Indian Legends

Indian Legends Articles

Origins of the Ute People
Origins of the Ute People

Before there were any people anywhere, the Creator, "Sinawaf", cut sticks and placed them in a large sack.  After many days, this aroused the curiosity of the coyote.  When Sinewaf was away, the coyote could no longer control himself and opened the sack.

Out came many people who scattered in all directions.  Each spoke a difference language from the others.  When Sinewaf returned, there were only a few people remaining in the sack.  He was furious with the coyote, as he had planned to distribute the people equally in various parts of the land.  As there could now be no such equity, there would be wars among the different people, who would fight for the best locations.

Of the small group left in the sack, Sinawaf called them Ute or Nuche, which meant "the people".  They would be a very brave and strong tribe.

The Ute Legend of Grand Lake
The Ute Legend of Grand Lake

A group of Utes were camping on the shores of Grand Lake when they were suddenly attacked by an enemy tribe of the Arapaho (and in some versions the Cheyenne as well).  As the brave Ute warriors began fighting, the women and children were hurried onto a large raft for safety and pushed to the middle of the lake.  As the battle continued, a treacherous wind overturned the raft and all the women and children were drowned. Many Ute warriors were also killed during the fighting. 

The legend holds that you can still see ghostly forms in the morning mist rising from the lake and hear the wailing of the lost women and children beneath the winter ice.  The Utes avoided the lake for many years because of these tragic events and evil spirits.

Ute Legend of Canyons
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.

Ute Legend of the Quaking Aspen
Ute Legend of the Quaking Aspen

It is amazing to behold the continuous quivering of aspen leaves in groves around Grand County, even when there is no apparent breeze.

According to Ute legend, the reason for this unique aspect of the aspen tree happened during a visit to Erath from the Great Spirit during a special full moon.  All of nature anticipated the Spirit's arrival and trembled to pay homage.  All except the proud and beautiful aspen. The aspens stood still, refusing to pay proper respect. The Great Spirit was furious and decreed that, from that time on, the aspen leaves would tremble whenever anyone looked upon them.

Ute Legends of Hot Sulphur Springs
Ute Legends of Hot Sulphur Springs

Ages ago, there were many Ute Indians who enjoyed life in Middle Park with its plentiful game and lush meadows.  They lived in peace and harmony for "as many years as there are hairs on the head."

In spite of this idyllic life, there was one young brave who yearned for more adventure and material goods.  He proposed that the Utes attack the Sioux, who lived beyond the mountains on the plains of the rising sun.  As victors, they would return in glory with much wealth and many captives.

Spiquet Pah (Smoking Water) was an elderly medicine man who foresaw only grief in the prospect of such a war.  He spoke before a council meeting, warning of the devastation that such an action would bring upon the tribe.  He foretold " As the North Wind soon brings the snows and death of winter, so will he bring sorrow and death to our own people.....if you do this, strength and peace and plenty will be but for a few; joy will be seen no more."

Disregarding his warning, most of the young men were tantalized with the temptation of the grand adventure of such a conquest.  In the autumn of the year, when they usually did their hunting, the young men rallied behind the young brave and followed him over the Great Divide into combat with the plains people.  As the fighters departed, a saddened Spiquet Pah went into the heart of the mountain "and pulled the hole in after him."

The young Ute men found the enemy better armed and organized than they expected. Many Ute braves were killed and others were taken as slaves. The prophecy had come true as starvation and disease plagued the tribe as there were too few men to hunt for food. The old man sat on his haunches beside his subterranean fire which he heated water from an underground stream.  From the mountain at Hot Sulphur Springs, water flows even today as a reminder of the rash behavior of so long ago.

Another legend holds simply that the Hot Sulphur Springs water acquired medicinal qualities in answer to the prayers of an old chief who has be left by his tribe to die.  The old man built fires within the mountain, and after drinking the water and bathing in them, we was restored to health and rejoined his people.

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Topic: Dude Ranches

Squeaky Bob's Hotel de Hardscrabble

Robert L. "Squeaky Bob" Wheeler homesteaded the northern end of the Kawuneeche Valley in 1907, setting up his tent camp at the base of Shipler Mountain.  He called his accommodations Squeaky Bob's Hotel de Hardscrabble.  He was one of many guest lodge operators who catered to the leisure traveler seeking relaxation through recreation.  These vacations were quite rustic, especially by today's standards. At least two guests at a time were asked to share lumpy beds. The sheets were said to be "refreshed" with talcum powder rather than changed and laundered.  The outhouses were stocked with mail order catalogs rather than toilet paper.

Despite these conditions, Squeaky Bob was very successful and his hotel hosted famous travelers from all over, including President Theodore Roosevelt. Squeaky Bob was known for entertaining his visitors with amazing tales and witty yarns.

