Grand County Colorado

History Article Library

 

Explore the History & Culture of Grand County Colorado

Whether you're just stopping by for a visit and some inspiration from the past or you're doing serious research, we're glad you're here. You'll find over 200 articles on a variety of topics - browse and enjoy!

Have an idea for an article or want to contribute one? Send us a note on the contact form.

This website was initiated by the Community Alliance of Libraries, Museums and Schools (CALM) and is managed by the Grand County Historical Association for the benefit of the Heritage Coalition of Grand County.  For more information, call Tim Nicklas at 970-725-3939 or Dede Fay at 970-531-7020.

Articles to Browse

Topic: Agriculture

Timothy & Clover at Hurd Creek Ranch

Before the invention of seeding machines, a farmer or rancher would walk across his field in a straight line carrying a bucket or sack of seed with one hand. With his other hand he would fling fistfuls of fertile grain in a wide arc in front of his path. On reaching the end of the field, he would refill his bag, move over a few yards and repeat the process on the way back. After hours of walking and the casting of numerous sacks of seed, one handful at a time, the field would be planted.

I guess I was about 13 or maybe 14 when my father decided to plant timothy and clover on the east half of the meadow on the mesa. The area to be planted was probably forty acres or more that the ranch had leased to a Hindu man to grow lettuce and other truck crops. For several years we had gotten free lettuce for our table and our milk cows had loved the turnips from his harvest that were either too big or too small to be sold. I guess the profits from his work weren’t very good and the risk of growing lettuce in the rainy valley was too high. The Hindu had abandoned his lease and we would now put the water and the land to our own good use. Since we had no seeding equipment, we would broadcast the seed by hand. It would take hundreds of pounds of it to do the forty acres.

I was eager to help. Dad looked skeptical but finally agreed to let me try. After a bit of instruction he sent me off across the field. “Remember,” he had said. “You have to spread it even and don’t miss any spots.” I soon developed some regrets about volunteering. Not only did we have to plant the field once, but we had to plant it a second time as well. It seems that a planting of timothy and clover grows only a few inches high the first year and doesn’t produce a harvest. In order to avoid losing an entire season, it was customary to plant a second crop on top of it. In our case, Dad had chosen oats for the second planting. This choice would produce lots of feed right away even though the growing season in the Fraser Valley was too short to yield any grain. We planted the hay crop on one day and the oats the next.

I was exhausted by the time we had finished. In fact, if memory serves me right, Dad did the last five or ten acres by himself. When fall came, we had oats four feet high. They were cut, stacked like hay and fed out the following winter. The year after, there was beautiful timothy and clover that has continued to produce a fine crop for more than 60 years. When I visit friends on Ranch Creek every August, I drive by our field both coming and going.

Each time I see it, I remember my work and experience a sense of joy and accomplishment. All the things I produced over a professional career of nearly 40 years are now obsolete but the timothy and clover seeds planted so long ago are still growing. They will continue to do so until the Hurd Creek Ranch sells its water right and the field dries up. In our modern world, a 40-acre field of timothy and clover isn’t much. But how often, today, does a teen-ager have the opportunity to do work that will serve for a lifetime?

The above material is copyrighted by the author, Robert K. Peterson. Reproduction is any form is limited to the personal use of the view and/or to educational purposes. Neither the sale of nor any other commercial use of the text or illustrations is authorized.

Topic:

Zane Grey

Article contributed by students of Joe Kelly's Senior History Class

 

Zane Grey was one of, if not the most famous western writer of his time. He spent his life traveling the world and writing until his death. Some of his midlife years were spent in Kremmling, Colorado, and other parts of Grand County, where it is said he produced his best-known book Riders of the Purple Sage. His adventures and experiences shaped his literature into the wonderful western classics that we still enjoy today.

