Doc Susie

Tales of Yesteryear

The stories, ledgends and tales that are told through the years weave into the rich culture that shapes our American West.

Tales of Yesteryear Articles

A Broadcast Pioneer of Colorado
A Broadcast Pioneer of Colorado

Article contributed by Jean Miller

 

How times have changed!  Today every TV station has a least two weathermen and every newscast has innumerable weather reports, usually given as fast as the tongues will move and repeating the same information ad infinitum.

 

There was a time when this wasn't so. Back in 1950, TV stations were still unknown in Denver.  KOA was probably the most influential of the radio stations.  (KLZ was established two and a half years before KOA in 1922.)  On New Year's Day, 1950, a slender young man arrived in town from Des Moines, Iowa: his name was Ed Bowman.

 

Ed was born and raised on a farm in Iowa City.  He loved weather and he loved to fly.  Ed was convinced that in order to talk about weather, one should understand the sky, and flying was the way to do this.  Ed had cut his broadcasting teeth with WHO in Des Moines (at the same time that Ronald Reagan was the station's sports announcer).  In December 1950, Bowman managed to secure a reporting job in the newsroom for KOA Radio.

 

On Columbus Day, 1952, KBTV (Channel 9) started to broadcast.  The following June, KOA Radio was sold by NBC to Metropolitan Television Company, one of the principal stockholders being Bob Hope.  That Christmas Eve, KOA radio became KOA-TV, or Channel 4, and for the next thirty years, those were the call letters of this station.

 

Ed Bowman was picked from the radio newsroom to be the weatherman, supposedly because his name rhymed with weatherman. (A bit of a stretch.) For the following twelve years, he was the only full time weatherman in the Rocky Mountain Region.  Ed quickly became "Weatherman Bowman" and his distinctive mid-western drawl was well-known to Denver listeners, who turned to his report every day at 5:05  p.m.  Ed was also heard in the mornings, flanked by ads for Cream of Wheat.  (It's Cream of Wheat weather: let me repeat.  Guard you family with hot Cream of Wheat.)

 

Weather reports had no quick-moving computer graphics in those days; no mountain-cams, Denver-cams, highway-cams, or ski-area-cams. Fortunately, Ed was a skilled artist, who, every night, created weather maps right in front of our very eyes.  His maps were filled with wonderful clouds and arrows showing wind directions; his "troughs-aloft" guided the listener

if figuring out the next day's activity.  This was the first time the term "trough aloft" was used to define weather.  These hand-drawn maps have become collectors' items.

 

Ed and his wife Madelyn lived with their family in Littleton.  He flew his Fairchild trainer airplane every chance he got.  One of his treasured possessions was a Norden bomb sight, a highly secret device used during the war, which he was able to purchase from the Air Force afterwards.

 

During this time, before the Air Force Academy was completed, cadets were housed and trained at Lowry Field in Denver. One day, Ed lent two of the cadets his plane, to take for a flight "around the patch" south of the city. Something went wrong during the flight; the Fairchild crashed, and both men were killed.  Ed never really got over the loss of these young men.

 

Ed was a congenial fellow, and his no-nonsense approach to weather reporting made him the person to whom everyone turned each day.  Emphasizing his background as a pilot and looking more dapper than ever, he sometimes donned goggles and a white scarf, as he gave his report.  Bowman occasionally broadcast from his home studio, particularly during severe

storms, when driving to the studio in downtown Denver was treacherous.  He related how once, when he overslept, there was no time to research the weather.  So he hurried to the door, looked outside and found it was raining.  He told his listeners that there was a 100% chance of rain ­ and he held his microphone to the door so that they could hear it pouring down! "Just listen to that!" he said.

 

We became acquainted with Weatherman Bowman in the late fifties, because he loved to come to the mountains to stay at Ski Idlewild.  Old Dick Mulligan was a colorful fixture at Winter Park Ski Area in the early days, and his wife was a Weatherman Bowman fan.  She wanted to meet him in the worst way; so once Dwight took Ed over to the Mulligan's house for a chat. This really made her day! Dwight also lunched wi h Ed frequently when he was

in Denver.  For six months or so, we sponsored the weather report, which, though expensive, was great fun.

 

Weatherman Bowman left Channel 4 TV in 1965, perhaps not entirely willingly.  His fans felt that nobody else ever matched his skill.  Ed continued reporting for some time, however, broadcasting for a Kansas radio network from his home studio.

 

Ed Bowman died on July 4, 1994, and he was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2001.  The Hall of Fame, established by the Broadcast Professionals of Colorado in 1997, is dedicated to preserving Colorado's rich broadcasting heritage, and honoring those who had made significant contributions to this field.

 

A Good Man
A Good Man

A  Good Man contributed by Richard Shipman

Third Place
Winner "One Grand Essay" Contest, 2005

 

All of us have those wonderful people in our lives who quietly go about their daily activities without complaint.  They don't stir up the wind or people's lives with grandiose actions.  And at the same time, many of them have a great impact on us.  Thankfully, I know one of those people.  He is a son of Grand County who, like many of us, has a career that has taken him away from the place he loves.  Luckily he has the opportunity to return many times a year to the family cabin.  I want to share some of the things that I have learned from this man and his family:  loyalty and dependability; love of family, county, country and the rural life; courage, humility and strength.  These things make him a good man to know.

 

I first met Fred Wood in 1967 when my brother married the eldest daughter of Fred and Mary Wood.  It has been fascinating and rewarding to get to know Fred, his immediate family and extended family.  The first thing I learned about Fred was his kindness and love of family.  Almost immediately I was included in all family activities:  the birthdays, anniversaries, and trips back to the family cabin near Williams Fork Reservoir.  I was about the same age as his oldest sons and I suppose it was just easy for him to look at me as one of his boys.  I was always extended a warm and sincere invitation to come to the annual summer and winter mountain events.  We all had great fun, all fifteen to thirty of us.  These events frequently pulled in the families of Fred's older brothers who worked the family ranches in the Williams Fork area.

 

Loyalty and dependability are important to Fred.  At the end of this year he will complete his 60th year working for the same employer.  That is quite an accomplishment these days.  He is always there training the new people and sharing his knowledge and work ethic.  It says a lot about one's character to stick with something for that many years.  Probably the most important accomplishments are the 59 years he has been married to his lovely wife, Mary, and raising their 10 children.

 

Fred works for a moving company.  This job requires a great deal of physical strength, much of which he gained working on the family ranch near Parshall, where he was born.  I've witnessed his ability to do hard work when we cut trees for firewood, added to the cabin, or dug out the basement.  Fred was born in 1924, the youngest of 13 children.  Growing up in the 30's gave him a good understanding of the value of hard work and the determination to find a job to support a family.

 

Like most of the people of his generation, the love of family and country put him on a path to service in World War II.  It's only been in the last few years that I have learned about Fred's service and how much our country asked of those young people.  Fred and his peers have shared some stories and now national authors have recognized the "greatest generation."  You see, most of these people are modest and humble folks who were just asked to do a job and they went out and did it with no expectation of special recognition.  Fred was a crewmember on a B-24 Liberator bomber flying out of England.  These people understood the big picture and were sensitive, as illustrated by this quote from one of Fred's letters home:  "I sure hope this thing comes to a close one of these days.  It's too bad people can't realize just how pleasant things could be.  Then maybe they could do a little more about it." 

 

I recently had the opportunity to fly in a renovated Liberator and I am amazed at what little the pilots had for protection.  And that they were asked to do so much with so little. 

 

Another thing that you learn from these people is humility.  The world that they saved us from was so brutal that they have kept it all to themselves for more than forty years.  Now as time draws to a close on their times, the remaining crewmembers relish their annual get-togethers.  They are always invited to share the cabin.

 

For most of Fred's adult years he worked in Denver, away from his favorite place.  But he shared his love of the rural life with his children, great-grandchildren and extended family.  We have all been exposed to the ultimate mountain rule:  there is always something to be done.  Wood needs to be harvested for cold morning fires, the house and decks need to be painted to protect them from the harsh mountain weather, rooms need to be added for growing family and new friends.

 

You can see where I am going.  Here is a man who lived and worked through the country's most trying and challenging times.  I can see his strength of character, dependability and devotion to family and friends.  Make no mistake; he did not make this journey alone.  Mary has been a partner from the first.  They have shared the triumphs and tragedies together.  And they continue to lead their family.

 

It has been an honor for me to be part of this remarkable family lead by an unassuming, gentle man.  I feel privileged to know this good man and to have him as a friend.

