It’s Harvest Time!

From peaches to potatoes, important crops are being harvested across western Colorado, and harvesting will continue through late autumn. So, I thought I’d write a couple of history columns about crops that were important to this region historically.

Harvesting sugar beets in Mesa County, early 20th Century. Photo courtesy of the Museums of Western Colorado.

The first column is about sugar beets, which were a significant cash crop in the area for many decades, until Holly Sugar closed its last sugar plant on the Western Slope, in Delta, in the 1970s.

The second column is about potatoes, which remain an important crop today in parts of western Colorado and especially, the San Luis Valley, This item is about the mobile education system used to train farmers early in the 20th century in the art of growing potatoes.

White Gold 8-26-19

Potato Train 9-9-19


From Kid Blackie to Manassa Mauler

Jack Dempsey, the long-time heavyweight boxing champion, won his title 100 years ago this week. But long before that fight in Toledo, Ohio, Dempsey lived, worked and fought across much of western Colorado.

Kid Blackie

Above is the cover of a book that came out in the 1980s, which provides a detailed history of Dempsey’s time in Colorado. Below is a link to my history column about Jack Dempsey.

Dempsey 7-1-19

Diamond Hoax and Douglas Pass

Here are a couple of recent columns, both of which were fun to research and write.

Browns Park
Brown’s Park, Colorado in the 1870s. From Clarence King’s survey, when he discovered that the diamond mine was a hoax. (Library of Congress)

The first is on the famous Diamond Hoax that occurred in northwestern Colorado in the early 1870s. The second is on the political effort to get an automobile route built over Douglas Pass.

Diamond hoax 6-3-19

Coltharp Truck
One of the first trucks used on Douglas Pass. (Uintah County Regional History Center)

Douglas Pass 6-17-19

One tough woman

Josie Bassett Morris, who grew up in Brown’s Park in Northwestern Colorado, spent the last 50 years of her long life living mostly alone in an isolated cabin near Dinosaur National Monument.

Here’s a link to the history column I wrote about her for The Daily Sentinel;

josie morris 5-6-19

Josie on horse

This is her on horseback later in life. And below is a photo of her cabin as it appears today.

Josie cabin

Indian traders, past and present

Several people who trade with the Navajo and other Indians of the Southwest were in Grand Junction recently for an exhibit and auction at the Musuem of Western Colorado.

I got the chance to talk at length with two of them, Sheri Burham and Emerald Tanner, both fifth-generation Indian traders in the southwest, and I wrote the column linked to below.

Traders 4-8-19

Emerald Tanner
Trader Emerald Tanner of Tanner’s Indian Arts, Gallup, New Mexico

Gunfights, water battles, mine booms

Here are links to my three most recent columns, including today’s column about a shootout in Escalante Canyon in 1917 that killed two men.

Lowe and friend

Ben Lowe, the man on the left, was one of two men who shot and killed each other on that fateful day. the other was Cash Sampson, a brand inspector and for Delta County Sheriff.

Here is the link to that column: Escalante gunfight 3-25-19

Earlier, I wrote about the water battle between California and Arizona at Lake Havasu. Here is that link. Havasu water war 3-11-19

Finally, here is a link to my February 25 column on the Depression-era gold boom in Colorado. Depression gold boom

Public events

I’m off to Hotchkiss Sunday (Feb. 17) to give a presentation to the Hotchkiss Historical Society related to my book, Historic Adventures on the Colorado Plateau.


Additionally, on Sunday The Daily Sentinel is going to publish an article I wrote about the trip Judy and I and some friends recently took to Cuba.  This is a photo from that trip.

cuban car

I’ll be doing a another presentation related to Historic Adventure at noon Thursday for the Mesa County Historical Society. That one will be at the Museum of Western Colorado in downtown Grand Junction

Shavano Valley rock art

Had a great trip to Shavano Valley west of Montrose with some friends recently to view the ancient rock art there.

Because the rock art is on private land controlled by a trust, we arranged the trip through the Ute Museum in Montrose, as all visitors must. We had a great guide named Russ Barr, shown here pointing out some of the art. My history column from The Daily Sentinel is below.


Shavano 2-11-19


New Year — New Events

With 2019 now a reality (How did that happen so quickly?) I’m completing some projects and resuming work on others.

At the end of the year, I turned in my manuscript, photos and drawings for my book “The Cadottes of Lake Superior: One Family’s Journey Through the Fur-Trade Era.” It is to be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, probably some time in 2020. Now, the process begins of working with editors at the Press to clean up and make improvements to the manuscript and get it ready for publication.

In the meantime, I have a number of presentations related to my most recently published book “Historical Adventures on the Colorado Plateau,” which was published by the History Press in June 2018.

— February 11, I’ll be at Out West Books on Main Street in Grand Junction, discussing “Historical Adventures” and signing copies of it. It begins at 6 p.m.

— February 17, I’ll be making a presentation to the Hotchkiss Historical Society based on my book. The annual meeting begins in Hotchkiss at 2 p.m.

— February 21, at the Museum of Western Colorado for the Mesa County Historical Society’s monthly presentation, beginning at noon.

As I prepare for those, I’d better get back to writing my regular history columns for The Daily Sentinel. And posting them in a timely manner.