Irving Howbert

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Irving Howbert
Irving Howbert.png
County Clerk and Recorder of El Paso County, Colorado
In office
Preceded by Charles C. Jones
Succeeded by Edwin J. Eaton
Colorado State Senator from El Paso County
In office
Personal details
Born (1846-04-11)April 11, 1846
Columbus, Indiana, U.S.
Died December 21, 1934(1934-12-21) (aged 88)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Resting place Evergreen Cemetery
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lizzie Copeland Howbert (married 1874-1922, her death)
Children Two children
Parents William Howbert
Occupation Businessman: Silver mining; Banking Railroads

Irving Howbert (April 11, 1846 – December 21, 1934) was a pioneer settler of the U.S. state of Colorado, who with General William Jackson Palmer was instrumental in the establishment of Colorado Springs.

Early life[edit]

Of German ancestry,[1] Howbert was born in Columbus in Bartholomew County in southern Indiana. When he was six his family moved westward to Iowa. In 1860, he joined hs father, William Howbert, in relocating to the Colorado Territory, where he resided briefly in Hamilton in Park County and Old Colorado City, the temporary Territorial capital.[2] Howbert recalled his first view of the South Park region from the top of Kenosha Hill: "As young as I was it made a lasting impression on my mind. ... It was a scene I have never forgotten," he said of the valley and wooded hills framed by rugged mountains.[3]

In Hamilton (not to be confused with the Hamilton near Craig in Moffat County in northwestern Colorado), William Howbert established a Methodist mission and soon built a church of rough-hewn logs and probably a dirt floor. There were numerous saloons but few general stores because most settlers brought with them six months worth of supplies. Irving Howbert wrote that he had seen trout teeming in the streams which were not being placer mined and considerable deer and available quality beef as well. Gold dust was the medium of exchange. Settlers carried a buckskin bag of gold dust with which to make purchases.[3]

From 1861 to 1864, Howbert lived on a ranch at Cheyenne Creek near the future Colorado Springs.[2]

Military service[edit]

In 1864 the 18-year-old Howbert enlisted in the Third Colorado Cavalry and fought with Colonel John Chivington in the Indian battle known as the Sand Creek Massacre in southeastern Colorado. Howbert had first met Chivington as a 14-year-old he had arrived in Colorado. Though it is generally believed that the militia crushed helpless Cheyenne and Arapaho tribesmen by use of the most brutal means available, Howbert long defended Chivington's role in the turn of events.[3]

In his autobiographical Memories of a Lifetime in the Pike's Peak Region, Howbert argued that the Indian women and children were not attacked, but a few who did not leave the camp were killed once the fighting began. He claimed that the number of warriors in the village was about equal to the force of the Colorado cavalry. He said that Chivington was retaliating for Indian attacks on wagon trains and settlements in Colorado and for the torture and killing of citizens during the preceding three years. Howbert said the evidence of the previous Indian attacks on the settlers was shown by the confiscation of "more than a dozen scalps of white people, some of them from the heads of women and children." He claimed that the account of the battle to the US Congress made by Lt. Col. Samuel F. Tappan was inaccurate. Howbert accused Tappan of giving a false view of the battle because Tappan and Chivington had been military rivals.[3]

Political and business career[edit]

From 1869 to 1879, Howbert was the elected County Clerk and Recorder of El Paso County. In that capacity, he worked to secure land to establish the city of Colorado Springs, situated between Denver and Pueblo. He was nominated as clerk by the Republican Party and endorsed as well by the Democrats. At the time the county had a valuation of only $225,000 and some three hundred registered voters. In his autobiographical Memories of a Lifetime in the Pikes Peak Region, Howbert recalls: "All the county officers elected at that time were men of more than usual efficiency and business ability. Although little revenue was at their disposal, they managed the affairs of the county during the next three years without incurring any indebtedness whatever." [4]

When Howbert assumed his office, the clerk's office had been one room behind a house on Colorado Avenue in the area known as "Old Colorado City." Howbert recalled that the house was so poorly built that the office's inkbottles would freeze overnight. His first daily task was hence to thaw the ink for use during the day. The commissioners permitted Howbert to rent an adjacent log cabin for additional space. The cabin later became a Chinese laundry.[4]

From 1882 to 1886, Howbert was a member of the Colorado State Senate.[2] During his Senate tenure, the chamber designated the pioneering Methodist circuit rider missionary, John Lewis Dyer, who had also arrived in Colorado about the same time as Howbert, as its official chaplain.[5]

Howbert made his fortune beginning in 1878 through part ownership of a silver mine in Leadville, Colorado. In 1880, he became the president of the First National Bank of Colorado Springs. Howbert was also an officer and investor of Colorado Midland Railway and held many positions of civic responsibility in Colorado Springs.[2] He was instrumental in the development of the Colorado Springs municipal water supply and in the organization of the first natural gas company. He built the Colorado Springs Opera House with profits from his silver mine.[6]

In 1874 he married Lizzie Copeland, and the couple had two children.[2] Lizzie died in 1922, and after twelve years as a widower, he died in 1934 and is interred with his wife at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.[6] His Indians of the Pike's Peak Region was published in 1914. Memories of a Lifetime in the Pikes Peak Region followed in 1925 and was released again in 1970.[2]

The Irving Howbert Elementary School in Colorado Springs is named in his honor.[7] The former town of Howbert, Colorado, which lies submerged under the waters of Eleven Mile Reservoir inside Eleven Mile State Park in Park County, was named for Irving Howbert though he never lived there.[3]


  1. ^ "German ancestry Politicians in Indiana". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Irving Howbert: Quick Facts" (PDF). Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Laura King Van Dusen, Historic Tales from Park County: Parked in the Past (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2013), ISBN 978-1-62619-161-7, pp. 33-35.
  4. ^ a b "History of the clerk and recorder's office". Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Verifiable Oddities in Colorado's History - The Snowshoe Chaplain of the State Senate". Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Irving Howbert". Retrieved January 19, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Irving Howbert Elementary School". Retrieved January 19, 2014.