Brookside Centennial

By Sue Cochran

Brookside celebrated 100 years as an incorporated town during 2013. Sue Cochran offered to write a history-related article each month of 2013. Thanks so much, Sue!

Learn about a recent addition to the Town of Brookside's history-the Centennial Celebration!


Overview of the Town's History

In May of 1913, there was an air of excitement in our little community of Brookside. Fifty men and women who were residents at the time voted to cause the Town of Brookside to become an incorporated place. All fifty votes were cast in favor of incorporation. Not one vote was cast against the measure.

Newspapers reported that the election was held "at the one story, brick store building, known as the Colorado Supply Company's Store, at or near the corner of Main and Second Streets." That's the corner of Brookside and Colarelli today, and the building is now a residence.

Within a month, the community had elected Louis Fleming as their first mayor. Trustees were George Johnson, Stephan Coughlin, Peter Tonso, Antonio Moschetti, John Fontecchio, and Joe Volpe.

Although newly incorporated in 1913, the village of Brookside had already been a thriving coal community for about 25 years.

Early pioneers in the area had found coal outcroppings along a little creek coming down out of the hills to the south of the Arkansas River. They started burning some coal for their own personal use. It burned pretty well, and word soon spread about their find.

Coal was in demand at the time. Railroaders looking for fuel to power their trains heard about the coal, bought up the land, and opened a mine. They ran a spur from the main line to the mine, following that same little creek, which the pioneers had eventually named Spring Creek. Early maps show the spur to be owned by the Pueblo &, Arkansas Valley Railway, which later sold to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.

A community soon sprang up around the mine so that the coal miners had a place to live. They called the mine and the collection of homes Brookside because it was beside Spring Creek.

But the town always belonged to somebody else. The Cañon City Coal Company filed a plat in 1888, stating that they were both owner and proprietor of the 48.74 acres making up the town of Brookside. Mahlon Thatcher of Pueblo was one of the officers of the company, and a book titled The Thatchers: Hard Work Won the West, written by Joanne Dodds in 2001, explains it pretty well. Talking about Rockvale and Brookside, Dodds says, "First, the coal from a series of mines . . . provided fuel for the railroad. Second, the coal was a cash crop to ship on the railroad. And, third, the coal was the fuel that ran Mahlon's smelter business in Pueblo."

This was a pretty typical arrangement. Investors owned an interest in several inter-related businesses. Cañon City businessmen George A. Baker and B.F. Rockefellow opened a general store in Rockvale and several years later added a branch store at Brookside. Both stores became the property of Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) of Pueblo in 1896 when they took possession of the mine at Brookside. CF&I also owned mines at Coal Creek, Rockvale, and Williamsburg.

During the time that Brookside was a CF&I company-owned camp, they were provided with educational opportunities and many other services by the company. Camp and Plant, a weekly newspaper published by the Sociological Department of CF&I that was "devoted to news from the mines and mills," tells us that company instructors offered night classes in English and Italian on alternating evenings, as well as contracting with doctors to provide health care to the community. They also provided a lending library in a corner of the company store.

Unlike some of CF&I coal camps, many of Brookside's houses were privately owned. In 1902, Camp and Plant reported that only about ten houses in town were company-owned and that contractors were at work painting and making repairs to them as part of a camp clean-up.

Brookside had its own Post Office from May 1888 to Oct 1905 and again from Dec 1908 to Mar 1909. Mail was delivered and picked up from the post office as part of a regular daily route from Cañon City to Chandler.

A two-room public school offered classes to children of the community until about 1921 when a new brick school containing four rooms was built. Local residents remember that brick building as an early home of Fremont County Head Start and as City Hall for a time. Today Brookside is a part of the Cañon City School District.

The old two-room school house was converted into a Catholic church in the 1920s. Although standing vacant today, St. Anthony's served the local Catholic community for decades. No other denomination built a church in town, so Protestants attended churches in Cañon City or Florence.

The community's water system had for years pumped water up the hill from the Arkansas River. CF&I changed that around 1900, putting water mains in every street, fire plugs on every corner, and pulling water from the mine. This was thought to be a huge improvement in water quality. Later, the Brookside Domestic Water Company was formed to purchase water from Lincoln Park, but many households still pumped water from a well. Finally, in the 1990s, Cañon City's water system began to supply the community's water needs.

Brookside has struggled to stay alive at times, for years, Mayor Tony Beltramo and Clerk Martin Vezzetti met once a year to pay the light bill for the town's two street lights. They said if they ran out of money, they'd have to raise taxes or turn out the lights. But we're thriving again today, and want to share some of our stories of the past and thoughts for the future.

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The Mines

Coal, simply stated, is a rock that will burn. As it burns, it releases energy in the form of heat. This was known from ancient times. Coal replaced water, wind, and wood as the primary source of energy in America when the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s demanded huge amounts of heat/energy to fuel the nation's factories and railroads. By World War I, coal supplied 75% of the nation's energy, but oil and gas were soon to become the most-used fuels. After another spike in demand during World War II, the coal industry saw decades of decline and depressed markets.

Declines in the market weren't always the fault of competing fuels. Some-times labor conflicts were at least partly to blame. Underground coal mining was one of the most dangerous industries a man could work in. Any efforts to protect the miners cost the mine owners more money. It was sometimes cheaper to mechanize, as power-driven equipment could produce more product faster. The use of machines cut down on the number of men needed at each mine, lessening liability as well as labor costs. In early days, accidents in the mines were almost always found to be the fault of the workers themselves, regardless of actual circumstances. True liability of the owner or company is a fairly modern concept.

Coal was discovered in Fremont County almost as soon as the earliest settlers arrived. They picked it up where it was visible on the surface of the ground in the 1860s and used it locally or hauled it to Denver by the wagonload to sell it there. Fremont County coal soon earned a favorable reputation as a clean-burning, efficient fuel.

When the railroad boom of the 1870s and '80s came along, the coal of Fremont County was in demand. Our Brookside coal attracted the attention of the Pueblo and Arkansas Valley Railroad, a subsidiary of the larger Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. They ran a spur up the hill from the river and opened a mine. Much of the coal produced was used as fuel to power their trains.

The Cañon City Coal Company laid out a town in 1888 and named it Brookside. Miners needed to live within walking distance of their jobs, so mining camps typically appeared very near the mines themselves. Workers at the Brookside mine were fortunate that a fairly level, attractive location existed for their homes and families this close to the mine.

Underground it was a different story. Some men were already miners when they left their homes to come to America, but many of the later European immigrants were used to working outdoors. Although they were used to hard work, adapting to the long hours underground in dark, damp surroundings was hard. Many early miners worked twelve hour shifts with few tools beyond shovels, picks, and augers. (Joe Burnetto says that his grandfather never saw the light of day in the winter months-it was dark when he went in and dark when he came out.)

Colorado Fuel &, Iron of Pueblo acquired the Brookside mine in 1896. The Cañon City Daily Record on June 29, 1899, reported that Brookside Mine No. 7 had adopted the eight-hour shift system and was running full time producing 45 to 50 train carloads (about 1000 tons) a day. There was concern whether they could keep up this production rate with only 8-hour work shifts.

Names and numbers of the mines sometimes changed with a change of ownership or with the opening of a new entrance to an existing mine. Maps of the Brookside mine made in 1897 by owner Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) show that the workings stretched far to the west and south of the main entrance here in Brookside.

Mines in the Brookside vein were listed as drift mines or slope mines, which meant that the entrances, called adits, were sloped rather than going straight down like a shaft mine. They could be quite steep, but were probably not vertical. The Brookside coal bed is usually listed as measuring from three to six feet thick in horizontal bands.

By 1901, David Griffiths was the mine superintendent of CF&I No. 23, John Pattison was clerk, Edward Redmond ran the store, and Dr. Sanborn was the camp surgeon. Camp & Plant, the weekly CF&I newsletter, tells us that "Mac, our skillful machinist", could not fix the blower engine at the boiler house so they ordered a "brand new Chandler &, Taylor 22-horsepower" replacement. A telephone had been installed to connect the bottom of the mine to the engine room, the newsletter said.

As early as 1902, another coal outcropping to the west along the south side of Pinion Avenue was being explored by company representatives. Pearl Myers recalls that her grandfather John Stultz died in a rockfall in that area. News reports from 1904 show that the accident occurred 3000 feet from the mouth of the tunnel when the roof fell. Coroner Logan, undertaker Phipps, and Supt. Ball inspected the mine and determined that almost a ton of rock had fallen on Stultz. A verdict of "killed in a mine" was brought in without an inquest. This lack of an inquest was not unusual. This would have been under CF&I management since they ran the Brookside mine until about 1910 or 1912, depending on which source you are reading.

