What’s in a Name?

A question that pops up frequently here is how to pronounce Cañon City. Occasionally the tilde (the little squiggly line above the n) is dropped which leads to confusion. Cañon, pronounced the same way as the English spelling, simply means canyon in Spanish. The name makes sense when you think of the city’s close proximity to the Royal Gorge which, you guessed it, is a large canyon of the Arkansas River.

And this confusion with the tilde isn’t new. There were enough newspaper articles about the tilde that it has its very own research folder right here at the museum. And this folder has some interesting stories. According to an article, the Postmaster-General Payne “authorized the changing of the spelling of the name ‘Cañon City’ to ‘Canyon City’ and it is expected that the post-office department will adopt the new spelling which is now in use by the Santa Fe railroad.” This article from the Canon City Clipper was printed on August 16, 1904. The city council protested against this action on behalf of the citizens and sent a resolution to Washington asking the action be reconsidered and the change annulled. And it was! But the Cañon City Daily Record didn’t use the tilde until 1969, 65 years later! A newspaper article published in 1969 proclaimed the tilde would once again be restored to the masthead of the Daily Record.

As one of the very few cities in the United States that use a tilde in their name, the name of Cañon City is special in its own way. So just like the name of our city, go inspire others to curiosity!

Do you have any other questions about the history of Cañon City? Stop by or call us to find out the answers!

National Day of the American Cowboy


The 13th annual National Day of the American Cowboy is this Saturday July 22nd and Colorado has certainly had our fair share of cowboys and cowgirls. The National Day of the Cowboy is set aside to “celebrate the contribution of the Cowboy and Cowgirl to America’s culture and heritage.”

The origins of the American cowboy generally come from the vaqueros, with roots that trace through Spain, and later through Mexico and California. But the image conjured up by most people upon hearing the word cowboy is the time period of 1866-1886 with the open range and big cattle drives. This gave rise to the cattle barons, men who owned ranches with large herds of cattle and paid the wages of the cowboys that dominate our image of the Wild West. But the life of cowboys, both past and present, allows some time for fun.

Rodeos arose as a way for cowboys to have fun while also having the chance to showcase their skills. Everyone loves a little bit of competition! In 1869 in Deer Trail, Colorado, a competition took place between the cowboys of Hash Knife and Mill Iron ranches. This event doesn’t bear much resemblance to the rodeos of today since there were no rules, no prizes, and no fees. It was simply competition. It’s unclear what made someone the winner, but it’s thought that Emilnie Gradenshire, an Englishman, won the contest. Since then rodeos have become a much bigger event with entry fees, prizes, and a variety of competitions.

Cañon City has held rodeos since 1872 when the event was known as the “Old Settler’s Reunion”. It later became a “Wild West Show” and then the “Royal Gorge Roundup”. In the present day, it’s known as the “Royal Gorge Rodeo” and still held annually. While we may no longer lead long cattle drives across the open plains, the traditions still exist and the history is still alive.

So if you’re interested in hearing some tales about the life of a cowboy, join us Saturday July 22nd at 1 PM here at the museum to hear Jim Morrissey share his experiences!


The information presented within this article has been compiled with research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

Happy Birthday Mr. Rudd!

It’s time to say happy birthday to someone important to the history of Cañon City, someone who is turning 198 years old! It’s the birthday of Anson Rudd, one of the first settlers in the area who lived in both the log cabin and the house right here behind the museum.

Anson Rudd was born on July 12, 1819 in Erie County, Pennsylvania. He became engaged to Harriet Spencer in 1837 at the age of 18. Harriet was just a year older at 19 but the pair did not marry for quite some time. Anson joined the gold rush in California but never struck it rich and it wasn’t until 1857 that he finally married Harriet. She must have been exceedingly patient! The Rudd’s stopped in Cañon City in 1860 while on their way to California but Harriet liked it so much the pair stayed. It was here in Cañon City they built the log cabin that still stands behind the museum today.

That cabin was the first cabin in the area to have wooden floors, and in June of 1861 their son Anson Spencer Rudd was born. The Rudd family lived in the cabin throughout the Civil War and longer. When war broke out in 1861, most men moved back east to fight for both sides of the conflict and Cañon City was all but deserted. The Rudd family was one of the few to stay. It is thought the population dropped to as low as only a dozen people. Despite this, Rudd held on to the belief the town would grow again.

