Western Fremont Historical Society

Preserving the history and heritage of the settlers of western Fremont County, Colorado.

Pathway Into History

The “Pathway Into History” signs are a series of twelve signs located along Fremont County Road 45 with pictures and descriptions of local history.  The first and last describe the signs and provide a map of the journey along the north side of the Arkansas River following the old road used before Highway 50 was built. Conceived in 2002 by local historians as a way to preserve and share local history, they were installed in 2005 by the Western Fremont Historical Society and other government agencies. Replicas of the signs hang in the WFHS History Center in Howard and are available for viewing without traveling the route.  The signs are presented here as well.

Explore each of the panels in a larger size by clicking on them or explore them in more detail by clicking each of the related ‘Click here to Continue’ buttons

Click the image above for a full-sized version

The Path

From humble beginnings as a dirt path

this road records the history of the area.  Take your time, use your imagination, and travel back into time.

A Community is Born

Pleasant Valley lies isolated in a canyon

between Salida and Cañon City.  Natural resources of the area encouraged settlement.  The soil was productive.

Cemetery Honors Lives

A Pioneer Cemetery

A majestic view of Twin Peaks highlights the view to the west; wildflowers and grasses carpet the ground; barrel cactus and pinon pine punctuate the landscape.  What a fitting place for quiet thought and reflection.

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad arrives in Pleasant Valley

The arrival of the railroad to Pleasant Valley in 1880 caused a great deal of excitement. 

Railroad fever had hit the West and every community wanted one.  When the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was completed, many more settlers came to the area.

A Town Emerges

Pleasant Valley needed its own town to serve the local residents.

In time, the town of Howard was established, and it continues to thrive today.  With a little imagination, the town of Howard in the early 1900s comes alive.

A Wagon Road Becomes a Highway

 The “Pathway into History” road has had at least four names:  The Pleasant Valley Wagon Road, the Rainbow Route, U.S. Highway 50, and Fremont County Road 45.

The Challenges of Getting to Here to There

 No longer a dirt road,

U.S. Highway 50 hosts cars, trucks, and machinery every day between Vallie and Wellsville.  The section of the old road next to the river between Badger and Swissvale remains rough and is occasionally impassable.

Ranching in Pleasant Valley

As trains brought in more produce,

Homesteaders did not as much money from their crops, so they raised cattle.  By 1880, ranching was firmly established in Pleasant Valley.  Nearly all the early homesteaders of Pleasant Valley ran a family operation with a few cattle.  No large ranch headquarters existed in the area.  Those not fortunate to own enough land for cattle worked for those who did.

The Life of a Farmer 

Pleasant Valley was settled by homesteading families and laborers.

Once land was claimed, many hands worked hard to make it productive.

Quarrying Adds to Local Economy 

While some miners were searching for a fortune in gold and silver,

the most important minerals in this area were limestone, rhyolite, and travertine.  Limestone provided lime for cement and plaster.  It also was used in processing sugar beets and in blast furnaces making iron.  Beautiful travertine and rhyolite stones were used in building.

Kiln Industries Fuel an Economy 

The Pleasant Valley area was rich

in both pine trees and limestone.  These natural resources were “cooked” in kilns and transformed into valued secondary products.

Wellsville—Hot Springs Resort and Recreation

The natural hot springs in Wellsville drew people from beyond the local communities for relaxing baths.