2021 Pioneer Picnic launches new Mount Harris project
Learn about local history and coal mining heritage Sunday during the 118th annual Pioneer Picnic. The event, which changes locations in Routt County every two years, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the former town site of Mount Harris. Hosted by the Hayden Heritage Center, all are welcome to attend this free event.
The day will include time to visit with friends and neighbors, a buffet lunch, a walking tour of the former mine and town sites and a forum during which former residents of Mount Harris will share memories with the group.
Attendees are asked to bring a side dish or a dessert to share, with a recipe card included. The main dish will be provided by the American Legion Post 89, and drinks will be provided by Coca-Cola.
During the event, the museum will have an exhibit table, and Yampa River State Park will have an educational table. Coloring sheets and drawing prizes will be available for children, and a speaker will give a talk on the four coal mining towns between Milner and Hayden that no longer exist.
The year’s event will serve as a starting off point for a new project called Moving Mount Harris, which is a collaboration between Historic Routt County, the Hayden Heritage Center and CU Denver to document the history of Mount Harris before and after it was dismantled.
According to Historic Routt County, Mount Harris was founded in Bear River Canyon in 1914, when the Colorado-Utah Coal Company acquired the land for a coal mining venture. It was the largest coal company town in Routt County. In addition to the Colorado-Utah Coal Mine, which operated from 1914 to 1958, there were two other mines in the area that provided employment for residents of Mount Harris.
But when the mines began to close, the town started to diminish. On May 20, 1958, the entire town of Mount Harris was dismantled and auctioned off. Houses and mining equipment were sold and moved to different locations in Routt and Moffat counties.
What: Pioneer Picnic at Mount Harris
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Former Mount Harris townsite, located below memorial pull off on U.S. Highway 40
Cost: Free; attendees are asked to bring a side dish or a dessert to share, with a recipe card included.
The goal of the Moving Mount Harris project is to locate some of the buildings and houses that stood in the former town, to gather the history of the location and eventually create a map of what the town site looked like.
“Mount Harris is important to our history, because it’s part of the reason why people are here now and why this area was settled,” said Laurel Watson, director of the Hayden Heritage Center.
While the project is still in the very early stages of information gathering, the Pioneer Picnic will be used as an opportunity to bring people together who lived in Mount Harris or whose families lived there to share stories and information and to contact people who currently own a former Mount Harris house somewhere in Routt or Moffat counties.
Emily Katzman, executive director of Historic Routt County, said next steps for the project will be determined after the event.
“In general, the history of Mount Harris is relatively untold in the broader community of Routt County,” Katzman said. “People might not even know that it existed; that at one time, the biggest town in Routt County was right there.”
Katzman said she frequently hears from people who live in a former Mount Harris house, and she is looking forward to having all of the information in one place.
“The buildings tell a story of how our community has developed,” she said. “It’s important to document them before they disappear all together.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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