Colorado was the 38th state admitted to the Union, and is known as the “Centennial State” because of its entrance into the union in 1876, one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Colorado River was named earlier, and is Spanish for “red“, the color of the water that the Spanish explorers observed.
People have been living in Colorado at least 9,000 years. Spanish explorers were here in 1540, but the discovery of gold caused a major population explosion in 1859.
The state consists of 3 topographic zones: plains, mountains, and plateaus. The Continental Divide bisects the state, north to south and there are 54 peaks above 14,000 feet.
Denver is the State Capitol at 5,280 feet, one mile above sea level. Colorado is noted for its waterways and is the only state in the U.S. from which all water courses flow out of the state. Rivers that have their origins in Colorado include the North Platte, South Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, and the Colorado with its headwaters in Grand County.
In the early decades of Grand County, lumbering was a key contributor to the local economy. Logging was necessary as the principal source of building construction and also as the only available fuel. When the railroad first made its way over Rollins Pass, the production of railroad ties became an important industry. In the Grand Lake area, the brief mining boom of the 1880s created a steady demand for timber.
Some remains of log structures from abandoned logging camps were still evident late in to the 20th century. These include the Middle Park Lumber Company on St. Louis Creek (southwest of Fraser), an operation that had it's own railroad line into town. In the same area, the independent logging settlements of Lapland and Stockholm date back to 1915.
Above Tabernash was located the Deiler Mill, ten miles up Hurd Creek. In 1910, the Western Box Company bought the mill and moved it to the head of Meadow Creek. A box factory was located in Tabernash and the logs were floated down in a flume, thirteen miles long. Mrs. Braddock was the "flume lady" at one time and would balance on a log while breaking up log jams on the trip downstream.....a task that required "great skill and derring-do".
Other operations included Koppers Camp up Pole Creek (above Tabernash), Mr. Daves Mill at Hideaway Park and Bob Morrow's camp on Byers Peak. Broderick Wood Products Company of Denver was a major purchaser of Grand County timber starting in 1930. In 1939, Smokey Harrison founded the Timberline Sawmill at Kremmling.
A huge box making plant was built on a site now covered by Granby reservoir. Its main supply point was a logging camp at southwest corner of Monarch Lake. You can still see remnants of the logging machinery along the shore of the lake. For a short time there was a branch railroad from Granby to the box factory, which later burned to the ground, In 1949, American Timber built a sawmill and log pond at Granby, west of the Highway 40 overpass. The west end of the county was logged by the Kremmling Division of the Edward Hines Lumber Company. Later, Louisiana Pacific built a wafer board plant in Kremmling but it closed in the 1980's.
The short growing and harvesting season created many challenges for the loggers. According to Ed. "Jr." O'Neil, it takes over 100 years in Grand County to grow a tree big enough got a 35 foot telephone pole. In contrast, it would only take 30 years to grow a similar tree in warmer climes. There is still private logging activity in Grand County, most of it for the construction of luxury log homes.
A little over a hundred years ago the few residents of Fraser were awakened by a sound new to their town.The railroad had finally arrived in 1904, just over 30 years after it had first debuted in Denver.That same blaring horn, followed by the rumble of iron wheels on rails is waking up the good town-folk of the FraserValley today.As the local Manifest has documented recently, many residents have long been annoyed by the noisy disruption the train makes as it announces its passing through town.Additionally, parents of school children rushing to FraserElementary School in the morning can attest to the intrusive obstacle the slow moving behemoth becomes at in the morning.
A hundred years ago, residents of the FraserValley complained loudly of the intrusion of the iron horse on the tranquil lifestyle.It has long been rumored that the course of the railroad was determined by an angry old timer by the name of Billy Cozens.Cozens was a pioneer of the valley having homesteaded his ranch in the area in the early 1870s.According to legend, when the engineers were surveying the route of the future Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific Railroad through the valley, Billy Cozens bullied the crewmen into the woods.As the railmen would lay their flags for the roadbed, Cozens, an expert marksman, would shoot the markers out of the ground.As the story goes, this was the reason the tracks were laid through the forest, rather than the meadow.
The reality of the chosen route for the D.N.&P. was due to grade and not fear of the rifle.Whether Cozens despised the railroad is anyone's guess.According to Robert Black's book, Island in the Rockies, the railroads designing engineers actually consulted Cozens concerning the lack of snow on the continental divide.Regardless, the rumors have persisted over the years about the "Old Sheriff's" contempt for the railroad.It has even divulged to me that the ghost of Billy Cozens will not allow anything concerning the railroad in his former home, the CozensRanchMuseum.Whenever railroad exhibits have been attempted they have mysteriously vanished and were never seen again.
