April In Colorado History

April 22, 1925: Marble Mill Burns

Marble Mill Historic Site in Colorado
Sign for Marble National Historic Site | Carol M. Highsmith

Fire rips through the Marble mill in the remote town of Marble, about 25 miles south of Carbondale, destroying more than half the mill.


At the time, Colorado was the third largest producer of marble in the country, and the finishing mill was the largest of its kind. More than 900 workers were employed, with 40,000 cubic feet of marble processed each month. But bad luck seemed to plague operations. In the years leading up to the fire, an avalanche severely damaged the complex; floods washed out the railroad tracks, crippling shipments; taxes and loan payments went unpaid; and workers left to fight in World War I.


Following the fire, it was discovered the mill was significantly underinsured, which delayed efforts to rebuild by two years. Once reconstruction was complete, the mill would process marble for only 15 more years before closing permanently, the demand for marble having declined.


Visit the historic Marble Mill: marblecolorado.org

April 23, 1859: Colorado's First Newspaper is Born

Original Rocky Mountain News building in Colorado (1800s)
Rock Mountain News (1859) | Denver Public Library Special Collections

William N. Byers prints Colorado’s first newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News (also known as “the Rocky”). A rival publication, the Cherry Creek Pioneer, was behind him by just twenty minutes.


Untrained in journalism and printing, Byers came to Colorado a year earlier, looking to establish a newspaper to capitalize on the gold rush. Within a week of his arrival, Byers secured two business partners and purchased a printing press from a struggling paper in Nebraska.


With articles focused on gold mining in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain News was a hit. Seeking to expand into national news, and to counter rising competition, Byers lobbied for the establishment of a post office in Denver. He served as the postmaster, which guaranteed himself early access to incoming headlines. In 1878, Byers sold “the Rocky,” but the paper’s fate wasn’t sealed. Over the next 130 years, the Rocky Mountain News and its reporters would go on to win several Pulitzers before printing the final issue in 2009.

April 24, 1921: Colorado Woman Sets Out to Conquer Fourteeners

"Estes Park and Longs Peak" by Albert Bierstadt
Estes Park and Longs Peak by Albert Bierstadt (circa 1876) | Denver Public Library

Mary Cronin, the first woman to summit all of Colorado’s Fourteeners, attends her first recorded hiking trip with the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC), a wilderness conservation group in which she’d become heavily involved.


A spring blizzard caught the hikers off guard as they trekked up Clear Creek Canyon toward the Beaver Brook trail, but spirits remained high, and Cronin was undeterred in her desire to explore the mountains further. She continued hiking with the CMC, and six months later, summited her first fourteener, Longs Peak.


Over the next 13 years, Cronin would continue climbing fourteeners (aspiring to climb them all), while continuously expanding her role in the CMC—leading group hikes and serving on the Board of Directors and Membership Committee. In 1934, Cronin tackled the remaining two peaks on her list, Mount Oxford and Mount Belford, earning herself the official title of the first woman to summit all of Colorado’s fourteeners.

April 25, 1896: Cripple Creek Burns

"The Row" at Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1893
The Row, Cripple Creek (1893) | Library of Congress

Fire breaks out at the Central Dance Hall in Cripple Creek’s central business district, destroying more than 300 buildings and claiming two lives.


Triggered by a gas stove overturned during a fight, the devastating flames took firefighters four long hours to extinguish. Within the first hour, burst hoses, low water pressure, and small water mains caused their water ran to out. Unable to douse the flames, firefighters decided to demolish the surrounding buildings with explosives in an effort to stop the fire from spreading. The opposite happened. Due to the unknown stashes of dynamite and black powder inside the buildings, several unintended explosions were set off, hastening the fire’s spread.


When the flames were finally extinguished hours later, two lives were lost and half the central business district was turned to cinders. 


Visit Cripple Creek: cityofcripplecreek.com

April 26, 1962: Controversial Activist Speaks Out

Dean Reed Antena TV magazine cover
Dean Reed (1965) | Olga Masa

Dean Reed, a singer-songwriter from Denver, pens a letter to the people of Chile, urging them to join him in demanding President John F. Kennedy cease atomic testing.


