Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Buena Vista, CO

When I began drafting Bring Me Luck, I wrestled with the decision of where to set the story. My original thought had been Idaho, but in further thinking, the territory was too far away from the origins of the series and wasn’t a solid basis for the plot I had formulated. I needed my secondary characters and heroine to be closer to her family’s home, but far enough away where they couldn’t be found easily. I began narrowing my search to smaller Colorado towns. Gunnison and Montrose were favorites. I’ve been to both, but much wasn’t written on either for the timeframe of the story, other than the different Tribes belonging to the area. I narrowed the search even more and settled upon Buena Vista. By my calculations, Buena Vista was about a week’s ride on horseback from fictional Coyote and a perfect fit for the plot. 

Buena Vista courtesy of
Buena Vista borders the Arkansas River. The foothills and the Continental Divide are directly to the west. Leadville is north and Salida is south. Founded in 1864 after the discovery of gold outside Denver, Buena Vista originally held the name of Cottonwood. Later, it was changed to Mahonville after the Mahon family (this is the name I use in Bring Me Luck) and finally, local woman of German heritage Alsina Dearheimer named the town Buena Vista, Spanish for Beautiful View. 

James Mahon home courtesty of Chaffee County Times
Four brothers of the McMahon family settled in Leadville and worked in the mines. Two of them eventually moved on and James and Hugh came to Buena Vista to ranch and farm. James filed for homestead rights on Cottonwood Creek land and changed his name to Mahon because of immigration requirements. Hugh settled on land near the river and also changed his name to Mahon. The brothers had a stage stop and a post office on their land. They also donated land to the town, helped build a Catholic church and the first school; hence the reasons the town was once named after them.   
Buena Vista was incorporated as a town in 1879. A vote was taken in 1880 to have the county seat moved from Granite, Colorado to Buena Vista. Buena Vista won the vote, but Granite didn’t welcome the move and went so far as to not release the county records. A few men from Buena Vista confiscated a railroad car and went to Granite. They broke into the Courthouse, stole all of the county records and nearly demolished the place. Hearing the commotion and going to investigate, sheriff John Mear and his wife were held at gunpoint during the thievery. The men took the documents back to Buena Vista, where they were kept in businesses safes and the stable until a courthouse could be built. The day after the theft Granite officials had to travel to Buena Vista to conduct business.    
Courthouse courtesy of
Building for a courthouse and jail in Buena Vista began in June of 1882. The dedication was held in May 1883. Between the years 1880 – 1885, three railroads went through town; the Denver, South Park and Pacific, the Denver & Rio Grande and then the Midland. Electricity arrived in 1888 and the telephone in 1893. A correctional facility was built in 1889 and remains in use today, providing many jobs to the community. Buena Vista is also a big farming community and was once known as the head lettuce capital of the United States. The lettuce industry boomed for several decades, with farmers earning up to $500 per acre. Ice from Ice Lake made shipping via boxcars easy, but in 1948, the refrigerator car gave west coast rivals the same ease to ship as the ice from Ice Lake gave Buena Vista’s farmers.

Aerial view of Buena Vista courtesy of
Today, residents and visitors enjoy white-water rafting on the Arkansas, fly fishing, and four-wheeling, not to mention the breathtaking views of the Continental Divide’s several 14,000ft. peaks. 

Bring Me Luck is available here for purchase:

1 comment:

Shanna Hatfield said...

Fun to read more about the setting for your book, Julie!