Dave McCutcheon

Driver, and Enterprising Ferryman

DAVE McCUTCHEON was a wide-awake, rustling driver for the Overland Stage along the Cache la Poudre between Latham and the base of the mountains at LaPorte. Dave, a large, powerfully built young man, and seemingly as strong as an ox, was equal to all emergencies. On the night of May 20, 1864, Cherry Creek at Denver flooded. Without any warning the flood swept away, almost in an instant, the Rocky Mountain News office and many more buildings in Denver, resulting in the destruction property and loss of life. This flood caused the Platte River to rise at Latham so it was overflowing its banks by the next afternoon.

Seeing an opportunity to make some extra money during those stirring times because of the flood, McCutcheon improvised a sort of combination skiff and flat-boat, and for a short time ran a temporary ferry across the south fork of the Platte at the Latham station. He hired some of the drivers at Latham to do extra driving for him, and, while the high water continued, made as much as twenty-five dollars a day rowing parties across the South Platte, just below the mouth of the Cache la Poudre.

The immense rush of people up the Platte in the direction of the Cache la Poudre and then westerly over the Overland Trail was due to the new gold discoveries at Bannock, Montana. A great many had come up the Platte river to Latham because the crowd waiting to cross the river at Julesburg, 140 miles downstream, was so great it was impossible for the ferryman there to accommodate everyone. Of course this was a bonanza for McCutcheon, and it paid him handsomely while the rush of gold seekers for the Northwest continued and the flood lasted. He would take wagons successfully across, but it would be necessary to take the vehicles apart in order to get them over on his boat. The teams had to swim across.

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