The Town of Westcliffe

by

John Piquette

 

The Wet Mountain Valley was founded and named in the late 19th Century, approximately 1870, by migrating foreign settlers. They were primarily of German origin with names such as Schneider, and my own ancestors, the Falkenbergs. To be precise, J.P. Falkenberg and his family, among several others, settled in the valley near what is now the Nellie Camper home and what was then the town of Ula. I'm not sure how long Ula persisted, but eventually the primary population center became Silver Cliff, which was a booming silver mining community in the 1880's and 90's that boasted a population of over 10,000 and a narrow gauge railroad line that ran down Grape Creek clear to Canon City. So popular was the area that Silver Cliff was almost selected over Denver to become the state Capital. Fortunately for all of us current residents, the silver lodes ran dry not long after 1992, and everyone left. I had some old pictures of Silver Cliff in its heyday, but I think I accidently burned them in the stove. If I find some, I'll scan a few and post them to this page for you to view.


    Some time during this period, Rosita and Querida sprang up around the Bassick gold mine and others in that region, but when the Bassick flooded out and became impenetrable, that community withered away quickly to dust. It has only experienced its resurgence recently, in the form of a sort of rural summer-home community, although, within the last few years, more and more permanent residents are moving into this area and other local outlying subdivisions. But we'll get to the insanely rapid growth of the valley soon enough. First, however, I will continue with my history.


    While Silver Cliff was the main center of development in the late nineteenth century, someone apparently became disgruntled with some aspect of local government there and went ahead and founded a new town a few hundred yards to the west of Silver Cliff. He may have named it West-of-Silver-Cliff, but it was probably shortened to Westcliffe for readability. Anyhow, Westcliffe was born, and after some initial growth amounting to some four-hundred souls, it stagnated in a pleasant time warp until about fifteen years ago---when Conquistador ski area opened and attracted the Texans to our humble village.


     The Texans came in fleets of white convertible caddy's, each complete with some poor steer's horns adorning the hood, just like Boss Hawg on the Dukes of Hazzard. They also brought with them lots of money and pretty Texas girls, so they were welcomed with open arms to the unsuspecting community. Well, one thing led to another, until finally the wrong Texan got drunk and decided he should buy up a piece of land here in the valley. Such as the Bull Domingo Subdivision. This was done, and now we are finally getting down to the end of the story. It's good and bad, depending on your perspective, and altogether unstoppable once started, despite the fact that Conquistador went tits-up in the early 1990's. What happened was this: It's like one of those logarithmic virus growth curves that were always being stuffed down our throats in college- only worse. It's called Geometric growth. First year, 20; second year, 40; third year, 80; fourth year, 160, until you get where we are now. I estimate that at our current rate of growth, there will be 100,000,000,000 new residents in the valley by the year 2158. Which would be scary, except for the fact that I'll be part of someone's cornfield by that time.


     Well, the population growth thing had to be dealt with, and it has. And to tell you the truth- with a few notable exceptions that will be discussed in due course- I'm not all that upset about the direction we are taking as a community. After all, my job depends on the continued migration of people to the area. I've already brought to the attention of my esteemed employer, Mr. Paul C. Wenke, President and CEO of Valley Ace Hardware and Building Supply, my belief that we should encourage the inane paranoia surrounding the Y2K bug that is soon to strike us all dead as of midnight, 2000. Specifically, I am in favor of marketing our remote area as a safe haven in which to weather the coming catastrophe. I realize, as does every other thinking person, that the Y2K bug is going to be the biggest flop since the opening of Al Capone's Vaults. However, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't cash in like everyone else and relieve a few rich but foolish people of a few hundred thousand of their dollars.


   
Thank you for reading my history of the town of Westcliffe. Please come back again, as I will undoubtedly be making updates and changes as history itself is changed and reworded by those who are currently in power.