Women who shaped this valley


Candice Lombardo started crying as she read "Shepherdess of Elk River Valley," a book written by one the area's great historic figures, Margaret Duncan Brown.

Brown moved to Routt County to ranch with her husband. When her husband died in 1918 during a flu epidemic, she took over the duties of the 160 acres ranch near Clark and maintained them until her death 45 years later.

Not only was Brown a strong woman, but she also was an incredible writer. In her book, she records her life in a vivid and brutally honest way.

"Shortly after the hopeful turn for the better in our ranching venture, I found myself facing the inevitable," Brown wrote. "To this day, I am appalled by the stark tragedy of life in not knowing what the next moment may have in store for us, at the suddenness with which the inevitable strikes at our complete unpreparedness. Dick had gone to Colorado Springs on business and ret-urned home on Thanksgiving Day, 1918, with a high fever. He should have gone directly to the Steamboat Springs hospital, but he knew I was expecting him for Thanksgiving dinner. I had heard people talking of the flu epidemic, but we were too busy to worry. Dick lasted only five days. There is no way to describe that final day when the winter was the most severe and the snow was the deepest I had ever seen. That day I blotted froma my diary.

"The next day, I took him to Steamboat Springs en route to the burial in Colorado Springs. There had been so many deaths from the flu epidemic that no coffin was available in Steamboat, so the undertaker used some orange crates."

Brown's story will be retold Tuesday as part of "Lovely Local Ladies," a dramatization of the lives of Steamboat's most influential women -- Dorothy Wither, Brown, Portia Mansfield and Charlotte Perry and Eleanor Bliss -- in celebration of Women's History Month.

Their stories will be retold with monologues put together by Lombardo, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, Gail Hanley, Rusty De Lucia and Tiffany Wither Leeson through newspaper interviews and the stories of friends still living.

All the women, except Brown, remained single their entire lives. Without the constraints of a family, they were able to spend more time on other endeavors.

"I've always wanted to do something about the women who shaped this community," Lombardo said. "In other communities, women are important, but they play more silent, background roles. In Steamboat Springs, these women made significant contributions."


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