Tag Archive for: Eagle Valley Library District

Eagle Valley History Preservation Award 2022

Eagle Valley History Preservation Award

When: Sunday, May 15, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Eagle Public Library

Honoring: Kathy McDaniel and Reed Perkins, donors of the Borah pioneer journals

Guest Speaker: Historian Marcia Goldstein will present a slide/lecture program, “Let the Women Vote!: Colorado Women’s Struggle for Suffrage”

Details: Free. Light refreshments will be served.

Eagle County pioneer Alfred Borah was a meticulous man who wrote a series of journals recording the daily details of his life from the 1880s through 1917.

Borah’s descendants protected those journals for well over a century, and recently donated the books to the Eagle County Historical Society and the Eagle Valley Library District. Hundreds of journal pages have been digitized, transcribed and are accessible online, providing an incredible local history resource.

Kathy McDaniel and Reed Perkins, donors of the Borah journals, stand in front of the one-room school on Brush Creek where Reed’s mother, Alda Borah, once studied. (Kathy Heicher photo)

Alfred Borah’s grandson, Reed Perkins and great-granddaughter, Kathy McDaniel, will be honored with the Eagle Valley History Preservation Award in a special program at the Eagle Public Library on Sunday, May 15, 1:30 p.m. Formerly known as the “Nimon-Walker Award,” the annual event recognizes people or organizations for their role in preserving local history.

EVLD History Librarian Matthew Mikelson noted that the Borah journals, accessible online, have already proven to be a valuable resource for local history researchers. Last year, History Colorado (the state historical society) recognized the Borah journals digitization as an exemplary and impactful project.

“Many families would throw away old, fragile books of this nature. The Borah descendants protected those journals, then did the necessary footwork  to bring them into the public domain,” noted ECHS President Kathy Heicher.

The Perkins-McDaniel family followed up their donation with a visit to the county last summer, visiting the Borah homestead and the old log one-room school on Brush Creek where Reed’s mother once studied. Reed and McDaniel also donated dozens of historic photos images depicting early-day life on Brush Creek, along with artifacts including clothing, letters and memorabilia.

“These are extremely valuable Eagle County artifacts. Our local history collection is significantly richer because of this family,” says Heicher.

Dr. Marcia Goldstein, Colorado women’s historian

Following Sunday’s award presentation, Colorado women’s historian Dr. Marcia Goldstein will present Let the Women vote! Colorado women’s struggle for suffrage

Colorado women won the right to vote in 1893, making this the first state to approve equal suffrage by popular election. Subsequently, Colorado women voted and ran for office for more than a quarter of a century before women’s suffrage became the law of the land in 1920.

And behind that major milestone is a fascinating story of the massive campaign for women’s rights that involved a coalition of very determined women and men. Colorado women’s historian Dr. Marcia Goldstein will don her suffrage banner and share this history.

Goldstein is an expert on the topic of Colorado women’s politics. She served as a consultant for One Woman, One Vote (part of the PBS series American Experience) and several local PBS suffrage documentaries. She curated and authored an online women’s suffrage exhibit for the Women of the West Museum and has taught American and Colorado history at numerous state and local colleges and universities. Her costumed presentations are lively and informative, tracing the bold footsteps of Colorado’s suffrage leaders and their experiences with what was then the all-male arena of party politics.

The public is invited to this free event. The program is suitable for audiences of any age. Light refreshments will be served.

Red Cliff women pose with a patriotically decorated parade float in 1919. Blanche Tippet is on the far right. Colorado women had been voting since 1893. (Courtesy EVLD/ECHS)

For more details about the event and the Borah journals, visit evld.org or eaglecountyhistoricalsociety.com.

 

Winning Spirit

We can’t resist bragging just a little more about the award-winning Alfred Borah Journals digitization project, a joint effort by the Eagle County Historical Society and Eagle Valley Library District. The project won the 2021 Josephine Miles award from History Colorado (the State Historical Society) which recognizes exceptional history projects in Colorado.

This week History Colorado posted an article titled “Winning Spirit” on their website which describes last year’s award winners. The home page features a photo of the ECHS’s Trail Gulch History Hike, offered in conjunction with the Eagle County Open Space Department and Eagle Valley Land Trust. Take a look!

https://www.historycolorado.org/story/2022/02/18/winning-spirit

Brush Creek history hike, July 2020

 

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.

 

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/

 

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)

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

 

 

 

 

Nimon-Walker honors Jaci Spuhler Sunday, April 28

ECHS volunteer Jaci Spuhler will be honored with the Nimon-Walker award during a program at the Avon Library on Sunday, April 28, 2 p.m. The award, established in 2001 by the ECHS and the Eagle Valley Library District, recognizes people who have helped preserve the history of Eagle County.

Working as the EVLD Local History and Archives librarian, Spuhler developed and made accessible to the public an extensive local history collection including thousands of digitized photographs. Since her retirement in 2015, she continues to volunteer in many capacities for the Eagle County Historical Society, including archiving of artifacts and working at special events.

The featured program for the event will be a portrayal of Colorado pioneer doctor Susan Anderson (“Doc Susie”) by Kathy Naples.

The Nimon-Walker event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.