Community Agriculture Alliance: A ‘journey story’

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The Hayden Heritage Center is getting ready to host the traveling Smithsonian exhibit “Journey Stories,” from July 19 to Aug. 24. The theme of the exhibit is stories of journey, whether personal or physical, throughout the history of the United States, with a backdrop of the coinciding developments in transportation.

It makes for a perfect blend of our museum events for this summer, including the Pioneer Picnic on July 21 with author and granddaughter of Ferry Carpenter, Belle Zars, who will talk about the homesteaders of the Elkhead area and their journey stories. We also will be celebrating the centennial of the railroad’s arrival to Hayden, a major development of transportation for Northwest Colorado, with a street festival Aug. 10 at the museum with demos, a railroad historian, a Chautauqua show and a model train display, just to note a few highlights. This event deals with the connection of railroad transportation with the development of Routt County. This brings us to another journey story, that of Routt County itself.

Routt County’s journey story is one of a land that originally was settled on its agricultural and mining assets, to one that now is centered on a tourism-driven economy. In the early 1900s, agriculture, not tourism, was seen as the catalyst for Colorado economic development. Routt County, before 1911 and the division of Moffat County, extended westward to the Utah border. When it opened up for homesteaders in the 1880s, it was the farmers, livestockmen, and miners who settled the most remote areas.

Crops that grew in Routt County included not only the hay and clover that we see today, but also grains such as oats, wheat, rye and barley. Other crops included cabbage, potatoes, beets, turnips, peas, carrots, cauliflower, beans, lettuce, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries and currants. All were shipped on the railroad to distant markets.

Livestock was yet another important aspect of the early agricultural days of Northwest Colorado. By the time the train made it to Steamboat in 1908, it became one of the busiest shipping points for cattle that year. Sheep, at first extremely unwelcome in Colorado because many believed that cattle and sheep could not graze together, eventually became known for the money generated for both their wool and meat. By 1930, Hayden was known as the largest shipping center for sheep in the United States.

No discussion about agriculture could leave out the mention of the renowned horse breeders of the area. Some of the finest horses can trace their bloodlines to this lineage.

Routt County’s history is steeped in agriculture that continues today. To learn more about Routt County’s rich agricultural history, visit your local museum, and don’t forget to stop in to the Hayden Heritage Center to experience the Smithsonian traveling exhibit “Journey Stories.” Admission is free. Call 276-4380 for hours and more information on our summer events. “Journey Stories” is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and Colorado Humanities.

Laurel Watson is the curator at the Hayden Heritage Center. She can be reached at haydenmuseum@zirkel.us or 970-276-4380.

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