Tales of Yesteryear

The stories, ledgends and tales that are told through the years weave into the rich culture that shapes our American West.

Tales of Yesteryear Articles

A Broadcast Pioneer of Colorado
A Broadcast Pioneer of Colorado

Article contributed by Jean Miller

 

How times have changed!  Today every TV station has a least two weathermen and every newscast has innumerable weather reports, usually given as fast as the tongues will move and repeating the same information ad infinitum.

 

There was a time when this wasn't so. Back in 1950, TV stations were still unknown in Denver.  KOA was probably the most influential of the radio stations.  (KLZ was established two and a half years before KOA in 1922.)  On New Year's Day, 1950, a slender young man arrived in town from Des Moines, Iowa: his name was Ed Bowman.

 

Ed was born and raised on a farm in Iowa City.  He loved weather and he loved to fly.  Ed was convinced that in order to talk about weather, one should understand the sky, and flying was the way to do this.  Ed had cut his broadcasting teeth with WHO in Des Moines (at the same time that Ronald Reagan was the station's sports announcer).  In December 1950, Bowman managed to secure a reporting job in the newsroom for KOA Radio.

 

On Columbus Day, 1952, KBTV (Channel 9) started to broadcast.  The following June, KOA Radio was sold by NBC to Metropolitan Television Company, one of the principal stockholders being Bob Hope.  That Christmas Eve, KOA radio became KOA-TV, or Channel 4, and for the next thirty years, those were the call letters of this station.

 

Ed Bowman was picked from the radio newsroom to be the weatherman, supposedly because his name rhymed with weatherman. (A bit of a stretch.) For the following twelve years, he was the only full time weatherman in the Rocky Mountain Region.  Ed quickly became "Weatherman Bowman" and his distinctive mid-western drawl was well-known to Denver listeners, who turned to his report every day at 5:05  p.m.  Ed was also heard in the mornings, flanked by ads for Cream of Wheat.  (It's Cream of Wheat weather: let me repeat.  Guard you family with hot Cream of Wheat.)

 

Weather reports had no quick-moving computer graphics in those days; no mountain-cams, Denver-cams, highway-cams, or ski-area-cams. Fortunately, Ed was a skilled artist, who, every night, created weather maps right in front of our very eyes.  His maps were filled with wonderful clouds and arrows showing wind directions; his "troughs-aloft" guided the listener

if figuring out the next day's activity.  This was the first time the term "trough aloft" was used to define weather.  These hand-drawn maps have become collectors' items.

 

Ed and his wife Madelyn lived with their family in Littleton.  He flew his Fairchild trainer airplane every chance he got.  One of his treasured possessions was a Norden bomb sight, a highly secret device used during the war, which he was able to purchase from the Air Force afterwards.

 

During this time, before the Air Force Academy was completed, cadets were housed and trained at Lowry Field in Denver. One day, Ed lent two of the cadets his plane, to take for a flight "around the patch" south of the city. Something went wrong during the flight; the Fairchild crashed, and both men were killed.  Ed never really got over the loss of these young men.

 

Ed was a congenial fellow, and his no-nonsense approach to weather reporting made him the person to whom everyone turned each day.  Emphasizing his background as a pilot and looking more dapper than ever, he sometimes donned goggles and a white scarf, as he gave his report.  Bowman occasionally broadcast from his home studio, particularly during severe

storms, when driving to the studio in downtown Denver was treacherous.  He related how once, when he overslept, there was no time to research the weather.  So he hurried to the door, looked outside and found it was raining.  He told his listeners that there was a 100% chance of rain ­ and he held his microphone to the door so that they could hear it pouring down! "Just listen to that!" he said.

 

We became acquainted with Weatherman Bowman in the late fifties, because he loved to come to the mountains to stay at Ski Idlewild.  Old Dick Mulligan was a colorful fixture at Winter Park Ski Area in the early days, and his wife was a Weatherman Bowman fan.  She wanted to meet him in the worst way; so once Dwight took Ed over to the Mulligan's house for a chat. This really made her day! Dwight also lunched wi h Ed frequently when he was

in Denver.  For six months or so, we sponsored the weather report, which, though expensive, was great fun.

 

Weatherman Bowman left Channel 4 TV in 1965, perhaps not entirely willingly.  His fans felt that nobody else ever matched his skill.  Ed continued reporting for some time, however, broadcasting for a Kansas radio network from his home studio.

 

Ed Bowman died on July 4, 1994, and he was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2001.  The Hall of Fame, established by the Broadcast Professionals of Colorado in 1997, is dedicated to preserving Colorado's rich broadcasting heritage, and honoring those who had made significant contributions to this field.

 

A Good Man
A Good Man

A  Good Man contributed by Richard Shipman

Third Place
Winner "One Grand Essay" Contest, 2005

 

All of us have those wonderful people in our lives who quietly go about their daily activities without complaint.  They don't stir up the wind or people's lives with grandiose actions.  And at the same time, many of them have a great impact on us.  Thankfully, I know one of those people.  He is a son of Grand County who, like many of us, has a career that has taken him away from the place he loves.  Luckily he has the opportunity to return many times a year to the family cabin.  I want to share some of the things that I have learned from this man and his family:  loyalty and dependability; love of family, county, country and the rural life; courage, humility and strength.  These things make him a good man to know.

 

I first met Fred Wood in 1967 when my brother married the eldest daughter of Fred and Mary Wood.  It has been fascinating and rewarding to get to know Fred, his immediate family and extended family.  The first thing I learned about Fred was his kindness and love of family.  Almost immediately I was included in all family activities:  the birthdays, anniversaries, and trips back to the family cabin near Williams Fork Reservoir.  I was about the same age as his oldest sons and I suppose it was just easy for him to look at me as one of his boys.  I was always extended a warm and sincere invitation to come to the annual summer and winter mountain events.  We all had great fun, all fifteen to thirty of us.  These events frequently pulled in the families of Fred's older brothers who worked the family ranches in the Williams Fork area.

 

Loyalty and dependability are important to Fred.  At the end of this year he will complete his 60th year working for the same employer.  That is quite an accomplishment these days.  He is always there training the new people and sharing his knowledge and work ethic.  It says a lot about one's character to stick with something for that many years.  Probably the most important accomplishments are the 59 years he has been married to his lovely wife, Mary, and raising their 10 children.

 

Fred works for a moving company.  This job requires a great deal of physical strength, much of which he gained working on the family ranch near Parshall, where he was born.  I've witnessed his ability to do hard work when we cut trees for firewood, added to the cabin, or dug out the basement.  Fred was born in 1924, the youngest of 13 children.  Growing up in the 30's gave him a good understanding of the value of hard work and the determination to find a job to support a family.

 

Like most of the people of his generation, the love of family and country put him on a path to service in World War II.  It's only been in the last few years that I have learned about Fred's service and how much our country asked of those young people.  Fred and his peers have shared some stories and now national authors have recognized the "greatest generation."  You see, most of these people are modest and humble folks who were just asked to do a job and they went out and did it with no expectation of special recognition.  Fred was a crewmember on a B-24 Liberator bomber flying out of England.  These people understood the big picture and were sensitive, as illustrated by this quote from one of Fred's letters home:  "I sure hope this thing comes to a close one of these days.  It's too bad people can't realize just how pleasant things could be.  Then maybe they could do a little more about it." 

 

I recently had the opportunity to fly in a renovated Liberator and I am amazed at what little the pilots had for protection.  And that they were asked to do so much with so little. 

 

Another thing that you learn from these people is humility.  The world that they saved us from was so brutal that they have kept it all to themselves for more than forty years.  Now as time draws to a close on their times, the remaining crewmembers relish their annual get-togethers.  They are always invited to share the cabin.

 

For most of Fred's adult years he worked in Denver, away from his favorite place.  But he shared his love of the rural life with his children, great-grandchildren and extended family.  We have all been exposed to the ultimate mountain rule:  there is always something to be done.  Wood needs to be harvested for cold morning fires, the house and decks need to be painted to protect them from the harsh mountain weather, rooms need to be added for growing family and new friends.

