Voices of Middle Park

Oral histories of Grand County.

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Jacob Pettingell - An interview from 1931
Jacob Pettingell - An interview from 1931

Transcribed by Dan Nolan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firsts in Grand County:

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

 

 

 

Video: Betty Birdsill & Maryan Pharo Part 1
Video: Betty Birdsill & Maryan Pharo Part 1

The Voices of Middle Park Project is up and running! If you are interested in helping to capture the living history of Grand County through videos or audio interviews….or if you have a potential interviewee in mind, Contact Dede Fay at 970-531-7020 for more information. Watch an interview with Betty Birdsill and Maryan Pharo

Video: Betty Birdsill & Maryan Pharo Part 2
Video: Betty Birdsill & Maryan Pharo Part 2

Interview with Betty and Maryan - October 2010

Articles to Browse

Topic: Water

Moving Water from Point A to Point B

Most serious ranchers had more than one ditch and most built one or more reservoirs. Hilry Harris, Munroe C. Wythe, Samuel H. Burghard, and John A. Coulter entered the first water claim in the county on September 20, 1874. This came out of Sheep Creek above the head of Gore Canyon.

There usually was some natural irrigation; but the challenge of getting the water from the creek required laborious construction of diversion dams, headgates, and ditches, the earliest ditches being dug by hand and often taking up to four years to complete. Later, ditches were dug using teams and scrapers. The grade was figured out initially by simple gravity flow, letting a trickle of water move down the ditch. Soon ranchers refined the process, using a 16’ long board placed with a 1/8" slope, determined by a carpenter’s level. A.F. and Roy Polhamus surveyed a great many of the water ditches, especially those impressive ones in West Grand County, some of which even had tunnels involved. Most small ditches supplied just one ranch, but if a ditch had to cross another ranch, that rancher usually got a share. And some of these ditches were long!

For instance, Dr. Henry Hoagland, on the Blue River, anticipated getting water close at hand from Spruce Creek. Instead, he discovered an old timer had previous rights that forced him to go back into the mountains and build a 13-mile long ditch. Hoagland had figured on spending about $7000; in the end, the actual cost was $26,000! His crew dug the ditch around side hills and across valleys using flumes and siphons. Then his real troubles began. Terrible leaks and washouts occurred everywhere. Finally he hauled in adobe and put this in the bottom of the ditch, rented sheep, and drove them day after day up and down the ditch to pack it. After a couple of years of using this tamping process, the ditch held. Other ditches were even longer. The Church Ditch at Willow Creek and the Wheatley Ditch on the back Troublesome were both 16 miles long.

The Company Ditch (aka the Williams Fork Ditch), eight feet wide on the bottom, was another long one. Built between 1903 and 1907, it cost $44,000 and had a decree for 150 cubic feet / second. The ditch went uphill and down, requiring many flumes and bridges. One flume was actually 1200 feet long! Subsequent breakdowns, leaks, and slides were so frequent and repairs so extremely costly that old-timers have said the reason the Company Ranch went broke about 1920 was the expense of The Ditch. The Lyman Ditch (or the Curtis), started about 1891, was just as complicated as the Company Ditch. Crossing high above the Williams Fork River, the ditch eventually needed cement piers to carry the pipe (1928). This ditch had so many slides, leaks, and washouts, that it had to be inspected once or twice daily! Siphons were required over draws. Flumes, sometimes ¼ mile long, might be 25-30 feet high, and one flume was actually 177 feet high; but these heights were necessary to maintain the elevation.

Flumes, being of wood, rotted and were guaranteed to leak. Sometimes wind blew a portion of the flume down. Finally the county put in big pipes to help the ditches across the Williams Fork. It might be noted that, when water leaked out of ditches, a side benefit was that ranchers along the way could use the "lost" water. Along with the ditches came reservoirs.