The mine strikes of 1914 were especially violent. The "Ludlow Massacre" occurred during that strike and there was fear and unrest throughout the Colorado coal fields. In March of 1914, gunfire tore through the normal peace of a Sunday morning in Brookside. Reports of how many shots were fired varied greatly, but most estimates fell between 50 and 100. Homes and offices occupied by mine owner John Lippis and associates Harry Satterfield and Rocco Moschetti were fired upon, with only luck preventing a tragedy. State militiamen were dispatched to Brookside to help keep the peace.

In July of 1915, the Florence Citizen-democrat reported a disastrous fire at the Brookside mine. Most of the buildings were completely destroyed with an estimated loss of $10,000. Lippis, Moschetti, and the Vezzetti brothers held interests in the mine at the time of the fire. Orecchios, Scavardas, Crestos, and Bertas came later. Other names and owners listed for various portions of the Brookside mine over time include Dutch Oven (Joe Balone), Big Three (Silengo & Bosco), Brook Cañon, Grand Prize, Cañon Red Star (Joe Balone), Boulder Cañon, Spring Cañon, Cañon City Coal (Harold May), Carson Coal & Oil, Strainer Cañon, Brook Coal, and L and C (Clem Lovisone & Ted Colarelli).

H. Lee Scamehorn's history of CF&I, Mill and Mine: The CF&I in the Twentieth Century, says the Brookside mine produced about 1.5 million tons of coal between 1896 and 1910. Some of the small, local operators worked the mine until 1960, when it was sealed because of an underground fire. Some areas of the mine had been flooded for years.

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Movies, Moonshine, and Hell's Half Acre

When Brookside was first laid out as a town early in 1888, there was already a "paper town", in existence just northeast of us. Homesteader Sylvester Davis had filed the plat for his town of Springfield in December of 1887. Measuring only two blocks by two blocks, it really was a tiny little town.

We don't really know what Sylvester had planned for his little town of Springfield, but we do know what really happened. When the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe-owned coal companies announced that no saloons would be allowed within their town of Brookside, some sharp thinker realized that Springfield had no such restrictions.

From the beginning, what had been laid out as Springfield was known far and wide as Hell's Half Acre. Past publications tell us that five taverns opened on the north side of today's Cedar Avenue, while two more located on the south side. At least one house of ill repute appeared around the curve toward Fawn Hollow-which had a wild reputation of its own in later years when that institution catered to hard-drinking soldiers from Camp Carson.

Miners from Brookside appreciated the taverns in The Acre. It was worth the short walk across the field to get a nice cold drink after another long shift in the mine. Fine upstanding citizens from Cañon City, who had voted to ban the sale of alcohol within their city as well, made the trip to The Acre hoping that they would be far enough from home that no one would report their whereabouts to the teetotalers in downtown Cañon City.

If Hell's Half Acre appeared in the newspapers, it was never good news. Coverage of a murder in 1896 referred to The Acre as "that portion of the coal camp given over to lewd women and depraved men.", That's probably a little harsh, but we have to admit that it was not an unpopular opinion.

In 1898 the Klondike saloon was held up early one Sunday morning by two robbers who got away with a reported $300 and two horses they stole from the Colorado Supply Store's barn in Brookside.

In 1900, two Hungarian miners who had been drinking in The Acre bought a pail of beer and started across the field toward home. When accosted by two masked men, the miners struggled to understand the English orders, and were shot before they could decide what they were supposed to do. One survived long enough to tell the tale to officials investigating the crime.

In 1902, a party of revelers from Portland enjoyed the music of an Italian brass band at one of the saloons, rewarding the musicians with several bottles of liquor. When the partiers left The Acre to continue their trip to Ca√±on City, the woman who was driving the team was seen to be in an intoxicated condition, but she insisted on driving nonetheless. The rig upset before reaching Cañon City, killing the driver and injuring other members of the party.

County Commissioners drew fire in 1910 when they voted to approve requests by Max Vezzetti and Toney Adamic for saloon licenses. Two Cañon City newspapers blasted away at the reputations of the applicants as well as the Commissioners who voted to allow the businesses to remain open.

Freemont Saloon Tom Mix movie set

By 1914, things had gotten really interesting. Cañon City had become the location of a couple of silent film companies. Most of the movies made here were westerns that ran from eight to fifteen minutes, called shorts. Westerns at the time had good guys in white hats, bad guys in black hats, very simple plots, and morally-acceptable endings. On the way to those endings, however, many films included shoot-outs in a saloon, and Hell's Half Acre starred in a number of those. It was simpler than changing the sets in the studios downtown.

During the mining strike of 1914, the tragedy at Ludlow and the shooting at Chandler were still fresh in everyone's minds when the Colorado Motion Picture Company staged a live scene containing a lot of shooting at The Acre. The Fremont County Leader reported the incident like this: "It was a real Wild West stunt and many shots were fired with blank cartridges. Within a few minutes the hill between them and Brookside was bristling with guns containing sure enough bullets." The situation was soon defused and the participants adjourned to the saloons of The Acre, where they frequently gathered after the director yelled "cut" anyway.

The five cent beer with a free lunch at the Fremont Saloon had been a favorite of some of the movie crews, including leading man Tom Mix, who spent as much time at The Acre and the taverns of Prospect Heights as he could get away with. He and Woody Higgins, a local who provided horses to the film crews, were known to take turns shooting lemons off a glass at the end of the bar. Lights and windows got shot out from time to time and bullet holes could be seen in the walls and ceilings for years, but the crazy stunts always drew a crowd and that was good for business for the Vezzetti family, proprietors.

The 18th Amendment to the US Constitution banning the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic drinks was ratified in 1919. The Acre was officially closed. Unofficially, Prohibition could not stop hard-working men from craving a cold drink at the end of a hard day.

A Florence newspaper from 1927 tells us that "Two Cripples at Hell's Half Acre were Fined for 'Legging'.", Both men ran stores that carried candies, soft drinks, and other confections. Lawmen seized 700 pints of homebrew, containing about 8% alcohol. Since both men claimed ignorance of violating the law, and in light of their struggles to make a living, they were given light sentences. Stories like this appeared regularly during the days of Prohibition.

The Italian residents of Brookside sorely missed a little glass of wine with their dinner. Many simply made their own. One local resident told of the night the dreaded "Revenuers", arrived to search his family's property. As the officers led his father away, his mother became hysterical and threw herself on the floor in a state of collapse. After their confiscated wine was loaded up and hauled away, and the officers were gone, she miraculously revived and rose to show the family the barrel of wine she had saved by covering it with her large skirts.

In 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed. The vote in Brookside was 89 votes to repeal and only 9 votes to stay "Dry.", The Brookside Council granted Edward Rocco the first license to open a saloon in Hell's Half Acre, now a part of Brookside, where he would sell the new 3.2 beer, a far cry from what they'd been drinking during the "Dry" years.

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Rail Service for Brookside

The first rush of people coming to Colorado were looking for gold. These hordes of prospectors arrived starting in 1858 and continuing into the early 1860s. The influx would undoubtedly have continued if not for the Civil War. When war broke out in 1861, thousands of Colorado miners and other early settlers went "back to the States" to serve with their friends and brothers in the war, slowing our rampant growth.

The next big wave of settlers came to Colorado chasing the railroads. Many men were needed to survey, design, and build the spreading web of rails. As the rail system reached community after community, travel into those areas was greatly simplified. What had been a slow, tedious trip across the plains could now be made in days. And travel into the mountains . . . well, there was just no comparison.

The population in Colorado Territory tripled between 1870 and 1875. Besides the railroad construction, mining and agriculture were also booming. Growth in Fremont County mirrored this. First came the prospectors and the merchants who supplied their needs. Then came the downturn during the Civil War. Then came the railroads, who needed coal, and the miners who could produce it.

The first rails to reach Fremont County came to Coal Creek for coal. Those rails were a narrow-gauge line owned by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (DRGW), and they reached Florence in 1872 mainly because Florence was lucky enough to be along the route to the mine at Coal Creek.

Cañon City had complained bitterly that they, as the county seat and trade center, needed rails. General William Jackson Palmer, creator of the Denver & Rio Grande, was a master at enticing communities to finance his own business dealings. Cañon City approved a $50,000 bond and Pueblo approved $100,000. Palmer sent his henchmen back to ask for more. Pueblo reluctantly approved another $50,000 to bring the narrow gauge to their town. Cañon City balked. They thought Palmer would give in. They were wrong.

For two long years, the lines ended at Florence and the mine at Coal Creek. The citizens of Cañon City finally approached the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (also called ATSF or the Santa Fe) about running a line into Cañon City. This spawned the famous Royal Gorge War between the DRGW and the ATSF over who would be allowed to build through the canyon of the Arkansas River west of Cañon City where there was room for only one set of rails.

From Brookside's point of view, the important thing is that the Santa Fe did build a line to Cañon City. It was the first standard gauge line to come into Fremont County, and it ran along the south banks of the Arkansas River parallel to the DRGW. Standard gauge rails were placed 4 feet 8½, inches apart. The rails were heavier and stronger, but also more expensive to build. DRGW narrow gauge lines in this area were only three feet apart. This made sense in the mountainous part of the state. The smaller engines and cars could manage narrower cuts in the rocks, turn more sharply, and were cheaper and lighter in weight (as were the rails themselves).

