A History of Bent Tree
by Heidi Fuhrmann
A rough, bearded man walks thoughtfully through a thick forest stopping here and there to tip his head back or to kick the base of a huge tree. After awhile, the man stops, staring up at the top of a huge red pine, and drops his bundle. Even after years of logging, the beauty of Woodberry's trees amazes him: the trees are grotesquely twisted or are tall, straight, and proud. This one is as straight as a ray of light. After marking it, he gathers his belongings and moves on, repeatedly tipping his head toward the heavens. The bearded man disappears into the silent forest.
That bearded man from long ago walked upon the same soil you walk on today. Bent Tree was a quiet, undeveloped area called Woodberry which was owned by Olive Higby Killin. Woodberry had not a structure built upon it; rather, its land and resources provided an income for surrounding families.
The small trees currently in the Bent Tree Nursery [Bent Tree V] and the Bent Tree IV development did not exist back in the early 1900's. Instead, the land held rows of delicious beans used to supply local families. Although locals enjoyed them, the beans were not a major source of income.
Fox farming was another use of Woodberry's land. Families raised foxes and sold their pelts to the richer community of Colorado Springs. The pelts brought in enough money until Russians began selling hides in the area for a lower price. Foxes were no longer a reliable source of income. Owners set hundreds of foxes loose.
The primary and most profitable use of Woodberry was logging. Back then, giant trees stood straight and tall, perfect for a sawmill. Using logging saws, men cut them down and hauled them to Monument. From there, railroads whisked them away to Denver for further treatment. To this day, one can see the faint tracks of old logging roads wandering through Bent Tree's acres.
In the area surrounding Woodberry, many families raised livestock. In the pre-railroad days, the ranchers herded cattle along a trail just east of Highway 83. Once the railroad passed through Monument, ranchers shipped their bulls and cows to Denver and Pueblo to spare them the long walk and keep them fat and juicy. Beefalo, part cow and part buffalo, were also raised and butchered.
Agriculture played the most important role in Monument. Farmers grew oats, corn, and rye; but, most important, was the harvest of potatoes. States across the country including Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arizona bought the famous Divide potatoes. Growing as big as 27 inches, many potatoes earned champion titles. The annual Potato Bake brought thousands of people to Monument to celebrate the year's harvest with games, festivities and fine dining. Unfortunately, a potato blight struck and prevented further potato harvesting.
Other occupations in Monument included undertaking and ice cutting. Because of the nearby logging, undertakers used local wood to build caskets for the Colorado Springs and Divide areas. Caskets were about $50 apiece. During the summer months, a deceased body would rest on ice until the undertaker had prepared everything for burial. Three undertakers lived in Monument. From November to February, Monument Lake would freeze. Locals took advantage of this freeze and cut ice for hotels, businesses, and upperclass families along the Front Range. Blocks were cut and shaved 24 inches thick. Then, the cutters packed the blocks in sawdust on trains for shipment. If properly stored, the ice lasted through the end of summer.
Building the Air Force Academy furthered the development of Monument. Starting in the west and moving eastward, residential areas began to pepper the countryside. Col Hugh Nevins started the development in 1953 with Red Rocks Ranch. Next, Bob Moore and Ken Barber established Wakonda Hills and Arrowwood subdivisions in the late 50's. In 1963, Steven N. Arnold introduced Woodmoor. "The Pinery" became "Arrowwood" and eventually "Woodberry" became "Bent Tree" developed by Bob Moore in 1985.
The next time you are out walking near your beautiful Bent Tree home and come across an old tree stump, remember the bearded man as he searched for the perfect tree. The next time you hear the call of a fox, imagine the sound of a hundred foxes penned behind a fence. Finally, live with the same love and pride for your Bent Tree as the loggers and farmers once felt for their Woodberry.
This article is based on information from Ester Brown, Walter Dennis, Sally Higby, John Pitts, Dean Younger, and the book "Through the Years at Monument, Colorado" by Lucille Lavelett. [Heidi Fuhrmann was a Lewis-Palmer High School senior when she researched and wrote this article in 1998.]