Western history is filled with lessons: The people involved in Western expansion were determined and tenacious. We can also learn from the Native Americans who were removed. Those lessons come not only in relationship to their removal by white settlers, but also in the Native Americans’ relationship to the land.
“A lot of people think of history and think of being trapped in a classroom. But to me, history is the story of people.”
Mt. Sopris Historical Society Executive Director Beth White is passionate about the history her organization preserves, and she’s in good company. Societies throughout the county share the area’s stories, and they often turn to one another for insight and encouragement.
“Our present is informed by the past and our future has yet to be authored,” White said.
Seven county historical societies stand to benefit financially if ballot measure 1A is passed on Nov. 7. Take a look at the work each offers.
Related story: Tax is considered the last chance for some historical societies
Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum
1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs (Frontier Museum) and 732 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs (Doc Holliday Museum) | $10, both museums; separately, $7 adults; $5 seniors; free for children 12 and younger and society members | Frontier Museum Mon., Thurs.-Sat., 1-4 p.m.; Doc Holliday Museum daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. | 945-4448 | glenwoodhistory.com
It began life as the home of Dr. and Mrs. Marshall Dean, but today it houses artifacts of Glenwood Springs’ history. The Frontier Museum, located just blocks from the downtown business core, invites guests to walk through the past. The home is filled with items that belonged to its former owners that show how they lived. But walk through the two-story home and you’ll learn about the city’s infamous residents — Kid Curry and Doc Holliday, among others — and its most prominent landmarks. A display tells of the Utes who originally inhabited the land, and photos in another area show Hanging Lake long before it was an Instagram favorite.
The historical society has long sought space outside this building, and its prayers were partly answered with the August opening of the Doc Holliday Museum. The satellite museum is the society’s first, and is located in the basement of Bullock’s in downtown Glenwood Springs. It includes items related to gunslinger Holliday and his era, with a number of firearms of the varieties he owned.
In addition to the two museums, the society hosts annual Ghost Walks to Doc Holliday’s grave. Volunteers dress in character as some of the town’s notorious past residents and share their stories.
Glenwood Railroad Museum
413 Seventh St., Glenwood Springs | $2; children 12 and younger free | Fri.-Mon., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. | 945-7044 | glenwoodrailroadmuseumbulletins.org
The race was on. Colorado Midland Railway and the Denver and Rio Grande railroads were determined to make their way to Glenwood Springs, and each company was determined to be first. Crossing the Continental Divide by train was an expensive, difficult endeavor, but on Oct. 5, 1887, Denver and Rio Grande Railroad saw its first train arrive in town, 68 days ahead of Midland. Glenwood was set to boom.
The collection at Glenwood Railroad Museum recounts this and other area railroad history. The artifacts, gathered in the Ladies’ Waiting Room of what is now the Amtrak station, offer insight into the trains’ effect on the city, the passenger experience and more. A model of Glenwood Canyon takes the transportation history beyond the railway and into automobiles; the model showed how the four-lane I-70 would progress through the canyon upon its completion in the 1980s.
Grand Valley Historical Society
7201 County Road 300, Battlement Mesa | 285-9114 | facebook.com/grandvalleyhistoricalsocietyparachuteco
Lee Hayward attended classes in the Battlement Mesa School House. Judith Hayward came west much later, relocating from Atlanta to Parachute in the early 1980s. But when she met and married Lee, his story became part of her own.
She founded the Grand Valley Historical Society in 1999, motivated by a friend and the memory of her husband, who died a year earlier. The society received the schoolhouse building in 2000, and it now serves as a hub for the organization’s activities.
“My husband just instilled the love of the history here,” Hayward said. “I would hear him tell the stories over and over and over. Nobody got bored.”
Individuals and organizations rent the schoolhouse for events, and it’s the meeting place for the Grand Valley Sew and Sew Quilters, who also host an annual show. The society has also collected history of many of the area’s families, organized in manila folders in the building’s small office space. Oral histories are also part of the organization’s collection. Recording them was one of the society’s earliest acts, thanks to Jimm Seaney, the man who convinced Hayward to launch the group.
The society has also hosted a cemetery walk, in which locals portray some of the area’s early residents and share their history. Quarterly meetings include local and Colorado history programs. An adjacent cabin, donated by the Williams company, offers visitors a glimpse at the way past residents lived.
