Pioneer Town

Pioneer Town museum.

By Lucas Vader

Staff Writer

In the heat of the early days of COVID-19, news slowed down, giving the DCI a chance to do something a little different: a historical series based around the Pioneer Town Museum and the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society.

Each story is available in its entirety online, and the online version of this recap includes links to each one.

For 40 years, the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society (SCVHS) has preserved the legacy of the Surface Creek area in many ways. Members throughout the years have taken measures to protect historical artifacts and community locations, recover and restore, teach the community about its heritage and run the Pioneer Town at the heart of Cedaredge.

Part of this project, taking place in 2019, was to restore and digitize the area’s historic newspaper publication, The Surface Creek Champion, which ran for 39 years from July 1904-July 1943, covering news and recording genealogy in the earliest years of Cedaredge.

The Surface Creek Champion is now online as part of the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection at coloradohistoricnewspapers.org. The website includes text recognition of the digitized papers. Therefore, stories are able to be searched on-site, like Google.

“The search mechanism in it is very cool,” said Jerry McHugh, society vice president. “Some of the transcriptions of course have errors in them but you can look at the original copy, and it’s great.”

The Surface Creek Valley was among the last places where Native Americans lived during the early 1880s. That was until a treaty in 1880 took all of the Ute Indian land in Western Colorado, resulting in most of the native Utes being removed to a new reservation in eastern Utah by 1882.

As the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society celebrates 40 years, society vice president Jerry McHugh explained one of the biggest historical turning points for Cedaredge — the town’s incorporation in 1907.

“The election for incorporation was held at the Independent Lumber Company office in Cedaredge,” McHugh said.

That lumber company is now familiar to the community as Big John’s Lumber. To this day, Cedaredge’s lumber vendor sits in the same location as it did in the early 20th century. After the meeting at Independent Lumber, which took place Feb. 12, 1907, the incorporation papers were filed with the Delta County Clerk on March 25, 1907.

As far as the land for the town was concerned, it almost entirely came from ranching and farming land. For example, the Bar-I Ranch contributed 10 of its 874 acres of property to the town.

“What is now Main Street used to be called Cedar Mesa Street,” McHugh said, adding, “and so the Bar-I [Ranch] was south of there and north of there was other land owners and, gosh, there’s at least four different parcels that were mapped out.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic being a bit more than just a hot topic right now, discussions have cropped up occasionally about the mega-crisis from over 100 years ago: the Spanish Flu.

From the standpoint of the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society (SCVHS), this is more than just a fun fact.

With the current pandemic in mind, SCVHS Vice President Jerry McHugh began searching the digitized collections of the Surface Creek Champion and the Delta Independent for news on the Spanish Flu, which at that time, was just referred to as the flu, or influenza.

On a note of optimism, Coronavirus suddenly didn’t look too bad when compared side-by-side with last century’s sickness.

The Nov. 8, 1918 edition of the Delta Independent reported that Delta County had had 191 additional confirmed cases of the flu since the previous edition on Nov. 1. What’s more, most of the obituaries in those November editions explicitly stated death from influenza or pneumonia that resulted from influenza.

A precursor to the Nov. 1 obituaries read, “The death toll of this community, as elsewhere, has been unusually heavy, and owing to the fact that in many instances, other members of the family were also suffering from flu, details are difficult to obtain. Illness of attending physicians has also precluded the possibility of obtaining some information.”

Seven obituaries then followed, six of which attributed the deaths to influenza.

May 12: 40 years of SCVHS: The Stoltes’ story

As if it wasn’t enough for the Pioneer Town Museum to be so close to the highway coming into downtown Cedaredge, a very large, recognizable structure sits out front.

The Stolte Packing Shed has been at its current location for around 30 years now, but the structure itself is actually far older. The structure was constructed in 1911, according to research information provided by Surface Creek Valley Historical Society (SCVHS) Vice President Jerry McHugh.

“It and the chapel happened pretty close to the same time,” McHugh said in regards to the Stolte Shed’s transportation from over a mile north of where it is now. This would indicate that the move took place around 1989, and the process was a memorable one for past residents of the town.

In order to be moved, the Stolte Shed took a fair bit of deconstruction, for one thing, and according to McHugh, the transportation drew a crowd as residents gathered to watch.

“They cut the building in half and loaded each piece on trailers,” McHugh said, “and as it came down Highway 65, they released the power lines, and everything had to go under, so they could raise them up high enough for it to go under.” There was a parade and the streets were packed with people.

Nearly 40 years ago, the Pioneer Town museum gained its first complete building: the Coalby Store. It was moved to the ground on which it sits now, where it joined the three silos from the Bar-I Ranch in town, according to Jerry McHugh, vice president of the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society.

“This store, originally called the Fickes Store, was donated to the historical society in 1981, by Henry Skutchan of Aurora,” McHugh said. “Volunteers braced the building, loaded it onto a trailer, and moved it to Pioneer Town.”

Though it is smaller than the Stolte packing shed, the process of moving the cabin from its original location about 3.5 miles northwest of Cedaredge, where it had been built in 1906. It gets its name from the area, titled Coalby at the time (now it’s Colby), which was later absorbed by the Town of Cedaredge.

By the first week of January 1907, the store was open and the owner, Frank Fickes, was quoted in the Surface Creek Champion as having said that the store was conducting “good business,” McHugh said.

Ultimately, according to McHugh, Fickes’ store became the most popular building in the Coalby community, as provided a meeting hall, a central location for local residents to gather and it also had a post office, where the mail was delivered twice a week originally.{/div}

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