Superintendent DeWitt was passionate about education |

Superintendent DeWitt was passionate about education

Frontier Diary
Willa Soncarty
Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyLucy DeWitt is seen here in 1901 in a photograph taken for her re-election to the position of Garfield County superintendent of schools. Her passion for education garnered her the reputation of being one of the best superintendents in the state.

“County Superintendent DeWitt seems fully awake to the important educational needs of the county. She is now endeavoring to arrange for the holding of the District Normal institute at Glenwood this summer. Surely Garfield County is in need of a little educational enthusiasm and we trust Mrs. DeWitt will set it going.”

“Glenwood Post, March 31, 1900

In November 1897, Garfield County residents went to the polls to cast their votes for a new county superintendent of schools. In the end, they entrusted the education of their children to 29-year-old Lucy E. DeWitt.

DeWitt and her husband, Frank, came from Indiana, taking up homesteads in the early 1890s near Parachute. Frank was a talented carpenter, building many structures for the area’s new residents. Lucy was an articulate writer and became extremely active within her community, while at the same time raising sons Charles and George.

Education and the welfare of children were of paramount importance to DeWitt. A Populist politically, her successful bid for the position of Garfield County school superintendent put her education, organization, and decision-making skills to use for the good of the community.

Superintendent DeWitt spent much of her time traveling across Garfield County, inspecting the numerous one-room schools, observing and guiding the education of the students, and conducting teaching examinations. She listened to the concerns of parents and of members of the various school boards, and mediated conflicts. She was hailed in the press for her attempts to locally elevate the importance of education and to improve community involvement in the process.

While the job of educating the children of an entire county seemed to be serious business, DeWitt possessed a fun-loving spirit and charisma that brought her into the public eye. She enjoyed acting in plays, one of which was a starring role in the comedy, “The Old Maids’ Convention,” in 1901.

After serving as county superintendent for about five years, DeWitt retired into a more private life in Parachute, but did not fade completely from civic involvement. In 1907, she became Parachute’s deputy postmaster. That same year, her writing abilities landed her the editorial position of Parachute’s “Grand Valley News” newspaper.

By 1910, Lucy and Frank had moved to Glenwood Springs. Frank continued to build houses and later owned a paint store. Illness, however, slowed Lucy.

Diagnosed with severe arthritis in about 1906, the disease slowly and painfully ravaged her body. She began to lose her eyesight in 1926, and total blindness five years later deprived her entirely of reading, one of her primary passions.

Hundreds of friends and admirers mourned Lucy DeWitt’s death on May 29, 1933. All remembered her cheerful personality, her patience, and her contributions to community and to the education of many of Garfield County’s children.

“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and 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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