Ute Bill Thompson

Grand County Colorado

History Article Library

 

Explore the History & Culture of Grand County Colorado

Welcome to the Grand County Historical Association (GCHA) stories page!

 

GCHA operates four museums located in Grand County, Colorado: the Cozens Ranch Museum, the Emily Warner Field and Aviation Museum, Heritage Park, and Pioneer Village. Visit https://grandcountyhistory.org.

 

GCHA hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from exhibit openings, author talks, history treks, kids programs, special museum events and fundraisers such as the annual Taste of History. Be sure to subscribe to our Email Newsletter to get the latest updates about what’s happening. Visit the Events page for a complete listing of scheduled events.

 

You'll find over 200 stories to explore for research and inspiration. Let us know if you have an idea or a comment on any of the articles written by over 30 volunteers. Send us a note on the contact form.

 

This website is managed by the Grand County Historical Association. For more information, contact Dede Fay at dedefay@hotmail.com.

 

Articles to Browse

Topic:

Abbott Fay

History and Philosophy Professor Abbott Eastman Fay was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska on July 19, 1926. He married Joan D. Richardson November 26, 1953 near the beginning of his teaching career. They had three children: Rand, Diana, and Collin. He obtained his BA at Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley, Colorado.

He taught and was a principal in the  Leadville, Colorado Public Schools  from 1952-54, then moved to Mesa College in Grand Junction, where he taught until 1964.

From 1964-1982 he taught at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, retiring as Associate Professor Emeritus and has since taught extensively for Western State and other regional colleges as adjunct professor.

His published works are extensive and include Ski Tracks in the Rockies, Famous Coloradans, I Never Knew That About Colorado, More That I Never Knew About Colorado , Beyond the Great Divide, To Think that This Happened In Grand County!, A History of Skiing in Colorado, The Story of Colorado Wines, and many other books and articles.

Abbott Fay died March 12, 2009 after a brief illness. His biographical website is abbottfay.com.

Topic: Mountains

Mountains

The mountains of Grand County may not boast any of the famous “fourteeners“ (14,000 feet and above), but Middle Park is defined by some of the most majestic ranges in the state. These include parts of the Front Range, Gore Range, Rabbit Ears Range, and the Williams Fork Mountains.  

The only range Grand County can call entirely it's own is The Never Summer Range.  It's highest point is Mount Richthofen (12,940 feet).  Other major peaks include: Mount Howard (12,810 feet), Mount Cirrus (12,797 feet), Mount Nimbus (12,706 feet), and Nokhu Crags (12,485 feet). The name Never Summer is translated from the Arapahoe name, Ni-chebe-chii, which means “the place of No Never Summer“.  The cloud names of Cirrus and Nimbus, and Stratus and Cumulus were the idea of James Grafton Rogers, a founder of the Colorado Mountain Club.  

The Never Summer Range stretches for ten miles from Cameron Pass to Bowen Mountain.  This range is darker and harder due the tremendous heat produced when the peaks were a localized center of volcanic activity.

Topic: Places
Spruce Lodge

The search for Spruce Lodge

Spruce Lodge

 You gotta love a mystery! My curiosity rose, my anticipation of being the one with the real story was more than my appetite could stand. I looked at pictures, figured angles, mused at what other people said, reviewed topographic maps and finally said to myself “it just can’t be.” The terrain doesn’t look like that. It isn’t two miles from the last switchback on Hwy 40. I don’t care what the writing on the back of the pictures say. 

I want to know once and for all, where is the real location of Spruce Lodge? How can it be located so everyone will agree. I’ve got it, find an expert wilderness person with my same curiosity. As fate would have it, entered Debora Carr, author of Hiking Grand County Colorado, complete with pictures, maps, GPS coordinates and trail narratives. Her coauthor Lou Ladrigan also caught the bug. “We can find it.” 

Exploration began early in the spring but the snow was just a little too deep to find any artifacts. Failed attempt, but the appetite was there. Wait till the snow melts in the trees. Again, as fate would have it, entered Carol Hunter. Carol has been instrumental in the efforts to resore the Berthoud Pass wagon road. Carol has lots of maps and pictures of the development of the wagon road and just happened to have an original U.S. Bureau of Public Roads 1920 survey map for the construction of Hwy 40 from Empire to Fraser. I loaded it into the computer, expanded the image and found lots of strange numbers. Almost like mile markers. Carol said they were numbers used by the work parties. They seemed evenly spaced and the map had a distance legend. It even had a marked location for Spruce Lodge. I couldn’t wait to add this map to Deborah and Lou’s reference material.

