In the late 1880s, Glenwood Springs hired a town scavenger to clean up
Frontier Historical Society
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Cleanliness is next to godliness.
By the spring of 1887, Glenwood Springs was four years old. Like all places of residence, clutter, excess and, at times, health hazards built up to the point where a good cleaning was necessary. It was that spring when residents officially decided to spruce up the town.
A petition in April 1887 by E. Schock and others to the newly created Glenwood Springs Board of Health initiated the cleanup. The board of health possessed absolute power to promote cleanliness and abate all health hazards.
Schock and others requested the bodies from the old cemetery, located near today’s Palmer Avenue and 12th Street, be moved to the new cemetery, Linwood, which was on higher ground. The argument, and a valid one, was that flash floods could wash out graves, exposing bodies, which in turn could create disease within the community. The board of health studied the petition but did not act at that time.
The most immediate problem was the amount of trash and debris piling up behind residences and businesses. No city dump existed. And with no sewage system, outside privies needed to be cleaned. It was time to hire a man to take away the refuse.
By vote of the town council, Richard Hewson became the first official town scavenger.
Little is known personally about Hewson, but his duties were large. Taking orders directly from the board of health, the mayor, and the town council, he possessed the powers of a policeman as it pertained to his duties.
In part, his job description read, “He shall provide himself with a vehicle for the transportation of garbage, offal, swill, slops, and other deleterious substances, said vehicle to be constructed to the satisfaction of the Board of Health … to see that all privy vaults are kept in a clean and healthful condition, and in case any such vault shall become so unclean as to be nauseous, offensive or injurious to the public health or senses, he shall forthwith notify the owner or owners thereof to have the same cleaned.”
The town of Glenwood Springs charged citizens for Hewson’s services. A charge of $2 was assessed for the removal of large animal carcasses, 25 cents each for small animal carcass not to exceed $1 for the same load, $2 for a cartload of garbage, and 25 cents for a single barrel of garbage.
The removal of outhouse refuse cost 50 cents per barrel. The cleaning of privy vaults, including those of hotels and public privies, cost $25. Hewson could arrest a person not complying with a privy cleaning order. A conviction brought a fine not to exceed $50.
Hewson, however, could not perform his duties without a town dump.
Meat market owner Silas Meadows owned property west of Glenwood Springs. For $25 per year, Meadows provided a site for the dump. For an additional $25, he built a road to the site.
In early November 1887, council approved the removal of the bodies from the old cemetery to Linwood Cemetery. By the end of that month, Hewson had transported the dead to the Linwood at a cost of $320 to the town.
Richard Hewson’s tenure as town scavenger ended in April 1888, with Hewson disappearing from the pages of Glenwood Springs’ history. His scavenger services and payment for other duties cost the town $970.
Glenwood Springs was cleaner and healthier for his efforts.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Fall, winter and spring hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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