A young J.G. Hiestand
A young J.G. Hiestand

It’s the early 1900’s, Joseph Gonder Hiestand is rocketing down the Pikes Peak Cog’s rail, on a “go-devil“, at fatal speeds of 50mph and faster. He is said to have descended from the peak to the bottom in eleven minutes. J.G., as he is professionally known, tempts death every day to reach his photography studio and develop photographs of tourists at the summit as they are still on their way down. He hopes to develop and sell them their own photographs, a memory of their visit to the summit.

An entrepreneurial renaissance man, Hiestand initially came from New York to Manitou Springs in the 1880’s for his love of minerals. He quickly grows his minerals and curios operation from a store on Manitou Avenue, opening another store at the Ute Iron Springs Pavillion, and another at the Summit House of Pikes Peak. By 1887 he’s filing orders of “Onegite” and sending them to Tiffany’s for use in jewelry.

Manitou Springs Journal September 3, 1887

“Manitou [Springs] will come in for her share of the display. Mr. J.G. Hiestand will show … one of the finest collections of mineral specimens ever made in Colorado, the greater part of which he has collected himself. …”

Joseph G. Hiestand of New York was found dead in his home in Manitou late last night by Miss Elsie Ryan, also of New York, who was his housekeeper. She said she was outside the house when she heard a shot, and she returned immediately to find him dead from a gunshot wound.

In 1888, he marries Aline Zeralda Garrision of St. Louis, Missouri and has three daughters. Their marriage is short lived and lasts only twelve years. In 1898, ZG Simmons, of Simmons beds, constructs an addition to the north end of the Summit House and rents it to Hiestand for lodging and observation facilities.

A hunting photo of Hiestand
A hunting photo of Hiestand

In 1892, he becomes the official photographer of the Manitou & Pike’s Peak Railway. It just so happens, the depot is next to his Ute Iron Springs, which he now owns. Tourists stop for a glass of his iron water lemonade and, though the water itself is very hard to stomach, he has a recipe that makes the spring water more palatable. While in his pavilion one can also buy mineral specimens, hides, furs and curios. He has several springs on his properties including the Ouray Iron Spring, the Little Chief Spring and the Ute Iron Geyser, that he drills in 1910.


Manitou Springs Journal May 28, 1898

“No one will deny that the most beautiful thing in Manitou is the case of mineral specimens at the Iron Springs pavilion, collected and arranged by Mr. J.G. Hiestand. It is well worth the hundred miles travel to see the collection…”

Now 56-years old, Hiestand’s new lover, Elsie Ryan, is also his housekeeper whom he has retained for some time. He makes some bad investments which leads him down a road of financial ruin. For reasons known only to them, the two make a suicide pact and decide to carry it out on New Year’s Day 1916.

It’s late at night on New Year’s Day and Elsie cannot commit suicide on her own. The two decide to sit back-to-back with the back of their heads against eachother. J.G. will put the gun in his mouth and the bullet will kill them both.

An accomplished and older J.G. Hiestand
An accomplished and older J.G. Hiestand

Hiestand loads his pistol, turns the gun on himself and puts the barrel into his mouth. Elsie is sitting right behind him closing her eyes. He cocks the barrel, staring down the barrel and straight at the hammer. He pauses and takes his last breath and as he squeezes the trigger Elsie jerks to the side, as if to ask him if he’s going to do it. He does do it and dies alone. Elsie was brought in for questioning following the event but vanishes shortly thereafter along with gems and jewelry belonging to Hiestand, never to be heard from again.

The New York Times January 03, 1916
SHOT KILLS J.G. HIESTAND; New York Owner of Pike’s Peak Hotel is Found Dead.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Col., Jan. 2. — Joseph G. Hiestand of New York was found dead in his home in Manitou late last night by Miss Elsie Ryan, also of New York, who was his housekeeper. She said she was outside the house when she heard a shot, and she returned immediately to find him dead from a gunshot wound. 

by Laslo Hollyfeld