can't remember, spent a lot of time on this location year around working, hunting and just looking around. The area was a large rolling hill side that runs for 6-7 miles; not bad walking, lots of game - rabbits, turkey, mule and whitetail deer, along with a local herd of elk. Anyway whatever we were doing we could see something in this loaf shaped hole and after several hours of probing with long sticks we were able removed some of the larger rocks to a point where we could see there were no snakes in the pocket opening. Still not really comfortable I crawled inside with a flashlight and a small shovel and started scraping the ground looking for anything that could have been drug into this natural living quarters that appeared to have housed some local coyotes. Most of the items were clean bones, a few pieces of skulls of small animals, three old beads. There was also found a hard ball of leather that looked like an old shirt, torn but it looked like it was all there. We figured the beads came from the activities of a local mountain man club that ran monthly shoots on the property.

I soaked the hard ball of leather for several days in a 5 gallon bucket of water, once soft the ball was stretched on a plywood surface and tacked down, the leather shirt turns out to be leather breeches that were manufactured by the appearance. Some of the construction was of the early style of machine stitching, commercial type brass buttons with the name “Hammond & Co - Oxford St“, small drop front design with the adjustable waist band tie in the back. The waist band is whip stitched, about 15-16 stitches to the inch with a canvas type material sandwiched between the leather for extra support. The brass buttons are of the dished style with raised lettering of the manufacturer, now white with mineral deposits, pearl buttons on legs suggest they were replacements. The legs are slightly tapered to the knee with the usual buttoned cuff below the knee and the bulky butt area like the military breeches of the early 1800's.

After showing the breeches to the local museum in Loveland, I was sent to the library in search of a Mrs. Zethyl Gates - librarian and local historian. At the time she was still working on a book about local mountain man Marino Medina (she had written several museum papers and articles in local newspapers about this man). She has spent most of her working life researching Medina and others of the late fur trade in Colorado and Wyoming, even traveled to Spain to research Medina's family history.

When walking into the library I was sent to her office at once with my old beat-up leather trousers (breeches) and found a very excited Mrs. Gates, she had been called by the museum about these pants. She showed me a late picture of Marino wearing breeches in Denver like the ones I have found and another picture of Louie Papa (Medina's step-son) wearing the same breeches, taken in a parade in Loveland after the turn of the century - 1900. Interesting, but questionable as to whether they were his or someone else's and how did the trousers get on this hill?

A few years later I was visiting an old friend in Chadron, NE; Charles E. Hanson, Jr., you may have heard of him, showed him the old breeches and told him the story and Mrs. Gates interest. He said, " let's go to the study”, Charlie owned “The Museum of the Fur Trade“. Charlie points out a leather coat (short jacket) with the same brass buttons and of similar construction, it had been purchased from a family in northern Colorado at a gun show. Traded around for a period before finding its new home at the museum. The next thing out of Charlie’s mouth was "how much"? According to Mr. Hanson this type of coat and pants (trousers) were made commercially in Europe and shipped to New York or California dealers during the late fur trade all the way up to and after the Indian Wars. This style of garment sold in the gentlemen shops throughout the Rockies during the mid to late 1800‘s. Interesting how the article of David Thompson's leather breeches has brought about more research and this story.

Born in Taos, New Mexico in 1812, Mariano Medina was a personal friend of Kit Carson, Louis Vasquez, the Bent brothers along other legendary mountain men like Jim Bridger and Tom Toblin.
With his early experiences as a trapper, trader, hide trader, bounty hunter (capturing two Utes for a reward), known for his knowledge of the wilderness. He was a half-breed Frenchman, Jicarilla Apache, and Spanish mix according to those that knew him. His ability was apparent as an aide to John C. Fremont in that exploration of the west in providing his mountain skills and knowledge. He also was employed as a guide for Captain Randolph B. Marcy's exciting trek across the Rockies in the winter during the Mormon War.

