Chuck Mack: Tales of early days, part two
When I first found this article in the June 4, 1913, Steamboat Pilot, I thought how wonderful it was that I happened to find it in 2008, the year of Craig’s 100th birthday.
After reading the article, I left it word for word the way it was in the Steamboat Pilot, and then I sent a copy to Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
Dan had the same thoughts as I; he thought it was about the most descriptive article on early Craig as any he had read.
I was concerned about the dates. Dan said, “They are within a year or so of the actual dates and close enough for an article of this type.” So, everything in this article is just as it appeared the way it was written for the Pilot in 1913.
Here is part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 appeared in the Feb. 2 Daily Press:
There was much to do, and Messrs. Teagarden and Tucker could hardly wait for the following spring to again visit the locality. They made the trip in April 1889, through snow and mud, it was not very inviting at that time of year, but after making an investigation of the land and an examination of the surrounding resources and conditions, they agreed that was by all odds the best location for a townsite they had ever seen, and accordingly they secured options on 300 acres of land now constituting the town of Craig.
They went to Denver with their story of the wonderful country on Bear River and interested Rev. Bayard Craig, Jerry N. Hill, A. C. Craig and F.D. Russell. These men formed the Craig Land and Mercantile Company, with sufficient capital to lay out the townsite, and also to embark in the mercantile business and to build a hotel. The name of Craig was selected for the new town in honor of Rev. Bayard Craig.
The land was purchased from W. C. Barkley, A.M. Ranney and W. H. Rose in July 1889, the first building was erected and for a number of years was used as a store and post office. It is the building on the corner now known as the Kittell saloon.
At that time, the nearest sawmill was on Snake River, and as a consequence lumber was very expensive, for it had to be transported by teams over a long and rough road. During that summer, however, E. C. Freeman started a sawmill on Black Mountain, and the following year Archie McLaughlin started his mill and has since furnished the lumber of which Craig is built. He is the pioneer sawmill man of this section and is still in the business.
There was not much building in Craig until 1890, when the Royal Hotel, the Coleman livery barn and a number of residences and minor business buildings were erected. In 1891, J. W. Hugus & Co. started into business and have continued there since. The same year, W. H. Tucker, W. H. Rose, C. A. Seymour and J. M. Darnell built residences.
In 1893, the first kiln brick was burned, and a number of residences and one business block were built. These were the first brick buildings in this part of the state.
In those earlier days, conditions were not as they are now, with a daily mail and immediate prospects of a railroad. Mail came two or three times a week in a buckboard when possible, otherwise on horseback by way of Lay. It took about two weeks to get a reply to a letter from Denver. For years, the nearest doctor was 40 miles distance. In those days, game was so plentiful that a few hours’ hunt invariably would result in bringing down a deer, elk or antelope. There were no meat markets, for each resident depended upon his rifle to provide meat all the year. As late as the fall of 1893 a band of elk came to the outskirts of Craig and scores of them were butchered ere they got many miles away. The meat was not wasted. It provided substance for the families who called that section home. And bands of hundreds and even thousands of elk were frequently seen within a few miles.
In its early history, Craig had many misfortunes from fire. In 1896, a severe fire occurred, wiping out a row of business houses, among which was the public hall. At no time in the history of the town was the public spirit of her citizens more clearly indicated than at the time of this catastrophe. Scarcely had the fire died out than funds had been raised to erect on the site of the old hall a larger and much better building, constructed of brick. Twice the church has been destroyed by fire but was immediately rebuilt.
The people of Craig and most of the old-timers mentioned in this article are still there and are made of the right kind of stuff. They have built a substantial, progressive community, and it is a matter for gratification that before the end of the year the railroad will reach there and the faith and works of the residents through many years will be rewarded.
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