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: Skiing

Barney & Margaret McLean

It was the spring of 1924 when an 8-year-old girl from Hot Springs, Ark., arrived in Hot Sulphur Springs by train to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle Hattie and Omar Qualls, homesteaders from Parshall who had recently purchased the Riverside Hotel. It wasn't the first time Margaret Wilson had been to Hot Sulphur. Her father had tuberculosis and was frequently prescribed treatment at the sanatorium on the Front Range. She was 6 years old the first time she made the train trip.

She remembered a boy and girl twin she had befriended on her first visit. When she saw the twins again on this second visit, they told her there was a boy in town who was calling her his girlfriend. His name was Lloyd “Barney” McLean. Margaret made sure to attend the opening of the new school in Hot Sulphur that spring (now the location of Pioneer Village Museum).

When Margaret first laid eyes on her future husband, she wasn't all that impressed. “I immediately knew who he was, and I thought, ‘Ugh.'” He was wearing wool knickers, leather boots, a V-neck sweater and a flat cap. “He had white hair and millions of freckles,” she recalls.

That white-haired boy from Hot Sulphur went on to become one of Grand County's earliest and most heralded Olympic skiers. He and Margaret would eventually travel the world together. They danced with Hollywood stars and shook hands with presidents. But their love story began right there, in a that little neighborhood schoolhouse. “We all had a crush on Barney until Margaret came to town, then it was all over,” one of Margaret's best friends used to say. At some point, she said, the banker's son asked her out, but she found him dull compared to Barney.

Barney was the oldest of 10 children — five boys and five girls. When the family outgrew the house his dad built a tiny shack for Barney in the backyard. Barney was barely big enough to see over the dashboard when he started driving a truck for his father's garage, which was located just up the street from the hotel. He was just 12 years old when he drove a load of dynamite over Trough Road.

There were stories of the brakes overheating on Rabbit Ears Pass and Barney riding down on the fenders in case he had to bail and hairy trips over Berthoud Pass. Margaret said she never realized how good Barney was at skiing. He worked all the time driving the truck (his dad pulled him out of school for good in 10th grade), and he would head straight to the jumping hill in Hot Sulphur after work and wouldn't come home until after dark.

“He didn't have the proper clothing,” Margaret said. “He wouldn't even be able to open the door when he got home and he would stand at the door crying until his mother let him in.” His mother would bring him in, take his boots off and put his feet in a bucket of hot water to thaw them. “For him, it was skiing for the joy of skiing,” Margaret said.

Barney raced on the weekends. Margaret rarely made it out of the restaurant to join him. It never struck her that skiing would someday become her husband's career. “He was never one to blow his own horn,” she said.

He qualified for Nationals in jumping in 1935 at age 17, and his dad gave him a quarter to make the trip. "Here was a kid from a town that nobody had ever heard of who shows up at Nationals and wins it," his only child Melissa McLean Jory said. He qualified for the 1936 Olympics but was badly hurt on a wind-blown landing that winter and missed going.

Margaret returned to Hot Sulphur almost every summer of her life after that, and by the time she was a teenager she was working for her aunt full time. “My friend Telly and I were the best waitresses in the county,” she said.

 

Hot Sulphur had four ski hills back then and Margaret recalls that in February 1936 the Rocky Mountain News sponsored an excursion train to the 25th Annual Winter Carnival in Hot Sulphur. More than 2,000 passengers arrived on three trains that weekend. (That same train later became the official ski train.
“There were no restrooms and no restaurants except for the hotel,” Margaret said. The Riverside was inundated. It was shoulder-to-shoulder people, she recalls.

There wasn't much to do for fun in Hot Sulphur back then, like now, so the young couple would drive up to Grand Lake — to the Pine Cone Inn — on summer nights to dance. It cost 10 cents per dance, and since they didn't have much money, they would have just three dances ... “Oh, Barney could dance,” ... drink a Coke and then drive home. Margaret would wait by the front window of the hotel to watch for Barney, who she knew would be going to meet the train at 11 a.m.

One time, she was out there waiting, the snow was still piled high, and Barney got so caught up looking for Margaret in the window that he nearly ran the truck off the bridge. The only thing that saved him from plummeting into the river was the dual wheel that got stuck in the steel girder.