It is found in reports of events and journals of several fur trade companies that one Mariano Medina was in their employ from time to time. With the days of the fur trade coming to an end and growing older for acting a guide for these explorations, Mariano settled down proclaiming he was the first settler on the Big Thompson Creek (River) in 1858) near present day Loveland, Colorado. The years spent on the Sweetwater and Green River had taught him about water, crossing it and building structures that would withstand its force. His first venture was with a raft ferrying teams across, charging as much fifty dollars in gold for the service. After a season a toll bridge was built high enough to avoid the high spring run-off, eventually building a fort and trading post "Marianne's Crossing". Soon it became the favorite stopping place for the growing numbers of travelers involved in the western movement and of course his now famous mountainmen friends made frequent stops. Many references in journals, newspapers of the time, mention famous mountain men: "Kit Carson spent the past week with old friend Jesus Garcia Mariano Medina at his post in the Big Thompson canyon". Loveland News June 1858 or "Mr. Ceran St.Vrain has been seen in the company of Mariano Medina near Estes Park, a family outing with several other famous people - William Gilpin (future governor of Colorado), Jos'e de Mirabal and William Bent (trader)". Rocky Mountain News 5th of Sept. 1858.

part 3
 

Buck Conner

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In March 1861 Tim Goodale and his wife, Jennie, joined old friend Mariano, on the Thompson. Noted this in their journal that “a group of Indians where living about a mile or so below on the south side of the river from Mariano's place, the leader was Nawat (Niwot, or Left Hand) [Arapahoe]. North were Cheyenne’s with their leader Big Mouth, they spent most of their time watching a thousand ponies pastured on the Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins, Colorado‘. Also noted was the viewing of “a hunting party of Sioux working their way up the Thompson canyon” near present day Estes Park. Mariano had lots of activity around his location, he was pleased, business and the times where good at this location according to friends and family.

"His post was a known location for the "pony trade", "Whites", "Mexicans" and "Indians" traded on a regular schedule here in the Big Thompson Valley..." reported the Denver Rocky Mountain News. This horse trade attracted many groups of Indians, they counted their’s and Mariano's wealth by the number of ponies one owned, this turned out to be trouble for "Marianne's Crossing".

On the morning of 17 April 1861 Mariano Medina experienced a raid at his post, stealing of his ponies, that throws him into a rage. In the days to follow Medina, Goodale, and Mirabal tracked down the stolen ponies along with the band of Indians that had taken them. "On the morning of 21 April 1861 they discovered the remains of a camp fire on the banks of a small creek (Buckhorn Creek), at which time they discharged their rifles and charged forward, the Ute Indians fled in all directions with Mariano, Tim and Jos'e in hot pursuit". according to W. J. Menton, reporter for the Rocky Mountain News. "Cowards!" yelled Mariano, "Come back and fight for horses!". “Suddenly the Indians charged Mariano, taking his hat off and waving as though signaling for help, where upon the Indians scattered, thinking they were out numbered. Mariano shot several of the Indians, leaving the battleground bestrewn with blood, their weapons left in all directions, they escaped with only five ponies." the report reads. Three days later Mariano and his group return with fifty head of stolen horses, the Indians had shot five and had gotten away with five. This event happened three miles north of the Big Thompson in a narrow valley referred to as “The Buckhorn Canyon”. Twenty one shots were fired, in less than three minutes according to reports, with the highest number given to Medina, Sueze Luis, Merival and 'Uncle' Tim Goodale for their skills in handling firearms. After this attack Mariano had his Mexican labors start building his fort to protect the people living at his settlement.

It has been noted that in the 1871 Medina loaned the new found First National Bank of Fort. Collins, Colorado a sum of money to start business, money gotten from the toll bridge operation and trading post enterprise - $61,000.00. A large sum like this shows how successful his business had become. It's said that some would pay as little as 25 cents to make the crossing on a busy day and as much as $100.00 on a slow day, freighters loaded with gold would usually pay the most and Mexicans crossed free. With such extreme changes in "crossing" costs, some researchers claim Mariano was responsible for many of the small communities around the Loveland area. Settlers waiting for a busy business day to make their crossing in moving westward would decide that the area and available homestead ground was more attractive than first thought.