Fred DeBerard had four reservoirs on the Muddy: the Albert, the Binco, Milk Creek, and a low one that flooded the Jones place near Kremmling. All were dirt, of course. The Hermosa Ranch on the Little Muddy had water rights through the Sylvan Ditch and Reservoir Company and they built the Sylvan Reservoir dam and the Hermosa Ditch starting in 1911 and completing it by the spring of 1916. The Stein Ditch, started in 1897, was another large ditch, this one later purchased by the Taussig family. These ditches were all built originally to provide water to meadows and fields for ranching purposes. For years, people hauled in water for baths and household use, but that gradually changed. Leon Almirall, near the Horseshoe Ranger Station on the Williams Fork, decided that he wanted water for his home, so he built a 1700’ pipeline to his house, added an inside bathroom, and was shocked when the line froze the first winter – it was only three feet deep. He called in workers who dug down and insulated the line with manure and straw. It froze again. Finally, Almirall gave up and buried the line six feet deep. Now he had his water!

On Ranch Creek in the east end of the county, E.D. Shew cut a ditch upstream from his house, placing it along the edge of the creek, but directing the water back into the main channel near his house. At that point, he put a little water wheel that pushed the water up the hill to his cabins -- and furnished electricity besides. Eventually he replaced the water wheel with a gas engine. There was a similar water wheel, used for the same purpose, up in Hideaway Park.

Water was used to transport lumber as well. A flume ran down the mountain into Monarch Lake, in the days when the Monarch Company was timbering there. There was a flume along St. Louis Creek, carrying lumber from the camps upstream. Perhaps the most ambitious flume ran from Western Box Sawmill. This area is now under Meadow Creek Reservoir. In 1906, the Deisher Lumber Company paid Nathan Hurd for a right of way through his land and built a flume with a 2% grade down Hurd Creek. Logs were placed in the flume and a horse harnessed to the last log. The horse then pushed the logs down the flume with the help of the water. Three years later, the mill was moved to "Sawmill Meadow" on Meadow Creek.

In 1911 construction on the seven-mile-long Vaver Flume began, with 117 cubic inches of water allotment. This flume ran down Meadow Creek and over to Tabernash, carrying partially processed logs for further manufacture. A flume rider checked along the way, making sure there were no jams, and phone line allowed the rider to report troubles. Hikers can see remnants of both the St. Louis Creek flume and that one coming down Meadow Creek today.

Topic: Railroads

Moffat Road

 

"I shall never forget it as long as I live. Nor do I ever expect to experience anything comparable to it again. Civilization had found its way across the mountains into Middle Park," reflected Mrs. Josephine Button in 1955 on her 91st birthday, as she recalled seeing smoke from the first Denver Northwestern and Pacific work-train on Rollins Pass, high above the Fraser Valley and Middle Park. Once those rails made it over the Continental Divide all the way to Hot Sulphur Springs, "changes came thick and fast." Many men, many dollars, many routes and many dreams tried to bring a railroad over the Continental Divide into Northwest Colorado, and the "Hill Route" over Rollins Pass that finally accomplished it a century ago has retained its allure ever since.

The Moffat Railroad built a cafeteria, telegraph station, living quarters for Moffat's "Hill Men" (as the railroad crews up there were known) and a fine hotel - all collectively called Corona Station. Soot-filled snow sheds protected over a mile of this windblown section of track. And where today silence is the most powerful sense, colorful locomotives pulled passenger and freight cars, filling the rare atmosphere with black smoke and mechanical clatter.

Decades of men's dreams lay behind the once massive snow shed that cut the bitter winds from the north and west, behind that fine hotel that offered some of the most spectacular scenery in America, behind the hopeful Town of Arrow nestled below tree-line ten or twelve miles west of Rollins Pass, and behind that first work-train that Josephine Button watched from her hay ranch along the Cottonwood Pass Wagon Road to Hot Sulphur Springs. Competent, often powerful, men in the 1860's through the 1890's filed surveys, graded road beds, and even began drilling before being stopped by severe storms that foiled the best laid plans or their inability to fund the ambitious projects.

