Mt. Harris coal mine, a few miles east of Hayden, started operations in the mid-1910s. As it wasn’t located near any existing town, the mine owners built houses for the miners and their families. These structures were stoutly built and each one was situated on a generous plot of land with room for a vegetable garden. The neat white houses, erected on 2”x 12” rough-cut pine subflooring and roofed with cedar shakes, were thickly sided with tongue-and-groove siding and usually consisted of four rooms, each with a large paned window. Through forty years of mining, the buildings withstood the harsh winters and deep snows, and when the mine closed in the 1950s, the little houses were still in serviceable condition.
About the time the mine was closing, the Yampa Valley was experiencing a growth spurt brought on in part by the return of World War II veterans who were starting their families. The need for more housing was apparent and the little mining homes 22 miles upriver provided a solution for the growing population. When the Harris Coal Company sold off all of its buildings in May of 1958, people from all over the valley flocked to the auction to bid on the houses.
Following the sale of the Mt. Harris houses there was an increased demand for house movers as the buildings were dispersed up and down the valley from Oak Creek to Craig and beyond. Grant Simonton, who had previously moved many of the old homestead houses into town, worked with his sons to get some of the houses transported to their new locations. Knowing the demand for new housing in the area, Bill Nelson, a mover in Craig, actually purchased a number of the houses himself, and brought them to lots in Craig to be sold later.
The growing population also put pressure on the old church buildings in Craig as congregations grew. When the Congregational Church completed its new church building in 1959, the old structure was moved to Green Street and “repurposed” as St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. About that same time the church’s old parsonage was moved to 865 Russell St. to be used for a private residence.
It is hard to identify the old Mt. Harris and homestead houses that are still standing in Craig today. Through years of extensive remodels and additions, most of the original structures are lost from view, but still provide a solid foundation for many family homes. The Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig is trying to identify as many of these “repurposed” houses as possible. If you own a Mt. Harris home, or an old homestead home, the museum staff would love to hear its tale. You can contact the museum at 970-824-6360 during business hours Monday through Saturday, or visit the museum online at www.museumnwco.org. Share “your story” so it can become a documented part of “our story” and a part of history!