McCracken, Prince Ernest
One of Evergreen’s early business owners on Main Street was Prince Ernest McCracken. Although he was raised in a farming community near Pomme de Terre Lake in southwest Missouri, by the early 1900s he’d set his sights on a life in Evergreen. He'd become enamored of Maude Hicks, who was part of a homesteading family on Upper Bear Creek near what later became Singing River Ranch. They married in 1911 but had no children.
By 1918, the world was infused with drama and potential peril: The influenza pandemic loomed and the U.S. Selective Service draft called on men McCracken’s age (he was 34) to register. By November, the armistice was enacted and Prince did not see military action. But earlier that year, he'd bought the drug store at Douglas Park Road and Colorado Highway 74, a downtown corner that has remained a vibrant spot ever since.
According to longtime Evergreen resident Gerry Olde, McCracken also purchased the parcel across the street and it became the Evergreen Filling Station, owned by Gerry’s father, Herman. The building that Prince acquired eventually became the Little Bear Saloon, world famous for its rock ‘n’ roll and bison burgers. However, when Prince was the proprietor, it’s likely the patrons ordered up cream sodas or bought medication for their ailments. The sign outside read: Sodas, drugs, ice cream, cigars and cigarettes. Though most places shut down during the winter, this store was open year round.
Olde said the McCrackens lived upstairs, but they turned the east side into a dance hall. Gerry Olde recalled that when his father Herman was a young man, he would occasionally show up at McCracken’s to play the violin with a band. After McCracken sold the business, the name changed several times, but its notoriety for entertainment did not. From bootlegging activities in the alley to suggestions that a brothel existed there at one time, persistent tales such as these have followed the site. But during McCracken’s time, notices and advertisements just mentioned the dances and Grange Hall meetings.
In 1926, McCracken decided to enter politics. Olde recalled jokingly, “Prince must have been one of two Democrats in the whole county.” He lost the first race for county commissioner seat, but undeterred, he ran again in 1930. Before the election, the Colorado Transcript noted: “The fight on McCracken is particularly bitter, because his election will give the Democrats control of the board of county commissioners and sound the death knell of bossism in Jefferson County.” Sadly for “Mac,” Republicans held on tight to county government.
He and Maude bought one of the first residential properties in the Douglas Park addition north of the drugstore, where they built their home in 1937 on Douglas Park Road. During retirement, they vacationed in Mexico and California with other families and neighbors, such as the Oldes and the Beth Kings.
McCracken joined other businessmen in 1948 to form the first board of directors for the Evergreen Sanitation District.
McCracken was a Mason, a member of the Kiwanis Club and the Shriners. Maude participated in the order of the Eastern Star.
In a page-one obituary in the Canyon Courier after his death in 1963, McCracken was hailed as “One of Evergreen’s pioneer businessmen.”
Remembering his own youth, Gerry said, “McCracken also had the only ice cream in town.”
Sources: Gerry Olde interview; Colorado Historic Newspapers online; Our Evergreen Community by Eugene and Barbara Sternberg, miscellaneous articles from the files of the Jefferson County Historical Society at Hiwan Homestead.