Rock School headed for fame

New Yorker editor to write about Elkhead School near Hayden

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— The New Yorker's executive editor is heading to Hayden next week.

Dorothy Wickenden has arranged to visit the Elkhead School, a two-story rock schoolhouse about 17 miles north of Hayden. Her grandmother Dorothy Woodruff was one of the first teachers at the 93-year-old school, said Rebecca Wattles, vice president of the Hayden Heritage Center board.

"It's owned by a private family, and we do have their permission to go in and tour it," Wattles said. "And one of the things Dorothy wanted to do was do this in the wintertime to get some sort of feel for what it took to get there."

It took plenty, heritage center curator Mary Pat Dunn said. Children skied or forced horses through snow to get to school during the winter.

Wickenden's party won't exactly have it easy. The group will include Wattles, Dunn, Public Works Superintendent Sam Barnes and one of the schoolhouse owners. The schoolhouse is off Routt County Road 76, but plowing ends about five miles from the building. The group will snowmobile or ski there Wednesday, Wattles said.

"What we're kind of thinking is Sam will take us on some of the snow machines and make multiple trips," she said.

The Elkhead community is an important part of Hayden's history, Wattles said. People started homesteading in the area in the early 1900s, she said, and at least 20 families lived in a 10-mile radius of the school.

Wattles' own grandparents Charles and Paroda Fulton homesteaded in Elkhead in 1915. Community members built the stone structure, sometimes called the Rock School, in about 1916.

"They must have had 20, 25 students," Dunn said. "They had maybe 100 people. It was a very active community. There was always a blurb in the paper (about) the Elkhead community."

Hayden residents have strong ties to the Elkhead settlement, Dunn said. When things weren't working out, most of the residents moved to town.

The family that owns the property renovated the inside of the building and stays there during summer, Wattles said.

"If you look at a picture from now and a picture from 1920, it is the same on the outside," she said.

The weekly magazine's staff hasn't decided when Wickenden's article about the schoolhouse will be published, New Yorker spokeswoman Jaime Leifer wrote in an e-mail.

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234 or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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