Armed with new references, Debora and Lou hiked both sides of Hwy 40 from the switchback to the entrance to Mary Jane. Looking for artifacts, existence of remnants of the old wagon road, foundations and terrain that matched the photos in the GCHA collection. A couple places looked promising, but not quite. Finally, a white station post number 390 was found lying on the ground on the west side of today’s Hwy 40. Then another white station post was found to the south, number 380. That was a match! Just what we needed. That confirmed the surveyor L.J. Young’s map. To the south of 390 a flat part of ground revealed what looked like part of a foundation and surrounding the location were remnants of discarded cans and possible buildings. A two holer! Now check the terrain with the pictures. Well maybe. Don’t forget that Hwy 40 didn’t exist. Step back and look from the east side of the existing Hwy. A great match with the slope and tree line. This was it! Just .9 miles North of the last switchback.

                      

                       

Topic: Towns

Grand Lake

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.

National Sports Center for the Disabled

May 8, 2010 Sky-Hi News

In January 1970, Gerald Groswold, then chairman of the board of Winter Park Ski Area, received a call from the Children's Hospital of Denver about program they'd been running at Arapahoe Basin for amputee children. A-Basin wasn't going to continue the program, and the hospital wanted to bring it to Winter Park.

In his morning meeting a few days later, George Engel, who ran Winter Park Ski School at the time, announced that this group was coming up in a week's time and asked for volunteers. Of the 40 or so ski instructors standing there that day, only one raised his hand to volunteer. Later, at lunch, Engel walked by the lone volunteer and threw a note in front of him. "Call this number. You're in charge," Engel said.

The 32-year-old Montreal-born ski instructor stared at the note while he finished eating his lunch. He had no way of knowing that by raising his hand he had just shifted the entire course his life as well as the lives of tens of thousands of others. That ski patroller was Hal O'Leary.

O'Leary went on to found the National Sports Center for the Disabled. Today, the NSCD is one of the largest outdoor therapeutic recreation agencies in the world. Each year, thousands of children and adults with disabilities take to the ski slopes, mountain trails and golf courses to learn more about sports, and themselves.

From the get-go, O'Leary had obstacles to overcome, starting with the fact that he'd never even known an amputee, not to mention seeing one ski. The day after he raised his hand, O'Leary got himself a set of outriggers and went about teaching himself to ski on one leg. Being schooled in the Professional Ski Instructions of America technique, he used all the same concepts as he would use for a conventional skier, sliding between turns.

On Jan. 22, 1970, 23 amputee children arrived at Winter Park with equipment borrowed from Children's Hospital. It was a cold day, as O'Leary recalls, and he pushed the kids hard, making them climb up the bunny slope to turn around and practice making runs back down. Some of the kids who had participated in the program at A-Basin had been taught to jump turn the ski rather than sliding it. So they were hopping around like kangaroos, hopping three times to make each turn, O'Leary said. By 11 a.m., kids were collapsed on slope, crying. One screamed: "I hate your guts," O'Leary recalled.

Feeling that he had failed them, he took them over to the lift on Practice Slope after lunch and put them on the chairlift. A few bailed out, and O'Leary thought: ?Oh my God, I'm going to kill them,' he said: "I worried they'd end up in the tunnel." By the end of the day, however, the kids were flying down the hill, coats flapping in the wind and smiles on their faces. O'Leary was hooked.

For eight weeks the program continued. Before long, the television stations caught wind of what was going on at Winter Park. One day O'Leary got a call from the Today Show, which wanted to feature his program. No sooner had he hung up the phone then it rang again, and Good Morning America was on the line wanting an interview. "It really put Winter Park on the map in those days," he said.  As word got out, people with different disabilities started calling O'Leary to set up lessons, from the visually impaired to the paraplegic.

For each new challenge a skier presented, O'Leary needed a new adaptation to the traditional ski equipment. He spent nights at the ski shop working on modifications and pouring over medical books. Improving the design of the outrigger was O'Leary's first challenge. O'Leary made a lot of phone calls back and forth with George Engel (who also owned Winter Park Ski Shop) and other product manufactures, explaining the design he needed, then they would build it.

