The Bottle Battle
From More Prairie Tales
by Hildred Walters and Lorraine Young
When Mr. Figstrom, the first Rock Island Railroad agent designated the town sit for Arriba, little did he realize the flask would create bitter quarrels, unkind words, and the shooting of a small boys dog.
Mr. Creel came in 1888 from Cripple Creek to establish a real estate office in what is
now Arriba in the far east central part of Colorado on what is now Highway 24.
The Rock Island tracks were getting closer and closer, and those few in the general
neighborhood had great confidence for a prosperous future. Now Mr. Creel was aware
of this and for a man of his devotion, and coming from a roaring mining camp,
the solitude and the beauty of the plains must have been most welcome. He established
his first home, a tent, and went about his business, making plans for a new community.
Arriba is a spanish word that means “above”, or “over”. The altitude is 5239 feet
and it is above the other towns in the surrounding locality. However he was opposed to liquor, gambling and tobacco, his town was going to be different.
No saloons, no gambling. Thus he banned mans most common evil.
By August of 1888, the Rock Island had arrived in Arriba, built a water tank and depot,
and by Thanksgiving time in 1888, it had reach Colorado Springs.
Business along the way was good. By 1889, there was a general store which housed the
post office, a two story, white framed house, the home of Mr. Creel, and a lumber yard.
The depot was a two story structure and until a church could be built, the second floor
of the depot was used for religious services. As far as Mr. Creel’s project
was concerned, everything was going good. No liquor, no gambling.
Once in a while a few cowboys or others roamed into town did use tobacco
- not to bad – chewing was part of the west. All was peaches and cream until about
1906 when when the second Mr. “C” arrived – a Mr. Coleman,
who purchased adjacent land from Mr. Goodard. Mr. Coleman had an eye for business,
but he wanted to make his “load” in a hurry. From where Mr. Coleman
came is not quite clear, but he had experience from some place.
He knew that many weary travelers, the lonely cowboy, and the
homestead bachelor would often “shoot their wad” for a night in the bar. Mr. Coleman approached Mr. Creel. He wished to purchase a lot in Arriba.
He planned to build a saloon. ” No, Man, Sir! No liquor in Arriba, regardless of what happened.” It happened, “the wets’ vs the drys”” the verbal combat in the beginning,
and no one ventured to think what might happen next. Coleman was a fast thinker.
He did not press the issue. If a lot wasn’t available in Arriba for his business, he would play another game. He moved a short distance east and founded his own town – Frontier City. It didn’t have a post office – yet but whatever Arriba had, Frontier City had, plus a saloon. Every move Mr. Creel made, Mr. Coleman did the same. The cowboys and the lonely homesteaders bought groceries and got their mail in Arriba, and without much thought ambled over to Frontier City to satisfy their thirst.
The silent battle began to lift it’s ugly head.
Mr. Creel had a ditch eight feet deep, eight feet wide, and about three blocks long dug between the two towns.
The ditch was illegal and much to the “wet” pleasure had to be filled in. He went at it again; this time Mr. Creel had a barbed wire fence erected,
and you didn’t dare go around it, unless you take your life in your own hands. The citizens were amused, and it is said
that the grassless, treeless strip was called Devil’s Lane, No Man’s Lane, or Hell’s Half Acre. It was well named, this strip, a block wide and three blocks long. There was a mail carrier in Arriba who thought the whole affair was a big joke. He added to the confusion just for something to do. In the daytime, he would help to build the fence and at night he would help to tear it down. This prank didn’t help the situation. More confusion. Newcomers were lost in Arriba. The east west streets were named College Avenue, Elbert Street, Front Street, and Railroad Street, and on the other side of Devil’s Lane the same streets were Lincoln Street, Colorado Avenue, and Rock Island Avenue. College Avenue was, and according to the map, the only street that didn’t have a name change. Imagine the tired, hungry traveler who was faced with finding his way when he was totally unaware of the feud. The situation, at times, was not to be laughed at. One day a small boy’s dog ventured across the strip and met his death. There were a few tense moments; the boys father was very upset and let it be known. Some say a few bullets whizzed through the air. Mr. Creel was never known to use a gun, but the Colt .45 was not unfamiliar to him. After the death of Mr. Creel, the battle subsided, and after a
few years had passed, Mrs. Creel ended the twelve years war. The strip, part of it, was given to the Congregational Church and the rest was sold for lots. The Creel house that was located on Devil’s Alley, is still occupied. Today Devil’s Lane is only found on old maps, and Mr. Coleman it appears, was lost in the shuffle. At least no one mentions his where abouts or his departure.
There is much more to Arriba than this bottle battle. The hamlet was incorporated in 1918.
The first mayer was A. W. Hawkins. The first school was built by the Rock Island Railroad.
Today there is a much better and bigger modern school. There are a number of businesses which serve the community.