The standard railroad line built to Brookside in 1888 allowed larger train cars to carry more coal. That was a good thing most of the time. However, when the Brookside mine had the opportunity to sell coal in Cripple Creek, the Florence and Cripple Creek Railorad (F&CC) was narrow gauge. All that coal had to be moved from the Santa Fe's standard size cars into the F&CC's smaller narrow gauge cars. The solution was to add a third rail so that the rails would accommodate coal cars of either size.

Remember that early maps show the Brookside rails as the Pueblo & Arkansas Valley Railroad, which was a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe.

Rail lines frequently followed rivers and streams because water follows the easiest path downhill and because the streams tend to level the land even more as they flood and recede, flood and recede in wet times and dry. In good weather, the construction and maintenance of rails in the more level river bottoms is a smart move.

Wet times, however, can be a problem. One of those wet times happened in June of 1894. News out of Florence tells us that at least ten miles of the Santa Fe's tracks were washed out between Pueblo and Cañon City. Some long sections were actually washed into the Arkansas River and buried there. The DRGW suffered too, but not as severely as the Santa Fe. Both companies used the quickly patched together DRGW tracks to gain access to the most-damaged stretches. The newspapers reported that even with teams working from both the east and west it would take ten to fifteen days', hard work to get the lines open. Mines at Rockvale, Brookside, and Cañon City stood at the ready, waiting for the railroads to be repaired.

Cañon City newspapers reported in 1899 that the mine at Brookside was shipping forty-five or fifty carloads over the Santa Fe every day. In 1901, the mines were idled because of the railroad's inability to secure enough coal cars. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) reported the problem in their December newsletter, but didn't explain what caused the shortage.

After the devastating Pueblo flood of 1921, caused by days of heavy rain and the failure of a dam above Penrose, the Santa Fe did not even attempt to completely rebuild their tracks. They leased the right to use the DRGW tracks instead.

I've found conflicting dates for the closure of the Brookside line as well as conflicting information about our depot. If anyone can shed some light on these issues, we'd be grateful.

Brookside never had a fancy depot or formal passenger trains because we were a coal line that ran to a dead-end at the mine. The primary purpose of each and every train that came to town was to deliver empty coal cars to the mine and to pick up full ones and carry them away.

The Santa Fe did run what they called mixed trains, however, so that there might be a car on any train that could bring in freight, whether for the mine or for the company store. They would also allow passengers to ride out on the Brookside train to a depot that had passenger service. Did they provide seating in the caboose? It doesn't seem logical that they would provide an actual passenger coach when there would only be a passenger or two, if any at all.

I've been told that the depot was simply an old box car set off the tracks to be used as a freight depot. Some sources say it was in the area that is the Town Park today. Others remember it being located further down the hill "in Pat Burns' pasture", about straight west of where the Brookside school sat. Does anyone have a photo that shows the depot? Which location is correct? I suppose it could have been at both places at different times. Old maps and aerial views don't answer this question.

I found dates of closure of the line to Brookside listed as 1933 and as 1947. It certainly could be that both are correct, if the Santa Fe closed it once during the depression, thought better of it at a later time and re-opened it for a few more years during World War II. Who remembers more details about this?

Anyone with further information is invited to contact Sue Cochran at 276-0577 or email her at sscochran@yahoo.com.

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Brookside Centennial-A Patchwork of Subjects

Some of you may remember that back in the day many small towns, mining camps, and even some local businesses had their own ball teams. These teams were a source of community pride as well as a popular form of public recreation. Brookside’s teams would have normally played teams from Coal Creek, Rockvale, Cañon City, or other nearby teams in the regular season.

Virgil Bunten’s dad remembered that in the early 1900s, there was a ball diamond at the corner of Pinion & Willow on the northwest corner. Later, we’ve heard that there was a diamond at the corner of Pinion & Bluff at the east end of town. In the 1980s there was a DiOrio family diamond at the corner of Scott and Colarelli, complete with backstop.

1948 was an especially exciting year for the Brookside Bombers. They won the State Tournament Trophy! Let’s see what the Cañon City Daily Record had to say about it: “The curtain rang down on Cañon City’s softball season Wednesday evening when Joe Berta and his Bombers downed the Bethel Clothiers 8 – 3 at Roosevelt Field . . . Berta’s homerun to centerfield in the seventh was the game’s big blow, although the leading hitters in percentages were Sham Colarelli with two for three and Jim Ranson with two for four. Berta got 15 strikeouts.” (CCDR, Sept. 2, 1948)

This accomplishment caused the team to gather for a team photo taken by local photographer Karol Smith for publication in the Daily Record. We have a copy of the picture at Town Hall if you are interested in seeing it. The team consisted of Bunky Zabrusky, Vince Javernick, Ed DiOrio, Moon DiOrio, Jim Ranson, Dom Mazzacco, Joe Berta, Rudy Zabrusky, Art Fabrizio, Earl Berta and Nick Colarelli. The coaches were Frank Sabatino and Alex Horvath, the manager was Joe Tisone, and team sponsor was Joe Caldirola of Caldirola Liberty Coal Company. The team was a member of the Arkansas Valley District, which stretched from Las Animas and Trinidad to Leadville.

Pitcher Joe Berta was suffering with malaria that year, and though his numbers continued to be good, the team drafted two more pitchers going into the tournaments just in case. Pete Perry and Frank Yekovich of the Bethel team went along to help out as needed. If Brookside was playing Bethels, Perry and Yekovich played for Bethels. If Brookside was playing anyone else, they could rely on help from these young men if they needed them.

Anyone else have photos of local ball teams or memories of attending the games? The Bombers played softball. Did we have a baseball team as well? Any other local sports teams? Pictures of our ball diamonds?

We’ve received an interesting query from Los Alamos, New Mexico. John Balagna has a vineyard and winery there, and is interested in the old varieties of grape vines. He and his friend Tom Hill want to know if anyone remembers Nebbiolo grapes being grown at Brookside. They are especially interested in the source . . . where did those grapevines come from? How early were they here? Call Tom at 505-672-1058 or e-mail him at TRH@lanl.gov. John and his sister plan to attend the Centennial celebration, by the way.

Marie Burns has donated some trade tokens from her family’s saloon. The tokens are good for 5 cents in trade at Vezzetti & Zontene’s. They are neat little tokens, and back then, 5 cents would buy you something.

Last month we talked about the railroad that came to Brookside. I said that I had found both 1933 and 1947 listed as the date the rails were taken out. Virgil Bunten says that those dates are too late. He says that by 1934 he had a bicycle that he rode all over town and that the rails were gone by then.

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (called the Santa Fe) researcher Larry Green of Colorado Springs found company records that state that Brookside’s rails were removed in January of 1914. He says that the confusion is probably because there was a siding called the Brookside Siding or Brookside Junction down by the Santa Fe parking lot for the Riverwalk off MacKenzie Avenue. That siding was maintained until into the 1930s or 1940s. The dates I was reading could have referred to the siding being closed.

I read three different newspapers looking for mention of the rails coming out in January of 1914 and found nothing. Furthermore, I was stunned to realize that if that date is correct (and Larry is usually correct) there was a railroad crew taking up the rails into Brookside the same winter that the most violent coal mining strike in our local history was going on. In January, a guard on the Santa Fe line between Rockvale and Radiant was shot and killed. In March, remember that State Militia were dispatched to help keep the peace in Brookside after a shooting incident. That winter also saw the Ludlow Massacre and the shootings at Chandler. Would you want to be working on a crew that was removing the only rail access that the little town of Brookside had? Not me! But at this point I don’t have any evidence to show that the 1914 date is wrong. I do have a couple maps made after that date that still show the rail right-of-way, but we can still see part of it today if we look, so I don’t call that proof of anything. Can anyone help confirm or deny these possibilities?

While I was looking for the removal of the rails, I did find an item that said that the Brookside Local of United Mine Workers was sending Felix Pogliano to Indianapolis as their delegate to the International Convention. That’s an interesting addition to the mining history from January of 1914. 

If you have memories of your family’s involvement in the Town, we would welcome writings about them, and also if you would share with us documents, pictures, or other memorabilia, we would appreciate that.

Please contact Sue Cochran at 276-0577.

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Brookside School

As soon as a mining camp got “settled up” enough that the population included women and children, a church and a school were soon to follow.  Many communities started out with one public building that served every possible purpose from elections to sermons to education—there was not a lot of worry about the separation of Church and State. In Brookside, Catholic and Protestant services took turns in the school house, and many a dance or public gathering was held there as well.

Antoinette Cresto’s book King coal: Coal mining in Fremont County tells us that the first school to serve the area around Brookside was a one-room building on the prairie. Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) maps show the school located on the SE corner of Pinion and Bluff—now an empty lot.