 

You can see where I am going.  Here is a man who lived and worked through the country's most trying and challenging times.  I can see his strength of character, dependability and devotion to family and friends.  Make no mistake; he did not make this journey alone.  Mary has been a partner from the first.  They have shared the triumphs and tragedies together.  And they continue to lead their family.

 

It has been an honor for me to be part of this remarkable family lead by an unassuming, gentle man.  I feel privileged to know this good man and to have him as a friend.

 

A Man Called Blue
A Man Called Blue

“Blue” should have been a grouch, with a name like that.  Nobody who knew him seems to know why he was called this; his real name was Rudolph O. Cogdell.  If one went into his little grocery store in Fraser, although his voice was gruff, he gave a peasant greeting.  He did possess a temper that could be ignited, and if his blood pressure rose, his face turned a brilliant red. 

However, he was kind to his wife, Gladys (Hunnicutt), a local girl, and loving to their daughter, Mary Ellen, who was a “late-comer” (Gladys was over 40 when the baby was born).   On the store front, the sign read Codgell’s Market, which was located facing the highway near what is now Doc Susie Avenue.  Before Blue bought the store in the mid-1940’s, he worked on the Fraser railroad section, and he also owned the Sinclair gas station at the corner of the highway and the main street, about 1940.  

Codgell’s Market was quite small, and the customer base was likewise, for there weren¹t many people in the valley in those days. Three grocery stores competed: R.L. Cogdell¹s Market, The Fraser Mercantile, owned by Frank Carlson, and the Red & White Store, run by Charles Bridge, Sr. There was also a tiny store by the sawmill near “Old Town” Winter Park; that one was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Green.  The economy struggled for many years after the war, and everyone lived on a shoestring.  Thus, prosperous times for any of the grocery stores had marginal potential.  That should have made Blue grumpy, one might think.   Blue, a short, rather stocky man with dark hair and brown eyes framed in glasses and habitually clad in his grocer’s apron, took care of everything in his mercantile except for the meat counter at the rear of the store.  He would be found arranging the goods on shelves, dry goods on one side, dried food on the other, and fresh food in between.  He stored some of the dried foods in barrels along the aisle. Fresh food was picked up once a week.  It was, of course, very seasonal, with only root vegetables, apples, oranges, and bananas being available year-round.

Granby Dairy delivered dairy products; Rube Strachman in Granby sold him meat.  Nobel Mercantile from Denver serviced the dried foods and produce.   Gladys, even shorter and stockier than Blue, had a fiery temper and she was known on occasion to retaliate if some customer gave her any lip.  She was an expert butcher, and if a person wanted some special roast or other cut of meat, he went to see Gladys.  She was good.  Mary Ellen helped when she could, as she grew older.   When the theater, located on the corner of Highway 40 and St. Louis Ave., or Main Street (now Eisenhower Drive) in Fraser closed its doors, Blue bought the building, doubling his available space.  The layout was the same and Gladys still manned the butcher department at the rear of the store. Walking into the long skinny building always brought to mind the movies of previous days. 

The economy improved as the ski area grew.   It was a fact that Blue, although a hard worker, also loved to gamble, and one report speaks of certain crap games.  It seems that there was a stretch of track inside one of the tunnels in the Fraser Canyon that would rise with the frost every winter.  When this happened, section hands from Fraser and Tabernash, including Blue in those days, had to go into the tunnel, removed the rails, dig out the hump, and replace the rails.  While the men were at it, they would take time for those crap games.  A good deal of gambling occurred at the Red & White Store too. Carlson, Cogdell, and Bridge often had poker games, where the losses were considerable on occasion.  If he lost, did that make Blue blue?  We don’t know.  

In any case, Blue and Gladys took separate vacations.  Perhaps he went to gambling towns like Las Vegas; on the other hand, perhaps one of them just had to stay home and mind the store.   Every Christmas season, Blue wandered over to the Fraser School to find out how many children were enrolled this year.  It was Blue who furnished al the fruits, nuts, and candies for paper sacks to be given out to each child by Santa Claus at the end of the Christmas program.  This was a town affair and nearly every person in town attended, sitting if there was room, standing against the walls of the gym if there wasn’t.  Nobody cared to miss the play and singing performed by every single child in the school.  PTA mothers filled the goody bags.  Few people were aware of Blue’s generosity.

Brrrr!
Brrrr!
Article contributed by Jean Miller   So many people ask if it is true that winters used to be much colder up here.  The answer is yes.  We could generally figure on one to two weeks of nights between minus 30 degrees to minus 50.  This usually occurred between the middle of November and the third week of January. (Please note that we also didn¹t have pine beetle infestations during those years.) We Fraser Valley folk depended on weather reports kept by Ronald and Edna Tucker, who for many years faithfully read thermometers day and night.  It was through their efforts that Fraser came to be known as the “Icebox of the Nation”.    These were the years when it was guaranteed that the power would go out, usually on the coldest nights when you had a crowd in the house, for the REA had not existed very long and they suffered from many glitches and equipment failures.  Occasionally somebody would set his house afire, trying to thaw pipes entering from the outside.   The incident I am going to relate was in mid-November 1951, and I had just delivered Dwight to the airport, to leave for his required two weeks Naval Reserve active duty in San Diego.  I took advantage of the break to stay with my family in Denver for the night.  I was an innocent city girl, and at that time I didn’t realize the connection between being overcast for a week (which we had been) and what happens when the sky clears (which it did).    I got home to Hideaway Park in the late afternoon, just after dark. It was so cold!  I checked the house and put more coal in the stoker.  All was in order.  Next I went over to the Inn (Millers Idlewild).  As I opened the front door, I heard water running, as in a waterfall.  The noise came from the kitchen.  When I went to check, I saw a spray of water shooting from the sink all the way across the room, drenching the stove.  The floor was an ice skating rink.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  As far as I could tell, it was as cold inside as out.   I tried to shut off the water at the sink, but the pipe was split. I ran to the laundry room and searched for valves, but everything I tried did nothing at all.  At last I drove back to the highway to Ray Hildebrand’s house.  He and his wife Mabel had a small grocery store and Hideaway Park’s first post office.  Ray, one of the few people I knew in town, kindly came to my rescue. He found the main valve hiding behind other pipes, and the geyser in the kitchen fell silent.   Then I built a fire in the furnace.  Now I was a poor ignorant city girl. For years my family had had natural gas; when it got cold, we turned up the thermostat. What did I know about stokers, sheared pins, and augers, tuyeres and clinkers?  A lot of nothing.  That was a rough two weeks.  The night temperature was never warmer than 35 below. I mopped up the mess in the kitchen, once the place warmed up a bit and the water thawed, but I just left the split pipe situation for Dwight to deal with.  I struggled the whole time to keep the Inn above freezing.  I was afraid that if I gave up, every pipe in the place would burst and I was embarrassed to call on Ray Hildebrand again.   Dwight’s weeks were finally over and I picked him up once more.  I was so glad to see him!  Indeed, I hoped he wouldn’t leave again for a very long time.  He was a dear boy and I did miss him.  Besides, he knew all about pipes and pumps and furnaces.    
Christmas at the Crawfords
Christmas at the Crawfords

Jimmy and Maggie Crawford settled in Hot Sulphur Springs in June of 1874.  They left their farm in Missouri with their three children, John not yet two, Logan 4 and Lulie 7 years old to begin a new life in Colorado. The one room cabin was built of round logs and had a sod roof.  In several places outside light could be seen between the logs. The floor was packed earth covered with elk skins which had a tendency to smell while drying out after a rain or melting snow.  The sod roof was far from water proof.  When the children came down with scarlet fever Jimmy promised to cover the roof with wood shingles and had gone to Billy Cozens' sawmill to make them.  Mr. Cozens was very helpful and even gave Jimmy a rusty iron stove to take back home.  Rusty or not, to Maggie it was like new.  She was most appreciative.  The shingles were carefully stacked by the cabin but never made it to the roof.

