Stories and Poems of Past Memories

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Stories and Poems of Past Memories Articles

2006-100 Year is Here
2006-100 Year is Here

Poem, contributed by Vera Shay, August 2006

 

Since the railroad tracks

Were all laid down

Trains coming into Kremmling town

Only books, left to tell and say

Of the excitement that day

Of the thirties and the forties

It is so

Of the railroad tracks and trains

I do know

I rode on them everywhere

Here and there

During those years in my mind

I owned them all you see

That I would have told you

Had you asked me.

Todays trains all have a brand new look

Inside and out

Riding on the trains from them till now

There is no doubt

The train crew and passengers of today

Still just as fun and great

Though they seem to always be running late

Lots of folks think they're just too slow

For me they've always been

A wonderful way to go

Trains, trains

Let there always be trains

 

A Story from Big Horn Park
A Story from Big Horn Park

And Then There Was Light

They were perched on the side of the road in Big Horn Park peering out the window at twilight as their eyes moved across the Troublesome Valley below and then up to the high mountains of the Gore Range. From this distance it was obvious why early settlers, having trouble forging the creek, had appropriately chosen that name for the valley. Paul pointed out the window to the right and said, "That is where my great-grandparents lived." His ancestors had first homesteaded in Wray, Colorado before moving to Grand County around the year nineteen hundred and eighteen to ranch up on the Gore Range.

They headed down the gravel road to the ten acres of land just purchased not far from his grandparent's property. "Legend has it," Paul continued, "that on a bright, summer morning, Henry rode up to the timberline above his cabin to cut down the last load of trees needed to build a barn.

"Clara, his wife, called after him, ?I will bring your lunch when the sun is high in the sky.'

"Early in the morning", Paul explained, "she cleaned the tiny cabin and prepared food by the light of a kerosene lamp. When the sun was almost straight above the cabin,

she dressed and left by horseback with lunch for her husband. When Clara reached the top of the ridge, she could see Henry preparing to fell the last tree. Excitedly she headed up a final hill and dismounted with the lunch in her right hand. Climbing quickly, Clara called to Henry distracting him from his chore.

 "Then suddenly from high atop the ridge above him," Paul added, "Henry heard the terrifying cry of a lone, grey wolf. The scream was shrill to his ears, and his heart stopped beating for a moment before he looked around to see that the tree had crashed instantly to the ground. All was silent on the mountain as he descended to find Clara dead beneath the branches of the tree with the lunch still in her right hand. It had happened so quickly that Henry never heard one sound escape from Clara's mouth. And even today as the morning sunlight outlines the evergreen trees on Elk Mountain, you can see the silhouette of a woman's face with her hair flying wild and free in the wind and her mouth open wide, crying out for help.

"They called him O'Grey", he added, "but they never saw or heard from that wolf again."

Life in Big Horn Park in the nineteen-eighties when they bought the land was still challenging; no electricity or running water was available to provide creature comforts to local inhabitants. Over the years, while a house was being built, they washed in a small stream of water that trickled down across the property from Monument Creek. Neighbors used kerosene lanterns to illuminate the night and gasoline generators to pump water from wells. Bears often tried to enter basements for food, and mountain lions crawled onto decks to devour small dogs or cats. Only one or two hardy families lived in Big Horn Park in those days through the long winters. Skis provided a way of escape in the event of a winter blizzard that often dumped snow deep enough to cover the tops of the three-wire fences.

          And then there was light. Paul flicked on a switch in the house and radiance encircled them, startling the cats and engulfing the room. That marked the beginning and the end of time; old ways faded and new, exciting possibilities emerged. It was almost Christmas of the year two thousand and two, and the first holiday up in Big Horn Park was beckoning. If not for the electric heat installed during the summer, the trip would have had to be postponed for another year. Only by chance can the mournful howl of a lone, grey wolf be heard today, but the cat cries of the fox emerging from a den can still awaken a soul at midnight in the summer or the yipping coyotes can be heard as they call to one another in the silent, winter night.  And the tracks of a lonely, mountain lion lopping across the hillside beside the cabin can occasionally be found in the snow. 

The experience quickens the heart and revives the spirit as the Jeep is loaded with suitcases and cats, and a turkey with all the trimmings. From Utah across the high, barren desert and up the winding Trough Road the old Jeep transports the family to fulfill the dreams of a lifetime. A slender sled is removed from the Jeep as the attached silver bells jingle. Supporting their bodies against the door, the man and woman grab their snowshoes to slip them on and tie the leather straps securely. Cats and turkey dinner are hauled through the pristine snow like times of old to the garage door. A blast of bitter cold air escapes from the house when the door is opened, chilling the bones, but the electric heat will melt away the cold air while they climb the low hill to inspect tracks left in the snow by tiny creatures.

Soon flickering lights from a fresh, Christmas tree on the second floor loft cast playful shadows across the living room below. In a small room above, two single beds snuggled against the outer walls are spread with warm comforters. All manner of toys, games, and bright objects decorate the room, awaiting a grandson's arrival. For the adults, the smell of the turkey and the taste of pumpkin pie revive childhood dreams of holiday celebrations of long ago. Laughter and pleasure emerges from the snug cabin and records are played on the old turntable chanting, "Silver bells, silver bells, soon it will be Christmas day".

