Our valley’s rich history | PostIndependent.com

Our valley’s rich history

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

In 1916, J.C. Thomson of Carbondale applied to the bank to borrow $3,000 (about $64,000 today). Among the items used to guarantee the loan were horses and cows, one J.I. Case disc harrow, one Iron Age potato planter, one McCormick hay rake, a spike-tooth harrow, harnesses and collars, a potato digger, a riding cultivator, five carloads of russet potatoes and a carload of McClure potatoes (about 90,000 pounds).

You can tell a lot about the history of a community and the people who lived there by reading financial records.

The Mount Sopris Historical Society protects these hand written records and other local artifacts related to Carbondale and its environs for writers, builders, planners, genealogists and history buffs.

Change some of the dates and wording on the documents, though, and you might be reading the legal notices in the Post Independent today rather than 120 years ago. Here’s an example:

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To Mrs. Williams of Glenwood Springs

March 1889

Dear Madam,

Yours to this bank for $400 and $160 are past due and interest unpaid for several months which now amounts to $119.56. If you do not pay the interest, renew the notes and keep the building insured, we will have to foreclose the Deed of Trust and advertise your property for sale. Please let me hear from you as soon as possible.


GB Eubanks

Cashier of Carbondale Bank

The Historical Society’s museum, located on the corner of Highway 133 and Weant Boulevard, comprises two structures – the old jail and the museum building. The museum was originally a homesteader’s cabin built in 1887 by Myron Thompson, Samuel Bowles and Oscar Holland.

It housing a collection of hand-written journals from banks, notaries, and mercantile companies dating back to 1880.

The records provide information about “what people bought, what it cost, how much money they had in the bank, and what they pledged as security for real estate loans,” said museum director Linda Romero Criswell. “People were poor here. They worked hard. There are so many stories.”

One such story is that of Sosorine Diemoz Bonn. You can find her name in the registries as a student at age 6 and later as a teacher. Bonn told Criswell that she could work harder than any man. She hand-mixed the concrete for the foundation of her house, and poured it with her husband. She was also a maid and a cook.

The Historical Society began in 1986 and met for years before opening the museum in 1995. The homesteader’s cabin was donated to the society by a land developer, the town of Carbondale offered land for the museum site, and the society raised the money to move the cabin to its present location.

Museum volunteers have created a timeline for the town. It tells us that 1887 was one year before Carbondale’s incorporation and six years after the removal and relocation of the Ute Tribe to reservations in southern Colorado and Utah.

Once the Historical society opened its doors in 2006, artifacts arrived, mostly items that locals had kept in their attics and basements. In the old jail, someone found a World War I army jacket. It hung for a several years in the museum, and then someone inadvertently put their hand in a pocket and found a letter from the soldier’s girlfriend.

On the horizon is the well-publicized acquisition of the 122-year-old Thompson House. The town will most likely own the building and lease it to the Historical Society to manage. A decision in the matter by the Carbondale Trustees has been postponed until November.

In addition to the administration of the museum and the preparation for the Thompson House management, the Historical Society also runs an outreach program for youth to share Carbondale’s history.

Children learn that the mountains outside Carbondale and up McClure Pass to the south had a sizeable population of sheepherders from New Mexico and the Basque region of Spain. They left their marks, pictures, surnames and names of their towns in carvings on aspen trees.

This past winter, the society created a Junior Docent program for high school students. In an eight-week program covering history, museum interpretation and display creation, the students learned to serve as guides for the museum.

In the autumn, the society hosts Museum Week, offering art projects, storytellers and old-time games to children in Carbondale.

To learn more about Carbondale’s rich history, visit the Mount Sopris Historical Museum, open most weekdays from 1-3 p.m. and by appointment.

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