Jimmy carefully explored the area for suitable pasture land for his small cattle herd.  His explorations took him further and further to the west of Hot Sulphur Springs and as fall approached he became desperate to locate suitable grazing pasture before the snows.  Although Jimmy would return home every few weeks, the time in between his visits became longer and longer as he moved his cows to the west.  Maggie was faced with many hardships in his absence.  Ute Indians would quietly appear, seemingly from nowhere, and ask for food or as in one instance, ask to trade a pony for the little boy John which she of course adamantly refused.  Maggie was able to keep friendly relations with the Utes but never comfortable when they appeared.  The conversations were limited to jesters, hand language and a variety of facial expressions.

But this is a Christmas Story. To begin with, mountain men, prospectors and just plain loafers from Georgetown would stop by the Crawford's for a meal when they were in the area.  Maggie would never refuse them.  A few weeks before Christmas four prospectors enjoyed a well prepared venison stew with Maggie and the three children.  Lulie, the seven year old told the visitors how she was going to hang a stocking at the foot of the bed for Santa Claus to fill with toys and candy.  Her two brothers shook their heads in agreement.  Maggie said, "Lulie, I really don't think Santa Claus could find us way out here in Colorado!"  She knew there was nothing she had to fill the stockings except maybe some sugar candy which would likely be a disappointment for each of them.  Their Christmases in Missouri were memorable with presents, candies and fruit.   One of the four prospectors listened intently to Lulie as she described the Crawford's last Christmas in Missouri.  He had introduced himself as Charley Royer.  Charley was a 22 year old, recently from Kentucky now working in the silver mines near Georgetown. After a very satisfying lunch the men left and a heavy snow began to fall.

By Christmas Eve the snow was deep and drifts were high. The temperature dropped  below zero.  Although Jimmy had promised to be back for Christmas, Maggie thought the snow too deep for him to travel.  He had located what he called the perfect pasture far to the west and had made a land claim close to a bubbling sulphur spring.  He told Maggie it reminded him of the sounds steamboats made on the Missouri River and named his land claim, "Steamboat Springs."   Alone with the children, Maggie read the bible story of Christmas.  Before dropping off to sleep, Lulie said, "I know Santa Claus will find us, I just know he will!"  Maggie sadly shook her head.  Hours later, close to midnight, there was a gentle knock on the door.  Maggie cautiously opened the door hoping it would not invite trouble.  To her surprise it was the young Charley Royer.  He held out a gunny sack and said, "Mam, I've brought some oranges, hope they haven't froze, some candy and a few toys for the children.  Please tell them Santa Claus did know where they lived.  I remember how important Christmas was for me and I wish you and your family a Happy Christmas."  He turned and walked back into the darkness.  Charley Royer had come 60 miles from Georgetown in the bitter cold and heavy snow to make three little children happy on Christmas morning with oranges no less, in the middle of winter, toys and candy, a Christmas they would never forget. Jimmy made it home on Christmas day to add to the joy.  The following year and many years after the Crawfords had Christmas in a comfortable ranch house in a place called "Steamboat Springs."  As for what the future held for Charley Royer, well that's a story for another time.

Ed Vucich
Ed Vucich
 Article contributed by Jean Miller    Ed stood, ramrod straight, in front of his tiny green house, checking out the day: sky­ clear blue; clouds ­ soft and fluffy; wind ­just a light breeze that gently lifted his thin white hair; Brown’s cow feeding in Millers’ yard, as usual; Old Lady “Ada” (aka, Mrs. Zeida) getting ready to water her Oriental poppies.  The day was on its way.  “Ha! Here comes Dwight to chase off that darned cow.  He goes through this every day.  I bet one of these days he’ll have fresh cow meat for supper!”   Ed returned inside his cabin, to feed the stove and make coffee.  The fact was he didn’t need any more heat.  He kept the place about 85 degrees, summer and winter.  But Ed was so thin, cold went through his worn body easily.  Soon he poured himself some coffee and went out to talk to Mrs. “Ada”.  “Hello there, old woman.  Those poppies are the prettiest you you’ve had for years.  You should win a prize.”   “Thanks, Ed. I agree that they’re especially nice this summer.  Brown’s cow has left them alone for a change.”  With a laugh, she went back in her house.   Dwight Miller wandered over to chat.  “Mornin’, Ed.  How’re things?”   “Well, just fine, except you’ve got to tell your cabin guests to quite using my outhouse! I saw three of them coming out of there early this morning. Tell them to use their own!  I’m going to build me a fence.”   Dwight looked apologetic.  “Boy, Ed, I’m so sorry.  You know, sometimes they just can’t wait, so they invade ours.  But I tell you what, I’m going to put in a regular bathroom at the back of my garage, facing the cabins.  I hope, at least, that will take care of the problem.  In fact, if you want, I’ll give you a hand on your fence.  I don’t blame you for being irritated!”   Ed was mollified with this offer.  He had lived in his cabin for some years now, after finishing up his days as a tunnel worker in 1927.  He used to tell Dwight, “Back then, there were prostitutes behind every tree up near the tunnel, and if you paid them a quarter, they’d give you 15 cents change!”  He was Austrian and had served many years in the Austrian army, but he got fed up with all that and came to Colorado to live.  The mountains reminded him of his home country, and his life style remained just as spare and regimented as it had been in the army.  Everything was neat as a pin.   The old man kept track of his neighbors’ comings and goings, including Dwight’s wife, Jean, and their toddler, Martha.  He used to really fuss at Jean, because she insisted on whistling.  “Jean, ladies don’t whistle!”  But Jean liked to whistle, so she continued not being a lady.  The baby was another subject.  Dwight had built a ladder coming down from their apartment on the upper floor, as a second exit in case of fire.  Martha learned to climb down that ladder before she was three years old. “Dwight,” Ed would protest, “that baby is going to kill herself!  She¹s going to fall; then where will you be?”  But Martha seemed to do just fine with her climbing and she never did kill herself!   One day Dwight bought a small Army surplus life raft.  Opening it, he discovered some dye, to be dumped into the ocean so that planes could spot men in the water.  “Hm-m,” he thought, “I wonder if this dye really works?” So he went up to the bridge over Vasquez Creek and poured some dye into the water.  Yes, indeed, it worked.  The bright red color spread into a great circle in the creek and promptly flowed downstream.  Dwight hightailed it down to his house, to see if the color still held. Here it came, and here came Ed Vucich, madder than a hornet.  He had spotted the dye and was quite positive that Dwight was trying to poison him and all the others who used the creek water for drinking.   In spite for fretting and stewing over illegal outhouse use, “poisoned” water, babies on ladders, and unladylike whistling, Ed cared for the young couple.  On day as Dwight and Jean were about to head into Denver, he came rushing out and stopped them.  “Here, I have something for you!”  And he presented two beautifully baked potatoes, straight out of his oven.  They were perfectly lovely.   Ed swore up and down that he didn’t drink, but in fact, he was known to visit Wally’s Bar on the highway into town.  One bitterly cold night, Dwight and Jean heard a rumpus going on outside. In those days, winter temperatures dropped regularly to minus 40 to minus 50 degrees.  Getting out of bed, the pair went to look out their front window.  Ed was attempting to get into his house, which he kept locked with three different padlocks (why was a mystery; he had very few belongings).  Perhaps he wasn’t drinking, but he certainly wasn’t sober.  He tried to open a lock; his feet slid out from under him and he swore, “Damn!”  He struggled back onto his feet again. Same result.  The young people didn’t dare just leave him, hoping he would finally get into his house he’d have frozen to death.  But if they had interfered, oh, he would have been furious.  So they watched until at last all three padlocks were open and the old man staggered inside. They never told him about the show he put on!   Ed lived in Hideaway Park for a number of years longer, but it’s uncertain as to where he is buried.  Dwight is convinced there probably aren’t as many characters in the valley as there were fifty some years ago.  
Ninety Four Winters So Far
Ninety Four Winters So Far

January, 1911.  Five years ago they were teenagers in Torsby, Sweden, oblivious to the sweeping changes that history and hope would bring to their lives.   Now they’re in a mountain valley halfway around the world from their Scandinavian homeland, marveling at the tiny bundle of flesh and spirit who has just joined their family. It’s the coldest week of the year in one of the coldest spots in America, but there’s a fire crackling in the woodstove, and their hearts are warm with love for each other and their firstborn child.   For the next few days, a parade of fellow Swedes stop by to pay their respects to the newest resident of the town of Fraser: Elsie Josephine Goranson.  