 

Pearl John Gray was born to Lewis M. Gray, a dentist, and his wife, Alice Josephine Zane, on October 1872 in Zanesville, Ohio. Pearl changed his name to Zane soon after his family changed the spelling of their last name. During his childhood, Zane bore much interest in baseball, fishing, and writing, as well as taking part in a few violent brawls. A severe financial setback caused Grey's father to start a new dentistry in Columbus, Ohio in 1889. While helping his father, Zane, who had learned basic dental procedures, made rural house calls as an unlicensed teenage dentist.

 

Grey attended the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, where he studied dentistry practices. The Ivy League was an excellent training ground for future pro baseball players. Zane was a solid hitter and a pitcher with a deadly curveball, but when the distance from mound to plate was lengthened in 1894, his pitching suffered and he was sent to the outfield, dabbling in all three positions. Grey eventually went on to play minor league baseball, even without his pitching.

 

Grey got his first taste of the West while on his honeymoon, and although amazed, he felt unready to use it in his novels. Grey later took a mountain lion hunting trip on the rim of the Grand Canyon. There, Grey gained the confidence and authenticity to write convincingly about the West, its characters, and its landscape. Treacherous river crossings, unpredictable beasts, bone chilling cold, searing heat, parching thirst, bad water, irascible tempers, and heroic cooperation all became very real to him throughout his travels.

 

Zane wrote his first western just after the birth of his first child. Soon after, Grey produced his best-known book, Riders of the Purple Sage. These two books sent his career into the western genre, writing classic tales of "conquering the Wild West". Zane Grey was the author of over 90 books and many of them became bestsellers.

 

Zane Grey made a comfortable fortune through the sale of his novels. Almost all of his books were based on his own experiences and travels. Around half of the year was used for traveling, and the second half of the year was used to put this valuable time and experiences into his next novel. Some of that time was spent in Grand County and Grey owned a home in Kremmling.

 

Grey indulged his interest in fishing with visits to Australia and New Zealand. He first visited in 1926 and caught several large fish, with the most impressive being a mako shark. Grey established a base at Otehei Bay Lodge on Urupukapuka Island. This hotspot became a magnet for the rich and famous, as well as avid fishermen. He held numerous world records during this time and invented the teaser, a hookless bait that is still used today to attract fish.

 

Zane Grey lived a wonderful life full of very real and fictitious adventures. While enjoying his later years, he died of heart failure on October 23, 1939 at his home in Altadena, California.

 

References:  Thomas H. Pauley, Zane Grey: His Life His Adventures His Women, 2005, Chicago, University of Illinois Press; http://www.zanegreyinc.com/; http://www.zgws.org/; http://www.zanegreyinc.com/zgworks.html

 

Topic: Regions

The Blue

Because gold had been found at the headwaters of the Blue River at Breckenridge, hopes were high among prospectors who worked the downstream tributaries in Grand County.  However, this lower section of the Blue contained no mineral wealth. 

The Denver and Rio Grand Railroad planned to run a route through the valley and began constructing grades, but the tracks were never laid because Moffatt's railroad crossed the county first.

An enterprising Canadian, 25 year old Willis Charles Call, had been employed as a cook for the grading company in 1881.  When the railroad abandoned the project, Call became a registrar of voters, and in 1886, the county assessor.  By 1890, he had a choice ranch near Kremmling.  His Austrian wife, Mary Rohrocher, was a very popular hostess.  It is believed that they owned the first automobile in the county.

The conflicts between the white settles and Ute Indians came to a climax in 1878 when the Ute leader Tabernash was killed by a posse and the very next day, Abraham Elliott a homesteader on the Blue, was killed in retaliation.  The remains of his ranch can be seen on Highway 9 at mile marker 135. 

Across the river was the ranch of Henry Yust, who settled there in 1885.  Another early ranching family was that of Thomas Pharo, An Englishman from Franham in Surry, near London.  Settling there in 1880, he developed a major cattle and horse ranch. 

The Blue River area was connected with a route west in 1913, when the co-called Trough Road was constructed, beside the Gore Canyon to State Bridge.

