Steamboat museum program focuses on Routt County ranching community of Sidney

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Brown Bag Lecture Series schedule

Aug. 2: An artistic look at Routt County's historic buildings and landscapes

Aug. 9: Constructing tradition with Tyke Pierce

Aug. 16: Kid Curry's last ride with Ann Williams

Aug. 23: Evolution of Steamboat Springs and Ski Haus since the 1960s with Rod Schrage

Aug. 30: Behind-the-scenes museum tour

All lectures are free and are from noon to 1 p.m. at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly implied that Buren Gourley wore an apple-green wool suit when getting married. Katherine Gourley wore the apple-green wool suit.

How the community of Sidney got its name might be lost to time.

The story goes, Katherine Gourley said, that three men brought cattle to Routt County’s south valley in 1880. Who knows what happened to the venture, she said, but they didn’t come back, leaving a lone cabin as the mark that they were there.

“Shortly after the cabin was vacated, a man by the name of Silas Nott took over the cabin and made it into a stage stop and relay station,” Gourley said. “Up until 1888, it was known as Nott Bottom.

“They applied for a post office there in 1888, and thank God, they didn’t call it Nott Bottom.”

The name on the original application was crossed out, she said, and Sidney was filled in.

“Nobody by that name ever lived there,” Gourley said. “There was no geographic feature or anything.”

In 1913, Gourley’s family came to Sidney, which was in the area where Sidney Peak Ranch now sits, she told the audience Friday at a Brown Bag Lecture Series at the Tread of Pioneers Museum. Her parents, Ralph and Katherine Hudspeth, bought a ranch near Sidney, and the cabin once known as Nott Bottom was, to the best of her knowledge, on their land, she said.

Gourley’s talk Friday moved from the history of Sidney to her own childhood and through rural life at that time in the Yampa Valley.

“Both of my folks worked incredibly hard,” she said. Her father worked the hay fields with horses, turning up countless arrowheads and even a petrified lemon. He irrigated the fields and maintained the fences without a neighbor on three sides to share the load.

She held up a white and light red quilt hand-stitched by her mother in ornate patterns across the back. Her mother made about 70 such quilts during her lifetime, Gourley said.

In that time, cattle ranching just paid the taxes and overhead, she said.

“Dad would butcher a hog or two, then trade for the staple groceries,” Gourley said. The only fruit that grew in the area was rhubarb and chokecherries, she said, but in the summers, they’d pick strawberries in Strawberry Park.

Gourley was the valedictorian of her class at the Sidney school in 1939 as well as of her high school class in Steamboat in 1943.

After two years of college in Colorado, Gourley said, she was back in Sidney when the school needed a teacher.

“I had no intention of being a schoolteacher, believe me,” she said.

She married Buren Gourley, wearing an apple-green wool suit, and they moved to Pleasant Valley.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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