As far as the townfolk of Fraser were concerned, many of them regarded the railroad as an opportunity that had eluded the region for years.Unfortunately for Fraserites, their town was to be bypassed as the major hub for the area.Further down the valley Tabernash was chosen as the location for the workshops and roundhouse for the forthcoming trains.As a result, the trains would move through Fraser without their engineers paying the town much notice outside of their blowing whistles.Nonetheless, the people of the valley would embrace the iron horse.Economic potential in GrandCounty would erupt due to the advent of relatively efficient transportation.Specifically, the lumber industry would boom with the outlet that the railroad would provide.Additionally, people could move between Denver and GrandCounty easily compared to the wagon roads that formerly provided the only passage to the outside world.As timber and cattle traveled to the Front Range, mail and hard goods traveled back to the FraserValley.
In years past, just like today, it has been easy to forget the benefits that the railroad has brought to our lives.Certainly, when the train moved into the valley, the people that day realized that their life could slow down a bit.The reality was that the short inconvenience that the passing train brought with its blaring horn, bringing traffic to a momentary standstill enhanced the life and character of the FraserValley.It provided power, people, and materials in a unique way that simplified life here.This is as true today as it was in 1905.
David Moffat was a wealthy Denver businessman who saw the need for a rail link between Denver and Salt Lake City. His vision, a 6.2 mile long tunnel beneath the Continental Divide, made this link possible.
He was born in 1839, the youngest of 8 children. Heran away from home at age of 12, went to New York City and found work as a bank messenger. He was an assistant teller by the age of 16 and became a millionaire through real estate by the age of 21.
Moffat was admired for his qualities of courage, adaptation to the “barbaric” West and his goodness of heart. He married his childhood sweetheart, Francis Buckhout, moved toDenver, and in1860 opened a bookstore/stationary/drug store with C.C. & S.W. Woolworth on the corner of 11th and Larimer.
Moffat and others formed the Denver Pacific Railroad to reach Cheyenne. The rail line to the Moffat Tunnel was the highest standardrailroad ever built in theU.S.(11,660 ft). It went over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass and came into theFraserValleyin 1904. At the time, it was the most difficult railroad engineering and construction project ever undertaken. It involved boring numerous tunnels through solid granite, as well as constructing precarious timbered trestles that bridged deep mountain gorges.
David Moffat was a multi-millionaire when he started the Moffat Line and was nearly broke when he died in 1911 trying to raise money for the tunnel that would eventually be built and bear his name. It was finally completed in 1928. The west portal of the Moffat Tunnel can be seen from the Winter Park Resort.
Tradition holds that an army party led by one Lt. Col Johns gave the name of Troublesome to what had sometimes been called Oties Creek. The Army was plotting a road in 1865 and had to go north to the forks of the East and West Troublesome in order to cross it, because of the soft soil, thereby being a “troublesome” creek. Some historians claim that mountain man “Colorado Charley” Utter had built a cabin on the creek in 1861, which became a popular stopping place for early hunters and trappers in the region. Another report credits John S. Jones of Empire with a cabin near the mouth of the Blue River, a few miles away, that same year.
Among the earliest settlers on the Troublesome were Barney Day, Henry King and Martin “Dock” McQueary, who had a cabin there in 1871. In 1878, a post office was established at the King home.
By the end of the century, many ranches had been established at on Troublesome Creek. Farthest upstream was the remote George Hendricks ranch, difficult to reach year round and totally cut off from the rest of the world during winter snow. Mrs. Hendricks had a large library and gave her children a sound education prior to their high school years in Kremmling.
Among the most prominent ranches were those of George and Forrest Wheatly. Probably the largest ranch (3000 acres) was that of the family of Con Ritschard, lying just north of current day U.S. Highway 40 east of Troublesome Creek.
Life was hard for the settlers in the area. Like much of Grand County, the soil was frozen as deep as eight feet in the winter. One memoir noted that when there was a death in the winter, the corpse was placed in the roof of a cabin, well swathed, until the spring thaw allowed for permanent burial.
There was a six year school (second to seventh grade) and a post office established at Pearmont about half way up the Troublesome, in the 1920s. This area was named for local settler Gus Pearson.
Ranching was not the only pursuit along the Troublesome Creek. Settler Roy Polhamos grew lettuce and shipped it through the Granby Cooperative to Denver. He also had a potato contract with one of the Denver grocers. Other growers contributed to the 125 refrigerated train carloads of lettuce that were shipped from Granby in 1924. By 1929, 34 farmed from Granby to Troublesome netted $46,000, a highly respectable profit in those days.
GrandCounty has a stunning variety of terrain, landscapes and distinctive regions.The county encompasses 1869 square miles with almost 68% of the land is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management or the National Park Service. The Continental Divide marks the northern and western boundary of the county and the county is also the headwaters of the Colorado River.Regions have been established by proximity to water sources (The Troublesome, The Muddy, The Blue, and ThreeLakes) or by their geographic features (MiddlePark, ChurchPark, and the FraserValley).