Topic:

Early Families

While natural events occasionally determine history, it is most often the existence of natural resources that lure humans to a region.  Those who first arrived in Grand County came to mine ore, cut timber and graze cattle and therefore they determined the subsequent history of the region.

The pioneering families of Grand County had exceptional stamina, pride and endurance to survive the grueling winters and isolation.  We have collected the stories of just a few of these families, but will continue expanding this section as information becomes available.  If you know the story of one of the early Grand County families, please contact us so that we may include it in this section

Topic: Regions

North Park & Middle Park - Politics and Whiskey

The Territorial legislature defined the boundaries and county seats for the West Slope in 1861.  Geographic knowledge of the Colorado mountains was somewhat limited at that time.  North Park (a name now synonymous with Jackson County) was an Indian hunting ground and little was known about it.

A boom started with the discovery of gold and silver at Teller City in 1879.  North Park was considered to be part of Grand County, and now there was property to assess and tax.  The Grand County road tax in North Park for 1881 applied only to males between the ages of 21 and 45.  They had to either pay $3 in cash or do two day's work on the roads. John Mills, a Teller City resident who acted as an attorney for mine owners, served as a Grand County commissioner and was one of the commissioners killed in the July 4, 1883 gun battle at Grand Lake.

As ranches became established and more mineral deposits were discovered, the Larimer County commissioners began to speculate that the "Snowy Range" that defined the western boundary of Larimer County was the Park Range on the west side of North Park rather than the Medicine Bow Range.  This opinion soon degenerated into a dispute between Grand and Larimer counties, ultimately ending up in court. In 1886 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that North Park was part of Larimer County.

A trip to the county seat in Fort Collins was a considerable undertaking.  If everything ran on schedule it was possible for travelers to leave Walden on the morning stage, catch a train from Laramie to Cheyenne, another train from Cheyenne to Greeley, still another from Greeley to Fort Collins, and arrive at the county seat before closing hours the following day.  The fares amounted to a significant expense.  It was probably more common for a North Parker to travel to Fort Collins in his wagon, take care of business, and come home with a wagonload of provisions.  The trip by wagon took three to four days each way.

As the population of North Park grew, so did the desire to split from Larimer County.  In 1908 the Loveland newspaper stated that Larimer County was too big and advocated a new county with Loveland as the county seat.  The Walden newspaper agreed that the county was too big but felt the wrong division line had been picked, pointing out that "A Loveland man can get to the county seat in three hours anytime, but it takes a North Park man three days most of the time."

Ranchers resisted early efforts to set off the area west of the Medicine Bow Range into a county of its own as they carried the largest part of the tax burden and felt their taxes would increase if a new county was established.  But by 1908 there was general agreement within the Park that it was time for court and administrative offices to be more conveniently located.

The total valuation assessed in 1908 of North Park property by Larimer County was $771,776, which generated $16,979 of revenue.  The salaries of some of the paid officers of the new county was estimated as follows:

     Assessor                                                    $800

     County School Superintendent                   $800

     Water Commissioner, 2 districts                $1000

     County Commissioners                             $1000

Even adding in salaries for the sheriff and county clerk it appeared quite likely that the new county could be operated efficiently without a tax increase and the proposal to create "North Park County" had nearly unanimous support from North Parkers.  The bill passed the legislature easily in April 1909, with a name change to Jackson, and was quickly signed into law on May 5 by Governor Shafroth.

While North Parkers were eager to sever their legal ties to Larimer County in 1909, they clearly weren't ready to give up the pleasures of offered by a nip of the bottle.  Like most frontier areas, North Park had a significant number of single men who liked to occasionally get together and enjoy a few drinks with their friends.  Walden was the center of socialization.  According to an 1899 newspaper article, Walden residents worried about the "toughs" who came to town to "drink barbed-wire bitters and then shoot up the place."