 

A Man Called Blue
A Man Called Blue

“Blue” should have been a grouch, with a name like that.  Nobody who knew him seems to know why he was called this; his real name was Rudolph O. Cogdell.  If one went into his little grocery store in Fraser, although his voice was gruff, he gave a peasant greeting.  He did possess a temper that could be ignited, and if his blood pressure rose, his face turned a brilliant red. 

However, he was kind to his wife, Gladys (Hunnicutt), a local girl, and loving to their daughter, Mary Ellen, who was a “late-comer” (Gladys was over 40 when the baby was born).   On the store front, the sign read Codgell’s Market, which was located facing the highway near what is now Doc Susie Avenue.  Before Blue bought the store in the mid-1940’s, he worked on the Fraser railroad section, and he also owned the Sinclair gas station at the corner of the highway and the main street, about 1940.  

Codgell’s Market was quite small, and the customer base was likewise, for there weren¹t many people in the valley in those days. Three grocery stores competed: R.L. Cogdell¹s Market, The Fraser Mercantile, owned by Frank Carlson, and the Red & White Store, run by Charles Bridge, Sr. There was also a tiny store by the sawmill near “Old Town” Winter Park; that one was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Green.  The economy struggled for many years after the war, and everyone lived on a shoestring.  Thus, prosperous times for any of the grocery stores had marginal potential.  That should have made Blue grumpy, one might think.   Blue, a short, rather stocky man with dark hair and brown eyes framed in glasses and habitually clad in his grocer’s apron, took care of everything in his mercantile except for the meat counter at the rear of the store.  He would be found arranging the goods on shelves, dry goods on one side, dried food on the other, and fresh food in between.  He stored some of the dried foods in barrels along the aisle. Fresh food was picked up once a week.  It was, of course, very seasonal, with only root vegetables, apples, oranges, and bananas being available year-round.

Granby Dairy delivered dairy products; Rube Strachman in Granby sold him meat.  Nobel Mercantile from Denver serviced the dried foods and produce.   Gladys, even shorter and stockier than Blue, had a fiery temper and she was known on occasion to retaliate if some customer gave her any lip.  She was an expert butcher, and if a person wanted some special roast or other cut of meat, he went to see Gladys.  She was good.  Mary Ellen helped when she could, as she grew older.   When the theater, located on the corner of Highway 40 and St. Louis Ave., or Main Street (now Eisenhower Drive) in Fraser closed its doors, Blue bought the building, doubling his available space.  The layout was the same and Gladys still manned the butcher department at the rear of the store. Walking into the long skinny building always brought to mind the movies of previous days. 

The economy improved as the ski area grew.   It was a fact that Blue, although a hard worker, also loved to gamble, and one report speaks of certain crap games.  It seems that there was a stretch of track inside one of the tunnels in the Fraser Canyon that would rise with the frost every winter.  When this happened, section hands from Fraser and Tabernash, including Blue in those days, had to go into the tunnel, removed the rails, dig out the hump, and replace the rails.  While the men were at it, they would take time for those crap games.  A good deal of gambling occurred at the Red & White Store too. Carlson, Cogdell, and Bridge often had poker games, where the losses were considerable on occasion.  If he lost, did that make Blue blue?  We don’t know.  

In any case, Blue and Gladys took separate vacations.  Perhaps he went to gambling towns like Las Vegas; on the other hand, perhaps one of them just had to stay home and mind the store.   Every Christmas season, Blue wandered over to the Fraser School to find out how many children were enrolled this year.  It was Blue who furnished al the fruits, nuts, and candies for paper sacks to be given out to each child by Santa Claus at the end of the Christmas program.  This was a town affair and nearly every person in town attended, sitting if there was room, standing against the walls of the gym if there wasn’t.  Nobody cared to miss the play and singing performed by every single child in the school.  PTA mothers filled the goody bags.  Few people were aware of Blue’s generosity.

Brrrr!
Brrrr!
Article contributed by Jean Miller   So many people ask if it is true that winters used to be much colder up here.  The answer is yes.  We could generally figure on one to two weeks of nights between minus 30 degrees to minus 50.  This usually occurred between the middle of November and the third week of January. (Please note that we also didn¹t have pine beetle infestations during those years.) We Fraser Valley folk depended on weather reports kept by Ronald and Edna Tucker, who for many years faithfully read thermometers day and night.  It was through their efforts that Fraser came to be known as the “Icebox of the Nation”.    These were the years when it was guaranteed that the power would go out, usually on the coldest nights when you had a crowd in the house, for the REA had not existed very long and they suffered from many glitches and equipment failures.  Occasionally somebody would set his house afire, trying to thaw pipes entering from the outside.   The incident I am going to relate was in mid-November 1951, and I had just delivered Dwight to the airport, to leave for his required two weeks Naval Reserve active duty in San Diego.  I took advantage of the break to stay with my family in Denver for the night.  I was an innocent city girl, and at that time I didn’t realize the connection between being overcast for a week (which we had been) and what happens when the sky clears (which it did).    I got home to Hideaway Park in the late afternoon, just after dark. It was so cold!  I checked the house and put more coal in the stoker.  All was in order.  Next I went over to the Inn (Millers Idlewild).  As I opened the front door, I heard water running, as in a waterfall.  The noise came from the kitchen.  When I went to check, I saw a spray of water shooting from the sink all the way across the room, drenching the stove.  The floor was an ice skating rink.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  As far as I could tell, it was as cold inside as out.   I tried to shut off the water at the sink, but the pipe was split. I ran to the laundry room and searched for valves, but everything I tried did nothing at all.  At last I drove back to the highway to Ray Hildebrand’s house.  He and his wife Mabel had a small grocery store and Hideaway Park’s first post office.  Ray, one of the few people I knew in town, kindly came to my rescue. He found the main valve hiding behind other pipes, and the geyser in the kitchen fell silent.   Then I built a fire in the furnace.  Now I was a poor ignorant city girl. For years my family had had natural gas; when it got cold, we turned up the thermostat. What did I know about stokers, sheared pins, and augers, tuyeres and clinkers?  A lot of nothing.  That was a rough two weeks.  The night temperature was never warmer than 35 below. I mopped up the mess in the kitchen, once the place warmed up a bit and the water thawed, but I just left the split pipe situation for Dwight to deal with.  I struggled the whole time to keep the Inn above freezing.  I was afraid that if I gave up, every pipe in the place would burst and I was embarrassed to call on Ray Hildebrand again.   Dwight’s weeks were finally over and I picked him up once more.  I was so glad to see him!  Indeed, I hoped he wouldn’t leave again for a very long time.  He was a dear boy and I did miss him.  Besides, he knew all about pipes and pumps and furnaces.    
Christmas at the Crawfords
Christmas at the Crawfords

Jimmy and Maggie Crawford settled in Hot Sulphur Springs in June of 1874.  They left their farm in Missouri with their three children, John not yet two, Logan 4 and Lulie 7 years old to begin a new life in Colorado. The one room cabin was built of round logs and had a sod roof.  In several places outside light could be seen between the logs. The floor was packed earth covered with elk skins which had a tendency to smell while drying out after a rain or melting snow.  The sod roof was far from water proof.  When the children came down with scarlet fever Jimmy promised to cover the roof with wood shingles and had gone to Billy Cozens' sawmill to make them.  Mr. Cozens was very helpful and even gave Jimmy a rusty iron stove to take back home.  Rusty or not, to Maggie it was like new.  She was most appreciative.  The shingles were carefully stacked by the cabin but never made it to the roof.

Jimmy carefully explored the area for suitable pasture land for his small cattle herd.  His explorations took him further and further to the west of Hot Sulphur Springs and as fall approached he became desperate to locate suitable grazing pasture before the snows.  Although Jimmy would return home every few weeks, the time in between his visits became longer and longer as he moved his cows to the west.  Maggie was faced with many hardships in his absence.  Ute Indians would quietly appear, seemingly from nowhere, and ask for food or as in one instance, ask to trade a pony for the little boy John which she of course adamantly refused.  Maggie was able to keep friendly relations with the Utes but never comfortable when they appeared.  The conversations were limited to jesters, hand language and a variety of facial expressions.

But this is a Christmas Story. To begin with, mountain men, prospectors and just plain loafers from Georgetown would stop by the Crawford's for a meal when they were in the area.  Maggie would never refuse them.  A few weeks before Christmas four prospectors enjoyed a well prepared venison stew with Maggie and the three children.  Lulie, the seven year old told the visitors how she was going to hang a stocking at the foot of the bed for Santa Claus to fill with toys and candy.  Her two brothers shook their heads in agreement.  Maggie said, "Lulie, I really don't think Santa Claus could find us way out here in Colorado!"  She knew there was nothing she had to fill the stockings except maybe some sugar candy which would likely be a disappointment for each of them.  Their Christmases in Missouri were memorable with presents, candies and fruit.   One of the four prospectors listened intently to Lulie as she described the Crawford's last Christmas in Missouri.  He had introduced himself as Charley Royer.  Charley was a 22 year old, recently from Kentucky now working in the silver mines near Georgetown. After a very satisfying lunch the men left and a heavy snow began to fall.