Topic: Biographies

Ute Bill Thompson and His Memorial Marker

Dark clouds covered the Continental Divide as we looked east from the ridge leading toward Elk Mountain's remarkable view. Cool winds and spitting snow followed us. We weren't seeking the height of Elk Mountain, but instead, were tracking the historic path of Grand County Pioneer William Jefferson "Ute Bill" Thompson. Specifically, we wanted to locate the memorial marker for Ute Bill that Henry Grafke and Otto Schott placed along this ridge after Ute Bill died in 1926. 

Tracking Thompson requires divergent paths. On one hand, Ute Bill's early presence in Middle Park places him in an era when mountain men and Ute Indians shared the vast herds of elk and deer. Only a handful of hardy souls called Middle Park home when Bill Thompson arrived in the late 1860s or early 70s. On another hand, Thompson settled just east of Hot Sulphur Springs as a young man, where he carved out a cattle ranch that remains in his family today.  

Records prove he owned and operated a billiard hall, drove stagecoaches and established a homestead along the Colorado (then, the Grand) River. But tall tales and oral legends abound too, capturing hair-breath escapes, harrowing western adventures and the mischievous nature of a 19th century westerner. Looking through the numerous historic photos of Ute Bill at the Pioneer Village Museum in Hot Sulphur Springs leaves an impression of a capable trapper, businessman and rancher who textured his image with stories of western adventure. 

With Don Dailey - fellow historic trekker and great grandson of Ute Bill - along, I hoped to pursue the fact and folklore of Ute Bill. As Don pointed out an isolated cabin in the valley below, a Ute Bill tale from the Georgetown Arbitrator of September 1886, "as narrated at the time by one of the participants," captured my imagination.  

Bill Thompson breathed a sigh of relief. The rugged, hungry band of Ute in front of him smiled approvingly as his long black hair fell from his broad-brimmed black hat. A tense moment before, he'd worried about his future as the small band of Ute Indians led by Yarmony came upon his isolated cabin in Middle Park. Fact is, Bill Thompson's hair had just saved his life. Not bein' cut since the Sioux captured him as a child, it hung nearly to his waist.  

Bill was all set up for a Middle Park Winter, with supplies to last through the toughest stretch, when Yarmony and his band came along. Thompson cursed softly at himself for not payin' closer heed to their approach. "Figured they'd be out west by now," Bill muttered as he squared up to his guests. 

Speakin' through a mix of hand signs, broken Ute and English that most fellers in the mountain parks west of the divide understood well enough for basic communication, Bill impressed the band with his manly firmness and calm self-confidence. Then Yarmony spoke, "Beescits," was all he said. Bill hesitated to open his cabin supplies. "Why, them folks are so hungry," he thought to himself, "they're near certain to go mad if they laid eyes on my bacon and flour." At best he'd be without supplies at a risky time of year. "No biscuits, fellers," Bill said with as much certainty as he could muster, "barely enough food fer myself. There's still a shaggy buffalo er two fer the takin' and every feller's got the same chance." When Bill finished talkin' he looked Yarmony square in the eyes. He watched the headman's leathered face swing toward his rough-sawn cabin door thoughtfully. "Beescits," he repeated. 

Yarmony's band, snuggled in their elk skins and trade blankets, looked stoically at Bill. "Well," Bill said, throwing down his last ace, "seems you're intent on havin' my grub and I'm intent you ain't." Then, regrettin' it before he finished sayin' it, Bill raised the stakes, "Why don't we have us a shootin' contest fer it?" No immediate reaction caused Bill to wonder if he'd communicated clearly. Slowly, though, excitement spread through the crowd of Ute, as the entire band - from the pretty young girls to the big-bellies - looked to one feller. In front of Bill stepped a mountain-sized-Ute feller, creating a shadow as he approached. "Piah," the Ute whispered, breaking into a quiet chaos of conversations. Movin' quick and hopin' for some break, Bill scooped up his improved Winchester rifle as he threw off his broad-brimmed black hat so nothin' could obstruct his shootin' eye. Just as soon as his long black hair fell near his waist, the tense moment ended with a gasp from the Ute, followed by a welcome reception that meant more to Bill than any he recollected! Bill determined then and thar on never cuttin' his hair again! 

As he eased down the gun smilin', all them pretty Ute girls began paintin' his face and braidin' his locks. Bill was feelin' positively giddy about his good fortune. Decidin' he just might owe these hungry Utes a favor fer endin' a potentially tragic shootin', he led 'em to a nearby ravine where he'd been watchin' a small herd of shaggy buffalo. Now Bill Thompson figured he'd repay 'em with meat, and still keep his own supplies. Leavin' the Ute on a rise above the ravine, he sauntered down to the fresh buffalo trail just as he heard the thunder of hooves around the ravine's bend to the south. Settlin' into a remote stand of lodge pole pines, he sat right along the path of the rumblin' bison. Pickin' out his choices as they rounded the bend, Bill's Winchester boomed repeatedly, each shot bringin' down a fat cow or a young bull.          

