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Julesburg

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Englishman William A. Bell, a Cambridge graduate and railroad investor and promoter, watched Julesburg, the county seat (1860, 3,477 feet) being born. “Townmaking is reduced to a system,” he explained, in New Tracks in North America (London, 1870): “A long freight train arrived, laden with frame houses, boards, furniture, palings, old tents, and all the rubbish which makes up one of these mushroom ‘cities.’ Jumping off the train with these properties, the railroad guard called out with a flourish, ‘Gentlemen, here's Julesburg.’”

Although “end-o-track” and “hell-onwheels” Julesburg is gone today, the town's rail origins permanently shaped it. Born a stagecoach town named for stage stop operator Jules Beni, it became a typical railroad town after the Union Pacific transcontinental line arrived in 1867. The town grid is askew, aligned diagonally with the cardinal points to front the tracks. The current town is the fourth reincarnation of a community that refused to die. It was burned down by Indians and had to move several times to oblige stage and rail lines. Julesburg always popped up again, tough as a thistle.

This much-moved town has lost several landmarks, including the Brown Hotel, the Opera House, and Fort Sedgwick, which was abandoned in 1871. The most famous structure in the county, known as the Italian Caves (1887–1910), is now a ruin. Uberto Gibello, a homesteader who worked as a stonemason and well digger, burrowed into the ground like a prairie dog to build his Julesburg home, several shrines, and outbuildings connected by a maze of tunnels that kept him out of the sunbaked, wind-blasted climate.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Thomas J. Noel

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