Rare book about Routt County’s early days back on shelves

Tom Ross
The cover of 2010 edition of The Historical Guide to Routt County.

— The long out-of-print “Histor­ical Guide to Routt Coun­­ty” has resurfaced this holiday season with nuggets of nearly forgotten anecdotes about the early days of the Yampa Valley.

Who knew that the first cattle grazed in Routt County were Texas longhorns? And that while those cattle grazed in Browns Park, that part of modern-day Moffat County was part of a much larger Routt County in 1871?

The cattleman who drove the longhorns here was George Baggs. His arrival signaled the beginning of a major chapter in Northwest Colorado history. It was one that saw large cattle companies running cattle into the region where they fattened on the lush grass.

The new book is structured in a way that makes it easy to dip in and retrieve a telling piece of local history in five minutes. A detailed index increases the utility of the book.

“What I like is that I can choose a neighborhood, like Seed­­house Road, and read about the stories of people who settled along that road in North Routt County,” local historian Arianthe Stettner said.

The book, originally published in 1979 and written by Jim Stanko, Sureva Towler and Judy Seligson, has been updated and published by Tread of Pioneers Museum.

Stettner signed on to help Stanko re-edit the book and add updates. However, she said, they did not try to rewrite the book or bring all of the history up to the 21st century.

Stanko said that in the 1990s, the museum board put out a call to county residents to submit corrections and additions to the original 1979 guide.

“The response was mind-boggling,” he said. “There was no way we could (take them all into account) without writing a new book.”

Instead, the two resolved to go through the book line by line and correct misspellings and obvious errors. In some cases, like the histories of coal mines and airports, they just couldn’t leave the book dangling in 1979, Stanko said. Instead, they wrote a compendium of major updates, with the original page number noted, in the front of the book.

Similarly, the list of international competitive skiers from Steamboat Springs still ends in 1978 with Jeff Davis and Chris McNeill, who were members of the U.S. Ski Jumping Team.

A footnote encourages readers to visit to read the museum’s thorough research about local Olympic skiers.

“This book was the first and still is the only book that gives you a down and dirty history of the whole county,” Stanko said. “We set out in 1979 to tell the history of the county through everyday people who lived it, and we wanted to preserve that original flavor instead of rewriting the book. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

Readers still can find the story about how two early farmers shot it out over water near Hay­­den.

Some readers of the original edition will have forgotten that a dispute about irrigation water in Morgan Bottom east of Hayden prompted one settler, Simp Tip­­ton, to shoot another, Eph Donel­­son, to death in July 1908.

And there’s the story about how one of the region’s pristine wilderness lakes almost was developed for vacation cabins.

Luna Lake, named by Steam­­boat’s founding Crawford family for its crescent shape, is in Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. But, according to the historical guide, the lake once served as the headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Trout Club, which had plans to sell lakeside lots in the early 1900s.

Only one cabin was built.

The “Historical Guide to Routt County” can be purchased at Tread of Pio­­neers Museum at Oak and Eighth streets for $15.95 and soon will be available in local bookstores.

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