Swaggering toward his kills, Bill was suddenly confronted by Sandy Mellon and Len Pollard, sneakin' along that ravine behind the buffalo. Not recognizin' Bill through all the paint and braids, Sandy thundered to Len that this Ute feller must "a stole Bill Thompon's gun," because there weren't many repeaters like his. Both their guns were trained on Bill.   Calmly, Bill broke the silence. "Don't over-reach yourself, Sandy." Yes sir, Sandy knew from the voice that this-here Ute feller in front of him was really Bill Thompson. That day, he became Ute Bill.  

Breathing hard to make the final incline, Don and I reached the point along the ridge of Elk Mountain where we expected to find the memorial. There it was, as we had hoped. After a hurrah for our success, we slowly read the plaque: "Hunting Grounds of "Ute Bill.'" As we snapped photos and drank water from our packs, I decided that where historic fact and local folklore meet, an authentic western tale begins.

Topic: Biographies

Howard Henry Yust

Howard Henry Yust was the sixth child of Charley and Mary Yust, born April 18, 1891 on their homestead by the Blue River six miles south of Kremmling. At age eleven, Henry worked as a teamster. He and his brother Bill rode broncs at early Middle Park Fairs. He homesteaded part of the ranch then grew potatoes Wynn Howe sold at his Troublesome store. Henry and his brother Ed raised lettuce in 1924-5 where Mesa, Arizona is now.

Winters, Henry and Ed broke horses. Daily they rode five miles through deep snow. The first day one brother led the unbroken horse ridden by the other brother. The next day, the two rode their two horses together, but separately to feed the Yust family cow herd at the mouth of Gore Canyon. Loose hay pitched onto team pulled sleds was pitched off in meadows.

In the summer of 1931 Jack Shiltz approached Henry while he and Ed were building the first water carrying flume/suspension bridge over the Blue River and asked if he would work for Middle Park Auto in Granby as a mechanic. Henry asked Ed if he wanted the ranch. Ed said yes, so Henry left. Later, Henry operated Standard stations in Kremmling, first the current Kremmling town hall, second now O'Aces Liquor. After he leased the second station to Dolye Likely, Henry operated a rock shop where he sold jewelry he made.

July 7, 1943 Henry married Mary Anna Ostergaard. They raised Mary's nieces Willa Jo and Donna Dee Ostergaard. On his last visit to Kremmling August 30, 1980 Henry showed Jim Yust the location of Elliott's cabin on Elliott Creek three miles south of Kremmling. Elliott squatted on land now owned by Blue Valley Ranch when he was killed by Indians taking revenge for the killing of Chief Tabernash. This band went on west to participate in the Meeker Massacre (1879). Henry died Election Day November 4, 1980 in Northglenn, Colorado.

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: 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.

Smiths of the Blue River

Frank John Smith was born October 5, 1852 in Granby, New York.  He married Elizabeth Olive Sanders, who was born in 1860 in Hannibal, New York.  They were married in 1878 in Hannibal and had two children Albert and Lelah.  Albert died as an infant in 1881.  In 1880 Frank homesteaded his ranch close to the Blue River and sent for his wife and baby daughter who came West by train to Dillon in the spring of 1883.

They had 10 more children, all born at the Smith Ranch, between 1884 and 1907.  As the boys grew into young men, they homesteaded additional acreage around the ranch.  The youngest son, Earl, operated the Smith Ranch until 1958, when it was sold to Ted Orr Sr. His son, Ted Orr Jr. and his wife, Virginia Smith (granddaughter of Frank and Elizabeth) operated the ranch until 1967, when it was sold to the Berger brothers.    

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:

Transportation

How did people travel to Grand County?  How did they get around? Click on the drop-down menus and take a little trip through history...
Topic: Mountains

Rollins or Corona - What shall it be called?

Travel across various passes of the Continental Divide occurred long before white men showed up. Indeed, as anthropologist James Benedict wrote c. 1975, some 10,000 years ago, prehistoric Indians camped, hunted, and built hunting walls on the upper reaches of Rollins Pass, as well as moving in and out of Middle Park for the warm summer months. Historic Indians followed the same paths. In the earliest days of non-Indian access, a particular pass at the head of Boulder Creek was dubbed Boulder Pass.

