After last week's story on the history of the miner's statue in Paonia Town Park, Paonia resident and town trustee David Bradford said his research revealed more information about how the town acquired the land for the park, and how the community rallied to purchase the land from the family of William Clark.
Bradford said in doing his initial research, he learned that the park "was rumored to have been gifted to the town" by the Clarks.
Turns out, a citizen-led initiative led to the acquisition of the 10-acre park. "This goes to show how difficult this research is," said Bradford, who is retired from a 34-year career with the U.S. Forest Service and currently serves as mayor pro tempore on the Paonia Board of Trustees. Bradford is well-known for researching virtually every topic that comes before the town board. He was lead author with the book, "When the Grass Stood Stirrup-high: Facts, Photographs and Myths of West-Central Colorado." Robbie Baird Le-Valley and Floyd Reed contributed to the book, which was published in 2004.
"I have heard a story that William Clark donated the land that became the Paonia Town Park to the Town of Paonia," Bradford writes in his updated history of the park. "However, in my search in the Delta County Courthouse at the County Assessor's office and the County Clerk and Recorder's office, I found that the property that became the Paonia Town Park was actually sold to the Town of Paonia."
In researching the "Resume of Items in Paonia Newspapers, Volume II (1921-1935), by Wallace Eubanks of the North Fork Historical Society, he found the following:
"The Delta County Courthouse shows a Bond for Deed was recorded on Jan. 10, 1922. This Bond for Deed, which is a contractual agreement to sell real property in which the purchase price is to be paid by the buyer to the seller in installments, and in which the seller agrees to deliver title to the buyer after payment of a stipulated sum, stipulated that Violet M. and Harold C. Clark agreed to sell the parcel to the Town of Paonia for $10,000 over a period of time. However, the specific terms called for $7,233.35 to be paid in the following manner -- $4,500 in cash, $2,733.35 on or before 1/4/1925."
Community fundraisers were held, and The Paonian newspaper reported on Oct. 6, 1921, that coal magnate John "J.C." Osgood, "owner of the estate at Redstone," donated $100 to the cause.
Town board minutes of March 4, 1924, reflect a 4-0 vote adopting a resolution by Trustee M.H. Crissman "to place a question in the upcoming general town election, to be held April 1, 1924, whether the voters were 'For or Against, the acquirement of parks, establishment of boulevards, park ways and roads.' An affirmative vote would allow the Town to pay $3200.00 for the unpaid debt on the Bond for Deed for the 10.31 acres for the Paonia Town Park and accept title for the property."
Bradford found no record of the election results. "However, the minutes of the April 15, 1924 Paonia Town Board meeting records the following: 'A motion was made by Cady and seconded by Furnoy, that the Park Committee be notified that the Town of Paonia is ready to accept the park, when the deed and abstract is approved. On roll call, Cady, Bradshaw, Sweet, Furnoy and Crissman voted 'aye.'"
Bradford also found at the Delta County Courthouse the warranty deed transferring the Town Park property from Violet M. Clark, Olive Clark Merritt and Harold W. Clark to the town for $7,000.
In applying the $7,233.35 the Clarks asked for the park in 1924 to 2017 dollars, the town paid more than $100,205 for the land. "It was a "major investment by the town," said Bradford. "The acquisition of the land that is now the Paonia Town Park is a great example of citizens initiating a process to provide a public benefit and working with the municipal government to accomplish that."
Bradford also combed Ancestry.com, the 1920 U.S. Census records, and other sources to learn more about Melvina Hall Clark, who is memorialized on the pedestal fountain located next to the Miner's Statue.
Melvina Hall Clark was one of the first settlers who moved to the North Fork Valley when it was opened for settlement in September 1882. She was born Dec.10, 1833 in Mason County, West Virginia. She married Luther T. Clark on May 1, 1856 in Onarga, Ill., and bore two children, William A. Clark and Albert F. Clark. She apparently traveled to Delta County with her husband Luther and sons, William and Albert. Her husband Luther passed away in 1884. According to the 1920 U.S. Census Melvina resided at 336 Poplar Ave., until her death in 1924. Interestingly, there is no 336 Poplar Avenue, today, writes Bradford.
Melvina Clark is buried at the Cedar Hill Cemetery, south of Paonia, along with her husband and sons.
Oldest son William Allen was an early public figure in Paonia, wrote Bradford. He "was born on September 15, 1858 in Ash Grove, Iroquois County, Illinois... William was one of the first settlers at Paonia, arriving there shortly after the area was opened for settlement; he owned 160 acres of farming land, on a part of which the town of Paonia is located; he engaged in farming and stock raising. He sub-divided these lands and they became part of the Town - the Clarke sub-division and Clark's 2nd sub-division. He was married to Violet M. Fawcett in 1885. They had two children - Harold W. (Clarkie) Clark born July 4, 1885 and Olive M. Clark born April 2, 1887. William Allen Clark passed away in Paonia on Aug. 17, 1908."
In 1890, Melvina Clark received a patent on 160.47 acres from the government and William was granted a patent on 160.36 acres.
Bradford said he hopes his research will help future generations to understand the history surrounding the park and the people went to great lengths to turn a hayfield into one of the town's greatest assets. Pointing to the Howard Berkman Stage at the northwest corner of the park, he said he doesn't want future town boards considering changes to the stage to ask, "Who was Howard Berkman?"
There are still some unsolved pieces of the puzzle. Courthouse Bond for Deed records indicate that the Clarks sold the property to the town on Jan. 4, 1922, for $10,000, which is contrary to records indicating that they accepted $7,233.37. Bradford found no indication that the Clark family donated the balance.
"There are a number of additional confusing issues concerning the Clarks," writes Bradford, including the spelling of the Clark name, which is sometimes spelled with an "e" at the end, and sometimes without.
One other unsolved mystery involves the fountain dedicated to Melvina Clark. On the back are the words, "Erected 1926 by Emma C. McLoud." Bradford found no record of the dedication.
"The pedestal memorial seems to reflect Emma C. McLoud's wish to recognize Mrs. Clark," writes Bradford. "Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information on Emma C. McLoud."
During a preliminary hearing in Delta District Court on Tuesday, Jan. 15, Judge Steven Schultz found probable cause for second degree murder charges against Heather Jones.
Jones previously faced three counts in the shooting of Ryan Redifer in Paonia on Jan. 12, 2018 -- assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree and violation of a protection order.