The Roaring Fork Valley has had its share of inventors |

The Roaring Fork Valley has had its share of inventors

Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyWilliam Forker was a hunter, prospector, rancher and inventor. Forker was known to identify a need, and then invent a solution. He died in 1931 and was buried in Glenwood Springs' Linwood Cemetery.

“Anything that won’t sell I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility and utility is success.”

– Thomas A. Edison

The ideas of individuals can progress a civilization. So deeply held was this belief that the founders of the United States of America enacted patent legislation in 1790. This legislation encouraged inventors to submit to the government their detailed plans for items that would help society advance and allow the inventor to profit from the idea.

Life on the western frontier often called for ingenuity to solve many problems. As a result, inventors with good ideas submitted their plans to the United States Patent Office for consideration. Residents of the Roaring Fork Valley were no exception.

One of the earliest residents to receive credit as an inventor was one time Glenwood Springs blacksmith John Cassidy. Carbondale’s Avalanche newspaper of May 7, 1890, credited Cassidy of “having patented a potato-digger and other useful contrivances.” Cassidy would be joined by plumber J.A.I. Claudon who, in the Jan. 2, 1897, Glenwood Post and Weekly Ledger newspaper, was noted to have patented his invention of a steam heater.

It is not known if Cassidy and Claudon monetarily profited from their inventions. However, Roaring Fork Valley cattle rancher and hunter William Forker patented a saddlebag camp stove in 1901. This stove was designed to be used as pannier boxes and as a camp stove when necessary. The boxes were constructed of cold rolled steel, 12-by-23-by-16 inches, thoroughly braced. They could be easily secured to a pack saddle and were large enough to hold utensils, dishes, supplies and bedding, with the stove legs and pipe stored in the firebox side. To attest to the usefulness of this invention, local hunting guides Jake Borah and William Hubbard successfully put the stoves to the test. Forker advertised “all orders for these stoves promptly filled. We also offer to sell at a reasonable price, the entire U.S. patent.” Forker also patented a cattle dehorner in 1903. This patent was purchased by Charles Matthews of Wichita, Kan., who set up manufacturing operations to produce the dehorner.

William Forker as an inventor was in good company. J.R. DeRemer, builder of the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant, patented and manufactured a water wheel in the 1890s. Thomas Kendrick, whose Kendrick Cottages were located near Glenwood Springs’ Denver and Rio Grande depot, patented a folding step for passenger rail cars in 1898. John Murray of New Castle invented an irrigation water wheel in 1902. The year of 1903 was a banner year for local inventors, with Charles Hubbard of Glenwood Springs inventing a railroad cattle guard; George Callahan of South Canon inventing a nut lock; Henry Rudasill, clerk of the district court, patenting a loose leaf system for records filing; and Joseph Coles of Glenwood Springs patenting an irrigation system and a boiler cleaner.

Throughout Glenwood Springs’ history, many have seen a necessity and sought to remedy the need. Society is better for their creativity.

Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.

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