Capt. Jacob Bonesteel, including wagons, made the first recorded crossing by a white man at this point in April 1862. Three years later, a group of Mormons brought wagons over this route and a year later, promoters of new roads into Middle Park brought in many wagons and livestock. In fact, tourists were starting to enter the park by a number of routes, and one of them, Samuel Bowles, who wrote a fascinating account of his trip, including his return to Denver via Boulder Pass.

Interest was growing rapidly for a road over the Divide, into Hot Sulphur Springs, and on into Utah. One promoter, John Quincy Adams Rollins, from New Hampshire, teamed up with William N. Byers and Porter M. Smart to carry this project through. Rollins was interested in crossing the Divide; Byers was promoting the Springs; Porter wanted to develop the valley of the Middle Yampa. All three were pushing to have Middle Park officially named as Grand County, a challenge finally accomplished in 1874.

So Rollins and associates started his road, reaching the top in 1873. That next winter, they publicized this access and in June, Jimmy Crawford brought his family and wagons to Rollinsville and thence to Yankee Doodle Lake, ready to cross the pass now named Rollins Pass by the developer. But the road ended, and they found Rollins' men still hacking the road out of the granite! Jimmy and his crew found it necessary to leave their wagons and help.

Finally, on June 10th, the family was able to head for the top. Jimmy borrowed two yokes of oxen, hitching them to mules, and then to his horse. The road was so rough that the procession could proceed but a few feet before having to rest. The family itself climbed on foot. At the summit, they discovered only a rough swath cut down through the trees on the western side. The "road" dropped down between the lakes and followed Ranch Creek to its junction with the Fraser River. Rollins quickly realized that Berthoud Pass, which also opened in 1874, was superior to his own pass for wheeled vehicles, so he determined to hedge his bets. He initiated the first mail service into the county in 1873. He also built a commodious hotel where his road joined the Berthoud Pass road at the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Fraser. He called it the Junction House. Next, he proposed to the builders of Berthoud Pass that they form a joint ownership of the two roads between Junction Ranch and the Springs. Tickets would be issued for both routes and revenues would be shared. The two companies would build a bridge over the Grand at Hot Sulphur Springs. He even buttered up his rivals by complementing their work.

All this was accomplished, although the mail route soon moved to Berthoud Pass, because of the severe winters on Rollins Pass. The bridge was started in November 1874. From the beginning, Rollins' road was preferred for trailing livestock, because there were fewer problems with heavy timber and bogs. For years, the Church brothers, George and John, who introduced the Hereford breed into the county, trailed their cattle for summering in what became known as Church Park. However, tourists such as Irving Hale still drove wagons over Rollins Pass in 1878.

About 1880, interest burgeoned for bringing a railroad up South Boulder Canyon and through a tunnel near Rollins Pass. Numerous surveys were completed all along the area. David Moffat settled on Rollins Pass for the tunnel site but decided first to put a temporary line over the top. Thus, in the summer of 1903, a formal contract was let for work up and over the Pass itself. By 1904, the workers reached Arrowhead and they also built a work station on top, called Corona Station, or "crown of the mountain." This railroad construction town of Corona, located at over 11,600 feet at the top of Rollins Pass (first called Boulder Pass) along the Continental Divide was the highest railroad station in the world.

It became obvious by 1905 that the Corona area would require snowsheds if trains were to travel, even irregularly, during the winter. Still, word got out of the spectacular splendor of Rollins Pass and tourists flocked in on summer train excursions, sometimes stopping on top, sometimes going as far as Arrow. In 1913, a fine hotel was built next to the rail facilities. Because Rollins Pass was right in the middle of severe weather patterns, a weather station was built on top, as well as one down at Sunnyside. In 1915, Rollins Pass was actually proposed to be the south boundary of a proposed "Estes National Park."

Later, on the National Historic Register, the district was listed in 1997 as the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway Historic District--Rollinsville & Middle Park Wagon Road. It was also identified as the Rollinsville and Middle Park Wagon Road; Boulder Wagon Road, Rollins Pass, and Rollinsville area. In 1956, Governor Steve McNichols had presided at the official re-opening of the four percent grade to vehicle traffic over Corona Pass, expressing the hope that the route would someday be paved. The Colorado Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service made additional improvements, and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests put out a 24-page booklet titled "The Moffat Road: A Self-Guiding Auto Tour." The road crossed two of the original railroad trestles near Corona but those trestles, even if reached by 4-wheel vehicles, were crumbling and could no longer even be crossed safely on foot. The current self-guided auto tour refers to Rollins Pass, as well as the Moffat Road and the Boulder Wagon Road. Corona Station and Hotel are discussed. In 1979, a portion of the auto road over Corona Pass was permanently closed because of a cave-in of the "Needle's Eye," a tunnel located before the trestles heading west from the Moffat Tunnel's East Portal.

