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) in 2004 and is currently managed by the Grand County Historical Association for the benefit of the Heritage Coalition of Grand County.  For more information, email Dede Fay at dedefay@hotmail.com.

Articles to Browse

Topic: Towns

Radium

The settlement of Radium, on the north bank of the Colorado River in Gore Canyon, was established in 1906, when railroad construction of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad brought in foreign workers, typically Swedes, Greeks, and Italians. After the rail lines were built, livestock was shipped out and vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and lettuce were grown and picked at the last minute so they could be shipped while still fresh.

Originally the land was homesteaded by the Murgrage and Hoyt ranch families. Railroad passenger service during the winter months was scheduled only three times a week each way but even then, couldn’t always get through. Nonetheless, the “Try Weakly Railroad” service was better transportation than anything residents had ever had before.

The name of Radium was suggested by Harry S. Porter because of the radioactivity found in his mine. The nearby Radium Copper Mine was a large copper producer at one time.

Maintainance workers for Union Pacific, current owners of the railroad, are still based at Radium.

Topic: Leisure Time

Grand Lake Yacht Club

Grand County often attracts adventurous spirits who prefer its splendid isolation to Wal-Mart and fast food. Others, who never make the leap of faith to live here, enjoy it as a familiar playground, returning regularly to enjoy its vast mountain ranges and unlimited outdoor opportunities.

It has to come many as a surprise to learn that Grand Lake, Colorado - nestled next the Continental Divide at over 8,300 feet elevation - has had a yacht club for over one hundred years! When this adventure began, back in 1902, there was only a stage road into the southeast corner of Grand County over Berthoud Pass. Grand Lake is situated next to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, at the far northeast corner of the county, with the rugged backbone of the continent directly to the north and east. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was a summer vacation spot with few full-time residents. Summer visitors and full-time residents alike recognized the grandeur of the their surroundings, and Grand Lake very early became a summer home to many of Denver's elite, and the summer business they brought helped support the local economy.

It was a few enthusiastic Denverites with a keen interest in Grand Lake and sailing who organized the Grand Lake Yacht Club over 100 years ago. The founders included Richard Crawford Campbell, who married Senator Thomas Patterson's daughter and became the business manager of his father's newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News; William Henry Bryant, a Denver lawyer who was active in both sailing and Colorado politics; J. Fermor Spencer, a close friend of Mr. Bryant and long-time treasurer of the club; and William Bayard Craig, who enjoyed a broad education and had been the Chancellor of Duke University before he became interested in "acquiring land in Colorado."  By the end of 1902, according to Denver papers, "the first bona fide yacht club between the Mississippi river and the Pacific ocean" was in operation.

An atmosphere of excitement and pageantry swept over Grand Lake during the early Regatta weeks, when the Yacht Club held its annual races. In Denver, The Friday Evening Times proclaimed during August of 1904, "Yachting season is here", and went on to describe the "enthusiastic cottagers gathered on shore" around Grand Lake to cheer for the yachts. In 1907, Regatta week included yacht racing as well as foot races, donkey races and bronco busting. When the yacht races ended, the boat captain who won the most races had earned the Colorado Cup.

The Grand Lake Yacht Club's small sailing fleet during Regatta week - three days of racing during mid-August - sometimes included only a handful of boats during its first decade or so. Still, according to one observer, "the organization has more spirit to the square foot than I ever saw exhibited before." Races on the first day of Regatta week, 1905, illustrate the enthusiasm well. In the hotly contested first race of Regatta week, Robert Campbell's Highball, built in Racine, Wisconsin, tossed her two-man crew into the icy waters of Grand Lake when she capsized while running in second place. Shortly after, the third place yacht, Duchess, went over too, leaving the Chicago-built Dorothy II captained by Commodore Bryant the first and only boat to cross the home buoy.

Today, Dorothy O'Donnell O'Ryan, Commodore Bryant's granddaughter, maintains her family's summer home in Grand Lake. In 2002, she published Sailing Above the Clouds: An Early History of the Grand Lake Yacht Club, which chronicles the club's first 50 years. Her Colorado roots go back to Colorado territory's last, and the state of Colorado's first Governor, John Long Routt, who was appointed by President Grant in 1875, the year before Colorado became a state. Knowing the early history as she does, and the difficulties inherit with mountain transportation, O'Ryan marvels at "the logistics" of bringing sailboats built in Racine, Wisconsin or Chicago, Illinois over the Continental Divide into Grand County, Colorado by rail and stage road.

