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      Close to Heaven… Down to Earth

 



Tom Sharp

In just a few years, that small cluster of houses perched precariously above the
Mississippi called Hannibal, Missouri spawned three people who would grow up together
and then go out in the world and make their own marks (no pun intended). The oldest
one of these was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The second was William Thomas Sharp and
the third was born to Mr. & Mrs. Shaemus Tobin, a daughter named Margaret.

In 1865, Samuel Langhorne Clemens wrote a story about “The Celebrated Jumping Frog
of Calaveras County” and began his long career as Mark Twain. About the same time,
Margaret Tobin moved to Leadville, Colorado and became Mrs. Molly Brown (the famous
“Unsinkable One”). Tom Sharp served the Confederacy well during the Civil War but
received numerous wounds for his efforts and was paroled from the Army of the South
early in the war. He spent several years travelling all over the West (and British
Columbia) before he decided to settle down in the Upper Huerfano Valley, where what
remains of Malachite is now.

In 1868, he built a trading post on a place that became known as “Buzzard’s Roost
Ranch.” He built his place almost directly on the old Indian trail over Mosca Pass.
While this was a popular route for settlers heading into the San Luis Valley and
points west, this was also a popular route for Ute hunting and raiding parties.
As the Utes liked nothing better than dressing up in flashy military uniforms, Sharp
imported lots of them from English and Union Army warehouses back East and traded
them to the Utes at a great advantage.

So popular with the Utes was Sharp’s Trading Post that Chief Ouray and his band
would visit the post regularly, camping out for weeks at a time along the stream
near the building. On some of these trips Chipita (Ouray’s wife) came to enjoy the
excursion and the hospitality of the Sharp’s.

Sharp’s Trading Post did a land office business. Heavy, ox-drawn wagons brought
in huge quantities of goods to serve a wide area. Tom Sharp had a huge fondness
for horses and staged many horse races attended by the settlers and Indians alike.
If Sharp had a horse that beat all the Indian ponies, the Utes would go all out
in the bidding to own that horse. After 1876, the Utes were confined to reservations
and Tom Sharp got more and more active in the Cuerno Verde Livestock Association
and in the breeding of fine racehorses. He imported prize horses from Kentucky,
England and France to cross-breed with rugged Indian ponies he brought down from
Idaho. His breeding programs for cattle and horses received national attention and
he became one of America’s best known stockmen.

Malachite was built on 160 acres that Tom staked out on his ranch after some prospectors
panned a bit of gold out of Pass Creek. A gold rush never happened but flakes of
loose copper were so plentiful that a stamp mill was built near the Trading Post.
Over the years the business center of northern Huerfano County shifted over to Gardner
and Malachite slowly faded away. Tom died Nov. 26, 1929, at the age of 91.