The tunnel reopened on July 3, 1988, thanks to efforts of the Rollins Pass Restoration Association on both sides of the Divide, with the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado History Society, and Boulder, Grand, and Gilpin Counties. It then closed once more when another rockfall hit the tunnel on July 15, 1990. The RPRA is continuing its efforts for re-opening. The noted photographer, Charles McClure, took many outstanding photos of the Rollins Pass road. One, titled"Group on Rollins Pass, shows well-dressed men and women stand on a snowfield making snowballs on Rollins Pass, Moffat Road, Boulder or Grand County, Colorado; probably on Denver, Northwestern and Pacific excursion train. Date: between 1904 and 1913 near Corona Station." Another photo shows a "30 ft. snowcut on Rollins Pass, Moffat Road photo. Denver and Salt Lake Arrow passenger car is parked east of Corona snowshed by the thirty foot snowbank cut, Rollins Pass, Colorado; it shows men, women and railroad employees posed behind train, on the roof and on the snowbank and a standard gauge track. Date: between 1904 and 1915."

A sign at the highway turn onto the Moffat roadbed says: The Moffat Road "Hill Route" Also called "Corona Pass Road", this road over the Continental Divide was the original "Hill Route" of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway built by David H. Moffat in 1903. It crosses Rollins Pass at 11,666 feet elevation. On top of Rollins Pass, a sign says: Elevation 11, 660 feet, John Quincy Adams Rollins established a toll wagon road through this pass in the mid 1870's. David H. Moffat's Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway crossed the Continental Divide at this point in 1903. First known as Boulder Pass, then Rollins Pass, the railroad workers dubbed it "Corona", the crown of the "Top of the world." A railroad station, hotel, restaurant and workers' quarters existed here until 1928 when the railroad was abandoned due to the building of the Moffat Tunnel. Identifications in various trail and geographical guides say: Rollins Pass (el. 11,680 ft) is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado in the United States. The pass is located on the continental divide at the crest of the Front Range southwest of Boulder, at the boundary of Grand County,Colorado and Boulder County, Colorado. Rollins Pass (a.k.a. Corona Pass) sits approximately 5 miles east and above the popular ski areas around Winter Park, between Winter Park and Rollinsville. The pass is traversed by an unpaved road, mostly the former roadbed of the Denver and Salt Lake Railway which abandoned the route in 1928 when the Moffat Tunnel opened to replace it. Railroad advertising called this the "Top O' the World" and it referred to the Moffat Route over the continental divide and the Rocky Mountains.

Rollins Pass was the primary travel route west from Denver until an easier road over Berthoud Pass was constructed. The Denver, Northwestern and Pacific railroad laid its tracks across the pass in 1903-1904 and established a Depot at Corona on the crest. It can be noted that in R.C. Black's Island in the Rockies, the term "Corona Pass" was mentioned one time, on p. 351; the terms "Corona Station" or "Corona Snowsheds were used. In Dismantling the Rails That Climbed, Rollins Pass was used, the Corona hotel, and just once, Corona Pass; 1936. In Maggie By My Side, it was Boulder Pass and Rollins Pass. In Rails that Climbed, Rollins Pass, the Corona shed, weather at Corona, Rollins Pass Snow Shed, other references to Corona as a site. In Guide to the Colorado Mountains (Orme) , they speak of the Corona Trail to Rollins Pass. High Country Names (Ward) used Rollins Pass entirely. Only Hiking Grand County, Colorado, published 2002 by Carr speaks of Corona Pass, with reference to Rollins Pass (near the town of Corona), Moffat Road. The term "town" might be questionable; there was only a small restaurant, workers quarters, railroad offices, and in 1913, the hotel. Current maps, USFS and the Grand County Trail Map, show Rollins Pass, with Corona at the side as being a site.

The use of "Corona Pass' seems to be a rather recent innovation that has come into being with tourism efforts in the upper Fraser Valley. Rollins Pass From Island in the Rockies p. 45 Rollins Pass was originally known as Boulder Pass, first recorded being crossed by whites, by Capt. Jacob Bonesteel in April 1862. Their supplies were carried in wagons. A second organized party went over the same pass in 1865. In 1866, promoters of access into Grand County brought many wagons and livestock over Boulder Pass.In 1867, Samuel Bowles and a group returned home to Denver via Boulder Pass. In 1873-74, two roads were proposed into the county, one of Berthouds pass and one over Boulder Pass. This was the same time that the county was named "Grand". J..A Rollins and his associates started the road and reached the top of the pass in 1873, at which time they envisaged a road from HSS into Utah. The first wagons went over in June 1874. The western descent was so bad that it never was much patronized by wheeled vehicles, instead becoming primarily used for trailing of cattle. At this time the name Boulder Pass disappeared from maps and Rollins Pass became the official name. p. 85. p. 80 Lots of schemes to build roads into GC, but of all the schemes for transport, only one, the Rollinsville and Middle Park Wagon Road showed any promise. That was designed by John Quincy Adams Rollins, from NH, a gifted promoter, a son of a clergyman, second of 19 children. He was a farmer, miner, freighter, road bulder, and platter of towns. He was perhaps the most accomplished billiard player west of the Mississippi. He was a Colorado resident at least by 1866. His finances were up and down, but he was tremendously strong. In December 1884, when he was 68, he thought nothing of a 3-day snow-clogged crossing of the Continental Divide. p. 85 Rollins was interested in MP as an investor and he was interested in extending his road into Utah.