February, 1918.  It’s barely dawn, and a blizzard is howling across the valley, piling snow against the sturdy wooden house.  George Goranson puts on his boots and woolen overcoat and trudges towards the barn.  There are cows to milk and horses to feed.  There are no days off.  Meanwhile, in the house, 7-year old Elsie stokes the perpetual fire in the cook stove, while her mother grinds the beans for a second pot of strong coffee.  Later they will make sour cream cookies.   Her younger brother Hill is sick in bed with influenza.  He will survive.  Many others will not.   

March, 1925.  The logging camps are humming, the Moffat Tunnel is under construction, and the valley is brimming with workers and their hard earned pay.  Fraser merchants and boarding houses are doing a brisk business, as are the local bootleggers.  Elsie is waiting tables at the “Victory Café”, named for its proximity to the new coast-to-coast “Victory Highway” that passes through town, and each morning she serves breakfast to the nice looking (if scantily clad) girls from the corner house of ill repute.  Soon the local vigilante committee will force these ladies of the night to leave town, but for now it’s business as usual, and Fraser is hopping.   In fact, “Russell’s Riot Squad” is playing at a dance tonight at the Thomas Hotel.  

April, 1927.  Sleigh bells jangle as a team of horses pulls four young couples down valley to a dance in Tabernash, the most happening town in the county.  The roundhouse is there, as are the wages of engineers and brakemen who guide the trains over Rollins Pass.  There is even a movie house, where Elsie saw her first moving picture, “Jackie Coogan”. As the sleigh glides across the moonlit snow, Elsie feels a mix of excitement and nervousness.  This is her first date with Chuck Clayton, a hardworking man from Oklahoma. Chuck is handsome as he steals glances through the cold night air, but her Dad doesn’t approve of his drinking and gambling.  Other dates will follow: motor trips in a Model A Roadster to Garden of the Gods, picnics in Rocky Mountain National Park, and plenty of dancing.  “I’ll never marry you,” she tells him everyday.  “Yes you will,” he insists.  

May, 1933.  One child underfoot and another in the belly, and Elsie Clayton is tired.  Chuck bought a house for 20 dollars and used the lumber to build a hamburger stand (soon café and bar) right along the newly paved Highway 40, the main route from Denver to San Francisco.  For the next 38 years, their lives will be a blur of ham and eggs, New Year’s Eve parties, and a long medley of songs on the jukebox.  The school bus will stop there, as will the “Steamboat Stagecoach” bus line, and three generations of folks looking for a home cooked meal or glass of beer.  There will be marathon cribbage games, war stories, and “Friday Night Fights” watched live on the first television in town.  Despite the booze and boxing, Clayton’s Café and Bar will be known as a family establishment, especially compared to the “Fraser Bar”, a.k.a. the “Bloody Bucket”, where a love triangle will one day lead to murder.  

June, 1945.  It’s 4:30 a.m.  Elsie tiptoes downstairs and into the café.  She brews coffee, warms up the grill, then sits and enjoys a rare moment of relaxation before her workday begins.  In the distance, a steam locomotive blows its whistle as it chugs towards town.  Before her life is over, nearly a half million trains will pass through Fraser, an endless stream of rumbling horsepower that conjures up different images as the years pass by: trains bringing home soldiers from the Great War; trains loading up ranchers’ fattened cattle in the fall; trains delivering newspapers and mail; trains colliding head on in the Fraser flats; a train’s whistle frantically blowing to alert sleeping townspeople to a midnight fire; streamlined diesel trains ushering in a new era, and countless coal trains, hauling the carbon wealth of Western Colorado to the factories and power plants of far off cities.  

July, 1950.  Summer’s here, and all are invited to the town picnic down by the Fraser River.  Aging Swedish bachelors will be there, sipping steel cans of Coors and swapping stories of crosscut saws and the rowdy “Lapland” logging camps up St. Louis Creek.  Young men will dance with young women.  Young men will start fistfights with other young men.  Navajo railroad workers will perform a rain dance. Children will play Audie Murphy in the riverside willows and drink Coca Cola from thick glass bottles.  Meanwhile, the deluxe brick barbecue will sizzle as Elsie spreads mayonnaise on buns and Chuck flips burgers and jokes with friends.      

August, 1953.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower is coming to town to fish and relax.  “We come Ike” banners wave in the breeze as the motorcade turns off Highway 40 and onto the dusty gravel of Main Street.  Cheers erupt and flashbulbs pop as a smiling Ike emerges from his limo and waves to the crowd of 300.  It is the biggest day in Fraser history, but Elsie sees none of it, for even as her husband, the Mayor of Fraser, is welcoming the leader of the free world to town, she’s in the cafe tending to the crush of reporters and tourists who’ve come to see an American hero.   Tomorrow, after the excitement dies down, she’ll personally deliver two of her homemade pies to the President, who will rave about the perfect crust.   

September, 1971.  Retired.  Chuck and Elsie sit on the porch of their new home on the edge of town, watching cows graze just beyond the fence, and taking in the unobstructed view of Byers Peak.  Labor Day has come and gone, and now town is peaceful, the highway quiet.  Freed from the busy schedule she’s kept for decades, Elsie will soon embark on a reading frenzy and will begin to keep a modest journal of the days’ events:  A Grandchild born, an illness in the family, an exceptionally cold morning.  Chuck busies himself planting trees, tending a garden, and mowing his spacious lawn.  Tomorrow they will pack a picnic lunch and drive the Denver Water Board roads in search of raspberry bushes.   

October, 1978.  Today is Chuck and Elsie’s 50th wedding anniversary.  It’s a perfect day, sunny and warm, Indian summer if there ever was such a thing.  The mountains shimmer beneath a blanket of fresh snow.  Hay meadows glow golden beneath the cloudless sky.  Family and friends gather in the yard for photos before heading to the Crooked Creek Saloon, formerly Clayton’s Cafe and Bar, for a long afternoon of celebration and reminiscing.   

November, 1999.  After 71 years of marriage, Chuck has passed on, and Elsie is suddenly alone.  She sits at her dining room table, peering out the frost fringed window at the town she was born in, the town she has lived in her whole life.  The ridge she once sledded down is covered with condominiums.  The willowed wetland where her brother trapped muskrats has become a large parking lot.  Her father’s horse pasture is now a shopping center.  Everything has changed, yet memories remain, taking on a life of their own.  Horses still pull wagonloads of hay up the highway.  Loggers come in from the woods every Saturday night for revelry and roulette.  A young couple poses for a photo in front of their new cafe.  A sharp axe splits a chunk of pine.  Life goes on.   

December, 2004.  Christmas Eve.  There is plenty of food, including the homemade potato sausage that’s been served at every family Christmas for centuries, and plenty of gifts stacked beneath the brightly lit tree.  Elsie sits at the head of the table, quietly marveling at this clan she has wrought.  Her surviving children are here, as are her grandchildren, some of who have grandchildren of their own.  Five generations of family pour gravy on potatoes and crack jokes.  As she looks at their faces, she remembers her own parents, her grandparents, and her husband.  Everyone is here.   In a few minutes, in a ritual as old as Elsie can remember, her great-great grandkids will hand out presents, and the house will resound with laughter.  

