Downer moved to Colorado in 1868 and settled on a ranch that included the eastern portion of Saguache. He obtained a Cash Entry Patent for 160 acres on April 20, 1874 and a homestead Entry Patent for another 160 acres on March 15, 1882. During this time, Downer served as the mail carrier to and from the Los Pinos Indian Agency in 1873 and 1874, to which Saguache was the nearest town. With conditions unsettled as a result of the Meeker Massacre at the White River Agency in 1879, Downer established a local militia known as Downer’s Guard. Downer died in Saguache on November 5, 1893. Contrary to local belief, he is not buried in the Saguache cemetery where a marker has been erected in his honor. Rather, his body was transported to Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where he was interred.
The obituary below is from the local paper 1893:
Major James P. Downer.
An old, respected and long to be remembered friend, and, we might say, a landmark of the town and county, has departed this life and gone to his last resting place. An acquaintance of nearly a quarter of a century with him prompts me to say a few words concerning the life and character of the man during that time.
His disposition was honorable and noble. He would not, in the least, vary from the truth and from honorable dealings, even though he suffered greatly by so doing. He was genial in his actions and conversation with all mankind. He was gifted with more than an average amount of knowledge, mental ability and powers of memory; so much so, in fact, that wherever he might be the people would gather around him to listen to his conversation, well knowing, from long experience, that when they left him they would know more than when they approached him; and they always left the old gentleman with respect and good will, at least. He was in the county when nearly all of us, who knew him at his death, came here. We may truthfully say that he was a man who, if he did no good by living in the world, at least did no harm; and no one can point to him and say that he ever, intentionally, did him, or her, a wrong.
Major Downer was born in Uniontown, Fayette County, Penn., about 77 years ago and was, as I am informed, the oldest of nine children, seven boys and two girls, none of whom, it is claimed, were ever married. In his early life he received such an education as the common schools of the country afforded; but, judging from his extensive knowledge, he must have had the advantage of a college education. When the war broke out with Mexico he enlisted, and was at the storming of Chapultepec and the taking of the City of Mexico. After that war closed he returned to Pennsylvania, and was there elected once or twice to the house of representatives of that state. It was while serving in that capacity that he became acquainted with one of our great tragedians, Edwin Forest we believe it was, who, recognizing the Major’s great mental and declamatory powers, as well as his wonderful memory, insisted upon his studying and taking a place on the stage, but the Major, ignoring all influences and persuasions in this line, drifted away from his native state, finally coming to a stop in Kansas. Being in that state when the Civil War broke out he enlisted in one of the Kansas regiments and was at the battle of Wilson Creek, and near by when Gen. Lyons was killed. He got such treatment and fare as the frontier soldier usually gets, was honorably mustered out, and became one of the founders of, and settlers in, Junction City, Kansas, where he owned considerable property, the last of which he sold within the past year. About 1866 or 1867 he came to Denver, where he clerked for the Clayton Brothers, who were his countrymen, being Pennsylvanians, and lifelong friends. From Denver he came to this county and town in the winter of 1868-9. He passed a few years here in the occupation of a farmer, but when the Ute Indian agency was established on the Cochetopa he went there and was employed as general trusty man, mail carrier and justice of the peace. It was while engaged in the occupation of mail carrier that he was thrown from a horse and his left hand badly hurt, leaving him a cripple in that member for life.
The Major’s life has been a rather eventful one, being composed of ups and downs, sometimes being struck by poverty and at others in comfortable circumstances; but, during all his checkered career he has dealt fairly and honestly, and leaves none to grieve over financial loss entailed by his demise.
Good, honorable, noble-hearted Major Downer, we sorrowfully and lovingly say ‘requiescat in pace.’