        Thus begins a new life for them; not only can the family survive "up on the Troublesome" again like their ancestors from the shadowy past, but a livelihood can be earned. As summer arrives a light will flash, a screen will brighten, and online learning will occur as distance education courses will be provided to students in Maine and other states from a small cabin located over eight thousand feet above sea level in a remote, northern corner of Colorado.

A Walk's Excitement - Anniversary of September 1945
A Walk's Excitement - Anniversary of September 1945

Contributed by Vera "Stathos" Shay, Kremmling

Granby resident 1930-1945

I walk, walk here there and everywhere;

I walk alone down the hill

I see our beautiful red, white and blue

High on poles waving, waving proudly over town.

No, what is this!

Daddy's with me.  He said to me wait, wait I'm going with you.

This must be important.

Daddy never joins crowds and there is a big crowd.

It seems the whole town is gathering.

Everyone is so happy and excited

Some people are waving American flags.

There is music, cheering, singing and dancing.

Daddy has brought along with us one of his track railroad flares.

He is lighting it.

He before has only lit one of them for our family to celebrate on Fourth of July.

What is going on?

Now everything is quiet.

Then someone is shouting.

Japan has surrendered.  Japan has surrendered.

Now I know.

Hurray!  Hurry!  The war is over.

 

Christmas at Fraser
Christmas at Fraser

The lights dimmed; mothers had already found their seats after coming from the classrooms where they had put makeup on little children’s faces and checked their costumes to make sure angel wings and halos were secure and costumes were on right side round.  I was at the piano, music and script lined out. The gym was full to the brim, every seat taken, with folks lining the sides and back walls, for the whole town had turned out.  Early birds got the seats!  Christmas wasn’t Christmas in the Fraser Valley unless it included the program at Fraser School (now the Town Hall).   I began the overture and chatter stopped.   I had played for this event for ages, starting in 1958.  High school students were gone by then, moved to the new Union High School in Granby, but 7th and 8th graders were still there.  And in 1958, the first kindergartens in the district were established.   It was a time of excitement and anticipation, of fun, and of panic? Well, no, not panic, for the teachers were beautifully organized. 

The program was chosen during October. Each teacher had a specific job. For instance, Martha Vernon, the art teacher, did sets.  Helen Hurtgen was responsible for dialog.  Edith Hill did costumes.  Nancy Bowlby was in charge of the music.  Others coordinated the whole.  And I played the piano, with Nancy sometimes accompanying me on her violin.  

Mothers were asked to contribute sheets and any fabric they could spare.  Patterns and material for costumes went home to be sewn into various sizes and shapes -- angels, gingerbread men, knights or royalty.  In the gym, we stitched on finishing touches, bright patches to decorate jester outfits, townspeople, and such, while watching various groups practice. Bits of tinsel became crowns, tinfoil turned into wands, cheesecloth into wings.  Lace scraps and sequins added color and “class.”   The budget was extremely minimal at first, but over the years, more money was directed to Christmas programs.  Instead of old sheets, we could buy cotton fabrics, velveteens, sometimes satin.  One year I even stopped by a furrier’s in Denver and begged some fur scraps.  Were we uptown then!  We had fur trim around the necks, cuffs, and hems of the costumes for the prince, queen, and king.  

The day before the play, PTA mothers gathered in the gym to fill brown paper sacks with an apple, orange, nuts, and candies, provided by R. L. Cogdell from his grocery store.  

Every single child in school took part in the play, as a class, except for those with speaking parts, of course.  Fraser grew and grew, then as now. Soon the 7th and 8th grades moved to Granby.  Then the 6th graders went, but the 4th and 5th graders handled the leads neatly.  Our stories were usually simple Christmas tales, but sometimes we tackled ambitious efforts such as the Nutcracker Suite or a version of Gilbert and Sullivan.   The only children not included were the Jehovah Witness youngsters.  They couldn’t be in the play and they couldn’t come watch it either.  We all felt very sorry for them, because everyone had such a wonderful time.  Their teachers tried to give them special projects to entertain and interest them while they sat off in a corner or in their classrooms.   The plays always went well.  Tiny kindergartners came out onto the stage, to stand behind the colored lights.  They knew their song perfectly in practices, but I have to admit that a number of them usually stood silent, stunned by that mass of faces looking up at them.  No matter.  They were darling. “Hi, Mom,” some were sure to call. “Mom” beamed.  

There might be a glitch or two every year. For instance, little Diane was chosen to do the Arabian dance in Nutcracker Suite.  Her parents were dark, as she was, and she was slender as a dancer. Trouble was, she didn’t have an ounce of grace in her body at that stage of her life.  I thought Nancy Bowlby was going to have grey hair before she got that child moving properly.  But the night of the program, Diane looked like Anitra herself, doing her exotic dance.   One year the king jumped his cue and entered on stage.  His first words were, “Did I miss anything?”  The prince muttered, in an aside, “Yes, three pages!”  But the cast went on as if nothing had happened, while down at the piano I sat, flipping pages rapidly, trying to figure out where the dialog was now.  

