Eagle County: Rural McCoy remembered on history tour
Eagle County, CO Colorado
In the 1930s, a family living in McCoy in rural, northern Eagle County could get by with a $15 monthly grocery bill at the local general store.
In those Depression years, bartering was common. People paid for services with chickens or freshly churned butter, instead of cash.
With a sharp memory and wry sense of humor, 85-year-old David Shultz shared his memories of growing up in the McCoy community with a group of about 15 local history buffs last week.
Shultz, a retired restaurateur now splits his time between homes in Gunnison and Los Angeles. Rena Horn organized the outing.
The day included a tour of local sites, including the mysterious “Salt Well,” the one-time mining community of Copper Spur and a visit to the McCoy cemetery.
Shultz was a young boy in 1930 when his father, whose brick contracting business in Denver at Pittsburg fell victim to the Depression, decided to pursue a simpler lifestyle. The family ended up building a log cabin near the Copper Spur railroad trestle on Yarmony Creek.
“We didn’t know whose land it was – we were squatters,” Shultz said.
His father supported the family by taking on a variety of jobs, including cutting timber and hauling logs, “witching” water wells for neighbors and road crew work for President Franklin Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration,
Teacher Elizabeth Bedell taught the lower-level grades in the Yarmony Creek School (located up Copper Spur Road). The one-room school served students in grades one through eight. Shultz recalls memorizing and reciting the Gettysburg Address and poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Airplanes were a rarity. When the students could hear one fly over, they would rush outside the school to view, with wonder, that tiny silver speck way up in the sky.
When the superintendent of schools paid a visit from Eagle, she brought pencils and toothbrushes for the students. For many students, that was their first toothbrush.
When snows were deep, the children sometimes used sleds to get to school.
Not many people had telephone service in their homes. Making a telephone call involved making a trip to the McCoy store. For 5 cents, a call could be placed on the party line phone.
“Everybody could listen in,” observes Shultz.
The tour included a visit to the now defunct copper mine that the Copper Spur community is named after.
The group also visited the “Salt Well,” a bottomless, natural spring that bubbles year-around with a flow of warm, salty water. This geologic anomaly is a function of the areas volcanic geology.
On the surface, the Salt Well, located just out of sight from Highway 131 on private land southeast of McCoy, appears to be a shallow, natural spring about 40 feet wide. Nobody knows how deep it is. One report says the depth has been measured at 1,500 feet without finding the bottom.
A local rancher reportedly attempted to measure the well by pushing in an old car with a roll of bailing twine tied to it. The car disappeared, as did the entire length of twine.
To learn more McCoy history, check the book “McCoy Memoirs” by John Ambos. The book is available at the library, in several local stores, or may be purchased from Rena Horn at 970-653-4293.
(Kathy Heicher is a freelance writer who may be reached at email@example.com.)