Early school records add that until the 1880s, District 14 was called McCumber District.  It was described as stretching from South Cañon and Fruitmere to Florence.  On June 22, 1887, District 14 became Brewster-Brookside District, with considerably smaller boundaries.

Soon after, Brookside got a new school. $3000.00 was allocated to provide for children near the newly-established Brookside mining camp. They built a handsome two-story frame structure so tall and narrow that it swayed in the wind. Sometimes, school had to be dismissed on windy days for the safety of the children, but they used that building for over thirty years anyway.

Virgil Bunten’s father was born in 1888 and attended the old two-story school. The community had used tie-down cables to try to stabilize it. When the neighborhood cows wandered by and took advantage of the opportunity to rub their heads and scratch their backs on the cables, the boys would have to run out and chase them away to make the schoolhouse stop shaking.

Children attending Brookside School in 1899 came from the following households: Ashton, Brown, Fansher, Gregory, Jones, Martin, McCumber, McKenzie, Pogliano, Sutherland, Tessiatore, Trombley, and Vezzetti.

In December of 1901, George Colgate, principal of the school at Brookside, was elected County Superintendent of Schools. The Brookside District hated to see him go. Under his leadership, the school board had provided all the students with the textbooks they needed and the school was running smoothly.

When school reopened in January of 1902, the new crew included Principal Lewis James Morrison and primary teacher Irene Falkner, who taught first and second grades in one room while Professor Morrison had everybody else in a separate room. He also offered night classes that winter, teaching the English-speaking boys one night and the Italians another evening.

At the end of the 1901/1902 school year, the 14th District held a huge public meeting. 124 votes were cast, electing Elizabeth Gregory secretary. Since the district was reported to be practically out of debt, the levy was lowered from ten to eight for the coming year. The school census showed 204 pupils, but it is unclear whether that includes Brewster. An end-of-year picnic was held “in the grove."  Where was that?

On March 23, 1904, Professor Morrison dismissed school at the usual time. He then collapsed and died of some form of heart failure. He was in his early forties at the time. He was taken to Howard, where his family had come from, for burial near the grave of a baby he and his wife lost in 1901.

September of 1907 saw the school at Brookside register 64 students. Brewster had 84 students, and the article reminds us that they were still under the same board, principal, and management. Both were proclaimed to be in excellent condition, and both felt they would gain several more students once classes actually began. 

On January 2, 1914, Brookside Local United Mine Workers No. 2546 printed a news item thanking E.B. Woodford, Principal of the Brookside School, for his efforts in brightening the holidays for the students in District 14. That was the year of our worst strike and many children would have had no Christmas at all if not for the school. A night of entertainment featured a band, a decorated tree, and treats for the children.

When the influenza epidemic hit in 1918, schools were forced to close. Our Professor R.J. Harry successfully maintained a home study course by delivering new assignments to each home twice a week. 85% of his students were able to satisfactorily complete the lessons, thus keeping them from falling behind.

In 1920, board members Matthew Graham, J.P. Balagna, and C. Aprato announced that both Brewster and Brookside needed new schoolhouses. Brewster broke ground in September, but Brookside could not decide on a site and waited till after a special election in October to settle the matter. Three acres were eventually purchased from Charles Vezzetti on Main Street, now 1720 Brookside Ave. A.S. Hall & Son built both new schools of brick, providing two rooms at Brewster and four at Brookside. The new buildings were really very similar in appearance. Brookside’s featured a coal furnace and running water.

The 8th Grade Graduation at Brewster-Brookside School District granted five certificates in May of 1934: Annie Colarelli, Josephine Perna, Angelina and Nicholas Moschetti of Brookside, and Helen Balagna of Brewster. Lee Blackwell gave the address. Two years later, in 1936, graduates included Naomi Banks, John Fontecchio, Minnie Andy, Lena Sardini, Elizabeth Perna, Alex Beltramo, Julia Massaro, Mary and Catherine Moschetti, and Helen Aprato.

When the faculties for Fremont County’s rural schools were announced in September of 1943, District 14 listed Charles Falgien, Mrs. Mary Balagna, Rita Balagna, Charlie Meigs, and Mrs. Mildred Cole. Note that two of the women are married. Until the teacher shortages caused by World War II, married female teachers were almost unheard of.

1888 Group of Brookside School Children

In the Fifties, residents of the Brookside section of District 14 asked to be a part of Cañon City District #1. It was not a smooth transaction. At one point, the placing of the boundary between Brookside and Brewster was called “one of the biggest problems in Fremont County if not in the State of Colorado!" Finally, after countless meetings, disputes, elections, annexations, disagreements, and rulings, Supt. Ralph Monell was able to announce that the transfer had been approved and that plans were being drawn that would use all four rooms of the Brookside building as part of Cañon City’s School District #1 starting in September of 1957. Brewster soon became attached to the Florence District.

Only two years later in 1959, the Brookside school, heart of the community for so many years, became a warehouse for Cañon City District #1. Over time, the building was also used by New Hope School for Exceptional Children and Fremont County Head Start.

In 2003, the Town of Brookside purchased the property to use as the Town Hall. In 2010, the red-brick schoolhouse was taken down to create a parking lot for the new Brookside Community Center/Town Hall which was built on the property. 

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Columbian Lodge No. 90: The Italian Lodge in Brookside

Although the population of Brookside held a true melting pot of ethnicities over the years, the Italians win the prize for being the most numerous for the longest time. The little burg of Brookside had so many Italians, as a matter of fact, that they had their very own Italian Lodge.

Arleen DiOrio, Secretary of the group, put together a history of the group in 1984, which has been extremely helpful in writing this article.

The Columbian Federation is the oldest Italian-American fraternal group in this country, having been organized in 1893 in Chicago, Illinois. It eventually grew to include local chapters across America. “Composed of sincere lovers of the democratic way of life, the Columbian Federation reveals the real feeling of American-Italians who take pride in America," Arleen’s history tells us.

Brookside’s Lodge for men was organized in April 1900 and officially named the Societa Di Mutuo Soccorso Principe Tommaso Duca Di Genova Loggia No. 90. The women’s lodge was founded in June 1914 and called Societa Di M. S. Principessa Maria Isabella Duchessa Di Genova Loggia No. 6. The long Italian name was Americanized in 1963 to Columbian Lodge No. 90, and in 1969, the mens’ and womens’ groups joined to form one big lodge with a membership averaging about 180 members.

Fraternal organizations of this type were an important social asset to the members and their families. Meetings and club activities brought the people together and made for an even more tightly-knit community than they might have had in a little town like Brookside.

But there was another important function of groups like this, as well. There was no workmans' compensation program back then, and if someone was hurt or killed in the coal mines, it was very rarely found to be the company’s responsibility. That was just a fact of life. Mining was a dangerous occupation, and if you got hurt, it was your fault and it was your problem.

Groups like the Columbian Lodge served as a self-insurance organization in case of injury or death. Everybody paid their dues into the kitty, and everybody knew that if you were the unfortunate one who got injured or killed, your family would receive a little help with their expenses. Amounts were extremely modest by today’s standards, but the knowledge that there would be any help at all relieved concerns of the men who spent their lives working the area’s coal mines.

Today, we call it workers' compensation, and both men and women are covered, but back then, even when such programs did start to appear in America, they were for the men: workmans' compensation. Charter members of Brookside’s Italian Lodge in April of 1900 as listed by Arleen DiOrio included members from the following Italian families: Andretta, Borelli, Del Pizzo, Madonna, Moschetti, Ricchiuti, Santarelli, and Vezzetti.

I was surprised at how short the list of charter members was, but we need to remember that many Italian families were just then arriving from Italy. Immigration statistics show that 1907 was the peak year for Italian immigration into America, with almost 300,000 new arrivals in that one year alone. Compare that to the period from 1820 to 1860 when less than 25,000 Italian immigrants were counted coming into America. Total! (Statistics from American Voices: Italian Americans by Michael Witkoski, c1990.)

But let’s get back to our local Columbian Lodge. 

Lodge records list these officers in 1910:
Grand President: Antonio Moschetti
President Guiseppi Vezzetti
Recording Secretary Frank Tisone
Vice Secetary Guiseppi Volpe
Treasurer Enrico Moschetti
Marshall Giovanni Di Vitis
Collectors Tosetti and Borelli
Secretary of Finance Raffaele Madonna

In 1911, the Italian Lodge purchased the old company store at the corner of Brookside and Colarelli from the Cherokee & Pittsburg Coal and Mining Company for $175.00, according to DiOrio. In 1949, they sold the building to the Roman Catholic Congregation of St. Michael, Cañon City, Colorado for $1.00. Then in 1970, St. Michael’s sold it back to Columbian Lodge No. 90.

