Hayden author explores post offices

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— Early post offices, nestled in ranch homes and businesses, often were far off the beaten path.

Many were in places such as Hardscrabble, Puma, Haybro and Eddy -- long-gone communities that exist only as memories of Routt County's boom-and-bust history.

It's these lesser known places that inspired the title of Jan Leslie's book, "Anthracite Barbee and Tosh: The History of Routt County and its Post Offices."

In the recently published book, the Hayden author uses the many post offices that have dotted Routt County as a common thread tying together the changing industries and dreams that have shaped its history.

"So many things were so promising in this county. ... What I was trying to figure out was why there were so many people in certain areas," said Leslie, who also wrote "Routt County Rural Schools 1883-1960: Windows to Yesterday."

Fifty post offices were scattered throughout present-day Routt County at various times between 1875 -- when the first post office opened in Hayden -- and 1971, when the government overhauled the system into the U.S. Postal Service.

Before the Hayden Post Office, residents traveled to Rawlins, Wyo., or Georgetown to get their mail.

Wanderlust and a hope for a new life after the Civil War brought many people to the Yampa Valley. Gold mining at Hahn's Peak, coal mining in South and West Routt and farming and ranching throughout the county supported those sometimes short-lived dreams.

Tiny post offices popped up to accommodate small communities of residents. Mail usually came by horseback or wagon and later by stagecoach. Post office boxes weren't needed: Postmasters often just spread the mail out on a table for residents, Leslie said.

Leslie's book also offers a reminiscent look at the changing dynamics of communities in Hahn's Peak, Milner, Steamboat Springs, Yampa and Phippsburg. In the booming ranching and railroad days, for example, Hayden had two banks, two theaters, four grocery stores and a hospital.

Longtime residents, in particular, will be taken back to the days when a gallon of gas cost 18 cents and when residents used food rationing coupons during World War I, Leslie said.

"It's also bringing people up to speed on what we used to do," she said.

More than 200 newspaper articles, from publications including The Routt County Republican, Oak Creek Times, Yampa Leader and The Routt County Sentinel helped round out Leslie's research.

The book also includes more than 60 pictures from the Tread of Pioneers Museum, friends and Leslie's personal collection, which includes photos taken by her grandfather, who settled in the Yampa Valley in the 1920s.

Although various books have been written about parts of Routt County, this may be the first attempt at a countywide history, Leslie said.

"There's a lot of untold stories," Leslie said.

In the process of writing her book, Jan Leslie, with sister Nadine Leslie, started her own publishing company, Walnut Street Publishers. Nadine, who manages business related to the book, laid out the entire book on her computer and had it printed in Grand Junction.

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