Dreams to penetrate the high mountains along the Divide in central Colorado began when the Front Range was flooded with miners during the Gold Rush of 1859. Even before Colorado became a territory in 1861, Golden City, just west of Denver along Clear Creek, recognized its potential as a gateway to the rich mineral resources of mountain towns like Central City, Black Hawk, and Georgetown. Golden City's ambitions went beyond becoming a mountain transportation hub, believing that with the right incentives, enthusiasms, and leadership, its location supported a future as a national commerce center. 

Golden City certainly had men of vision, ambition, and wealth among its ranks. William Loveland and George Vest, both young and feverishly ambitious to see Golden City reach its potential, vigorously pursued their dreams for a powerful commercial center in Golden City. From Missouri River towns like Leavenworth in Eastern Kansas, leading town founders also recognized the benefits of linking their water and rail routes to the east with the resources of the west. Finally, as if destiny had demanded it, Edward L. Berthoud, a young civil engineer and surveyor with energy and ability, arrived in Golden City from Leavenworth in April of 1860 to unite the similar passions of leading citizens from both locations.

From 1861 until 1866, Berthoud, Loveland and Vest focused on bringing a direct transcontinental railroad route through Golden City. First, Edward Berthoud, along with Jim Bridger and a capable young cartographer named Redwood Fisher, blazed a trail across Berthoud Pass through Middle Park all the way to Salt Lake City. Returning to Golden City on May 28, 1861, Berthoud reported "a good wagon road could be ?quickly' built" from Denver to Salt Lake City over Berthoud Pass for about $100,000.00. According to the local hyperbole, a railroad would surely follow.

In spite of considerable enthusiasm, disappointment plagued early efforts to put a rail line over the mountains in Colorado Territory. In 1862, Territorial Governor John Evans sent the Surveyor General for Colorado and Territories along Berthoud's route and others to confirm or deny the potential of a railroad line. About the same time, the Union Pacific Railroad Company sent an independent reconnaissance to examine potential routes over the divide that included Berthoud and Boulder Passes (Boulder Pass became Rollins Pass in the early 1870's, when John Quincy Adams Rollins built a toll road over it, and then Corona Pass when the Railroad crossed it). Surveyor General Case and the UP agreed that neither route offered much hope for a standard gauge railroad. The dream of a transcontinental line over the Continental Divide through central Colorado seemed to die with the UP surveyor's words, "I learned enough to satisfy myself that no railroad would - at least in our day - cross the mountains south of the Cache la Poudre..." 

Multiple failed attempts to bring a rail line over the Divide through Middle Park during the following decades strengthened the UP's "death sentence." Against the odds, Berthoud and Loveland continued to solicit support for a railroad west over or through the Continental Divide, using improved surveys and maps to support their requests. In the 1880's, survey crews from a variety of railway incorporations were scattered over the high country on or near Rollins Pass. Over Berthoud, Rollins and other passes, they marked potential railroad lines with their wooden stakes. It was during this stretch of strenuous surveying activity that David Moffat, a highly successful Denver capitalist, got involved with an unsuccessful effort to bring through the mountains instead of over the top. 

 In the early 1880's, Mr. Moffat invested in the Denver, Utah and Pacific Railroad, which intended to tunnel through the mountains near Rollins Pass. Like the other efforts, though, the Denver, Utah and Pacific vanished in a few short years. Unlike many other lines that accomplished little more than surveys and maps, the DU&PRR completed significant grading and began tunneling before reaching the "end of its resources."

