A buried past

Location of removed ruins could be at local ranch

MARK VARIEN, and land owner Phil Beauchamp talks outside Dolores on a bare field that Varien believes may have been the site of a great kiva.


Note: This is the third and final part in a series of articles exploring the mystery of the moved ruins 107 years ago.

By Shannon Livick

Dolores Star Editor

On a piece of property about six miles south of Dolores, Crow Canyon Research Director Mark Varien bent down and picked up a piece of pottery.

He inspected the craftsmanship, talked about the skills needed to create the pot it came from and surveyed the land.

This could be the site, 107 years ago, where a company out of Manitou Springs hauled off a ruin and reconstructed it to look like Mesa Verde National Park.

"The reason we think this site was related to Manitou is 90 percent of the sites we find today are not Chocoan," he said.

A fuzzy picture that ran in the 1919 book titled "Prehistoric Villages, Castles, and Towers of Southwestern Colorado," by J. Walter Fewkes carries a picture of a wall from a ruin near the head of Hartman's Draw about six miles south of Dolores called the "Blanchard Ruin". The wall is of unique structure, often not found in local ruins.

"The core veneer cross section is what makes me identify this as a Chocoan outlier," Varien said.

It is likely the wall of a great kiva. Not a lot of those are found in the area. One such kiva is at Lowrey ruins.

There is a dense cluster of ruins around the property north of Road P and their is a natural spring. Today's owners, the Beauchamps, say the pond is fed by a natural spring and that they often wander the property looking for artifacts on the ground.

Upon seeing the picture in the Fewkes journal and surveying old aerial photographs, Varien said, "This would fit with what I know about the sites in Hartman Draw. A big building like the one shown in the photograph would be the central site in a large, multi site community cluster. So there would have been many sites in the vicinity of the one shown in the photograph where they could have harvested sandstone for the Manitou Cliff Dwelling. The Manitou site is really extensive, so they must have gotten stone from several sites, but they could have come from a relatively small area."

The aerial photographs of the ranch show a kiva, a kiva that is not there today. Today's owners have not lived there too long and believe the kiva was filled in by previous owners.

When neighbors are asked, they say lots of rock was hauled off, some was even hauled off by the county to be used as road base, they said.

Property records both match the Blanchard name and the Smith name, which was reported in 1907, that a stone-carved bird was found when the property was excavated.

Varien bent down and plucked up another pot sherd, they weren't hard to find on the site which was littered with them. You couldn't put your foot down without stepping on an artifact. A pot sherd, a broken mug handle there, a bone awl over there and the pottery was all of different styles.

"This area was probably occupied from the 800s to 1180," he said.

The owners, who followed Varien and historian Fred Blackburn on a sunny winter day in 2012, were astonished.

Blackburn said the site at one time probably covered 14 to 15 acres, which would have made it larger than Lowrey ruins.

Tommy Jeter, a long-time native of the area, said that he remembers a large ruin on the property, which today is flat from years of agricultural use.

"It was big," Jeter said. "I've been there a bunch of times."

Jeter said he often would comb the county looking for old farm machinery and equipment.

"My dad used to ride the ditch," he said.

Even though the ground is flat and it is hard to see that a great village used to be in its place, Blackburn said there is still a story to tell.

"There is still a story here, it's all underground," he told the owners.

But is it where the stone came from, more than likely.

Varien is sure that it is the spot that the 1919 photograph was taken, and property records show that it was excavated by those at Manitou.

"I wish they wouldn't have destroyed it," said Lori Beauchamp, while gazing across her empty field, her horses standing at a nearby fence.

But Blackburn believes that if it hadn't been for the antiquities act in 1906, well, a similar fate may have been met at another site, maybe at Mesa Verde.

FRED BLACKBURN holds out a piece of pottery on the possible site of a great kiva outside Dolores late last year. It is also the possible site of ruin rock that was transported to Manitou Springs in 1907. Enlargephoto

SHANNON LIVICK/STAR

FRED BLACKBURN holds out a piece of pottery on the possible site of a great kiva outside Dolores late last year. It is also the possible site of ruin rock that was transported to Manitou Springs in 1907.

MARK VARIEN holds up a handful of pottery collected on the possible site where ruin rock was removed and transported to Manitou Springs in 1907. Enlargephoto

SHANNON LIVICK/STAR

MARK VARIEN holds up a handful of pottery collected on the possible site where ruin rock was removed and transported to Manitou Springs in 1907.