By Charlie Lussen
It was July of 1993 when I lost my job at the open-pit gold mine near Jamestown, California. Just a few days later I decided to move back to Colorado, but was saddened by one thing. Having been an active clamper for nearly four years with Matuca Chapter, I was faced with the dilemma of moving to a place where there were no clampers. The Clamp leadership of Matuca Chapter challenged me to begin a new group of clampers in Colorado, but they offered no help and very little advice in reaching this goal. Their main piece of advice was simply to find other clampers already living in Colorado, and to sponsor new members (PBC’s) wherever possible, and to begin holding meetings.
On September 10, 1993 I began my journey to Colorado Springs. Along the way I spent nearly 24 hours visiting with the clampers of Matt Warner Chapter 1900 in Utah, at the neighboring towns of Helper and Price. It was there that I was made aware of a clamper named Mike Wallace, who was living in the town of Sterling, in northeastern Colorado. I contacted Mike two days later. About a week or so after that Mike and I had our first meeting at Colorado Springs. It was the first ever official meeting of clampers in Colorado. We decided to call ourselves the Committee to Organize Al Packer Outpost 100. I suggested the name Al Packer based on the famous cannibal’s mark in Colorado history, and Mike Wallace selected the number 100 because Colorado is the Centennial State, gaining its statehood in 1876.
Two things were clear to us at that first meeting. First, I was to be the committee chairman because Mike just wasn’t up for the task, and second, we needed more than just two members in order to make any progress. I wrote a brief letter, which we mailed a copy of to every chapter, asking if anyone knew of any clampers living in Colorado. Within a few weeks I began to receive replies from the letter we had mailed out. A letter from Grub Gulch Chapter informed me about Jerry Knight Sr and Jerry Knight Jr living in Delta County, in western Colorado. I contacted them by telephone and they agreed to take an active role in our committee’s efforts. A letter from Humbug Chapter informed me about XNGH Murk Mansell, who was living in Pueblo, Colorado. A phone call was all it took to get Murk on board as the only XNGH on our committee.
A letter from the Flatlander Nugget informed me about Dave Kohn living in Denver. I met with Dave at his home in Denver, and he agreed to take a very active role in our committee’s effort. If not at that first meeting, it was shortly thereafter that Dave agreed to serve as Treasurer for our committee. Within a few weeks we had collected a massive $58 in our fledgling account. I served as co-signer of that account. We also agreed to ask Matt Warner Chapter 1900 in Utah to sponsor us as their outpost.
In late October 1993 I attended the Lost Dutchman Chapter Fall Doins at Seligman, Arizona, and I brought along my nephew, Dan Howard, from Colorado Springs. Dan was a PBC and he became a clamper at that event. While there I learned about two Lost Dutchman clampers who recently relocated to Denver. They were Jim Malow and Jim Sleeper, and I met with them at their apartment in Denver about two weeks later. Jim Malow agreed to serve as the peddler of our goods (hawker) and Jim Sleeper agreed to serve as the cook. For his first task in that capacity he ordered a pizza delivered to our meeting.
At that meeting in Denver the three of us contributed as total of one hundred dollars to be used for a newspaper ad in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph. We thought that many Californians had been moving to the Colorado Springs area, and that we should concentrate our attention there. That ad asked for any clampers wishing to help start a new outpost to contact me. The ad resulted in a multitude of curiosity callers, and eventually only one legitimate clamper caller. That clamper was Dick Thompson, who first joined the clampers in California back in the 1960’s. I met with Dick at his home in Colorado Springs, and he agreed to take an active role in our committee’s efforts.
During the final weeks of 1993 Dave and Betty Kohn met with me at my apartment in Colorado Springs. We agreed to attend the Matt Warner Chapter Inaugural Ball in early January at Helper, Utah. We hoped to formalize our request for outpost status at that time. At the Matt Warner Inaugural Ball in early January 1994 I somehow managed to find myself serving as bartender at their private club in Helper, Utah. This was the first of many trips made there by clampers in Colorado. The Clamp leadership of Matt Warner Chapter told us to go back and hold a meeting, and to draft a formal letter asking to be recognized as their outpost.
About two weeks later, in late January 1994, we held our first group meeting at the residence of Dave and Betty Kohn in Denver. Present at the meeting were XNGH Murk Mansell, Dick Thompson, Jim Malow, Jim Sleeper, Dave Kohn, Dan Howard, and myself. We selected officers, choosing XNGH Murk Mansell to serve as our first Ramrod, and Dick Thompson to serve as the first Vice Ramrod. Dave Kohn was chosen to continue serving as Treasurer, and I was given the title of Typesetter (Recorder). We then drafted a formal letter to Matt Warner Chapter, asking to be recognized as their outpost, and we all signed the document. We also agreed to begin holding monthly meetings along the front range, alternating the meeting sites between Denver and Colorado Springs.