Barney was 19 in 1937 when the couple married, not old enough for a marriage license and barely able to afford the suit he bought to get married (the first suit he ever owned) not to mention a big wedding. The couple eloped in Denver. Shortly after they married the couple started traveling the country for ski races and Barney switched from ski jumping to slalom. He was named as an alternate for the 1940 Olympic squad after skiing alpine for only two years.

But, then the war came and everybody was signing up. Barney, with his skiing experience, would have been a perfect candidate for the 10th Mountain Division, but another Hot Sulphur friend who had already joined wrote and said, “Don't join this outfit. It's a mess.” So he signed up for the Air Force instead. As luck would have it, somebody recognized his name as it came across his desk, and Barney was assigned to the Army Air Force Arctic Survival School in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he was in charge of teaching pilots how to survive in snowy conditions should their planes go down.

Margaret came back to Hot Sulphur during the war and worked in the county courthouse. After the war, Barney earned a spot on the 1948 Olympic team. After that, he went on to work for the Groswold ski factory in Denver, losing his amateur status and disqualifying him from FIS ski racing. He was inducted into the US National Ski Hall of Fame in 1959 and the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1978.

Barney had spent his whole life on the snow. He skied all over the world, from Europe to South America. "But Hot Sulphur Springs was always home to him," his daughter said. "He was an ambassador from Hot Sulphur wherever he went."

Barney was 3 years old the first time he skied and he skied the spring before he died — at Mary Jane in 2005 — in a foot of new snow. His grandsons skied down with him, wing men on either side. His health was bad that last time he skied, and he had a hard time walking from the car to the chairlift. But as soon as he hit the top of Mary Jane Trail, everything eased, Melissa said: "He could ski better than he could walk." It was the things that made Barney McLean a world class skier that Margaret loved most: He loved speed. Bumps didn't bother him. And, when faced with a challenge he just picked a line and was gone.

Topic: Ranching

Ranching in Western Colorado

Article contributed by Nichole Fuqua

 

Ranching in western Colorado first began in 1866 when Texas cowboys began moving cattle into western Colorado. With this rising growth of cattle into Colorado, ranching was forever changed and became a natural part of Colorado's society.

Although the idea of establishing cattle operations in the mountains did not appeal to many, the cattle and ranching industry in western
Colorado began to flourish in 1882. Three causes greatly influenced this move. First, the flat grass lands from Texas to Montana were unavailable. Second, the Ute Indian tribe were being run out and soon removed from the mountains of Colorado. Third, the grasses in western Colorado were abundantly nutritious, especially in the autumn.

 

When cattle ranches first began, it was organized chaos. Up until the 1930's, all of the land used by cattle ranchers was open-range land. During the winter months the cows lived in the lower valleys where snow accumulation was small. Once spring began the cows were then rounded up and moved to the high mountain tops. This spring round up usually took place in the early part of June, between the first and second hay cutting. The main goal of the spring round up was to gather and sort all of the cattle into their respective herds; unfortunately many herds intermixed because of the open-range. Along with the sorting of the cows, the calves that had been born earlier that spring were branded.

 

During the open-range era, brands on cattle were very important. Brands were used as a marker to distinguish between herds. Today, branding is still used along with ear tags. The fall round up usually began in the early fall and was completed in stages. The first stage, involved the gathering up of cows that were going to be sold at the market. These were the first to descend from the mountains. The rest of the cattle were then taken down from the mountain and released into the lower valleys to live during the winter months. The 1930's ended the open-range era which also brought an end to fall and spring round ups.

 

Family life on a cattle ranch was very different from normal life in a town. The cowboy's job demanded a lot of devotion and self motivation. The men of the family were often away from the house for days sometimes weeks at a time moving and tending to the cows.

 

The women of a cattle ranch lead very isolated lives. During the winter months traveling was unheard of. Once the snow began to melt the water's run off caused creeks and rivers to overflow, which caused traveling in the spring to be tough.  During the summer and early fall, gardening, food processing, house keeping, raising children, and the general ranch duties kept a woman busy.