At the same time, a Porter M. Smart was likewise excited about speculating in frontier projects and was working at developing the valley of the Middle Yampa. William N. Byers was busy planning for HSS. These three men launched at least two petitions, with more than 80 "residents" for creating GC. Grand County was created that year, 1874. p. 89 With the creation of GC, people began to consider the area more seriously. p. 92 There was no official mail into the county until 1873 when Rollins brought in the first US pouch over his pass. In May 1874, he built a commodious hotel at the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Fraser, known as the Junction House. p. 94 Rollins knew that the road over Berthoud Pass was superior to Rollins Pass; his main advantage was the railhead at Blackhawk. So Rollins proposed a joint ownership and operation of the two roads for the line between Junction Ranch and HSS. Tickets would be issued for both routes and revenues would be shared. The two companies would build a bridge across the Grand at HSS. Rollins even complimented the Berthoud work. This merger was completed soon. p. 104 This bridge was started in November 1874. p. 108

A mail contract was made in July 1875 for once a week delivery over Rollins Pass, but conditions were so severe that the route was changed to Berthoud Pass. p. 110 From the beginning, Rollins Pass was used in preference to Berthoud Pass for trailing livestock, because there were fewer problems with timber and bogs. However, late spring snowdrifts were a problem, so 20-30 horses were often brought along to break trail. The Church brothers, George and John, summered their cattle in what became known as Church Park and dug the Church Ditch. They also introduced the celebrated Hereford breed into GC. p. 170-171 As interest in bringing a railroad into and through GC developed, about 1880, various stockholders proposed to build up South Boulder Canyon to Yankee Doodle Lake and start a tunnel near Rollins Pass. Nothing came of the first attempts but by the end of July 1881, numerous surveys had been made for that tunnel. p. 238 Cattle was still being trailed out via Rollins Pass up to the turn of the century. p. 258

David Moffat and Horace Sumner, his chief engineer, in the fall of 1903, were planning the tunnel for future excavation; but in the meantime a temporary line was planned for crissing Rollins Pass, at 11,640 feet. p. 264 A formal contract was let for the work over Rollins Pass in August 1903. The loftiest sections were started first, and the first cuts at the top were nearly finished by the 26th of October and tunneling started at Riflesight Notch. As snow came, work slowed to a standstill. p. 265 Work in 1904 was extremely slow until the end of August. An encampment was built at Arrowhead and a station at the crest of the Divide was named Corona Station, where long snow sheds were built almost immediately. p. 267 Arrowhead was soon shortened to Arrow, when a post office was opened there in 1905. Travel on the grades, at 4-5% grades up over Rollins Pass was exceedingly difficult. p. 270 In 1908, word of the scenic splendor of Rollins Pass was becoming known world wide.

Also, Rollins Pass and its "Corona station" were attracting the attention fo the US Weather Bureau, for the pass lay squarely in the center of the region of heaviest snowfall on the entire Colorado Continental Divide p. 344 A terrible winter in 1909 made people think that Rollins Pass was never going to be practical for the long term. Time and again freight and passengers were stuck on top at the Corona facility. In 1913, a $10,000 hotel was built at Corona next to the rail facilities. From Dismantling the Rails That Climbed p. 6 The railroad went from Denver to the top of Rollins Pass. p. 8 Snowsheds were built over the tracks at Corona and other strategic places in 1905. p. 12 The top was referred to as "Corona Pass" 1936. p. 16 Crews who were to removed tails and ties reached Corona at the top of Rollins Pass 1936. p. 20 Reference to the Corona hotel From Maggie By My Side p. 1 Jimmy Crawford heard that a man named John Quincy Adams Rollins was building a road over the range at a place called Boulder Pass. 1873 p. 9-14 June 1874