Besides its early life as the Company Store, offering everything a miner and his family might need, from groceries to clothing to mining supplies, the old building also held a doctor’s office. During its time as the Lodge Hall, the meetings and social events of the community were held there. Brookside & Brewster School District #14 used the building for Christmas programs, school plays, and annual graduation ceremonies. When owned by the church, the women of St. Anthony’s Alter and Rosary made spaghetti dinners to earn money for the church. Then the building did a stint as Brookside’s Town Hall. Meetings, elections, and community activities were held there. Today the old Italian Lodge is a private residence and art studio.

A newspaper clipping from 1986 tells us that the Columbian Lodge was alive and well at that time and celebrating 86 years as an organization. The special dinner meeting was held at Sali’s Paradise on the top of 9th Street Hill. (It’s a pawn shop today.) President Charles Salardino presided over the meeting with assistance from additional 1986 lodge officers Frank Cornella, Anthony Colarelli, Arleen DiOrio, Louis DiOrio, Pearl Myers, Eugene Roeder, and Anthony Beltramo. National Secretary-Treasurer Pete Santarelli of Pueblo was a special guest.

In the Cañon City area today, the recently-organized Sons of Italy chapter has a large, active membership that can still serve up a mean spaghetti dinner when a fundraiser is needed to replenish their coffers. They have been especially helpful with making scholarships available to students of Italian heritage. 

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St. Anthony's Catholic Church & the Catholic Community in Brookside

Due to the ethnic makeup of the Brookside coal camp, the Catholic faith has always been of great importance in this community. In fact, I believe that St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is the only church to ever be located in the Town of Brookside.

In the early days, when Brookside was a booming coal camp, it was listed as a Mission of Cañon City’s St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Father Michael Carmody included Brookside’s religious needs in his duties at Cañon City as far back as the 1880s. Visits were sporadic and often based on a specific need: babies needed baptized, couples wished to be married, etc.

By 1904, Father Chrysostom Lochschmidt, O.S.B., also of Cañon City, said Mass in Brookside about once a month. Services might be held at the school house or wherever room could be found. Early histories refer to an old two-story building somewhere in town that was used for a while.

When the priest couldn’t be there, some families drove their horse and buggy to Cañon City or to Florence for Mass. Sometimes the women of the community kept Brookside religious by gathering the people together to recite the Rosary and other prayers. An early history of religion in the area says that they always remembered to pray for a church of their own and promised to dedicate it, if their intention was granted, to their patron saint, St. Anthony.

In 1920, Father Edmund Butz, O.S.B., who was ministering to the Catholic communities of both Cañon City and Brookside at that time, learned that the school building at Brewster was to be replaced and that the old school could be purchased and moved. He appointed a committee of Joseph Vezzetti, Mariana Zontine, Louie Merlino, and Paul De Noble to pursue the idea. They eventually raised about $500.00 toward the project. Mrs. Charles Vezzetti sold them an acre of land for $30.00. They bought the building, hired Frank Tisone to move it, and began the process of converting it into a church.

Donations poured in: a church bell from Francesca Merlino, a statue of St. Anthony from Frank Tisone and Rocco Moschetti, Stations of the Cross from Father Pecorelli of La Junta. Church pews made by Tony Fazzino were purchased by each parish family; other statues were provided by the Berta and Vezzetti families.

The church was indeed named to honor St. Anthony, patron saint of the lost, the poor, and travelers. June 13th, the feast day dedicated to St. Anthony, soon became an annual celebration of some importance to the little community. A Sunday near June 13th was chosen, and a committee led by Frank Tisone was responsible for planning this event in the early days.

In 1928, the event opened with a dance on Saturday night, June 23rd. High Mass was held by Father Justin, OSB, at 9:30 Sunday morning, followed by the procession through town. A baseball game at 2:30 featured the Knights of Columbus against a team from Rockvale. The Knights of Columbus also provided a band to lead the procession and to play a concert Sunday evening. Rockvale won the ballgame 14 to 13. Events worth special mention that year included the greased pig competition. Somehow the pig got loose and ran into the well-dressed crowd, causing quite a wave of excitement.

In 1933, the baseball game between Brookside and Cañon City came to an abrupt end in the eighth inning when a disputed umpire’s decision caused both teams to leave the field with the score tied at five-all.

St. Rocco’s Day in August was another day of celebration for the people of St. Anthony’s. News reports from 1933 refer to St. Rocco’s Day as an “annual day of feast and celebration for residents of Fremont County’s coal camps." St. Rocco’s day also started with Mass celebrated at St. Anthony’s. The procession that followed was led by the priests and acolytes with music provided by the Cañon City Municipal Band. Races and contests were enjoyed until time for the ball games between Brookside and Williamsburg (Brookside won 11 to 6) and between Cañon City and Chandler (Cañon City won 13 to 1). There was dancing both Saturday and Sunday nights, but the highlight of the celebration was the mammoth fireworks display launched on top of the bluff above the town. It was estimated that as many as 5000 people crowded the roads and hills in the area to see the fireworks.

Both St. Anthony’s Day and St. Rocco’s Day were important enough within the community that local families named little boys Anthony or Rocco hoping that they might hold a special role in the festivities. These elaborate celebrations started to fade with the dwindling population and the beginning of World War II. St. Rocco’s Day was the first to disappear entirely.

St. Anthony’s Day survived much longer. In 1975, 180 members and guests attended Mass on St. Anthony’s Day. The traditional procession through the town followed, with Father Justin McKernan leading the Rosary. By then, and in years to come, the Mass and procession were followed by coffee, conversation, and companionship at the church. Gone were the dances, races, ballgames, and fireworks. But the local members of the church held on as long as they could.

Despite World War II, a complete renovation of the interior of the church took place in 1943/44. Rev. Justin McKernan and Rev. Edward Vollmer worked very hard with members of the congregation to raise $2500.00 to perform the needed work inside, as well as repairs to the tower and new shingles for the roof.

Church records show that around 1900, an estimated 200 Catholic families lived in the general vicinity of the Brookside mine. By 1945, that number had dropped to 95 families, less than half the original population. A clipping from 1973 reported that membership had dropped to about 60 families. By 1980, the congregation was described as “struggling."

Eventually, regular services at the little white church stopped completely, and the building stood vacant for a number of years. Recently, this old historic structure has been acquired by the Town of Brookside. It is hoped that a much-needed new roof can be put on the building very soon and that it can be used again for various functions, including weddings and anniversaries.

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Brookside Centennial: We Did It!

August 17, 2013, will go down in the history of Brookside as a very big day. We all got together and pulled off a Centennial Celebration to be proud of. Although it was pretty warm (OK, it was hot) we must keep in mind that it did not rain, snow, hail, flood, or blow in a major dust storm. Weather conditions could have been a whole lot worse, right?

The day started off with Mass at the old St. Anthony’s Church. Services were well attended and everyone present talked about the tears shed over seeing people that they hadn’t seen for such a long time and how good it was to get everyone back together for a day of remembering days gone by. The bell at the church rang off and on all day to invite people to come join the gathering. Thanks to Frank and Janie Adamic for hosting at the church and to the Sons of Italy for orchestrating the Mass.

When Mass ended, the Frank Adamic family and their helpers went to work to display some church-related memorabilia and set up some Bingo tables in the old church. Jim DiOrio shared a 1940 vintage stage backdrop with local advertizing that had been found in the basement of the old Italian Lodge decades ago. The ads all featured businesses from Cañon City and Florence and the art work was wonderful. In the center was a painting of a cabin by a brook. Was the artist thinking of Brookside? Jim’s expertise as a sign-painter helped him to know how to preserve the old backdrop. It looked great in the front of the church. Jim also made an appearance around town on his antique bicycles.

Classical guitarist Jim Bosse and his friend and helper Charles Ranns performed at a concert under the trees in Spring Creek Park. They had put together a special version of the mining song “Sixteen Tons” that featured snippets of Brookside history. There really was a day when the coal miners of Brookside “owed their soul to the company store.”

Larry Green, railroad historian, was available at the park to talk to people about the part the Pueblo & Arkansas Valley Railway and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe played in our history. Larry has been searching company records for more information about the Brookside depot. Although he still hasn’t found company documents telling us when we got our depot, he did find a mention of a boxcar body being removed from Brookside, and he found information in a book on depots that says we had an 8’ by 28’ boxcar serving as a depot/waiting room from 1889 till 1902. We have train schedules showing passenger service after that date, so I wonder what they did after they moved the boxcar.

Several of Fremont County’s “Spirits of the Past” attended the Centennial Celebration in character of some of our early pioneers. I spoke to “Uncle Jesse Frazier” at lunch and he told me he had walked the four miles from his barn down toward Florence to attend. What fun. A big thanks to that group for weathering the heat in yesterdays’ fashions, which were not necessarily designed for comfort.

Steve Cochran and Arlin Bolkema provided transportation around town in the form of a hay ride that connected the various venues every twenty or thirty minutes or so. We know for a fact that some people got on and rode just to be riding. Did everyone hear the story about the young gent who rode and rode and rode some more and had the good fortune to be the only passenger when the tractor ran out of gas? He grinned ear to ear as they walked to Steve’s place for a can of gas.

