Looking back: Buggies to automobiles | SteamboatToday.com
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Looking back: Buggies to automobiles

Burton recalls early days

Only a numbered few of the men that homesteaded Northwest Colorado during the six-shooter brandishing days remain to link the present day with the 1870s, ’80s, and ’90s from the days of the buggies to automobiles.

Alva Burton, probably one of the area’s oldest residents, remains as a symbol of the days as they were lived before the turn of the century. At one time, Mr. Burton was a homesteader, gunfighter, and saloon owner in Columbine during the late 1890’s, when Columbine was a bustling town of 500. Now a retired resident of Steamboat Springs, Mr. Burton spends his time in his favorite easy chair petting his cat Yellow Boy and visiting his friends.

Saloon management in Columbine after the turn of the century was dangerous and tedious. Burton said patrons drank, gambled all night, and wore six-guns. Shooting matches, using a wall or door, occurred at 4 a.m. and the prize for the best shooting were drinks on the house, with or without the bartender’s consent.



Women weren’t allowed in his saloon, but horses were. Alva said cowboys and miners, often as not, rode their horses into the saloon. Gunfights happened, but no one was ever killed in his saloon, thanks to Alva and his bartender. One time the two knocked a man’s gun out of his hand, as he was about to shoot a cowboy. Tempers cooled and cowboy ran away, Alva said.

After owning the saloon for two years, Burton sold it and accepted a position as a road maintainer. During this time, Alva was sent to arrest a man because he had changed the course of the road so that it passed his house. When Burton approached the man to make his arrest, the man drew his pistol in an effort to kill Burton. Mr. Burton “beat him to the draw” but missed the man and killed an innocent bystander instead, a dog. Burton said that the man ran and so he ran, too. Then he solicited some help to make the final arrest.



Another move by Mr. Burton and his wife took them to Fort Morgan, where he purchased and managed, for a short time, a poolroom. After selling it, he joined the Fort Morgan police force and became deputy sheriff. He stayed with his job for almost decades before he moved to Steamboat Springs for retirement.


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