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2021 Josephine Miles Award

 Borah Journals Project Wins State History Award

The Eagle County Historical Society and the Eagle Valley Library District are being honored by History Colorado for a several-year project involving digitization of the Alfred Borah Journals. The project is the winner of the 2021 Josephine Miles award, which honors outstanding projects that further understanding of Colorado history in exemplary and unique ways.

Borah was a homesteader on Brush Creek in 1882 who kept a meticulous daily journal detailing everything about his life. The journals have been photographed, transcribed, and are accessible on-line at via the eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com or evld.org websites https://evld.marmot.org/Archive/evld%3A11904/Exhibit.

Borah hunting camp circa 1890

The journals are significant in that Borah documents the details of pioneer life ranging from details as mundane as the price of 10 pounds of flour in 1885 to reports of mining accidents and murders. Borah’s writing also reveals the challenges pioneers faced whether it be dealing with a middle-of-the-night lice infestation, daunting weather conditions, crude medical care, the joy of a Friday night dance at the schoolhouse, and the heartbreak of a young wife’s death. The digitization of the journals makes this information easily available to the public with a few clicks of the computer mouse.

“This was a complicated project that involved multiple agencies, persistence, and some fortuitous timing,” noted ECHS President Kathy Heicher, “The journals offer a look into county history for current residents and also will serves as a valuable information source for future researchers.”

For more information go to:

https://www.vaildaily.com/news/history-colorado-to-award-locals-for-work-in-preserving-alfred-borah-photos-and-journals-from-1882-to-1917/

 

Underground Railroad Quilt

Quilt Raffle!

   The High Altitude Quilting Guild has pieced and hand-quilted an “Underground Railroad” quilt and donated it to the Eagle County Historical Society. Some historians believe the blocks incorporated into these quilts offered coded messages to runaway slaves.

Take a chance on this reproduction quilt and support local history. Tickets are $5 for one or $10 for three and are available at the Eagle County History Museum in Eagle (open Thursday – Monday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

Or purchase a ticket via email by contacting us at ECHS@eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.

All proceeds benefit the Historical Society.

A Cup of Clear Cold Water 2021

New Look–Same Wonderful Stories

The Eagle County Historical Society has re-printed the Helen Dice memoir, “A Cup of Clear Cold Water: Life on Brush Creek.” This is the fourth re-print of this popular book which features a colorful new cover and the same beloved stories.

First published in 1980, Dice tells the story of life as a rancher’s wife on Brush Creek during the great depression. She shares the details of the hard work and difficult lessons, as well as the joy of living in a beautiful mountain community. Dice even shares a little gossip about the neighbors.

This is a must-have for your collection of local history books. Purchase for $19.99 from our website at eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com. Also available at the ECHS history museum in Eagle (open 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Friday through Monday), Batson’s Corner in Eagle, and the Bookworm in Edwards.

We will be selling books at a booth at the Eagle Artwalk on Friday, June 11.

 

Sawatch and Saguache

Sawatch and Saguache: Colorado place names

and their Ute language origins

by Lynn Albers, April 2021

At a recent board meeting of the Eagle County Historical Society (ECHS), the proposed Gore Range name change by the Summit County Commissioners was discussed. The Summit County commissioners have petitioned the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to consider re-naming the Gore Range. The commissioners noted the name, “Nuchu Range,” as their preferred choice for the mountain range. Nuche was the Ute people’s name for themselves.  Nuche or Núu-chi means “human, person, Indian or Ute,” according to Dr. Talmy Givón, a University of Oregon linguist.   The Nuche are the original inhabitants of the Colorado mountains, including the Eagle and Summit county region.

I recalled an earlier discussion about the Ute-derived name, Sawatch, with Nathan Boyer-Rechlin, Community Outreach Coordinator of Walking Mountains Science Center.  ECHS often partners with other non-profit organizations, including Walking Mountains, for some excellent educational offerings. Inspired by the ECHS board discussion and prior conversation with Nathan, I set out to research the Colorado geographic place names Sawatch and Saguache.

Utes of the Colorado Mountains:

The Utes, whose self-name is the Nuche, were the original Native Americans of what is now Eagle County, Colorado.  The Nuche lived in family groups and practiced a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  Periodically, the Ute family groups united as extended family bands for seasonal hunting, gathering of plant resources, social enjoyment, and ceremony.  Ute is a Southern Numic language within the Shoshonean branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family.  The Ute language has Northern and Southern dialects that are often mutually intelligible.

