I hear the tread of Pioneers
Of nations yet to be
The first low wash of waves where soon
Shall roll a human sea.
The rudiments of Empire here
Are plastic yet and warm;
The chaos of a mighty world
Is rounding into form. -Whittier.
The city of Wray is located on the headwaters of the Republican river, 165 miles east of Denver, 375 west of Omaha, at an elevation of 3,600 feet, on the main line of the Burlington railroad. On the north it is protected by a long stretch of sandhills, and on the south by a picturesque line of buttes, seamed with many a gulch and canyon, leading up out on the Flats. These rocks are quite precipitous in places and rise about 175 feet above the level of the river.
One of the most prominent, overlooking the city and the Republican for miles, is popularly called Flirtation Point. Strangers are quick to see the point.
From these rocks the purest spring water is obtained and piped to many residences of the city. Fine water is secured on the Flats from wells varying from 100 to 150 feet deep, and every house has its windmill.
It is but fair to say that the first impressions of a stranger, when he steps off the train at the station at Wray are not always favorable. The town is yet young, and has not entirely passed through the awkward stage. A visitor from the East will at first be struck by the absence of trees in the country. Trees there are, and many of them, but they do not grow as readily as in other portions of the United States. However, each year sees quantities set out, and they shade many of our streets and a lot our prairies with clusters of green. Cowboys, with their high-heeled boots, chaps, and clanging spurs, are becoming less common as the country develops into a farming community.
Western manners and provincialisms are common. The Easterner says: "I guess"; the Southerner: "I reckon." Two characteristic phrases of the West are these: "You bet" (strong affirmation) and "Hit the Pike" (hike, which being translated, means, Get out").
There is a story of a burglar who at midnight climbed up to a chamber window and cautiously opened it. The occupant, who chanced to be awake, crept softly to the window, and, just as the robber's face appeared, presented the muzzles of two revolvers, with the order, "You hit the pike." "You bet," replied the housebreaker, as he tumbled to the ground and took to his heels.
Hospitality is the first virtue. The stranger bent on a peaceful mission is made as comfortable as means will permit, and he is always assured of plenty of fine provisions.
On May 17, 1907, Frank T. Hawks, editor of the Wray Gazette, and the writer made a house-to-house canvass to determine as exactly as possible the present population of the town. In the summer of 1903 the city was reincorporated, the limits at present being a few acres less than a section of land. Since that time various estimates, but all purely estimates, had been made as to the number of Inhabitants. The results of a careful investigation, which may be relied upon as being exact are that the population of Wray is 1,012. These figures include only those living within the town limits. Of course many families living adjacent could be added, and thus largely increase the practical number. Compare this sized town and the figures for the business done in the freight office and postoffice, as given elsewhere, and one has no doubt that the community is alive.
There are no houses for rent in Wray, nor have there been any vacant houses for rent for several years. The town has never been a boom town. Its growth has been gradual, but steady. In the past four years, by actual count, ninety-one entirely new buildings have been erected. Besides this, in that time, sixteen brick places of business have been put up, and five frame and metal business houses have been built. At the present time, June 1907, eleven new houses are in course of construction. These figures do not include additions or alterations, of which there have been many.
The following figures will give a clear idea of the interests of the town:
58 business houses.
7 general merchandise stores.
1 grocery store.
1 shoe store.
4 hotels and restaurants.
1 flouring mill.
3 grain elevators.
4 grain buyers.
3 lumber yards.
2 drug stores.
2 hardware stores.
1 clothing store.
1 harness shop.
1 bakery and confectionery store.
4 coal dealers.
3 dealers in implements.
1 poultry depot.
2 attorneys at law.
5 real estate firms.
2 tin shops.
3 loan brokers.
2 abstract firms.
2 furniture stores.
1 electric light plant.
2 weekly newspapers.
3 livery barns.
1 meat market.
2 blacksmith and machine shops.
1 brick yard and cement rock factory.
Also headquarters of The Wray Telephone Co. According to figures furnished through the kindness of N. D. Beaver, manager, this company has in the county 120 miles of poles, 290 miles of wire, 24 exchanges and 400 phones. The valuation is $100,000
The business is good in all branches, and merchants derive trade from a distance of forty to fifty miles south, twenty-five miles north, and ten miles east and west. Among other things it may he noted that Wray has no steam laundry. It is believed one here would pay. The writer believes that an electric line run from Wray to Vernon, and thence through the farming community south would be a paying enterprise. Here is a business opening which would repay investigation by a business firm of integrity. One need of the town is for a good system of waterworks.
It will also be noted that there are no saloons in Wray. For some years past there have been two. In the summer of 1903 a town board was elected by considerable majority on a temperance platform. The present town board, which began its duties May 7, 1907, was elected by an increased majority on the same principles. There are now no licensed saloons in Yuma county.
The following figures regarding the business done by the freight office of Wray were furnished through the courtesy of Mr. C. W. Hudgel, agent:
Freight received for the year ending April 30, 1907:
Emigrants, 28 cars.
Coal, 94 cars.
Lumber, 146 cars.
Oil, 46 cars.
Furniture, 2 cars.
Farm implements, 24 cars.
Lime and plaster, 14 cars.
Stock, 9 cars.
Wire, 4 cars.
Miscellaneous, 59 cars.
Pounds of local freight received, 5,518,172, or about 150 carloads.
Freight forwarded for the same period:
Grain, 201 cars.
Flour, 19 cars.
Cattle, 319 cars.
Hogs, 87 cars.
Horses and mules, 11 cars.
Miscellaneous, 13 cars.
The figures for the business of the postoffice were furnished through the kindness of Mr. C. D. Pickett, postmaster. For the year January 1 to December 31, 1906, the money order business amounted to $38,800. Add to this $3,100 for stamps, etc., and the total is about $42,000. undoubtedly the business of the postoffice is a good thermometer of prosperity. From these figures one gets an accurate idea of the amount of business done in Wray.
The following is an abstract of the assessment for the city for the year 1906, as kindly furnished by W. T. Fair, county treasurer:
Town and city lots ......................... $ 29,945
Improvements on town and city lots .. 52,975
Total net assessment ....................... 535,794
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