In February 1994 we received a formal letter from Matt Warner Chapter 1900 at Helper, Utah. The letter informed us that they agreed to sponsor us as their outpost, and that we needed to attend the upcoming Grand Council meeting at Mariposa, California in May. We held our monthly meetings, had our first ball caps and t-shirts made, and Dave and Betty Kohn began making wooden ECV signs. We agreed to hold our first doins in late August 1994. At first we selected Cripple Creek as the site for our first doins, but Murk Mansell later persuaded us to change the location to Lake City, the site where Al Packer made his mark in history.
In May 1994 at Mariposa, California Al Packer Outpost 100 first pleaded our cause, to someday achieve full chapter status. Only two of us attended that meeting, XNGH Murk Mansell and myself. Murk attended the formal meetings, and got a friend to help carry our first banner in the parade. I tended to a make-shift hawker station utilizing one of the covered picnic tables at the site, peddling our first ball caps, wooden ECV signs, and the like. I repeated this task the following day at the Matuca Chapter Doins held just up the road a ways there at Mariposa. It was at this meeting that Grand Council formalized our status as an Outpost of Matt Warner Chapter in May 1994 at Mariposa.
A few weeks later, in June 1994 we had a weekend-long meeting and campout at Knight Camp Lodge in Delta County. This place covered several hundred acres of land, and was owned by Jerry and Penny Knight in western Colorado. A wooden plaque was placed there, marking the first clamper saloon in Colorado, which we all signed.
We proceeded to finalize our plans to hold our first doins at Lake City on the last weekend of August 1994. In July several of us attended Matt Warner Chapter’s doins in Utah. Dave Kohn brought along Troy Smith from Denver. Troy was a PBC, and he not only became a clamper at that event, he was immediately given the title of Terminator (hangman) for the upcoming doins at Lake City. Sixty-five clampers attended that doins, coming mostly from Utah, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. There were seven PBC’s duly initiated there.
We continued to hold our monthly meeting between Denver and Colorado Springs, and we made plans to sponsor two initiations during 1995 in an attempt to boost membership. The first of these was held in mid-May in the backyard acreage belonging to Dick Thompson in Colorado Springs. A total of fourteen PBC’s were duly initiated there, including Jim Conen, Ken Jaques, Gene Sowle, Dave Jackson, and ten other guys. A few months later, in August 1995 we held our second doins at Lake City. About fifty clampers attended that event, and four PBC’s were duly initiated there, including two from Delta County who were sponsored by Jerry Knight.
In 1996 our efforts really kicked into high gear. Our first historical plaque was placed on the Hotchkiss Museum, and the doins held nearby at Knight Camp had twenty-three PBC’s who were all duly initiated during a summer rainstorm. Following that event monthly meetings began to be held at Knight Camp, in addition to the monthly meetings held along Colorado’s front range. Over the next four years Jerry Knight sponsored over fifty PBC’s, and established what came to be known as the Delta-Hotchkiss Camp of Al Packer Outpost. This growth of clamperdom in western Colorado quickly spread, and soon there were two more “camps” west of the continental divide. They were the Grand Junction camp, and later the Four Corners camp in the southwest corner of Colorado.
Back along the Front Range several clampers from California moved into the area and quickly became officers and active members. They include Jim Powers, Vic Watras, and Lee Roith. There certainly was no shortage of clampers from these areas to continue on with the continued development of clampers in Colorado. In western Colorado, leadership roles fell into the able hands of Jerry Knight, Terry Sherwood, Skip Reasoner, and Ed Kaiser in the Grand Junction and Delta-Hotchkiss areas. Down in the Four Corners region of southwestern Colorado Bruce Christiansen took on the first leadership position, followed by Bob Lloyd, Lloyd Wallace, and John Harding.
A more formal accounting of all the plaques and major events held by clampers in Colorado was later made by XNGH Ken Jaques in Colorado Springs. It was in the year 2000 that Al Packer Outpost 100 finally achieved full chapter status, and our charter doins was held in August 2000 near Hotchkiss. About one-hundred forty (140) clampers were in attendance for the event and a joyous time was had by all. And so recorded!
Charlie Lussen, Founder
Rewritten September 2006
Revised and Edited January 2007