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Dirty work: Monument artist crafting sculpture of legend

By: JANE REUTER THE GAZETTE
December 14, 2005
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MONUMENT - She is a Monument legend, so memorable a character that town officials named a park after her. But no one in town knows with certainty the identity of the woman who is dubiously memorialized by Dirty Woman Creek Park.
The park on Monument’s west side and the creek that flows through it are named after the colorful 1870s homesteader who lived there in reportedly sloppy style. Pigs and other livestock shared her shack, according to accounts written by now-deceased Monument historian Lucille Lavelett. Some historical reports say she had a few scruffy children. Others mention only the animals. She apparently had no help around the house; a man was never spotted at the homestead. The dirty woman’s legend intrigued Woodmoor artist Irmgard Knoth for years. Four months ago she began creating a clay sculpture of the woman. Unfortunately, history sometimes isn’t any more tidy than the dirty woman’s house: Knoth’s been told the woman’s name was Mrs. Tom Salem, but that has not been documented. Knoth’s now putting the finishing touches on the clay model, which depicts a woman in a long dress bending toward a pig, a rooster and a hen. Knoth plans to cast the figure in bronze and offer it for sale, but she isn’t yet satisfied with her creation. “I need to make her a lit- tle more unkempt,” Knoth said. “She looks too clean right now.” Knoth said she’ll add some wrinkles to the dress and remove the puffy sleeves, which were fashionable in the mid-1800s but likely not something a poor homesteader would have worn. Although the woman was by all accounts bedraggled, the nickname likely was sealed by her rumored occupation. “She may have been a laundress,” said Monument’s Jim Sawatzki, who creates historical video documentaries on the Pikes Peak region. “The school kids used to watch her hang up laundry; she had a lot. It’s believed the kids started calling her the dirty woman by the creek.” The name stuck, and despite occasional grumbles from newcomers who find the name offensive, the town has no plans to change it. “It’s a cool name,” Monu- ment Town Board Member Tommie Plank said. “It’s historical. “I’m sure today it would be politically incorrect.” Knoth speculated about the woman’s life as she molded her figure. She thinks her muse was at least as lonely as she was dirty. “I think she was kind of sad,” she said. “Maybe she lost her husband and loved animals. In her loneliness, she just had all the animals in there with her.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4817 or jreuter@gazette.com THE PARK The town officially named the 12-acre Mitchell Avenue parcel Dirty Woman Creek Park in 1978. The neatly tended park that straddles Dirty Woman Creek includes a picnic pavilion, baseball diamond, playground equipment and basketball court. It will be further removed from its primitive past in 2006, when the town builds restrooms.
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