Another year, our son James was to take part in a minuet.  “Uck!  I have to touch a girl?”  By the greatest good fortune, he broke his leg and got to be a guard at the palace door, standing at attention on crutches, while another boy took his place.  (I think he did that on purpose.)   Songs and parts were adapted to the talents of the students.  We had five boys once, who couldn’t talk, dance, sing -- anything.  So they wore monks’ costumes and filed on stage, supposedly singing a Christmas carol, but supported strongly by the cast present.   Another time, Twyla’s parents couldn’t come, so Miss Vernon took her home to get ready. Now, Twyla usually looked like a dirty ragamuffin, but after a bath and hair wash, she truly looked like the angel she portrayed.   For the finale, the entire school came on stage to sing a last carol, with the audience joining in.  Then Santa showed up to distribute the goodie sacks, and the great night was over.  Coming out into the quiet night was a wonderful feeling.  Sometimes we moved through drifts of new falling snow; sometimes the sky was filled with icy stars.  Gay lights showed in windows throughout town. 

We never talked much on the way home, as we thought of the play, the success of everyone¹s efforts, and how happy the children had made their parents and families.   My last program was the first year after the new school was built.  It was fun still, but the school population had grown enough that it was impossible for whole classes to participate as one. Things weren’t the same as they were in the little old school.

Christmas in the Mountains 1951
Christmas in the Mountains 1951

It was my first Christmas in the mountains. Not only that, but it was my first time to be part of a vacation in a cozy ski inn.  This was at Millers Idlewild Inn in Hideaway Park (now the town of Winter Park). I had been married only eight months. Dwight and I had worked hard, getting everything in order: ­clean beds, fresh spreads and curtains, floors shining and bathrooms sparkling.  The woodpile was full and food supplies ready.  Our plans for evenings were laid out too. Dwight would do movies. His brother Woodie would call square dances, with former Moffat Road engineer George Shryer accompanying on the fiddle and his wife, Grace, chording on the piano.  Tom Smith would bring his sled and team of horses, to take happy folks along snow-packed roads for sleigh rides, to the tune of jingling bells. Games were at hand, along with a fine supply of books on the shelves. We expected a wonderfully busy two weeks, which was a good thing, because it had been a long time since our last income, before Labor Day.

Family and friends were coming tomorrow to give a hand over the holiday, and then the fun would begin. As the first guests arrived, I stepped outside, and lifting my nose, I thought, "I smell snow!"  Great!  The area already had a pretty good covering, so that when people called and asked, "Is there snow yet?  Should we come on ahead?" we could gladly say, "Come." That night it snowed,­ 12" of beautiful soft flakes.  Skiers were overjoyed. Dwight got out early to shovel, plow, pull people out of drifts, take others to Winter Park Ski Area, three miles away. That evening we heard that almost no stumps or rocks were evident on the slopes; all had been buried. The next night it snowed again ­ 12" of beautiful white stuff.  We were amazed.  But Dwight got out early to shovel, plow, pull people out if drifts, and take others to the area.  The following night it snowed again, and every night for a week, it snowed, dumping heaps of snow on the whole valley.

Winter Park Ski Area, in those days, wasn't open on Christmas Day; the management wanted to let its employees have the day at home with their families.  So we took our guests to the top of Berthoud Pass; from there they could ski down Seven Mile Trail and we met them at the bottom.  The day after Christmas began the busiest days of all. Back then, many families didn't leave home until the 26th. This was fine, until the passes closed from heavy snows and avalanches. Then visitors, who had to leave, couldn't drive out, but people who were coming by train could still get in!  We had a problem.  The parking lot was jammed with rental cars.  Although some folks went ahead and left by train, many families stayed on.  The rooms were completely full and after all, newcomers were entitled to their reserved space. We had guests stashed all over the lounge, extras in the dorms, and extras in the cabins.  What a crowd it was. I hardly had time to think. 

I cleaned all morning, helped set tables and serve, did dishes, sometimes hauled skiers to or from the area, kept up with the office work, and joined in entertaining folks in the evenings. Thank heaven for family and friends!  There never was such a hectic week. But the Miller hospitality at Idlewild kept our visitors relaxed and happy. Truly, it was a jolly time, with tired skiers loafing in front of the fire, doing puzzles or playing games.  There was always a group playing canasta after dinner, in the dining room, and peals of laughter would pour forth when somebody won a great hand. At last New Year's Eve came and went. The rental cars had gone back to Denver.  The rooms were empty.  We were alone except for a couple of guests.  Making our path through the deep drifts, Dwight and I went home and flopped down on our own sofa.  I heaved a sigh, saying, "Well!  So that's what Christmas in the mountains is like.  I had o idea there would be so much snow."  Little did I know that for Christmas, 1952, we would still have the crowd of guests, but there would be hardly any snow until January!