 

The children of a cattle ranch were treated very maturely. By the age of five to the age of twelve kids were considered miniature adults. By the age of thirteen or fourteen most kids were able to perform heavy labor tasks around the farm. Ranch families exhibited very strict discipline toward the children of the house and felt very strongly in a child's education.

 

Cattle ranches are still found all over western Colorado. The attitude has changed throughout the years since the first cattle ranch began but some of the same traditions still exist. 

 

Sources: Reyher, Ken. High Country Cowboys. Montrose: Western Reflections Publishing Company, 2002.

Peters, Aaron. Cattle Drives & Trail Drivers. 2003. 8 Mar. 2008 http://www.co.wilbarger.tx.us/cattle.htm.

 

Topic: Health Care

Health Care

In its earliest days of settlement, Middle Park area residents and travelers doctored themselves using whatever remedies they were able to concoct on the scene of accident, illness, or injury.  The cure might have been a poultice of herbs, bread, oil, mustard, or something called Raleigh’s Ointment.  It might have been a dip in the medicinal springs at Hot Sulphur, a dose of iodine, arnica or vinegar, castor oil, Epsom salts, or any number of other standbys.

The first “doctors” known in the area were Dr. Hilery Harris (1874 or 1876) and Dr. David Bock (1876); both were “self-certified”.  Dr. Harris had a predilection for the treatment of animals, while Dr. Bock treated the medical and dental needs of the people. By the mid-1880s, there were a number of doctors traveling through the area, working for various entities and setting up private practices.  During the mining boom, there were a number of physicians and surgeons in Teller City, which was then a part of Grand County.  

Around 1900, the Dunphy and Nelson Contracting Co, a construction firm building roadbeds through the Fraser Canyon for the Moffat Railroad employed Dr. John Wills as company physician.  By 1903, the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railroad employed Dr. Leonidas Wills, cousin to John Wills, for its employees and families.  These types of company jobs provided regular work as well as regular pay for doctors who otherwise would have had little in the way of compensation for their work.

Many of the doctors found themselves moving from community to community as the working community moved--from the Fraser Canyon to the Gore Canyon to lay roadbed, or from one logging area to another.  Later, work flow was based on government projects such as the construction of the Moffat Tunnel and the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, both of which went back to the old tradition of having a company doctor.  By the time of the coming of the Moffat Line to Grand County, most of the communities had drug stores, many of which were owned solely, or in part, by the local physicians. There, people could avail themselves of all types of patent medicines, drugs, toilet articles, soaps, perfumes, and sometimes even a drink at a soda fountain.

It was common for surgery to be done in the home of the patient, or the doctor.  Only occasionally, for the worst of illnesses or injuries, did the doctors attempt to transport patients over the Continental Divide to a Denver hospital.  Childbirth was almost always in the mother’s home, under the watchful eye of a female neighbor, or a midwife, and  rarely with a doctor in attendance.

Dr. Archie Sudan built a medical facility in Kremmling and Dr. Susan Anderson remodeled a barn in Fraser to accommodate her patients. Often it was the wife of the doctor, who might be a nurse, who attended the patients.  Many of those in attendance were trained by the doctor in charge; some went on to attain certifications as Registered Nurses or other professionals.

In June, 1947, the Middle Park Hospital Association held a fundraiser to undertake hospital improvement.  The first $20,000 raised went to buy the home/hospital of Dr. Archer Sudan.  In total, the group raised between $35,000 and $70,000 to purchase, remodel, and outfit the facility, which was intended to serve all of Grand County, most of Summit County, and parts of Eagle, Routt, and Jackson counties. The hospital had four private rooms, three wards for six patients each, living quarters for hospital personnel, an office, exam room, operating room and an x-ray room.  Dr. Ernest Ceriani was the first physician for the new facility.

The local rural physicians often called on their colleagues in the city for assistance with difficult cases.  They arranged for specialists to visit, consult and perform surgery, saving the patients and their families hospitalization in Denver.  Just as today, the need for specialized care presented special difficulties for the rural physician of the early days.