Winner of  the “One Grand Essay” contest 2005

The Great Kaboom
The Great Kaboom
Article contributed by Jean Miller   Bill Cullen moved to Hideaway Park from Berthoud Falls in 1961, at which time he bought several pieces of property.  One was the filling station and the Village Inn, priced at $25,500, belonging to Wally and Dottie Tunstead, who had come to town right after the war. The Tunsteads moved back to Oklahoma, their former home.  Behind Tunsteads’ stood a very small, old house, on land possessed by Easy Butler; Bill bought this too, in 1963, as well as a house near Vasquez Creek, owned by an old-timer, Charlie Tigges.    Next he bought old Mrs. Zeida’s house; she had died in 1964, and when her son Joe came to clear it out, Bill hightailed it over to see him.  “I’d like to buy your place. Would you be interested?”  Joe was definitely interested, so the two came to an agreement on the price: $100 down and $50/month. Adjacent to this was land belonging to Marie Roth, which Bill had already bought, and the Roth/Zeida properties formed the nucleus of Bill’s “homestead.”    One of his first projects was to put in an access drive to the house, for there was none. Few of these people drove, you see.  Almost immediately Bill discovered that there was a huge rock in the way, one which wasn’t going to be moved with just a pick and shovel.  Wandering over to see his friend, Dwight Miller, he inquired, “Did you by chance have any dynamite left over after blasting those beaver dams the other day?”  “Why, as a matter of fact, I did,” answered Dwight.  “What do you need?”  Thus it was arranged for Dwight to come blast that rock out of there.   Now Bill’s driveway was to be built along the very edge of his property, which also happened to be very close to the home of Mrs. Hart, who lived with her son, Ken, and his children, Beverly and Danny. Bill and the Harts always had a running battle going.  He had gotten cross-wise with Ken, when he blacktopped the road in front of the Village Inn filling station, thinking to make it easier for customers. Because Bill and Dwight were friends, by extension, Dwight was also Mrs. Hart’s enemy.   Mrs. Hart was a crusty old gal and when she saw that something was a-foot, she hustled out to protest.  “You two’ll have holes knocked in the roof of my house with all that blasting! You can’t do it.”   Bill thought a moment.  “I see your point, Mrs. Hart.  I tell you what.  I know where there’s an old mattress.  We can put that over the rock and it will contain the sound as well as odd rocks that might go flying.”   So Bill and Dwight headed down to the little house behind the Village Inn. It seemed that some fellow was renting it from Bill and he hadn’t bothered to pay his rent, minimal as it was, for at least four months!  Without a qualm, the friends brought back a rather ratty mattress that would do the trick perfectly.   Dwight dug down next to the rock and carefully stuck his sticks of dynamite around it.  They laid the mattress over the top and placed the fuse leading away from the rock.  Mrs. Hart stood, glaring at them from inside her house.  The moment had come.  Dwight lit the fuse and the two men ran off to a safe distance. A few moments later --- KABOOM!   Dwight and Bill saw the mattress rise and rise, higher and higher, up to the very tops of the nearby pines.  They heard the rattle and clatter of small rocks tumbling and skittering off Mrs. Hart’s roof.  They watched that furious old woman rush from her house with fire in her eyes, almost before the mattress had a chance to make a safe landing.  She was ready to tear them limb from limb!   But they checked her roof, and amazingly there was no damage at all.  What a bit of good fortune.   They inspected the rock and found that it had shattered beautifully!  Bill would have no problem at all in building his road now.  Dwight did earn from this project, however, that there were some things he didn¹t know about blasting rocks!   As for the mattress, they searched for it. I can assure you that that mattress was never going to look the same again.  Off to the dump it went, at least those parts of it that could be found!  
The Mighty Forty
The Mighty Forty
Article contributed by Jean Miller The Middle Park High School band wasn’t much to brag about, and that’s a fact.  Several members were very capable young musicians, however. For instance, Stuart played a hot set of drums that set people’s feet to tapping and hands to clapping.  Debbie was an excellent trombonist, good enough so that one year, she was invited to march with Pierre Laval’s All American High School Band in the Rose Parade!  And Jack was right behind her in skill.  Martha led the flutes beautifully, and there were Alan, Bert, Roxanne, Carolyn, and others.  But the group never seemed to coalesce into a single playing unit.
 
Then a Music Man came to the school. Wes Robbins was a showman; he was enthusiastic; he had flare; he had color.  He took those young people in hand and soon had them marching in time down the same street.  People flocked to hear the music, whereas before, they just groaned.

By the end of the school year, Mr. Robbins decided that the band needed uniforms, sharp uniforms to match the cool music.  Now most of the extra-curricular funds went into sports, particularly football. But the band leader convinced the administration that with uniforms, the band would rouse the fans to a high pitch, encourage parents and family to attend games, incite the teams to greater, and winning, efforts.  So he got the uniforms. That fall the band players tingled with excitement as they waited to try on their new duds.  They looked wonderful.  All the effort was worthwhile. But Mr. Robbins didn¹t stop there.
 
Every spring, on the first weekend of May, Canon City held a Blossom Festival.  Bands from all over the region came to march and compete.  The Middle Park Band proposed to join this event! You must understand, there were only forty students in the band, for this was a small district still.
 
When the youngsters arrived in Canon City, they met bands from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, as well as from New Mexico and numerous Colorado schools.  Many of these bands had 100 to 120 or so members!  All were much larger than our little group.  The Middle Park students felt rather overwhelmed.  But it wasn’t long before the big bands had adopted this nifty minuscule band as a mascot.
 
Saturday came and the bands lined up at the foot of the Canon City prison wall.  Just then, two inmates jumped from the top of the wall, presumably planning to escape into the mob of students and onlookers. Prison guards shot the men dead in the air.  This rather rocky start for the event didn’t phase the boys and girls; the parade commenced.
 
Grand County enthusiasts lined the edge of the avenue as the bands marched down, drums beating, horns tooting, and music filling the air.  “But where is our own band?” they wondered.  Suddenly, applause erupted and you could see why.  A Nebraska band of some 120 members filled the street.  Shortly after, striding bravely along, a compact band of forty students in spiffy navy blue uniforms, played beautifully and vigorously.  Following behind them was another band of over 100 members.  The contrast was astounding and people loved it! Clapping onlookers whistled and shouted.
 
That afternoon the many groups competed on the football field, doing intricate formations as they played their music. Middle Park picked up two first place ratings for their performance that day.  That was truly a triumph for our musicians, as they realized that even though they were small, they were mighty.
 
This must have been about 1971.