Another early invention was the "ski bra." Originally made of metal, the contraption slid over the tip of the skis, holding them in place and preventing them from crossing. "The ski still had freedom, but it helped people that lack lateral control of their bodies," O'Leary said. Sit skis hadn't been invented either. So when a paraplegic wanted to ski, O'Leary modified a cross-country ski item out of Norway. "It reminded me of a little bathtub," he said. "It didn't have any runners. It made me nervous. But, people could use it in a seated position, and it got people who couldn't stand out on the hill."

One of the more peculiar adaptive designs that O'Leary saw over the years was a space suit worn by a paraplegic man. The man filled the suit with enough air that he could stand upright, which worked well, O'Leary said, until he sprang a leak and had to be rushed back down the hill. "In 40 years, it's amazing what has happened to the gear," O'Leary said.

If equipment is the backbone of the program, volunteers are its heart. "We couldn't do this without our volunteers," O'Leary said. More than 800 people volunteer every year with the NSCD. It's a dedicated group of people - the average volunteer has been involved with the program for more than eight years, O'Leary said. Just about anyone who can ski can volunteer. NSCD provides the training and, soon, the volunteers are teaching the lessons. Thanks to the volunteer program, a NSCD participant in 2010 can get a full day lesson with a private instructor, plus a lift ticket and adaptive equipment for $100. Scholarships help people who can't afford the price tag. Raising money to help offset costs and provide these scholarships is key for the program's success. The NSCD holds more than a dozen fund raisers each year, although the Wells Fargo Cup and the Hal O'Leary Golf Classic are two of the biggest and most well-known.

O'Leary built the adaptive skiing program for 10 years before it began to develop into something permanent. In the early years, he was challenged a lot by the ski area, he said. Lift ops had concern about people riding the chairs with different apparatus. The ski patrol was concerned about people with various abilities getting on slope. "There was opposition from different parts of the mountain," O'Leary said. But the program's champion - Gerry Groswold, who served as the ski area's president for 22 years, from 1974 to 1996 - held strong to his conviction that the mountain should make room for skiers of all abilities, O'Leary said.

While the majority of those other ski instructors - the ones that didn't raise their hands that day - moved on to other pursuits, O'Leary had found his life's purpose. "It was seeing smiles on people's faces," he said. "I never realized what it would mean, giving these people movement they did not have in a wheelchair or walking. It changed their life. It helped them in many ways with their challenges. They did better in school. They started focusing more. After several years, wanting to give back what they took, many of them became instructors themselves."

For the first four years, O'Leary still had to wait tables in the summer to survive. Finally, in 1974, O'Leary parted ways from Winter Park Ski School, and Winter Park Ski Area brought the disabled skier program under its wings with O'Leary at its helm. That year, O'Leary introduced summer activities to the program, including whitewater rafting and horseback riding. "That first summer went extremely well," he said. "The turnout was huge."

Today, the summer program has expanded to include almost any recreational activity imaginable, including rock climbing, biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, camping and fishing. Programs are designed for individuals, families and groups and are available for all levels of ability, from beginner to advanced. "What we offer now parallels what any tourist would want to do on a vacation in Colorado," O'Leary said.

O'Leary has spent the past 14 years traveling to other countries, lecturing, writing books and working with ski areas to set up programs and introduce adaptive equipment. "It's not easy to create a program at a ski area," he said. "Space is limited. You have to raise money to finance it. But the point is to create choices for people who have disabilities, choices like everyone else has."

In the United States, the sporting opportunities for disabled people have exploded in the past few decades, thanks, in large part to the early efforts of folks like O'Leary. Disabled Sports USA now recognizes 13 disabled sports programs in Colorado, far more than any other state. Although O'Leary, now 72, handed over the day-to-day operations of NSCD more than eight years ago, he still works daily. He's traveled to 13 different countries helping to create NSCD-style program. He's written the book, literally, on adaptive skiing techniques (Bold Tracks: Skiing for the Disabled).

Looking back on that January day 40 years ago when he innocently raised his hand, O'Leary said he'd do it all again: "I've gotten more out of it than I put into it," he said. "I've worked with fabulous people. I've had great opportunities. It's been a good life. It really has."

Topic:

Regions

Grand County 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 Three Lakes) or by their geographic features (Middle Park, Church Park, and the Fraser Valley).

