Local historian Kathy Heicher tells Gypsum’s story | VailDaily.com

Local historian Kathy Heicher tells Gypsum’s story

“Gypsum Days: Pioneers, the Poor Farm, and Progress,” tells the town’s story from the time of the Utes through its development as a ranching and farming community

The new book is a celebration of the Town of Gypsum’s 110th anniversary.
Courtesy Photo

The town of Gypsum is celebrating its 110 year anniversary with the publishing of a new history book.

“Gypsum Days: Pioneers, the Poor Farm, and Progress,” by local historian Kathy Heicher, tells Gypsum’s story from the time of the Utes through its development as a ranching and farming community.

The book reveals the town’s colorful history through anecdotes of the early pioneers, maps, and dozens of historic photos. It delves into the reasons that the early pioneers, many of them immigrants, decided to settle in the Gypsum Creek Valley and tells their personal stories.

Anecdotes range from the antics of politically-savvy pioneer Ed Slaughter, who operated on both sides of the law, to the fierce determination of the Ladies’ Aid Society women to protect the community’s morals. Many of the names of the people featured in the book are still familiar in the community today.

For sure, those early settlers had their quirky moments. Consider the dugout-dwelling young cattle rancher who had to be reminded to wear pants, or the teenage boy who took the Denver & Rio Grande locomotive for a 30-mile joyride.

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While doing the back-breaking work of turning raw land into fine farming country, those pioneers also managed to build the schools, churches and common buildings that yield a healthy community.

“Gypsum has always been a community that knows itself and is willing to take chances,” Heicher said.

Heicher notes that in the early 1900s, the community fought hard for establishment of a County High School, now Eagle Valley High School. Gypsum also had the compassion to welcome the County Poor Farm, a controversial county government project in the days before Social Security that provided the earliest pioneers of the county a safe and comfortable place to live out their final days.

Noting that history books have been published about several other communities in the valley, Gypsum leaders decided that this anniversary year was the right time for a book about their town. Heicher, who is the president of the Eagle County Historical Society and the author of several local history books, spent more than a year researching, writing, and gathering maps and photographs.

“There has been plenty of documentation of Gypsum’s history over the years, but it just has not been pulled together into a single source,” Heicher said. “It’s definitely Gypsum’s turn.”

In addition to combing the history archives at the Eagle Public Library and interviewing long-time residents, she did much of the research through the ever-increasing digital archives available state-wide and uncovered some new information about the town’s past.

“It has been a learning experience, and a wonderful project,” Heicher said. “I’m glad the town leaders saw the need for this.”

The town of Gypsum is the publisher of the book, and all sales of the book will benefit the Eagle County Historical Society. “Gypsum Days: Pioneers, the Poor Farm and Progress” is available for purchase now online at EagleCountyHistoricalSociety.com, and can also be found at Gypsum Town Hall, DJ’s and Dahlia’s in Gypsum, The Bookworm in Edwards and Batson’s Corner in Eagle.

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