COLORADO’S ROUTT/BRYANT CONNECT by Dorothy O’Ryan

Chico, California,

March 26, 196l

 

In setting down these few remembrances about my mother’s people, I must admit that they are derived almost entirely from what I heard my Father tell me about them. Funny enough, or perhaps naturally, I have not done the same kind of research on them that I do ordinarily on an assignment. The reason, I suspect being that this kind of research costs time and money and I have not had either to spare on the subject.

 

My Mother, Minnie Bryant, was the daughter of William Henry Bryant, for whom I am named, and Minnie Routt, daughter of John Long Routt. It is with William Henry “Harry” Bryant and John Long Routt that this brief paper treats.

 

WILLIAM HENRY BRYANT— I do not know the dates of either his birth or death but I assume that this information is amidst the material should it still exist, that Aunt Dorothy O’Donnell O’Ryan collected during her lifetime.

 

Bryant was named for William Henry Harrison, one-time President of the United States, a distant kinsman of Bryant’s through the Carter family, one of the very First of the so-called First Families of Virginia.. It is through Bryant that we-claim connection with Alexander Campbell founder of the Campbellite Church, now the Christian Church.

 

Bryant was a Virginian, educated for the law at the University of Virginia, and the possessor of a cultured and a cultivated mind. He had to emigrate for his health, having a tendency towards tuberculosis, and came to Denver where some kinsman of his, the Pattersons for whom Thomas Patterson Campbell was named, owned a newspaper, the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS.

 

Bryant prospered in the law, being associated with U.S. Senator Thomas. They were expert Constitutional lawyers and handled much corporation work, including that of David Moffatt, for whom Moffatt Tunnel is named, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Co. which is how my Father and Minnie Bryant met.

 

Bryant had a reputation around Denver as a gentleman “Of the Old School”, the type who could order Turtle Soup with Amontillado and tell you the year and the maker of the sherry used in it after one sip, As a lawyer, he once was called upon to defend one of the Patterson/Campbell clan for taking a shot at Bonfils or Tammen, or both of them and only winging one of them. Quote Harry Bryant, “I’ll defend you, of course but By God, Sir, I deplore your aim!”

 

He was several times President of the Denver Club. One of the classic legends of that Club concerns him. The Club had a rule that women were not permitted above the second floor or perhaps the ground floor. Bryant and some friends got with it one night at the Tabor Grand Opera House and wound up at the Club, late at night and took over the ballroom on the upper floor for their won private party, with the chorus girls.

 

When I was born, so the legend runs, I was not expected to live. Old Doctor Williams called Harry Bryant at his office and told him to get home with some whiskey quickly to save his grandson’s life. Several hours later, and assorted bottles and explained his tardiness by saying that he had to make a selection as he did not know what brand his Grandson would prefer.

 

My Father love him dearly, admired him, respected him, and never forgot him until the day he died. Respecting my Father’s judgment as I do, I always have cherished the thought that Harry Bryant was much of a man and a gentleman. Certainly, the men who knew him in Denver must have thought well of him for when they mentioned his name, their eyes would light up and the weariness of age would leave their voices as they spoke of him. So it was with those whom I met in 1929 and 1930.

 

JOHN LONG ROUTT — I know nothing of his birth or death although I believe that there is a doctoral dissertation on him at the University of Colorado, graduate school.

 

Routt was of Scots-Irish stock, resident as a merchant and politician in Springfield, Illinois, when U. S. Grant was living there after resigning, or, being cashiered as you prefer, from the Army prior to the Civil War. Legend has it that Routt befriended Grant during this period.

 

We do know that Routt ran for Sheriff of Sangamon County, Illinois on the same ticket that saw Abe Lincoln run for Congress. I do not know how this election came out.

 

In the Civil War Routt became Colonel of the 93rd. Illinois Volunteer Infantry, as I remember the regiment and soldiered down the River under Grant in the campaign that sundered the Confederacy. Routt is cited in despatches for gallant conduct at the siege of Vicksburg, or Jackson damned if ever I can remember which, and when Grant became President, Routt eventually wound up with a 3rd or 4th, Assistant Postmaster Generalship.

 

In 1876, Colorado having tried a couple of times and failed to get an acceptable Constitution framed for admission into the Union, Grant sent Routt out as Governor of the Territory, with the specific responsibility of seeing that they got a Constitution that would be acceptable to the Congress and thus bring the Territory into the Union as a State. I suspect, too, that Routt was charged with seeing that the Territory turned into a Republican State upon admission.

 

After admission Routt was elected Governor of the State, was later elected to two different terms as mayor of Denver and generally wound up as a very respected man and an honest politician. He did not have to steal. The reason he did not as that during his term as Governor, he invested in an alleged silver claim in the boom camp of Leadville. Routt poured all of his salary, his other assets as well, into this prospect and was getting no place fast. According to the legend, he went up there himself to tell the crew he had working there that he was broke, there was no more money to pay their wages, or to buy power and fuse and bens and bacon. The crew had just enough power to fire one final set of holes and when they did, they blew into the silver carbonate ledge that was the wealth of the Leadville claims. Thus, J. L. Routt ranked as a minor Bonanza King of Leadville.

 

He must have would up a fairly wealthy man, since he invested his Leadville money cannily in land and ranches and city lots, etc. However, none of this got down beyond Mother’s generation. What she did with her’s, I’ve never known; what Uncle Routt did with his can be imagined; and I suspect that Aunt Dorothy’s share went to finance Canton in a business venture. This, however, is pure hearsay.

 

We know that Grant paid at least one visit to Colorado after Routt came out there and that they took off together into the mountains, trout fishing, with a retinue suitable for the Grand Duke Alexis or some other visiting — potentate. I think they drank more whiskey than they did fishing. At any event they seemed to have had themselves quite a ball.

 

Routt was somewhat more rough-hewn than Harry Bryant but they had one thing in common.. They never gave their word on anything unless they intended to live up to it — clear to the hilt, come Hell or Highwater.