Colorado Mountain Wild Flowers
Colorado Mountain Wild Flowers

A sight to behold
Not just a story to be told
A beauty of our own Grand County things
of the past of here and now

A sight that will forever last
Field, and fields everywhere down low
More growing the higher we go

Our beautiful Colorado mountain flowers
The prettiest of anywhere
All of those colors

Scattered among the trees
Swaying in the breeze
Yellow, purple, blue, pink and red

Tiny little heads
Names of them all I do not know
Just that here they grow
Making a wonderful show!

Oct 2006

Granby Then and Now
Granby Then and Now

Contributed by Vera "Stathos" Shay, Kremmling

Granby resident 1930-1945

 

I've just read

"Granby Then and Now"

What a great history

My little town, of way long ago

A tiny bit of that time

Was a part of mine

With me forever

Forget you never

I've kept up

I've kept in tact

This little girl that

Lived across the track

That railroader's little brat

I'm proud and happy to say

Was my home, in my childhood day.

 

Ida Laverne
Ida Laverne

"Ida Laverne: My Baby Sister" contributed by Vera Shay

One Grand Essay Contest, 2005

 

 

I didn't remember it at all

I was pretty small

It was the sixth of November

this I do remember

Daddy went a-far

traveling on his railroad motor-car

all the way to Fraser

and in good measure

Dr. Susie he brought back

riding down the railroad track

I think with them, that maybe

they brought us our baby

And that was you Ida LaVerne

now it's my turn

to say

Happy Birthday

 

John the Cat Man
John the Cat Man

Old John, the Cat Man, lived just below the red brick railroad station at Winter Park, in a small log cabin, perhaps 10’ x 12’.  He was Swedish, or maybe Norwegian.  His last name might have been Peterson or Pederson, Swenson or Svenson or Swanson, Larson, Olson, Wilson, or Erickson; all that is lost to history. John surely came into the country first, to work on the Moffat Tunnel.  Now, two decades later after the opening of the tunnel, he was mostly retired.  However, he was the official deliverer of the U.S. Mail to the Winter Park Post Office.  This was in the years between 1945 and 1949 or 1950.  

Each day, after the Yampa Valley Mail went through, John would trudge slowly up to the depot, pulling his toboggan behind him.  Entering the bare waiting room, he¹d stick his grey head and long grizzled beard in at the office window to say hello to Mr. Schaeffer, known as “Schaef” to everyone.

Sometimes Schaef was too busy to talk as he tap tap tapped out a message on the telegraph key.  Or he might be expecting one in; when he was ready to receive, he’d cry into the radio to the man on the other end, “Fire, Gridley!”  But if all was quiet, John and Schaef would talk about “³way back when,” their favorite subject. Soon the two of them would be laughing and cackling at incidents long gone.  Schaef was considered by many residents to be grouchy, but he wasn’t really; he was just old and tired.  He and his wife lived in a little apartment at the back of the station.  In the fall he put his car up on blocks and didn¹t take it down until spring. 

If they needed to go any place, they rode the train. The station was bare; only benches lined around the edges of the room, a schedule nailed to the wall, but it was warm, for there was a coal furnace in the basement below.  John liked to feel that nice heat coming out of the vent while he visited.   After loading the sacks of mail, John hauled the sled down the road, past the Ranger Station, to the Post Office, a small building placed between Adolph¹s Bar and the Idlewild Stage Stop.  Now came the opportunity for another visit, this time with the postmaster, Gertrude Allison, aka “Allie”. Allie ran the post office for years, long before and after there was a post office in Hideaway Park.  She knew everything that went on, and what she didn’t know, she made up. It was considered something of a sport by the locals to start a rumor at her post office one day and see how it had developed a few days later.  

John then moved slowly home, his body bent over with the weight of his years and hard work, to greet his cats.  Long ago, John had gotten a cat; well, two cats.  Then he had four, five, seven, ten.  His tiny home was chock full of cats!  And oh, did it stink.  The place reeked, inside and out.  Dwight asked him one time, “John, why do you have so many cats?”  And John answered, “Well, I yust don’t have the heart to kill them, and they yust keep coming!”    And that’s how John came to be known as “The Cat Man.”

Like Father Like Son
Like Father Like Son

The Wichita Millers lived in one of those lovely old homes, blessed with fine trees lining the streets, large shady yards, and an easy arrangement within, that made family or visitors feel welcome. Three stories and a basement allowed plenty of space for a family of six.  The roomy dining area looked out onto the grassy backyard and flower garden, but the windows were rather small.

About this time, the notion of picture windows came into being. C.D. thought about this for a spell; good idea!  I want more light and a view.  Following through on the idea, he fetched his sledge hammer one afternoon and with a mighty wallop, he broke through the dining room wall! Presto....a larger scene. It took a while to trim out the whole, but the end result was totally satisfying.

This "grab the bull by the horns" attitude was passed through to Dwight.  We had moved into a nice modular home in December 1979.  A few years later, we decided we needed a garage; the solution was to lift the house and build a lower floor beneath it.

Dwight, his Uncle Ed, and I drove to the ski area where some used oak railroad ties had been cast aside.  We gathered a large number of these (Have you ever tried hefting a tie?) and we hauled them home.  Dwight had four extra-powerful jacks that he'd used previously to lift houseboats down at Lake Powell.  After undoing all the foundation bolts, we started lifting, first one end, then another, building increasingly high cross-hatch type supports near each corner as we raised the house higher and higher.

