100 Years Ago Today: Golden Buys Its First Fire Truck

Colorado Transcript, March 6, 1919
A better picture of Golden Fire Department’s Engine No.1 from 1919
Photo Courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Department

In 1880, the Golden Fire Department rose from the proverbial ashes of three different, independent fire fighting companies: Excelsior Hose, Everett Hook and Ladder Company, and Loveland Hose Company. Coming together to form some kind of fire fighting Voltron, each company was able to contribute a different piece of equipment that it had acquired during its brief existence. Excelsior Hose had the best engine, called the “Fire King,” Everett Hook and Ladder had the best truck, and Loveland Hose had the best hose.

Before the merger, Excelsior Hose and Everett Hook and Ladder were both stationed at the Golden Central Fire Station, which was located on 12th street downtown, near where Meyer Hardware now stands. Somewhat poetically, the Central Station was situated across from the Astor Hotel, Golden’s first hotel, built in 1867 as the town’s first stone-constructed building, a fire-resistant structure in a town built out of wood, which also symbolized the permanence of Golden as a town.

Competing fire fighting companies housed at Golden Central Fire Station on 12th Street
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
Loveland Hose Company
Loveland Hose Company
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department

By 1918, Golden Fire Department’s equipment was entirely outdated, since they didn’t even have an automobile fire engine like neighboring big city Denver did. The Golden City Council approved funding for a new fire truck powerful enough to be capable of climbing the many hills in town. Alderman Nolin argued specifically against a small Ford truck that other towns of Golden’s size have because of the mountains nearby.

Instead, the Golden Fire Department bought a truck and 1,000 feet of new hose from the Denver-based Julius Pearse Fire Department Supply Company. The supply company was started by Julius Pearse, a German-born immigrant who moved to Central City, Colorado to work in the mines before settling with his new bride, Maggie Prosser, in Denver. He helped organize the first volunteer fire department in Denver, and became one of the city’s first fire chiefs. Pearse also went on to found the Colorado State Fire Association.

Pearse started the lucrative Julius Pearse Fire Department Supply Company in 1897 and was its president until he died in 1917 due to blood poisoning that was the result of a fire truck running over his foot some two years earlier. He left behind his wife and his 11 children, one of whom, Julius Pearse Jr., took over the company after his death.

Julius Pearse, owner of Julius Pearse Fire Department Supply Company

The brand new Golden Fire Department truck made its first run on May 28, 1919. It was a false alarm. Womp womp. It was not until 1930 that the Golden Fire Department added as second motorized unit.

One other fun fact concerns the fire bell at the Golden Central Fire Station. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, the bell was rung for five hours straight in celebration of the end of the Great War. However, all this ringing cracked the bell, making it look like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Golden citizens renamed the bell the Golden Liberty Bell, which was located at City Hall until the building was demolished in 1961. It can now be found at the current location of Golden City Hall at 911 10th Street.

The bricks of Central Station were painted white and the building expanded to encompass all of City Hall. In the picture below from 1933, note the remaining stylized windows over the engine bay doors that are still the same as Central Station. Also note the Golden Liberty Bell between the fire engines.

1933 Central Station
Golden Fire Department in 1933
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
A weather-beaten look to the Golden Central Fire Station, circa 1950-1960
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
Golden Fire Department Engine 1
Golden Fire Department Engine No. 1, today
Photo Courtesy of Golden Fire Department
A fully restored 1921 American LaFrance Fire Truck on Jay Leno’s Garage

100 Years Ago Today: Cement Bill Gets Into Clay

Colorado Transcript, February 13, 1919

William “Cement Bill” Williams is a guy I’d have loved to share a drink with, just to pry him for stories. Bummer that prohibition would’ve gotten in the way. But every time I come across a newspaper article about Bill he’s got his calloused hand in some new business or adventure, like digging out Berthoud Pass from 8 feet of snow, constructing sidewalks in Golden, buying a potato farm, acquiring a clay mine, or creating the Beaver Brook reservoir.

William “Cement Bill” Williams

He is best known for building the Lariat Trail, which is now called Lookout Mountain Road. Cement Bill graded the road’s 56 perfectly-banked turns over 4.6 miles from 1910-1914, and Lookout Mountain Road is still considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country. I’ll personally attest that it’s my favorite cycling route ever.

Describing Williams, historian Georgina Brown says he was as “hard boiled and obdurate as they come. If he hadn’t been, the Lariat Trail would never have been built.”