The list of physicians, surgeons, dentists, osteopaths, and veterinarians who served Grand County is lengthy, but the most famous are Dr. Susan Anderson (Fraser), Dr. Archie Sudan (Kremmling), Dr. Mac Ogden (Granby and Kremmling), Dr. Ernest Ceriani (Kremmling), and Dr. James Fraser (Grand Lake).  “Medical Practices in Early Middle Park-Grand County” includes extensive information on each.

Jim Bridger

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

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

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

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

Topic: 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: Biographies

Joseph Wescott

Joseph Wescott was born in 1838 in Nova Scotia and reared in Iowa.  By 1865, he was in Middle Park, squatting, half-blind and semi-alcoholic, in Hot Sulphur Springs with his friend Charlie Utter.  

Having come to Colorado to get relief from rheumatism, he passed his time in creative writing, fishing, drinking, and shooting his revolver.  In 1868, after being induced to sell all of his claims of 160 acres around the hot springs, he left Hot Sulphur Springs to go to Grand Lake.

In 1870, a group of Arapahoe Indians arrived in the area and there is an unverified report that Wescott, Jack Sumner, and three fishermen killed “not less than five” of the Indians.  Soon after this incident, Wescott settled into developing a rustic resort with cabins, rafts, canoes, and skiffs on Grand Lake.

By 1879, he had three buildings on the West Shore. In July 1880, disaster struck when Edward Phillips Weber, an attorney, took over Wescott’s original filing as his own.  Weber claimed that there were “flaws in the filing” and forced Wescott out.

Nevertheless, on June 26, 1888, Wescott filed a plat for “Grand Lake City,” on the lake shore south from the inlet.  He designed the area for summer visitors rather than as a residential community. 

Wescott later wrote a famous poem about the legend of Grand Lake, and how the spirits of the lost Ute women and children can still be heard wailing on foggy mornings at the lake shore.
 

Topic: Dude Ranches

Devil's Thumb Ranch

According to local lore, Native Americans named Devil's Thumb, a rocky outcropping that towers high above the Ranch. As legend goes, after the warring Ute and Arapahoe tribes settled their differences in the Ranch Creek Valley, they buried the devil, but left his thumb exposed to remind them of the evils of war.

Before the Trans-Continental Railroad opened up the area in 1904, a stagecoach route from Idlewild (now
Winter Park) joined the Rollins Pass route. A state station was situated east of what is now our Ranch. The road extended transversely over the Ranch where it followed the course of the existing County Road 83. The land was rich agriculturally, and was used for cattle grazing in the early 1900s.

After the railroad was introduced, settlers began moving west in search of wealth and opportunity. Many ended their journeys in the
Rocky Mountains. During this time, there were more people living in the Fraser Valley than there are today. One favorite hangout of the railroad workers was a dance hall on Black Ranch, located immediately north of Devil's Thumb Ranch.

In the 1930s, Margaret Radcliff built the original Ranch homestead and operated it as a dairy. However, it was brothers Dan, Louis, and George Yager who started Devil's Thumb Ranch as a vacation property in 1946. The Yagers incorporated the Radcliff homestead in to the Ranch facilities and the original building exists today as the Ranch House Saloon.

The Yagers operated Devil's Thumb Ranch as both a working ranch and dude ranch until 1972. They introduced cross-country skiing in the winter of 1975-1976. Dick Taylor, a 1964 Olympic cross-country team member, designed 35 kilometers of the area's Nordic trails.

The Ranch was well known as a Nordic destination, but one without many amenities or niceties. The current owners purchased it in 2001, saving it from a group of developers who planned to fill the valley with residences and a golf course. They immediately began making improvements to the facilities, all the while impacting the land as little as possible.

Topic: Leisure Time

Picnics, Games and Socials

Article contributed by Abbott Fay

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Gertrude Hollingsworth, I Rember Fraser, Fraser, CO

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

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

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

Topic: True Crime

The face of the 1883 Grand Lake Commissioner Shooting

By Amy Ackman Project Archaeologist - 2018

I work in Cultural Resource Management (CRM), which means I document any man-made occurrence that is 50 years or older. I’ve recorded anything from prehistoric stone tools to 1940’s cans and glass. As a CRM archaeologist, I’m a data collector. Our job is to protect the archaeological record by gathering data and determining the significance of it.  In 2011, I worked on a project near Jensen, Utah, just across the border from Colorado. During this project, I came across an unmarked grave. There was a headstone, but no name. I eventually found from historical documentation that the grave was that of a man named William Redman.