We lived there the entire time this was going on and the house shook with our every step. By the grace of God, no huge winds came up during the whole process.  Each morning, Dwight disconnected the water and the sewer lines. Each evening, he reconnected everything.

When we were up about eight feet, Dwight and his uncle built stud walls and stood the first wall beneath one side of the house.  Would you believe that, thanks to the irregular ties, the house was skewed about six inches out of alignment?  Troubles.  Now what?

Dwight decided that he would take his CAT and carefully push the house back into line, readjusting the braces as he went.  That was the day I chose to go to Denver for supplies, knowing full well that when I returned, my piano and good china would be sitting in Ranch Creek.  But no.  When I got back, all four stud walls were securely in place and the upper floor was resting safely on top.  Was it the luck of dumb dumbs? Brilliance?  Who knows?

Well, in order to go downstairs, we had a fairly steep stairway.  We had looked at our various options for less steep stairs, but one would have ended up in the middle of the garage and the other would have had to start in our bedroom.  Not good choices.  Thus it was steep.  Somebody accused us of having the only carpeted ladder in the county.  It was also rather dark.

One Thanksgiving Day when the family was gathered round, Dwight got the brilliant idea to cut an opening in the upper section of the wall at the top of the stairs, to make it lighter.  The family agreed that this was a great idea and they were excited to see how this was accomplished.

Out came the skill saw, bursts of sawdust flew into my nice clean living room and onto my counters where I was trying to prepare a festive dinner.  I tried to shield the food from sawdust.  I tripped over the cord while setting the table. I scrambled over scrap wood trying to reach pans and dishes.

But the family loved it.  By supper time, a rough hole definitely brought more light, and amazingly, we were still married!

Articles to Browse

Topic: Railroads

Railroads

Construction on the railroad line from Denver to Grand County began in July 1902.

The project, called the Moffat road (officially the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific), was the seemingly impossible dream of David H. Moffat, who spent much of his personal fortune building the tracks over the Continental Divide.

The rails pushed higher and higher up the mountains until they reached a station named Corona, meaning the crown of the continent.

Corona was the highest point in the world with a standard gauge railroad and the journey from Denver in the winter was perilous at best.

Huge snowplows were required on either side of the Divide to keep the tracks clear.

Eventually, in the late 1920s, a tunnel was dug through the range, eliminating 22.84 miles of track and the breathtaking journey over Rollins Pass.

The railroad reached Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs in 1905 and Kremmling in 1906, and played a significant role in building the population of Grand County.

In 1900 the total resident population of Grand County was only 741, but grew to 1,862 in 1910.

Topic:

Granby

Article contributed by Betty Jo Woods

Granby was settled in 1904 and incorporated the next year. The town was created along the railroad line being built by Denver, Northwestern & Pacific, and was a connection with the stage route to Grand Lake.

The Granby site was also chosen because of the dry ground and and good view of the surrounding mountains. The town was named in appreciation of the services of Denver attorney Granby Hillyer, who worked to lay out the town site.

Its central location makes it a natural trade center for east Grand County. Specialty truck farming, principally lettuce, became a major crop for Granby. At the peak of the market, the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City proudly advertised Granby Head Lettuce on its menus. Later, after WW II, Granby was called the “Dude Ranch Capital of the World.” Today the town offers a mix of recreational amenities and residential charm.

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

Topic: Mining

Mining in Grand County

Ghost towns and broken dreams are legacies left by the early miners and prospectors of Grand County.  

Ever since 1879 when the first mines were staked out and claimed on Bowen Mountain near Grand Lake, “gold and silver fever” grew like an epidemic.  Men blinded by greed and prospects of a better tomorrow scrambled to the Kawuneeche Valley with picks and shovels to unearth their fortunes.  

Women worked just as feverishly along side their men and encampments gave way to mining towns almost overnight.  Land offices, eateries, and boarding houses sprouted like wild flowers. Claim jumping became a common practice, resulting in fights and even murders.  Most of these injustices would go unpunished, for no one wanted to risk losing their chance of riches.  

In Grand County the mother load was a false prophecy, as only small quantities of low grade gold, silver, and lead ore were found.  In a few short years, Gaskill, Teller City, and Lulu City, three of the more noted settlements, suffered the same fate as the other boom towns.  By 1885 the mining boom had ended in Grand County and ranching had taken it’s place as a sustaining industry.

Topic: Regions

Fraser Valley

The principal population centers in the Fraser River Valley are Winter Park, Fraser and Tabernash.  When the early stage coaches came over Berthoud pass into the Fraser Valley, the most popular stop was at the Cozens Ranch, which now houses a historical museum in Winter Park. The valley is now bisected by U.S. Highway 40, which was designated the "Victory Highway" in 1931.  The new route of the highway leads through the main streets in both Fraser and Tabernash and the backdoors of some business became front doors because of the new highway alignment.   