 
Welcome to Middle Park and Grand County!
Welcome to Middle Park and Grand County!
Story Contributed by Jean Miller   Sam Conger worked long and hard in 1861, panning for gold along Coon Track Creek east of Colorado¹s Continental Divide; his findings encouraged him to follow the creek on up to 9800’.  Arapahoe Indians of that area told him about their “Treasure Mountain” and when the government moved the Indians out, Sam resolved to explore.  By the summer of 1869, he and five partners had found silver, enough to stake out the Caribou and Conger mines.   A year later, the little town of Caribou was established to house miners that flocked in.  Hopes were high and Caribou City soon had a church, three saloons, a brewery, and a newspaper to provide for the 400 people who lived there.  Eventually, this district produced an estimated $8 million before closing in 1884, enough to give rise to Colorado’s being dubbed the “Silver State.”    The area also became known as “The Place where Winds were Born,” for it was always windy, with plenty of snow to go with it.   In September 1879, nearly the entire town went up in flames.  Among those who lost their homes and belongings were Ben and Laura Simpson. The couple and their children found a place in the budding town of Nederland, where they stayed for six months while they decided what to do.  Although the town was soon rebuilt for a population of 549, the Simpsons weren’t sure they even wanted to remain.  Ben told his wife, “I’m thinking I’m not really cut out to be a miner. I reckon I’d like farming or ranching better.”   Word was that Middle Park, west of the Divide, had fine open meadows, ranch land, and plenty of water.  “That sounds hopeful,” commented Laura.  But how to get there was another question.   To the north no roads existed, all the way to Wyoming.  Indians sometimes entered the Park by way of the Milner Pass area or over Flattop Mountain, but that was a long way from Caribou.  To the south, the Crawford family, in 1874, had used a road of sorts, built by J.Q.A. Rollins; but that too was a long way from Caribou.  Berthoud Pass also had been opened in 1874, but that was even farther to travel, and walking was the only choice the Simpsons had.  As it was, several trips would be necessary to get their meager possessions all moved.   However, Ben had heard of a closer Indian trail that led over Buckhannon Pass (sic).  Simpson knew that there was fairly flat country between Caribou and a branch of St. Vrain Creek, which drained from Buchanan Pass and was closer at hand.  “We’ll go that way,” said Ben. “I figure we can make it one way in a week or so, at least, if we don’t get lost.”   Now, what we call “Buchanan” Pass and Creek today is supposedly named for James Buchanan, the pre-Civil War president, who was also president when Colorado Territory was created.  Be that as it may, early maps of Colorado, including Hayden’s 1877 Atlas, don’t name the pass at all and it’s uncertain if, in fact, this is so.   July was well along when the family packed the first load of their belongings, along with food that wouldn’t spoil. They headed out, the children driving or leading their stock.  Chickens were confined in coops, lashed to horses’ backs and the pigs in crates, to mules.  Progress was not difficult to start with, though it was slow, for Ben often had to scout on ahead.  He had only a very sketchy map and there were no roads to follow. Still, the family was glad to stop a bit and rest and to let the animals graze.  It took most of three days to reach the St. Vrain and locate the rumored Indian trail.   Tall aspens and pines crowded the forest here and the ground vegetation was thick, with large boulders scattered everywhere. “Keep those critters moving,” Simpson told the children.  “Don’t let them wander.  I want to get to the top of the pass today, if we can.”   Pines gradually gave way to moss-festooned spruce, but finally, the faint trail left the forest and opened onto bare, glacially-carved terrain with spectacular views of what today we call Indian Peaks, rugged, with sheer cliffs, surrounded by huge boulders.  Even though t was mid-summer, they met drifts of deep snow as they climbed higher and they had to pick their path through the wet and slop.  The horses and mules plunged and pawed their way through, chickens squawking frantically and pigs grunting uneasily.   The final stretch of the narrow path was steep enough that they had to make several switchbacks up the rock face to the tundra on top, almost 12,000’ high.  A chill wind quickly dried their sweaty faces, and everyone was happy to stop for a breather.    The view was stunning; Sawtooth Mountain towered to the southeast, with its flat summit and sharp drop-offs on three sides.  Alpine grasses and flowers of the most brilliant colors grew between flat lichen-covered boulders atop the crest.  The animals fell to grazing eagerly while the Simpsons looked west towards what would be their new home.  Soon, though, Laura said, “Let’s move on down, Ben.  I¹m getting chilled, and I see a thunderstorm building over that way. I don’t want that to catch us on top here.  They scare me.”   So the little group moved down the easy tundra slope leading northwest, until they spotted the descending trail.  This soon dropped steeply to a bench.  Here and there the spruce forest opened to meadows, soggy with melting snow and filled with little creeks, tarns, and abundant flowers.   Parallel to their route, Buchanan Creek gained momentum as it plunged downward, and whenever the canyon narrowed, the immense amount of water crashed and tumbled over the large boulders, creating a tremendous and frightening roar. “Don’t anybody get near that creek,” cried Ben.  “If you fall in, we’d never get you out!”   When the Simpsons saw that the trail, such as it was, seemed to split, they chose to go right, which seemed more moderate.  “That creek spooks me, with all its noise,” said Laura.   The forest was lodgepoles and aspens now and everyone was pleased when they came to a large, deep lake with boulders surrounding the water’s edge; they heard later this was Gourd Lake.  “Shall we camp here,” suggested Ben? “No,” said the children.  “It’s too wet!”   On they trudged then, down another very steep drop, switchbacking through the trees as well as they were able.  At last, scrambling over unstable, loose rock, they reached the valley where another large stream cascaded down on the left, to join Buchanan Creek. The way eased and the valley gradually opened until finally, to everyone¹s delight, a huge park appeared, with meadows filled with grass turning golden in the summer sun, sparkling streams, and kindly hills surrounding all.  The end of their trek was at hand.   Just then Laura spotted a rider on the far side of the meadow.  The man turned out to be Henry Lehman, a recent homesteader and rancher, one of only three in the area.  “Welcome to Middle Park and to Grand County,” he cried. When he heard who they were and where they had come from, he said, “Stay the night with us.  My wife will be delighted to have company; she sees so few people.”  The Simpsons were overjoyed at such a welcome.   Then Henry added, “You can rest with us a few days and leave your things here until you have fetched your other belongings. We can talk about where you might settle and even help you build a cabin before winter.”  Thus it was that Ben and Laura Simpson found a new home in this green oasis of Middle Park.   Sources: Louisa Ward Arps: High Country Names,GCHA Journals:1982 The Journey 1987 Indians of Middle Park, 1985 Ranching and Ranchers Henry Lehman, Deborah Carr, Hiking Grand CountyTrails and other hiking experts, Robert C. Black III,  Island in the Rockies  &l ;/P>  <

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: Regions

The Troublesome

Tradition holds that an army party led by one Lt. Col Johns gave the name of Troublesome to what had sometimes been called Oties Creek.  The Army was plotting a road in 1865 and had to go north to the forks of the East and West Troublesome in order to cross it, because of the soft soil, thereby being a “troublesome” creek.  Some historians claim that mountain man “Colorado Charley” Utter had built a cabin on the creek in 1861, which became a popular stopping place for early hunters and trappers in the region.  Another report credits John S. Jones of Empire with a cabin near the mouth of the Blue River, a few miles away, that same year.

Among the earliest settlers on the Troublesome were Barney Day, Henry King and Martin “Dock” McQueary, who had a cabin there in 1871.  In 1878, a post office was established at the King home. 

By the end of the century, many ranches had been established at on Troublesome Creek.  Farthest upstream was the remote George Hendricks ranch, difficult to reach year round and totally cut off from the rest of the world during winter snow.  Mrs. Hendricks had a large library and gave her children a sound education prior to their high school years in Kremmling. 

Among the most prominent ranches were those of George and Forrest Wheatly.  Probably the largest ranch (3000 acres) was that of the family of Con Ritschard, lying just north of current day U.S. Highway 40 east of Troublesome Creek.

Life was hard for the settlers in the area.  Like much of Grand County, the soil was frozen as deep as eight feet in the winter.  One memoir noted that when there was a death in the winter, the corpse was placed in the roof of a cabin, well swathed, until the spring thaw allowed for permanent burial.

There was a six year school (second to seventh grade) and a post office established at Pearmont about half way up the Troublesome, in the 1920s.  This area was named for local settler Gus Pearson.

Ranching was not the only pursuit along the Troublesome Creek.  Settler Roy Polhamos grew lettuce and shipped it through the Granby Cooperative to Denver.  He also had a potato contract with one of the Denver grocers.  Other growers contributed to the 125 refrigerated train carloads of lettuce that were shipped from Granby in 1924.  By 1929, 34 farmed from Granby to Troublesome netted $46,000, a highly respectable profit in those days.

Ninety Four Winters So Far

January, 1911.  Five years ago they were teenagers in Torsby, Sweden, oblivious to the sweeping changes that history and hope would bring to their lives.   Now they’re in a mountain valley halfway around the world from their Scandinavian homeland, marveling at the tiny bundle of flesh and spirit who has just joined their family. It’s the coldest week of the year in one of the coldest spots in America, but there’s a fire crackling in the woodstove, and their hearts are warm with love for each other and their firstborn child.   For the next few days, a parade of fellow Swedes stop by to pay their respects to the newest resident of the town of Fraser: Elsie Josephine Goranson.  

February, 1918.  It’s barely dawn, and a blizzard is howling across the valley, piling snow against the sturdy wooden house.  George Goranson puts on his boots and woolen overcoat and trudges towards the barn.  There are cows to milk and horses to feed.  There are no days off.  Meanwhile, in the house, 7-year old Elsie stokes the perpetual fire in the cook stove, while her mother grinds the beans for a second pot of strong coffee.  Later they will make sour cream cookies.   Her younger brother Hill is sick in bed with influenza.  He will survive.  Many others will not.   

