Charles Edwin Hewes
In Estes Park
1870 - 1947
all the interesting men and women nurtured by the mountain world of Estes
Park, none is more interesting than the poet-novelist Charles Edwin Hewes
(1870-1947), who for nearly four decades made his living as owner
proprietor of Hewes-Kirkwood Inn (now Rocky Ridge Music Center) in the
upland valley at the base of fabled Longs Peak. Born at Boone, Iowa in
October of 1870, the same year as his famous neighbor Enos Mills, Hewes
could trace his family’s ancestry, on his father’s side, back through the
American Revolution to colonial times. Though his formal education never
reached beyond the first year in high school, Charlie Hewes was an
omnivorous reader, thanks, in large part, to the library of his uncle
Henry Nelson Palmer, in Vinton, Iowa, to which his mother brought her two
boys in 1879, following the suicide of her husband, Stephen Brown Hewes.
By the age of 15, Hewes was contributing to the family income by selling
newspapers. A year later, at 16, he began the on-again, off-again career
as a railway expressman that he would pursue in various parts of the
middle and far west until after he moved permanently to Denver in the fall
of 1900, following the re-marriage of his mother.
Hewes arrived in the Estes Park region in June of 1907. Making use of some 960 acres of homesteaded land which he acquired with his by-then-twice widowed mother, Mary Catherine Palmer Hewes Kirkwood (1850-1919) and his brother, Stephen B. Hewes (1874-1970), Charlie Hewes devoted his days to the running of Hewes-Kirkwood, which the family opened on July 4, 1914, and his leisure hours to pursuing a literary career. Writing was Hewes’ passion. Though many of his written efforts were ultimately set aside or destroyed, Hewes did publish The Theatre Terrible (1910), a novel set in Colorado attacking the commercialism of the day, three editions of lyric poems titled Songs of the Rockies (1914, 1922, and 1938), and a long, 690-page epic poem in blank verse, The America (1941), which absorbed his time and attention for 17 years. Though some of the poems of Songs of the Rockies are interesting because they celebrate scenes and local history, Hewes’ published works remain little more than curious footnotes to the life of a mountain innkeeper whose warm and friendly personality was long remembered by those who sought out the hospitality of Hewes-Kirkwood during the short summer months.
Pickering's book: In the Vale of Elkanah - The Tahosa Valley World of Charles Edwin Hewes is available at the Estes Park Area Historical Museum's bookstore web page.
Charles Edwin Hewes
Hewes Kirkwood Inn
For 22 years from 1912 through 1933 Charles Edwin Hewes documented the history of Estes Park—particularly the Elkanah Valley from his viewpoint at the Hewes Kirkwood Inn. These journals provide a unique and very special record of the early development of Estes Park. Thanks to James Pickering who transcribed them, and the Estes Park Area Historical Museum who hold the copyright. I have shown a selected quote from several years.
More from Hewe's journals can be found at
the Estes Park Area
on-line exhibit of Hewes
"January 2nd. Wrote a letter to Mr. D. C. Beaman of Denver relative to the campaign in progress against the establishment of the so-called "Estes National Park." This scheme was launched about four years ago by the "Estes Park Improvement & Protective Assn.", and proposes to include some 1008 square miles of territory included in the counties of Boulder, Grand, and Larimer, to be reserved and conducted by the national government along the same lines as the Yellowstone National Park, the Yosemite and others. After a careful survey of the proposition, the citizens of our vale decided in the negative, and for some time have actively campaigned against it. While there are several issues in the campaign which are more or less local and peculiar, tho none the less important, yet the leading or broad issue is, Private versus Federal control of considerable of the region involved."
"[August] 19th. Saw filing and axe grinding preparatory to our building an addition to our cabin. This addition will be 45 feet long and 12 wide and one story in height, planned as a dining room and kitchen; and will be our first move toward establishing a public hotel and resort on our premises."
