Tag Archive for: Eagle County Historical Society

Book Signing!

Local History Author Kathy Heicher will sign her new book,

Gypsum Days: Pioneers, the Poor Farm & Progress

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2-4 p.m. Gypsum Library

Order on-line at eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com. Also available at the Gypsum Town Hall, at DJ’s and Dahlia’s in Gypsum, at Batson’s Corner in Eagle, and at the Bookworm in Edwards, and at the book signing event.

 

Save the Date!

The Eagle County Historical Society

and

The Eagle Valley Library District

present a free concert with Eli Barsi and John Cunningham on Thursday, January 13th at 6PM, Eagle Public Library.

 

And the winner is…

Quilt Raffle Winner!

Lana Corll of Eagle purchased the winning ticket for the “Underground Railroad” quilt that was raffled by the Eagle County Historical Society. The quilt, made and donated by the High Altitude Quilting Guild, raised about $800 for the Historical Society, which will be used for updating and improving museum exhibits. Many thanks to all of those who stitched the quilt and to those who purchased tickets. We appreciate the support!

The Borah Journals: A Chronicle of pioneer life

The Borah Journals: A Chronicle of pioneer life, by Kathy Heicher [published with the permission of Vail Valley Magazine, Winter 2022 edition. Readers can pick up a hard copy containing this article at many locations in the Eagle Valley.]

Jake and Alfred Borah slipped quietly into Eagle County in the early 1880s. They would prove to be among the most influential of Eagle County pioneers.

Alfred Borah

Like nearly every male who arrived at that time, the Kentucky born-and-raised brothers were lured to the Colorado mountains by the Leadville silver mining boom. Within a few years, both brothers moved down into the Eagle River Valley. Alfred, the older of the two, took  up a homestead on Brush Creek (where the Frost Creek golf course is now located) in 1882. In 1885, younger brother Jake settled in the Gypsum Creek Valley.

Although they always prospected, the Borahs were skilled outdoorsmen and soon gained prominence as hunting guides and outfitters. They also market-hunted for the mining camps, bringing in wagonloads of deer and elk meat.

Borah hunting camp

Jake, the more gregarious of the brothers with a particular gift for storytelling, eventually made the hunting guide business his life’s work. His clients included European royalty and wealthy Americans. Jake gained national prominence in 1905 when he guided President Teddy Roosevelt’s Colorado hunting adventure.

Yet it is Alfred, the older, quieter Borah, who will most likely have the greatest impact on local history. A meticulous record keeper, Alfred maintained a journal in which he noted the daily details of life in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He documented details as mundane as the cost of groceries at the general store and as dramatic as Ute uprisings and pioneer murders. And threaded throughout the pages of those journals is a sweet love story and revelations of unexpected tenderness by these tough mountain men.

Borah family descendants recently donated the hand-written journals to the Eagle County Historical Society, which partnered with the Eagle Valley Library District in archiving, digitizing, and transcribing the records. With the click of a computer mouse, the public can now step into the life of an Eagle County pioneer.

 

Prospecting the “Indian Country”
             May 11, 1882

Left Leadville Thursday To Prospect the Indian Country. Jake & I Pack up bright & early in the Morning & got to Red Cliff. Bought bill Grub & got down to Jack bridge on Eagle River & camped overnight.

Alfred Borah journal

The “Indian Country” that the Borah brothers were venturing into (the Eagle River and Roaring Fork Valleys) had indeed recently been Ute territory. The entire Western Slope of Colorado was Ute territory until white settlers and miners began to covet the land. Starting in 1868, the government negotiated (and broke) a series of increasingly restrictive treaties taking land away from the Utes and dictating where the natives could live. By September 1881, most of the Utes in Colorado had been forced off of their native lands and onto the stark and harsh lands of designated reservations, primarily in eastern Utah.

Treaty terms allowed the Utes to return temporarily to their former territory to hunt. Alfred’s journals reveal that the brothers periodically encountered Ute camps and used those opportunities for trading hides and meat. Alfred also reported on the occasional Ute-settler skirmishes that occurred when the natives ventured off the reservations.

Hunting and homesteading

Alfred was a heart-broken widower when he homesteaded 120 acres on Brush Creek in 1882. For several years he notes that his birthday, Feb. 13, marked the anniversary of his wife’s burial. “My Birthdays are not a happy day to me any more,” he wrote in 1884.

Between 1882 and 1885, the Borahs supplemented their prospecting by market hunting, trapping, and guiding tourists on big game hunts. They roamed the Western Slope of Colorado, tent camping year-around. Jake eventually built up a hunting outfit of 75 pack animals, 20 hounds, and numerous wagons and tents.

By today’s standards, the market hunting business is shocking. Alfred’s journal reports that in the 20 months between  May 1882 and February 1884, the Borahs killed 288 deer, 30 elk, 61 bear, 52 beaver, two wild cats (bobcats, lynx, or mountain lions), two rabbits, six ducks, 11 grouse, quail, a bighorn sheep, a wolf, and a fox.

