Wilbur Fiske Stone.

History of Colorado; (Volume 4) online

. (page 4 of 108)
Online LibraryWilbur Fiske StoneHistory of Colorado; (Volume 4) → online text (page 4 of 108)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the silver standard and, when owing to conditions which have become a matter of
history sliver declined rapidly in value causing the financial failure of various banks
throughout the state, the investments of the firm of Steele & Malone were not exempt
from the wide disaster and suffered heavy losses. Many there were who at that time
tooli refuge behind the bankruptcy law, but the standards of conduct to which Robert
Steele adhered were too high to admit of such a course. We again quote from a
contemporary biographer: "In the dark days of 1S93 he wrote for the relief of others
a bankruptcy law that gained high repute for its mingled mercy and justice, but for
himself he claimed no clemency. Men saw and respected the quality of his character
and the integrity of his purpose and gladly accorded to him the one thing he asked —
the time to meet their claims. Only those most Intimately in his confidence knew the
burden he carried through the years, or how much strength and time tliat might well
have been devoted to better things went toward the discharge of that indebtedness.
For nearly twenty years he faced his task and performed his duty and when the end
came he went to the great hereafter a free man, having discharged not only every
personal debt, but also every one that had been assumed by him as a result of business
entanglement or association with other men."

In January, 1895, Mr. Steele was appointed to the office of judge of the court of
Arapahoe county. His work upon that bench did much toward the development of his
attitude toward his fellowmen. He always believed in tempering justice with mercy
and he regarded the law as a safeguard and protection rather than as a means of
punishment. Moreover, it was an added experience in his life which was further
qualifying him for the graver and more responsible duties that were to devolve upon
him in his election to the supreme court bench. At this period of his life he was not
only studying legal problems but was keeping in touch with the best thinking men of
the age in regard to all the questions which were paramount and vital before the people.
He had always been a republican in politics but when the party became divided upon
the silver question he followed the leadership of Senator Teller, not because he had the
highest regard and respect for that statesman, but because he recognized the importance
of the silver issue to the welfare of Colorado. He was an independent thinker and his
study and intelligence convinced him that the silver problem involved fundamental
principles affecting the rights and the interests of the common people. He therefore
could no longer call himself a republican while the republican party plainly declared
itself opposed to the maintenance of the monetary system that had been the established
practice from the earliest days of the republic. A silver republican party was the
necessary and logical result and in 1898 Judge Steele became a candidate for reelec-
tion to the bench, receiving also the endorsement of the people's, the democratic, the
Teller silver republican and the national people's parties, receiving two-thirds of the
total number of votes cast at that election. Judge Steele while serving upon the bench
inaugurated what was known eCs juvenile field day. In his position as county judge
he was succeeded by Judge Ben B. Lindsey, who enjoys a world-wide reputation as the
promoter of a court established exclusively for juvenile offenders. Judge Lindsey freely
and frankly acknowledged the value and importance of Judge Steele's services in this
great work of reform. Writing to him some years afterward, he said: "You were the
first judge to enforce our law of 1899, which contained the germ of the present juvenile
laws." Judge Steele in the course of his judicial career rendered many important deci-
sions which have found their place upon the state records. He delivered a dissenting
opinion in the Moyer case and from all parts of the country came to him letters endors-
ing his position. Possibly the most notable tribute to the strength and convincing logic
of the minority opinion was that of Chief Justice Gabbert, who delivered the original
opinion of the court and who considered it advisable, after the minority opinion had
been presented, to file an extraordinary and supplementary opinion, in which he
practically admits the overwhelming truth of Justice Steele's main points. It was in
January, 1900, that Robert Wilbur Steele was called to the ofiice of supreme court judge
of Colorado, and when destiny brought him to a higher tribunal he had ah-eady received
nomination by acclamation at the hands of his party as its candidate tor the office, a
second term, and his reelection was generally conceded. Death, however, intervened
and on the 12th of October, 1910, he passed to the home beyond. The life of Robert
Wilbur Steele was dominated by the spirit of democracy— a democracy that believed
that "All men are created free and equal," and it was his constant effort to uphold
democracy in its highest and best sense. It permeated his actions in every relation of


