Crystal River Saga The Lore of the Colorado Rockies
PICTURE ON COVER—is part of one of the two remainingfire walls still left standing at the Old Marble MillSite in Marble, Colo. Sheep Mountain can be seen throughthe door way and White House Mountain at right. Jeeptours can be taken to the tops of these peaks for veryextensive sight-seeing trips.—Photo by Will L. Francis
Crystal River Saga
LORE OF THE COLORADO ROCKIES
by THERESA V. FRANCIS
CRYSTAL RIVER SAGA
Come up a mile where the air is pure,
Where the skies are clear and blue;
Come up above the smoke and dust,
Where good health waits for you.
Western Slope of the Central COLORADO ROCKIESShowing in Particular the FISHING STREAMS and RECREATIONAL AREAS of Famous GUNNISON COUNTYCompiled by WILL L. FRANCIS
INTRODUCING THE AUTHOR
Probably no town in the world has experienced moredramatic changes in a lifetime, than has the quarry townof Marble, Colo. and one of the few living persons whoknows the story of each phase of Marble’s history is TheresaHerman Francis. She and her husband, Bill, nowspend only the summers (winters in Tucson, Ariz.) inthe white and green house in Marble that was her year’round home for 33 years.
One of the town’s active citizens during the 20’s and30’s when the population of Marble numbered in thethousands, Theresa changed her life very little whenMarble became a ghost town in 1945. Although livingalone in town most of the time, she did not become arecluse, but remained the same cheerful, energetic, neighborlyperson she had always been. By hard work andingenious use of materials familiar to her through theyears of teaching arts and crafts in the Marble and otherschools, she established an independent living for herself.By patiently and accurately answering dozens of questionsthousands of times, and by friendly help to all ofthe people who stopped at her roadside stand everysummer, Theresa has made many friends for herself andfor Marble. By her enthusiasm for, and faith in the futureof Marble, she has done more than any other person towardbringing her beloved town back to life.
Half in fun, half in tribute, Loey Rinquist of Aspen,Colo. once began a Christmas card to her, “Dear Mrs.Marble.” It is “Mrs. Marble” herself who has writtenthe story of Marble for you. Her long teaching experience,and her years of answering questions for tourists,have prepared her to answer all of your questions, hereinexactly as they have occurred.
This booklet will serve as guide, and be an interestingand accurate record of your trip through beautiful andhistoric Crystal River Valley.
Marian M. PaschalMarble and Fort Collins, Colo.La Paz, Bolivia, South America
CHAIR MOUNTAIN, CRYSTAL RIVER AND HIGHWAY—justabove Hays Creek Falls, nine miles belowMarble. Lower road was the Crystal River & San Juanrailroad bed, converted to a road in 1945. The upper road(Bunker Hill road) was used for general transportationprior to this time. Beautiful Chair Mountain, covered withsnow, can be seen in the background.—Photo courtesy John B. Schutte, Glenwood Spgs., Colo.
Crystal River Saga
THERESA V. FRANCIS
in association with
Will L. Francis
U. S. A.
COPYRIGHT © 1959
Theresa V. Francis and Will L. Francis
1st Edition, 1959, 5,000 Copies
2nd Edition, 1962, 5,000 Copies
3rd Edition, 1966, 5,000 Copies
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any formwithout permission in writing from the publishers, except by a reviewerwho may quote brief passages in an article to be published in a magazineor newspaper.
HOME OF THE AUTHOR—She has lived in this housesince coming to Marble in 1923.—Photo courtesy Glen L. Gebhardt, Denver, Colo.
Printed in the United States of America
POERTNER LITHOGRAPHING CO.
I came to Marble, Colo. in 1923 while it was still a very activethriving little city. My first husband, Theodore (Ted) A. Herman,worked in the marble mill almost twenty years: then after a fewyears sickness he died, and I remained a widow over elevenyears, never leaving Marble except for brief visits with relatives.Many times during these winters I was the only person in town,yet I was never bored or afraid. The telephone company keptmy phone in good working order and I received my mail threetimes a week. I had a good radio, loved to read, write letters,and do my pyro-plastic work to sell at the stand (Ken’s PopStand) during the summers. This stand was started by my grandson,Kenneth E. Herman, in 1948, as a nestegg for his collegeeducation. When I quit teaching school in 1952, we ran it togetheruntil 1956 when he graduated from South High Schoolin Denver and felt he must find a more lucrative job. I have runit alone since.
In late 1956 I married again and now spend my summers inMarble and winters in Tucson, Ariz., where my husband is aLinotype operator on a Tucson daily paper. It is our earnestdesire to spend the rest of our lives in Marble after he retires.
In attempting to compile a history of the Crystal River ValleyI have accumulated such a vast amount of interesting materialthat it would be impossible to condense it into a booklet of10,000 words. So I have decided to write a brief history of thevarious locales and answer the questions most often asked at thepop stand. Then after another year or two of research I’ll tryto write a book containing a more detailed history and memoirsof the many interesting people who have lived in the valley, ifI feel the public would like such a volume.
If this little booklet has given you some pleasure and knowledgeof this marvelous valley, then it has accomplished its purposeand I am happy. I am sure that once you have visited thisportion of the western slope and know its history you will loveit as I do.
