From the Museum Archives: Pioneer women behind the lens |

From the Museum Archives: Pioneer women behind the lens

Paul Knowles/Museum of Northwest Colorado

There’s no denying that day-to-day photos from the early 1900s are heavily weighted towards men. So a trove of photos taken by women and mostly of women deserves an exhibit!

Sisters Myrtle and Maude Bryan grew up in and around Craig, Colorado during the late 1800s and early 1900s. While still in their teens they decided to record their experiences through the use of photography. Their images help capture not only the spirit and friendship of a budding community, but also offer a rare, candid glimpse of early pioneer life through the eyes of young women.

Myrtle Bryan was born in 1883 in Silvercliff, and Maude was born in 1885 in Sunbeam in today’s Moffat County. They were the daughters of Robert and Lucy. Robert, a freighter between Rawlins, Wyoming and Meeker was the sixth mayor of Craig.

Myrtle became a career girl and first worked for the J. W. Hugus Mercantile store located in downtown Craig. It is believed that here she purchased the camera with which she and her sister took their photos. In an article from the Craig Empire in 1944, Myrtle recalled that “she had a lot of fun while working there, making use of the dark room that Art Seymour and his nephew (Clyde) fixed up in the basement of the store.“ Myrtle married Carl Van Dorn in 1909 and had 4 children. She passed away in Craig in 1976.

Maude was heavily involved in the Craig community her entire life. With her beautiful voice she sang for many weddings, funerals, and other events. She married George Wilson in 1906 and had 5 children. She passed away in Craig in 1973.

We invite you to enjoy this amazing collection of 30 photos now on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado in Downtown Craig!

Paul Knowles is assistant director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. To learn more, drop by the Museum of Northwest Colorado at 590 Yampa Ave., or visit the museum’s Facebook page,

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