Blackwell Station and the Founding of Lamar
Lamar’s colorful history began with a unique hijacking in May 1886. However, the settling of Lamar can arguably be started years earlier with Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, an influential southern statesman and Secretary of the Interior from 1885 to 1888. Lamar believed in westward expansion and supported the growth of railroads across Kansas and into Colorado’s Arkansas River Valley.
Around the time of Lamar’s position as Secretary of the Interior, Kansas businessman I.R. Holmes partnered with Santa Fe Railroad’s A.S. Johnson to buy a quarter of Section 31, Township 22, Range 46 in southeastern Colorado. They named it Lamar after the influential Secretary and laid tracks through the deeded property.
Pioneer cattleman A.R. Black owned much of the land on both sides of the railroad. The depot, which had been placed there by the Santa Fe Railroad, was thus named Blackwell—after Black and his foreman MacDowell, who lived with his family on the second floor of the depot.
While Holmes and Johnson wished to have a Land Office at this depot, Black refused to let it happen, fearing a loss of loading fees from cattle shippers. When the Santa Fe Railroad threatened to move the station, Black threatened an injunction.
That’s when Holmes and Johnson made plans…
Late on Saturday, May 22, a telegram called Black to Pueblo on “urgent business,” causing him to catch the last train west. Once he was gone, a fully crewed work train pulled up to Blackwell Station and, in record time, the crew loaded the depot, with Mrs. MacDowell and her children still in it, aboard flat cars. Soon, the depot—and the MacDowells—were on their way to Lamar, a new site three miles west where the Lamar Depot still stands.
By Sunday afternoon, May 23rd, the new Lamar station and sidetracks were ready for expected crowds flocking in on “boom trains” from Garden City, Kansas and other points east. Since no injunction could be issued on Sunday, lot sales, which totaled more than $45,000 by day’s end, were well under way and the town of Lamar was born.