History collection at Eagle library growing
EAGLE – Tell Jaci Spuhler Eagle County doesn’t have much history. Then watch her teeth grind.Spuhler, the former director of the Garfield County library system is the “local history librarian” at the Eagle library. She gave up her job in Garfield County when given the chance to manage a collection of historic documents.
That collection includes some of the earliest newspapers printed in the valley, including an 1893 edition of the “Fulford Signal.” Among the mining camp’s news that week was word of a new gold strike in nearby Lake County.Newspapers like the one from Fulford are more than curiosities, Spuhler said.”This paper documents the most recent mining claims,” she said. “It’s great original source material.”Information like that can help end, or start, records searches. Since there are often gaps in official records, copies of old newspapers and other documents can provide other places to search.
And there are quite a few people searching through the library’s archives. A lot of those people are researching their families’ histories, digging through obituaries.”I was gone for a week recently and when I came back I had seven requests for obituary information,” Spuhler said.Then there are the photos. The Eagle County Historical Society has a large collection of pictures, all of which are now at the library. Since Spuhler started work in March, a big part of her job has been scanning those photos into a computer database, then cataloging them.The goal is to someday have all the photos in a database, with the originals tucked safely away.Most of the collection pre-dates 1962, the year Vail opened for skiing. That’s why Spuhler’s teeth grind a bit when anyone says “nothing” happened in Eagle County before the first chairlift climbed out of Vail Village.”There’s a continuity factor with the past that impacts what we currently do,” Spuhler said. “There’s a reason towns are placed where they are. Documentation can help future planning.”Besides, some people find local history darned interesting. People like Frank Doll, for instance. “Say you’re talking about Edwards,” Doll said. “Why is it named Edwards?”Doll knows the answer, of course. The area was named for Melvin Edwards, who was Colorado’s first secretary of state. While Edwards was named for a renowned man, the land in the area was owned by Harrison Berry, for whom Berry Creek is named.Doll, now in his 80s, has been interested in the valley’s history just about since he can remember. He knows the story of the first tourist operation in the county, a guest ranch at Edwards that catered to miners from Leadville.
Doll was an early member of the county’s historical society, and has helped build a good-sized collection of documents, photos and things.”It’s not hard to keep those things, but it’s hard to get them,” Doll said. It’s also hard to keep the knowledge of how things were, especially in the decades before World War II. That’s why Bill Burnett has written a history of Minturn.”People need to know things,” Burnett said. “When was the Red Cliff bridge built? What happened to Gilman? Where did the railroad go?”A lot of that knowledge is still in the memories of the valley’s longtime residents. But a lot is being committed to the library as well.”For a public library to invest in me and in space for this is really forward thinking. Libraries and local history are a good fit,” Spuhler said.”Information is the greatest thing in the world,” Doll added. “I look for it all the time.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado