By Richard Rhinehart ~ August 13th, 2010. Filed under: Caving News, Williams Canyon Project.
For many visitors to scenic Williams Canyon, north of Manitou Springs, Colorado, the aging bronze plaque was a curiosity. Erected on the Ordovician-age Manitou limestone wall near the locked Williams Canyon gate, the plaque commemorated Henry Truman Williams, a New York City author and editor, who died in 1915.
Sometime between June 22 and June 24, 2010, this two-foot by three-foot historic plaque was stolen, most likely to be sold for scrap and melted down. Manitou Springs Police reportedly are at a loss to find the thieves, despite its prominent location on a popular hiking and biking route.
Dedicated by the children of the influential 19th century writer on July 8, 1956, its design was by his daughter, Mrs. Rose Mansfield Pike of Colorado Springs. In that summer of 1956, the plaque was on the automobile route leading to the famous Cave of the Winds. A decade later, the newly-opened US Highway 24 Bypass of Manitou Springs encouraged the Cave of the Winds management to convert Serpentine Drive from one-way downhill to two-way traffic to the intersection with Highway 24. This left the historic Williams Canyon Road to those who chose specifically to drive the narrow gravel road from the Cave down into Manitou Springs. Flooding and severe erosion along the road in 1996 closed it to through traffic, leaving the plaque visible only to the hikers, bikers and cavers who visited the canyon.
An 1863 graduate of New York University, Williams secured employment as a reporter. He also enjoyed visiting the West and exploring. His 1872 guidebook, â€śA Tourist Guide and Map of the San Juan Minesâ€ť was important reading for anyone visiting Coloradoâ€™s wild southwestern mountains. In 1870, he met Colorado Springs founder General William J. Palmer and his fiancĂ©e, Mary Lincoln Mellen, known by her nickname, Queen. While Williams led them on a scenic tour of the region, Queen suggested the scenic Manitou Canyon, leading north of the Manitou mineral springs, should be named after their guide. He in turn graciously suggested another canyon be named after her.
With wealth comes the authority to name geographic features, and soon Manitou Canyon was known as Williams Canyon. The second canyon, which would eventually hold the Glen Eyrie Castle for the Palmers, was named Queenâ€™s Canyon.
For Williams, he became the editor of the New York Independent newspaper, and later launched The Ladies Floral Cabinet magazine, the first national magazine for women concerning gardening and flowers.
Williams left the New York secular publishing industry by 1880 and began publishing conservative religious materials in Chicago. He returned to Colorado Springs in the late 1880s and established a florist and religious home east of the city. The Williamites Christian religious sect was created from his conservative beliefs, believing Williams was a messenger from God and that The Rapture was imminent.
Today, 95 years following his death, Williams is mostly unknown even among residents of the Pikes Peak region. Not only did he participate in naming two of the important scenic canyons of the region, he also was responsible for bringing one of the first conservative Christian groups to Colorado Springs, to be followed in the next century by groups such as The Navigators, the International Bible Society and Focus on the Family.
His plaque in Williams Canyon will be missed by all who enjoy this scenic gorge.Tags: Colorado, Henry Truman Williams, history, Manitou Springs, plaque, theft, Williams Canyon