Eagle County photo mysteries revealed
January 8, 2013
Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts.EAGLE COUNTY – Wolcott as we know it today was originally called Russell. The documentation is limited, but in 1891, a John Holland was granted first rights from the public domain (the federal government and the state of Colorado) to the area known as Russell. In 1887, the railroad arrived at Wolcott (Russell) and its name was officially recognized in 1889 in conjunction with its first post office. A horse and wagon train trail existed out of Wolcott to Steamboat Springs dating from 1886 delivering mail, cargo, passengers and dry goods. From accounts in “Historical News of Wolcott,” by Fern Eatmon, Wolcott was one of the largest shipping points on the Western Slope. At the height of this traffic, 2,000 carloads of cattle were shipped from here annually. For many years Wolcott was the only means for Steamboat Springs and other parts of the northwestern Colorado to get their mail and other supplies, Eatmon said. It all came here and was sent out by stage. The biggest transfer of supplies was here. It is claimed that daily for 20 years, from 1886 to 1906, a Concord stage, drawn by six horses, left Wolcott for Steamboat Springs. Thirty to 40 wagons loaded with supplies pulled up the long hill from the Eagle River everyday.Cattle, sheep, timber, potatoes, lettuce, red quarried stone, ice blocks made the rail yards of Wolcott a busy commercial center.There were two hotels in Wolcott for travelers, advertised with good rates ($1.50-$2.00 per night) and accommodations. One was operated by a Pete Peterson and the other by “JC Hawley & Mrs. Hawley.” A good number of general stores existed along with a blacksmith shop, several livery stables, corrals for stock, a school but no church. Stone from Red Point quarry, just west from Wolcott, was used for the Wolcott bridge abutments across the Eagle and the red stone was shipped by rail to Denver in the construction of the Brown Palace. By the 1920s Wolcott had reached its apex and started its decline as the railroad by way of the new Moffet tunnel funneled more rail traffic more northerly out of Denver.Press reportsI was attempting to find clues about a glass-plated negative taken at the turn of the century, “Exhibit B.” Upon magnification, “Hotel Hawley” is painted in black lettering on the sloping roof. There are tents and small buildings to the left of hotel and larger buildings, a Livery Feed Oats building at far right, and a telephone pole at upper left.The local press offered some evidence such as:• In 1903, a mention in the Eagle Valley Enterprise mentions the name Hawley Hotel in an advertisement.• An article taken from the Eagle Valley Enterprise, Mar. 11, 1904, is a major piece of evidence in the identification of the image. It states, “J.C. Hawley is laying a very substantial sidewalk from the hotel door to the road. The material used is large flagstones.”• An article dated Jan 27, 1905, states, “Mrs. Hawley is gradually recovering from her recent illness and is now able to be up and around the hotel.”• An Eagle Valley Enterprise article dated Aug 11, 1905, states J.C. Hawley and his son will purchase several vehicles to match the extra fine driving horses he already has in his possession, meaning J.C. Hawley had his own livery stable, stock and wagons.The Hawley Hotel was not referenced in the Denver Public Digital Collection. Countless hours were spent researching the archives. The above press statements needed further investigation. Foot work and chance encounters contributed further evidence. I contacted Jaci Spuhler, local history librarian at the Eagle Library. Her support and research contributed greatly to the identification of this negative. Time was spent looking into county records. The county cartographer, Ken Sexton, was helpful. Rick Spitzer, a fellow photographer who has worked diligently with me regarding the identification of the other negatives, contributed greatly providing further research material, confirmation and leads.At the chance suggestion of Jungle Fuhrman, a mechanic who was working on my car at the time who knows Eagle County, I called a Louis Fenno, an old timer who ranched up Squaw Creek who now lives in Silt. Explaining my need for information about a Hotel Hawley, he gave further support to my detective work and suggested Betty Carter (Carterville up Squaw Creek) and his cousin Edith Lederhause up the Colorado River Road. He said that Edith collected historical scrapbooks. Making an appointment with Betty Carter provided some information but not substantial. Her childhood memory was significant, but she had no documents.The next appointment was with Edith Lederhause and her husband, Mike. Calling Edith for an appointment, she said “noon hour, go to McCoy, down the Colorado River Road, past Antelope Road, into a hollow and as the road rises, the house on the right.” Now a city slicker would have definitely been unable to follow those directions, but having a knowledge of the terrain, having travelled the Colorado River Road before, knowing the geography, I knew exactly were Edith and Mike lived. In 45 minutes time, I was driving up the Lederhause driveway. Mike, a retired Colorado State Patrol Officer, was putting the final restoration touches on a bright green, yellow-wheeled 1949 Model B John Deere tractor Edith wanted as a decorative piece at the entrance of her driveway.The missing cluesInviting me into their home, we spread out the documents, the photographs and studied the material Edith had assembled. We kept coming back to the glass-plated images Exhibit A and B. After several hours, we said, “Bingo,” “Eureka!” When Exhibit A and B are placed side by side and with magnification, the following can be deducted. The missing clues came to light by viewing the photos as a twosome, not as independent unrelated photos. The flag stone sidewalk is identifiable in the photograph. Likewise, the three-board fence with the gate opened. A diagonal brace on the gate itself can be viewed from a distance and identified. The connectivity of the telephone/telegraph lines in both images creates further evidence. The bridge itself is common. The livery stables to the right of the Hotel Hawley confirm the newspaper article about J.C. Hawley’s stable/livery. And the skyline in the distance matches today’s skyline looking south. As an afterthought, the river offered clues as well. The larger boulders in the river may still lie in the river, as shown in the original glass-plated negative. Another piece of evidence is the photograph I took showing the rocks in the river, some of which are still located as they were at the turn of the century.Exhibit A, which shows the railroad station at Wolcott, is a glass-plated negative taken by an unknown photographer at the turn of the century looking north towards Steamboat Springs.Exhibit B, which shows The Hawley Hotel, is a glass-plated negative taken by the same photographer. The unknown photographer had photographed the railroad station from the Jouflas porch looking north towards Steamboat, then had walked across the bridge over the Eagle River, had gotten to the rail lines on the opposite side, turned around and photographed the Hotel Hawley, where he may have lodge for a night or two.The Hawley Hotel is the present Jouflas building in Wolcott at the corner of Route 6 and Route 131, north to Steamboat Springs! Fait accompli!Four out of the 11 glass plated negatives have now been identified, all here in Colorado. There are several other images which have potential identification, however, the photo detective work is becoming more difficult due to the lack of clues. Preliminary research has been done, but the next image for identification is a school house with two significant cupolas atop the two-story massive brick building, schoolchildren outside posing for the photographer, the date 1883 on the school house. This week my source in Virginia sent me an additional 15 glass-plated negatives. Perhaps further clues may exist in this secondary cache.Raymond A. Bleesz lives in Edwards.