Home-built crafts, both crude and highly crafted, competed as well. Many of the first home-built boats were modified rowboats, "with homemade sails and masts." Observing the annual Regatta week in August of 1904, though, Arthur Johnson called attention to "the Jessica, a 16-foot boat belonging to the vice-commodore and built at Grand Lake" that sported "a sail that would have done credit to a venturesome Lipton on the high seas."

If a sailboat in Grand Lake during 1904 "done credit to a venturesome Lipton," Sir Thomas Lipton himself returned the favor tenfold in 1912. It so happened in 1912 that Lipton was traveling by train across the United States and would pass through Denver on his journey. Probably, Sir Thomas had met the well-traveled and enthusiastic yachtsman, William H. Bryant (Grand Lake Yacht Club Commodore) at the New York Yacht Club. Continued correspondence between the two resulted in the Grand Lake Yacht Club inviting Sir Thomas to the Denver Club for dinner in December of 1912, sponsored, of course, by the Grand Lake Yacht Club. Before he left that evening, flattered by the warm welcome he received, Lipton had proffered a silver cup to the Grand Lake Yacht Club.

Lipton became a yachting icon during the early 20th century. His sportsmanship was nearly unparalleled in the sport and he spent most of 30 years and millions of dollars trying to win the America's Cup. Thoroughly devoted to yachting as a sport and highly capable in the art of advertising, Lipton spread his Lipton Cups "around the globe" to promote the sport and himself.  His gift to the Grand Lake Yacht Club energized the young organization.

Today, the boathouse of the Grand Lake Yacht Club still reminds visitors and members of the organization's heritage. Built in 1912 by Grand County pioneer Preston Smith on land donated by fellow pioneer Jake Pettingell, the lakefront log structure sits in the midst of magnificent mountain scenery, with the dramatic peaks of the Continental Divide to the west and north and the Never Summer mountain range to the west.

As the club matured, it began to offer more races to more members and guests throughout the summer season. The original Regatta week still exists as the most important, and festive, event. Races were added, though, in 1912 with the Adams Cup; in 1914, the Lipton Cup was incorporated; in 1923, the inventor of the Sunshine Lamp (which Coleman Lanterns later bought out) presented the Hoffstot Cup; and in 1925, Dorothy Bryant O'Donnell offered the Bryant Cup in honor of the late first Commodore, W. H. Bryant. Well over 20 cups or trophies now highlight the Grand Lake Yacht Club's season. Throughout its evolution the Club has remained as unique as the dramatic physical environment that surrounds it and the people who envisioned and created it.

Ute Legend of Canyons

Major John Wesley Powell was in the first party to make a recorded climb of Pikes Peak in 1868.  Later, he would lead the first expedition of the Green and Colorado (Grand) Rivers. He was very interested in the Indian tribes that he encountered and later became head of the new U.S. Bureau of Ethnology.  He recorded this legend as told by the Utes on his first visit to the Colorado mountains, during his Pikes Peak climb.

A chief of the Utes mourned the death of his beloved wife, and his grief was so deep, that no one could console him.  Then the Great Spirit, Ta-Vwoats, appeared to him and promised to take him southwest to where he could see where his wife had gone, if he would promise to grieve no more.

Ta-Vwoats rolled a magical ball before him and it crushed mountains, earth and rocks, making a trail to the land of the afterlife.  Following the ball was a rolling globe of fire which the Great Spirit and the chief followed.  At last they were in the happy land where all was blessed with plenty and joy.  This was where the chief's wife had gone and he was glad to see it.

When they returned, Ta-Vwoats told the chief that he must never travel that trail again during life and warned all the people against it.  Knowing that those who had lost their loved ones would be tempted to make the journey, Ta-Vwoats rolled a river into the canyons so that no one could enter.

Prisoners of War

Article contributed by Abbott Fay

German Prisoner of War camps existed in Fraser and Kremmling during the wartime years of 1945-1946  The Fraser camp provided much needed labor for lumber production while the Kremmling camp shipped cut ice by rail, mostly to the Grand Junction area.