life and his opinions upon the bench. In this regard he stood far in advance of many
of his fellows, so much so that his course at times awakened the opposition of even
his associates upon the bench and led to his filing various dissenting opinions. It is
said that while the decisions from which he dissented were being written into the
recorded law of the state the people were gathered to the support of the standards he
had raised. "His clear, authoritative and unanswerable presentation of the primitive
principles of American free government was a great rallying cry that brought the
invincible hosts of democracy to his aid and swept to oblivion the structure that had
been raised against his protest. Within two years from the time when his presence
in the supreme court ceased, the right to defend it and the principles he maintained
were reestablished and confirmed, even though in some of these cases the majority
decision yet stands as the highest judicial authority. A beautiful and well merited
tribute was paid to his memory by one who was long associated with him and who
said: "From his ancestors of the Ohio valley Robert Steele drew his patriotism, his
aptitude for culture and learning and his strong inclination toward those traits of
mind and body that are most aptly summarized in the expression, 'an American gentle-
man.' Those hereditary dispositions were fixed and strengthened by the associations
of his youthful years. His education and his environment in early Denver confirmed
his democracy of thought and feeling toward everyone that shared his highly prized
right of American citizenship. His work as district attorney inculcated respect for law
and order and gave him practical experience in dealing with the demoralizing and dis-
integrating forces of modern society. In the county court he profited by the study of
human nature and learned to judge motive and impulse as well as the legal issues that
were presented to him. In the activities and associations of politics he encountered the
complicated problems of matching great principles of human rights and liberties to
the trivial, selfish and often sordid conditions of local government. In the supreme
court his mental powers, stimulated by responsibility, rose and expanded to the meas-
ure of their opportunity and proved equal to the demands that were made upon them.
* * * The unfolding of his personality through the years was something more than
the shaping of a material being through the incidence of events. It was rather the
progressive triumph of a master spirit, embodied in earthly form, rising ever to the
level of higher opportunities and using every experience gained and power won as
instruments for the achievement of better things. From the central fire of his personal
integrity, the genial light and warmth of honesty, kindliness, unselfishness, gentle
humor, patience, meekness, temperance, humility, and faith in the eternal righteous-
ness of God and man, irradiated his pathway for his own blessing and for the benefit
of all with whom he had to do. * * * The broadness of his mental vision and the
range of his active interest were befitting to a judge who was called upon to deal with
the widest variety of personal and property rights and possessions.

"He loved the free air of God's great outdoors. He loved the trees and the beautiful
flowers that cover the ungardened meadows of the remote highlands; he loved the birds
that build their nests where none may see or make afraid; he loved the wild, shy beasts
that live on the wide upper pastures, that shelter themselves in the groves of aspen and
spruce, or that lurk in the willow thickets along the mountain streams. He transferred
his kindly thought and care to the animals of the cities. He was instrumental in pro-
moting the anti-docking laws and in establishing Denver's trafiic squad, when he saw
the horses slipping on the icy pavement. He wore but two badges, that of the Loyal
Legion, which indicated the honorable service of his father in the Civil war, while the
other was that which commissioned him as a humane oificer to intervene in the name
of the state for the protection of animals abused or neglected. But with all his interest
in the world of nature, Robert Steele's chief concern was with the world of man. He
shared as best he might the burdens of the common people in the common ways of life,
and gave himself freely to service in the place and the manner in which he could do
the most good. He loved the children and liked to play with the little ones of his own
household. His juvenile field day in the county court showed his fatherly interest was
extended to the fatherless. He gave substantial proof of his Interest in the Steele
Hospital and in beneficent work of that character. He was also much interested in
educational matters, but was no respecter of persons along the lines of wealth and
station. Men invariably accorded to him the respect he merited but he never claimed
their tribute to his mental or moral worth. He was scrupulously honest and honorable
in small matters as well as large, according to the faultless guiding of an inner sense.
He was temperate, walking always in the light of that reason that despises intemper-
ance in thought, in word and in action as a folly even worse than crime. He was pure
himself in word and in deed. He was brave under circumstances that would have
tried the courage of any man."


Such are the words and phrases, not of empty eulogy or lavish encomium, but of
the sober judgment of the men of his own day and of his personal acquaintance, the
painstaking portraiture for the benefit of the men of other times and of other states,
of one of whom it may be said in sober truth and exactitude:
"None knew him but to love him,
None named him but to praise."

To the young men of Colorado, and especially to the young lawyers of the Denver
bar, Judge Steele was a model, an example, an inspiration, a friend and helper. He
had a high sense of the ethics and the responsibilities of the legal profession, and
scrupulously upheld its honor both as an attorney and a judge. But he also had a
most kindly interest in and regard for the young men around him and he always did
wTiatever he could to help them along the path he had pursued. The beautifully
illuminated seal upon the certificate issued upon admission to the bar is a mark of his
consideration, for he arranged its colors with his own hand, thinking that "the young
men ought to have something better than a plain seal in black and white." His interest
in them they returned with something warmer and more personal than the respect due
to an older and wiser man, with something more affectionate than the honor paid to the
judge who was eminently successful in the profession they had chosen for their own.
They loved him because he appealed to the best that was in them, as men and aa
Americans. He had faith in them, as he had faith in the nation to which he gave the
unstinted measure of his service and devotion.