It has been said that if you walk down the streets of Hot Sulphur Springs and call out "Hello McQueary" at any given time, someone will respond. Certainly one of the most prolific families to pioneer the Middle Park, the McQueary clan consisted of Scotch-Irish descendents of the immigrants who had settled in the mountainous regions of the Ozarks and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Henry McQueary and his brother Humphrey, visited the Middle Park area in 1866 while prospecting for gold on Troublesome Creek. Henry built a cabin on the creek in 1875 and other relatives came to settle including Walker, James, John and George, along with their families. The families settled near Hot Sulphur Springs and as far west as Muddy Creek and the Gore Canyon.
In 1875, Henry found a Ute Indian with a broken leg near the Troublesome Creek. He took the man to his cabin and splinted the leg. After three weeks, the injury healed enough that the Ute could return to his family and that created a friendship that outlasted the Ute uprisings of 1878-1879.
In 1888, Fount McQuearly established a hotel in Hot Sulphur Springs which included a 45 foot ballroom in the Antlers Saloon. In his later life, he served as County Commissioner (1924). Many other McQuearys also went into politics, so much so that they were sometimes referred to as the "McQueary Gang".
"Uncle Walk" McQueary once said that if Andy Eairheart "ever fell into the river and drowned, we'd have to look for his body upstream 'cause he's too stubborn to float downstream!".
Dick McQueary was quite enterprising, establishing a store in Hot Sulphur Springs (1904) and helping newcomers to the area locate homestead sites. He once was paid with a barrel of china for his services. Dick also was a contractor for building and maintenance for Grand County and he led the effort to build a road through Rocky Mountain National Park. This road was eventually finished in 1920 and is known as the Fall River Road.
At least three McQuearys served their country in World War I and fifteen in World War II. They were also noted athletes; at the 1924 Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Carnival, Margaret McQueary won first place in girls jumping and ski-joring while Milton won first in boys cross country.
Eventually the McQuearys had over a dozen ranches in Middle Park.
Fred Selak was a descendant of early settlers in Grand County. He built a cabin three miles south of Grand Lake where he lived alone. He helped his brothers in various enterprises including mining, a general store and a sawmill. Selak was known to be a prosperous citizen who lent money to others and there were rumors of hidden cash and gold in his cabin. He was also known to be an avid coin collector.
When Selak failed to pick up his mail for several weeks, the postmaster visited his cabin July 26, 1926. After not getting a response to his knocks, the postmaster summoned an employee of Selak's with a key. When they opened the door, they discovered the cabin in shambles and Selak missing. Sheriff Make Fletcher was notified and a nephew of Selak's called in the Denver Police Department.
As the investigation progressed, a .22 caliber slug was extracted from the wall and blood was found on an easy chair, but further investigation ruled these clues inconsequential as they were dated to many years prior. Sheriff Fletcher conducted a massive manhunt on August 16th and the body of Fred Selak was found on the second day by a deputy's dog. The body was hanging from a tree and evidence showed that, because of a sloppy knot, Selak did not die quickly of a broken neck but rather suffered a slow strangulation. The murder had taken place a month earlier and the body had stretched until the feet were touching the ground.
Arthur Osborn, 22, and his cousin Roy Noakes, 21, became prime suspects after showing off old coins and trying to spend them for minor purchases around Grand Lake. After interrogation by the Denver Police, both confessed to robbing and killing Selak. Later, Noakes claimed that the confessions were coerced by the police.
The suspects were kept in the Denver jail until their trial on March 7, 1927 and Sheriff Fletcher had to take great precautions against a possible lynching. The only motive for the murder seems to be based on a land dispute years earlier in which Osborn was arrested for a violating fence line. Both suspects were found guilty and sentenced to death. After many appeals, the convicted murderers were hung in Canon City on March 30, 1928.
Grand Lake was established in 1879 and incorporated in 1944. It is named for the largest natural body of water in Colorado.
In 1867, when only a few people resided near the lake, Major John Wesley Powell (the man whose group first rafted the Grand Canyon) came to explore the possibility of floating down the Grand (now Colorado) River. That summer, Powell, local resident Jack Sumner, and William Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, made the first recorded ascent of Longs Peak from Grand Lake.
In the early 1900’s a Yacht Club was formed by enthusiasts who were attracted by the demands of attentive seamanship the lake demanded. In 1912, Sir Thomas Lipton contributed an impressive cup to be presented annually to the winner of the annual August Regatta. This event still draws skilled sailors to the challenging competition.
The town was founded during a very brief mining boom, but because of it's natural beauty, tourism has long been the sustaining feature of it's economy.
After 1879 there were no Native Americans in Grand County.
In the 1800, the leading cause of death in Grand County was accidents followed by pneumonia.
Between 1887 and 1902, Grand County had no divorces.
The total resident population of Grand County in 1900 was 741. The average life expectancy was 47 years.
Winters in Grand County often were severe, but nothing as terrible as the winter of 1898-1899. Warm weather preceded the storm which began on February 2nd. Four feet of snow fell by that first evening and the residents did not see the sun for the rest of the month as the snow continued to fall. The snow continued into March and April and while few residents died, but the loss of livestock was tremendous.
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.