Topic: Biographies

William H. Kimball

The span crossing the Colorado River on State Highway 9 southeast of Kremmling is known as the Kimball Bridge.  It honors the memory of William H. Kimball who carried the mail over Berthoud Pass from Empire to Hot Sulphur Springs by foot, winter and summer.  Kimball was born in Maine and accepted the Middle Park mail contract in 1875.  Although reportedly nearly blind, Kimball traveled on snowshoes all winter carrying a backpack of mail weighing 70-105 pounds, day and night, at least once a week.

In  1884, Kimball established a flat bottom ferry over the Colorado River near the spot where the bridge now stands.  Before that time, no wagons could cross at that area.  With the addition of the ferry, load of game meat and fish could be taken up the Blue River to be traded for much needed staples. 

Kimball never married and lived at a nearby ranch until his death in 1909.

Murphy Family

October 2009

As late as this summer, John Murphy, 94, mowed ditches on his ranch land and built a new fence. "You got to keep busy doing something," he said. His longevity, he said smiling at wife Carolyn across the table, is owed to "having a good wife to keep you healthy."

And then he added, "and being stubborn and contrary, I guess." But, Carolyn believes John's secret to healthy aging is due to "hard physical labor from an early age," plus the privilege of being raised where there is good air, little junk food, fresh vegetables, fresh milk daily and ranch-harvested meat. Dancing and regular rodeo jaunts also don't hurt.

This week, the Murphys are pausing to acknowledge a 100-year milestone, when John's parents first bought the ranch in greater Granby. John Murphy was born in the family's white two-story ranch house, which still stands on the property, six years after his parents Anna (Rohracher) and James Murphy bought 160 acres from Leopold Mueller in 1909. He had purchased the land from the widow of Edward Weber, who was one of the Grand County commissioners shot in the Grand Lake shoot-out of 1883. Weber's grave is still surrounded by a white-picket fence, located just northwest from the Murphys' newer home.

Mother Anna had crossed the ocean from Austria in 1882 with her family, then in the spring of 1884, they walked over Rollins Pass from Ward to homestead at Eight-Mile Creek south of Granby. The town of Granby didn't sprout until the railroad came through in the early 1900s, so twice a year, the family would travel over Berthoud to Georgetown to buy groceries - a testament to the fortitude people had back then. "How often do you go for groceries now?" John asked. "Twice a day?"

Anna and James married in March of 1907 and had three children: Margaret, James and John. When John was just two years old, his father died and his mother was left to care for the ranch and the three young children. She later married Joseph Reinhardt who had the ranch above theirs.

Upon her death in 1952 at the age of 75, "The Middle Park Times" saluted Anna for having been "a hardy pioneer woman" who prided herself for her ability to horseback ride and milk cows, and called the latter a "fine art rather than a chore."

"It was a pleasure for her to sit down and milk cows," John said. "That's when she could rest. She would milk half of the cows while me and my step-dad milked the other half."

The ranch had about 35 cows, and the cream and milk they produced was shipped to Denver where it was sold. When the lettuce colonies came to the Granby area around the early 1920s, the Murphy ranch prospered selling milk and butter to local settlers.  "Where the airport is now, there was a shack or tent on every 10 acres over there," he said, "and five packing warehouses along the railroad." Even a section of Murphy land was leased to grow lettuce and spinach.

When young boys, John and his brother would sometimes find entertainment riding on the backs of calves in the barn - always out of sight from their mother who would have disapproved, he said. And the younger John would horseback to the Granby schoolhouse located across from the present day Granby Community Center.

Back then, Granby was barely a settlement, and the Murphys' closest neighbor was farther than a mile away. Granby, especially, has grown in the past 20 years, threatening the lifestyle he has known all his life. In the past, ranching families made up the community, and neighbors looked out for one another, he said. "There was kind of a togetherness," he said. "Now we don't have that."

Nodding to the golf courses and newer homes surrounding Granby proper, "We're losing it, losing all the ranchers," he said. "Like any piece of property, I hate to see it change hands, but progress happens and there's nothing you can do about it."

John Murphy began running the ranch in 1934 and his older brother James ran another ranch near Fraser, land the brothers originally had purchased together.
John's first wife Edith died during childbirth, and John became a single dad to a daughter and son who were 2 and 4 years old at the time, running the ranch and raising his children like his own mother did when he was a toddler.

At its height, John Murphy's commercial cattle operation had about 2,000 acres and about 120 pair of cows and calves, with the calves selling at the top of the market in Omaha. John said from working his land for hay through the years, he has found buffalo horns. "There must have been quite a few buffalo here in the 1800s," he said. The land has since been leased, split, and some shared with John's family, including daughter Jennifer Baker and son Steve Murphy.