Tabernash was the name given to a railroad siding, named for the Ute leader who was killed during a confrontation with local ranchers.  The town became a key station on the railroad line, and included a roundhouse, and a supply of helper engines for the steep climb over Rollins Pass.  When the Moffatt Tunnel was opened in 1928, the railroad no longer needed service there and the town lost its' main economic support.

George Easton founded the town site of Fraser in 1905.  The rest of the country became familiar with Fraser when the winter temperatures were often the lowest recorded in the U.S. and Fraser was know by the nickname "Icebox of the Nation".   Lumbering was one of the prime industries in the region until World War II.  During the war, the military built a Prisoner of War camp at Fraser to help lumber for the mills in the area.

The current area of Winter Park has had many names over the years.  First it was called simply "Old Town" or "Vasquez", named after the fur trader Louis Vasquez.  "Woodspur" or "Woodstock" referred to Billy Wood's lumber mill in the area, which furnished ties for the railroad while it was being built over Rollins Pass. During the construction of the Moffatt Tunnel, the name "West Portal" came into usage.  Rail workers also called the community "Little Chicago" as it was as it was a favorite gambling, saloon, and brothel site.  As tourists began to arrive it was known as "Idlewild" and also "Hideaway Park".  Finally, the name "Winter Park" was settled upon to correspond with the adjacent ski area of the same name.

The area population declined from 1232 people in the 1920's to only 373 people by 1930.  The Great Depression ended the construction boom and the price of beef became too low for ranches to turn a profit.  However, since that time, the area has thrived, mostly based on a tourism economy.  The valley's main source of income is now recreation and second home construction. 

Topic: Ranching

Murphy Ranch

It's hard to imagine that there was a life before all the new homes filled in the spaces of the spacious lands around our towns. With all the high-tech innovations and new homes rising, ranch-life as it was in the late 1800's isn't thought about much. We're visiting today with John Murphy of the Murphy Ranch to capture some of the labors of ranch-living as he remembers it--before it is all too forgotten.

The Murphy Ranch sits just outside of the Town of Granby and on a somewhat overcast morning, John Murphy is seen ambling down the road heading toward the cabin just above his log home where he enjoys life with his wife Carolyn. Driving next to him, I ask if he'd like a ride. "No", he said, "this is a good walk for me". In his hand he holds an electric bill that he is passing on to his tenant. He looks at the company car and asks, "Is that one of those hybrid cars?" I replied that it wasn't and he just shook his head.

John with his gentle face sits with Carolyn on the sofa and begins the story of the Murphy Ranch. Jim and Margaret were the oldest Murphy siblings; John being the youngest. It wasn't uncommon to ride to school on horseback. John attended school in Granby where the apartments now stand across from the Community Building. In the winter, the horses would be stabled in a barn by the Trading Post (now Grand Mountain Trading).

"On the ranch, we milked cows and sold cream," John said. "Mom sold a lot of butter too. She'd milk 5 gallons of cream and head to the depot. Most of the cream was shipped to Denver and Boulder. We had a well out back and Mom would store the butter in a bucket and put it down in the cold well-water. In the winter, we would saw off blocks of ice from the river and pack it in sawdust to store in the cold shed where we kept our meets. Meats were screened in. We raised goats for meat.

Our first electric poles were set in 1942. Got all the poles in past the Barnard Ranch. Then the war started in 1945. Before we had electricity, we used kerosene lanterns. Mom loved to read and she read by the light of oil lamps. We used kerosene lanterns to milk the cows and the wind would often blow the flame out. With no bathroom facilities, you would have to use the outhouse in the middle of the night. We'd go to bed early because we had no lights. It was dark except for the oil lamps. Once we had electricity, we stayed up longer and read the Farmer's Almanac and Capper's Weekly.

Every year we shipped 35 carloads of cattle to Omaha with cattle from Kremmling and North Park ranches (Linkes, Ainsleys, Sheriffs) and it was a big excitement for us. We'd ride in the caboose and travel back on the California Zephyr." After the war, Japanese families would live in colonies above the ranch. They helped harvest the lettuce fields. Lettuce was a big commodity and there were four packing plants set up on the riverbed. They shipped lettuce to Chicago, New York and Yuma, Arizona. They were hard working families. A lettuce warehouse was sitting where the Old Grand and Silver Spur Restaurant now sit. Lettuce was raised from Yampa to Tabernash in those early years. Suddenly, it disappeared because they found rust in the lettuce. Some say it was the soil.

"Things were tough but we always had meat and potatoes. Never missed a meal. The only thing we didn't have was fresh fruit. At birthdays, we always had a special treat of concord grapes. A juice guy would come every few weeks. We'd love to see him, and he loved to see us-Mom always fed him."  After the war, there were more responsibilities on the ranch. There was lots of physical, hard labor. Brother Jim was commissioner for two terms.

John and his family have seen a lot over the years. Like many other ranchers, they have seen and experienced it all. Unlike today with all the modern conveniences, their lives were much different then and few today would know what it was like in those early years. Each ranch story is different in its way, but all have the same backbone---hard working families with a labor of love for ranch-life.