Theresa V. Francis
THE DEVIL’S PUNCH BOWLS—half way between Schofieldand Crystal City. The road is to the right, high abovethese falls.—Photo courtesy Colin L. Moore, Gunnison, Colo.
CRYSTAL RIVER SAGA
One of the most beautiful rivers in Colorado has its source atSchofield Pass high above Elko Basin and Schofield Park. It isfed by melting snow and many crystal clear springs, hence thename Crystal River. And it does not belie its name, as, exceptinga few weeks in the spring when melting snow along its lowertributaries gives it a roily turbulent appearance, it is truly crystalclear.
The Flower Garden of the Rockies
(Elevation Approximately 10,000 feet)
Schofield has been called “The flower garden of the Rockies”and rightly so. It is carpetted with multifarious species of flowers,ranging from the delicate snow flowers and Alpine mossesthrough several shades of Indian paint brushes, blue and purplelupines, and wild roses to the lusty sunflowers. It is especiallybeautiful in July and August when there are literally hundredsof acres of blue, purple, lavender, gold, and brown columbines.
In the early 1870s gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, and galinawere found in this region, so naturally a mining camp mushroomedover night into a village of 50 or 60 houses. These werethe regular camp-style buildings with no foundations, resemblinghuge packing boxes. There was also a store, hotel, concentrationmill, and several saloons. While its population sometimes soaredinto the thousands, it was a transit, moving people, living mostlyin tents and always looking for better prospects.
Frank Hall’s “State of Colorado,” Vol. IV, page 150, date1895, has this to say about this mining camp:
“Schofield was surveyed and platted August 24, 1879, by J. Evans fora company composed of Daniel Haines, S. H. Baker, B. F. Schofield(for whom it was named), H. G. Ferris, Wm. Agee, E. D. Baker, A. H.10Slossen, and G. Edwards. It is located on Rock Creek (now calledCrystal River) between Elko Basin and Crystal City, eight miles northwestof Gothic, and some 40 miles west of Gunnison. It never was acamp of much importance, though a central station for a number ofprospectors.”
General Grant is supposed to have ridden into Schofield on awhite mule when he was campaigning for the U. S. presidency.Some of the prospectors tried to sell him some mining claims;being unsuccessful in that, they attempted to get him into apoker game and lose a claim to him so they could boast, “ThePresident of the United States owns mining property in Schofield.”But they weren’t proficient enough in “stacking the cards”to deal him a winning hand. Wishing to show him the grandeurof the canyon they took him where he could look down into theDevil’s Punch Bowls and told him it was called the “SOB Canyon.”He agreed it was appropriately named but suggested aname that would be even harder to beat, “The Schultz Canyon.”Schultz being his political opponent at the time.
Schofield flourished for 12 or 14 years, then they decided thecost of transportation was far more than the mineral mined warranted,so in 1886 practically the entire town was moved downthe valley four miles and Crystal City was started. Schofieldbecame truly a “ghost town.”
It has always been easier to enter Schofield from CrestedButte than from Crystal, but now with the opening of a jeeproad between Schofield and Crystal City all that has beenchanged and today a new Schofield is in the making. This timeit is to be a 40-acre tract of modern buildings containing a 24-housingunit, a motel, and a store. None of the over-night constructedmining shacks this time, but modern log cabins built towithstand the elements at this nearly 10,000 foot elevation.
Leaving Schofield, the Crystal River goes through some ofthe most spectacular scenery in the world. It runs down a ravine50 feet below the road, over boulders, through crevices, alwaysin a hurry, it plunges over a ledge into the Little Devils PunchBowl, then it cascades over another ledge making an impressivewaterfall as it drops into the Big Devils Punch Bowl many feetbelow, where it seethes and swirls trying to find a way out to goon down the canyon.
The trail above the river was used as a wagon road from theearly 1880s to about 1917. John A. Williams drove a team ofmules over it in 1911 hauling supplies for the Williams General11Store in Crystal. Anton Danni drove a supply wagon over it in1916. The following item was taken from the Marble Boosternewspaper, Aug. 12, 1916:
“Tom Boughton, John J. Walsh, D. E. Dever, and Chas. Sisteg, electedat a caucus to represent Marble as delegates to the Democratic CountyConvention which convened at Gunnison Monday, left here early lastSunday morning, via Crystal (Schofield Pass) driving (horses) mostof the distance and enjoying a motor ride the rest of the way.”
These are the last authentic accounts of this wagon road beingused I can find; so presume it was closed by rock slides shortlyafter this date. Over 40 years passed before this scenic part ofColorado was again made available to travel, mainly through theefforts of Gunnison County Commissioner Anton Danni andhis road overseer who made several trips from Schofield toCrystal City, on foot, to see if it were possible, and feasible, toopen a jeep road. They decided it was and on Aug. 5, 1958, aftermany months of hard work, the first jeeps came through fromCrested Butte to Marble. In 1959 they hope to improve the roadenough to permit passenger cars to come down; but no vehiclewithout a 4-wheel drive could make the trip up the canyon.
The first group to make the trip over the new road wascomposed of the following people:
|Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Cain||Almont, Colo.|
|Mr. and Mrs. Bart Cox||Almont, Colo.|
|Mr. and Mrs. John Ramsey||Almont, Colo.|