Although the winters are no longer as harsh as he remembers them - "It would get 30 to 40 below for the whole month," he said - he and wife Carolyn now winter in Arizona. John met Carolyn in the 1970s, and the couple would dance at haunts such as the Circle H and Hazel Mosle's (now Johnson's Landing). "I just held the girls, and they did the dancing," John said. "She complained I held her too tight," he said, of Carolyn. "And she's been suffering every since."

Topic: Time Line

Statehood

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.

Topic:

Ray Osborn

Article contributed by Tonya Bina 11-07

 

Ray Osborn's father, Elonzo Osborn was also an avid fisherman and hunter, and he and a neighbor stocked cutthroat trout the in the 1920s in the lakes in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. This fact seems to bring pride to Osborn, who spent his entire adolescence exploring the terrain surrounding the upper Colorado River. "Everything in the outdoors was so ingrained in the way we lived," he said. "We lived in the outdoors, and we fished when we could and hunted when we could."

Osborn's maternal great grandfather is Warren Gregg, a settler and talented carpenter whose wife took the life of her young children, sparing two boys, in a story that has become legend in
Grand Lake. His maternal grandfather, Ray Gregg, was a blacksmith and a carpenter. He was also the justice of the peace in Grand Lake.

And Ray Osborn's father was a rancher, a man who was forced off of his land when a large water delivery system came to define the West Slope. Being fourth-generation
Grand County can be frustrating, he said. "There's too many changes. None of them for the better. Rich developers are coming in here and tearing the country up and developing the county. They don't care because they're not going to live here. They're going to get their money and go someplace else," he said. "I don't like all the changes now, they're destroying the natural beauty of Grand County."

Osborn, who had six brothers and sisters, has seen two of his childhood homes be torn down "for progress." The first was the ranch house his family lived in before the Bureau of Reclamation claimed his father's 54 acres for the Colorado-Big Thompson project. The ranch land is now a lake bed, 11 feet below the water's surface.
When Shadow Mountain Reservoir was drained last year to kill weed growth, Osborn said he could still see the old foundation. The government offered his father $5,400 for the 54 acres, take it or leave it.  "My father was broken-hearted over it because he loved to ranch."

With the money, Elonzo Osborn bought 11 acres on the north side of the North Fork of the Colorado, where he kept a milking cow and raised chickens, then went to work for the Bureau as a janitor at the government camps that sprung up for the construction of the project. Ray's mother went to work as a mail carrier, with a route from
Granby to Grand Lake up to Phantom Valley in the Park to supplement the family's income.

During WWII, the family raised rabbits during a meat shortage. "Rabbits were easy to raise, and we sold a lot of them," Osborn said. Ray Osborn attended first through ninth grade at the
Grand Lake primary school before attending Middle Park High School, which had just been built in 1947. There were 22 people in Osborn's class, and he was the first student to graduate mid-term from the new school. The very next day, he joined the Navy, the start of a 24-year career that involved two wars.
"On my first tour of duty, I came home on leave and went to a high school football game," Osborn said. It was there that Osborn met Mary Ann, who was visiting from
Iowa for a few months during her senior year in high school.

After a long-distance engagement, the couple married at St. Anne's Catholic Church in
Grand Lake in the fall. This September, they celebrated their 55th anniversary.
Most of his career was spent overseas, Osborn said, with more than 16 years in
Asia. He credits his wife for raising their four children mostly on her own. In 1973, he retired from the military; his youngest was 13 years old.

Upon retirement, after a stint in
Denver, the family relocated to Grand County, where Osborn worked at Winter Park Resort for 12 years. Nearly every day, Osborn heads to his favorite fishing spots, such as the canal that feeds into Shadow Mountain reservoir, a replacement of the river that once was.  He now brings his grandchildren fishing too, and grandma Mary Ann knows just how to cook up those brookies, "cornmeal and flower, olive oil in the pan, a sprinkle of lemon pepper" to make them taste real good. "Get them real brown," she says.

Osborn likes how much fun they are to catch, and his youngest grandson does too.
"They're like wild trout - you got to know how to fish for them in order to catch them," he said. It's when the 75 year-old outdoorsman is talking about the rivers, inlets and hills he knows so well, he seems most at home. "Not too many people left here that have been here longer," he said.