Friday, February 22, 2019

AN OLD WEST POWER COUPLE? #history

Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Garden of the Gods - Kissing Camels
Colorado Springs, CO
photo (C) by the author
We write about the West, and about love. What many may not know, Helen (Hunt) Jackson and her husband William were both successful, in love. This was William's first marriage and Helen's second. He was six years her junior, but that didn't seem to matter. They could be called a 'power couple'.

Together William and Helen with their respective talents were possibly the first equally successful couple in Colorado Springs. William as a successful business man and Helen as a nationally known author. Each in their own way had an impact on not only Colorado Springs, but Colorado and beyond. As a 'power couple' they were also the subject of conjecture and gossip. This not only included Helen's niece Helen, but being thought of as better than everyone and the back room dealings with regard to William and his handling of the receivership of the Denver & Rio Grande and subsidiary railroads.

William was a majority owner of the El Paso County Bank, treasurer of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and later the receiver of the same company when it went into bankruptcy. His was a major influence on the financial health and confidence in the growth of Colorado Springs.

Image result for images of William Sharpless Jackson Colorado Springs
William Sharpless Jackson
When Jackson started his bank in 1873, the world was just beginning to feel the results of a larger world wide depression. In the United States banks were failing and as a direct result of the failure of the Henry Clewes & Company bank in New York, the Wm. B Young & Company a local bank failed. This depression has been called the long depression and the depression of 1873-1879 and lasted longer than the great depression of the 1920's -1930's. His business acumen kept the bank and this region afloat. Colorado Springs was only two years old and was in need economic stability for its continued growth.

Helen (Hunt) was already an established author when she arrived in Colorado Springs. Her writings about the area were responsible for the view many Easterners and those from Europe had of this region. That in turn helped bring about growth of the town and region. Later when she took up the cause of the American Indian, she was responsible for bringing a conscience to the general public. While she may not have been popular for her view, she did not back off from her stance on the subject. Of note is the discussion she had with William Byers in the New York Independent on the subject of 'The Sand Creek Massacre'. Although William didn't believe as Helen about the Indians, letters between the two indicate that he eventually accepted her point of view.

Image result for historic images of William S Jackson Colorado Springs
Helen (Hunt) Jackson from
en.wikipedia
The Jackson's most would call a husband and wife team. Man and wife tends to indicate the man is the principal and all that the wife does and how she is perceived is based on her husband. Husband and wife verbiage seems more a relationship of equals. William and Helen together created a dynamic relationship that had a larger influence than most may realize. Helen was on the library board and William was one of the early board members for Colorado College as an example of their influence. Neither sought notoriety for themselves, only their work. Both were fairly private people, which may be part of the reason their contributions are largely forgotten by the general public. As stated earlier, both were focused on their respective careers, their work was instrumental in helping Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region, in fact a lot of Colorado, become what it is today. Had William not been able to restructure the Denver & Rio Grande we would not have railroading as we know it for Palmer might have lost it all. His banking acumen both in Colorado Springs and the state had an impact on the financial health of our region. Helen, in highlighting all that this state had to offer has left a legacy for future generations to remember how it was. She also was vocal about Colorado Springs and protecting the natural beauty of the area,Seven Falls, Cheyenne Canon to name two, which tourist can still enjoy today, .

The same sense of privacy, in addition to a sense of self, may have also contributed to the negative comments and feelings the two generated. Although not as well documented, there were some who felt the two, especially Helen, were above the rest of the population. There does not appear to be any record that the two were aware, or even took notice of such thoughts. Instead the focus was on their relationship and their respective careers. Even when Helen took up the cause of the American Indians, which was not a popular stance, she as well as William went forward with what they thought was the correct course. Helen however, did need to persuade William that her course regarding the Indians was the only way open for her to deal with the glaring inequities in the governments treatment of Indians.

Together their impact and influence on the area may have been far greater than we may realize. 

Amazon link


In "Chasing a Chance" Edwin comes to the rescue of Mary, a woman he's loved when younger, but had left and she married another. Now a widow, she is in danger. This is a story of second chances, much like Helen and William.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

4 comments:

  1. An intriguing couple! Great post, Doris.
    Arletta

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    1. Thank you. Most people are aware of Helen and her work, but not so much her husband. They make for fascinating research. Doris

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  2. A power couple indeed! Thank you for sharing your research, Doris.

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    1. Lyn, You are welcome. I perform and present Helen to audiences and William is always a part of the story I tell. His story is amazing by itself, and together they were pretty important to the settling of the Pikes Peak Region. Doris

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