Trail’s End – Presidential hunting trip
Theodore Roosevelt in the Colorado Rocky Mountains
Perhaps America’s most enthusiastic outdoorsman, Theodore Roosevelt, loved to hunt in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. As such, he made many trips to our state over the years before, during and after his presidency. One such trip occurred in 1900.
As the governor of New York, Roosevelt had just been elected vice president, with William McKinley as president-elect. Taking a little hunting vacation before being sworn in to his new duties as vice president, Roosevelt came to the White River Valley and the Meeker Hotel. Roosevelt spent three weeks in the area hunting mountain lions and other large game. On this particular trip, among Roosevelt’s hunting party was Colorado State Sen. Edward Wolcott and friends, Doctor Gerald C. Webb and Phillip B. Stewart, both of Colorado Springs. The Meeker Herald of Jan. 12, 1901, reported:
“Gates Keenesburg left Tuesday afternoon for Rifle with a swell tallyho and fours handled by the prince of jehus Ed Wolcott, for the purpose of meeting a select party of gentlemen who had previously made arrangements to enjoy a few weeks’ vacation in this out-of-the-way place. It was nearly eight o’clock last evening when the rig returned to Meeker, and among its occupants were none less than Hon. Theodore Roosevelt, of Oyster Bay, N.Y. They were at once taken to St. James rectory, where the Rev. H.A. Handel had an elegant spread awaiting them. In deference to the vice-president-elect’s wishes it was pre-arranged that there would be no public demonstration, but there was a general desire to meet and shake hands with the distinguished gentleman. However, it was near midnight before the party proceeded to the Meeker Hotel, where rooms were reserved for them, and but few had the pleasure of an introduction. That the famous ‘rough rider’ will find plenty of sport in the next three weeks goes without saying.”
Due to his own enthusiasm for hunting, as well as the added history of Roosevelt’s stay at the hotel, Rueben Sanford Ball, owner of the hotel, created the extraordinary hunting trophy collection that is exhibited to this day in the hotel lobby and throughout the hotel.
Other local papers covered Roosevelt’s hunting trip with humor or in jest.
The Craig Courier reported on Jan. 19, 1901, “Teddy Roosevelt isn’t the only one in the county having fun with bobcats. Last Tuesday morning J.J. Jeffway had an experience with a bobcat and as he did not have a modern weapon he used a stubby stick and succeeded in killing the cat with little difficulty. Mr. Jeffway’s dog had an encounter with the the wild cat on the Jeffway ranch south of town and in the first round hair an fur flew in all directions.”
In the Feb. 2, 1901, issue of the same paper, the editor again had a little fun with Roosevelt’s local hunting trip:
Roosevelt Didn’t Kill It
“Colonel Roosevelt isn’t the only lion slayer in Routt County. There are others and one of them also is Dan Humphrey of Maybell Valley. Last Sunday Mr. Humphrey, accompanied by his dog, Friday, encountered a full-grown mountain lion on Juniper Mountain. The dog and the lion had a hot set-to and when Mr. Humphrey approached the combatants the lion turned his attention to him. The lion was just in the act of leaping upon Mr. Humphrey when he turned loose his artillery, the ball striking the lion in the base of the ear and killing it almost instantly. Mr. Humphrey’s coolness and unerring aim no doubt saved him an unpleasant experience. He feels just as elated over his prize as Teddy Roosevelt does over his success in Coyote Basin.”
As vice-president, Roosevelt had enjoyed another Colorado hunting trip in late 1901. This trip brought him to the Glenwood Springs area, where he stayed at the posh Hotel Colorado. He returned again in 1905. This time he was the president of the United States. His visit became etched in the hotel’s history, for he was the first president to stay at the Hotel Colorado.
Roosevelt stayed at the hotel for three weeks during the month of April 1905. The occasion was one of his legendary hunting trips, and it would not be his last. The hotel set up separate suites and increased security for the President, his assistants, and staff so that the country’s business continued uninterrupted. The hotel was dubbed the “Western White House.”
It was during this trip that Roosevelt’s hunting expedition was so successful, that he posed for national photographers on the lawn of the Hotel Colorado, with his hunting trophies of several bears and three lynx. Later that evening, a celebratory dinner was held at the hotel, with much fanfare and backslapping.
However, on another day of hunting, the president came back empty-handed. As legend has it, the hotel maids gathered scraps of cloth and stitched together a cuddly bear, presenting it to the president in an effort to lift his spirits. The local papers carried the story, dubbing the cloth stuffed bear, the “Teddy Bear,” and thus the legend was born. Toy manufacturer, Benjamin Michtom, wrote to Roosevelt, requesting permission to use the name “Teddy.” The Ideal Novelty and Toy Company trademarked their new product and began distribution of the “Teddy Bear” in 1903.
Roosevelt returned to the Glenwood Canyon area for many years, where he enjoyed hunting and fishing, and the beautiful Rocky Mountains.