Bill May: Mishap at Grand River
Here’s another story that was passed down by that colorful old cowboy of Hayden, Charlie Temple. Charlie came into this country early – when it was all open range. The typical full-fledged cowboy of those days was apt to be familiar with ranges and cow trails from Vernal to Wolcott and from Rawlins to Rifle. Such was the case with Charlie; so his stories related to people and places all over Routt County, which at that time covered a big part of that 20,000-square-mile area.
In the early 1880s, Frank Groh, an industrious young German immigrant, was mining at Leadville, and had saved up $1,700 in gold. Horses were in strong demand at Leadville – teams selling for $300 to $500 – and Frank reasoned that his savings could turn a nice profit by investing in horses.
Accordingly, Frank set out for Egeria Park, where he heard that Tom Elliott was raising horses to sell. Tom, by the way, was the son of Abraham Elliott, who was killed by Indians at the mouth of Blue River near Kremmling.
It was spring and the Grand River – now called the Colorado – which Frank had to cross, was at flood and, of course, there were no bridges in those days. His gold was secure in his saddle bags, but desiring to keep his clothes dry, Groh tied them in a bundle that he held above his head as he attempted to ford the river. Midstream, his horse gave up, and Frank was only able to save his own life by swimming out – clad only in his birthday suit.
Following the river downstream, he found an abandoned trappers’ cabin where he spent the night and fashioned garments resembling Tarzan’s from some old deer hides. Just how he fashioned those garments is a good guess, because he certainly didn’t have a knife with him.
Continuing downstream the next day, Frank came upon another cabin, occupied by two trappers. These men had found his dead horse washed up on a sandbar, but had seen nothing of his clothes, and claimed to know nothing about his gold. Groh always questioned in his own mind about the gold – both men soon afterwards left the country and were never heard of again. At the time, however, these fellows were kind enough to loan Frank a horse so he could continue his trip to Egeria Park.
On finding Elliott, whom he had never met before, he was well received. Elliott entrusted Groh with four teams to take back to Leadville to sell. The horses sold very well; Frank’s commission for selling them gave him a new stake, as well as making Tom Elliott a good profit from the sale.
Frank was greatly impressed with the beauty of Egeria Park and with the generosity of his newfound friend, Tom. He immediately began making plans to return to Egeria Park and take up a homestead, which he did later in the season, when the water of the Grand River was lower and less hazardous to cross.
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Steamboat Springs has produced nearly 100 winter Olympians, more than any other town in North America. That fact is everywhere, plastered on websites and informational boards across town.