By Christmas Eve the snow was deep and drifts were high. The temperature dropped  below zero.  Although Jimmy had promised to be back for Christmas, Maggie thought the snow too deep for him to travel.  He had located what he called the perfect pasture far to the west and had made a land claim close to a bubbling sulphur spring.  He told Maggie it reminded him of the sounds steamboats made on the Missouri River and named his land claim, "Steamboat Springs."   Alone with the children, Maggie read the bible story of Christmas.  Before dropping off to sleep, Lulie said, "I know Santa Claus will find us, I just know he will!"  Maggie sadly shook her head.  Hours later, close to midnight, there was a gentle knock on the door.  Maggie cautiously opened the door hoping it would not invite trouble.  To her surprise it was the young Charley Royer.  He held out a gunny sack and said, "Mam, I've brought some oranges, hope they haven't froze, some candy and a few toys for the children.  Please tell them Santa Claus did know where they lived.  I remember how important Christmas was for me and I wish you and your family a Happy Christmas."  He turned and walked back into the darkness.  Charley Royer had come 60 miles from Georgetown in the bitter cold and heavy snow to make three little children happy on Christmas morning with oranges no less, in the middle of winter, toys and candy, a Christmas they would never forget. Jimmy made it home on Christmas day to add to the joy.  The following year and many years after the Crawfords had Christmas in a comfortable ranch house in a place called "Steamboat Springs."  As for what the future held for Charley Royer, well that's a story for another time.

Ed Vucich
Ed Vucich
 Article contributed by Jean Miller    Ed stood, ramrod straight, in front of his tiny green house, checking out the day: sky­ clear blue; clouds ­ soft and fluffy; wind ­just a light breeze that gently lifted his thin white hair; Brown’s cow feeding in Millers’ yard, as usual; Old Lady “Ada” (aka, Mrs. Zeida) getting ready to water her Oriental poppies.  The day was on its way.  “Ha! Here comes Dwight to chase off that darned cow.  He goes through this every day.  I bet one of these days he’ll have fresh cow meat for supper!”   Ed returned inside his cabin, to feed the stove and make coffee.  The fact was he didn’t need any more heat.  He kept the place about 85 degrees, summer and winter.  But Ed was so thin, cold went through his worn body easily.  Soon he poured himself some coffee and went out to talk to Mrs. “Ada”.  “Hello there, old woman.  Those poppies are the prettiest you you’ve had for years.  You should win a prize.”   “Thanks, Ed. I agree that they’re especially nice this summer.  Brown’s cow has left them alone for a change.”  With a laugh, she went back in her house.   Dwight Miller wandered over to chat.  “Mornin’, Ed.  How’re things?”   “Well, just fine, except you’ve got to tell your cabin guests to quite using my outhouse! I saw three of them coming out of there early this morning. Tell them to use their own!  I’m going to build me a fence.”   Dwight looked apologetic.  “Boy, Ed, I’m so sorry.  You know, sometimes they just can’t wait, so they invade ours.  But I tell you what, I’m going to put in a regular bathroom at the back of my garage, facing the cabins.  I hope, at least, that will take care of the problem.  In fact, if you want, I’ll give you a hand on your fence.  I don’t blame you for being irritated!”   Ed was mollified with this offer.  He had lived in his cabin for some years now, after finishing up his days as a tunnel worker in 1927.  He used to tell Dwight, “Back then, there were prostitutes behind every tree up near the tunnel, and if you paid them a quarter, they’d give you 15 cents change!”  He was Austrian and had served many years in the Austrian army, but he got fed up with all that and came to Colorado to live.  The mountains reminded him of his home country, and his life style remained just as spare and regimented as it had been in the army.  Everything was neat as a pin.   The old man kept track of his neighbors’ comings and goings, including Dwight’s wife, Jean, and their toddler, Martha.  He used to really fuss at Jean, because she insisted on whistling.  “Jean, ladies don’t whistle!”  But Jean liked to whistle, so she continued not being a lady.  The baby was another subject.  Dwight had built a ladder coming down from their apartment on the upper floor, as a second exit in case of fire.  Martha learned to climb down that ladder before she was three years old. “Dwight,” Ed would protest, “that baby is going to kill herself!  She¹s going to fall; then where will you be?”  But Martha seemed to do just fine with her climbing and she never did kill herself!   One day Dwight bought a small Army surplus life raft.  Opening it, he discovered some dye, to be dumped into the ocean so that planes could spot men in the water.  “Hm-m,” he thought, “I wonder if this dye really works?” So he went up to the bridge over Vasquez Creek and poured some dye into the water.  Yes, indeed, it worked.  The bright red color spread into a great circle in the creek and promptly flowed downstream.  Dwight hightailed it down to his house, to see if the color still held. Here it came, and here came Ed Vucich, madder than a hornet.  He had spotted the dye and was quite positive that Dwight was trying to poison him and all the others who used the creek water for drinking.   In spite for fretting and stewing over illegal outhouse use, “poisoned” water, babies on ladders, and unladylike whistling, Ed cared for the young couple.  On day as Dwight and Jean were about to head into Denver, he came rushing out and stopped them.  “Here, I have something for you!”  And he presented two beautifully baked potatoes, straight out of his oven.  They were perfectly lovely.   Ed swore up and down that he didn’t drink, but in fact, he was known to visit Wally’s Bar on the highway into town.  One bitterly cold night, Dwight and Jean heard a rumpus going on outside. In those days, winter temperatures dropped regularly to minus 40 to minus 50 degrees.  Getting out of bed, the pair went to look out their front window.  Ed was attempting to get into his house, which he kept locked with three different padlocks (why was a mystery; he had very few belongings).  Perhaps he wasn’t drinking, but he certainly wasn’t sober.  He tried to open a lock; his feet slid out from under him and he swore, “Damn!”  He struggled back onto his feet again. Same result.  The young people didn’t dare just leave him, hoping he would finally get into his house he’d have frozen to death.  But if they had interfered, oh, he would have been furious.  So they watched until at last all three padlocks were open and the old man staggered inside. They never told him about the show he put on!   Ed lived in Hideaway Park for a number of years longer, but it’s uncertain as to where he is buried.  Dwight is convinced there probably aren’t as many characters in the valley as there were fifty some years ago.  
Ninety Four Winters So Far
Ninety Four Winters So Far

January, 1911.  Five years ago they were teenagers in Torsby, Sweden, oblivious to the sweeping changes that history and hope would bring to their lives.   Now they’re in a mountain valley halfway around the world from their Scandinavian homeland, marveling at the tiny bundle of flesh and spirit who has just joined their family. It’s the coldest week of the year in one of the coldest spots in America, but there’s a fire crackling in the woodstove, and their hearts are warm with love for each other and their firstborn child.   For the next few days, a parade of fellow Swedes stop by to pay their respects to the newest resident of the town of Fraser: Elsie Josephine Goranson.  

February, 1918.  It’s barely dawn, and a blizzard is howling across the valley, piling snow against the sturdy wooden house.  George Goranson puts on his boots and woolen overcoat and trudges towards the barn.  There are cows to milk and horses to feed.  There are no days off.  Meanwhile, in the house, 7-year old Elsie stokes the perpetual fire in the cook stove, while her mother grinds the beans for a second pot of strong coffee.  Later they will make sour cream cookies.   Her younger brother Hill is sick in bed with influenza.  He will survive.  Many others will not.   

March, 1925.  The logging camps are humming, the Moffat Tunnel is under construction, and the valley is brimming with workers and their hard earned pay.  Fraser merchants and boarding houses are doing a brisk business, as are the local bootleggers.  Elsie is waiting tables at the “Victory Café”, named for its proximity to the new coast-to-coast “Victory Highway” that passes through town, and each morning she serves breakfast to the nice looking (if scantily clad) girls from the corner house of ill repute.  Soon the local vigilante committee will force these ladies of the night to leave town, but for now it’s business as usual, and Fraser is hopping.   In fact, “Russell’s Riot Squad” is playing at a dance tonight at the Thomas Hotel.  

