Sagebrush, coyotes and stagecoaches

Celebrating the choral club that brought Christmas joy to Craig


Twenty-two people came together in 1910 to entertain the public in Craig with music seldom heard outside of the larger cities in the West.

The Craig Choral Club consisted of local citizens, ranging from high school students to elder statesmen, who performed from Thanksgiving until Christmas.

Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, recently completed the difficult task of identifying most of the people in the photograph above. His research also revealed other facts about the people in the historical picture.

The Congregational Church was the site of most choral club performances. In 1910, the bank was located where the current Bank of the West sits on East Victory Way. The church building was moved and is now the Episcopal Church on Green Street.

Lewis Hellebust, a homesteader in Routt County (which would splinter into Routt and Moffat Counties in 1911,) took the above photograph of the club in the church.

The gaslight seen at the top of the picture would be replaced by electric lights in 1915, when electric power came to Craig.

Chuck Stoddard, former owner of the Craig Empire-Courier newspaper, donated the photograph to the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

The club was organized and directed by William Mason, a teacher and assistant principal at the Craig School in a time when students of all ages were taught in one building. In 1912, Mason left Craig to become a school principal in Oak Creek.

The name of the first man in the back row, from left, has been lost during the years, but the second man is well-known.

J.W. Weber was known as "the professor" after attending the University of Colorado and moving to Craig to teach. He was head of the Craig School from 1907 to 1912, and his impact on the Craig school system is still felt today.

As school principal, it has been said that Weber was responsible for keeping ranching children in school and encouraging them to attend college at a time when most boys found employment by age 14. He spent four years at Craig School, and died of blood poisoning in 1921.

The third man from left in the back row is Ralph White, a high school student at the time who would spend his life as the district court clerk for Moffat County. He is the father of Freddie Blevins; the Blevins family is well-known in the Yampa Valley today.

The fourth man in the back row is Ralph Tucker, son of the man who laid out the town-site of Craig and whom Tucker Street is named after.

Ralph died in the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918.

The fifth man in the back row is Walter Spencer, editor and owner of the Routt County Courier. He was also Craig's postmaster and was heavily involved in the community.

"If there was a public event to better the community, he was in it," said Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

The sixth man is unidentified, but the seventh man is Bill White, Ralph White's brother known for his sports involvement in Craig. Bill was murdered in Denver in 1934 while visiting Fitzsimmons Hospital for a sinus problem.

The last man in the back row is Ted McCandless, known for his veterinarian work and involvement in publishing.

In the late 1920's he was co-owner of the Empire Courier with Chuck Stoddard, where he would spend 40 years bringing the news to Craig.

He is best known for his "Shot of Scotch" column in that newspaper.

His son Neil McCandless lives in Craig today, as does his daughter Jean Tucker.

Faye Tuttle-Allen is the first woman in the middle row. She is the youngest in the photo, at 14 or 15-years-old.

Next to her is Carrie Hamilton-Cliff, the daughter of Thomas Hamilton, founder of the town 14 miles south of Craig.

Third in the second row is Ione Haughey, daughter in the prominent Haughey family of Craig that homesteaded in the valley in the 1880s east of town.

The fourth woman in the middle row is unidentified, but next to her is Willa Bean, whose mother came to Craig as a widow. Willa was a cousin to Faye Allen, and would die two years after the photograph was taken at the age of 20 while visiting family in Nebraska.

Her obituary called her an accomplished musician, vocalist and an only child.

The sixth woman in the middle row is Rossie Forkner-Homer, whose ranch home was located at the present Mack Lane and Victory Way in Craig. Her father was involved in many town events.

The last woman in the middle row is thought to be Effie Bean, mother of Willa Bean. She opened a millinery shop in Craig and built the building that housed Brinkley's Hardware until it burned in the late 1940's. She married Lewis Yost in 1913.

First in the front row is Lily Haughey, wife of Grant Haughey, Routt County Clerk.

Upon his death, Lily took over and became the first elected Moffat County Clerk and Recorder in 1912.

At one time, the courthouse in Moffat County was known as the Haughey House because of the number of family members working there. Her daughter is Ione Haughey-Anderson, also in the photograph.

Second in the front row is Edith Howard, whose husband Pete ran the mercantile store in Craig. Her maiden name was Overholt, and she is the daughter of a county commissioner for Routt and Moffat counties. Their houses are still in Craig in the Rosedale area.

Third in the front row is Effie Seymour, wife of Art Seymour who managed the Hugus store, Craig's primary mercantile store.

The fourth and fifth women in the photograph are unidentified.

The sixth woman, front row is Mamie Weyand Pughe, county superintendent of schools and wife of George Pughe, a Craig attorney. Mamie died in the 1920's shortly after childbirth.

The final woman in the front row is Julia Welch, sister of the White brothers and married to George Welch, Craig's barber and a photographer for 50 years in town.

Newspaper articles in the Routt County Courier from September to December of 1910 tell of the club practicing Saturday evenings at the Congregational Church.

Officers were elected and a committee decided who could be in the club.

Many of the members were high school students, graduating from Craig School in 1911 to 1913.

The program titled, "Under the Palms," was presented in Craig and Hayden and likely other towns in the area. It included songs by Verdi, Handel and Cowen.

In an article for the Empire-Courier, Walter Spencer wrote that

Craig was fortunate to have men as qualified as Weber and Mason present a show in an area known mostly for sagebrush, coyotes and stagecoaches.

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