In Fraser, some 200 prisoners loaded an average of 25,000 feet of lumber on rail cars every day. They were quick learners; doing all phases of the work, from horseshoeing to bookkeeping. For their hard work, they were paid 75 cents a day, which they could spend at their Post Exchange.  The prisoners in the Fraser area were were sometimes rewarded with trips to the local movie theater.  They were also allowed to form a dance band utilizing homemade instruments and were permitted to bake special German pastries.

Examples of the beautiful inlay woodworking skills of the prisoners are on display at the Grand County Museum in Hot Sulphur Springs.

Source:
R.C. Black, Island in the Rockies, Pruett Publishing, 1969

Topic:

Leisure Time

Article contributed by Scott Rethi

Of all the leisure time activities available to the pioneers, dancing
was the favorite.  Dances were held in grand hotels that remained from the mining boom, such as the Fairview House and The Garrison House in Grand Lake.  

Quadrilles, a type of square dance, were popular at the time.  A
fiddler would provide the music and serve as the caller.  These parties would start in the evening and last all night.  The formidable temperatures and great traveling distances were incentive for getting the most out of every gathering.  

Winter Sports have also always been a popular pastime.  Skiing was introduced to the region during the winter of 1883. Snowshoeing and sleigh rides were also enjoyed.  

1882 officially brought the arts to the Grand Lake area when the Dramatic Society was organized.  A production of the
well-known comedy "Our Boys" was the premiere performance.

Sources:
Mary Lyons Cairns, Grand Lake: The Pioneers & The Olden Days, Renaissance House Publishers, 1971

Jacob Pettingell - An interview from 1931

Transcribed by Dan Nolan

In 1880, Jacob Pettingell moved to Grand County at the age of 20. He spent the rest of his life here serving as postmaster, notary public, insurance agent, abstracter, legal counsel, justice of the peace and county clerk. The following is part of an interview conducted by his son-in-law Victor Frey in 1931.

Company of soldiers 
"When I came here, there was a company of U.S. soldiers camped at the old Barney Day ranch; this ranch is a few miles below Parshall, Colo. I think they left that fall. The Meeker Indian Massacre was in ‘79 and these soldiers were sent here in anticipation of further trouble. In addition, the govern­ment sent Springfield rifles to all settlers with ammunition.  We were curious about these new guns and went up on the hill to try them out; before we realized it, we had used up about all the ammunition. At this time some of the Utes came to Sulphur and vicinity to hunt and fish, and to trade. 

Fish & game 
Both fish and game were very plenti­ful in the early ‘80s. On account of severe weather, the settlers usually laid in their winter’s supply of grub early in the fall. At this time they would take several loads of game out to Empire and Georgetown, trading same for grub and provisions.  C. H. Hook, who ran the stage, would pay 25 cents per pound for fish, taking it out to market and selling it for 50 cents per pound. Some persons made as high as $15 per day by fishing. There were no state game laws then. 

Town of Kremmling 
Around 1880 or 1881, there was one little store and a building or two, located across the River (Muddy Cr.). This store belonged to a man named Kremmling.  About 1891, John Kinsey laid out the town of Kinsey City. Later, Kremmling moved his store and post office across the river to this townsite and the name was changed to Kremmling, Colo. There were some ranches in this locality and some of the ranchers names were Bill Kindell, Tracey Tyler, Jim Hetherley, and Dr. Hillery Harris.

Williams Fork
There was only about one ranch here owned by Joe Coberley. There was, of course, no town of Parshall. 

Town of Grand Lake
Old man Wescott lived here; a family by name of John Shafer and Ike Burton. Hot Sulphur Springs had been the county seat and headquarters for supplies for all the mines up Bowen Gulch. Grand County included all of Jackson County at that time.  About 1881, when the mining boom commenced up Bowen Gulch where the towns of Lulu, Gaskill and Teller City sprang up, they decided to move the county seat to Grand Lake since this was much closer. The county seat remained there until 1888 when it was moved back to Hot Sulphur Springs. The old town of Gaskill was located at the mouth of Bowen Gulch; Lulu was about three miles above Squeaky Bob’s ranch, now the Phantom Valley Ranch; while Teller City was on the other side of the ridge in North Park. 

