The Allure of the Beulah Valley, from the Civil War to Modern Times

fisher's hole and mace's hole in beulah, colorado

Fisher’s Hole and Mace’s Hole in Beulah. The valley community has been a get-away for all sorts since the mid-19th century. Photo courtesy of Pueblo City-County Library.

During and after the Civil War, numerous settlers flocked to the Old West, looking for a new way of life.

Today, Beulah is a haven for summer visitors, who are looking for a quiet place to relax or spend time hiking, fishing or picnicking.

But in the beginning, it was a place to escape from the terrors of the Civil War.

Over the years, it has been rumored that it was the confederates who settled the Beulah Valley. Nevertheless, according to Colorado Division of the Sons of  the Confederate, “Confederate Gen. Henry Sibley organized his Army of New Mexico to invade New Mexico (in 1861 in order to open a way to the Pacific). Capt. George Madison was commissioned by Gen. Sibley to venture into Colorado with a two-fold mission: disrupt federal mail and communication lines,  help organize Confederate recruitment in Colorado.”

The archives added that it was rumored that many of the Southern sympathizers, who formed a Southern Military Regiment, were sent to the Pikes Peak area before hiding in Mace’s Hole under the  command of Col. John Heffinger, who recruited and prepared them for battle. It was Gen Sibley’s goal to capture New Mexico in order to “open a path to the Pacific” and to take the gold  mines in Colorado to help the South in the war effort.

In early 1862, Capt. Madison and his men captured the mail on its way to Fort Garland. Under Col. Heffinger’s command, the unit planned a raid on the fort, but when Federal soldiers learned of the encampment at Mace’s Hole, it broke up the regiment while many of the Confederates were gone.

“The Federals took those who remained in camp that day prisoner,” Colorado Division of the Sons of  the Confederate said. “Following this, Col. Heffinger, his officers, including Capt. Madison and his men, were all ordered to join Sibley in New Mexico,” thus ending the Confederate influence in the valley, the history said.

Lake Tucita, Beulah, CO

Developed by Col. CN Sellers, Lake Tucita, which set where the Beulah Mercantile Store currently is, provides rest and relaxation for boaters and picnickers. Photo courtesy of Pueblo City-County Library.

During this time, John Jacob Sease brought several members of his family to Pueblo, where they temporarily lived along the lower St. Charles River in 1863. Later, he and his family moved to a dugout, which was rumored to have been built by Juan Mace and his sons in Mace’s Hole or what is now known as Beulah. Along the way, the family built a log house by the springs in Sellers pasture, according to the book titled, “From Mace’s Hole, The Way It Was, To Beulah, The Way It Is,” published by The Beulah Historical Society.

Upon settling in Mace’s Hole, Sease laid out the first irrigation ditch to water his fields. A year later, he and John Boggs engineered another irrigation ditch, which is still in use today. In 1874, Sease returned to Missouri, where he married Narissa “Nora” Sprinkle and brought her back to the valley, accompanied by her sister Susanna, who later married Frank Schuneman. His first son, John Joseph, by an earlier marriage, homesteaded on lower North Creek, where he built a log home that is still standing, the book added.

Other pioneers included Boggs, who was lured to the frontier in 1860 to Denver, where he worked in the fields of law, business and public service for seven years. At one point, he helped prepare the territory for statehood then moved to Pueblo, where he practiced law to some extent. He also volunteered with the Colorado Volunteers to chase marauding Indians. During this time with the group, Boggs first discovered the Beulah valley, which caught his imagination. Because there were other lawyers already established in Pueblo, Boggs purchased and sold livestock, spending a winter on Peter K. Dotson’s ranch, where he protected his livestock and was able to feed and water them. He and his four sons moved to Mace’s Hole in 1867 and flourished for more than 40 years, improving the land, raising good crops, building roads and working to contribute to the community. One of the sons became the first postmaster while another delivered the mail.

beulah blacksmith shop

A group of valley ranchers stand in front of the blacksmith shop–Pueblo County Beulah Valley had its years of cattle thieves, timber cutters, cattlemen, and summer homeowners. Photo courtesy of Pueblo City-County Library.

As the sawmill industry boomed, it grew toward the north and that section developed into a separate community, the book said. The settlers also grew crops to sell to residents of Mace’s Hole. During this time, the Red Creek Springs became as well known as Manitou Springs. As the community continued to flourish, the North Creek Road was improved at Beulah Hill, which brought another way into the valley from Canon City.

Discovered by Robert Fisher, Beulah lies in a valley between the Wet Mountains and an extension of the southern Rocky Mountains province. Fisher, who was employed much of the time by the Bent Brothers and Ceran Vrain, also worked as an independent trapper, trader and hunter. He often visited the valley during the 1830s and 1840s.

“Fisher was one of the earliest trappers to become thoroughly familiar with the area between the Arkansas River and the New Mexican settlements,” said the book. “The beautiful little meadow where the middle fork of the St. Charles River tumbles down out of the Wet Mountains was originally known as Fisher’s Hole and referred to as ‘Fisher’s favorite valley.'”

In the 1850s, Juan Mace arrived in the valley, attaching his name to the area in 1851.

“From the time of the pioneer settlers, the romantic history of the Beulah area revolved around the thrilling tradition of Juan Mace and his band of followers,” the book continued.

Although there is some truth of the saga revolving around Mace, there is no documentation to verify his existence until a local newspaper dated Feb. 6, 1877 referred to him in an article, saying “Mace made this his hiding place for his stock he stole from the wagon trains and herders on the prairie,” said the newspaper. “There was but one pass into the valley and that a difficult one. Other passes entered the valley from parks from farther back and (were) more difficult to enter and exit. Mace considered himself and his booty safe when once they came through the eastern pass.”

beulah hot springs

Hot springs attract residents and out-of-towners alike. Photo courtesy Pueblo City-County Library.

When settlers pursued Mace and his band of outlaws, they could not find them because Mace used Signal Mountain as a lookout. Once they saw their pursuers, they disappeared into the mountains.

“They don’t know what happened to him,” Gardiner said. “He’s a mystery.”

According to the book, he may have been shot on the plains, on a rocky promontory or near his cabin in the valley. He may have perished in the Fort Pueblo Massacre or hanged from a cottonwood tree in the valley. He also may have escaped.

In 1876, Mace’s Hole was changed to Beulah by a vote of the people the same year Colorado became a state.

“They felt (Mace’s Hole) didn’t really reflect the area of such promise,” said member Ona Marie Amman. “It deserved a more fitting name and Beulah won out over three other names.”

Along the way, Col. C.N. Sellers created Lake Tucita, which was popular with boaters and picnickers. It set where the Beulah Mercantile Store is currently located.

“We’re not sure how long it lasted,” Gardiner said.

Currently populated by 1,000 full time residents and numerous summer visitors, Beulah is located 26 miles west of Pueblo on Colo. 78, sporting two restaurants, Beulah Inn and Songbird, a gas station with a gift store and convenience store, several churches, a winery,  a school for kindergarten through eighth grade classes and the Pueblo Mountain Park.

“It’s been kind of a quiet little place,” Gardiner said.