While attending the 1949 Moffat County Fair, Craig photographer Shorty Newell saw an opportunity to document the six pioneer women pictured to the right and their combined 387 years of life in the valley. Newell submitted the photo to The Denver Post, where it appeared in September of that year. It seems that Western Slope information was valued by the Front Range in those years, as a number of photographs and news briefs appeared on a regular basis in the Denver newspapers.
Mary Ann Borghi Johnson, far left, was born in 1881 in Silver Plume and moved to Elk River when she as just a few months old. She lived her entire life in the valley and died in Craig just three years after this photograph was taken. Hortense Fitzpatrick, second from left, was born in Georgetown in 1879 and moved to Lay with her parents and their large family when she was 7 years old. Hortense never married and died in 1959 in Craig.
Elizabeth Robinson Flanagan, third from left, was born in Florence in 1882, and moved with her family to Craig when she was a small child. She married William Flanagan in 1906, and they moved just northeast of Craig and farmed on Dry Fork for many years.
Myrtle Bryan Van Dorn, in the light-colored dress, was born in Silvercliff in 1883 and moved with her parents to Craig when she was two years old. She married Carl Van Dorn in 1909, and they homesteaded just north of town at the base of the Sandrocks on present day East 10th Street. There, they raised their family, which now has its fifth generation living here.
Ossa Haughey Cooper, second from right, and her sister, Maude Haughey Hess, far right, were both born in Iowa and moved as young children to Leadville in 1884. Their parents moved to Craig in 1886 and homesteaded on land below Craig’s cemetery.
Their father, a miner, left shortly thereafter for the silver mines in Utah, thereafter, and didn’t return before his death in 1910. The girls were popular in the frontier town, with Maude chosen as the local beauty to represent the valley at the Denver Mountain Plains Festival in 1897. Ossa married Byron Cooper in 1902 and they had two children before his sudden death in 1906. Ossa died in Craig in 1975. Maude married William Hess in 1914, and they ranched for many years west of Craig. She died in 1965.
These pioneer ladies contributed much to the fledgling community throughout their long years of life. It is important to remember, however, that no matter the length of years a person might spend living in Craig, the town’s history will be impacted by that person’s contributions to the community whether it is through work, volunteering or just daily interactions with others. Our local history is as varied as the people who live here; our history is right now, and it is not just “history” it is your story.