The story never ends: Mike Yurich’s significant moments in South Routt history | SteamboatToday.com

The story never ends: Mike Yurich’s significant moments in South Routt history

Ben Ingersoll

Calvary comes to town

— In 1914, the now-ghost town of Ludlow was undergoing a massive strike among its miners, one that culminated in an attack of more than a thousand workers. It's now known as the Ludlow Massacre. At the same time, South Routt coal miners were striking for the same reasons, calling for better working conditions while trying to form a union against stubborn mine owners.

A cavalry unit was called into town to "keep the peace" and restore order, Yurich said.

"They came into Oak Creek on 100 horses and they built it up where the schoolhouse is," Yurich said. "That was an interesting time period when they came in."

The Ku Klux Klan presence in town

A changeover in town government brought on the rise of Klan members in Routt County and Oak Creek in the 1920s. An area exceptionally diverse with mine and railroad workers immigrating to town from all over the world, Yurich explained that the Klan members weren't exactly how they are primarily known today.

"The Klan really wasn't against African-Americans here because we didn't have that many," Yurich said. "They were mostly against the new immigrants who came in and set up new businesses and competition with the original founders."

When Klan members started to die out, the party opposing the group promised to build a new town hall as part of a campaign. Nearly a century later, that town hall houses the Tracks & Trails Museum.

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Oak Creek's Red Light District

The huge pool of different ethnicities and cultures in Oak Creek's early beginnings meant a wide range of social scenes, Yurich said. Despite the move toward prohibition, Oak Creek's saloon night life was in abundance, with many alcoholic beverages of choice on the shelves.

Around this same time, Oak Creek was operating fully functional brothels. Reidy's Resort, which now is the Oak Creek Inn, originally was built as a "sporting house for men."

"The going rate was 25 cents," Yurich said with a grin.

World War II's big impact

During World War II, Oak Creek's coal mining industry was booming. When the war was over, though, there was a much smaller demand for coal. Many workers opted to instead return to school and pursue different careers, and nearly every mine in the region became defunct not long after.

"That's when Oak Creek really started fading and dying down," Yurich said.

Hippies 'save' Oak Creek

When coal mines no longer were the driving factor to live in and around Oak Creek, free-spirited hippies found solace in the tiny town in the 1970s.

"That's when all these young college graduates were going out and looking to find themselves," Yurich said.

A lot of them lived in abandoned mine camps. They also were workers, and the large influx of people and new businesses brought a renewed energy to Oak Creek.

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