Moffat County resident Marvin Moore is pretty sure he's discovered the real site of Fort Davey Crockett, but now the local historian has scored the money to see if the theory rings true.
A low-lying area in Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge is already considered the spot of the 1837 frontier trading post. Though the site is not labeled as such for fear of looters, another area higher up on a ridge at the Park is a more likely location of the historical post, Moore says.
With the help of officials from Moffat County's Natural Resource Department, Moore gained approval for a $10,000 grant to check the validity of his 30-plus years of research on the subject. A leading professor and students from the anthropology department at Fort Lewis College in Durango will excavate the site in the spring and put the matter to rest with their findings.
"I really feel that is the site," Moore said excitedly. "This (dig) is just a follow-up of that."
Davey Crockett was born in Tennessee and lived from 1786 to 1836. He died fighting at the historic Alamo, a symbol of Texas independence. But the longtime U.S. congressman was more commonly known for his contribution to the fur trade industry.
The fort that bore Crockett's name was part of a regional and national web of fur trading that spanned from the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to Oregon. Prior to Colorado's statehood in 1837, Fort Davey Crockett was a
part of Mexico and it was a cultural center near the Oregon Trail, Moore said.
Like scores of other Moffat County residents Moore descended from grandparents who homesteaded in the far reaches of Northwest Colorado.
But his journey to uncover the real site of the county's first commercial structure has been an engaging hobby. Starting on his quest in 1973, Moore has logged thousands of hours and even more dollars into his quest researching historical records, poring over infrared aerial photography of the area and locating evidence on the ground. In 1998 he issued a limited magnetometer survey finding evidence that further supported his claim. A magnetometer is an instrument that measures the magnitude and direction of a magnetic field, thought to be helpful in locating underground materials.
"There are lots of good reasons why I think this is the site, " Moore said. "One is that the (real) site is on a bench with good visibility."
Moore cannot publicly disclose where he believes the bona fide site is until after the excavation, mainly for legal reasons. According to his research, historical accounts of trading posts show a "hollow square" or a plaza that may have been surrounded by wooden posts. Ground composition on the current site doesn't reflect that geography.
It's unclear what will happen if the site's historical nature is revealed. It may result in a monument and a public viewing area but those decisions lie with a variety of agencies including The Colorado Historical Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Lewis College and the county.
Recognizing the fort could be a boon for Moffat County, said Jeff Comstock the county's director of natural resources.
"It meets the mission of the county's land-use plan to recognize cultural and archeological sites," he said. "This is something significant to promote and it's not costing us anything."
The approved funds also bring to rest three decades of probing for Moore.
"It's out of my hands now," he said.
"Most of the work has been research," Moore added. "I think I've visited every library in Colorado. It would be really cool for people to know where that site is."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.