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History of Nathrop

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Charles Nachtrieb I, was the founder of the town of Nathrop, Colorado. Early settlers could not pronounce the German name of Nachtrieb easily, so the name of the hamlet was Americanized to Nathrop. The original site of Nathrop was about one and one half miles north of the present townsite and served as a stagecoach station between Bale's station near Cleora and Leadville.

 

Nathrop was moved about 1880 to surround the South Park Railroad's stone depot. At that time, the village boasted of a population of about 200, Nachtrieb's elegant hotel as well as others, several saloons, stores, and a weekly newspaper, "The Press".

Nachtrieb was born in Germany in 1833. His parents and family members immigrated to Baltimore, MD when Charles was young. By the age of 29, in 1859, Nachtrieb was in Denver CO with a load of goods to sell. A year later found him in California Gulch near the present town of Leadville, CO engaged in merchandizing.

 

Charles Nachtrieb owned his Chalk Creek ranch by 1865, and in 1868, he built the first area grist mill to grind flour and grains for the locals. Later, he built a saw mill near the mill. He eventually built up his land holdings to over 1000 acres, a barn, outbuildings, blacksmith shop, storehouse, warehouse and a 8-room dwelling that still stands in 1996. In 1870, he built a toll road over Poncha Pass, which he later sold to Colorado Pathfinder Otto Mears.

 

In 1871, he married Margaret Tull Anderson. She had five children by her first marriage: Horace G, age 13, Louis, age 11, Alice, age 7, Belle and Fred Anderson. Charles and Margaret had five children of their own: a infant son and daughter who died by 1879; Charles II, Chris, and "Doc" Josephine.

 

In 1874, the grist mill was used as a headquarters for the vigilante committee during the Lake County Wars. Nachtrieb and other settlers took sides against Elijah Gibbs, believing he was responsible for the murder of George Harrington June 17, 1874 and later, the deaths of the Boone brothers and Finley Kane of Poncha Springs when the mob tried to burn Gibbs and his family out of their small log cabin and hang Gibbs. Outrages and physical abuses were committed by the mob against locals who sided with Gibbs and his claim of innocence. When the son of Father Dyer, Judge Elias E. Dyer was assassinated in his Granite courtroom by members of the mob on July 3, 1875, witnesses became fearfully silent as to the identity of the killers.

 

Nachtrieb was mysteriously murdered in his Nathrop store on October 3, 1881. He was found by his wife, shot though the back of his head. It is said that the bullet had also shot off his thumb and went through a letter that he had been reading. His tombstone is the only one left in the county that has the word "Murdered" inscribed in the stone. Margaret Nachtrieb proved to be equal to efficiently run the ranch, businesses and raise and provide her children with excellent educational opportunities at the same time. She became a much admired and respected business woman in the community and Chaffee County.

Suggested Reading:
Where the Bodies Are by June Shaputis 1995
History of the Arkansas Valley Colorado, 1881 article by E. R. Emerson
Under the Angel of Shavano by George Everett and Dr. Wendell Hutchinson 1963
Chalk Creek Colorado by Louisa A. Ward 1940

 

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