Money, power and success supported Moffat's dream to put Denver on a direct transcontinental railroad line. Doctor Robert C. Black, III, wrote that David Moffat's failed efforts in the early 1880's converted him to the idea that Denver needed to be on a direct transcontinental rail line. Moffat considered the route over Rollins Pass valuable enough to have surveying and grading crews working on it throughout the winter in 1902. The Denver Rocky Mountain News claimed that Moffat's route through Northwestern Colorado included "the largest strip of fertile land as yet undeveloped in the United States..." With his Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railroad, David Moffat planned to make good his intentions to put Denver on direct transcontinental railroad line.

Moffat's original plan called for the "Hill Route" over Corona Pass ? the name changed from Rollins Pass in honor of Corona Station at the top ? to last for only a few short years. While the "temporary" route over the top generated resources by extracting the resources of Northwestern Colorado, a tunnel was to be bored through the Continental Divide. Even the wealth and power of Moffat, though, failed to adequately finance the tunnel before he died in 1911. The temporary line, therefore, lasted for nearly of a quarter century, from 1904 until 1928.

Its obstacles proved as enormous as the mountains it crossed. Work crews had to cease operations because of snow for most of April in 1920. The road was closed from late January until May in 1921. In December of 1924, engine number 210 busted "a main reservoir pipe," causing the train to fly down the hill out of control until it jumped the tracks and crashed into the valley below. Clearly, the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad, which took over Moffat's DNW&P after his death, needed a tunnel to replace the expensive effort over the "Devil's Backbone."

 As Denver and Salt Lake Locomotive Number 120 came through the tunnel in early 1928, it represented the culmination of a massive undertaking through wet, unstable rocks which required considerable engineering ingenuity and caused six deaths in a 1926 cave-in. It also took an enormous amount of coordination and effort to secure the necessary funding. Through local bond issues, private investors and other means, the project was completed. And through a connection at Dotsero, a railroad station less than 30 minutes west of Vail on I-70, freight and passengers could make a direct Pacific connection from Denver. Posthumously, David Moffat's dream became a reality.

For significant periods of time since the trains stopped operations over Rollins Pass in the late 1920's with the opening of the Moffat Tunnel, on-road vehicles crept along its relatively easy grades and wide curves from Rollinsville on the east slope to Winter Park on the west side of the Divide. Like now, the road ran through an area attractive to backcountry campers and sport enthusiasts. On September 1, 1956, local officials and private citizens met on Rollins Pass to celebrate a "joint state-federal-county project to convert the old D. & S. L. railroad right of way over Corona Pass into an access road for sportsmen." According to the Denver Post, the game and fish department's construction division reconstructed the road during the summer of 1955 for about $20,000. The following year, the road became a scenic route over the Continental Divide for family cars and jeep caravans alike. And after it was built, or at least reconstructed, they did come. Intrepid tourists into Middle Park.

Topic: Water

A Dream Smashed in Gore Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain Men / Trappers

Many noted fur trappers and traders are reported to have been familiar with the headwaters of the Grand (Colorado) River as early as the 1820s. Among them were Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Beckwurth, Christopher “Kit “Carson, Henry Fraeb and Peter Sarpy. Louis Vasquez built a trading fort on the South Platte River and ventured into what is now Grand County, where a pass east of Berthoud Pass is named for him.

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

The beaver trade was essentially over by the 1840s as silk replaced beaver pelt as the stylish material for top hats. In 1842, famed traveler Rufus Sage came over Muddy Pass into Middle Park, but recorded almost no hunting activity there. On the other hand …fishing was great! His party caught over 50 pounds of trout in one morning. Noted mountain man Jim Bridger and another guide, Joseph Chatillon, let the infamous Sir George Gore on an extravagant hunting expedition in Middle Park. Despite the senseless slaughter of thousands of game animals, Gore has been immortalized with a mountain range, canyon and pass named for him.

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

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

Christmas in the Mountains 1951

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

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

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

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

Schools

Article contributed by Betty Jo Woods

The first official school in Grand County was founded in 1875 in Hot Sulphur Springs in a crude dugout. The school met for twenty days and a painting of the classroom shows nine students in attendance. Typically the woman teachers of that era would have earned about $25 per month. 

