Perry Burgess, the namesake of Burgess Creek in Steamboat Springs, and Burgess Creek Chairlift at Steamboat Ski Area, kept richly detailed diaries of the Mormon Exocus, his Indian skirmishes on the Bozeman Trail, gold mining around Hahn’s Peak and his civic efforts in Steamboat Springs and Boulder.

Courtesy photo

Perry Burgess, the namesake of Burgess Creek in Steamboat Springs, and Burgess Creek Chairlift at Steamboat Ski Area, kept richly detailed diaries of the Mormon Exocus, his Indian skirmishes on the Bozeman Trail, gold mining around Hahn’s Peak and his civic efforts in Steamboat Springs and Boulder.

Tom Ross: Riding a chairlift back in time

Burgess book details life of pioneer

Advertisement

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.

If you go

What: Presentation and book signings for “Beyond the Land of Gold, the Life and Times of Perry A. Burgess” by Rebecca Valentine

When: Noon Oct. 23

Where: Tread of Pioneers Museum at Eighth and Oak streets in Steamboat Springs

Call: 970-879-2214

If you go

What: Presentation and book signings for “Beyond the Land of Gold, the Life and Times of Perry A. Burgess” by Rebecca Valentine

When: 5 p.m. Oct. 23

Where: The Mugshot, 116 Main St., Oak Creek

Call: 970-736-8491

— I have an old blue steel chair from the original Burgess Creek double chairlift hidden in the willows in my backyard. It’s waiting for me to convert it into a lawn swing, and already it has been a long wait. It has been six years since Steamboat Ski Area replaced the Burgess Creek lift with a triple chair in December 2004.

I always knew that Burgess Creek was named after a pioneer family. But I never appreciated the historical symbolism of my odd piece of chairlift history until a fat new soft-cover book, “Beyond the Land of Gold, the Life and Times of Perry A. Burgess” landed with a thump on my desk this week. It was written by Rebecca Valentine and edited by Travis Thompson, a descendent of Burgess’.

Burgess had a ranch on the bench overlooking the Yampa River adjacent to the site of Steamboat Springs Cemetery. He built a little cabin for his family there in 1881. But even in the days when traveling to and from Steamboat Springs was slow and arduous, Perry Burgess traveled all across the West.

His extended family was part of the Mormon Exodus. Perry traveled with the great trapper Jim Bridger and was part of a family expedition by wagon train that engaged in deadly skirmishes with the Cheyenne and Sioux on the Bozeman Trail. He also was a devoted diarist and wrote about those violent encounters in detail.

Burgess was a prospector during the Colorado Gold Rush. Together with family members, he owned numerous banks in Missouri and Boulder.

Perry’s son Bruce became a co-editor and partner in The Steamboat Pilot from 1896 to 1900, and during that time a series of pioneer recollections was published in the newspaper. Thompson, intent on learning more about his ancestors, researched the essays and realized they were based on the 1866 to 1868 Montana Bozeman Trail diaries of Perry Burgess.

Copies of the pioneer recollections were destroyed in a 1906 fire at the newspaper offices, but an extensive collection of the writings of Perry Burgess has been preserved. It includes transcripts of the Bozeman Trail diaries and eight more diaries Burgess kept detailing pioneer life in Steamboat from 1880 to 1900. The original Steamboat diaries were transcribed with the help of a grant from the Tread of Pioneers Museum, and they are excerpted in the book.

I’ve certainly never encountered anything like this new book that connects a well-established figure in the founding of Steamboat Springs with so many elements of the movement westward. It contains 120 images and more than 200 pages of Perry’s own writing.

Think about this remarkable pioneer for a moment. Perry was born into a deeply religious Mormon family, and his father died during the exodus to Utah. As a young man, he prospected for gold. With an uncle and a third man, he helped to develop Boulder, establishing the city’s banking system. And along with William E. Walton, the great-uncle of retail giant Sam Walton, Perry was closely involved in the founding of Steamboat Springs. And Steamboat is where he preferred to live out his days.

He died in June 1900, eight days short of his 57th birthday.

I can’t do this book justice at one sitting, but fortunately for all of us, there will be presentations and book signings in Steamboat and Oak Creek on Oct. 23.

I think it’s finally time for me to start on the construction drawings for that Burgess Creek chairlift lawn swing.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Travis Thompson 3 years, 5 months ago

Hello

We had an excellent crowd during our signings in Routt County and enjoyed meeting everyone. I would like to add that the book can be purchased in a number of ways. If you are in Steamboat Springs you can stop by the Tread of Pioneers Museum or Off the Beaten Path Book Store. The book can also be purchased through our companion website burgessdiary.com.

Rebecca and I will be posting blog content regarding the Burgess story over the coming months as well, so check back often.

Thanks again, Travis Thompson

0

Travis Thompson 3 years, 5 months ago

Hello

We had an excellent crowd during our signings in Routt County and enjoyed meeting everyone. I would like to add that the book can be purchased in a number of ways. If you are in Steamboat Springs you can stop by the Tread of Pioneers Museum or Off the Beaten Path Book Store. The book can also be purchased through our companion website burgessdiary.com.

Rebecca and I will be posting blog content regarding the Burgess story over the coming months as well, so check back often.

Thanks, Travis Thompson

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.