After two years, there's still some mysteries to solve

By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent
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Almost two years ago, this column started a quest. Initially it was to find the information behind all the plaques that adorn many locations around Colfax. That expanded to a hunt for history of the region in general. Along the way, mysteries surfaced and now is a good time to recapitulate a few things learned and what still needs researching.

Stevens Trail is a very popular hiking route. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places for its role in the 1800s as a mail and supply route to the gold fields of Iowa Hill. There is a stone marker on the Iowa Hill side of the trail but nothing at the Colfax trailhead. The American Bear River Recreation Alliance has it on their list to do fundraising to correct the situation. Jay Shuttleworth, spearhead for getting the trail on the registry, has pledged his help for this cause.

Two plaques have been added to the total count (now at 62) since ending the “Heavy Metal” quest. Thanks to Gene Albaugh, who himself died this year, there is now a bench and plaque honoring Bill Mintline, former Chief of Police in Colfax. These are located just outside of the library at the corner of Main and Church streets.

The second addition is a relocation of a Blue Star plaque, commemorating all military personnel who serve the country – past, present and future. It’s now in the garden, next to the Schuyler Colfax statue.

Another plaque on the national registry, located at Cape Horn View, continues to bring controversy. That is, what exactly was the role of the Chinese workers with the Central Pacific Railroad? It cannot be disputed that thousands of workers, brought to America by Charles Crocker, made the transcontinental railroad a reality. The point still discussed is the use of baskets, ropes and bos'n chairs for lowering workers to cut the bed for the Cape Horn railroad. And it is still a question: Where did the term “Charlies” originate.

Totally related to the railroad is another mystery. Several locals invested in subscriptions with Theodore Judah and, supposedly, the Central Pacific Railroad. Several people, including the original Illinoistown family, the Mendenhalls, were duped out of a lot of money

One of the favorite mysteries of this quest is just which Fowler is the namesake of the road in town. We have the flyer who crashed his plane, the orchardist and another long time family name. This is still a mystery.

There are other questions floating around, but the major one is why a man who was instrumental in the incorporation of Colfax, served over 20 years as mayor and played a huge role in the containment of the horrible disease – tuberculosis – that plagued the world for many years, has no plaque nor even a street name to honor his contribution. Dr. Peers deserved better. Perhaps the new city council can rectify that situation.

In the meantime, here’s wishing all a joyous and healthy New Year!