Patriotism and love of humanity were the guiding stars of his career — not rival
and inconsistent objects of his regard, but harmonious parts of a resolute purpose.
To those high ideals his life was consecrated, not in the formalism of a conscious
statement, but rather in the expression of a lifetime of loyalty and truth. As in the
county court he had guarded the interests of the widows and orphans, so in the higher
tribunal he defended the inheritance of liberty. The citizens of the republic were his
wards; the usurpers of the people's rights were his adversaries; freedom was a sacred
trust committed to his keeping; and he recognized no other treason so vile as that of
the public oflicial, in legislative, executive or judicial position, who would use the power
entrusted to him for the people's welfare to betray their trust.

He held ever a supreme faith in the American republic; a glory in its historic
achievements; a pride in its wealth, its resources, its strength, its prosperity, and in
all the magnificent accomplishments of its civilization. He felt a steadfast confidence
in its future, believing that through all its diflSculties and dangers things would come
out right in the end, because he believed in the people, in their patriotism and in their
love of truth and justice.

Through the distraction and the temptations of an age when the conditions in state
and nation seemed to appeal as never before to the selfishness, to the avarice and to
the ambition of men's natures, Robert Steele kept faith with the people and with himself.
He did his full part to hand on to Americans of the future the full measure of the
inheritance of freedom with which he had been endowed; and he never doubted that
there would always be men of his own mould, who would carry forward his work as he
had sustained the work of others, and that, amid the struggle for wealth and the strife
of selfish ambition, there would always be those who would resolutely pursue the higher
way, and who, guided by reason and enlightened by truth, would strive, fearlessly and
unfailingly, according to the full measure of their powers and opportunities for liberty
and justice and humanity.


James M. Morris, engaged in the raising of live stock and poultry in Arapahoe
county, was born in Canada, October 21, 1857, a son of Michael and Mary (O'Shea)
Morris, the former a native of Ireland, while the latter was born in Canada. The father
came to America in the '40s and enlisted for service in the Mexican war in 1844.
He remained ■ with the army for three years or until honorably discharged in San
Francisco in 1847, then devoting three years to gold prospecting, along which line he
was very successful. At the end of that period he went to Canada, where his death
occurred May 16, 1916, at the age of ninety-four years. His wife also passed away in
that country. They had a family of eleven children, eight of whom are living.

James M. Morris spent his youthful days in his native country and was a young
man of about twenty-one years when in 1878 he came to Denver. The following year
he removed to Leadville, where he resided for a short time, and was there engaged in


the live stock business. In 1909 he purchased a ten acre tract of land, whereon he
now resides in Arapahoe county, and in addition to giving his attention to the raising
of live stock, he is also engaged in the poultry business. Both branches of his activity
are proving profitable and his success is well deserved. He is likewise one of the
directors of the irrigating ditch and is thus active in promoting general farming

In 1883 Mr. Morris was married to Miss Flora McGillis, a native of Canada and a
daughter of Angus and Anna (McDonald) McGillis, the former now deceased, while
the latter is still living. To Mr. and Mrs. Morris were born three children, but all
have passed away. The parents are members of the Catholic church, and in his political
views Mr. Morris is a democrat. He is a self-made man whose prosperity has been
gained since coming to Colorado. At one time he was engaged in merchandising in
Nebraska for three years, but the greater part of his life since he has attained his
majority has been passed in this state and his close application and unfaltering energy
have been the salient features in bringing to him the measure of success which is now


Charles H. Reynolds, vice president of the board of water commissioners, is one
of Denver's leading citizens, who has taken an important part in the public life of the
city, having promoted a number of interesting and far-reaching measures for a greater
and more beautiful Denver. He has served in numerous public positions and semi-
public oflices, and in these connections has wrought much good for his fellow citizens.
He was born in Kendall county, Illinois, August 28, 1848, his parents being Augustus
Spencer and Sarah (Beach) Reynolds, both of whom were natives of Saratoga county.
New York, whence they removed to Illinois in the early days in the history of that
state — in 1844. The father there remained until 1849, when the seemingly fabulous
reports of gold discoveries in California induced him to join the gold seekers and by
way of the overland route he traveled to California. He spent a short time in the gold
fields of that state but then returned to Illinois and entered the postal service in
Chicago, remaining in that connection for thirty-five years. In 1895 he came to
Denver, where he passed away fourteen years later, at the age of ninety-one years.
His wife preceeded him to the beyond, passing away in Denver, at the age of eighty-
two, in 1902.

