Saturday, August 29, 2015


Bowdin Trail marker, 1911,
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

Back in the 1980s I heard talk about a remarkable gallery of painted animals in the upper Purgatory region of southeastern Colorado. At that time Bill McGlone even showed me a couple of photographs that he had been given. Then, in June of 1983, an article in The Denver Post by Bob Leasure, showed a few of the pictures and gave more information about these remarkable paintings.  I had almost forgotten about these in the intervening years until I recently received a shipment of pictures and books from Daphne Rudolph, for donation to the Colorado Rock Art Archive at the Pueblo Regional Library in Pueblo, Colorado. In sorting through the material I was thrilled to find a number of those pictures of animals painted by Martin Bowden in the Purgatory. The photographs seem to have been taken by one Eldon Brown, but I know no more about him. As Daphne and John Rudolph used to live in La Junta, Colorado, and were deeply involved in recording area rock art I assume that he gave the photos to them.

Bear and Fox, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

Silver Fox, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

Bear, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

"Bowden was born near Lyons, France, of Italian parents. His mother wanted to be a singer - her voice had an operatic quality - but she ended up in Trinidad, Colorado, as the wife of a coal miner. Martin was only a child when he crossed the ocean and changed worlds." (Leasure 1983:24)

Burro, Bowden Trail.
Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

"Before he even started to shave - he followed his father into the mines. In the mines he always carried a pocketful of colored chalk and amused himself at lunch time sketching on metal. When the dingy coal cars came rolling into sunlight, they displayed an eye-catching variety of pictures: a dragon snorting fire, a brilliant rooster crowing, a war-bonneted Indian, a morose depiction of Christ on the cross." (Leasure 1983:24)

Tiger with Eldon Brown's girls, Bowden
Trail. Purgatory Canyon, Colorado.

"The family name had been Baudino, but there was a stigma about Italian names at that time, and he changed his name to Bowden." (Leasure 1983:24)


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