Frontier Museum preserves Glenwood’s colorful history |

Frontier Museum preserves Glenwood’s colorful history

Niki Delson
High Country RSVP
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Historians define so much of the American story through the westward advancement of the frontier line. Settlements arose from conflicts. Europeans imposed their way of life on indigenous peoples, making the land their own.

Massive government assistance developed the area we know as the West. It promoted settlements and provided for the building of the transcontinental railroad. Only 100 years separates the signing of the Declaration of Independence and President Ulysses S. Grant’s proclamation admitting Colorado as the 38th state.

By 1890 however, the U.S. Census announced that there was no longer a discernible frontier line in the West. No longer were there large tracts of unbroken land awaiting settlement. Nonetheless, American identity is still tied to the frontier – to the idea of risk and adventure, opportunity and freedom, and a feeling that anything was possible.

In the 1960s, a group of individuals centered in Glenwood Springs formed the Frontier Historical Society and Museum to preserve the local history for future generations. They started collecting materials and artifacts, and in 1964 opened their first museum in the basement of Hotel Colorado. In 1971, Stella Shumate donated the house at 1001 Colorado Ave. to be a permanent home for the museum and its collections.

The nomadic Ute Indian tribes, who left an oral history but no written history, originally inhabited this land.

“What we have is the white person’s story of the Utes,” says museum director Cindy Hines. “Part of our job here is to interpret where we have come from and where we might be headed.”

The Frontier Historical Museum traces the white settlers’ history and influence in this area from 1860 to the present.

The museum has permanent and rotating displays, with furniture and accessories dating back more than 100 years. When schoolchildren visit, they can see what life was like at the turn of the last century.

They may have learned the nursery rhyme, “Here we go round the mulberry bush,” describing a typical week in the life of a homemaker: Monday wash the clothes, Tuesday iron the clothes, Wednesday mend the clothes etc. At the museum, they can see a 1900s washtub, a washboard, and an iron without an electric cord that has to be heated on the stove.

Children in this digital age can see how music entered the homes of their great-grandparents. The museum has an Edison phonograph and Victrola. The dining room houses a radiator with a warming oven.

In keeping with our adoration of the Old West, with its outlaws and gamblers, visitors will find exhibits on most of the well-known people who lived, visited or died here.

First on most people’s list is Doc Holliday. Born John Henry Holliday, Doc died here in 1887. Historians speculate that he came for the healing powers of the hot springs.

He was a dentist, but could not work in his chosen field because of tuberculosis – no one would go to him. His two skills were dentistry and card dealing. He was born into a very affluent family, and his nanny taught him to play cards.

In addition to the museum, the Frontier Historical Society has adopted and cares for the historic Linwood Cemetery, located a short hike from the top of 12th Street.

Doc Holliday is buried there, as is the outlaw Harvey Logan, alias “Kid Curry,” a bank and train robber. Curry came here in 1904, pursued by a posse, and was shot, but not fatally. He then committed suicide rather than go to jail.

While the outlaws of the Old West may be a big tourist draw, many average citizens contributed to our history. Jacob and Louisa Schwarz came from Germany in 1893, the same year the Hotel Colorado opened. Jacob Schwarz was the undertaker and managed the cemetery. Ed Hughes was a local businessman who owned a bottling company, bottling the medicinal Yampah water from the hot springs, as well as sarsaparilla and whiskey.

These are some of the characters you can meet on the Frontier Museum’s annual Ghost Walk. In the dark, with a lantern to light your way, a guide will take you from the trailhead to Linwood Cemetery up the half-mile path.

You never know whom you will meet, but their stories bring local history alive. Actors portray children, shopkeepers, prostitutes and gunslingers – each one a person of value and each contributing to the history of our hometown.

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