The town of Bessemer, which immediately surrounded Pueblo's storied reason-to-be, the mighty Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, was incorporated in 1886, 125 years ago. It was home to hard-working immigrants from around the world -- Italians, Eastern Europeans, Germans, Asians and others -- who moved to the area to work in the mines and mill. According to Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture curator Victoria Miller, it had, at various times over the years, three trolley lines, its own city hall, an amusement park (the carousel still exists in Pueblo's City Park), an immense industrial YMCA and a hospital. And the moniker "Bessemer" wasn't unique for just such a global workingman's village: The name was actually chosen frequently by American steel mill towns in tribute to the English scientist Sir Henry Bessemer, who invented a method of decarbonizing steel, which allowed the steel to be made faster, at a lower cost.
Copyrighted images, courtesy Bessemer Historical Society / CF&I Archives/
The particulars of its name notwithstanding, there's no doubt that Bessemer was a colorful place with a history worth celebrating, which is why the Bessemer Historical Society invited people who grew up in the town before spreading to the four corners of the earth to return to the Pueblo area for tomorrow's Welcome Back to Bessemer! Anniversary fete.
The party begins at 8:30 a.m. at the museum, 215 Canal Street, Pueblo, with a pancake breakfast and ongoing steel mill bus tours, museum exhibits and more; during the day, there will also be presentations about the people and history of Bessemer and the steel mill and live entertainment. The historical story that enfolds throughout the day promises to be one full of drama, with references to labor struggles and the Ludlow Massacre sprinkled in among the memories. And it's a good excuse, anyway, to drive south for the day and explore a fascinating museum that's bound to be different.
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Celebrate Bessemer from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; breakfast is $6, and there are separate $5 fees for mill tours and museum admission, but everything else is free. See the website for information. Or call 719-564-9086.