After over 100 years away, a trove of records from the founding of Steamboat Springs have returned home.
Previously, the Steamboat Springs Town Company collection was housed in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Archives. The historic records will now be preserved and made accessible to the public at the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs.
The collection features one-of-a-kind materials that document the establishment of Steamboat Springs in 1884. Materials include correspondence between the company’s principals and early town residents, annual reports and legal and financial papers from the town’s founding up to 1904.
“The collection documents Steamboat Springs’ history and really needed to come home to the Yampa Valley to receive better use at a local archive and museum such as the Tread,” said Megan Friedel, head of the University Libraries Archives.
The University Libraries Archives was established in 1918 and for many decades, archivists there collected broadly in areas such as the history of Colorado and the American West simply because other regional archives did not yet exist or were not collecting such material at the time.
The Archives was gifted the collection in 1978 and has housed the materials for over 40 years. However, over the last 20 years, the Archives have refined their collecting areas to more specific Colorado-based subjects such as Rocky Mountain labor and labor rights, experimental film and counterculture and social change.
“The University Libraries’ Archives has been actively reassessing our collections for years to find better homes for materials that are out of our collecting scope and where researchers might not naturally think to come to us to find the collection,” she said.
Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum calls the collection, which details the correspondence between town founding members, “truly remarkable.”
“Reading the letters, we have learned about the Town Company’s early struggles establishing a town,” Bannister said. “We learn about road placement decisions, plot plans and read specific language that describes the hardships and frustrations of starting a town in one of the most remote sections in the western United States.”
Bannister and the museum are looking forward to working with these documents and local historians to discover more hidden mysteries that can help the community continue to understand the town’s history and make them accessible to researchers and the local community.
Historian Jim Crawford is the great-grandson of Steamboat Springs Town Company manager James H. Crawford. Crawford says he is excited about the transfer, as he hopes the records will inform his own research.
“The Town Company directed the development of Steamboat for 20 years, yet locally not much is known about it or its officers Andrew Macky, James Maxwell, and Lewis Cheney,” said Crawford. “I'm hoping these records will reveal the thinking behind some of their policies—such as the no-liquor clause in deeds—and the finances that ran the company.”
Bannister will feature some of the documents on the museum’s Facebook page this fall, and the museum also plans to create a display of the items next summer.
“It is an honor that the CU Boulder Archives have put their trust in our organization and archives to preserve and study these documents,” she continued. “We are so pleased to have them.”