April, 1927.  Sleigh bells jangle as a team of horses pulls four young couples down valley to a dance in Tabernash, the most happening town in the county.  The roundhouse is there, as are the wages of engineers and brakemen who guide the trains over Rollins Pass.  There is even a movie house, where Elsie saw her first moving picture, “Jackie Coogan”. As the sleigh glides across the moonlit snow, Elsie feels a mix of excitement and nervousness.  This is her first date with Chuck Clayton, a hardworking man from Oklahoma. Chuck is handsome as he steals glances through the cold night air, but her Dad doesn’t approve of his drinking and gambling.  Other dates will follow: motor trips in a Model A Roadster to Garden of the Gods, picnics in Rocky Mountain National Park, and plenty of dancing.  “I’ll never marry you,” she tells him everyday.  “Yes you will,” he insists.  

May, 1933.  One child underfoot and another in the belly, and Elsie Clayton is tired.  Chuck bought a house for 20 dollars and used the lumber to build a hamburger stand (soon café and bar) right along the newly paved Highway 40, the main route from Denver to San Francisco.  For the next 38 years, their lives will be a blur of ham and eggs, New Year’s Eve parties, and a long medley of songs on the jukebox.  The school bus will stop there, as will the “Steamboat Stagecoach” bus line, and three generations of folks looking for a home cooked meal or glass of beer.  There will be marathon cribbage games, war stories, and “Friday Night Fights” watched live on the first television in town.  Despite the booze and boxing, Clayton’s Café and Bar will be known as a family establishment, especially compared to the “Fraser Bar”, a.k.a. the “Bloody Bucket”, where a love triangle will one day lead to murder.  

June, 1945.  It’s 4:30 a.m.  Elsie tiptoes downstairs and into the café.  She brews coffee, warms up the grill, then sits and enjoys a rare moment of relaxation before her workday begins.  In the distance, a steam locomotive blows its whistle as it chugs towards town.  Before her life is over, nearly a half million trains will pass through Fraser, an endless stream of rumbling horsepower that conjures up different images as the years pass by: trains bringing home soldiers from the Great War; trains loading up ranchers’ fattened cattle in the fall; trains delivering newspapers and mail; trains colliding head on in the Fraser flats; a train’s whistle frantically blowing to alert sleeping townspeople to a midnight fire; streamlined diesel trains ushering in a new era, and countless coal trains, hauling the carbon wealth of Western Colorado to the factories and power plants of far off cities.  

July, 1950.  Summer’s here, and all are invited to the town picnic down by the Fraser River.  Aging Swedish bachelors will be there, sipping steel cans of Coors and swapping stories of crosscut saws and the rowdy “Lapland” logging camps up St. Louis Creek.  Young men will dance with young women.  Young men will start fistfights with other young men.  Navajo railroad workers will perform a rain dance. Children will play Audie Murphy in the riverside willows and drink Coca Cola from thick glass bottles.  Meanwhile, the deluxe brick barbecue will sizzle as Elsie spreads mayonnaise on buns and Chuck flips burgers and jokes with friends.      

August, 1953.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower is coming to town to fish and relax.  “We come Ike” banners wave in the breeze as the motorcade turns off Highway 40 and onto the dusty gravel of Main Street.  Cheers erupt and flashbulbs pop as a smiling Ike emerges from his limo and waves to the crowd of 300.  It is the biggest day in Fraser history, but Elsie sees none of it, for even as her husband, the Mayor of Fraser, is welcoming the leader of the free world to town, she’s in the cafe tending to the crush of reporters and tourists who’ve come to see an American hero.   Tomorrow, after the excitement dies down, she’ll personally deliver two of her homemade pies to the President, who will rave about the perfect crust.   

September, 1971.  Retired.  Chuck and Elsie sit on the porch of their new home on the edge of town, watching cows graze just beyond the fence, and taking in the unobstructed view of Byers Peak.  Labor Day has come and gone, and now town is peaceful, the highway quiet.  Freed from the busy schedule she’s kept for decades, Elsie will soon embark on a reading frenzy and will begin to keep a modest journal of the days’ events:  A Grandchild born, an illness in the family, an exceptionally cold morning.  Chuck busies himself planting trees, tending a garden, and mowing his spacious lawn.  Tomorrow they will pack a picnic lunch and drive the Denver Water Board roads in search of raspberry bushes.   

October, 1978.  Today is Chuck and Elsie’s 50th wedding anniversary.  It’s a perfect day, sunny and warm, Indian summer if there ever was such a thing.  The mountains shimmer beneath a blanket of fresh snow.  Hay meadows glow golden beneath the cloudless sky.  Family and friends gather in the yard for photos before heading to the Crooked Creek Saloon, formerly Clayton’s Cafe and Bar, for a long afternoon of celebration and reminiscing.   

November, 1999.  After 71 years of marriage, Chuck has passed on, and Elsie is suddenly alone.  She sits at her dining room table, peering out the frost fringed window at the town she was born in, the town she has lived in her whole life.  The ridge she once sledded down is covered with condominiums.  The willowed wetland where her brother trapped muskrats has become a large parking lot.  Her father’s horse pasture is now a shopping center.  Everything has changed, yet memories remain, taking on a life of their own.  Horses still pull wagonloads of hay up the highway.  Loggers come in from the woods every Saturday night for revelry and roulette.  A young couple poses for a photo in front of their new cafe.  A sharp axe splits a chunk of pine.  Life goes on.   

December, 2004.  Christmas Eve.  There is plenty of food, including the homemade potato sausage that’s been served at every family Christmas for centuries, and plenty of gifts stacked beneath the brightly lit tree.  Elsie sits at the head of the table, quietly marveling at this clan she has wrought.  Her surviving children are here, as are her grandchildren, some of who have grandchildren of their own.  Five generations of family pour gravy on potatoes and crack jokes.  As she looks at their faces, she remembers her own parents, her grandparents, and her husband.  Everyone is here.   In a few minutes, in a ritual as old as Elsie can remember, her great-great grandkids will hand out presents, and the house will resound with laughter.  

Winner of  the “One Grand Essay” contest 2005

The Great Kaboom
The Great Kaboom
Article contributed by Jean Miller   Bill Cullen moved to Hideaway Park from Berthoud Falls in 1961, at which time he bought several pieces of property.  One was the filling station and the Village Inn, priced at $25,500, belonging to Wally and Dottie Tunstead, who had come to town right after the war. The Tunsteads moved back to Oklahoma, their former home.  Behind Tunsteads’ stood a very small, old house, on land possessed by Easy Butler; Bill bought this too, in 1963, as well as a house near Vasquez Creek, owned by an old-timer, Charlie Tigges.    Next he bought old Mrs. Zeida’s house; she had died in 1964, and when her son Joe came to clear it out, Bill hightailed it over to see him.  “I’d like to buy your place. Would you be interested?”  Joe was definitely interested, so the two came to an agreement on the price: $100 down and $50/month. Adjacent to this was land belonging to Marie Roth, which Bill had already bought, and the Roth/Zeida properties formed the nucleus of Bill’s “homestead.”    One of his first projects was to put in an access drive to the house, for there was none. Few of these people drove, you see.  Almost immediately Bill discovered that there was a huge rock in the way, one which wasn’t going to be moved with just a pick and shovel.  Wandering over to see his friend, Dwight Miller, he inquired, “Did you by chance have any dynamite left over after blasting those beaver dams the other day?”  “Why, as a matter of fact, I did,” answered Dwight.  “What do you need?”  Thus it was arranged for Dwight to come blast that rock out of there.   Now Bill’s driveway was to be built along the very edge of his property, which also happened to be very close to the home of Mrs. Hart, who lived with her son, Ken, and his children, Beverly and Danny. Bill and the Harts always had a running battle going.  He had gotten cross-wise with Ken, when he blacktopped the road in front of the Village Inn filling station, thinking to make it easier for customers. Because Bill and Dwight were friends, by extension, Dwight was also Mrs. Hart’s enemy.   Mrs. Hart was a crusty old gal and when she saw that something was a-foot, she hustled out to protest.  “You two’ll have holes knocked in the roof of my house with all that blasting! You can’t do it.”   Bill thought a moment.  “I see your point, Mrs. Hart.  I tell you what.  I know where there’s an old mattress.  We can put that over the rock and it will contain the sound as well as odd rocks that might go flying.”   So Bill and Dwight headed down to the little house behind the Village Inn. It seemed that some fellow was renting it from Bill and he hadn’t bothered to pay his rent, minimal as it was, for at least four months!  Without a qualm, the friends brought back a rather ratty mattress that would do the trick perfectly.   Dwight dug down next to the rock and carefully stuck his sticks of dynamite around it.  They laid the mattress over the top and placed the fuse leading away from the rock.  Mrs. Hart stood, glaring at them from inside her house.  The moment had come.  Dwight lit the fuse and the two men ran off to a safe distance. A few moments later --- KABOOM!   Dwight and Bill saw the mattress rise and rise, higher and higher, up to the very tops of the nearby pines.  They heard the rattle and clatter of small rocks tumbling and skittering off Mrs. Hart’s roof.  They watched that furious old woman rush from her house with fire in her eyes, almost before the mattress had a chance to make a safe landing.  She was ready to tear them limb from limb!   But they checked her roof, and amazingly there was no damage at all.  What a bit of good fortune.   They inspected the rock and found that it had shattered beautifully!  Bill would have no problem at all in building his road now.  Dwight did earn from this project, however, that there were some things he didn¹t know about blasting rocks!   As for the mattress, they searched for it. I can assure you that that mattress was never going to look the same again.  Off to the dump it went, at least those parts of it that could be found!  
The Mighty Forty
The Mighty Forty
Article contributed by Jean Miller The Middle Park High School band wasn’t much to brag about, and that’s a fact.  Several members were very capable young musicians, however. For instance, Stuart played a hot set of drums that set people’s feet to tapping and hands to clapping.  Debbie was an excellent trombonist, good enough so that one year, she was invited to march with Pierre Laval’s All American High School Band in the Rose Parade!  And Jack was right behind her in skill.  Martha led the flutes beautifully, and there were Alan, Bert, Roxanne, Carolyn, and others.  But the group never seemed to coalesce into a single playing unit.
 
