Museum of Northwest Colorado: Remembering Youghal
January 30, 2015
Traveling out the Yampa Bench road, which takes off to the north near Elk Springs, can be a challenging drive even on dry days. With a four-wheel drive high clearance vehicle, the trip can be made in relative safety and comfort — if one can ignore the jostling over ruts and potholes. The views from that road vary from rolling grasslands dotted with juniper and pinion trees to craggy rock canyons and sheer drop-offs to the Yampa River below. It is a spectacular drive that highlights one of the most scenic areas in our wildly beautiful Moffat County.
While traveling out in that remote region it is easy to imagine the early homesteaders and how their dreams for a Western home of their own seemed so obtainable in that sage-covered land. The reality of those dreams turned out so differently in the end, but that same stark reality certainly must have afforded those hardy souls a variety of experiences and thrills, and a sense of satisfaction despite the daily challenges.
The impact of those homesteading days also left a lasting impression on the children who grew up there, imprinting the very lifeblood of that land into their spirits. When it came time to leave the struggling lifestyle behind, many of those pioneer children carried the memories with them, never to be forgotten.
Several descendants of former homesteaders of the Youghal area felt the need to mark the lands that had formerly sheltered their families. Even as the abandoned log homes crumbled into the clay and sand, and the fence lines became lost in the tangle of sagebrush, an ambitious project sprang up in the minds of those grown children, and in 1987, the Bear Valley Homestead Sign project was born.
Jean Mock White's love of her pioneer past left her longing to leave a permanent record on the sites of some of the old homesteads, schools and town sites, ensuring that this precious history would not sink into the past. She and her siblings, Amelda, Lita and Floyd (now all deceased) prevailed upon Jean's children, Eldon White and Norma White Darnell to help them with the signage. Eldon and Norma worked to have signs created and installed marking various historical sites throughout that region. They continue today to fund and maintain the signs posted.
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The lonely sentinels stand along the road to remind the rare passerby of the struggles and dreams of those pioneers who braved the harsh land and weather to build their homes. The Great Depression, and the dry years that accompanied it, brought an end to those endeavors. Memories of those hopes live on in the signs along the rutted dirt roads, a reminder of the past.