Sandy Campbell and Jim Bowen were the first prospectors. The price of silver was high, and most of these mines were for silver. These mining towns sprang up around 1880-81. I originally came west to spend about three months in Middle Park, hunting and fishing, but when the mining boom struck this locality, I became interested. I grubstaked two men; later I took up a claim above the old Wolverine mine for silver and mined for 7 or 8 years. It was a paying proposition while silver was up in price but on account of the long freight haul and drop in price, the mine was later abandoned. Estimated population dur­ing boom days: Gaskill 150; Lulu 200; Teller City from 1,200 to 1,500. It was claimed that Teller City had 27 saloons. My personal recollections are that they might have had as many as 20 at one time.

The Famous Foot Race 
About once a month, the miners would all come down to Grand Lake for celebra­tions. There is no use to say that considerable liquor was disposed of. During the winter of 1882 a man named Sharp had been working at the Wolverine mine; he had beat them all at foot racing early that spring when the snow went off; these miners thought they had a world beater at foot racing.  While down at Grand Lake on a monthly celebration, they were all bragging about this man Sharp. At this time Harley McCoy was living at Grand Lake and he spoke up and said he had a man named Montgomery who could beat Sharp in a foot race. Sharp went into training at Gaskill; Montgomery at Grand Lake. Bets were originally around $100 and increased to nearly $8,000 on this proposed foot race. The race was pulled off July 4 on the main street of Teller City. Montgomery won the race by about 7 feet and Sharp kept right on running to the end of Main Street, then out into the timber. There was a horse tied there for him and a man waiting to divide up the swag—Sharp was never seen again. The gang at the Wolverine mine took their defeat like good sports, the other bunch paying for all they could eat and drink for a number of days.

The Mock Trial
Usually there was quite a bit of fun and excitement during the mining boom, but once in a while the boys would get a little lonesome on Sundays. This was one of those particu­lar Sundays when they craved a little excitement. There was a tourist and his party who had come in from around Boulder to fish and hunt. The boys confided in the judge and they arrested this man by an old location certificate and he was charged with horse steal­ing (a pretty serious offense in those days).

They held open court and the house was packed, not only with local people, but about 20 tourists were present. The defense attorney spent much of his time describing the wonderful scenery around Grand Lake and Colorado in general. The prosecut­ing attorney prosecuted hard and produced a witness who claimed he actually recognized the accused man and stated there was no doubt but what he was the guilty party. About the time the jury was to have the case, it was framed that I should commence a heated argument across the room with Gil Martin. When I jumped up and called Martin a liar, he opened fire with blank cartridges across the room: I commenced returning the fire. There was a great commo­tion, people actually jumping out thru the windows and a wild scramble thru the doors. The frightened defendant escaped into the timber. It rained all that afternoon. We later succeeded in convincing his partner that it was a joke, so he finally brought the de­fendant in that night, dripping wet and still badly frightened. They all pulled out of Grand Lake before morning.

First Courthouse
This was a small frame building about 12’ x 14’, one room. It has been moved and is now one of the cab­ins belonging to the Corner Cupboard. The Commission­ers then let a contract to Tom Johnston to build a new court house with jail behind, as quickly as possible. There was a sawmill at Grand Lake and plenty of lumber. Johnston put on a large crew; they start­ed in one morning; the next day they moved into the new court house building. John­ston put up this building in a little over one day, sufficiently for them to move in and use it. This building is now John Zick’s restaurant building. 

The Duel 
The commissioners were Barney Day, Webber and Mills, an attorney from Teller City. The sheriff was Chas. Royer and under-sheriff Bill Red­man. Cap Dean was the clerk pro-tem. Mills and Webber had been close friends but had a falling out over the Repub­lican State Convention the year before and since then had become bitter enemies. It is reported that there had been differences between Bar­ney Day and the sheriff and under-sheriff. 

The commissioners met at Grand Lake on July 3, 1883; they all agreed to adjourn un­til July 4 because Mills had an important case in court that day. Mills went to court but Day and Webber went to the Nickerson House and held a commissioners meeting there. At this meeting they raised the amount of bonds for county officers, making same so high they knew none could comply. As I recall, the sheriff’s bond was around $50,000. This caused the sheriff and under-sheriff to throw in with Mills. The next day was Fourth of July and many people were shooting out into the lake, there being considerable noise. Cap Dean, Barney Day and Webber left the Young Hotel (where I was also stopping) and started down town. No one knew just what did happen or who fired the first shot. There were some extra shots in that direction: someone thought they saw a man fall to the ground; we all ran down to the spot which was about 500 yards from the Young Hotel. 

