Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Thomas F. McClure left his native Ireland on his 21st birthday ” Oct. 21, 1869 ” looking for a better life in the United States. He had heard of work to be had in the mines of Colorado. Within a few months of his arrival, he had moved westward, settling in Georgetown. As with so many miners of the time, he then came to Leadville, where he continued in the profession of mining. In 1874, he married Sarah Jane Montgomery, also a native of Ireland, and soon started a family.
A savvy man financially, Thomas McClure had saved enough money to afford land. In 1885, he and his wife, along with their then five children, came from Leadville to the Roaring Fork Valley. He purchased about 160 acres of property east of the Catherine Post Office.
The fertile soil of McClure’s farm produced abundant crops which included grain, potatoes, hay and a variety of vegetables. This produce allowed the McClure family to live off of the land while at the same time profiting from the sale of their crops.
With potatoes quickly becoming a lucrative cash crop in the Carbondale area, Thomas McClure began an experiment. Focusing upon the Early Rose variety, McClure eventually developed a new potato, which he named the Red McClure. Perfect for baking or boiling, the new potato’s taste made it a success.
Thomas McClure left the Roaring Fork Valley in 1896, returning to Leadville to work the mines. However, his Red McClure left a mark on the potato industry, and continues to be a favorite a century after its development.
“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
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