Monument’s founder surfaces time, and time again in early Colorado history
By Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
When the town of Monument showed up originally on the drawing board, it was Charles Adams listed as the primary owner.
In January of 1874, Charles Adams and Henry Limbach filed a plat statement of the town encompassing about 60 acres in the North half of the South east quarter. 108 lots were platted with Limbach owning 36 and Adams 72. Adams and Limbach, with others, would later file two more additions by 1879, and be involved with more in the 1880s.
Mount Herman, West of Monument, was named after one Herman Schwanbeck, who homesteaded right about where Village Inn is now. Herman appears to have been Charles Adams' uncle, (his father's brother) and Charles was both instrumental in the development of the town, and much of early Colorado.
Charles Adams was born Karl Adams Schwanbeck in Germany in 1845. He came to the United States as young man and served in the Union Army during the the Civil War (as did Henry Limbach) and afterwards was a cavalryman on the Western Plains. His migration from Germany was reportedly for political reasons, according to a 1953 article in the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Karl Schwanbeck, turned Charles Adams, was married to an English girl who did not like the German name of Schwanbeck, so had it changed to Charles Adams," according to Lucille Lavelett's history "Through the Years at Monument."
Though Adams never lived in Monument, according to most reports, staying in the Manitou Springs area much of his life, he lived in area that is still known today as Adam's Crossing. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Colorado City Glass Works and the Manitou mineral water company.
According to Tom Daniels, archivist for the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS), the name appeared in the past on official maps, postcards and as the name of a grocery store (at the corner where the medical marijuana shop is today, as reported by the recent Westside Pioneer newspaper article by Kenyon Jordan.
“I'm sure if I dug around some more, I would find hundreds of references to 'Adams Crossing,'” Daniels wrote in a 2012 e-mail to the multi-government project team planning a $16-million bridge/avenue improvement project. “Even the early telephone directories listed numbers in that area as 'Adams Crossing,' including my grandfather!”
Adams/Schwanbeck was appointed Brigadier General of the Colorado Militia in 1870. Later he was an Indian agent, and a special agent in the post-office department, and also Minister to Bolivia, for two years, appointed by President Rutherford B, Hayes.
After the White River Ute outbreak after the Meeker Massacre in 1879 he distinguished himself by tracking Colorow and his band, and with the help his friend Ouray, and persuaded the hostiles to release their five hostages taken captive at the White River Agency.
Returning to Colorado, he became involved in mining and water development. In addition, he was appointed as US Indian Agent to the Ute Tribe, serving through 1874. There were at least seven distinct groups of Utes in Colorado at that time, although settlers often could not distinguish them. Adams dealt primarily with the White River and Uncompahgre Utes.
Adams established good relationships with Ouray and his wife Chipeta, of the Uncompahgre Utes. This friendship was useful in helping him negotiate the release of five captives (three women and two children) taken by the Utes in 1879 after the Meeker Massacre.
It was in his role as Indian Agent that he also came into contact with legendary Colorado Cannibal Alfred or 'Alferd' Packer.
Packer (as guide) and Israel Swan, Shannon Wilson Bell, George Noon, James Humphrey, and Frank Miller risked the brutal Colorado winter of 1873-74 in search of mineral wealth in the snowy San Juans in southwest Colorado. After leaving Ouray's camp, nearby present-day Montrose, the group was buried by blizzard near the present site of Lake City, Colorado.
Packer was next seen on April 16, 1874, straggling into the Los Pinos Indian Agency with little more than a rifle and a skinning knife belonging to members of his party. The story Packer told at that time was that, once the storm hit, he had set up camp while the others went forward in search of food. They never returned, and Packer subsequently headed out for Los Pinos.
After recovering, Packer left for Saguache, Colorado, where by some accounts he suddenly became a 'big spender' at the local saloon. Unfortunately for Packer, in Saguache he encountered several men from the original Provo group who were dubious about his version of the story.
Indian Agent Charles Adams took Packer back to Los Pinos for questioning about the matter, and on May 8, 1874, extracted the first of Packard's two conflicting confessions. According to Packer, Israel Swan had died and the others, being without food, had eaten him. Subsequently, three others had died from exposure and starvation. Then, Packer admitted to killing Shannon Bell, claiming it was in self-defense.
Packer was transported back to Saguache and jailed outside of town, not in the town's jail house as some have told. In August, Packer escaped from custody and wasn't seen again until March, 1883, when Frenchy Cabazon, one of the original prospecting party, found him quite by accident in Douglas, Wyoming.
By coincidence, on the day of Packer's escape from Saguache, the ghostly remains of the missing prospectors were found in a valley overlooking what is now Lake City, Colorado. There was evidence of a struggle and foul play.
In March, 1883, Packer was taken to Denver, Colorado, and questioned again about the incident. In his second confession, Packer stuck with his original claim of self-defense, but admitted to stealing the rifle and $70 in cash from the dead men. Packer was charged with the murder of Israel Swan, the first to die, and was taken to Lake City for trial.
The jury wasted no time in finding Packer guilty of murder, and Judge Melville B. Gerry suggested he hang. Packer appealed his conviction to the Colorado Supreme Court where the verdict was reversed. He was tried again and this time found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in the state penitentiary. After serving only 17 years of his sentence, Packer's cause was championed by a grass-roots campaign in Denver. In 1901, Governor Charles S. Thomas granted Packer's parole request.
Packer moved to Littleton, where by all accounts he became a model citizen, well liked by all of his neighbors. He died of natural causes on April 23, 1907, and was buried with military funeral in Littleton Cemetery.
Adams died in fire and explosion at the Gumry Hotel in Denver in 1895.
"Denver's Gumry Hotel at Seventeenth and Lawrence Streets blows up near midnight in August 1895, killing twenty-two people — the greatest loss of life to a fire in Denver's history. Some are trapped in the wreckage for hours. One man, entombed for 9 hours "is mighty glad to get out." Young boiler engineer Elmer Loescher denies the explosion was his fault. Convened to determine the cause, a coroner's jury spreads the blame around," wrote Dick Kreck in Denver in Flames.
Charles Adams is buried in Crystal Valley Cemetery in Manitou Springs with two gravestones, according to recent story in the Westside Pioneer. One stone notes his Civil War service and the other call attention to him as "rescuer of the captive Meeker women."
Top photo: Charles Adams is flanked by Ouray and his wife Chipeta in a photo taken in Washington, D.C. during treaty talks in 1880.
Bottom Photo: Prisoner Alfred Packer upon his release from prison in 1901.
Final photo: Brunot Agreement was signed giving miners access to the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Front row, left to right: Guero, Chipeta, Ouray, Piah, second row: Uriah M. Curtis, Major J. B. Thompson, Gen. Charles Adams, Otto Mears; back row: Washington, Susan, (Ouray's sister) Johnson, Jack and John.