Then a Music Man came to the school. Wes Robbins was a showman; he was enthusiastic; he had flare; he had color.  He took those young people in hand and soon had them marching in time down the same street.  People flocked to hear the music, whereas before, they just groaned.

By the end of the school year, Mr. Robbins decided that the band needed uniforms, sharp uniforms to match the cool music.  Now most of the extra-curricular funds went into sports, particularly football. But the band leader convinced the administration that with uniforms, the band would rouse the fans to a high pitch, encourage parents and family to attend games, incite the teams to greater, and winning, efforts.  So he got the uniforms. That fall the band players tingled with excitement as they waited to try on their new duds.  They looked wonderful.  All the effort was worthwhile. But Mr. Robbins didn¹t stop there.
 
Every spring, on the first weekend of May, Canon City held a Blossom Festival.  Bands from all over the region came to march and compete.  The Middle Park Band proposed to join this event! You must understand, there were only forty students in the band, for this was a small district still.
 
When the youngsters arrived in Canon City, they met bands from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, as well as from New Mexico and numerous Colorado schools.  Many of these bands had 100 to 120 or so members!  All were much larger than our little group.  The Middle Park students felt rather overwhelmed.  But it wasn’t long before the big bands had adopted this nifty minuscule band as a mascot.
 
Saturday came and the bands lined up at the foot of the Canon City prison wall.  Just then, two inmates jumped from the top of the wall, presumably planning to escape into the mob of students and onlookers. Prison guards shot the men dead in the air.  This rather rocky start for the event didn’t phase the boys and girls; the parade commenced.
 
Grand County enthusiasts lined the edge of the avenue as the bands marched down, drums beating, horns tooting, and music filling the air.  “But where is our own band?” they wondered.  Suddenly, applause erupted and you could see why.  A Nebraska band of some 120 members filled the street.  Shortly after, striding bravely along, a compact band of forty students in spiffy navy blue uniforms, played beautifully and vigorously.  Following behind them was another band of over 100 members.  The contrast was astounding and people loved it! Clapping onlookers whistled and shouted.
 
That afternoon the many groups competed on the football field, doing intricate formations as they played their music. Middle Park picked up two first place ratings for their performance that day.  That was truly a triumph for our musicians, as they realized that even though they were small, they were mighty.
 
This must have been about 1971.

 
Welcome to Middle Park and Grand County!
Welcome to Middle Park and Grand County!
Story Contributed by Jean Miller   Sam Conger worked long and hard in 1861, panning for gold along Coon Track Creek east of Colorado¹s Continental Divide; his findings encouraged him to follow the creek on up to 9800’.  Arapahoe Indians of that area told him about their “Treasure Mountain” and when the government moved the Indians out, Sam resolved to explore.  By the summer of 1869, he and five partners had found silver, enough to stake out the Caribou and Conger mines.   A year later, the little town of Caribou was established to house miners that flocked in.  Hopes were high and Caribou City soon had a church, three saloons, a brewery, and a newspaper to provide for the 400 people who lived there.  Eventually, this district produced an estimated $8 million before closing in 1884, enough to give rise to Colorado’s being dubbed the “Silver State.”    The area also became known as “The Place where Winds were Born,” for it was always windy, with plenty of snow to go with it.   In September 1879, nearly the entire town went up in flames.  Among those who lost their homes and belongings were Ben and Laura Simpson. The couple and their children found a place in the budding town of Nederland, where they stayed for six months while they decided what to do.  Although the town was soon rebuilt for a population of 549, the Simpsons weren’t sure they even wanted to remain.  Ben told his wife, “I’m thinking I’m not really cut out to be a miner. I reckon I’d like farming or ranching better.”   Word was that Middle Park, west of the Divide, had fine open meadows, ranch land, and plenty of water.  “That sounds hopeful,” commented Laura.  But how to get there was another question.   To the north no roads existed, all the way to Wyoming.  Indians sometimes entered the Park by way of the Milner Pass area or over Flattop Mountain, but that was a long way from Caribou.  To the south, the Crawford family, in 1874, had used a road of sorts, built by J.Q.A. Rollins; but that too was a long way from Caribou.  Berthoud Pass also had been opened in 1874, but that was even farther to travel, and walking was the only choice the Simpsons had.  As it was, several trips would be necessary to get their meager possessions all moved.   However, Ben had heard of a closer Indian trail that led over Buckhannon Pass (sic).  Simpson knew that there was fairly flat country between Caribou and a branch of St. Vrain Creek, which drained from Buchanan Pass and was closer at hand.  “We’ll go that way,” said Ben. “I figure we can make it one way in a week or so, at least, if we don’t get lost.”   Now, what we call “Buchanan” Pass and Creek today is supposedly named for James Buchanan, the pre-Civil War president, who was also president when Colorado Territory was created.  Be that as it may, early maps of Colorado, including Hayden’s 1877 Atlas, don’t name the pass at all and it’s uncertain if, in fact, this is so.   July was well along when the family packed the first load of their belongings, along with food that wouldn’t spoil. They headed out, the children driving or leading their stock.  Chickens were confined in coops, lashed to horses’ backs and the pigs in crates, to mules.  Progress was not difficult to start with, though it was slow, for Ben often had to scout on ahead.  He had only a very sketchy map and there were no roads to follow. Still, the family was glad to stop a bit and rest and to let the animals graze.  It took most of three days to reach the St. Vrain and locate the rumored Indian trail.   Tall aspens and pines crowded the forest here and the ground vegetation was thick, with large boulders scattered everywhere. “Keep those critters moving,” Simpson told the children.  “Don’t let them wander.  I want to get to the top of the pass today, if we can.”   Pines gradually gave way to moss-festooned spruce, but finally, the faint trail left the forest and opened onto bare, glacially-carved terrain with spectacular views of what today we call Indian Peaks, rugged, with sheer cliffs, surrounded by huge boulders.  Even though t was mid-summer, they met drifts of deep snow as they climbed higher and they had to pick their path through the wet and slop.  The horses and mules plunged and pawed their way through, chickens squawking frantically and pigs grunting uneasily.   The final stretch of the narrow path was steep enough that they had to make several switchbacks up the rock face to the tundra on top, almost 12,000’ high.  A chill wind quickly dried their sweaty faces, and everyone was happy to stop for a breather.    The view was stunning; Sawtooth Mountain towered to the southeast, with its flat summit and sharp drop-offs on three sides.  Alpine grasses and flowers of the most brilliant colors grew between flat lichen-covered boulders atop the crest.  The animals fell to grazing eagerly while the Simpsons looked west towards what would be their new home.  Soon, though, Laura said, “Let’s move on down, Ben.  I¹m getting chilled, and I see a thunderstorm building over that way. I don’t want that to catch us on top here.  They scare me.”   So the little group moved down the easy tundra slope leading northwest, until they spotted the descending trail.  This soon dropped steeply to a bench.  Here and there the spruce forest opened to meadows, soggy with melting snow and filled with little creeks, tarns, and abundant flowers.   Parallel to their route, Buchanan Creek gained momentum as it plunged downward, and whenever the canyon narrowed, the immense amount of water crashed and tumbled over the large boulders, creating a tremendous and frightening roar. “Don’t anybody get near that creek,” cried Ben.  “If you fall in, we’d never get you out!”   When the Simpsons saw that the trail, such as it was, seemed to split, they chose to go right, which seemed more moderate.  “That creek spooks me, with all its noise,” said Laura.   The forest was lodgepoles and aspens now and everyone was pleased when they came to a large, deep lake with boulders surrounding the water’s edge; they heard later this was Gourd Lake.  “Shall we camp here,” suggested Ben? “No,” said the children.  “It’s too wet!”   On they trudged then, down another very steep drop, switchbacking through the trees as well as they were able.  At last, scrambling over unstable, loose rock, they reached the valley where another large stream cascaded down on the left, to join Buchanan Creek. The way eased and the valley gradually opened until finally, to everyone¹s delight, a huge park appeared, with meadows filled with grass turning golden in the summer sun, sparkling streams, and kindly hills surrounding all.  The end of their trek was at hand.   Just then Laura spotted a rider on the far side of the meadow.  The man turned out to be Henry Lehman, a recent homesteader and rancher, one of only three in the area.  “Welcome to Middle Park and to Grand County,” he cried. When he heard who they were and where they had come from, he said, “Stay the night with us.  My wife will be delighted to have company; she sees so few people.”  The Simpsons were overjoyed at such a welcome.   Then Henry added, “You can rest with us a few days and leave your things here until you have fetched your other belongings. We can talk about where you might settle and even help you build a cabin before winter.”  Thus it was that Ben and Laura Simpson found a new home in this green oasis of Middle Park.   Sources: Louisa Ward Arps: High Country Names,GCHA Journals:1982 The Journey 1987 Indians of Middle Park, 1985 Ranching and Ranchers Henry Lehman, Deborah Carr, Hiking Grand CountyTrails and other hiking experts, Robert C. Black III,  Island in the Rockies  &l ;/P>  <