Mills was lying in the road; Barney Day part way in the water; both Dean and Web­ber had been carried into the hotel. Day and Mills died instantly, while Webber lived until around 2 A.M. the next morning. I sat by his bedside. Cap Dean lived 4 or 5 days although he was shot to pieces. I sat beside Dean’s bed and asked him who did the shoot­ing and he replied that he did not care to say. Later, he described one tall man with a handkerchief over his face who attacked him and it fit the description of Bill Redman. It was thought that Mills opened up the attack by firing his rifle. The sheriff and undersheriff both es­caped. They first came to Sulphur and tried to organize a posse but the people seemed to mistrust them and they left the country. Later, Chas. Royer, the sheriff, committed suicide. Bill Redman had been a great pal of Royer’s and when he picked up a paper reading about Royer, he also com­mitted suicide. Therefore, this cost the lives of 6 men.

Firsts in Grand County:

The First Newspaper
The Middle Park Times was founded in 1881 at Grand Lake by John Smart and George Bailey. They called it the Grand Lake Prospector. It was moved to Sulphur in 1889 and called the Grand County Prospector. One day, in 1890, I walked into the newspaper office and was talking to Willard Minor, then running the paper. I told him that I thought Grand County Prospector was a h-l of a name for a county newspaper and sug­gested they change this name to “Middle Park Times.” They took this action and the paper has been known by this name from then on. About 1897, I bought out this paper and edited it for three years.

The First Auto
It was a Thomas Flyer driven from Denver to the Grand Hotel at Sulphur by Harold Brinker, who later on became a famous race driver. This was in 1905. It caused no end of excitement in our small town. Brinker kindly took several of the young people for a ride out to the old horse race track. My daughter, now Mrs. V. H. Frey, was one of the persons and she often mentions the thrill that first auto ride gave her. The car was driven in over the old Berthoud Pass road. 

The First Train
In the fall of 1905 the tracks were laid as far as Hot Sulphur Springs and at this time the first train came in two sections; there were about 1,000 people with a band. The community gave a barbecue and fish fry.

The Grand Hotel 
This was contracted for by my friend Mr. Chapin and myself, and finished in the year 1905. I ran same for a number of years. The first Forest Service office was located in this building and J. C. Stahl was the Supervisor. Later the forest office was moved to Fraser; it was there a short time, then moved back to Hot Sulphur Springs. 

Conclusion
From May 10, 1880 to the present time, February 7, 1931 I have watched the following towns spring up in Grand County: West Portal, Fraser, Tabernash, Granby, Grand Lake, Parshall, and Krem­mling. The Williams Fork locality has also settled up. The old mining towns of Gaskill, Lulu and Teller City came, and then died away. Ranches have developed over most of the county. Stock raising, both sheep and cattle, has become a fixed indus­try. The county, during this time, has shipped out an enormous amount of timber. Like else­where, the auto has developed rapidly and we have many miles of splendid mountain pass roads. There is an abundance of fish and game, although not so plenti­ful as the early days. Every town in Grand County is growing slowly but surely, with the possible exception of one railroad town. Grand County is well off financially and it has the very brightest prospects for future prosperity.

 
 

 

 

 

Topic:

Community Life

What was it like to live in Grand County in the 1800's or the early 1900's?  Click on the drop down menus and find out about community life in the “olden days.“

Topic: Biographies
Chauncey Thomas memorial

Chauncey Thomas: ‘Sage of the Rockies’

Chauncey Thomas memorial

In 1900, while visiting in Washington, D.C., Chauncey Thomas, a nephew of William and Elizabeth Byers, wrote ‘Snow Story, or Why the Hot Sulphur Mail was Late’.  When the great British author, Rudyard Kipling, read the piece, he pronounced it the ‘best short story by an American’.