Redman was the undersheriff who took part in the Grand County Shooting of 1883 that involved three county commissioners, a county clerk, and the sheriff. Three men died during the shootout, two men died of their injuries after the fact, and the sheriff committed suicide out of guilt. Two weeks after the incident, Redman was the only living participant. He was on the run from the law and actively hunted by the Rocky Mountain Detective Association. A full month after the shootout, Redman was found dead in Utah at the side of a road with a bullet in his head.   

I knew Redman was part of the Grand County Shooting and poured over any sources I could get my hands on; books, websites, newspaper articles; any tidbits of information that might answer questions. Like a detective, I wanted to understand how Bill Redman was involved in the gunfight and how he ended up in Utah.  I found the story and a picture of William Redman and I was ecstatic that a site I had recorded was associated with such a tale.

William Redman was ruggedly handsome with high cheek bones and pronounced jaw; the clothes and countenance of a miner. The more I learned about him, the more questions I had. How old was he when the photo was taken? At a time when it was such a privilege to have a photo taken, why is there a photo of him and not other prominent men in the county? I wondered about his motivations. Was he the ruffian newspaper articles touted him to be?  Archaeology is about understanding the past. Most of the time we are forced to interpret the past with only a few pieces of material that are left behind. The more material and data we have, the more we can understand.

In the case of William Redman, there are questions surrounding his death that give rise to the possibility that the man in the grave is not Redman at all. If the opportunity arises to excavate the grave, his photograph will assist in his identification.  Archaeology not only studies the past but works to preserve the past for the future. Now, I hope that a family member of yours is never being researched by an archaeologist for being a ruffian and a murderer. But, like an archaeologist, I would encourage you to preserve as much as possible for those in the future who would care to learn about the past.

McQueary Family of Middle Park

It has been said that if you walk down the streets of Hot Sulphur Springs and call out "Hello McQueary" at any given time, someone will respond.  Certainly one of the most prolific families to pioneer the Middle Park, the McQueary clan consisted of Scotch-Irish descendents of the immigrants who had settled in the mountainous regions of the Ozarks and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Henry McQueary and his brother Humphrey, visited the Middle Park area in 1866 while prospecting for gold on Troublesome Creek.  Henry built a cabin on the creek in 1875 and other relatives came to settle including Walker, James, John and George, along with their families.  The families settled near Hot Sulphur Springs and as far west as Muddy Creek and the Gore Canyon.

In 1875, Henry found a Ute Indian with a broken leg near the Troublesome Creek.  He took the man to his cabin and splinted the leg.  After three weeks, the injury healed enough that the Ute could return to his family and that created a friendship that outlasted the Ute uprisings of 1878-1879.

In 1888, Fount McQuearly established a hotel in Hot Sulphur Springs which included a 45 foot ballroom in the Antlers Saloon.  In his later life, he served as County Commissioner (1924).  Many other McQuearys also went into politics, so much so that they were sometimes referred to as the "McQueary Gang".     

"Uncle Walk" McQueary once said that if Andy Eairheart "ever fell into the river and drowned, we'd have to look for his body upstream 'cause he's too stubborn to float downstream!".

Dick McQueary was quite enterprising, establishing a store in Hot Sulphur Springs (1904) and helping newcomers to the area locate homestead sites.  He once was paid with a barrel of china for his services.  Dick also was a contractor for building and maintenance for Grand County and he led the effort to build a road through Rocky Mountain National Park.  This road was eventually finished in 1920 and is known as the Fall River Road.

At least three McQuearys served their country in World War I and fifteen in World War II.  They were also noted athletes; at the 1924 Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Carnival, Margaret McQueary won first place in girls jumping and ski-joring while Milton won first in boys cross country.  

Eventually the McQuearys had over a dozen ranches in Middle Park.

 

Tales of Yesteryear