Tom Ross: Not just another snakebite story

New pictorial history of Hayden packed with anecdotes

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

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File photo

This vintage Hayden photo is not from the new book of the same name but from the files of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. A handwritten caption on the back of the original photo reads: “Chyley Cooper wearing a real western welcome smile at the barbecue.”

— Remember the good old days when Hayden had its own all-woman Ukulele Glee Club?

No?

During the 1920s, they used to ride around town in the back of an REO Eagle Beak touring car, entertaining the community.

If you don’t recall the ukulele girls, maybe you can remember digging into a big bowl of ice cream from C.E. Rose’s ice cream factory in Hayden. Remember when they served it at Adolph Friedrich’s soda fountain?

Oh, that’s right, the soda fountain burned to the ground in 1931.

Hayden was settled in 1875, and the first residents expected it to become the commercial, government and social hub of Northwest Colorado. After all, the first Routt County Courthouse was contained in a log cabin in Hayden.

A new pictorial book being released Monday titled simply, “Hayden,” celebrates the town’s rich history. It’s part of the Images of America series produced by Arcadia Publishing, and all proceeds will benefit the Hayden Heritage Center. The picture of the first courthouse is on page 11. There is a great image of the Ukulele Glee Club on page 68, and you can get your ice cream on page 76.

Hayden historian Jan Leslie wrote the detailed captions for more than 200 vintage photographs carefully compiled by former Heritage Center curator Mary Pat Dunn.

One of the real treasures of the book is a rare formal portrait of Samuel and Mary Reid, whose arrival in Hayden in 1880 marked the beginning of Hayden’s recorded history, according to Leslie.

“When we finally found that photograph, I let out a yell you could hear a long ways away,” Leslie said Friday.

The Reids, she said, lived at Glen Eden in North Routt but harvested hay from a field near Hayden. The modern town site occupies a part of their original ranch.

The Reids moved to town a year after the Meeker Massacre and helped build the Shelton and Walker irrigation ditches that made agriculture more practical.

Leslie has been able to pack a great deal of anecdotal historical information into her photo captions. Yet she says the research came relatively easy.

“I’ve kept scrapbooks on all of Hayden’s buildings and its businesses,” she explained.

If you haven’t heard how Rich­ard “Tex” McDowell gained fame in the 1940s with his inclusion in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, you’re going to want a copy of the book.

As Leslie tells it, McDowell owned a six-mule team and used it to build roads and bridges in the area. He built the river bridge and the Middle Cog road north of Hayden. But it was an encounter with a reptile that secured his fame.

Tex received national attention in Ripley’s after a rattlesnake bit him — and the snake died. Take that, Mr. Rattler.

Some of the most enlightening content in the new book isn’t about Hayden at all but the long vanished coal-mining town of Mount Harris. It’s a town most of us have never glimpsed, though we’ve driven by the historic town site on the way to the airport, Hayden or Craig scores of times.

I’ve always known there used to be several coal mines and a town in that narrow stretch of the Yampa Valley, but I didn’t realize how extensive the development was, with a two-story commercial building of native sandstone, a movie theater and an eight-room school. “Hayden” provides the best look you may ever have at Routt County’s lost city.

“Hayden” is the kind of book you can pick up for three minutes and learn something, put it down again and return to it many times.

Its images, historical facts and anecdotal information are a great addition to local history.

I’d like to tell you the story of why Samuel Forsythe Shelton was late for his own wedding, but you’ll have to track it down for yourself.

“Hayden” costs $21.99 and is available at local retailers, online bookstores or through the publisher at www.arcadiapublising.com or 888-313-2665.

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