In addition, local married men sometimes frequented the bars when they could have been spending more time at home helping out with domestic chores.  As a result, a strong temperance movement soon divided the community.  One of the two local newspapers, the North Park Union, endorsed the temperance movement in early 1902 and soon found itself the target of a boycott by both advertisers and subscribers.  Although the editor declared it a "boycott of no great magnitude", the paper had a new owner/editor within a month.  The issue of whether Walden should be wet or dry was on the 1902 ballot.  By a very decisive majority, voters decided Walden would continue to be wet.

Just before the 1906 election, the Walden newspaper criticized the local Republican Party bosses for providing a lot of free whiskey in every North Park precinct on election day, and urged North Parkers not to sell their vote for a drink.  The temperance movement enjoyed its first victory when it combined forces with the local church and convinced the businessmen of Walden to close their stores on Sundays.  The closing did not stand in high favor with ranchers.  "When a man can't buy axle grease for his wagon when it runs dry and something else for himself when he runs dry, it is time to call a halt," they declared.  Quite a number of the ranchers started going through to Laramie for their provisions, and the Sunday closing rule was abandoned six weeks after it was implemented.

When news reached Walden in early 1909 that the bill creating Jackson County had cleared the legislature, the newspaper reported that the town was moved to the point of a merry celebration.  The brass band marched, guns were fired, and at daybreak "the women, as becomes their sex, were among the few who were sober."  A few weeks later news that the Governor had signed the bill was cause for another celebration.  The newspaper reported that, "the air about town clouded up and filled with burnt powder and raucous vocalizations.  The festivities continued in the evening with flying anvils propelled by stick powder . . ." The first hundred years of Jackson County had commenced.

Topic: Biographies

R.W. "Dick" McQueary

R.W. (Dick) McQueary was born May 9, 1868, in the San Luis Valley near what is now Del Norte. Dick moved to Grand County in 1876. In 1892, Dick, newly married, began freighting between Hot Sulphur Springs and George Town's railroad terminal.

He moved boxes of merchandise for the general store, barrels of whiskey for saloons and machinery for sawmills. On one of these trips he decided to build cabins closer to Berthoud Pass. His crew built several log buildings 6 miles from the top of the pass and named it "Spruce Lodge".

In the spring of 1893, Dick contracted to open snowbound Berthoud Pass by middle June. He moved his wife Jessie and three-months old son to Spruce Lodge. Snow was shoveled from the roofs and trails to the buildings. Heat from stoves thawed the frozen dirt roofs and water entered the cabins. Pans were placed under the leaks to catch snow water. Work was completed 2 weeks later. On June 14, snow began to fall and canvas was placed over stove pipes to keep water from putting out the fires. Four feet of snow fell and the only dry place in the cabins was the pallet with the baby on it under the table.

1895 saw Dick Mcqueary homestead 320 acres between Pole and Crooked Creeks The ranch was named "Four-Bar-Four" after Dick's cattle brand. It became a well-known travel stop and is a point of interest to this day. By 1909 R.W. was freighting the Grand Lake area and became involved with building a road between the foot of Milner Pass to Pouder Lake at the summit. Dick bid $49,000 to build the road. Three years later, completion of a rough outline of the entire road through Rocky Mtn.National Park. M cqueary completed the west side and Jacobson the east side. Dick prepared festival grounds west of Grand Lake and a large crowd enjoyed the road opening celebration.

Schools

Article contributed by Betty Jo Woods

The first official school in Grand County was founded in 1875 in Hot Sulphur Springs in a crude dugout. The school met for twenty days and a painting of the classroom shows nine students in attendance. Typically the woman teachers of that era would have earned about $25 per month. 

One report to the Colorado State Department of Education said, “The school secretary left during the Indian uprising and no school records are available.” This school was presumed to be at Hot Sulphur Springs.

In the 1890s school was not held every year in Grand Lake because not enough taxes were raised to pay for a teacher. The school year was generally April through October and classes were held in various vacant buildings for many years. The first schoolhouse in Grand Lake was built in 1910 and remained a one-teacher school until 1935. 

