Local heritage honored by historical society

By Hank Lohmeyer


Board members were elected and annual awards were presented as members of the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society enjoyed their annual banquet at the Stolte Shed last Saturday.

Saturday's 2016 annual banquet featured a meal prepared and served by members of the Cedaredge High School Future Farmers of America Chapter who were recognized with a warm round of applause by their evening's guests.

Elected to serve on the SCVHS board of directors were Doris McGuire and Phyllis Hoffman. Re-elected to a term was Vernette Mackley. They join continuing board members Greg Hart and Chuck Harrington. Richard Udd, board president, will serve another year in his current term.

The annual Pioneer Award presentation this year went to the family and descendents of valley pioneer Otto C. Peterson. The Peterson homestead cabin is one of the historical displays that Pioneer Town visitors can stop by during the visitor season.

Anyone wanting to witness and get a real understanding of how a family lived in the Delta County outback as they raised 13 children in the early days of valley settlement can marvel at the family's modest accommodations. The Otto C. Petersons began a family heritage in their little cabin that has spanned generations and contributed economic development and social cohesion to the valley community, noted board president Udd in making the presentation.

There were more than a dozen descendents of the Peterson family in attendance at the annual meeting. They were introduced and all shared in the 2016 Pioneer Award from SCVHS.

There was also other business conducted at the annual meeting. The history student award went to Daniel Roberts. The honor was presented by Udd who said that Roberts runs a small herd of cattle and is interested in pursuing studies in nuclear science.

The volunteer awards, always a highlight of the event, went this year to Ollie Mowers and Paul Michaels. The volunteer "Rookie of the Year" honor went to board member Greg Hart.

A number of other volunteers were recognized for their contributions to the SCVHS and to the Pioneer Town enterprise. They were the following: past president Les Mergelman; museum curator Jane Everett; publicity chair Verna Barr; and coordinators Mary Belleville at the Welcome Center, Robin Rogers in the gift shop, Vernette Mackley and Sharon Clark for the Chapel musical programs, Chuck Harrington for the Tuesday crew, Elaine Snyder in the office, Jerry Grosshans and John Spurgeon for the group tours, and Lindy Palmer for Stolte Shed and Chapel rentals.

The evening's program was given by avocational historian David Primus. He has written a history of the Gunnison County towns of Iola, Hendersonville, Cibolla and Sapinero that were all inundated by the filling of Blue Mesa Reservoir.

His presentation featured numerous historical photographs of the former Gunnison River corridor dating back to the 1880s showing its ranches, highways, railroads, towns, businesses and world-class fishing resorts.

The construction of the dam at Blue Mesa began in 1962 and was completed in 1965, Primus said. The reservoir completed filling in 1970.

The SCVHS encourages everyone to become members and participate in the fun social life and inspiring community service offered by Pioneer Town and the Byway visitor's center. There are many areas of service available involving the wide range of displays and activities at Pioneer Town. The special events that occur year-round are also an avenue of volunteer service to the community.

Anyone can start to find out more by typing pioneertown.org into their computer search engine.

The next two scheduled events leading up to the Pioneer Town/Visitor Center annual opening are the Soup Supper on March 13 and the pre-opening Cleanup Days taking place the first full week of May.

The annual opening on Memorial Day weekend is known as Heritage Days in Cedaredge.

The SCVHS is an all-volunteer organization that staffs, maintains, and improves Cedaredge's and the Surface Creek Valley's truly remarkable historical heritage museum -- Pioneer Town and the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway Welcome Center.

An even more remarkable achievement of the Historical Society and its members and volunteers is the fact that Pioneer Town is operated with membership dues, contributions and donations and does not rely on support from any government.

The Historical Society also manages and operates the Chapel of the Cross and the Stolte Shed event facility.

Pioneer Town is a community resource the likes of which few, if any, other towns of Cedaredge's size have to be proud of. The heartfelt commitment of the SCVHS volunteers and members to preserving the valley's heritage and history in the Pioneer Town displays has led it also to develop a common sense, business-based management program for the facility's upkeep and operation. That provides additional revenue for maintenance and improvement through facilities rentals and a schedule of community fundraising events that take place 11 months of the year.

The SCVHS has created an enterprise for the valley that is unique in its grass roots beginnings, in its development, in its operations and in its aims. The Pioneer Town complex is a valuable resource to the community that really makes the valley and Cedaredge something special to local residents and to visitors here.