Our silent auction to raise money to use as matching funds for a grant to put a new roof on the old church kept getting bigger and bigger—over 100 items were offered, thanks to the generosity of local vendors and Brookside residents. Local artist Dave Merrick donated several prints while Spring Creek Vineyard donated a case of Centennial wines. We hope everyone won the items they wanted most. The auction and donations raised $3,287 toward a new roof for St. Anthony’s. 

The bake sale (we have some great bakers in Brookside!), Cake Walk, T-shirts, caps, beer mugs and wine glasses, and beverages sold paid for all the costs of the Centennial so that the Town ended in the black, budget-wise.

Lunch was provided by Atmos and Black Hills Energy and tasted mighty good; over 300 people were served. Jerrie McFadyen arranged for Rich Eurich and Charles Prignano to provide Italian music under the awning, and resident Reine Richardson sang for us and provided the sound system for the day. Mayor Dave Boden issued an official proclamation to the gathered masses and introduced a number of honored guests. Numerous door prizes added to the fun. Thanks to John Howard for the large tent, tables, and chairs provided by Cañon Rental!—We shoulda’ got two tents!—We thank everyone who helped with the lunch. It was a good time breaking bread with friends.

Speaking of bread, Jana Schutte and friends got the new bread oven installed behind Town Hall in time to provide tastes of pizza and bread out of a real bread oven. Frank & Barb Carochi provided their expertise to teach others how we can use the oven in the future. I heard a lot of laughter back there whenever I passed by. The new Italian bread oven at the Community Center was paid for with donations and volunteer labor. Fundraising is still needed to buy the brick to “dress” the oven. John and Mike Madone will do the brick work when we can afford the brick! Donations toward this can be accepted at the Town Clerk’s office.

Thanks to the Sons of Italy, who did great work installing the two new bocce ball courts at Community Center and kept the competitions running all day! The Centennial Planning Committee met later that evening for sort of a mop-up meeting (that and the kegs weren’t empty yet) and they played bocce ball till it got so dark they couldn’t see the colors anymore.

Thanks to Steve and Sue Cochran who offered the Old-Time Tractor, Truck & Car display with an assortment of entries from various manufacturers; it was a definite hit! People wandered through all day, and several photographers spent time taking pictures of their favorites. See, I told you guys if we all brought what we had, it would add up to an interesting line-up.

We had a rock hound, Mark Wolkomir, at the park identifying rocks for kids. Dave Fuselier provided guides for the walking tour of the mine sites at the park. Head Start helped plan some children’s activities to keep the younger set entertained, and the day’s activities drew to a close with a water balloon fight. We were amused at how some of the kids loved the hayride, while one young lady decided she’d rather walk than get bounced around on a bale of straw behind a noisy old tractor.

Renee Bolkema, Town Clerk, had been gathering historic maps, photos, and other documents for months to create a display inside Town Hall (where it was so nice and cool all day). We heard ooohs and ahhhhs all day long from people looking at this great historical collection.

Parking was at a premium most of the day, and Vic from Head Start and Cloyce & Nick Mann stood in the sun for hours directing traffic. It would have been chaos without them. Now that’s a switch. Chaos usually reigns wherever Cloyce & Nick show up.  Thanks for filling all of those water balloons, too! Oh, my!

Bill Tuttle and Laura Fredericks were our official photographers, capturing the events of the day. Thanks to both of you for lots of great pictures!

OnWatch provided security for the event. The crew operating the “money machines” in Town Hall were kept busy all day. Again, their jobs made everybody else’s jobs just that much easier.

Mayor Dave Bolkema and Arlin Bolkema have been busy all summer, shining up the Town for the event: helping to plan the event, mowing weeds, patching potholes, painting the storage container, etc.! (I also saw a lot of residents out there cleaning up for the day—that is great! -Renee)

Renee also wants to say a special thanks to Jerrie McFadyen, Jana Schutte, and Steve and Sue Cochran for being important members of the Centennial Celebration Team—well done and many thanks!

We know we’re missing someone or something, so we just want to throw a great big general “Thank You” out there to everyone (over 50 volunteers) who pitched in to do their part, and to all our guests who came to share our big day. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

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Brookside's Town Government

Using the records we have, plus old Cañon City directories, obituaries, news clippings, and anything else we could get our hands on, we have tried to compile a listing of all our Mayors and Town Clerks. If you have written documentation that can help us fill in the gaps, we would be delighted to have a copy.

1913 Louis Fleming George Johnson, clerk
1914-1922 unknown unknown
1923-1944 Max Vezzetti (died in office) Henry Bennett, clerk
    John B. Balagna, clerk
    Martin Vezzetti, clerk
1944-1950 unknown Martin Vezzetti, clerk
1951-1955 Nick J. Colarelli Martin Vezzetti, clerk
1955-1971 unknown Martin Vezzetti, clerk
1971 Tony Beltramo Martin Vezzetti, clerk
1972-1980 unknown Martin Vezzetti, clerk
1980-1991 Frank Tisone (died in office) Martin Vezzetti, clerk
    Kim Farr, clerk
    Frank Adamic, clerk
1991-1992 Claude DeWolf Frank Adamic, clerk
1992-1996 John Madone Frank Adamic, clerk
    Lori DiOrio, clerk
    Shellene Romero, clerk
1997-2004 Claude Nolan Calhoun Anita Lewis, clerk
    Judy Calhoun, clerk
    Shelley Sinclair, clerk
    Patricia Berry, clerk
    Robin Hobbs, clerk
2004-2010 Ron Frederick (died in office) Wanda Byrd, clerk
    Trish Henderson, clerk
    Renee Bolkema, clerk


Dave Boden Renee Bolkema, clerk

Newspaper clippings from 1955 and 1971 tell us that no Town elections or regular board meetings were held from 1938 to at least 1971. Our only officers, a mayor and a clerk, met once a year to pay the light bill for our street lights. In more recent years, we sometimes cancelled an election if there were no contested races, but we have usually managed to fill the offices. We’re healthier now than we have been for a long time.

On September 1st, 1913, the Board of Trustees met to adopt some ordinances that they felt were necessary for peaceful operation of the newly incorporated Town of Brookside. The old language is full of pomp and circumstance and is also very repetitive, so let’s listen to a little of if and then we’ll summarize the rest of the proceedings:

“An Ordinance concerning the meeting of the Board of Trustees. Be it ordained, by the Board of trustees of the Town of Brookside: That the regular meetings of the Board of Trustees shall be at that building known as Italian Lodge Bldg. or at such other place as the Board shall direct, on the First Monday in each month at 7:30 p.m.”  The ordinances passed with all six Trustees voting yes: Geo. O. Johnson, Peter Tonso, Anton Moschetti, Stephen Coughlin, Joseph Volpe, and John Fontechio. Mayor Louis Fleming signed each of the ordinances (in pencil). They were co-signed by George Johnson, Clerk & Recorder.

Articles II, III, and IV said that the Mayor and Trustees must take an oath of office and that the Treasurer, Marshall, and Magistrate should be bonded. They also dealt with terms of office, the Town seal (which would say “Town of Brookside” encircling the word “Seal”), and stated that the Town could enforce these ordinances.

Article V established a poll tax requiring every able bodied male between 21 and 50 years of age to pay $3.00 per year to be used to maintain streets, alleys, and bridges. Anyone unable or unwilling to pay could work for the Town for two days or provide a team of horses and work for one day to work off their taxes for that year.

Article VI says that anyone “who shall permit any cellar, vault, private drain, pool, privy, sewer . . . to become nauseous, foul or injurious to the public health” could be fined $3.00 a day till they cleaned it up. Similar penalties were set for failing to deal with “putrid or unsound meat, fish, hides, skins, offal, dung, dead animals, vegetables . . .” etc. Yuck.

Article VII forbid residents to impersonate a peace officer, run around naked, dress in dress not belonging to his or her sex, sell lewd or indecent books or other items, be drunk in public, or run a bawdy house or dance hall within three miles of town. It forbids firing any cannon, gun, pistol, or fire-arm; setting off an anvil or any other thing containing powder; or riding or driving a horse in a reckless manner. You couldn’t throw harmful things at your neighbor or your neighbor’s property, swear in public, start a riot, scare a horse, or disturb a church service. It was forbidden to help someone escape from jail, carry a concealed weapon, or sell liquor on Sunday. Speed limits were set at 15 miles per hour. This was a busy little ordinance.

Article VIII gave the Town power to grant licenses for saloons in or near Town at a rate of $500.00 per year, but you couldn’t serve anyone under the age of 21 or a habitual drunkard, and you couldn’t sell to anyone on Sunday or on Election Day.

Article IX gave the Town power to license and regulate billiards, bagatelle, pigeon hole, pin alleys, bowling alleys, pool, or other forms of public resort at $10.00 per year.