Articles to Browse

Topic: Railroads

Railroads

Construction on the railroad line from Denver to Grand County began in July 1902.

The project, called the Moffat road (officially the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific), was the seemingly impossible dream of David H. Moffat, who spent much of his personal fortune building the tracks over the Continental Divide.

The rails pushed higher and higher up the mountains until they reached a station named Corona, meaning the crown of the continent.

Corona was the highest point in the world with a standard gauge railroad and the journey from Denver in the winter was perilous at best.

Huge snowplows were required on either side of the Divide to keep the tracks clear.

Eventually, in the late 1920s, a tunnel was dug through the range, eliminating 22.84 miles of track and the breathtaking journey over Rollins Pass.

The railroad reached Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs in 1905 and Kremmling in 1906, and played a significant role in building the population of Grand County.

In 1900 the total resident population of Grand County was only 741, but grew to 1,862 in 1910.

Topic: Biographies

Ute Bill Thompson

William Jefferson (Wm./W.J./Bill) Thompson was born on March 26, 1849 in Aurora Township, Preston County, Virginia (1863-West Virginia). The 8th child of 9 children of Wm. & Mary Anne (Wotring) Thompson. His father was a shoemaker at the Wotring Tannery and died in 1853. Mrs. Thompson left Preston County in September 1859 with her children on a covered wagon for Oregon. They arrived at St. Charles, Iowa around Christmas, settling at New Virginia, joining other relatives.

Wm. may have been taken captive by Native Americans prior to entering Colorado Territory. Via ox cart he came to Central City to start mining in 1865. He ventured into adjacent Middle Park, seeking gold in the Troublesome Valley, supplied with 1 ton of flour. He spent four years as a postal carrier from Hot Sulphur Springs to Steamboat Springs, using the Gore Pass route.

Once, the Ute Indians saw him baking biscuits and they enjoyed the “beescuts” until the flour ran out. An altercation left Wm. severely beaten. He made his way to Georgetown and the miners denied him entry, thinking he was a crazy man. One kind miner gave Wm. canvas for clothing, and took him to Idaho Springs. He recovered and was employed as a shoemaker.

Wm. re-entered Middle Park, built a hunting cabin on Muddy Creek ready for the 1867 winter. Chief Yarmonite led 40 Ute men, women and children to Wm’s cabin explaining to him that the Gore Range was covered with snow, and they were in need of food. This time Wm. refused. A rifle match was agreed upon with the loser put to death. Wm. threw his sombrero to the ground as his hair fell to his shoulders. A cry of the Ute went up as they recognized Wm. from the Troublesome. Sub-chief Piah told Wm. they could not fight a Ute brother, and braided Wm’s hair and applied face paint as they were at war with the Arapahoes. A hunt for bison began. Shooting was heard with the thought the Arapahoes arrived. Len Pollard & Sandy Mellon were chasing buffalo, which Wm. shot and killed. Len & Sandy confronted the supposed Ute with Len asking, “Where did you get Bill Thompson’s Winchester rifle?” Wm. played along until Sandy aimed his rifle on Wm. who wisely said, “Don’t over reach yourself, Sandy.” Sandy demanded, “Who in the hell are you!” Bill laughed and told them he was Bill Thompson. The sobriquet of “Ute Bill” was given. Wm. preferred his nick name over his legal name.

Ute Bill carried on as a mountaineer. Hunting and trapping, taking wild game to the Georgetown & Denver markets selling the meat, until laws prohibited the practice. A new career began of driving stagecoaches and freight wagons for the Colorado Stage Company on the Georgetown, Empire & Middle Park Wagon Road, over Berthoud Pass to Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs, Gore Pass, and occasionally Steamboat Springs. One day on Cottonwood Pass, Ute Bill stopped and hiked over a ridge to find 400 Ute tipis on a meadow, imaging this could be a ranch. He homesteaded acreage, bought the home ranch from Al Honscome, and through marriage owned 4000 acres.

The T Lazy S brand was patented. The Thompson Ranch was the 1st in Middle Park allowed to receive water from the Grand (Colorado) River for irrigation. Ute Bill Creek and Ute Bill Ditch 1 & 2 were also patented. Middle Park became Grand County of February 2, 1874. Ute Bill was on the first jury, appointed Road Supervisor, and a delegate to the state Democrat Party Convention. In 1879 he owned Thompson’s Billiard Hall, bought a store from John Kinsey and expanded it into Ute Bill’s Saloon in Hot Sulphur Springs. He also had a game park of tame antelope, deer, and elk.

The “Texas Charley” incident of December 5, 1884 began at the saloon when Texas Charley forced Ute Bill to hand over his prized Winchester rifle. His future father in law played a role in the coroner’s inquest. January 30, 1889 The Middle Park Times listed the sale of the saloon to Billy Pharo with the quote of, “We don’t reach Denver yet but were getting there you see.” An ad in Hot Sulphur Springs complemented the sale.

On December 25, 1893 Ute Bill Tompson was united in marriage to Mabel Smith. The first recorded marriage in the Hot Sulphur Springs Congregational Community Church. Mabel was the eldest daughter of Preston Henry & the late Mary Smith. Ute Bill & Mabel had 6 children Fred Charles, William Preston, John Henry, Otto Woodring, Marion Loman, and Mary Ellen. W.J. Thompson advertised in the Grand County News, January 8, 1904 Sulphur Springs and Kremmling Stage Carries Mail & Express Stage Fare, One Way $1.50 Round Trip, $2.75 In 1903-1904 The Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railroad (D.N.P.R.R.) was buying ranchers land. Ute Bill refused to sell his for $500 and lost on appeal in District Court receiving $300. However, it was “matter of principal” that he won on, as E.A. Meredith the railroad surveyor diverted the rail bed to be placed on the other side of the Colorado River below the cliffs.

As the excursion trains were passing by the Thompson Ranch on their way to the Railroad Days celebration in Hot Sulphur Springs on September 15, 1905 Ute Bill danced with joy knowing that the “Iron Horse” was NOT allowed to disturb the sacred tipi grounds of the Utes! Ute Bill forgot his grievances and presided over a vast fish fry and barbeque of elk on July 4, 1906. The last cattle trail drive out of Grand County was conducted by 2 aged pioneers, Sam Martin of Muddy Creek, and Ute Bill in 1923. Another matter of principal to avoid paying railroad costs, but of great sentimental value of all the past cattle trail drives. Ute Bill & Mabel both entered St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver for surgery in late February 1926. Ute Bill’s first surgery went well, the second did not. Mabel was not able to be with him as she was recovering from her own.