The opening paragraph of the ‘Snow Story’ reads as follows:  ‘Berthoud Pass is a mighty pass.  It is the crest of a solid wave of granite two miles high, just at timberline. Berthoud is a vertebra in the backbone of the continent.  It is the gigantic aerial gateway to Middle Park, Colorado - - a park one-fifth as large as all England.  The mail for this empire is carried by one man, my friend Mason.’   The story goes on to describe Mason’s winter trip over Berthoud Pass into Middle Park where he encountered extreme winter blizzard conditions, an avalanche and Salarado.

Chauncey Thomas, a native son of Colorado Pioneers, was born in Denver in 1872 and died there in 1941.  At the age of three, Chauncey suffered his first loss.  ‘The light went out of my left eye forever.  A pair of scissors did it’, he said.  At age nine he received his first weapon, a .22 caliber revolver, and promptly shot himself in the foot.  No matter.  Forever after, firearms fascinated him.

He attended Gilpin and East Denver High School where he was a military cadet, but except for military drill and mathematics, school interested him very little.  After graduation and college attendance at Golden, Colorado and Lake Forest, Illinois, he found his way to New York City. Here, he worked as an editor for well-known magazines - McClure’s, Muncey Publications, and Outdoor Life (among others) and hobnobbed with the likes of Ida B. Tarbell, S. S. McClure, Jack London and Frederic Remington.  He returned to his home town and occupied himself more and more with Denver’s historic past.  

On the night of September 23, 1941, in his garret room at 1340 Grant Street, he took up a scrap of paper and wrote: ‘stroke--agony’.The next morning a neighbor found him, pistol in hand, dead.  Two years later, at Berthoud Pass on a mountain that bore his name, Chauncey Thomas was honored.  Dr. LeRoy Hafen the Colorado State Historical Society’s historian and the Colorado Historical Society dedicated a monument to him on which was inscribed, Chauncey Thomas: Sage of the Rockies.

Excerpts of this article are courtesy of Colorado Historical Society & Grand County Historical Association. The publication ‘Snow Story, or Why the Hot Sulphur Mail was Late’, written by Chauncey Thomas, is available in the History Stores at Cozen’s Ranch Museum and Pioneer  Museum

Topic: Leisure Time

Picnics, Games and Socials

Article contributed by Abbott Fay

 

There were many games and leisure time activities enjoyed by the early settlers in Middle Park.  Among the most common adult games were gambling games such as crap-shooting.  Poker in almost all its forms was also very popular. Some saloon poker sessions would go on for entire weekends.  Parlor games often included Blind Mans Bluff, which has a history dating from ancient times.  Charades, dating from the 1770's was recorded in at least one pioneer diary.  Marbles and Jacks were common children's games. 

 

Some of the more athletic pursuits included swimming, which was very popular in the summer and during winter at the Hot Sulphur Springs.  Contests of croquet and horseshoes were played at almost all the resorts and dude ranches.  Several times, the Middle Park Fair Horseshoe Champion went on to compete at the Colorado State Fair, and in 1920, a local winner went on to the World Championships held in Minnesota.

 

All sorts of tag games were invented, including a version called "Fox and Geese" played in the snow fields of winter.  A variation which is rarely seen today was called "Statues".  In this game, "it" would whirl each player around and then release him or her.  However the released one landed, that position had to be held totally motionless (as a statue).  After all the players had been cast off into statues, "it" would pass among them looking for even the slightest motion, even to the blink of an eye.  As "it" caught a victim in movement, the victim then had to join "it" to pass among the statues, often taunting and teasing to elicit a movement, until only one statue remained.  The final statue became "it" for the next round.  

 

Rope jumping, hop scotch, sleigh riding, skiing and ski-jouring have all been mentioned in letters, diaries and newspaper accounts. Potluck picnics were frequent in the summers.  Ranch families would meet on Saturday nights in the school house for dancing.   At church celebrations there was almost always a cake-walk and donated box lunches were auctioned off.

 

In additional to fishing and hunting, rodeos gradually replaced informal races and other private ranch contests.  One of the first rodeos in the nation was held at Deer Trail in Colorado in 1869.  By the end of the century, almost every ranching area in the state had at least one rodeo a year. 

 

As for musical entertainment in those days before phonographs or radios, many people would perform at public and private gatherings.  Violinist, often self-taught, would play with other instrumentalists in what were called "hoe downs".  Mountain men often carried mouth harps for self-entertainment or impromptu performances for other trappers and Indians.  Accordianists were very popular at polka dances and the Jew harp was another common musical instrument.

