A Swallow Press Book
“Phyllis Smith’s book is a lively, easy-to-read treatment of mountain weather, corps projects, and sprightly myths borne of boredom and vivid imaginations.”
Douglas R. McKay, Essays and Monographs in Colorado History
“Phyllis Smith has provided the reader with an interesting narrative about life at the station…Smith liberally peppered her study with quotations…which on the whole provide an interesting glimpse of this unique slice of American life.”
B. Gene Ramsey, The Western Historical Quarterly
At 14,110 feet, the weather station atop Pikes Peak, Colorado, was the highest in the world in 1873. Young men trained by the Signal Corps took turns living year-round on the isolated mountain, where they endured loneliness, primitive living conditions, lack of financial support and appreciation, and deteriorating health. Most did so with dedication and good humor. Some suffered frostbitten hands, feet and ears when they became lost on the snowy mountain trail; others were jolted by lightning strikes. One man eventually died; another, evidently unsuited to the solitary life, went mad.
Although weather records had been kept by private individuals and some universities since the early 1800s both here and abroad, a full U.S. weather reporting service had to await development and expansion of the electric telegraph. Both farmers and coastal shippers pressed the U.S. Congress to establish a weather prediction facility. By 1870 a network of such stations was in place. By late summer of 1873, workmen had finished the crude two-room station at the top of Pikes Peak. A telegraph line snaked through brush, trees, and boulders to the lofty summit.
When daily logs and research records were completed, some of the Pikes Peak weather men amused themselves by writing tall tales, expanding on their already unusual adventures. Americans loved their stories and seldom disavowed the truth of sea monsters in Pikes Peak lakes, plagues of mountain rats, and mysterious volcanic eruptions. Their problems with governmental bureaucracy were at once humorous and sad. With fortitude and imagination these early meteorologists laid the groundwork for today’s sophisticated science of data-gathering satellites and computer models.
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Based on one of the most significant periods in Frank Waters's own life, Pike's Peak is perhaps the most complete expression of all the archetypal themes he explored in both fiction and nonfiction. In The Dust within the Rock, the third book in the Pikes Peak saga, an aging Joseph Rogier clings to his vision of finding gold in the great mountain and his grandson Marsh comes of age in the Rogier household.
The Wild Earth's Nobility is the first of Frank Waters's semiautobiographical novels in the Pikes Peak saga. Here, in a frontier town in the shadow of the commanding mountain, the Rogier family settles near an age-old route of migrating Native Americans. In an era of prospecting, silver strikes, and frenzied mining, Joseph Rogier becomes a successful building contractor, rears a large family, and is gradually overwhelmed by the power of the great peak.
During the fabulous reign of Colorado Silver, innumerable prospectors passed by Pike’s Peak on their way to the silver strikes at Leadville, Aspen, and the boom camps in the Saguache, Sangre de Cristo, and San Juan mountain. Then, in 1890, a carpenter named Winfield Scott Stratton discovered gold along Cripple Creek. By 1900, this six square mile area on the south slope of Pike’s Peak supported 475 mines and led the world in gold production.