One report to the Colorado State Department of Education said, “The school secretary left during the Indian uprising and no school records are available.” This school was presumed to be at Hot Sulphur Springs.

In the 1890s school was not held every year in Grand Lake because not enough taxes were raised to pay for a teacher. The school year was generally April through October and classes were held in various vacant buildings for many years. The first schoolhouse in Grand Lake was built in 1910 and remained a one-teacher school until 1935. 

A notice published in the Middle Park Times on january 31, 1889 annouce that a masquerade ball and supper of "beef steer and chickens" would be held on February 14th to raise money to build a school.    

In 1898, the offerings were expanded to include the first experimental high school curriculum to be offered in the county. As towns were developed, several rural one-room schools also came into existence. Many schools were taught only during the summer because winter travel was too difficult.

At one time there were nineteen school districts. In 1958 the County was reorganized into two school districts, with the result that today there are two high schools, two middle schools, four elementary schools, one charter school, one alternative school, and one private Christian school in Grand County.

Sources:
R.C. Black, Island in The Rockies. Pruett Publishing Company, 1969
Colorado State Department of Education, First Formal Biennial Report of Superintendent of Public Instruction for State of Colorado. Denver, Colorado: Daily Times Printing House, 1879

Topic: Regions

Middle Park

Middle Park is one of three big parks in the Colorado Rockies and covers a large portion of Grand County. Like North Park and South Park on either side, Middle Park is a large open area of  meadows, river valleys, woodlands, surrounded by mountains. It is also the headwaters of the mighty Colorado River.

The first printed account of Middle Park was written in 1839 describing abundant antelope, deer, big horn sheep, bears, buffalo and elk. The word “parc” is of French origin and so it is logical to assume that French trappers named this location.

In 1819 the Adams-Onis Treaty partitioned Middle Park so that Fraser, Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs, had they existed, would become part of the United States; however, Kremmling would have belonged to Spain! Later, Kremmling would have been part of Texas.

While political boundaries have changed, the beauty of the park remains the same. As Middle Park is entirely surrounded by mountains, Robert C. Black, who wrote the area’s definitive history, chose to call his book, Island in the Rockies.

Murphy Family

October 2009

As late as this summer, John Murphy, 94, mowed ditches on his ranch land and built a new fence. "You got to keep busy doing something," he said. His longevity, he said smiling at wife Carolyn across the table, is owed to "having a good wife to keep you healthy."

And then he added, "and being stubborn and contrary, I guess." But, Carolyn believes John's secret to healthy aging is due to "hard physical labor from an early age," plus the privilege of being raised where there is good air, little junk food, fresh vegetables, fresh milk daily and ranch-harvested meat. Dancing and regular rodeo jaunts also don't hurt.

This week, the Murphys are pausing to acknowledge a 100-year milestone, when John's parents first bought the ranch in greater Granby. John Murphy was born in the family's white two-story ranch house, which still stands on the property, six years after his parents Anna (Rohracher) and James Murphy bought 160 acres from Leopold Mueller in 1909. He had purchased the land from the widow of Edward Weber, who was one of the Grand County commissioners shot in the Grand Lake shoot-out of 1883. Weber's grave is still surrounded by a white-picket fence, located just northwest from the Murphys' newer home.

Mother Anna had crossed the ocean from Austria in 1882 with her family, then in the spring of 1884, they walked over Rollins Pass from Ward to homestead at Eight-Mile Creek south of Granby. The town of Granby didn't sprout until the railroad came through in the early 1900s, so twice a year, the family would travel over Berthoud to Georgetown to buy groceries - a testament to the fortitude people had back then. "How often do you go for groceries now?" John asked. "Twice a day?"

Anna and James married in March of 1907 and had three children: Margaret, James and John. When John was just two years old, his father died and his mother was left to care for the ranch and the three young children. She later married Joseph Reinhardt who had the ranch above theirs.