 

On long lonely treks, some travelers would sing, not only for pleasure, but to scare away predatory animals.  Some ladies cultivated excellent singing voices and were often accompanied by piano music.  Pianos were more common in homes a century ago than they are today.  For households without a capable musician, there were player pianos, which made music from rolls of perforated paper to reproduce popular and classic tunes.

 

Story-telling was an art for some talented individuals, who were the highlight feature at many gatherings.  Some stories ended on a humorous note; other were mysterious or even scary.  Conversation was also considered a form of entertainment.  Women's sewing bees were welcomed for the gossip opportunities as well as the craftsmanship. 

 

Essentially, there was much more individual participation and carefully planned intermingling in those days than the more passive entertainment (TV, video games, movies, etc.) of today.   

 

Sources: Merlyn Simmonds Mohr, The New Games Treasury, Boston, 1997

Gertrude Hollingsworth, I Rember Fraser, Fraser, CO

Luela Pritchett, Maggie By My Side, Steamboat Springs, CO 1976

Candy Moulton, A Writers Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1999

Robert C. Black, Island In the Rockies, Boulder, CO 1969

Topic:

Mountain Men and Trappers

Article contributed by Abbott Fay

Many noted fur trappers and traders are reported to have been familiar with the headwaters of the Grand (Colorado) River as early as the 1820s.  Among them were Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Beckwurth, Christopher “Kit “Carson, Henry Fraeb and Peter Sarpy.

Louis Vasquez built a trading fort on the South Platte River and ventured into what is now Grand County to trade with the Utes.  A pass east of Berthoud Pass is named for him and his trading post was located at the site of modern Winter Park.  His partner, Andrew Sublette, also came across the Divide to trade in Grand County, as well as Ceran St. Vrain, whose fort was near modern Platteville.

26 year old Tom Smith was with a group of trappers who entered the northern part of Grand County in 1827, where they were attacked by either Ute or Arapahoe Indians.  Tom was hit in the leg by an arrow, splitting the bone and creating a life threatening infection.  Amputation was needed but none of the party had the nerve to perform the operation.  So Tom took a butcher knife and amputated his own leg.  As “Pegleg Smith” Tom later became noted as one of the greatest horse thieves in the West, but was never prosecuted.

The beaver trade was essentially over by the 1840s as silk replaced beaver pelt as the stylish material for top hats.  In 1842, famed traveler Rufus Sage came over Muddy Pass into Middle Park, but recorded almost no hunting activity there.  On the other hand …fishing was great!  His party caught over 50 pounds of trout in one morning.

Noted mountain man Jim Bridger and another guide, Joseph Chatillon, let the infamous Sir George Gore on an extravagant hunting expedition in Middle Park.  Despite the senseless slaughter of thousands of game animals, Gore has been immortalized with a mountain range, canyon and pass named for him.

One of the earliest of the mountain men to discover what was to become Grand County arrived in the Fraser Valley as early as 1860, soon after gold was discovered in Colorado.  Charley Utter, known as “Colorado Charley”, was considered the prototype of rough trappers and traders.  He was unique, though, in that he insisted on taking a bath every day, whether in the hot springs or beneath frigid waterfalls.  In 1864, Charley was one of the first to make use of Berthoud Pass driving cattle that he raised at Troublesome Creek. His home was host to various adventurers who came to explore the prospects of Middle Park. He would eventually work with the famous Buffalo Bill Cody, appearing in “Wild West” shows.

When Kentuckian Beverly D. William spent some time in Grand County, he realized the Grand River was originally named the Colorado.  As a Washington delegate from the newly organized “Jefferson Territory” (as this area was known at the time), he was instrumental in getting the named changed to the “Colorado Territory”, although the river was called Grand River until 1921.      

Sources:
Carl Ubbulode, Maxine Benson & Duane Smith, A Colorado History, Pruett Press, 1972
Agnes Spring Wright, Colorado Charlie, Wild Bill's Partner, Pruett Press, 1968
Hazel Gresham, North Park, Self Published, 1975
R.C. Black, Island in the Rockies, Pruett Publishing Co., 1969
Abbott Fay, To Think That This Happened In Grand County, Grand County Historical Association, 1999