Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Millionaire Maker - Verner Z. Reed

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Millionaires, especially those in the Old West. There is something about the rags to riches story that seems to touch something inside of us. If they could do it, maybe we can too. Oh, the dreams. However, those dreams did become a reality for many, even those who helped make the multi-millionaires.

Verner Z. Reed and his wife Mary Dean Johnson Reed made quite a difference during their lives.

Reed, born 1862 in Ohio and raised in Iowa, worked on the family farm to help the family, which consisted of thirteen children. Originally, Reed began his career as a journalist in Chicago at the Times. He later moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado when his half-brother came seeking a cure for his TB.

Verner Z Reed
Image from Wikipedia

It was in Colorado that Reed flourished. He saw a need for housing in the new town of Colorado Springs and created a business, Reed Brothers, along with his father and brother to build houses. He also wrote promotional brochures for the city.

In the 1890s as Cripple Creek was booming he took on promotional duties there. He also worked with Winfield Scott Stratton. It was with Stratton that Reed’s life took on new aspects. Reed helped broker the sale of Stratton's 'Independence' mine to an English syndicate. As a result of his efforts, Reed garnered one million dollars for his work. Building on that initial million, Reed soon invested in mines, while continuing to help Stratton invest also. When Stratton helped the founders of the Portland Mine, which is still producing gold, it was Reed who helped in the purchases of nearby mines.

The year of the sale of the Independence, 1893, Reed married Mary Dean Johnson who had moved from Ohio to Colorado Springs. At the time of their marriage Mary was eighteen and Verner had just turned thirty. The couple had three children.

Mary Dean Johnson Reed
Image from Find A Grave

The couple spent much of the early part of the twentieth century in Europe but returned to the states around 1912. The settled in Denver. Reed continued to invest in real estate, oil in Wyoming, and was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 to the Special Mediation Commission. The Commission was developed to deal with the industrial labor trouble.

Below is an article from the July 14, 1917, Denver Labor Bulletin

After his death in 1919 he left an estate worth around twenty million. Mary donated money to various philanthropic endeavors. Even with all she'd done, it was said she added another six million to the estate by the time of her death in 1945.

Reed also was an author with such books as: Lo-To-Kah, 1897, Tales Of The Sunland, 1897, and Adobeland Stories, 1898 based on his interest and study of the mythology of the Indian Tribes, primarily the Utes and Pueblo Peoples. You may still be able to find these books online or in libraries. The views of someone who lived at this time in history are fascinating.

Mary and Verner Reed left their mark on their world. This short post only touches on a small part of their lives. So much for further study.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Post (c) Doris McCraw


  1. Doris, I didn't know about the Reeds. Very interesting post! Isn't it amazing to go back and look at how a person's life impacted the future and so many others?

    1. It really is eye-opening. I've known Reed's name for sometime and his part in the Cripple Creek gold district, but once I started digging a whole amazing world of he and his wife showed up. I just had to share. There is so much more to the story, that I hope to tell at a later time. Doris

    2. Whatever you know, I would love to read. As far as I know, I am the only relative left here in Colorado. Mary was my grandfather's sister. She, along with here two younger sisters were much older than him. She was 18 when he was born. His mother died when he was only 10. His father then took him up to Cripple Creek where he grew up in a wild mining town. All of his sisters married quite well whereas he never lived anything like them. Mary was always taking him under her arm trying to guide him in the right direction. In fact my father was born in Sheridan, Wyoming while my grandfather worked on Vernor's ranch. That didn't last, nor did my grandparent's marriage. My dad never had much use for his dad and when he was near death from black lung disease from working in the mines I asked my dad to take me to Colorado Springs to meet him. I was 12 and that was the only time I ever saw him. I never knew Mary, she died the year I was born. I did meet her sister, Harriett, who was married to a factory owner in Rockford, Illinois. Florence was married to a stockbroker in Colorado. I may have met her when I was very young, I don't know. I know a few things about Mary, but I am always interested to hear more.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you do much. I love the history that has come from the Cripple Creek/Victor mining district. Doris

  3. Doris,

    The rags to riches to rags to riches - wash, rinse, repeat - stories that happened in the Colorado gold and silver mining years are fascinating. My grandpa liked Baby Doe Tabor's story and Molly Brown's story, so he read those stories to me, and I was an eager listener.

    What I particularly like about Mary Reed is she has a building named after her at the University of Denver, because she donated so much to the university, AND she is linked paranormally with that building.

    I didn't know about her possible hauntings when I attended classes in the Mary Reed Building. I learned about it later when I told my classmates of the encounter I had with an unseen 'something' during one of the evenings I was leaving that building.

    I like to think she was the 'bump in the night' that bumped into me.

    Love your articles. Keep 'em coming.

    1. That is Soooo Coool that you met 'Mary'. I also love that the children followed suit to a certain extent. Mining history and the people involved is so interesting.

      I'm glad you are enjoying my sharing the forays that I make into the history that fascinates me so much. LOL. Doris

    2. I've always wondered if I went there if maybe she would encounter me but I never had the courage to do so. Incidentally there was also a wing at the old University of Colorado medical school named after Verner which she paid for. It is gone now since the school moved out to east Colfax.

  4. How interesting. Thanks, Doris.

    1. You are welcome, Vicky. History offers the most intriguing stories. Doris