Reed had moved to Chile earlier that year, where he released music he claimed would save humanity from war and violence. (It didn’t.) Like many musicians at the time, Reed turned to political activism, though the views he espoused were controversial.


After relocating to the Soviet Union, Reed began recording music again, and enjoyed fame as one of the country’s biggest superstars during the Cold War. Reed returned to Colorado only once in his lifetime to attend the Denver International Film Festival, which featured a documentary about his life entitled American Rebel.

April 27, 1917: Hastings Coal Mine Explodes

Hastings Memorial (Trinidad, CO)
Hastings Mine Explosion Memorial | Jeffrey Beall

The deadliest mining accident in Colorado’s history is triggered by the careless striking of a match (to relight a mine inspector’s safety lamp) inside the Hastings coal mine in Las Animas County.


Coal mining was one of Colorado’s most profitable industries at the time, with 238 coal mines operating throughout the state, producing 12.5 million tons of coal in 1917 alone. Mining accidents were unfortunately common, but none were as devastating as the blast at Hastings that claimed 121 coal miners’ lives.


Due to the flammable gases that often built up, safety protocols prohibited open flames inside the mines. It was never understood why the inspector who lit the match—a man who was experienced and respected in the field—made such a reckless mistake. In the aftermath of the explosion, hundreds of people gathered around the destruction to mourn the tragic loss of life.


Visit the Hastings mine memorial: hmdb.org

April 28, 1982: Stegosaurus Becomes State Fossil

1940s postcard from featuring Stegosaurus
Stegosaurus Postcard Colorado (1946) | Newberry Library

The stegosaurus is declared Colorado’s official state fossil by Governor Richard Lamm, making it the first new state symbol in eleven years.


It’s no surprise the honors went to the stegosaurs, given the first stegosaurus fossil in the world was discovered at Dinosaur Ridge near Golden in 1877. A geologist named Arthur Lakes was credited with making the monumental discovery, which would fuel the flames of the Great Dinosaur Rush (also known as the Bone Wars). During those years, competing fossil hunters combed the American West in pursuit of paleontological discoveries. The two paleontologists leading the charge, Othniel Marsh and Edward Cope, were ruthless in their pursuit of paleontological superiority, often resorting to underhanded methods to surpass one another. In the end, both men faced financial ruin, but were credited with contributing more than 136 new dinosaur specimens to the field of paleontology.


Visit Dinosaur Ridge: dinoridge.org

April 29, 1931: Lark Bunting Becomes State Bird

Lark Bunting, Colorado state bird
Calamospiza Melanocorys (Lark Bunting) by Nick Varvel

The Lark Bunting is adopted as Colorado’s official state bird, following a legislative debate that considered the meadowlark and mountain bluebird as well.


In connection with the proceedings held at the state capital, representatives for each bird made their case by delivering speeches and whistling bars from the birds’ songs. Despite being the underdog, the Lark Bunting (which is neither a lark nor a bunting but instead a sparrow) won the day. The president of the Colorado Audubon Society, along with a pep club of 121 high school seniors from Fort Collins high school, gathered at the state capital to make a case for the sparrow, lovingly describing it as a gentle mannered “troubadour of the plains.”


Today, the Lark Bunting with its distinctive black coat and white patches on the wings can be viewed in Colorado’s brush and prairie, where it enjoys eating bugs, and seeds of native grasses.

April 30, 1927: Kuner-Empson Expands Vegetable Canning Operations

Kuner Cannery in Longmont, Colorado
Aerial View of Historic Longmont Cannery (2019)

The Daily Times of Longmont reports the Kuner-Empson Cannery’s Greeley location is planning a grand expansion into canning sweet corn and will bulk up existing canning of peas and beans.


Originally opened in Longmont in 1889 to can vegetables from farmers around Boulder County, the Kuner-Empson Cannery was among the area’s first major industrial sites. It’s credited with establishing the Front Range as an agricultural hub, and to this day sells canned products throughout grocery stores.