Prior to European-American settlement, the landscape that is now Eagle County served as Ute hunting grounds, travel interface, sites for ceremonies, open camps, and villages in addition to workstation sites for subsistence gathering and processing, and weaponry manufacture.  The Yampatika (Yampa Ute), as well as the Parianuche (Grand River Ute), Nupartka (White River Ute), and Tabeguache (Uncompahgre Ute), frequented this area.  Together these Ute bands, alongside the Uintah Ute formerly occupying far northwestern Colorado and northeast Utah, are often known as the Northern Utes.  Between 1861 and 1881, these Ute bands were removed to northeastern Utah reservations.  The 1879 Meeker incident and various 1860s executive orders and treaties were the impetus and legal apparatus for this removal.

Sawatch Range topo map

Sawatch Mountains and Town of Saguache:

Sawatch (pronounced SAH-watch or sah-WATCH) and Saguache (usually pronounced sah-WATCH) are both derivations of same Ute word roots.  The Sawatch Mountain Range emerges in Eagle County south of the Eagle River and stretches south for approximately 100 miles.  Trending north to south and aligning with the Continental Divide from Tennessee Pass in Eagle County to Marshall Pass in Saguache County, the Sawatch Range hosts some of the highest mountains in Colorado.  The Sawatch Range includes the highest peak in Eagle County, the Mount of the Holy Cross.  The 14,011’ iconic peak is located within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, which is administrated by the White River National Forest.

Sawatch Range viewed from Brush Creek 1920s

Located south of the Sawatch Mountain Range in the San Luis Valley is the community of Saguache.   The town of Saguache is the county seat of Saguache County.  Ute peoples in this area often camped near the area’s primary waterway, Saguache Creek.  The town of Saguache was founded during the 1860s after the Utes were removed from the area.  Ute treaties in 1863 and 1868 were the legal apparatus for this removal.

Entering the town of Saguache

Discussion:

There are several interpretations for the Ute geographic place name, Sawatch or Saguache.  In his book, Land of the Blue Sky People: A Story of the San Luis Valley, Luther Bean states that the Ute word Saguache means “blue water.”  Dr. Bean became one of the first faculty members of Adams State Normal College (now Adams State University) in Alamosa, Colorado in the early 1920s.  The institution is home to the Luther E. Bean Museum, which features San Luis Valley regional art and history.

In her book, Utes: The Mountain People, Jan Pettit states that Saguache is a Ute word that means “Blue Earth” or “Water at the Blue Earth.”  In addition to being the founder of the Ute Pass Historical Society, Pettit developed educational programs with the support of the Ute community.  She also produced a documentary entitled Bear Dance.  The Bear Dance, mama-kwa-nhka-, essentially meaning “woman-step-dance,” is the annual life renewal ceremony of the Utes.  Held today in late spring or early summer, Ute Bear Dance traditionally occurred at the first springtime thunder.

In her University Press of Colorado publication, Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, Virginia McConnell Simmons states that Sawatch and Saguache evolved from the Ute word saguguachipa.  According to Simmons, the term means “Middle Earth” or “Blue Earth” and refers to the foothills, mountain valleys and mountain parks of the Utes original homeland.

The Ute language is vulnerable due to the passing away of Ute elders, who are today’s fluent speakers.   In 1975, Southern Ute tribal chairman, Leonard Cloud Burch, initiated the Ute Language Program.  Built upon the linguistic study of Dr. James Goss, linguist Dr. Talmy Givón, partnered with the Southern Ute Tribe and its Ute Language Committee to publish a Ute language collection of works.  A perennial program was established to teach Ute language to younger tribal members. Elders and cultural heritage representatives who spoke other Ute dialects were (and are) consulted in order to preserve a common language.

According to Givón and the Ute Dictionary, the Ute term saghwa refers to hues of green or dark blue.  The place name Saguache, Colorado likely derives from the Ute word saghwa-chi meaning “greenery, green spot” or “oasis.”  A similar term, saghwa-gha-na-chi, may also have a bearing on the geographic and place names Sawatch and Saguache.  This Ute term, used to indicate the Northern and/or White River Ute peoples, literally means “at the Green.”  Givón states this probably refers to the Green River which flows through a portion of northwest Colorado.  He further reports that the term may have originally been saghwa-gha-nuu-chi meaning “Green River Ute” and that this term may be the source of an early Spanish name for the Northern Ute, the “Yutas Sabeguanas.”  The earliest record of this Ute name was documented by Juan Maria de Rivera in 1765.  In 1776 Franciscan priests Dominguez and Escalante also recorded the name, Yutas Sabguanas, during their exploration of western Colorado.

Author

Lynn Albers is the local history and ethnobotany specialist at Vail Public Library.  She also helps administrate the Eagle County Historical Society museum in Eagle and has consulted for Ute ethnobotany and ethnohistory projects. 

References

Bean, Luther E.  Land of the Blue Sky People: A Story of the San Luis Valley.  Monte Vista, CO: The Monte Vista Journal, 1962.

Givón, Talmy with Pearl Casias, Vida Peabody and Mary Inez Cloud.  Ute Dictionary.  Volume 15.  Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2016.