Talk about an uneducated man that knew how to play the game of making money - WOW.

Part 4

I use to make fun of old guys and how they ramble on when writing an article - crap I'm doing the rambling too !@#$%
 
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Meaux Thompson

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What a story! More tomorrow.
regards
Mike
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Buck Conner

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We at GRRW.CA built this rifle this year, custom gunsmith Carl Walker did a beautful job applying his skills. Doc White talked to John at TOTW and agreed to sell the Medina Rifle. We figured it would sell in the $2,800.00 to $3,000.00, we missed that by a mile when the auction ended I was told that figure was $4,450.00 - WOW. When Gordon got the original Hawken seen here with Mike holding it he paid over $90,000.00 per Gun Week magazine.
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Renegadehunter

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I love reading about history during that era, thanks so much for posting.
 

Buck Conner

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Mike the older we are the more experiences we have had and because being younger at the time, think nothing of it like the Medina connection in Masonville, CO. Our club had like experiences living in northern Colorado where it took a number of years to get settled. The famous "Hole In The Wall Gang", "Robbers Roost" - was an outlaw hideout in southeastern Utah to northeastern Colorado, used mostly by Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang in the closing years of the Old West. The hideouts were considered ideal because of the rough terrain. Jack Slade's stage line known for all the robberies was also the leader of the Colorado Robbers Roost location in Livermore CO.

My ex-wife's grandfather drove stage for Slade in his youth, was held in jail in Fort Collins until he proved he wasn't a horse thief because of his connection with Slade. Had older neighbors that lead interesting lives in their youths, shoot-outs, sheep and cattle wars, land boundary wars, you name it and one of them had experienced it. These folks all knew Mariano Medina and his family, Louie Papa (Medina's son) worked for several of the neighbors as well as my ex-father in-law when they still had cattle.

We never got electricity until, the late 1950's and finally got city water in the 1980's. I worked for the phone company, had an 8 party line (could never use it with all the older folks on the phone 7 x 24).

Fun times Mike.

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Buck Conner

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Damn it..... don't have the time at this moment folks, but will give another group that was famous for hanging with Jack Slade.

Red-Jack-Gang.jpg
The Red Jack Gang

In August of 1883 two robberies by the same gang, one with the Florence-Globe Stagecoach robbed about two miles from the remote Riverside Station on the Gila River Arizona and the other later in the same month/year outside Cheyenne Wyoming by the Red Jack Almer gang. The gang had pulled a number of stage robberies in both of these areas.

Jack had boarded the stage at Florence after watching two men load a heavy Wells Fargo strong box. One account says he was wearing a dress, passing himself off as a woman. He got off at Riverside and started walking ahead. His two partners Charlie Hensley and Joe Tuttle waited until they saw Jack on the stage then rode ahead to a pre-determined place on an incline. When the coach reached the hill and slowed down they opened fire without warning killing shotgun guard Johnny Collins and a couple of horses. They rode off heading up the Gila River to its junction with the San Pedro with some $2,000 in silver and $500 in gold coin.

Jack Slade’s ranch was also where Luther King was arrested by the Earp posse following the an attempted stagecoach robbery in March 1881, one of the events that led directly to the Gunfight near the OK Corral in Tombstone later that year. Ironically, the wife's grandfather John Mansfield was the shotgun messenger on the Livermore stage (known by the gang and his boss Slade), he was unharmed. Questioned for hours by Fort Collins and Cheyenne Officials, then released. The amount of money gotten was never disclosed.

Where we lived at Masonville was a government homestead property acquired after the Civil War. The wife's family had many good and bad experiences with local Indians (same group that Medina shot up for stealing his horses). My ex-father-in-law as a young man growing up there saw the Utes on a monthly visit as they went to Medina's Crossing for booze. All Don ever said was when referring to the Utes "they would steal anything of value to sell for drinks other wise pretty tame". The same family relations still live up the canyon from where we lived, now settled and are just normal families.

Like said before - fun times living on the "Buckhorn".

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