Upon her death in 1952 at the age of 75, "The Middle Park Times" saluted Anna for having been "a hardy pioneer woman" who prided herself for her ability to horseback ride and milk cows, and called the latter a "fine art rather than a chore."

"It was a pleasure for her to sit down and milk cows," John said. "That's when she could rest. She would milk half of the cows while me and my step-dad milked the other half."

The ranch had about 35 cows, and the cream and milk they produced was shipped to Denver where it was sold. When the lettuce colonies came to the Granby area around the early 1920s, the Murphy ranch prospered selling milk and butter to local settlers.  "Where the airport is now, there was a shack or tent on every 10 acres over there," he said, "and five packing warehouses along the railroad." Even a section of Murphy land was leased to grow lettuce and spinach.

When young boys, John and his brother would sometimes find entertainment riding on the backs of calves in the barn - always out of sight from their mother who would have disapproved, he said. And the younger John would horseback to the Granby schoolhouse located across from the present day Granby Community Center.

Back then, Granby was barely a settlement, and the Murphys' closest neighbor was farther than a mile away. Granby, especially, has grown in the past 20 years, threatening the lifestyle he has known all his life. In the past, ranching families made up the community, and neighbors looked out for one another, he said. "There was kind of a togetherness," he said. "Now we don't have that."

Nodding to the golf courses and newer homes surrounding Granby proper, "We're losing it, losing all the ranchers," he said. "Like any piece of property, I hate to see it change hands, but progress happens and there's nothing you can do about it."

John Murphy began running the ranch in 1934 and his older brother James ran another ranch near Fraser, land the brothers originally had purchased together.
John's first wife Edith died during childbirth, and John became a single dad to a daughter and son who were 2 and 4 years old at the time, running the ranch and raising his children like his own mother did when he was a toddler.

At its height, John Murphy's commercial cattle operation had about 2,000 acres and about 120 pair of cows and calves, with the calves selling at the top of the market in Omaha. John said from working his land for hay through the years, he has found buffalo horns. "There must have been quite a few buffalo here in the 1800s," he said. The land has since been leased, split, and some shared with John's family, including daughter Jennifer Baker and son Steve Murphy.

Although the winters are no longer as harsh as he remembers them - "It would get 30 to 40 below for the whole month," he said - he and wife Carolyn now winter in Arizona. John met Carolyn in the 1970s, and the couple would dance at haunts such as the Circle H and Hazel Mosle's (now Johnson's Landing). "I just held the girls, and they did the dancing," John said. "She complained I held her too tight," he said, of Carolyn. "And she's been suffering every since."

Topic: Grand County

Grand County Trivia

After 1879 there were no Native Americans in Grand County.

In the 1800, the leading cause of death in Grand County was accidents followed by pneumonia.

Between 1887 and 1902, Grand County had no divorces.

The total resident population of Grand County in 1900 was 741.  The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Winters in Grand County often were severe, but nothing as terrible as the winter of 1898-1899.  Warm weather preceded the storm which began on February 2nd.  Four feet of snow fell by that first evening and the residents did not see the sun for the rest of the month as the snow continued to fall.  The snow continued into March and April and while few residents died, but the loss of livestock was tremendous.

Topic: Regions

Church Park

George Henry Church and his brother John had a substantial ranch in Jefferson Country, prior to Colorado Statehood.  When the Timber and Stone Act of 1878 was passed, it permitted the purchase of land unfit for agriculture for $2.50 an acre.  Thus the Church brothers obtained land in Middle Park for summer grazing.  They would move their cattle into the Park by driving them over the Rollins Pass.   The area they used is just west of the town of Fraser and became known as Church Park.

In 1910, the Church Ditch was created to divert water across the Continental Divide for irrigation.  The remains of this early trans-mountain project can still be seen today at mile marker 241.5 on U.S. Highway 40.

Voices of Middle Park