In 1882, Abram Maxfield and Charles Marshall traveled along the Colorado River, then called the Grand River, looking for places to homestead. On the banks of Rifle Creek, Abram found a spot that suited him. He filed a claim and brought his son, Clinton, with him to build a cabin. The following summer he moved the rest of the family to the new homestead.
Moving the family was not easy. There were no roads and the way involved some rugged territory. At one point, the wagon had to be dismantled and all the goods unloaded to navigate a tough spot. Reloaded, they continued their journey.
It was good there was a cabin waiting for them when they arrived. Ten days after they arrived, Flora Maxfield delivered a son. Roy (or Bud as he was known to the family) was the first non-Native American child to be born in what became Garfield County.
In time, the Maxfields laid out a town, sold lots, built the Winchester Hotel, and owned and managed cattle yards when the railroad extended to Rifle. Rifle was the largest shipping center in Colorado for several years. Actually, the selling of lots and the town layout were largely the work of Flora. Later, widowed, she and her son Bud ran the cattle yards. She was clearly a woman of independent mind and ahead of the times. The Maxfields donated the land for the first church in town and their cabin, when they moved to a newer house, became the early school.
And between all these activities, she also gave birth to other children, including a daughter, Gail Hamilton Maxfield. Gail was my grandmother. Roy\Bud was the grandfather of my cousins, Bonnie, Sharon and Glende.
The town was named for Rifle Creek. During this trip to Rifle, I discovered a link to Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, the man who surveyed and explored the region which is now Yellowstone National Park. I talk about Hayden on my tours in the park. It turns out Hayden also surveyed this area in 1876. It was then that the name Rifle Creek was first published and shown on maps.
There seems to be some discrepancy about where the name came from. The accounts in town today generally say that it was a soldier who left his gun by the creek and when he returned to retrieve it, dubbed the creek, Rifle Creek. The other story that they claim is unlikely is that a rusty gun was found by someone by the creek. They claim that guns were too precious for someone to have left it behind. However, the story my mother told, handed down from her mother, was that the creek was named for a rusty rifle found there. True, guns were valuable, but perhaps the owner suffered a calamity, or the gun was stolen. Who knows, but when the Maxfields came to name the town, they chose to use the creek name for the name of the town.
From the Tetons (see previous entry), I traveled south to Lander, then down Colorado Highway 13 through Craig and Meeker to Rifle. I have heard much of these towns as my second cousins grew up in this region. At Rifle I stayed at the Rifle Gap State Park, a peaceful spot during the week, close to both town and the Rifle Falls. My site was large, well distanced from the next site, and overlooking the reservoir. This was the site of one of the Christo temporary art works, a huge orange curtain across the gap in 1972.
Here are a few photos from Rifle. Unfortunately the old Winchester Hotel, which my great grandparents built, is no more. It was here when Lin and I visited over 18 years ago. But it was torn down to make way for the new city hall and library complex.
Rifle Falls, a few miles from town and from my campsite, provided a nice spot for some photography.