Many Middle Park pioneers visited them to wish them well. Old friend Charles Nines Sr. who retired in Denver from Pine Ridge Agency, South Dakota a Sioux language interpreter and Trading Post owner was with Ute Bill when he passed away on March 19, 1926, one week shy of his 77th birthday. William Jefferson “Ute Bill” Thompson is buried in the Hot Sulphur Springs Cemetery off of Cottonwood Pass, Looking at Elk Mountain and the original homestead.

This article is dedicated to Lorna Marie Gowen; September 6, 1954-April 14, 2006

The Daily Life of Mountain Men

Washington Irving wrote "There is, perhaps, no class of men on the face of the Earth who lead a life of more continued exertion, peril and excitement, and who are more enamored of their occupations, than the free trappers of the West".

The diet of the mountain men at times consisted of nothing more than meat. When possible. wild plants and berries supplemented needed vitamins.  Pemmican, a meat pounded with fruits and dried in flakes, was convenient to carry and lasted a long time. Mountain men made boudins, sausage made from the intestines of newly killed animals.  These sausages were packed full of undigested grasses which probably protected the mountain men from the illness of scurvy.  The mountain men also chewed on leaves and wild grasses to supplement their vitamin needs.  Potatoes soaked in vinegar supplied further balance to the diet.  Jams and orange marmalade were highly valued whenever they could be obtained. Bread consisted almost entirely of hardtack, a touch cracker usually unsalted, which would not spoil and sturdy enough not to crumble.

Beaver tail soup was considered a delicacy by most mountain men.  Another treat was called "French dumplings", made by mincing buffalo hump with marrow, rolling it into balls, and covering with flour dough and boiled.  Coffee was popular, but limited for transport.  Tea from China came in solid blocks which could be shaved off as needed. 

Normally, mountain men could not carry whiskey on the move but at rendezvous or during visits to forts, they were known as fabulous drinkers.  The most common intoxicant in those days was "Taos Lightening", a strong whiskey manufactured by Simeon Truly of Taos New Mexico.  Various writers have portrayed these men as brutes who lived from one drunken episode to the next, but the facts, and common sense contradict that image.  They could not achieve much in either trapping or trading if they did not stay focused on their outdoor skills and survival. 

Smoking pipes was a luxury, mostly at nights as only a limited amount of tobacco could be obtained.  The mountain men would stretch their tobacco supplies by mixing it with kinnick-kinnick and other plants.

While many traders and trappers dressed in buckskin shirts and trousers, wool garments were even more common and needed to be shrunk to fit.  Probably every mountain man carried what was called a "possibilities bag" that contained personal items such as a pipe, tobacco, soap, needles, and small keepsakes such as mouth-harps.

Before the Sharps "Big 50" rifle was invented, it was necessary to carry a waterproof powder horn and a bag of rifle balls weighing fifty to a pound.  A good knife was essential.  The most sought after of these was the Bowie Knife, invented by Rezin Bowie, but made famous by his brother Jim, who was adept at its use.  Jim was one of the heros killed at the Battle of the Alamo in Texas.

Some mountain men simply loved the lifestyle and had no reason to return to their original homes.  Some had wives back in St. Louis and made an annual trek there every year.  Others had Indian wives or female companions.  Some men claimed to have a wife in every tribe they visited.  Divorce within many tribes was often simple, a matter of putting one's belongings outside the lodge.

As journeys by foot or horse were lonely, mountain men were known to play their mouth harps or sing songs along the trail.  The use of profanity was common, except in the presence of white ladies.  One writer claimed the Indians called white men "Godams" because that swear word was used so frequently by the mountain men, ranch hands and mule skinners.     

Topic: Indians

Colorow - Ute Chieftain

Colorow was a Ute Chieftain who was known for profound stubbornness and bitter resentment of the white man's intrusion into the Ute hunting grounds.  

Indian Agent Meeker had ruled that that the Utes must depend on the United States government for food supplies, rather than their traditional hunting. These supplies were sometimes held up for delivery and upon their eventual arrival,contaminated. Colorow thought the white settlers of Middle Park (near Granby) were killing too many of the game animals that had been critical in feeding the Ute people.  

So in the fall of 1878, Colorow started a brush fire high in the Medicine Bow range, planning to drive the deer, elk, and buffalo west to the Ute reservation.  But the winds took an unexpected shift, driving the wild game northward and away from Ute territory.  

The fire drove out the last of the buffalo ever to be seen in the Middle Park region again and it took many years for the forests and ranges to recover from the devastation.

Topic: Biographies

Albina Holly King

Upon the death of her husband, Henry J. King (1825-1879) who held the postmaster position for the Troublesome Post Office, Albina Holly King was appointed to the position in 1879 and held the position for 27th years. While it was said that she was the first woman Postmaster in the U.S., Postal records show that there were female postmasters back to the time of the Revolution. Albina's daughter, Eva King Becker, also held the postal position and was listed as the Troublesome Postmaster in 1904, shortly before its closing. 

The original King homestead and post office is located behind the Welton Bumgarner home at the mouth of the Troublesome River. Henry and Albina came to Colorado from Ohio first settling in Empire, Colorado in about 1859-1860. Sometime after 1870, Henry arrived in Middle Park with Albina and their children arriving by the end of 1874.  

The Kings had five children; two sons Clifton G., Clinton A. (1852-1919) and three daughters, Aoela J. (born May 10, 1853 in Ohio and died September 28, 1858 in Michigan), Eva Marie and Minnie A. Both Henry and Albina were tailors by profession, however, their homestead became a trading post and lodging quarters for travelers. 

Water rights were important issues in the early Middle Park days, just as they are today. In 1882, Albina King became the first person to have claimed water. Tom Ennis claimed his water rights just 13 months later and claimed twice the amount as Albina. There were battles over their water rigts, but Albina held her own.

After retiring from the post office, Albina moved to Garfield County Colorado and lived with her son Clifton and his wife Lou (per 1910 census). By the 1920 census, she is living in Oakland, California with a granddaughter until her death in 1923 at the age of 98.  Records indicate that Albina was creamated and her ashes supplied to the family, and possibly scattered at her beloved Troublesome wilderness. 

Thanks to David Green, husband of Susan King, direct decendent of the King family, for details provided for this article - July 2013


 

Topic: Ranching

Ranching in Western Colorado

Article contributed by Nichole Fuqua

 

Ranching in western Colorado first began in 1866 when Texas cowboys began moving cattle into western Colorado. With this rising growth of cattle into Colorado, ranching was forever changed and became a natural part of Colorado's society.

Although the idea of establishing cattle operations in the mountains did not appeal to many, the cattle and ranching industry in western
Colorado began to flourish in 1882. Three causes greatly influenced this move. First, the flat grass lands from Texas to Montana were unavailable. Second, the Ute Indian tribe were being run out and soon removed from the mountains of Colorado. Third, the grasses in western Colorado were abundantly nutritious, especially in the autumn.

 

When cattle ranches first began, it was organized chaos. Up until the 1930's, all of the land used by cattle ranchers was open-range land. During the winter months the cows lived in the lower valleys where snow accumulation was small. Once spring began the cows were then rounded up and moved to the high mountain tops. This spring round up usually took place in the early part of June, between the first and second hay cutting. The main goal of the spring round up was to gather and sort all of the cattle into their respective herds; unfortunately many herds intermixed because of the open-range. Along with the sorting of the cows, the calves that had been born earlier that spring were branded.

 

During the open-range era, brands on cattle were very important. Brands were used as a marker to distinguish between herds. Today, branding is still used along with ear tags. The fall round up usually began in the early fall and was completed in stages. The first stage, involved the gathering up of cows that were going to be sold at the market. These were the first to descend from the mountains. The rest of the cattle were then taken down from the mountain and released into the lower valleys to live during the winter months. The 1930's ended the open-range era which also brought an end to fall and spring round ups.

 

Family life on a cattle ranch was very different from normal life in a town. The cowboy's job demanded a lot of devotion and self motivation. The men of the family were often away from the house for days sometimes weeks at a time moving and tending to the cows.

 

The women of a cattle ranch lead very isolated lives. During the winter months traveling was unheard of. Once the snow began to melt the water's run off caused creeks and rivers to overflow, which caused traveling in the spring to be tough.  During the summer and early fall, gardening, food processing, house keeping, raising children, and the general ranch duties kept a woman busy.

 

The children of a cattle ranch were treated very maturely. By the age of five to the age of twelve kids were considered miniature adults. By the age of thirteen or fourteen most kids were able to perform heavy labor tasks around the farm. Ranch families exhibited very strict discipline toward the children of the house and felt very strongly in a child's education.