Although a blacksmith by trade, Rudd held a variety of positions throughout his life. He was elected as the first territorial lieutenant governor although he never served because the election was overturned. He was the first sheriff of Fremont County and served two terms as county commissioner. He even served as the warden of the Colorado Territory Penitentiary for a short time.

It was in 1881 that he built the stone house that resides beside the log cabin. It was three stories and held four bedrooms. Anson and Harriet resided in the house until 1904 when they moved to Boulder, and soon after, Louisville. Anson died in 1907 and Harriet in 1910 and are both buried in the Fairmount cemetery in Denver.

As one of the early settlers of Cañon City, Anson holds a special place within our history. He was instrumental in building the town back up after the Civil War and left us a wonderful chance to learn about life in early Cañon City with both the cabin and the house that sit on the museum property. So happy birthday Anson Rudd! Stop by and visit us to explore the cabin and learn more about the Rudd family and their life in Cañon City!

A Rudd                                                                                        Anson Rudd
                    Photo Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center


The information presented within this article has been compiled with research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. 

A Surprising Find

25 years ago in July of 1992, a group of volunteers from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and from the Garden Park Paleontology Society began an excavation braving high temperatures, thunderstorms and flash floods. So what was considered so important?

One of the most complete Stegosaurus stenops skeletons ever found! Missing only its front legs, the stegosaurus was around 80% complete.

In June of 1992 Ken Carpenter was leading a field excursion with volunteers from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science along with his assistant Bryan Small. Imagine their surprise when they found an almost completely intact stegosaurus! While most of the body was encased in a thick layer of rock, the head and a few neck vertebrae were more easily excavated. The head and neck bones were separated from the rest of the body and taken to Denver. Excavation of the body and tail began in July of 1992 which continued through August. It was a long and arduous process since the body and tail were under a layer of rock which had to be removed carefully to not damage the bone underneath.

Once the bone had been excavated, the next big step was to remove the skeleton from the ravine it rested in. But that wasn’t going to be an easy task. Now that the skeleton was in its jacket (a casing made of plaster that protects the specimen), it weighed over 6 tons! An impressive course of action was decided upon. A CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter from Fort Carson Army Base lifted the jacketed body out of the ravine. A crane truck was used to lift the 3,000 pound tail jacket out of the ravine.

So why was this find so important? For one, it was only the second stegosaurus skull ever found! It was also the most complete stegosaurus skeleton found at the time and answered a variety of questions. The skeleton was found articulated meaning it was found in one piece with the bones arranged in order. This allowed the orientation of the plates to be confirmed which had been long debated. The plates on a stegosaurus were arranged upright, running on either side of the spine in an alternating pattern.  It was also determined that the tail of a stegosaurus had a limited amount of movement and was held upright rather than dragging.

Named Ms. Spike, this stegosaurus is an impressive specimen. To read more about the excavation and prep work of Ms. Spike visit the Hands on the Land – Garden Park Fossil Area website. To learn more and see a cast of this great beast who once roamed this area stop by and visit us at the museum Wednesday through Saturday between 10 am and 4 pm!

Spike                                                                                                  Image taken during the excavation of Ms. Spike in Garden Park. Photo copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

Spike 2                                                                                       Image taken during prep work of Ms. Spike in Cañon City. Photo copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.


The information presented within this article has been researched by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center using information compiled about Garden Park Fossil Area by Hands on the Land.

Preservation of Our Past

As we approach the 4th of July and the celebration of the United States independence, we here at the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center want to thank our Fremont and Custer county veterans and their families for your service in the military.

Civil War veterans played a vital role in the establishment of our community.  “Our boys” enlisted and served valiantly in World War I, II and the Korean War.

We have had an exhibit of military uniforms in the past that honor our veterans, however it concerns me that we have very little representation of our veterans since the Vietnam era to the present.

If you have a uniform that was worn by one of our local veterans, would you consider donating it to the museum so that we can continue recognizing the service our men and women provide?

Have a safe and joyous 4th of July celebration!


Nancy Masimer


A Short History of Rafting

As the days heat up, people start to think about the best way to keep cool. And what better way than a trip down the Arkansas River on a raft?

Whitewater rafting has been around far longer than you might think. The first recorded attempt to navigate the Snake River in Wyoming was recorded in 1811! But it wasn’t until the 1840’s that the first rubber raft is thought to have been invented.  Purchased from Horace Day, John Charles Fremont used a rubber raft in his 1842 Platte River survey. And the patent for the craft? Horace Day filed it on January 15, 1846 under patent number 4356.