A notice published in the Middle Park Times on january 31, 1889 annouce that a masquerade ball and supper of "beef steer and chickens" would be held on February 14th to raise money to build a school.    

In 1898, the offerings were expanded to include the first experimental high school curriculum to be offered in the county. As towns were developed, several rural one-room schools also came into existence. Many schools were taught only during the summer because winter travel was too difficult.

At one time there were nineteen school districts. In 1958 the County was reorganized into two school districts, with the result that today there are two high schools, two middle schools, four elementary schools, one charter school, one alternative school, and one private Christian school in Grand County.

Sources:
R.C. Black, Island in The Rockies. Pruett Publishing Company, 1969
Colorado State Department of Education, First Formal Biennial Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction for State of Colorado. Denver, Colorado: Daily Times Printing House, 1879

Jim Bridger

Jim Bridger spent quite a bit of time in Grand County and has been cited as "one of the three or four most able, influential, and best known mountain men' according to historian Dan Thrapp.  Born in Virginia in 1804, he was apprenticed to a blacksmith in St Louis at the age of fourteen, and in 1822, left to join Ashley's fur trading operation in the Yellowstone area of Wyoming. He claimed to have discovered the Great Salt Lake in 1824, believing it to be an arm of the Pacific Ocean.  He was a co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, along with Tom Fitzpatrick and Milton Sublette. 

While Bridger was illiterate, he was noted for both his intimate knowledge of the Rocky Mountains and his prevarications to impress newcomers.  He was engaged in some battles with Indians, but was married to two Indian women; a Ute woman who died in childbirth, and then Shoshone women who bore him two children.

Jim's friendship with Louis Vasquez led to construction of a fort named Fort. Bridger on the Green River in Wyoming.  As a guide, he led the infamous expedition of Sir George Gore through Grand County in 1855, in which Gore killed many thousands of animals and birds.  During the excursion, he would join Gore for luxurious dinners with fine table service and discussions of Shakespeare.  Bridger hired a teenaged boy to read him some of Shakespeare's plays but thought that many of the story lines were just "too vicious or ridiculous". 

He was one of the most sought after guides of the West during his lifetime and guided American troops in the so called Mormon War of 1857-8.  In his later years, Bridger acquired a farm near Westport Missouri, gradually became blind and died in 1873.  His two sons buried him in the present Kansas City, but in 1904, his remains were moved to Mountain Washington Cemetery in Independence Missouri.    Jim Bridger is immortalized with his name being given to many places in the West.

Topic: Towns

Fraser

The origin of Fraser was in 1905 and it was incorporated in 1953. It was formerly known as Eastom, for George Eastom, who laid out the town site in 1871. The spelling of Fraser was originally Frazier, after Reuben Frazier. The town came into being because it was the site of a large sawmill and was a railroad terminus for the lumbering operation.

While Fraser was generally considered to be an isolated mountain outpost, at one point there was enough cultural interest to support a local opera house.  Fraser was the location of a weather station for several years and during that time it was not uncommon for the winter temperatures to be 45 to 50 degrees below zero; one Fraserite remembers a morning when it was 60 degrees BELOW zero. Thus the town earned the nickname “Icebox of the Nation.” After a legal battle, that offical title went to a town in Minnesota.

A transcontinental motor route dubbed the Midland Trail came through Grand County and by 1913 a Ford sales agency was located outside of Fraser on the 4 Bar 4 Ranch. Avid fly fisherman President Eisenhower was a frequent visitor between 1948 and 1955.

Topic: Water

Onahu Creek

Onahu Creek was called Fish Creek and is a tributary of the North Fork of the Colorado River. The name refers to one of the Indian race horses who came up to a campfire to warm himself, and the name means “warms himself“.  The horse ultimately died on Fish Creek and gave his name to the waterway.