The Crawford family traveled to Rollinsville and then to Yankee Doodle Lake, where the road ended. Rollins' men were still hacking the road out of the granite. Jimmy and his crew helped. On the morning of June 10, the family started out to go over the rocks and up the mountain. Then he borrowed two yokes of oxen to his wagon, then mules, then his horse. The animals had to rest every few feet; the family climbed on foot. There was no shelter at the top. Rollins' men had done no work yet on the west side of the pass except to cut a rough swath down through the trees. The road dropped down along Ranch Creek. From Rails That Climb published 1950 p. 43 Leyden Junction to Tolland to Rollins Pass. P. 63-64 Many references to Tunnels as identifiers of location. p. 76-77, 78 reference to the old Rollins Pass toll road; first mention of the place called Corona- crown of the mountain. Most references are to Rollins Pass. The Corona shed is mentioned, p. 82. p. 83 Sunnyside water stop, Loop Trestle and Tunnel, Ranch Creek Trestle and water stop, Arrow. p. 95, 100- 101 It is eleven miles from Arrowhead to Rollins Pass. Rollins Pass-Boulder wagon road; other references p. 107 - 112 reference to Corona shed. Reference to pipe line to Corona; a number of comments to Rollins Pass p. 119 weather at Corona p. 120-121 Rollins Pass p. 151 Rollins Pass p. 182 photo of "Rollins Pass Snow Shed" "This Corona station burned one night." p. 188 photo of June at Rollins Pass p. 192-194 photos of Corona shed and other buildings; Rollins Pass p. 252 walking on top of snow shed at Corona p. 271- 272. 1910 Snowshed at Corona p. 312-314 Rollins Pass; Rollins Pass snowshed; Corona; Corona siding p. 324 Corona; Sunnyside weather report station p. 326 Corona sheds p. 333-335 Corona shed; references to "Corona" as a place From Guide to the Colorado Mountains published 1974 p. 54-55 Corona Trail, going from East Portal to Rollins Pass From High Country Names published 1972 p. 105 Irving Hale in 1878 drove his wagon over Rollins Pass, now nearly abandoned as a wagon road. p. 131

David Moffat decides to build a temporary line over Rollins Pass. p. 165 In 1915, Rollins Pass was proposed to be the south boundary of a proposed "Estes National Park". From Hiking Grand County, Colorado published 2002 p. 52 Trailhead on the "Moffat Road to Corona Pass". In same paragraph, it becomes Rollins Pass (near the town of Corona). On p. 54, reference to the Corona Road. On p. 57, map shows Rollins Pass with Corona marked as a "site." p. 56, reference to the old railroad bed used crossing the Divide at Rollins Pass, near the town of Corona. Sometimes called Corona Pass. p. 60-61 Rollins Pass Wagon Road historical notes on JQA Rollins and how to find his wagon road over Rollins Pass, following Ranch Creek to Tabernash. p. 66 Rollins Pass (Corona) to Devil's Thumb From GCHA Journal The Journey p. 6 Rollins Pass used by Indians; comment in 1981 From GCHA Journal Middle Park Indians to 1881 p. 8 Archaic hunters camped in the Rollins Pass area; written mid-1970's The current maps, USFS and Grand County Trail Map, show Rollins Pass with Corona at the side as being a site. The Rollins Pass Restoration Association for many years, and currently, has been trying to open the road and Needles Eye Tunnel. The self-guided auto tour refers to Rollins Pass, as well as the Moffat Road and the Boulder Wagon Road. Corona Station and Hotel are discussed. On the National Historic Register Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway Historic District--Rollinsville & Middle Park Wagon Road (Boundary Increase) ** (added 1997 - District - #97001114)

Also known as Rollinsville and Middle Park Wagon Road;Boulder Wagon Road;R Rollins Pass, Rollinsville Corona Station and Hotel The railroad construction town of Corona, Colorado, located at over 11,600 feet at the top Corona Pass (first called Boulder Pass) along the Continental Divide was the highest railroad station in the world. It was situated on an old Native American trail, the same trail it is believed the Mormons traveled on their way to Utah. The road was improved by the U.S. Army, then further improved in 1866 by General John Q. Rollins, for whom the pass and the town of Rollinsville were officially named. Because of the high drifts of snow, the pass was only open from around July to the first big snowstorm two or three months later. In 1956, Governor Steve McNichols presided at the official re-opening of the four percent grade to vehicle traffic over Corona Pass, expressing the hope that the route would someday be paved. The Colorado Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service made additional improvements, and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests put out a 24-page booklet titled "The Moffat Road: A Self-Guiding Auto Tour."