Article X required reporting cases of small pox, diphtheria, or scarlet fever and ordered the town marshal to label any house with the name of the disease present there.

Article XI stated that no dog could run at large unless the owner paid for that privilege at a rate of $2.00 per year per male dog and $5.00 per year per female. Fines for failure to do this ran $5.00 to $50.00. Dogs could also be required to be muzzled.

Article XII said that all peddlers must be licensed.

So there you have it. The Town’s first set of ordinances. Since we didn’t have a newspaper, they decided to post three copies: one each on the Italian Lodge building, Joe Vezzetti’s store, and on the front of the Brookside School. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m in big trouble with Article VII.

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Brookside Centennial - More Stories of the Past

“That Brookside celebrated Thanksgiving appropriately is shown by the fact that the Supply Company disposed of 50 turkeys, while many more birds came into camp from other sources.”

“Local and long-distance telephones have recently been installed in the Colorado Supply Co. store and in Dr. Sanborn’s office.”  They also connected the engine room and the bottom of the mine by telephone that month.  This was a great step forward. -From Camp and Plant, CF&I newsletter, December 1901.

Oil Fields: Many local residents don’t realize that the Florence Oil Field has been producing petroleum products since the 1800s and that it was only the second big oil discovery in America. The first was in Pennsylvania, by the way.

Native Americans had known of oil seeps in this area and shared the information with the earliest settlers in the 1860s. Although the first discoveries were north of Cañon City, it soon became apparent that the biggest concentration of oil was around Florence. By the 1880s, companies like United Oil, Standard, and Continental (Conoco) were buying up oil rights and building refineries in Florence. Although demand shrank in the depression of the 1930s, it revived somewhat in the 1940s due to World War II.

We hardly notice the oil wells that we still drive by today, but in the 1920s stories of a new oil strike in the area were big news. In the spring of 1927, newspapers reported that dozens of wells were being drilled in the area from Fawn Hollow north through Four Mile, but the biggest excitement was near Brookside and Hell’s Half Acre. The Thompson, Thomas, and Slanovitch well on Alex Beltramo’s land came in at 1240 feet and showed great promise. A year later, it was reported that L.G. Carlton and William McKenzie had hit a good flow of oil at 1480 feet on the Beltramo ranch at Hell’s Half Acre. This was the fourth good producer found on Beltramo land. So we weren’t exactly the Ewings of South Fork, but we did hit oil!

Somebody asked me who first owned the land where Brookside is located. The answer to that is that it was a couple of guys who never ever lived here. They probably never even visited. Erastus Daley was a teamster in the New York Militia in the War of 1812 and he was given a land grant of 160 acres for his service. Simon Castleberry was a private in the Georgia Militia during the Creek War where he also earned 160 acres.

The United States government gave land grants like this to encourage easterners to move west and populate the new frontier. Many easterners had no interest in doing that, so they quickly sold their land grants to either somebody who did want to move west or to a land dealer who was going to sell it again. Daley assigned his land to a John B. Lowson in December of 1868. Castleberry assigned his grant to a Henry Green at about the same time. I didn’t find either Lowson or Green living here, either, so maybe they were brokers.

Ads for the Colorado Supply Company that ran Brookside’s company store tell us that in 1902 you could order clothing through our store. It would be provided by “A.E. Anderson & Company, Fashionable Tailors of Chicago." The ads show a man wearing spectacles and hand stitching a garment while seated on a folding stool. Some things have changed a lot.

Also from 1902 comes an ad for “Monogram Coffee." The monogram is CSCO for Colorado Supply Co., and the label says “Java & Mocha” blend. Some things just don’t change at all.

Annexations and streets: The original (1888) map of the platted Town of Brookside shows that the Town’s NE corner boundary was at the south end of Spring Street. Properties west of Spring Creek and north of Pinion Avenue were added later dates, including the little Town of Springfield (better known as Hell’s Half Acre) that existed north of Cedar Avenue. The DeRuHa subdivision on top of the bluff was annexed into the Town in 1999; the south bluffs of SpringCreek Park were annexed into the Town as part of a potential subdivision in 2004.

Brookside Avenue was originally called Main Street; Colarelli Avenue was Second Street; Benny Avenue was First Street. The names were changed in order to avoid confusion with Cañon City’s street names when Brookside became a rural Cañon City route.

In 1925 Tom Orecchio and Max Vezetti petitioned the County Commissioners to move the road into town 100 yards to the west to make the intersection square with State Highway 6 (Cedar Avenue today) and make the visibility better at the intersection. The old road is clearly seen on the 1937 aerial maps just east of our present Brookside Avenue, running at an angle.

Water supply has varied in Brookside. West of Spring Creek, an irrigation ditch provides water for orchards and gardens. East of Spring Creek, irrigation water had to be pumped from a well. This explains all the rows of vegetables, berries, and fruit trees shown west of the creek on old maps and photos. Families east of the creek could pump enough water to raise a garden for their own use, but it was a lot of work. Kids were the main source of water power. You pumped and you carried because you knew that there wouldn’t be enough to eat if you didn’t.

I found a news item in 1934 that said that Brookside was in desperate need of help with their water supply. All but a couple of the wells had gone dry in 1933, and it wasn’t any better in 1934. Neighbors were sharing wells, and some residents were hauling water from Cañon City. Efforts to deepen dry wells to secure water had not worked. Brookside town authorities had finally pleaded with FERA officials (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) for help, but were told that installing a pipeline from Cañon City would cost too much.

Since CF&I had bragged about the wonderful gravity-flow water supply they had installed in 1896 to replace “the polluted river water” previously used in Brookside, I was surprised by this story. We have a picture of a water tank on the hill in 1902 and a story telling us that there was a fire hydrant on every corner at that time. What happened between 1902 and 1934?

Women and children worked the berry and vegetable gardens of Brookside. They raised what their families needed and sold the rest door-to-door. Pearl Myers remembers working the gardens and orchards for money for school clothes and supplies. She said the season started with picking strawberries and tying radishes and onions into bunches in the spring and then you switched to picking cherries and then on to the next crop one after the other till school started.

In 1898, a local newspaper says that celery was being shipped from here in large quantities to Kansas, Nebraska, and the mountains. Leadville got its supply of fresh produce from Fremont County, the clipping tells us, including 23 boxes and barrels of celery from Brewster in a recent shipment. Brookside was also mentioned as a producer of high quality celery.

The first burglary ever committed in Brookside was perpetrated at the residence of Mr. Bradley, carpenter for the Santa Fe Railroad here. When Mr. Bradley placed his trousers on the bedroom floor previous to retiring on the night of the 18th (Feb. 1902), they contained $25.45. When he found them on the back doorstep in the morning the pockets were empty. There is no clue to the thief.” -Camp & Plant

Quick. Without looking, tell us exactly how much money you have in your pants pockets or purse. If this truly was the first burglary in our 24-year-old town, this must be a great little place to live, though. But we already knew that!

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The Last Chapter

By Sue Cochran

Can our Centennial Year really be coming to a close? It’s been a great run, hasn’t it? And it’s not really over yet. We have Christmas yet to come.

In 1901, the big news at Christmas was the arrival of the new lending library collection that had just been installed in Dr. Sanborn’s office. When the fall term of school closed on December 24th, the children gave a program featuring speeches and singing. Each child received a box of candy and nuts. It must have been a prosperous year, because Camp and Plant talks about Christmas trees in every home and the exchange of many gifts. Not all years were like that in a coal camp. School was scheduled to resume on January 6th, 1902.

Christmas in years gone by took a lot of planning. Many of the gifts were home made, and all of the food was home cooked. Wednesday was always baking day in Brookside, so the outdoor ovens would all be fired up on Wednesdays as Christmas got closer. Breads and fruitcakes baking in every oven in town made the neighborhood smell wonderful. The houses had to be spotless for holiday company. Any decorations that were put up were also home made. Getting ready for Christmas took months.

1913 was a bad year in Brookside. Mining strikes were breaking out across Colorado, jobs were scarce, and times were tough. E.B. Woodford, principal of the Brookside school, made sure that children in his District 14 had Christmas. He joined forces with the United Mine Workers and some Cañon City businessmen to put on a night of music and entertainment. Many families would have had no Christmas that year if not for this community effort.

Holiday celebrations always meant time spent with families. There was lots of visiting, of course, and many families made music a part of their holiday. Nearly every family had someone who played an instrument of some sort, so Christmas carols and hymns could be heard all around the town. Mass at little St. Anthony’s Church was another important part of the holiday season. Even without money for gifts, Christmas was a special time.

I would like to say “Thank You” for the opportunity to share my love of history with all of you this last year. I’m well aware that my twelve short years here make me a relative newcomer to the area, but I’ve done my best to tell the stories of Brookside’s past. I hope that some of you learned something new about life in the mines or the schooldays of the past, and I hope others were reminded of your own childhoods spent here in our little burg of Brookside.