"[December] 4th. Placer. Began the composition of the last general protest against the creation of the proposed Rocky Mountain National Park. It is especially designed to present the issue as it actually is--showing that all claims of the promoters are reducible to the one predominate motive--pure commercialism. It does not claim but what this commercialism may be successfully justified, for both the public, congress, and the whole world generally speaking are wholly animated by a bold, matter-of-fact commercial spirit, but it does expose and insist that certain so called claims of conservation are but mere untenable shams to mask the real object--that of establishing this park, so that the people and commercial interests of Colorado can make money from Uncle Sam's advertising and maintaining the region as a national park--practically guaranteeing the public that this is a region of great natural wonders and scenery, which of course a national forest regime cannot do."
"[January] 21st...I had lunch with Dean and wife and got my mail which a neighbor had brought up from the village and handed to Dean. The papers announced the passage on Monday, the 18th, of the national park bill in the House of Representatives, thus only lacking the President's signature to become a law. Strange to say its main advocate was the Republican leader of the House, Mr. Mann, and it passed strictly on the commercial basis that we have forced our opponents to take. They have convinced Congress that it would be a big money maker and Congress has heartily approved that attitude. The papers are very enthusiastic about the proposition and claim it will bring $3,000,000.00 to the state beginning next year."
"[August] 10th. We are running full capacity--people sleeping in the office and laundry. The weather is beautiful now with occasional light showers. We handled 50 people today--regular list about 37. Venus breaks over the Twins gloriously about 11 p. m."
"[December] 31st The completion of the new kitchen and dining hall was a veritable triumph for me for most everyone predicted my failure to get it done in time for the convention, Aug. 5 1917--but it was done in fine shape and the old diningroom and kitchen slept 20 people during the convention."
25th. I consider today, Xmas, 1920, as a real historical event at the H-K. Dean [Babcock] came about 1:30 p.m. hauling little Eva-Joe and Sylvia on a toboggan, Mrs. Babcock, fresh and rosy-cheeked bringing up the rear and handling the back rope of the sled to prevent it dumping over on steep slopes. Cooper was in front of the cabin taking a moving picture of them as they burst thru the woods with Jim, the collie, bounding and dancing about the sled. Tho we had long deferred the slaying of the Sultan, yet the occasion was in every way worthy of His Royal Highness. We had passed two Thanksgivings and spared him--but today he was the piece de resistance to as fine a banquet as I ever sat down to...I had cut a fir for our Xmas tree and when evening came we lighted the candles and distributed the gifts, little Eva-Joe carrying them to their owners...About 7:15 p.m. and under the light of a glorious full moon with a soft gray canopy sweeping and draping the great peaks to the west and the Vale lovely and aglow with moonlit snows, Walker and I walked the Babcocks to the Ledges, each taking turns in pulling the toboggan. Altogether it was one of the greatest days of my life.
An interesting historical subnote....
Hewes Kirkwood, The “Town That Never Was” Has Finally Been Officially Terminated
The townsite of Hewes Kirkwood, established 37 years ago by Steve and Charles Hewes to facilitate the sale of land in Elkanah Valley (now called Tahosa) has banished from the map of Boulder county. Although it was never developed beyond the legal descriptions and maps in the county clerk’s office, it had been listed officially as a town.
November 21, 1957, the Boulder board of commissioners dealt the death blow. They vacated “all lanes, tracts and county roads”, within the “town” which is located astride the old Meeker Trail on highway 7 between Allenspark and Estes Park.
The action was at the request of the present owners. Now known as the Rocky Ridge Music Center, operated by Mr. And Mrs. Carlton Harrod, the original Hewes Kirkwood Inn was homesteaded in 1907 by the mother of Charles and Steve Hewes. It was opened as an Inn in 1914.
Previous owners were Paul Nesbit, who purchased it from the Hewes’ in 1945 and Dr. Paul Reichstadt, who sold to the Harrods in 1951 after owning it for 4 years.
The land known as the town of Hewes Kirkwood adjoined the original Inn and was sold to the Hewes-Kirkwood Development company with Everett May as president.
Among owners of the original lots were Stephen Ionides of Denver; Esther Morgan of Chicago; Wheelocks, Taylor, Verkens and Sherm Rollisten.
—Estes Park Trail Vacation Edition of 1958
Rocky Ridge Music Center (formerly Hewes Kirkwood Inn)