The road crossed two of the original railroad trestles near Corona but those trestles, even if reached by 4-wheel vehicles, are crumbling and can no longer even be crossed safely on foot. In 1979, a portion of the auto road over Corona Pass was permanently closed because of a cave-in of the "Needle's Eye," a tunnel that came before the trestles on a westward drive from the Moffat Tunnel's East Portal area. The tunnel reopened on July 3, 1988, thanks to the efforts of the Rollins Pass Restoration Association with the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado History Society, and Boulder, Grand, and Gilpin Counties. It was then closed once more when another rockfall hit the tunnel on July 15, 1990. John K. Aldrich is a geologist, lecturer, and author whose "Ghosts of . . . " books and accompanying topo maps are a boon to hobbyists, explorers, and those interested in Colorado mining history. Date: 02/04/08 05:13 Rollins Pass Milepost 16 Corona Station. Picture 6 below, is DPL photo X-7388. "Title: Corona, Colorado, interior of snowshed. Summary: Passengers stand next to the covered train depot at Rollins Pass, in Corona (Grand County), Colorado. The tracks of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway are in the foreground. The depot is constructed of logs, and the roof of the snowshed is upheld by timbers. Sunlight streams through the opening at the end of the snowshed. Date: (between 1904 and 1913). Source: E. T. Bollinger from W. I. Hoklas." Picture 7 below, is DPL photo MCC-454A. "Title: Group on Rollins Pass. Summary: Well dressed men and women stand on a snowfield making snowballs, Rollins Pass, Moffat Road, Boulder or Grand County, Colorado; probably on Denver, Northwestern and Pacific excursion train. Date: (between 1904 and 1913). Creator: Louis Charles McClure 1867-1957. Picture 8 below, is DPL photo MCC-624. "Title: 30 ft. snowcut, Rollins Pass, Moffat Road photo. Summary: Denver and Salt Lake Arrow Turn (passenger car) parked east of Corona snowshed by thirty foot snowbank cut, Rollins Pass, Colorado; shows men, women and railroad employees posed behind train, on roof and on snowbank and standard gauge track. Date: (between 1904 and 1915 The highway sign says The Moffat Road "Hill Route" Also called "Corona Pass Road", this road over the Continental Divide was the original "Hill Route" of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway built by David H. Moffat in 1903. It crosses Rollins Pass at 11,666 feet elevation. On top of Rollins Pass, a sign says: Rollins Pass Elevation 11, 660 feet John Quincy Adams Rollins established a toll wagon road through this pass in the mid 1860-s. David H. Moffat's Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway crossed the Continental Divide at this point in 1903. First known as Boulder Pass, then Rollins Pass, the railroad workers dubbed it "Corona", the crown of the "Top of the world." A railroad station, hotel, restaurant and workers' quarters existed here until 1928 when the railroad was abandoned due to the building of the Moffat Tunnel. Rollins Pass Elevation 11,680 ft (3,560.1 m) Traversed by Unpaved road Location Boulder_County,_Colorado / Grand,Colorado Rollins Pass (el. 11,680 ft) is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado in the United States. The pass is located on the continental divide at the crest of the Front Range southwest of Boulder at the boundary of Grand_County,_Colorado and Boulder County. Sign that sits on top of Rollins Pass Rollins Pass (a.k.a. Corona Pass) sits approximately 5 miles east and above the popular ski areas around Winter Park, between Winter Park and Rollinsville. The pass is traversed by an unpaved road, mostly the former roadbed of the Denver and Salt Lake RailwayDenver_and_Salt_Lake_Railway which abandoned the route in 1928 when the Moffat Tunnel opened to replace it. Rollins Pass Railroad advertising called this the "Top 'O the World" and it referred to the Moffat Route over the continental divide and the Rocky Mountains.

Rollins Pass was the primary travel route west from Denver until an easier road over Berthoud Pass was constructed. The Denver, Northwestern and Pacific railroad laid its tracks across the pass in 1903-1904 and established a Depot at Corona on the crest. David Moffat planned to replace the "Hill Line" with a tunnel through James Peak within a few years of the railroad construction. However, he never could obtain financing for the tunnel due to the inability of the railroad to make a profit and opposition from competing railroads such as the Denver and Rio Grande. The D&RG saw the line as a threat. But, in the far future the construction of Moffat Tunnel would turn out to be the D&RG's saving grace. The trip up Rollins Pass was a favorite of summer tourists looking to enjoy the mountain scenery. It was heavily promoted by the railroad with picnic and wildflower picking excursions. Sights along the line were made famous by postcards containing the photos of L. C. McClure. At last the route surmounts the crest of the Continental Divide and takes quick refuge on the top at Corona. At elevation 11, 660 this is truly the famous Top O' the World and one of the highest railroad passes in the world. Due to the great height and nature of the Rocky Mountains, the entire railroad complex was completely enclosed in giant covered snow sheds.

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

Indian Legends