Glade Park woman made home in natural caves
High on Glade Park, about three miles west of the store, is the cave that once housed Laura Hazel Miller. What little I have been able to uncover about her makes her story both heartbreaking and fascinating.
I spoke with several people who knew Mrs. Miller. One of those was Elsie King Granere. Elsie said that she and her deceased husband, Roy King, moved onto Glade Park in 1944. One day when they were driving to the Glade Park store from their ranch several miles to the west, they stopped and offered Mrs. Miller a ride. Elsie said that Mrs. Miller, dressed in a black bonnet and skirt, was happy to get a ride as she appeared tired and out of breath.
Elsie told me that sometime after 1944, The Denver Post ran a full-page story about Mrs. Miller. Since the Kings subscribed only to the Sunday Post, she knew that the story had appeared on a Sunday.
I contacted the Denver Public Library with the limited information I had. In about three weeks, I had an e-mail from a library volunteer with a copy of the page that ran in December 1948. It contained three pictures and information about Mrs. Miller’s life.
According to the Post, Mrs. Miller was born July 23, 1866, near Boone, Iowa. In 1905 she moved to Glade Park, where she homesteaded with her two sons after their father had been killed in a train wreck.
She did remarry, but her second husband and her sons were killed in an automobile accident. She moved into the cave after a flood washed away her original log-cabin ranch house.
Mrs. Miller’s property was later described in an article in a United States Geological Survey report as having a middle cave that contained a small, one-room structure. Another cave was used for storage, and a third large one had been fenced to shelter domestic animals.
The unnamed author of the article wrote that he visited with her in the early 1950s and that they had a pleasant conversation.
He noted: “She was a very intelligent woman, and I could hardly believe she was 87 years old.”
Doralyn Genova, whose grandparents, Henry and Dora Lane, had a homestead on the property just west of Mrs. Miller’s, recalls visiting Mrs. Miller with her mother, Anna Lane Brodak, and Olive Lane Blackburn on a somewhat regular basis.
Doralyn said they always took fresh vegetables and fruit when in season.
Mrs. Miller had several Ute Indian baskets, and she would go back in one of the caves and bring out one or two to show her guests. She said that Mrs. Miller was intelligent and always had a lesson of some sort to teach Doralyn and her sister, Shirley.
Zita Hammer Roseborough said that her mother would give Mrs. Miller a ride to the store. She said that Mrs. Miller kept her money in a glass jar in the midst of other glass jars filled with fruit and vegetables she had canned.
Terry Hammer remembered that when his parents were giving him and his siblings a ride to the store to catch the school bus, they would sometimes pick up Mrs. Miller and give her a ride. She would do her shopping, pay for the groceries and then walk home. When his parents picked him and the others up after school, they would pick up the items that she had purchased and take them to her.
Vi Holloway, another longtime Glade Park resident, told me that Mrs. Miller was a pioneer farmer and a midwife on Glade Park. She seldom went to town, but was friendly if you were friendly to her. Her life was simple although, surprisingly, she had an organ in one of her caves.
Patty Brouse Shear told me that Mrs. Miller was a midwife and delivered the five youngest children out of seven in the Brouse family. One of those younger children was her father, Howard.
Patty said that there were no doctors on Glade Park and it was difficult to find a doctor who would make the trip. Mrs. Miller was a registered nurse and practiced homeopathic medicine.
One of her cures was for intestinal worms caused by improperly cooked wild game, a common food then. The cure was to take turpentine for a few days to kill the worms, then eat egg shells to scour them out.
In 1958, when Mrs. Miller was 92 years old, she moved to Grand Junction to live with her daughter. She died Jan. 26, 1962.
All that remains today to indicate the existence of Mrs. Miller — or as the children of Glade Park called her, “the lady who lived in the big rock candy mountain” — is the soot blackening the cave ceiling.
Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel and involved in many local preservation efforts and is on the board of directors for Colorado Preservation Inc.