Rundell & French - Two families of the Sheephorn

October 2009

Here we have a story of two families, who became intertwined in a far away place where there weren't too many people. In fact, there was only a handful.  Three young fellows, the Rundell boys, came from Wisconsin about 1880, to settle on the Sheephorn, an area in the very southwest corner of Grand County.

Al, the oldest brother, chose land on the Upper Sheephorn.  While he was at it, he established a much-needed ferry across the Grand River at today's Rancho Del Rio.  His brother Clarence homesteaded land on the same stream some two miles above the Midland Trail, known to us as the Trough Road. The only home he could afford for a couple of years was a dugout under the creek bank.  That tended to be damp and dingy, but Clarence hung in.  Finally he was able to build a cabin uphill from the stream. Newspapers used as insulation on his cabin walls show the year to be 1882.  Clarence was pleased with his house.  "Now I feel I've really put down roots and am here to stay!" he exclaimed.

Their young brother, Ernest, was frail, for he had suffered all his life from lung trouble.   Still, he loved working with Clarence.  One summer, they were digging a water ditch near Azure, on the Grand, above Radium; Ernest caught pneumonia and died. The poor boy was only about sixteen. Clarence never got over his brother's death and he gave land for a cemetery, where he buried Ernest, the first person there.

The second family were the Rundell boys' neighbors, Charlie French and his older brother, Harry, Jr. who had "hit town" from Iowa just about the same time.  Harry homesteaded upstream from Clarence and anticipated ranching.  By and by, though, Harry remarked to Charlie, "I've discovered I'm not much of a hand at ranching and besides, my land isn't very fertile.  I think I'll sell it and become a U.S. Forest Ranger instead.  If they'll have me." He easily passed the test and soon transferred to the little community of Azure.

Now, Charlie French was a wonderful musician, a whiz at playing the fiddle.  He missed making music with their sister Phoebe.  "You know, Harry," he said one day.  "I'd really like Phoebe to come out and see this country. I'm sure she'd like it.  And besides, we could play together again."

He urged her several times to come visit.  At last she agreed, traveling by train to Leadville, then to Wolcott.  About then, Charlie started to worry.   "Phoebe's only 18," he thought, "and she's such a lady. Is it proper to expect her to ride sidesaddle all the way in from Wolcott?"  He stopped by to see Clarence Rundell.  "Clarence, do you suppose you could take your buggy to Wolcott and pick up our Phoebe?"  He explained the circumstances. "Why, I'd be delighted," answered his friend.

It was a happy development.  At the station Clarence saw a lovely young woman, tall and slender, obviously well-educated.  He soon found she had a beautiful soprano voice and was an accomplished musician who could play both piano and organ.  He took to Phoebe right away, and she, to him.  It wasn't long before the two decided to marry.

Now the French boys' parents, Harry, Sr. and Mary, sold their Iowa farm about now and homesteaded at Azure, to be near their boys, even though Charlie left the country soon after.  Here the old folks remained for many years.  They also had some land up the Little Sheephorn, which they gave Phoebe as a dowry, when Clarence and Phoebe decided to wed.  Shortly after, the happy young couple married and made the little cabin their home.

Their three children were born here, Ernest, named after the brother who died, Marie, and Helen.  Clarence worked very hard, ranching in the summer and cutting logs in the winter.  The young folks were thrifty.  In 1908, Clarence sold his homestead to a Swiss newcomer and bought land above his original site. By 1912, Clarence and Phoebe built a fine three-story house, complete with beautiful hardwood floors.  It was wonderful place to raise the children.  "This will surely be our home forever!"

Harry French, Sr., died in 1924.   "Mother," invited Phoebe, "move in with us, since you're alone now." Mary did this, but then she returned to Iowa to stay with her sister, until her death.  The French name continues on, however, for there are two French Creeks in the Sheephorn area.

Finally, the Rundells decided to buy a home in north Denver and to invest in an apartment house.  All went well until 1928, when everything fell apart at the beginning of the Depression.   Clarence lost nearly everything. "Let's go back to the ranch, Phoebe," he said.  "I still have my 300-400 head of cattle; I know ranching and love it.  Let's go."  Thus they left city life and returned to their ranching roots.

Topic: Libraries

Grand Lake Library

The Grand Lake Library was originally sponsored by the Women's Club of Grand Lake.  In January of 1933, the club voted to sponsor a town library to collect sufficient number of books may be obtained to open the in October.  A newspaper article from December 13, 1933 stated:

"The Grand Lake Woman's Club is glad to announce that its free public library is now open to the public at the home of Mrs. Goldie Hawkins. Books may be exchanged every Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm. There are over 300 volumes of fiction and non-fiction for both adults and children. The Club is grateful to many of our citizens as well as to summer residents who have donated these books. It is by means of their generosity that our library is made possible at this time. Lumber for the shelves was donated by Henry Schnoor, and Preston Hawkins built the shelves without charge." Mary L. Cairns, Chairman Library Board.

