By Eilene Lyon
I recently visited Denver to research my current work-in-progress at the Denver Public Library. Fortunately, a good friend was able to offer a place to stay, not far from a light-rail station. For $10.50, I could ride trains and buses all day and leave behind the hassle and expense of driving and parking downtown.
It takes 6 ½ hours for me to reach Denver from my home south of Durango, so I don’t go there often. That’s right, for you easterners, it is 350 miles to visit my state capital. Even further to get to the northeast corner of the state.
I took an early train on a Wednesday—the library was only open from 1–6 p.m. and would be closed on Friday. Not much time to collect a lot of data. Near the train stop I spied this enormous blue bear at the Denver Convention Center.
Unfortunately, their website had not indicated the stacks were closed due to renovations. The archivist/librarians would have to retrieve all my list of books. That meant I couldn’t peruse the shelves for other titles I might have missed in my bibliography research. Oh well.
I had plenty to keep me busy, anyway, especially after I serendipitously spied a pair of boxes containing Colorado cemetery and vital record files that someone had requested and finished with. Being that pioneer cemeteries are the subject I am writing about, I went through those little gems while waiting for books.
At the end of my second afternoon, with an exhausted hand from taking pictures of pages with my phone (I need to get a portable stand), and an aching back, I left the library about an hour before closing. It had started snowing and I had not brought my hat.
I had an important errand to run before catching the train back to the ‘burbs. My mission: find the historic marker dedicated to Capt. Silas Soule (1838–1865). I misread my phone (not having my glasses on) as 13th, not 15th Street, so at first I wandered in the blowing snow around a little grassy triangle next to a busy thoroughfare.
I finally got to the right intersection at 15th and Arapahoe and wandered fruitlessly for some time, as the snow came down harder, my hair knitting an icy white cap. A nice gentleman asked me what I was looking for, but he knew nothing about it.
At last, I found it tucked away from the main sidewalk, attached to the front of a tall, black building.
Here used to stand the home of Capt. Silas Soule of Company D 1st Colorado Cavalry. Here, he was assassinated, his bride of just three weeks waiting inside for his return. He’d been called out on a false pretext.
In April 1865, Soule was no hero. He had testified to the federal government against the REAL hero, Col. John M. Chivington, for the wanton slaughter of peaceful Indians, most of them old men, women and children, at Sand Creek the previous November.
Men loyal to Chivington plotted and then executed the traitor, Soule. Soule had refused to allow the company under his command to participate in the massacre, and was therefore branded a coward. The people of Denver celebrated the rout against the Indians. Good riddance!
Of course, we see it quite differently today. Soule knew after testifying that he had a bulls-eye on his back. He’d done his best to do the right thing his entire short life: working factory jobs in Boston to support his mother and siblings, freeing enslaved people from Missouri, trying to free John Brown’s associates after a raid gone wrong at Harper’s Ferry, negotiating in good faith with Black Kettle and other tribal leaders prior to the Sand Creek incident.
He was a true hero.
I regreted not having my hat to take off in his honor.
Feature image: The Colorado State Capitol. I did not take time for a tour this trip. Next time!
If you want to learn more about Silas Soule beyond Wikipedia, here are a couple links I recommend: