Community Agriculture Alliance: Building the timeline of Routt County’s story
Every community has its own story — a story that begins with something significant and continues along a progressive timeline uniquely special to that community. At Historic Routt County, our goal is to help our special places talk, so they can breathe added life into Routt County’s distinctive and compelling story.
In response to an in-depth strategic retreat and numerous thoughtful discussions, the HRC Board of Directors is proud of its award-winning track record of preservation and is eager to embrace a proactive and focused approach for our work.
Our aim is to preserve, restore, reconstruct and represent identified structures that best showcase significant milestones along Routt County’s unique timeline. We think that an inclusive and organized architectural legacy is important to show the breadth and depth of our county’s story.
The storyline of Routt County has many chapters. The history of this region contains several distinct periods relevant to the more general history of the United States and important because these periods have come and gone, leaving a legacy and prompting the next evolutionary steps. A few of the integral themes in our story are as follows:
• Contributions of the native culture: While few structural remains exist from the presence of Native Americans in this region, there are some fascinating examples. To tell the more complete story of the Utes and other tribes passing in and out of Routt County will take accessing and protecting known sites and re-creating others with authentic reproductions and interpretive signage.
• Early Caucasian settlements, ranching and farming: Active settlement of the Western United States followed two major events: the California Gold Rush of 1849 and the completion of the Trans-Continental Railroad in 1869.
The gold rush in 1849, although not the first in United States history (nor the most productive and certainly not the last), was important for the number of people (250,000) who traveled from many parts of the globe to strike it rich.
When the railroads were built, populating the Western United States was mostly a matter of settling close to the rail lines and slowly spreading out from there. Because of the surrounding mountains, Routt County largely was bypassed by these two major events.
However, the fertile valley and abundant resources finally attracted settlers. Ranchers and farmers were likely the first to settle. Their stories as told through selected places are a vital part of Routt County’s history.
• Mining, ranching and farming: From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, the United States — in particular the Western region — experienced monumental transformation.
Following the Civil War and through World War I, the United States emerged as a major supplier of grain products to the world. Supported by the expansion of the railroads throughout the West, agriculture became a dominant industry.
Routt County certainly played its part in this saga. Concurrently, mining also developed in this region. Most people know that vast coal reserves scatter this part of the Rocky Mountains, but without the railroads to transport the coal to the populated regions of the West, there would be little reason to dig it out of the ground.
Routt County has a rich history of mining, which can be seen in numerous past and present mining sites and the remains of not only industrial structures, but also of communities that were built around these sites of employment.
• Winter sports: With the exception of mining, the other regional activities of Routt County traditionally were dormant during the long, cold winters. What better reason to foster this mecca of winter sports — skiing, sledding and ski jumping ultimately led to Routt County being home to more winter Olympic athletes than any other United States community.
Identifying places that complement the above-mentioned themes (and others) will focus Historic Routt County’s solicitation efforts for grants and endowments, and contributors will know that each project we undertake is part of the bigger picture of filling in historical gaps of our county’s story through place.
Our focus on place complements the role of area museums that showcase educational exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of Routt County’s people.
Working together with our museums and historical societies, our hope is that one day, the historical tour of Routt County will be complete with meaningful and connected interpretations of how and why the structures, artifacts and people with their varied and intertwined stories all come together to make Routt County the extraordinary place we call home.
Principal/founder of Monterey bay Consulting Group, Keith Giglio is a labor economist by training and a management consultant by profession with 40 years dedicated to helping owners of small to medium-sized companies succeed. In the off hours, he takes magnificent bits of wood and fashions them together as useful and artistic pieces of fine furniture. He is the treasurer of the Historic Routt County Board of Directors.
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