Letter: The state of history | PostIndependent.com

Letter: The state of history

Doc Holliday’s 1866 Remington derringer is a unique artifact from our Western past. By that, I don’t mean our generic Western history, I mean our Western history as it unfolded in the young city of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The Western legend that Doc Holliday was and would become died/began here in the Hotel Glenwood, at Eighth and Grand Avenue about 10 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 8, 1887.

The verified 1968 affidavit included in the provenance package with this antique firearm tells us that the gun was given to a local citizen and part-time bartender at the Hotel Glenwood, William D. Wells, in partial payment for Doc’s funeral expenses. Other local details in the document, some only recently verified locally, go further to tie the piece to the city.

Including those by Chief of Police Terry Wilson and Detective Mike Yorty, who did some nice police-style homework, lending information and perspective to the issue, numerous, complementary efforts have been made to show the gun, and the provenance attending it, are real. The museum’s new executive director, Bill Kight, has been sharing news of the opportunity with a cross-section of interested locals, doing some research on his own and keeping the museum running. Of course, he will be the first to tell you that without Patsy, Sue, the volunteers and the board, the place would have ceased functioning long ago.

OK, if we accept that the gun is the real thing, what’s in it for the Glenwood Springs Frontier Museum? The city? Our citizens?

The current cramped, deteriorating building and its location present numerous problems, including but hardly limited to: large impending repair expenses, safety issues for both staff and visitors, lack of proper display, storage and work facilities. The museum cannot harvest the willing crop of valuable historic artifacts, documents and photographs offered by an ever-aging populace. Poor security has always been a deterrent to items of value. The location is so far from the mainstream downtown community, there is little visitor traffic.

In these time of endless funding reductions and increasing costs, the museum needs to help pay its own way. It can only do that with a new facility, in the right location, and some stepping stones to an improved economic future. The current museum sees about 3,200 visitors a year at $5 a head. What could help us draw 50,000 people a year at $10 a head? How many clean tourist dollars would that bring into our existing infrastructure? What would traffic like that do to help restructure and rebuild our commercial core? Our citizenry, listed Utes, Doc Holliday and Western history as the top issues of interest on a current survey by the museum.

I think this tiny firearm is part of a set of unique stepping stones to an incredible, long lasting, history-based, across-the-board economic contribution to Glenwood Springs that has been coalescing over the past some years. A few of these stones are already ours. Some, like the Holliday derringer, will have to be acquired as opportunities are presented. Others may need to be sought after. The ones we have, and the ones we gather, will attract/unearth others, which we need or can use. History pays.

R.W. “Doc” Boyle
New Castle

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