“We have been lucky. The other historical societies are the ones that are really struggling, some of them more than others,” Hayward said.
Mt. Sopris Historical Society
499 Weant Blvd., Carbondale | 781-632-3326 | mtsoprishistoricalsociety.com
If you’ve spent any time in Carbondale, you’ve likely passed the properties Mt. Sopris Historical Society stewards. But you’re just as likely to have overlooked these historical assets.
Slow down as you cruise along Colorado 133 and you’ll spot the historic jailhouse and log cabin at the corner of Weant Boulevard. Cross the highway and you’ll find the Thompson House Museum tucked into a residential area. Each of these properties tell stories of early Carbondale.
The house isn’t currently open regular hours because of ongoing renovations, but it remains a repository of history. The Thompson family was among the town’s earliest homesteaders, and the items inside are all original to the house and its inhabitants — a rare distinction in house museums. Myron Thompson, for whom Thompson Divide was named, built the home for his daughter Hattie and her second husband, Oscar, in the 1880s. Land along 133 and the Crystal River belonged to the family, which built its wealth through agriculture.
“It’s a time travel in a domestic setting, going back to 1880s up to 1962,” White said.
The historical society uses this and the other two properties it manages as informal learning environments. The log cabin includes a number of artifacts and information about Carbondale’s development, and the adjacent jailhouse houses a resident artist and small programs throughout the year.
New Castle Historical Society
New Castle’s museum is open by appointment only, and the appropriate phone numbers are available from the town and the library. Learn more about the town’s historic assets at newcastlecolorado.org.
“Things without stories are meaningless.”
That’s a phrase LaRue Wentz has encountered many times, and it rings true. Wentz is president of the New Castle Historical Society, an organization she’s been involved with, to varying degrees, for two decades. The society runs the town’s museum on a by-appointment basis. That’s a bit of a misstatement, really; Wentz lives within walking distance of the museum, which is housed in the old town hall and fire station. The building was constructed in 1893 and served as the town’s council chambers for more than 90 years.
Now it’s filled with artifacts, both from the town’s history and from the years in which New Castle formed.
“We’ve been searching for the stories in the museum,” Wentz said. “It’s really fun to go through boxes and see what we have.”
Among those items are paraphernalia from the Clinetop sisters. They were dance hall girls in Leadville who later moved to New Castle; the Clinetop trails are named for them. The museum includes their stockings with hand-embroidered flowers and other costuming.
Although it’s open on a limited basis, the museum remains a popular place for school field trips. Wentz hopes to see interest from schools and individuals continue to rise.
Rifle Heritage Center
Fourth Street and East Avenue, Rifle | 625-4862 | Search Rifle Heritage Center on Facebook
Step into the Rifle Heritage Center and you may be met by a willing tour guide. That’s common of the area’s historical society museums, and if you’re lucky, your guide may be able to share his or her personal recollections of the area’s history, as well.
The society’s museum is two stories and many rooms filled with the area’s history. You’ll stroll through a replica general store, where shelves overflow with products you would have seen in decades gone by. Continue to stroll through the building and take in a number of American flags; can you tell how many stars are in each?
Each of the building’s rooms explores a different aspect of the city’s history, and artifacts from early residents are plentiful. You’ll see Dr. Roy O. Smith’s dentist chair, for example, and uniforms of military men who fought in battles as early as World War I. Another room includes farm implements (did you know how many types of barbed wire exist?). Younger visitors may be especially surprised by a collection of earlier communication devices.
The museum closes each year as temperatures drop, as the building is not heated.
Silt Historical Park
707 Orchard Ave., Silt | Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. | 945-5337 | silthistoricalpark.net
The experience begins as soon as you set foot onto Silt Historical Park’s grounds. A railroad car greets visitors, a reminder of the area’s past as a railroad watering town. The collection of buildings comprising the park house a variety of artifacts from years gone by, and volunteers are often available to guide guests through history.
Tom Cochran began volunteering this summer, and said he’s long had a love of history passed down from his father. Some of the older tools on the property are familiar from when he was a child in the 1950s — “not that they were in use then, but they were around the farm,” he said.
The buildings are arranged as though they’re part of a mining town at the turn of the 20th century. An old schoolhouse was relocated from the area that is now the Rifle Gap Reservoir, and it hosts lectures and other events. Nearby, a blacksmith shop offers space for live demonstrations of the craft. A homesteader’s house allows a look at home life in 1914.