March, 1925.  The logging camps are humming, the Moffat Tunnel is under construction, and the valley is brimming with workers and their hard earned pay.  Fraser merchants and boarding houses are doing a brisk business, as are the local bootleggers.  Elsie is waiting tables at the “Victory Café”, named for its proximity to the new coast-to-coast “Victory Highway” that passes through town, and each morning she serves breakfast to the nice looking (if scantily clad) girls from the corner house of ill repute.  Soon the local vigilante committee will force these ladies of the night to leave town, but for now it’s business as usual, and Fraser is hopping.   In fact, “Russell’s Riot Squad” is playing at a dance tonight at the Thomas Hotel.  

April, 1927.  Sleigh bells jangle as a team of horses pulls four young couples down valley to a dance in Tabernash, the most happening town in the county.  The roundhouse is there, as are the wages of engineers and brakemen who guide the trains over Rollins Pass.  There is even a movie house, where Elsie saw her first moving picture, “Jackie Coogan”. As the sleigh glides across the moonlit snow, Elsie feels a mix of excitement and nervousness.  This is her first date with Chuck Clayton, a hardworking man from Oklahoma. Chuck is handsome as he steals glances through the cold night air, but her Dad doesn’t approve of his drinking and gambling.  Other dates will follow: motor trips in a Model A Roadster to Garden of the Gods, picnics in Rocky Mountain National Park, and plenty of dancing.  “I’ll never marry you,” she tells him everyday.  “Yes you will,” he insists.  

May, 1933.  One child underfoot and another in the belly, and Elsie Clayton is tired.  Chuck bought a house for 20 dollars and used the lumber to build a hamburger stand (soon café and bar) right along the newly paved Highway 40, the main route from Denver to San Francisco.  For the next 38 years, their lives will be a blur of ham and eggs, New Year’s Eve parties, and a long medley of songs on the jukebox.  The school bus will stop there, as will the “Steamboat Stagecoach” bus line, and three generations of folks looking for a home cooked meal or glass of beer.  There will be marathon cribbage games, war stories, and “Friday Night Fights” watched live on the first television in town.  Despite the booze and boxing, Clayton’s Café and Bar will be known as a family establishment, especially compared to the “Fraser Bar”, a.k.a. the “Bloody Bucket”, where a love triangle will one day lead to murder.  

June, 1945.  It’s 4:30 a.m.  Elsie tiptoes downstairs and into the café.  She brews coffee, warms up the grill, then sits and enjoys a rare moment of relaxation before her workday begins.  In the distance, a steam locomotive blows its whistle as it chugs towards town.  Before her life is over, nearly a half million trains will pass through Fraser, an endless stream of rumbling horsepower that conjures up different images as the years pass by: trains bringing home soldiers from the Great War; trains loading up ranchers’ fattened cattle in the fall; trains delivering newspapers and mail; trains colliding head on in the Fraser flats; a train’s whistle frantically blowing to alert sleeping townspeople to a midnight fire; streamlined diesel trains ushering in a new era, and countless coal trains, hauling the carbon wealth of Western Colorado to the factories and power plants of far off cities.  

July, 1950.  Summer’s here, and all are invited to the town picnic down by the Fraser River.  Aging Swedish bachelors will be there, sipping steel cans of Coors and swapping stories of crosscut saws and the rowdy “Lapland” logging camps up St. Louis Creek.  Young men will dance with young women.  Young men will start fistfights with other young men.  Navajo railroad workers will perform a rain dance. Children will play Audie Murphy in the riverside willows and drink Coca Cola from thick glass bottles.  Meanwhile, the deluxe brick barbecue will sizzle as Elsie spreads mayonnaise on buns and Chuck flips burgers and jokes with friends.      

August, 1953.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower is coming to town to fish and relax.  “We come Ike” banners wave in the breeze as the motorcade turns off Highway 40 and onto the dusty gravel of Main Street.  Cheers erupt and flashbulbs pop as a smiling Ike emerges from his limo and waves to the crowd of 300.  It is the biggest day in Fraser history, but Elsie sees none of it, for even as her husband, the Mayor of Fraser, is welcoming the leader of the free world to town, she’s in the cafe tending to the crush of reporters and tourists who’ve come to see an American hero.   Tomorrow, after the excitement dies down, she’ll personally deliver two of her homemade pies to the President, who will rave about the perfect crust.   

September, 1971.  Retired.  Chuck and Elsie sit on the porch of their new home on the edge of town, watching cows graze just beyond the fence, and taking in the unobstructed view of Byers Peak.  Labor Day has come and gone, and now town is peaceful, the highway quiet.  Freed from the busy schedule she’s kept for decades, Elsie will soon embark on a reading frenzy and will begin to keep a modest journal of the days’ events:  A Grandchild born, an illness in the family, an exceptionally cold morning.  Chuck busies himself planting trees, tending a garden, and mowing his spacious lawn.  Tomorrow they will pack a picnic lunch and drive the Denver Water Board roads in search of raspberry bushes.   

October, 1978.  Today is Chuck and Elsie’s 50th wedding anniversary.  It’s a perfect day, sunny and warm, Indian summer if there ever was such a thing.  The mountains shimmer beneath a blanket of fresh snow.  Hay meadows glow golden beneath the cloudless sky.  Family and friends gather in the yard for photos before heading to the Crooked Creek Saloon, formerly Clayton’s Cafe and Bar, for a long afternoon of celebration and reminiscing.   

November, 1999.  After 71 years of marriage, Chuck has passed on, and Elsie is suddenly alone.  She sits at her dining room table, peering out the frost fringed window at the town she was born in, the town she has lived in her whole life.  The ridge she once sledded down is covered with condominiums.  The willowed wetland where her brother trapped muskrats has become a large parking lot.  Her father’s horse pasture is now a shopping center.  Everything has changed, yet memories remain, taking on a life of their own.  Horses still pull wagonloads of hay up the highway.  Loggers come in from the woods every Saturday night for revelry and roulette.  A young couple poses for a photo in front of their new cafe.  A sharp axe splits a chunk of pine.  Life goes on.   

December, 2004.  Christmas Eve.  There is plenty of food, including the homemade potato sausage that’s been served at every family Christmas for centuries, and plenty of gifts stacked beneath the brightly lit tree.  Elsie sits at the head of the table, quietly marveling at this clan she has wrought.  Her surviving children are here, as are her grandchildren, some of who have grandchildren of their own.  Five generations of family pour gravy on potatoes and crack jokes.  As she looks at their faces, she remembers her own parents, her grandparents, and her husband.  Everyone is here.   In a few minutes, in a ritual as old as Elsie can remember, her great-great grandkids will hand out presents, and the house will resound with laughter.  

Winner of  the “One Grand Essay” contest 2005

Topic:

Community Life

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

Topic: Regions

North Park & Middle Park - Politics and Whiskey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Assessor                                                    $800

     County School Superintendent                   $800

     Water Commissioner, 2 districts                $1000

     County Commissioners                             $1000

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

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

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

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

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

Topic: Mining

Teller City, Crescent City and Tyner

The original Grand County contained North Park as well as Middle Park, and during the mining boom of the early 1880's there were several mining camps east of the modern town of Rand. It was several years after the mining boom northern area of Jackson County was created.

Teller City was founded in 1879 and named for Colorado's famous Senator Henry M. Teller, who later became U.S. Secretary of the Interior.  By 1882, the population of Teller City was about 1200.  It had a fine hotel with 40 rooms, a newspaper and two steam saw mills.  It was a lively Old West town with twenty seven saloons and a number of "houses of ill repute".

Some high quality ore assayed at Teller City was as much as $3000 a ton, but most of that soon ran out and by 1884, the high shipping costs to far away smelters dropped the price per ton dropped to $20. The best mine, Endomile, was three miles from town.

Crescent City, southwest of Teller City had an even more brief existence, but there was population enough for a U.S. Post Office in 1880. 