I’m excited about the friendships and alliances that were formed while we were all working together to make the Brookside Centennial celebration happen. When you see a crowd around the new oven at the Community Center, breathe in and think of the pioneer women before us baking bread on Wednesdays. When you drive up and down Brookside Avenue, take time to notice those mine cars and remember the men who made them an important piece of our past. Take note when you see activity around the old church. And if you have a minute to spare, stop and say, “Hey, can I help you with that?” Let’s all join in for the Christmas light show this year. Maybe that will turn out to be our new Brookside tradition.

Many Thanks to Sue for sharing Brookside’s history with us! It has taken a lot of research and great writing to bring this treasure of our past to light. I know I have thoroughly enjoyed it and many others have enjoyed it also. Thanks, Sue, for giving so freely. -Renee Bolkema

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The Next Chapter

By Dave Boden and the 2013 Town Board

So, what now? We’ve celebrated our history and now we must look to the future. Our little town has made some recent advances: our own new Community Center and much improved Town office; our own park for the use and enjoyment of our residents; the Board has worked on patching the roads and maintaining the water system; and the Town recently acquired possession of one of the last historic structures in Town, the St. Anthony’s Church property which sits adjacent to the Brookside Community Center; and maybe most important of all, our Centennial Celebration helped to create community and renew our identity as a Town.

Mayor Boden and the Town Board of Trustees discuss at every Board meeting how to maintain and improve the infrastructure of the Town: the roads, the water system, and the appearance and development of the Town—all for the good of the residents. The struggle always has been and will continue to be how to accomplish what needs to be done when there is so little revenue to support the work.

The Town Clerk will continue to research the availability of grant funding to achieve the Town’s following goals:

  • Engineering and construction costs to move all of the water taps to the new water lines and decommission all of the old water lines in the Town’s system
  • Purchasing equipment to improve and maintain the roads
  • Improving flood water drainage to protect the roads and properties in Town
  • Maintaining the park
  • Renovating/repurposing the St. Anthony’s building as donations and grant funding allows

Other things that the Board is working on include updating the Master Plan and the Land Use Code. This is a slow process. We are making progress on the Master Plan. Hopefully sometime in 2014, we will have a Public Hearing to present the updated plan for citizens’ approval. Citizens are always welcome at the workshops.

Thanks again to the residents who have stepped forward to be part of the solution. We appreciate you!

The Town would like to especially recognize the following volunteers who have given above and beyond: Thanks so much!

  • Jerrie McFadyen: She faithfully completes the water testing on our system each month to keep our water system safe and compliant with state regulations. She also quietly maintains the north-west entrance to the park and waters the butterfly bushes she donated to the park. Jerrie served on the Centennial committee, taking care of our musicians and helping with the Silent Auction, among other things.
  • Jana Schutte: She brought years of event-planning experience to the Centennial and to the Tour of Lights. She spearheaded the Italian Bread Oven project and the mining signs at the park and she raised funds for St. Anthony’s work. She and her friends donated much time and resources to the Town.
  • Frank and Janie Adamic: They worked tirelessly with whatever needed to be done at St. Anthony’s and also hauled water to the park for the 4-H plantings and the vault restroom.
  • Joe Burnetto: Our honorary resident, who lives just west of Brookside, helped with the mining signs at the park, St. Anthony’s work, and the mining tools display.

If you have questions or comments regarding these history articles, please contact Sue Cochran at 276-0577 or Renee at Town Hall. 

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From the Brookside Master Plan:

Up through the Pike's Peak gold rush of the 1850's, Brookside was Native American Land. By 1861, Fremont County had become one of the original seventeen counties created by the Colorado Territorial Legislature and had seen the settlement of Cañon City, Florence, and the Hardscrabble Area.

On February 18, 1888 the Town of Brookside was founded by W.D. Thatcher and William P. Strong, representatives of the Cañon City Coal Company. The entire area had been controlled by the Santa Fe Railroad, and there had been homes on the west side of Spring Creek for some time prior to establishment of the town. A petition for incorporation was presented on April 12, 1913 to Judge James L. Cooper with a map of the 1888 boundary lines; including the small town of Springfield. The petition passed with 50 votes for and one against.

With the Brookside mine in operation, the town soon had a superintendent's house, a number of company homes, a company store (eventually becoming the Columbian Lodge), and a one-room school house. As time passed, venturesome persons built small homes on the outskirts of town. Joe Vezzetti opened a general store and bakery in 1892.

The town had a "no-saloon" regulation in effect, instituted by the Cañon City Coal Company. However, a survey showed a half acre had been overlooked by the company. Soon the lot was full of saloons and wild women and earned the name "Hell's Half Acre." Before the mine closed, a five cent beer with a free lunch was a popular warm-up from the ride up to Cripple Creek on the Brookside spur of the F&CC Railroad (Campbell, 1972).

Around 1911, by local accounts, the mine began shutting down as water began to fill many of the sections. When the mine closed, many of the miners had to find work elsewhere, but the town of Brookside refused to give up. Parts of the mine were later leased for operation as small "wagon mines," although even this activity was prohibited by mine inspectors after 1940. At that point all the entrances to the Brookside mine were sealed.

Brookside's first local government meeting was held on September 16, 1913, with the first mayor and trustees present: Mayor Louis Flemming, Town Clerk George O. Johnson, Peter Tonso, Antonio Moschetti, Stephen Caughlin, Joseph Volpe, and John T. Fonteccio. Ordinance #1 was adopted providing for the organization of the town government. Joe Vezzetti was named treasurer, Dr. R.E. Holmes was health officer, and Patty Moschetti was Marshal at a salary of $15 per month. Special police officers were to be paid by the day. Trustees were paid $1 per month, while the mayor and clerk received $2 per month.

The original Brookside schoolhouse was a one-room building standing on the prairie almost out of the city limits. Later, a two-story, three room building was erected. This building was so tall and narrow that on windy days school was dismissed. Finally, in 1921, on 3 acres of land a modern schoolhouse was built. The old schoolhouse became the New Hope School for the handicapped.

In 1955, the Brookside Domestic Water Company was formed with water being purchased from the Lincoln Park Water Company. A fire protection system was also installed. By 1971 there were only two town officials left, Tony Beltramo, mayor, and Martin Vezzetti (town clerk). Martin served as clerk for 35 years. These two met only once a year to authorize payment of bills. Usually, the only bill was for the two street lights. With no income or mill levy, Martin Vezzetti stated that "when the present funds of $400 are gone, the lights may go out."

With the construction of the DeWeese Dye Ditch in 1905 a portion of present day Brookside became arable farm land. Availability of irrigation water allowed development of fruit orchards, pastureland and gardening in the irrigated portions of town. This promoted a rural agrarian character to the eastern portion of the present day town which still exists today.

There are 30 properties in the west side of the town limits that are current shareholders of stock in the DeWeese Dye Ditch and Irrigation Company. The water is supplied from DeWeese Reservoir in Custer County. The stock is attached to the property and cannot be sold to another property. It can only be sold or divided within the land to which it belongs.

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List of persons voting and the order in which they voted on the question of the incorporation of the Town of Brookside

  1. Louis Flemming
  2. Mrs. Emma Johnson
  3. John Lippis
  4. Geo. O. Johnson
  5. Martin D. Vazzetti
  6. Antonio Moschetti
  7. Joseph Volpe
  8. Joseph Vazzetti
  9. Ubaldo Moschetti
  10. Mary Moschetti
  11. Evelyn Flemming
  12. David Rendall
  13. Tony Geddo
  14. Dominic Manzetti
  15. Joh B. Vazzetti
  16. Anton Fetta
  17. Mrs. Anton Fetta
  18. Joseph Sartoris
  19. Mrs. Joseph Sartoris
  20. Peter Tonso
  21. Gostine Diangelo
  22. Battista Lucerna
  23. Maria Lucerna
  24. Caterna Vazzetti
  25. Mary Tonsp
  26. Amabile Zontini
  27. Angelo Fabrizio
  28. Mary Moschetti
  29. Mary Vezzetti
  30. Felicita Genro
  31. Carnillo Lucerna
  32. Joe Tinetti
  33. Steven Coughlin
  34. Courind Riche
  35. Nick Moschetti
  36. Nicoletta Moschetti
  37. Alf Rendall
  38. Frank Tesone
  39. Christena Tesone
  40. Tony Merllino
  41. Mrs. John Fabrezzo
  42. Lizzie Fontecheo
  43. John Fontechio
  44. John Silengo
  45. Louis Silengo
  46. Jantina Moschetti
  47. Rockie Moschetti
  48. Maryan Zontin
  49. Peter Moschetti
  50. Max Vazzetti

Total 50 for incorporation and none against.


  • Emma Johnson
  • Louis Flemming
  • Joe Volpe
  • Joseph Vezzetti
  • Antonio Moschetti

Dated at Brookside Colo. May 20, 1913

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