Museum to take over care of historic ovens

Thinking that their group soon may soon disband, Pre-serving the Last Frontier has turned care of the coke ovens in Greystone over to the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

Preserving the Last Frontier is a group of Moffat County residents dedicated to visiting historical sites and preserving areas of historic significance.

"Our group may soon be defunct. I'm the youngest and I'm pushing 80," Last Frontier President Vic Beckett said at Tuesday's Moffat County commissioners meeting.

The group received the deed to the coke ovens and their five-acre plot from the Mines brothers of Kansas; they owned the land on which the ovens sit. After obtaining the deed, they had the ovens listed in the National Registry of Historic Site.

The coke ovens were built in 1897 by miners who excavated copper from nearby Douglas Mountain. Essentially, the coke ovens are kilns the miners used to burn timber into charcoal, which they in turn used to heat a copper smelter.

The smelter was near the ovens, but it hardly can be seen anymore except for a mound of molten rock that solidified where it once was.

Museum Director Dan David-son said the ovens are likely the best-preserved in the state. He described them as a "unique part of mining history."

Last Frontiers built a fence around the ovens -- and the county -- to keep cattle out of the area and previously installed a cattle guard on the dead-end road that leads to the ovens.

Taking over the ovens should-n't cost the county anything, Beckett said.

"It's been there 100 years. Just leave it as it is," he said.

The commissioners briefly mentioned building a cedar roof over the ovens to minimize erosion. They thought that the project could be funded by a historic preservation grant.

"I think this is something we need to preserve," Commissioner Darryl Steele said.

Aside from their work with the ovens, members of Last Frontier contribute to museums in Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs.

Preserving the Last Frontier was founded by Val Fitzpatrick more than 18 years ago.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craig-dailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.