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The History of Black Forest, CO and the Fire That Nearly Destroyed It

Black Forest Sign on the outskirts of Town
Black Forest Sign on the outskirts of Town
Teila Tankersley

The Fire of 2013 has been seared in the hearts and minds of the residents of Black Forest, Colorado. It was a year residents say they'll never forget.

In June of 2013, firefighters fought back the vicious flames that swept through the community of Black Forest, just outside of Colorado Springs, CO.

Residents watched in disbelief as one hundred year old pine trees and custom designed homes vaporized in a billow of smoke and if teardrops could have stopped the fires, it would have been put out shortly after those first flames were spotted. This tight knit community never imagined that a fire of this magnitude would ever occur during their life time.

For years, residents of Black Forest, Colorado had the best of both worlds. They were close enough to major cities (Denver and Colorado Springs), and the wooded forest provided them with the tranquility and get away that they desired.
When most individuals think about the area several things come to mind, including fun in the woods, horseback riding, nature walks and raw honey. However, the infamous Black Forest fires of 2013, put a damper on things for a while.

A fire that started in the wooden community on June 11, 2013, quickly became one of Colorado's largest fires. As the flames penetrated the forest and torched the trees one by one, house by house, a zillion memories began to surface in the hearts and minds of area residents.

It is more than mere property; Black Forest, Colorado is a closely knit community in a wooded area just North of Colorado Springs.

According to historical records provided by the El Paso Historical Society, Legend states that around the turn of the century, the forest was given its named by a gentleman named Mr. Leonard Curtis. It was said that Mr. Curtis was riding along the forest edge one day and observed how black the trees appeared and it reminded him of his native Black Forest in Germany. The name stuck, but it has also gone by other names throughout the years including the Pineries.

This beautiful acreage was once occupied by Ute and Comanche Indians, the Ponderosa Pine trees provided them with protection, fuel, and timber. Then in the early 1800s, it was taken over by the Kiowa. Forty years later the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes arrived and become the last Native Americans to inhabit the area.

The Forest was government owned for many years until it was purchased by General William Jackson Palmer. Palmer established the Colorado Pinery Trust in 1870. Logging in the Forest reached its height in the summer of 1870 and eventually more than one billion feet of lumber was removed to provide ties for the Kansas Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande and New Orleans Railroads.

For years, the road thru the forest was nothing but a wagon trail thru the trees. By the 1880's, farmers and ranchers began occupying the area.

A drought that took place in the 1920s, affected many of these farms and the Depression of the 1930s caused many of these farmers to move on and that is when the area began seeing more ranches spring up.

Those who call it home have always had a pioneer spirit. They know what it takes to rebuild and to move forward.
In the early 1900's, the State Realty began building homes in the area. You might find it interesting to note that the roads in the Black Forest were named after many of those earlier residents. Such as: Burgess Road, Cort Burgess; Shoup Road, after former Governor Shoup; Swan Road, undertakers in Colorado Springs; Vollmer Road after the Vollmer Brothers; Templeton Gap Road, after Mr. and Mrs. Templeton.

An icon in the area is the Black Forest Community Church which became incorporated in 1937, on two acres of donated land. Prior to the church being built, services were held in the little log school house. (That school house remained active in the area until the fall of 1945, when the district was consolidated with Falcon.) The church began with approximately 35 members and those members invested their time and money, their goal was to build a church home. Progress was slow, and funds were limited, but In 1940 the church was completed. A formal dedication took place in 1942.

A boom occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s. People began buying up five acre minimum lots in 1965 and the families began moving in.

The Black Forest Preservation Plan was signed in 1974. This plan recommended rural-residential uses for most of the planning area; it also outlined several large areas for mixed urban uses.

In 1977, a group formed the William J. Palmer Parks Foundation. The intention was to advance the legacy of parks and open spaces left by Colorado Springs' founder, General William Jackson Palmer.

The legacy of Black Forest will forever remain and the town's people vow to rebuild. It will take more than a fire to destroy the spirit of this wooded community.

(The fire of 2013, was one of the most destructive fires in Colorado history and was finally declared 100% contained on June 20, 2013. It had burned a total of 16,000 acres in just nine days, taking with it two lives, as well as numerous family pets, wildlife and livestock.)

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