The history of the Lime Kiln region

More than 20 people recently gathered at Lime Kiln, south of Meeker and shared stories with appreciation of a life on the mountain.
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More than 20 people recently gathered at Lime Kiln, south of Meeker and shared stories with appreciation of a life on the mountain.
MEEKER I The history of Lime Kiln is very interesting, beginning with the land itself.
It was actually included in the Forest Reserve when Lon Moyer first got his homestead. He had to write a letter to the forest to take up his homestead. After a series of treaties, and a vote supposedly passed by paying the Ute Indians to vote for it, the land was to be sold to the Utes for $1.25 per acre as opposed to homesteaded. Sometime between Colorado statehood and the events of the Meeker Massacre, an event occurred where minerals were found on the land so, true to the precedence set at the time, the government wanted to obtain the land from the Utes. In the Kit Carson Treaty, one of the last of Carson’s actions, the Utes received money for land that was then in the hands of the Forest Reserve.
In order to homestead land, an individual had to go to the local land office and apply for the piece of land they wanted. The story is that LO7 was originally Land Office No. 7. After an application was received and approved, the person applying could have three or five years to “prove up” on the property by living there five months out of the year, making improvements and then having witnesses sign documents testifying to their efforts. It was an honor system, therefore people could turn others in for not doing their part on the homestead.
The first two men to homestead Lime Kiln were Lon Moyer and Martin Slifka. Moyer was a widowed father with two sons when he settled the land. Later his son George Moyer would settle the last piece of land on the far east side of Lime Kiln near Miller Creek.
The first school was held in the Peaslee cabin in 1915, then in June 1916, the schoolhouse was built on land donated by the Service family. Clara Bucanan was the teacher in 1917.
In 1912 the threshing machine everybody on the mountain remembers was brought to the Cose place. Anna Peaslee wrote an article about the event, saying it was like a train coming over the hill as it made its way past Hay Flats and on to Lime Kiln.
The limestone outcropping was the one nearest the town of Meeker. The lime was burned during the war. Anytime someone was going to town, they hauled limestone to the kiln that was at the head of Twelfth Street.
It was common practice for the men in the family to work in town for long periods of time in order to provide for their families. Some of the great stories of the days on Lime Kiln are about the grain that was grown there, and how it was sometimes used to make alcohol. One story is of Lute Armstrong heading to town in a storm to sell his product so he wouldn’t get caught. Don Moyer and his brother Dick remember watching the alcohol being made, trying it once and never trying it again after it “burned all the way down.” The recipe included one tablespoon of scorched sugar used to color the product.
There are also stories of the “sheep wars” that occurred at that time. Keith Brady was killed by Ben Robal in 1949 over a dispute regarding sheep. Another story is of the sheep being run off a cliff when a rancher didn’t want them around. When Jacobs brought sheep up in 1925 and went by the Wilson’s ranch, Wilson said he would kill any of them that he caught on his land. Many recalled the story of Max Steary being beat by Trimbley over wool on the fence. Trimbley kicked him with his boots until he thought he was dead. Mrs. Steary threw hot water on him to keep him alive.
Other stories shared involved children that didn’t have enough food for lunch and the teacher had other kids bring extra and made soup for the hungry ones. This was actually a story of the Buford schoolhouse told by Merle Dean Moyer who was attending school there with children that were related to a family on Lime Kiln. Dances and gatherings were held at different houses for entertainment and the kids loved to play in the vast countryside.
During the tour, Ada (Sykes) Mints said, “If I could be anywhere, I’d be back up here again.” She even remembered the location of the well outside the teacher’s living quarters.
There are so many great stories of this time, shared with such appreciation of a life on the mountain. The elements were severe, and making a living on 160 acres in this environment was tough. It got the best of many after time, and of course the Depression, but for nearly 20 years people made a life on Lime Kiln. They fought through the terrible Spanish flu epidemic and survived financial hardships beyond imagination. They managed until finally the land was sold or obtained by four primary ranches. The Jacobs, Ed Wilber, the Baker place and the Wille place. Some sold for $4 per acre, others for $12 and some unfortunately fell into foreclosure. The community that had been home to so many families dissipated but with the phenomenal recall of people sharing their priceless memories still, it is a place that will always remain in our hearts. Don Moyer is writing a book about Lime Kiln and it will be a treasure to many. With the land in the hands of people that cherish its history, the legacy will live on.