The Juniper Women's Club, a junior club of the Grand Lake Women's Club first opened a library in January 1945. It started in a small room in the Community house used for town council meetings. The library was allowed to use the room rent free; however, the library was soon bursting out at the seams and unable to take book donations due to lack of space. When the town council and the firemen decided to build an addition on the firehouse in the winter of 1947, the Juniper Club sought and received permission to have an upstairs room of 16 ft. by 18 ft. for the library. There was a condition; the room was to be finished by the club. A contract was let for the complete finishing of the room with built in shelves on the east and west walls and a sub floor. A wiring contract was also let. To earn the money for the payment the club had bingo, potluck suppers, card parties and food in a basket.

Since January of 1945 836 books were added to the 900 books of the former library. In February of 1948 the books were all moved to the new library, by hand and through the snow, with the assistance of the club members' husbands. In the summer of 1948 these books were all classified according to the Dewey Decimal System by the club members. From the May 1948-May 1949 Juniper Club President's report:

  • Our main project has been and will be our public library. We have approximately 2000 books which are mostly fiction. The first year fifty new books were purchased for $134. There were approximately 200 library cards purchased by our patrons.
  • In May a benefit card party was held and $34 was cleared for the library. Two baskets of food were sent from member to member and $26.25 was raised this way.
  • In July a silver teas was given at the library room. A lovely program of music, pictures of Hawaii, etc. was given. $50.75 was cleared from this tea for the library.
  • During August the club women sold chances on a service for six, sterling silverware set. 330 chances were sold earning $229.73 for the running of the library.
  • New Year's Eve, a dance was given and $29.83 was cleared for the library project.
  • In addition to the 50 books purchased, an oil stove was purchased, curtains were made and the floors were refinished for the library by club members.

 From newspaper articles of 1949:
"The library boasts 1650 volumes, most of them good recent books, and it is open two afternoons a week in winter but three in summer with Mrs. Agnes Gingery as librarian. This year's project for the Juniper Club under the direction of Mrs. Grace Eslick, president, will be the landscaping of the area within the circle drive around the fire house in the Community House block. Last Sunday the first of a series of square dances was held at the Southway Lodge, with a good crowd attending. These dances are put on by the Juniper club and will be for the benefit of the Grand Lake library. They will be held every Sunday night and refreshments are served free. If you do not know how to square dance and would like to learn, we will be glad to teach you. The square dances at Southway's on Sunday evenings are proving very popular as well as lucrative for the library fund."

During the Christmas holidays the new floor was laid and new shelves were built. Materials and labor cost $150 of the club's square dance money. The club spent $650 on the library room. 116 books were added, 75 by donation and 41 were purchased.

The Juniper Club then started a beautification program in the area of the town square and around the fire house and library.

The Juniper Library at Grand Lake became a branch of the Grand County Library System in 1988. In May of 1995 the Juniper Library moved from the Fire Station a location just off the town square.

With increased library use and development of computer information systems the need for a larger space was recognized and a new library was built adjacent to the Town Hall and dedicated in June of 2006.

Topic: Water

A Dream Smashed in Gore Canyon

The idea of a water passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean had long captivated the imagination of early explorers.  Soon after the Territory of Colorado was established, the United States government made a standing offer of $3,750 to anyone who could demonstrate such a route.

In 1869 a dreamer named Sam Adams convinced some people in the town of Breckenridge that goods could be sent upriver via the Mississippi, Missouri, Platte and South Platte Rivers to South Park.  Then, with a short portage over Boreas pass, they could continue down the Blue River to the Grand (Colorado) River and then through Gore Canyon the Sea of Cortez.

Volunteers were told they would share in the prize, and they built four boats of green lumber for the voyage.  The flotilla was launched with great celebration, the lead boat bearing a banner proclaiming "Western Colorado to California ? Greetings!"  A little dog was given to the crew to keep up morale.

As the boats went down the Blue River, the waters were a bit rougher than expected. When the men arrived at the Grand (Colorado) River, the crew set up camp. However several of the "sailors" declared they had had enough and began a trek, via dry land back home to Breckenridge.

When the boats reached Gore Canyon, they encountered violent upsurges and dramatic drops.  The wild waters smashed all four of the vessels on dangerous rocks.  Fortunately, all members made it to dry land, even the little dog.  No reward was ever given for the attempt.

Topic:

Abbott Fay

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

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

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

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

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

Topic: Towns

Grand Lake

Grand Lake was established in 1879 and incorporated in 1944. It is named for the largest natural body of water in Colorado.

In 1867, when only a few people resided near the lake, Major John Wesley Powell (the man whose group first rafted the Grand Canyon) came to explore the possibility of floating down the Grand (now Colorado) River. That summer, Powell, local resident Jack Sumner, and William Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, made the first recorded ascent of Longs Peak from Grand Lake.

In the early 1900’s a Yacht Club was formed by enthusiasts who were attracted by the demands of attentive seamanship the lake demanded. In 1912, Sir Thomas Lipton contributed an impressive cup to be presented annually to the winner of the annual August Regatta. This event still draws skilled sailors to the challenging competition. 

The town was founded during a very brief mining boom, but because of it's natural beauty, tourism has long been the sustaining feature of it's economy.

Stories and Poems of Past Memories