Jacobs, Randy, ed. and Robert Ormes.  Guide to the Colorado Mountains.  10th ed. Golden CO: Colorado Mountain Club Press, 2000.

Janet Pettit 1937 – 2018.  Obituary.  Gazette.com.  https://obits.gazette.com/obituaries/gazette/obituary.aspx?n=janet-pettit&pid=188089003.

Jones, Sondra G.  Being and Becoming Ute: The Story of an American Indian People.  Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 2019.

Luther Bean Museum.  Alamosa, CO: Adams State University.  https://www.adams.edu/lutherbean/ (Accessed 6 September 2020).

Nuchu Range.  Case Brief (Domestic) #5410.  United States Board on Geographic Names.  file:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Temp/Nuchu%20Range%20proposal%20packet.pdf

Pettit, Jan.  Utes: The Mountain People.  Revised ed.  Boulder CO: Johnson Publishing, 1990.

Saguache County.  Colorado Encyclopediahttps://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/saguache-county (Accessed 6 September 2020).

Simmons, Virginia McConnell.  Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2001.

 

Endangered Places 2021

Colorado Preservation Inc. has named the historic bridges of Colorado as one of its Endangered Places for 2021. Included is our favorite bridge, the green bridge at Red Cliff which has been an iconic landmark since 1941. Click on the link below to see CBS coverage of the historic bridges.

http://cbsloc.al/3qVlv6x

Our Gift to You: A virtual visit to the NYC Tenement Museum

 

Happy Holidays!

Our Gift to You:

A virtual visit to the NYC Tenement Museum

Thursday, Dec. 17,  4 p.m. via Zoom

Stella and Ralph Marfitano wedding 1919

In appreciation for your interest in local history, the Eagle County Historical Society and the Eagle Valley Library District Local History Department invite you on a virtual visit to New York City’s Tenement Museum. Visit the tenement home of Italian immigrants Aldolpho and Rosaria Baldizzi in the 1930s. Learn about their life experiences during the Great Depression, and how we draw from their story for our lives today.

Please RSVP on or before Wednesday, Dec. 16 by sending us a note at ECHS@eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com. We will send you the Zoom link for this one-hour, interactive program.

Skiff Family 1885

(Photos courtesy of ECHS, EVLD and the Tenement Museum)

Colorado Gives Day 2020

Colorado Gives Day 2020, Tuesday, December 8

In 1980, when a local rancher offered a dilapidated, 1898 barn to the fledgling Eagle County Historical Society for use as a museum, it seemed like an impossible idea. But the very determined Historical Society directors, including Frank Doll, Laurene Knupp, Jim Nimon, Rae Benton, Roy Robinson, Ross Bolt, and others worked for a decade to make it happen. In 1990, the museum opened and has been serving the public ever since.

1984 Museum barn move

In 2020, the current ECHS Board realized that some significant improvements to the building were needed in order to keep the building functioning.

Museum barn before re-roofing

With hard work from the Board, and terrific support from the loyal donors, local businesses, and local government, the ECHS re-roofed the aging building with a metal roof, made some small structural repairs, and repainted the barn. It feels like a new building. If the corona virus situation allows, the museum will be open in the spring for the 2021 season.

Museum Docents

Meanwhile, the ECHS continues to fulfill its mission of sharing local history with educational programs, website blogs about early day pioneers, history hikes, cemetery tours, book publication, and a treasure trove of historic photographs and digitized manuscripts offered online via our partnership with the Eagle Valley Library District. We love local history, and we love sharing it with you.

The ECHS is run primarily by volunteers, and is financed through book sales, memberships and donations. The Historical Society is a small-scale non-profit with large-scale dedication to preserving local history. Your support on Colorado Gives Day, Tuesday, Dec. 8, is appreciated.

Donations can be scheduled at any time at https://www.coloradogives.org/.

 

 

 

 

Time Travel

Time Travel

What happens when a pandemic makes it impossible to open your museum?

The exhibits pack up their bags and go travelling.

The Eagle County Historical Society has developed several new exhibits which are now on display in public spaces throughout the county. If you are out and about, stop by and take in a little local history. Here’s where you’ll find it:

 

Eagle Town Hall – Photo exhibit reveals Brush Creek’s history, including the story of the short-lived Lady Belle silver mine on Horse Mountain.

Brush Creek history exhibit

 

Eagle County Administration Building – Head upstairs to the hallway outside of the commissioner’s meeting room for a look at historic clothing from the pioneering Nottingham family. Myrtle Nottingham had some engineering talent hiding behind those beautiful dresses.

Nottingham display

 

Eagle Public Library – Two stories are told in exhibits on the second floor, in the Local History Department. Learn about the impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic in Eagle County. Then take a look at the county’s first ballot box and learn how it put trust into elections.