Shining Mountains (1976)

Cement Bill’s vision with Lariat Trail was to establish Golden, Colorado as the northern gateway to the newly established Denver Mountain Parks, which were the collective dream of Red Rocks Park founder, John Brisben Walker, along with Mayor Speer, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. Williams is not as well remembered as those three, but to the Golden community, he is just as important.

These towers at the base of Lookout Mountain Road symbolize the gateway to Denver Mountain Parks. They were erected in 1917 and stand there today.

Williams initially self-financed the Lariat Trail project. In 1910 he surveyed the land and started hand-digging a two mile path from the base of Lookout Mountain to Windy Saddle before he was able to secure donations of $1,000 from Adolph Coors and Portland Cement from Charles Boettcher. Eventually the state of Colorado kicked in $15,000 and the counties of Jefferson and Denver agreed to give $7,500 a piece. Developer Rees Vidler, who owned and operated the Lookout Mountain Funicular, gave 56 acres to the Denver Parks Commission, which also helped Williams finish the road.

Cement Bill finished grading the road by carving out several hair pin turns up the steepest part of the mountain toward the area that would later become Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave.

Buffalo Bill’s funeral procession, Lariat Trail (1917)

Legend has it that during the great blizzard of December 1913, a road construction crew of 16 men and 34 horses that were working on Lariat Trail had to work their way through snow drifts 15 feet high in order to get back down to Golden. It took them 13 hours to move through the record snowfall, but only one horse was injured.

Cement Bill Williams died on May 17th, 1945 but his legacy lives on in Golden, where the Lariat Trail continues to lead mountain loving residents toward their next outdoor adventure.

Memorial plaque on Lookout Mountain Road
My bike on Lookout Mountain Road

The Hermit of North Table Mountain

It’s the 4th of July, and ominous fireworks are about to fly on J.B. Lycan’s ranch, situated 30 miles northeast of Boulder, Colorado, where 27-year-old Calvin Phillips and his new bride, 16-year-old Lulu Bainbridge, live with Phillips’ mother. Lulu’s parents are no longer happy with their teenage daughter’s marriage, especially to a much older man, despite their earlier consent to their union.

Dust swirls as three men arrive on the ranch to take Lulu back to her parents, against her will. The Bainbridge posse consists of Lulu’s father, George Bainbridge, her uncle, Seth Thatcher, and her brother, who is armed with an unloaded rifle.

It’s three men against Calvin and Lulu, and the tension is escalating quickly. The men’s alcohol-fueled voices shout to Lulu to come back home with them. Young Bainbridge points his rifle at Phillips, who runs inside to get his shotgun. Lulu’s father drags his daughter away from the house, but she refuses to leave. Thatcher runs after Phillips and tries to wrestle the shotgun from Phillips’ arms, but instead Phillips takes the gun and smashes it into Thatcher’s head, knocking him out, blood pouring from the man’s head onto the dirt.

Phillips takes aim at George Bainbridge, but Lulu grabs the gun and points it at the ground. The shotgun blast rings out, but the shot goes harmlessly into the ground. Lulu grabs her father by the shoulders and tries to push him away, but Phillips already has the next shot ready. He fires. George Bainbridge falls to the ground, dead.

Young Bainbridge, seeing his father slain and his uncle bleeding on the ground, flees the scene. Phillips’ mother, Minnie, witnessing the entire tragedy, notifies the police, who arrest Phillips without struggle.

Phillips is charged with 2nd degree murder of his father-in-law. He is convicted and sentenced to 10-15 years in prison. While in custody, he is constantly harassing other inmates as well as correctional staff, so he’s placed in solitary confinement for several weeks.

After serving his prison term, Phillips, moves into a cabin on North Table Mountain in Golden, Colorado and lives alone, now divorced from Lulu. Phillips’ neighbors start referring to him as the hermit of North Table Mountain.

Now we fast forward to a cool fall Saturday in 1939, where three teenage boys and their hunting dog head up North Table Mountain to go rabbit hunting. They’re carrying .22 caliber rifles and having some success that day, shooting a rabbit and a squirrel. The boys are Edison Aday, 14, Fleet Parsons, 15, and Fred Schwartz Jr., 17. They’re following the time-honored tradition of small game hunting on their local mesa.