Rumors of valuable silver three miles sough of Teller City drew a number of prospectors to found the camp known as Tyner.  John Noble Tyner was the First Assistant Postmaster General of the United States and visited the mining camp so named in 1879.  He promised the miners a weekly mail delivery if at least 2 miners mined through the winter.  Tyner had been a special agent for the Post Office from 1861 thru 1868, at which time he was appointed to serve in an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Indiana.  He ran for election win the appointed term ended and was elected and continued to be reelected and serve as a Representative until 1875 when President Grant appointed him Second Assistant Postmaster General.  Grant would later appoint him to the "big job" of Postmaster General in 1876. 

Tyner worked to elect Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and after Hayes was elected and took office in March of 1877, Hayes appointed a new Postmaster General, but gave the second spot, First Assistant to the Postmaster General to Tyner.  Historians suggest that Tyner's demotion angered him to the point that he allowed wide spread corruption in the day to day operation of the Postal Service which was his responsibility to over see. He resigned in 1881 under great public pressure from what became known as the "Star Route Fraud scandal".  He would remain a political figure  being appointed  various positions  with the U. S. Postal Service until shortly before his death in 1904.  Although indited three times for corruption in his Post Office management, he was never convicted.  The "Star Route Fraud scandal", may have local implications.  It had to do with over charging and providing needless postal routes, roads and post offices and kick backs to politicians from contractors .

Topic: Water

Grand Lake

Grand Lake is Colorado's largest natural lake.  The clear blue waters are surrounded by magnificent mountain scenery and a haunting Indian legend.  

Judge Joseph L. Wescott, an early white settler, wrote a poem about a Ute story he heard from an Indian camping at the lake in 1867.  One summer Utes were camping on the shores of Grand Lake when they were suddenly attacked by an enemy tribe of the Arapahoe.  As the brave Ute warriors began fighting, the squaws and papooses hurried onto a raft for safety, pushing the raft to the middle of the lake. As the battle continued, a treacherous wind overturned the raft and all the women and children drowned.  

It is said that you can see ghostly forms in the morning mist rising from the lake and hear the wailing of the women and children beneath the winter ice.

Topic: Biographies

Elenor and George Smith

"You have tuberculosis." Frightening words to be sure, especially in times when the life expectancy rate for such a disease was slim. Tuberculosis, or consumption as it was commonly called, is a disease that primarily affects the lungs. Something as simple as the common cold quickly develops until the patient is suffering from severe chest pain. Soon they are coughing up blood. For most diagnosed, the result was eventual death. As a last hope, many people fled westward, desperately seeking the arid climate that would dry up the fluid in their lungs. Little did they know that while the west would cure them, it would by no means make their lives easier.

Elenor Smith, a woman in her early thirties living in Wisconsin, was one of the many so diagnosed. The doctor who examined her did not have much hope for her survival. He ominously predicted she would live no more that a few years longer and she would be unable to bear any more children. With this devastating prognosis ringing in her ears, Elenor, along with her husband George and their five children, packed up and headed west. Their long journey brought them to Fraser, Colorado, where they ended up settling in 1910.

The Smiths soon became an important part of the community. They built a log cabin in what is now "Olde Town Fraser' and, like everyone else, allowed their cattle to roam freely. George, affectionately called "Whispering George" by those who knew him well, owned the only livery stable in town. He could regularly be found escorting "Doc Susie" to her patients, be they man or beast.

 

The climate seemed to have been the perfect cure for Elenor. She lived a hardy and wholesome life, and went on to have four more children. Being the hard worker she was, she would often cook for the men working in the nearby logging camps. When she wasn't cooking, she was washing laundry. She was known by many and loved by all.

 

However, things were rough all over and all too soon the Smith family learned how harsh life could be. In 1921, their second eldest son, Oliver, at the age of twenty, was killed while working at Virgil Linnegar's sawmill. Then in 1944, things again took a turn for the worst. Her youngest daughter's (Georgene) two children contracted polio, a contagious disease that causes muscle paralysis and stunted limb growth, while their father was away in World War II.

 

As the story goes, the eldest of the two children, Sherry, showed signs of polio first, so she was rushed to the hospital in Denver. Not thinking George, the youngest at the time, had also contracted it, his mother left him with his Grandma Elenor, so that she could be with her ailing daughter. However, one day Elenor found him hiding under the table crying. Knowing immediately the two-year-old wasn't just throwing a fit, she scooped him up in her arms and rushed to get help.

 

Polio had been going around for a few years now, leaving a swath of deaths in its wake. People were doing everything they could to prevent bringing the disease upon themselves and their families, which was why the woman working in the telephone office locked the door when she saw them coming. Not knowing what else to do, Elenor searched frantically for someone, anyone, to help her. She even began knocking on house doors. Finally one brave man offered to help. He took her and little George to Denver in his car. Luckily, both children survived, though they would carry the repercussions of the disease for the rest of their lives.

 

Having conquered tuberculosis, polio, and everyday hardships, Elenor Smith died in 1974 at the ripe age of 93.

Topic: Biographies

Lewis D.C. Gaskill

Lewis DeWitt Clinton Gaskill came to Colorado as a polished young mining promoter from upstate New York, where he was born in 1840. He married Miss Nellie C. Rogers in 1865, and raised three daughters born to the marriage.

By 1874 he partnered with William Cushman to build the Georgetown, Empire and Middle Park Wagon Road, which opened in November of that year, to the great surprise of locals and professionals alike.  He and his family lived at the summit of Berthoud Pass into the mid-1880s, when they built the Gaskill House in what became Fraser, CO.   For a short time he was employed as mine foreman at the Wolverine Mine in Bowen Gulch, outside of Grand Lake.  One of the mining camps, in fact, came to be known as Gaskill. Over the years there was significant competition between the different camps, and mercantiles associated with them.  Gaskill's was one of the biggest and best.  Gaskill, the camp, survived for about six years, before falling victim to the end of the mining boom.  In 1896, a county-wide passion for William Jennings Bryan and his Democratic-Populist party, helped to seat Gaskill as democratic chairman of the Board of County Commissioners for Grand County. By 1903, Gaskill came into conflict with D.H. Moffat and the Denver, Northwestern, and Pacific Railway, over property and right-of-way purchases. He, along with Nathan S. Hurd, ended up settling their dispute over property values in County Court. In 1904, upon the death of Fraser postmaster, William Z. Cozens, the Fraser post office was moved to the Gaskill House in Fraser, and L.D.C. Gaskill was appointed postmaster.  Soon after, the townsite was platted and development undertaken under the name of Eastom, but that name was soon forgotten and the area continued to be known as Fraser.

"[Gaskill] was one of those quiet, easy-tempered, efficient persons who can always be depended upon.'" Captain Gaskill (his rank came from service in the Civil War) became "a major Grand County personality."

Topic: Biographies

David Moffat and the Railroad Dream

David Moffat was a wealthy Denver businessman who saw the need for a rail link between Denver and Salt Lake City. His vision, a 6.2 mile long tunnel beneath the Continental Divide, made this link possible.

He was born in 1839, the youngest of 8 children. He ran away from home at age of 12, went to New York City and found work as a bank messenger.  He was an assistant teller by the age of 16 and  became a millionaire through real estate by the age of 21. 

Moffat was admired for his qualities of courage, adaptation to the “barbaric” West and his goodness of heart. He married his childhood sweetheart, Francis Buckhout, moved to Denver, and in 1860 opened a bookstore/stationary/drug store with C.C. & S.W. Woolworth on the corner of 11th and Larimer.  

Moffat and others formed the Denver Pacific Railroad to reach Cheyenne. The rail line to the Moffat Tunnel was the highest standard railroad ever built in the U.S. (11,660 ft). It went over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass and came into the Fraser Valley in 1904. At the time, it was the most difficult railroad engineering and construction project ever undertaken. It involved boring numerous tunnels through solid granite, as well as constructing precarious timbered trestles that bridged deep mountain gorges. 

David Moffat was a multi-millionaire when he started the Moffat Line and was nearly broke when he died in 1911 trying to raise money for the tunnel that would eventually be built and bear his name. It was finally completed in 1928. The west portal of the Moffat Tunnel can be seen from the Winter Park Resort.

 

Tales of Yesteryear