Pandemic exhibit

 

Ballot box

 

These exhibits were made possible with funding provided by Colorado Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act economic stabilization plan of 2020.

 

If you have suggestions for future exhibits, please contact us at

ECHS@eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Political Ingenuity: Eagle County’s First Ballot Box

Along with the delivery of ballots this week, the Eagle County Clerk’s Office and Eagle County Historical Society delivered a little bit of election history. An early day ballot box, patented in 1884, is on display in the History Department of the Eagle Public Library through election season.

The Eagle County Historical Society and County Clerk Regina O’Brien (far right) check out historic ballot boxes on display at the Eagle Library. From left are Janice Tonz, Sandy Van Campen, History Librarian Matthew Mikelson, Joanne Cermak, and O’Brien.

County Clerk’s office employees recently discovered two of the 136-year-old, wood-and-glass ballot boxes during some storeroom cleaning and handed the artifacts over to the Eagle County Historical Society. Supplementing the ballot boxes is the county’s first Voter Abstract Ledger, a large record book detailing the results of local elections from 1884 through 1924.

These artifacts and record books tell the story of a fledgling county whose citizens were eager to take on the responsibilities of democratic self-government.

The ballot box prior to cleaning and tape removal

ECHS Archivist Jaci Spuhler spent hours cleaning grime and dust off the ballot boxes and researching the history of the artifacts. Marketed as the National Ballot Box, the boxes were invented and manufactured by Amos Pettibone of Chicago in response to election corruption in San Francisco. The election-rigging involved a ballot box with a false bottom that concealed pre-marked ballots for a specific candidate. Angry voters demanded more transparency in the election process.

Pettibone figured out the solution: A locking wood frame containing a glass dome that ballots could be dropped into and observed constantly. Opening the box to reach the ballots involved undoing three locks with several different keys. Citizens could watch the voting process and be certain of the results.

Give those early day Eagle County commissioners credit for investing in state-of-the-art election equipment. Two much simpler locking wooden box ballot boxes, probably decades younger than the National Ballot Boxes,  were also donated to the Historical Society. The homemade hinged boxes with a ballot drop slot and a latch designed for a padlock probably reflect the frugality of a budget-conscious county clerk and Board of Commissioners.

The ballot boxes will ultimately be displayed in the Eagle County History Museum.

The Voter Abstract book is archived at the Eagle Public Library, which partners with the ECHS in making historic records accessible to the public. That book too reveals some interesting bits of local history. For example, 306 ballots were cast in the county’s first election on Nov. 4, 1884. There were nine voter precincts in the county, including the mining camps of Taylor Hill, Mitchell, Red Cliff, Cleveland (Gilman), Rock Creek and Dotsero. The agricultural precincts were Sheephorn, Brush Creek and “Lakes” (Edwards). Minturn, Avon, Eagle and Gypsum are not part of the picture until a few years later.

The ledger book also reveals the county’s steady population growth, settlement patterns and social trends. In 1893, when Colorado gave women the vote, Eagle County was on board, voting 415 – 257 in favor of women’s suffrage.

Voter registration was also a much different process in 1899. An article in the Eagle County Blade (Red Cliff) newspaper on Oct. 19, 1899 indicates that every precinct had its own Voter Registration Board, and notes that people registering to vote needed to be vouched for via affidavits from two already registered voters. “Voters should personally see that they are registered as very often names are overlooked by the boards,” advised the newspaper.

Eagle County’s first historic ballot box will be on display on the second floor of the Eagle Library through election day. Stop by to take a look. Consider it a reminder to cast those 2020 ballots. The Voter Abstract ledger can be viewed upon request to the library’s History Department.

This ingenious ballot box design ensures that the voting process is transparent, and that the ballots cannot be tampered with without considerable effort.

Researched and submitted by Kathy Heicher.

October, 2020

 

 

 

 

Newcomer Cemetery Tour October 26, 2020

Newcomer Cemetery Tour

Monday, Oct. 26, 12:30 – 2 p.m.

Ellen Love gravestone

Many historic ranches in Eagle County maintained their own small cemeteries. People were buried on the same land that they lived on.

Join the Eagle County Historical Society and Eagle County Open Space for a brief history tour of the Newcomer Cemetery, located on the Brush Creek Ranch and Open Space land south of Eagle. The cemetery is tiny, but the history is significant.

 

 

The tour involves a half-mile hike across a hayfield. Meet at the main parking lot for the Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space.

The event is free, but due to COVID restrictions, participation will be limited and advance registration is required. Face masks will be required.

Sign-up at the following link:
https://forms.gle/jMEBeTyycn34zMSB8

Contact:
Eagle County Open Space: Peter Suneson, 970-401-1054, peter.suneson@eaglecounty.us
Eagle County Historical Society: Kathy Heicher, kheicher@gmail.com