Museum of Northwest Colorado: Impacting our community
The character of a community grows and develops as it is impacted by residents who in turn reflect the overall temperament of a town. One early citizen of Craig, Russell Coles, demonstrated how one person’s strength of character can be a decisive influence and give direction to the course of an area’s history.
Coles was born in 1894, and was greatly influenced by his grandmother whose strong sense of integrity reverberated in his attitudes and beliefs throughout his life. Coles’s father, an attorney, bought land in the Thornburgh area in 1908, and the family spent their summers there, returning to Grand Junction for the school year. Very early, Russell determined that the family land on Yellow Jacket Pass would be his home when he grew up. After attending Denver University and serving in World War I, he settled on the ranch before marrying Catherine Craig, of Williams Fork, in 1922.
Coles and Craig ranched in the Axial basin where they raised their five children until 1937, when Coles began his service to Moffat County in the office of the Moffat County Treasurer. With his strong sense of ethics and integrity, Coles was a good fit for the county, and when he was appointed county treasurer in 1940, it began a long career that lasted until his retirement in 1967. His constituents recognized his honesty and dedication and re-elected him repeatedly to the position.
After World War II, Coles became involved in the group that was working to have a hospital in Craig, and he was chosen to become the first treasurer for The Memorial Hospital. That facility opened in 1950, and still serves the community today. Coles died at age 79 in 1973 and had been lovingly cared for in the hospital for which he had worked so hard to become a reality.
When Coles started work in the courthouse, his children eagerly took to town life after growing up on the remote ranch. They soon became active socially and in school activities. David, the youngest of the five children, returned to Craig after completing his college work and, for several years, he and his wife, Patricia, were well-loved teachers in the Moffat County School District.
The result of the Coles’s integrity and hard work impacted our community for many years. Their high standards of giving their best are woven into the fabric of our history and can challenge and encourage us today to be the best we can in whatever we are called to do. The Coles’s dedication and belief in our town is mirrored in the lives of Moffat County residents today. The Museum of Northwest Colorado is grateful to all those who have generously shared their family stories and photos that document those who helped shape our region in small and large ways. These stories and images help show the paths that have led us to where we are today: A small rural town with a lot to offer in terms of quality of life and outdoor beauty.
Be sure to include the museum on your “to-do” list when you have out-of-town visitors this summer! The museum, located at 590 Yampa Ave. in Craig, is open Monday through Saturday with free admission.
Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar for the Museum of Northwest Colorado.