Charles H. Reynolds was the only child born to this union. He attended school in
Chicago for a number of years and after putting aside his textbooks was connected
with business interests in that city until coming to Denver in 1873. Here he entered
the internal revenue service under Dr. Morrison and continued in the government
employ for about two years. Desirous of having a business of his own. he then opened
a hardware store which he successfully conducted from 1876 until 1880, in which latter
year he organized the Austin-Reynolds Passenger and Baggage Express, remaining
at the head of this business from 1881 until 1889 and deriving considerable profit from
this enterprise. In 1890 he was elected secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, his
qualifications well fitting him for this important position. That Denver has become
one of the most popular convention cities and a haven for tourists is largely due to the
untiring efforts of Mr. Reynolds. He continued as secretary of the Chamber of
Commerce for two years, or until 1891. and his service earned for him the entire
approval of all of its members and the commendation of the general public. All
recognized his peculiar fitness for his work in this connection and spoke highly of
his energy in pursuing a given object. The results of his labors as secretary are still
seen and his work is yet bearing fruit. In 1891 Mr. Reynolds retired from the Chamber
of Commerce and organized the Western Steam Laundry Company, which is now
one of the largest enterprises of its kind in the city and of which he has since been

In November. 1871, Mr. Reynolds was united in marriage to Miss Alice Goss, of
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, a daughter of Joshua and Cynthia Goss. Mrs. Reynolds
passed away in 1915. On January 1, 1918. he contracted a second union with Miss
Anabel Holland, of San Diego, California, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Holland.
Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds occupy an enviable position in the social circles of Denver,
extending a truly warm-hearted hospitality in their home at 1600 Pennsylvania street.
Their friends in Denver are legion and all of them are equally enthusiastic in praise
of their high qualities of heart and mind. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds maintain a summer



home at Buffalo, Colorado, where they spend most of their time during the hot season.
Outside of the office of secretary of the old Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Reynolds has
held many public and semi-public offices and in all of these has contributed towards
the development and beautification of his city. He served as director and treasurer
of the Chamber of Commerce and during his term signed all of the bond issues of the
organization. For two years he ser.ved as president of the Mountain and Plain
Festival Association and was also connected with the Convention League, at different
times filling the offices of president, treasurer and director. This league he assisted
in organizing after having resigned from his position as director and treasurer of the
Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the depot commission and was a
director during its existence. The work of this commission was of tremendous value
and had a far-reaching influence. It brought into harmonious cooperation a combina-
tion of interests, that for years had defied all similar efforts and made impossible, the
superior depot facilities now enjoyed by the city. He served as a member of the
Denver park board and it is largely due to his efforts that Denver today has such
beautiful parks, which give it a nation-wide reputation. At present he serves as vice
president of the board of water commissioners, having been elected to this position
in August, 1918. This; board was only recently organized and has taken over the
Denver Union Water Company, whose stockholders received bonds in lieu of their
stock certificates. As member of this newly created and very important board Mr.
Reynolds is doing very valuable work in the interests of his fellow citizens. His busi-
ness and public interests being very important, Mr. Reynolds has found little time for
club work, his only connection in this regard being with the Denver Athletic Club, of
which he is a life member. In the Masonic order he belongs to Lodge No. 33, A. F.
& A. M.. and also is a Knight Templar of Denver Commandery, No. 25, and a Shriner.
His political affiliations are with the republican party, with non-partisan leanings.

Mr. Reynolds has achieved a success in business life which is truly remarkable,
considering that he began with nothing. He has earned the proud American title
of self-made man. Moreover, he has not considered his own benefit alone in pursuing
his life work but has ever been cognizant of his duties as a citizen and has cooperated
in many ways to promote the welfare of his fellows. He has many friends in Denver,
which has now been his home for forty-five years, so that he is numbered among the
honored pioneers of the city. Those who know him longest speak of him in the
highest terms of praise, for they know best his admirable qualities.


It is impossible to determine what would have been the condition in the west had
it not been for the oil discoveries, so important has the development of the oil fields
become as a source of prosperity and progress beyond the Mississippi. Opportunities
in this direction have called forth the efforts and enterprise of many men who have
made for themselves notable places in the business world, men of marked energy, of
keen foresight and perseverance. With development projects Woodford A. Matlock
has long been connected and he is now fiscal agent for the Kinney Oil & Refining
Company, with office in Denver. He was born in Bowling Green. Kentucky, September
18, 1870. His father, Woodford A. Matlock, was a native of Kentucky and his grand-
father was also born in that state. He, too, bore the name of Woodford A. Matlock,
so that the subject of this review is of the third generation to be so called. His
father was an active business man but is now deceased. His mother, who bore the
maiden name of Amanda Cochran, was a native of Kentucky and is now living in
California. At the time of the Civil war Woodford A. Matlock, father of the subject
of this review, responded to the call of the country to preserve the Union and Joined
the Eighth Kentucky Cavalry, with which he did active duty in defense of the stars
and stripes. ' '

Woodford A. Matlock, Jr., came to Greeley. Colorado, with his father in 1872, at
which time he was but two years of age. The days of his boyhood and youth were
there passed and he acquired a public school education in Greeley. He afterward
took up the work of telegraphy as an operator, entering upon that field when but

Online LibraryWilbur Fiske StoneHistory of Colorado; (Volume 4) → online text (page 4 of 108)