Rafting truly took off during the 1960’s. Rafts built specifically for running rivers and rafting companies began to appear. In fact, in the 1972 Munich Olympics, athletes competed in whitewater sports for the very first time.  Now known as the canoe slalom, competitors maneuver through the rapids with either a canoe or kayak.

And here in Fremont County, rafting is a big industry. Between 1982 and 1992, only a ten year span, the rafting business grew at a rate of 18% each year and was already a $30 million industry. Even then, more than 190,000 people took rafting trips on the Arkansas River alone. Compare that to the only 12,000 in 1987. And since then the numbers have only grown!

Just last year in 2016, 550,861 commercial guests rafted in Colorado with an economic impact of nearly $180 million. The Arkansas River here in Fremont County made up 40 percent of that total, counting 223,878 guests. And with the multitude of rafting companies all along the Arkansas River, there’s always a chance to find some adventure.

The Whitewater Festival, a summer event to promote the outdoors and the expansion of Whitewater Park and river restoration, is just around the corner!

So if you’re in town this summer and want to learn some more history of the area or do some research in our archives, stop by the museum! We’re open Wednesday-Saturday between 10am-4pm.


Photo copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center

The information presented within this article has been compiled with research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center. 

Dall DeWeese and His Legacy

BuildingFather’s Day is coming up and in honor of that I think there is someone we should talk about. Not as a father in the typical sense but rather as a founder. Dall DeWeese is an important player in the history of Cañon City due to his effort at historical preservation by giving his collection to the city for a museum. So, in a way, he is the father of us, the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

William Dallas DeWeese was born near Troy, Ohio on October 1st, 1857. DeWeese started his own construction company in 1878 and a nursery/horticulture business in 1881 with his friend Charles Robert Culbertson Dye (C.R.C.Dye). In 1884, DeWeese moved to Cañon City, originally as an agent but eventually sold his business operations in Ohio and ran the “Iron Clad Nurseries”. He moved his family out to Cañon City in 1886 and began to make money as a land agent and nursey owner. Aware that to have his business would need irrigation to survive, DeWeese gained financing from W.H.H. Dye, the father of his old business partner, and they began a ditch irrigation project. The DeWeese Dye Ditch and Reservoir Company began diverting water into Cañon City in 1896.

DeWeese was a colorful character in the area, involving himself in many business ventures and as a hunter-naturalist spent time enlarging his collection which holds a variety of animals and a few fossils. But DeWeese didn’t only hunt big game; he also tried to protect it. After a few surveys in Alaska, DeWeese was upset by the loss of both land and wildlife and even wrote to the recently elected Theodore Roosevelt about his concerns. DeWeese also showed concern over the preservation of extinct animals such as the Diplodocus longus skeleton found in the Garden Park Fossil Area. Found in 1915, DeWeese contacted the Denver Museum in 1916 and donated the skeleton to the museum which was a helpful addition to their still young paleontology section. But DeWeese didn’t donate everything he found. Some of it he later incorporated into the stone fireplace he designed right here on the second floor of the museum.

Which brings us to the museum. DeWeese agreed to donate his collection to the city with the stipulation that the top floor of this building always be a museum. And so the Municipal Building was built! The building originally housed the museum upstairs and city chambers and offices on the lower levels. DeWeese supervised much of the work while building occurred and designed the fireplace that holds a center place within his collection. The fireplace has a variety of….unique features. Designed and supervised by DeWeese, dinosaur fossils, stones from around the world, and even gastroliths (also called gizzard stones) give this fireplace a distinct look not found anywhere else. And what’s a gastrolith you might ask? It’s a stone ingested by an animal (in this case a dinosaur) to help grind food. Various pieces of sauropod bones, black tourmaline from China, petrified wood from India, and many other items from DeWeese’s travels make up the fireplace.

The building was opened in 1928 and DeWeese’s collection of natural history could be appreciated by the public. Though he died only six months after the opening of the building, Dall DeWeese is remembered in many ways for his contributions to the city and the part he played in making it what it is today. And because of him, the museum exists as it is today. After a new City Hall was opened in 2004, the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center opened its doors and now houses exhibits, a research room and, of course, the collection of Dall DeWeese.

So stop by and visit us! If you want to know more about local history, dinosaurs, or are just looking for something to do we’d love to see you! We are open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and admission is always free.


The information presented within this article has been compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.