What they don’t know is that the hermit of North Table Mountain is also hunting them. The boys are on the un-owned south side of the mountain that slopes down toward 44th Avenue several hundred feet below. They are far away from the hermit’s property, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the cantankerous 58-year-old Calvin Phillips.

As the day wears on, Fred looks up the mountain and sees the hermit, Phillips, coming toward them with a high caliber rifle in his arms. “Duck, fellows,” Fred warns his friends, “it’s old man Phillips and he’s a tough egg.” Fred had worked for Phillips and the man’s reputation in the community preceded him. The boys hid from Phillips, and when the armed man had walked far enough away, the boys ran down the hill, taking cover in a wooden culvert near the road.

They hid as quietly as they could, but their dog was nervous and let out a whimper. The hermit heard the dog and spotted the kids. They were trapped. The boys begged him not to shoot. Phillips yelled to the boys to throw him their guns and get out of the culvert. But at the same time he raised his rifle toward the boys at point blank range and fired.

Phillips shot Fleet Parsons, who had instinctively shielded his face with his arm. The boy felt the bullet tear right through his forearm. Immediately, Edison Aday felt a searing pain in his hip, as the bullet lodged itself inside his body, just missing his spinal cord. Phillips then turned his rifle on Fred Schwartz Jr. and fired again, but this time the gun jammed and the boy was spared. Phillips began cursing as he gathered up the .22 caliber guns from the boys and trudged back to his property on North Table.

Edison Aday attempted to stand up, but his legs collapsed under him. The bullet had torn through his pelvis bone and he couldn’t walk. Fred Schwartz Jr. lifted his friend up and started carrying him down the mountain. Fleet Parsons, bleeding heavily from his wounded arm but capable of walking, began making his way down the steep, rocky trail to get help from a passing driver down on 44th Avenue.

The driver, Guy Higgins, stopped and picked up the boys and drove them to the local doctor, where they received care for their injuries. Parsons was put in an arm cast, but unfortunately Aday’s injury was much more serious and painful. The bullet was lodged so close to his spinal cord that it was too dangerous to remove it, and he would return to the doctor many times over the coming years for treatment.

Back on North Table Mountain that night, Sheriff Morris, with Deputies C.B. Fugate and D. H. Babcock, surrounded the hermit’s cabin where Phillips was holding out with two rifles. While the Sheriff and Deputy Babcock flanked the cabin, Deputy Fugate stepped through the front door, unarmed, and asked Phillips to surrender. After some tense discussion, Deputy Fugate and Phillips came out of the cabin. The hermit was apprehended.

The Phillips trial lasted several months with a surprising conclusion. At first, Phillips was charged with Assault to Murder, but this was thrown out due to lack of evidence that Phillips had the intent to kill the boys. Instead, he was charged with Simple Assault, which carries a relatively short penalty of six months, despite the fact that the boys had in no way provoked the shooting.

In a subsequent trial for the shooting of Edison Aday, Phillips’ lawyer, Otto Moore, cited a Kit Carson case, which would ensure that Phillips was only tried for simple assault once. The Carson trial that Moore cites was regarding an incident where Carson shot at a man, but missed him and killed the man’s wife.

Otto Moore said, “A jury found Kit Carson guilty of involuntary manslaughter and the district attorney, not satisfied with the verdict, filed a charge of assault to kill in connection with Carson’s firing at the man he missed. The court ruled Carson could not be tried on the same assault charge, because of prior jeopardy. The court held the two cases were in reality one. because only one bullet was fired.” Therefore, the hermit could only be tried for simple assault once, since only one bullet was fired, despite the fact that both Parsons and Aday were hit by the bullet.

The jury found Phillips guilty of one count of simple assault and sentenced him to six months in prison. The fathers of the two boys who had been shot, Parsons and Aday, then sued Phillips for damages. The families were awarded $200 for Parsons and $2,731 for Aday, in proportion to the severity of the injury at the time of the trial. Phillips refused to pay and would spend more time in prison for this.

Over the next few years, more tragedy would befall those involved in this strange case of the hermit of North Table Mountain, but not to the man who caused all of the trouble. In 1943, Edison Aday killed himself with a gun belonging to Fleet Parson’s father. The suicide took place at the Parsons house and was witnessed by Fleet Parsons and others. 

In 1940, Clarence Fugate, the undersheriff who arrested Phillips in his cabin on North Table Mountain, was shot and killed in the line of duty while interviewing a suspect accused of shooting a man at Lee’s Tavern in Arvada. The man, a bartender at the tavern, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.