Jake Borah

The companionable Jake was known for welcoming visitors to his campfire with  a hot pot of coffee and a sizzling elk, venison, or bear steak. The stoic Alfred managed the finances and recorded business transactions, and on one occasion bailed Jake out of the Leadville jail following an arrest for drunkenness. The brothers constantly bartered, trading game meat for saddles, or horses and mules for furs.

The journals reveal a tenderness for their work animals. In 1884 both men mourn when their favorite hunting dog, Fan, died after giving birth to three puppies. Alfred writes of shedding tears a month later when an old, trusty horse froze to death in a March blizzard.

A serious wagon accident on Tennessee Pass in November of 1886 likely turned Alfred’s focus from hunting to homesteading. Alfred was driving the wagon from Leadville to Red Cliff when it tipped and rolled 100 feet down a steep embankment. The horses were uninjured, but Alfred suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg. A Red Cliff doctor set the bones after removing several sizable fragments, but for the rest of his life Alfred suffered pain and infections in the damaged leg.

Jake continued to develop the guiding and outfitting business. Alfred turned his attention to making his homestead tract of unbroken wild sage and willows into a fine 480 acre ranch. He raised cattle, hay, grain, and vegetables.

Pioneer romance

The first mention of Miss Mary Grant, a Leadville woman, appears on July 5, 1884, when Alfred notes that he took her on a horseback ride across Tennessee Park (between Leadville and Red Cliff). To say their relationship developed slowly would be an understatement.

Alfred was still roaming the Western Slope, hunting with Jake. Mary and Alfred exchanged scores of letters, but he often went weeks without being near a post office. Personal meetings were rare, but he did occasionally take her to a dance or on a fishing excursion. He gifted her a saddle and bridle.

1/1 1886 Friday Staid [Stayed] about Town at night went to Dance at union Hall to Club, took Miss Mary Grant had a good time.

Alfred Borah journal

Mary, Al, and Mittie Borah

Alfred had a long-term plan, He persuaded Mary’s widowed mother to homestead a parcel of land adjacent to the railroad track at Eagle. He helped build a cabin, barn, and corrals. Once the women moved in, he visited Mary more frequently while her mother chaperoned.

On March 18, 1888, nearly four years after they met, Alfred and Mary shared several kisses (duly noted in the journal) as she strolled on the road with him on a wintry night. In June, he helped Mary file a homestead claim adjacent to his Brush Creek parcel.

In September, Alfred traveled by train to Leadville to purchase a gold engagement ring and delivered it to Mary in a memorable fashion. Alfred was meeting a hunting client in Glenwood, so hopped on the westbound express train. The express train slowed at the local stations but did not actually stop. By pre-arrangement, Mary stood out in her mother’s yard (adjacent to the railroad tracks) when Alfred’s train passed through Eagle. He placed the ring in an envelope and threw it off the moving train to Mary. The engagement was official.

The couple married in a small ceremony in Leadville on April 16, 1889. Alfred dutifully recorded the cost of the marriage license ($3) and preacher ($5). The newlyweds spent one night in Leadville then returned to his Brush Creek cabin. That evening, the “boys of the neighborhood” shivareed the newlyweds­ –– a frontier custom involving  a loud serenade with tooting horns, ringing bells, and clanging pots and pans. The relentless noise ended only when Alfred invited the revelers into the cabin for some generous drinks of whiskey. Alfred was 44 on his wedding day and Mary was 31.

Mary became a true partner at the ranch, working alongside her husband. Journal entries reveal that Mary suffered a couple of miscarriages, but on Dec. 4, 1896, gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Mittie Alda. She was a beloved only child. It was Mitty who preserved her father’s journals, and her granddaughter who donated them to the Eagle County Historical Society.

With his family established, Alfred focused on developing his land into one of the best ranches in Eagle County. He was involved in the community, helping to build the little log school that Mittie would attend, and serving on the school board.  Neighbors knew they could count on Alfred Borah for help and advice.

One year after Alfred’s marriage, Jake married local belle Minnie Hockett. Their adventurous life included operating hunting and fishing resorts at Deep Lake (on the Flat Tops, northwest of Dotsero) and at Trapper’s Lake. They maintained a ranch on Gypsum Creek and raised two sons. Jake’s hunting adventures took him all over the western United States and into Mexico. His famous clients invariably became his fast friends. Jake died in 1929 and is buried in Gypsum.

Alfred’s health issues prompted his family to move to Arizona in 1917. He died in Phoenix in 1923.

Credit Alfred for his persistence in maintaining those pioneer journals, and his daughter Mittie for preserving the fragile books. Eagle County now has a treasure trove of local history that will delight many future generations of researchers.

Mary and Alda Borah

The digitized Borah Journals and photographs are accessible via the Eagle Valley Library District website (evld.org) and at eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.

 

Kathy Heicher worked as a reporter and editor at newspaper in the valley for over 40 years. She is the president of the Eagle County Historical Society and is just completed writing her fourth local history book. Her work has earned History Colorado’s Caroline Bancroft Award for contributing to the advancement of Colorado history. She is the go-to person if you are seeking gossip of 1890s Eagle County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)