A Capital Visit

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.

I spent a couple hours at the History Colorado museum, which I will cover in a separate post. Then I waited a few minutes before 1 p.m. for the library to open.

The main branch of the Denver Public Library.

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.

While wandering my way to 15th and Arapahoe, I snapped this shot of an arcade roof at the opera house on 14th Street. Nice sculptures, too.

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.

Hersa Coberly, Silas Soule’s wife of three weeks at the time of his death.

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!

Capt. Silas Stillman Soule, Co. D 1st Colorado Cavalry.

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:

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=4319861c09144b2b8f31db8bec550134

https://www.kansasmemory.org/item/211149

39 thoughts on “A Capital Visit

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    1. Thanks, Amy. I’m working on a book that is a series my publisher is putting out. It’s a state history of pioneer days in the guise of a travel guide to pioneer cemeteries. Lots of research and telling many brief stories. Sort of like compiling a bunch of blog posts!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. What an adventure! I worked at the Colorado State Capitol (Office of Reviser of Statues) when we lived there (early 1970s, as Dan was born there in late 1974). That library was open over the noon hour, so I’d inhale a sandwich and be off down the hill to do research. That’s where I discovered the “Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That sounds fascinating, Joy! Being able to work at the capitol building, wow. The library reduced its hours during the height of the pandemic and now that they’re undergoing reconstruction have not resumed regular hours.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Welcome to our city! I worked downtown for 23 years. Sometimes I miss it. I did not know about Silas Soule. Thank you. Sorry you did not know about the renovation at the library. I haven’t been since 2019. I’m waiting till I can browse again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did know they were doing some work, but the website did not indicate the western history stacks were closed. It wasn’t too bad. I did get to see the books I needed.

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  2. You accomplished a lot in a short amount of time Eilene. You sure were lucky to have those cemetery records available to you to help in your research. Have you thought about a portable/handheld scanner to help with library research to save photographing passages with your phone or using a xerox machine or would the library frown on using one? I like the big blue bear peering in the window.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They had a book scanner, but honestly, it’s quicker and easier to use the phone. A portable stand would be helpful. I have a portable scanner, but it’s very slow and uses batteries. Couldn’t possible manage a big job. I certainly wouldn’t want paper copies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see – I didn’t realize that portable scanners were more of a bother than a help. No, you don’t want to revert back to the days when you needed a roll of dimes or quarters to feed the copy machine at the library, since bringing home an encyclopedia was not allowed. Students today, with the internet and online resource materials just a click or two away, would surely scoff at those old ways of doing research back in the day.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Quality is not assured, whether online or in a book. I have to carefully check sources and get corroboration on everything. A lot of sources contradict one another. I fear that student take everything they read as “fact”.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s true – like the saying goes “not everything you read on the internet is true.” Wikipedia is a good example – it has various authors who are not fact checking sources, though it makes for a good read sometimes. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. A lot of Wikipedia articles have been well-sourced and others not so much. But I find plenty of errors in published books, too. They shouldn’t automatically be considered better sources.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. When we lived in Kansas, we went to Colorado often. It is a beautiful state, and I’m sure it’s changed dramatically since our last visit. I sincerely applaud your dedication and skills in digging and finding such fascinating history. I hope you found most of what you were looking for and didn’t catch cold in the snowy conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Judy. I think I live in the most beautiful part of the state, the San Juan Mountains. I’m not much of a city person, but it can be a fascinating place to visit – museums and big buildings, etc. The winter I don’t mind. Going for the first ski day of the season on Thursday!

      Like

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