 

Cattle ranches are still found all over western Colorado. The attitude has changed throughout the years since the first cattle ranch began but some of the same traditions still exist. 

 

Sources: Reyher, Ken. High Country Cowboys. Montrose: Western Reflections Publishing Company, 2002.

Peters, Aaron. Cattle Drives & Trail Drivers. 2003. 8 Mar. 2008 http://www.co.wilbarger.tx.us/cattle.htm.

 

Topic: Places

Place Names

Article contributed by Kathy Zeigler

The County of Grand was established in 1874, taking its name from the Grand River which has its headwaters in the county, and from Grand Lake, the largest natural body of water in the state of Colorado.  The county seat is Hot Sulphur Springs.  The area of the county is 1854 sq. mi., making it larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Fraser was established in 1871 as the town of Eastom.  Its name changed to Fraser, after the river that flows through the town, though it was originally spelled Frazier, for Reuben Frazier. The Post Office adopted the simpler spelling at the establishment of the Post Office.  The town bore the distinction of being the "icebox of the nation" for many years, losing that title in a legal battle with a town in Minnesota.

Granby was established in 1904, taking its name from Granby Hillyer, a Denver attorney who may have been associated with the founding of the town.

Grand Lake was established in 1881 as a mining settlement by the Grand Lake Town and Improvement Company, taking its name from Grand Lake.

Hideaway Park was established approximately 1905, and named for its hidden location with the trees screening it from the road. It may have been earlier known as Woodstock, Vasquez and Little Chicago. Max Kortz, owner of a dance hall in the village is said to have provided the moniker. 

Hot Sulphur Springs was established in 1860 and named for the hot springs.  It may have been refered to as Sulphur Springs in its earliest days, and as Sulphur by the workers and management of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad when it came through in 1904.

Kremmling was established in 1881 as a general merchandise store, owned by Kare Kremmling on the ranch of Dr. Harris, located on the north bank of the Muddy River. In 1888 John and Aaron Kinsey had part of their ranch platted, calling the site Kinsey City. Kremmling moved his store across the river to the new site; eventually the town came to be known as Kremmling.  (Note the two different first names-Reuben Kremmling and Kare Kremmling.  I'll keep working on that discrepancy.)

Radium's name was suggested by Harry S. Porter, prospector and miner, in reference to the radium content in one of his mines.

Winter Park was first known as West Portal, a settlement that grew up during the construction of the Moffat Tunnel in the 1920s.  Postal authorities agreed to the name change to Winter Park, after a request was made by Denver mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton and many sport enthusiasts to publicize the establishment of a top winter sports area.

Berthoud Pass, el. 11314, was named for Capt. Edward L. Berthoud. Berthoud discovered the pass in 1861. He was also chief engineer on the Colorado Central Railroad.

Gore Pass, el. 9524, was named for Sir Charles Gore, who mounted a monumental "hunt" to the American West during the 1850s. Gore spent considerable time in the area, and gave his name to the Pass, a mountain range, and a canyon.

Milner Pass, el. 10759, was named for T.J. Milner, and accomplished civil engineer for railroads and street car lines.

Muddy Pass, el. 8772, bears the name of Big Muddy Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, with reference to the muddy appearance of the waters during the spring runoff and storms.

Rabbit Ears Pass, el. 9426, refers to Rabbit Ears Peak, whose outcroppings somewhat resemble a rabbit's ears.

Willow Creek Pass, el 10850, is named for the stream, and almost certainly for the willow bushes that line the banks of the stream. The pass was a well known Indian trail, and became a road in the early 1900s.

Source: Eichler, George R. Colorado Place Names. Boulder: Johnson Publishing, 1977.

Topic: Water

Colorado-Big Thompson Project

The idea of diverting water from the Colorado River on the Western Slope of the Continental Divide to the productive farmlands of the eastern plains had been a dream of planners as early as 1929.  Subsequently,  a long period of drought and the sagging economy of the “Great Depression” whetted demands for what became the largest trans-mountain diversion project ever built.

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project takes water from Grand Lake on the western side of the Continental Divide to the Big Thompson River on the east.  The water flows through a 13 mile tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park.  In order to supply the residential and farming needs of Northeastern Colorado, the project was begun in 1938 and continued through the years of World War II.  The first water flowed though the tunnel, named for Senator Alva B. Adams, on June 23, 1947.

In order to assure an adequate supply from Grand Lake, a dam was built creating Shadow Mountain Reservoir.  A larger lake, Granby Reservoir was then built below, with a unique pumping plant that forces water into Shadow Mountain.  The Farr Pumping Plant cost over $9 million and provides an additional 700,000 of irrigated land to northeastern Colorado.  Further reservoirs were added, both to supplement the diversion and to compensate the water needs of Western Colorado.  These include Willow Creek and Windy Gap Reservoirs in Grand County.

While most legislators were enthusiastic about the project, U.S. Representative Edward Taylor was vehemently opposed to the reduction of water flowing down the Colorado River.  A compromise was reached in the creation of Green Mountain Reservoir (on the Blue River), which reserves water to replenish the Colorado River.   The city of Denver later claimed upstream water on the Blue River for the massive diversion project of Dillon Reservoir

Claims on the water of the Colorado River range from the fruit and wine regions of the Grand Valley in Colorado all the way to Los Angeles and Mexico.  It can be said that every snowflake which falls in Western Colorado had already been over-appropriated, especially during drought periods in the arid West.

Topic: True Crime

Spider House Tragedy

Nestled on a quiet lane in Old Grand Lake City sits the intricately crafted home of Warren C. and Mary O’Brien Gregg, known today as the Spider House – a testament to a remarkable woodcraftsman and his tormented wife.

Warren (Watt to his friends) was a dreamer and in the 1870s he left his first wife and a young son in Wisconsin and headed for the Colorado Territory seeking his fortune in the mines of Gilpin County.  Upon returning to Wisconsin his first wife died of fever, leaving Warren a widower with a small son.  Holding tight to his dreams of the west, Warren eventually ended up in his native Indiana where he met and married 20 year-old Mary O’Brien, in 1884.   By 1888 Warren packed his new family into a prairie schooner and headed west.  Like so many other pioneer women before her, Mary bore a child along the trail, a second son whose short life would send Mary down a dark and tortured path. 

The family arrived in Middle Park late in the summer of 1888, built a small homestead on the eastern slope of the Stillwater drainage and the newborn died shortly thereafter.  Though the years would bring more children, Mary would never quite recover from the loss of her second son. They continued to scratch out a living in this harsh and isolated land, where winters were long and supplies were meager. 

Warren spent much of his time searching for game and exploring this new country. The Gregg’s moved numerous times, finally purchasing a plot of land from Old Judge Wescott on the west side of the lake.  Warren built his family an admirable house, with intricate detail and spider-like webs of wooden elements.  Despite the warmth and comfort of this new home, and the close proximity of neighbors, Mary’s depression deepened. 

Then on a sunny Sunday in 1904, while Warren was working in his woodshop and oldest son Lloyd was having Sunday dinner at Judge Westcott’s, Mary took a gun to her four remaining children and then turned the weapon on herself.  The children died instantly while Mary lingered on for four days.  The five victims of this tragedy, one girl, three boys and Mary herself are buried together in one grave in the Grand Lake Cemetery.

Warren lived in the Spider House for another 29 years. With his son Lloyd, he continued building homes and stone fireplaces.  He succumbed to heart failure in 1933.  Mary O’Brien Gregg finally found peace in the quiet grace of the little town cemetery surrounded by her children.  Almost a century later, as the tall pines whisper their mournful winter song, the Spider House still sits nestled on that quiet little lane.

Topic: Skiing

Winter Carnivals

Carl Howelsen, a ski jumping champion in his native Norway, came to Denver to pursue a career as a stonemason in the early years of the 20th Century.  He amused himself and others by demonstrating ski-jumping in the foothills of Denver. 

In 1911, Howelson went to Hot Sulphur Springs, where he taught locals such as Horace Button the art of jumping.  Under Howelson's leadership, the first winter carnival west of the Mississippi Rover was held there on February 10-12.  According to the Middle Park Times, "Never before in the history of the Territory and State of Colorado has such an event even been contemplated, much less held!".

Norwegian immigrants Howelson, Angell Schmidt of Denver and Gunnar Dahles of Williams Fork (Grand County) all staged jumping competitions during the carnival.  There were also skating and tobogganing events and a Grand Ball.  Hot Sulphur Springs continued holding Winter Carnivals annually until World War II, when they were discontinued until the 100th anniversary celebration, called the Grand Winter Sports Carnival scheduled for December 30, 2011-February 11, 2012.

Tales of Yesteryear