South Routt author publishes first volume on historical accounts of Egeria Park
YAMPA — Wanting to preserve stories from her family’s past 140 years of living and working in South Routt, Rita Herold recently published her first volume — titled “Yampa Valley’s Lost Egeria Park.“
Shedding light on the region’s rich history of homesteaders, Utes, other native inhabitants, saw mills, lettuce growing operations, cattlemen, sheep ranchers and development ushered in by the arrival of the railroad, Herold has been collecting stories over her entire life.
In addition to the verbal histories from her own relatives, Herold gathered accounts from other families and found memoirs and unpublished manuscripts written by other pioneers who settled in the valley.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in education from Utah State University, Herold taught kindergarten through 12th grade in Routt County, as well as history for Colorado Northwestern Community College and Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. She has given numerous presentations at local museums and served as a board member and volunteer in the CattleWomen’s Association, Routt County Preservation Board and the Yampa-Egeria Historical Society.
One very interesting part of her research, Herold said, was coming across numerous people who laid claim to naming the area “Egeria.”
While the boundaries are also disputed, the area once known as Egeria Park spans from around Toponas to Phippsburg or Stagecoach.
“The name Egeria comes from Roman mythology,” Herold wrote. “Egeria was the goddess of wells and springs and was reputed to be both beautiful and wise. However, which person first called this lush mountain valley ‘Egeria’ is disputed.”
One was an Irish explorer and hunter. Other accounts attribute the naming to Captain E.L. Berthoud, and former governors Routt and Gilpin.
Raised on a ranch outside of Yampa, Herold grew up hearing stories passed down from her great-grandfather and great uncles, who arrived in the area in the 1880s.
Her father lived until he was a month shy of 101 years. He was a great storyteller and resource for her book, Herold said.
Herold, the fifth generation, continues to operate her family’s cattle ranch with her husband.
She describes the book as an “eclectic collection.” When she brought it to the publisher, they told her she had two books. The second is nearly complete and due out in the fall. It doesn’t yet have a title but focuses on the “outlaws and bad guys” and other travelers who passed through, as well as rodeos and other gatherings and celebrations.
The first book describes the battles between cattle and sheep ranchers — a war in which the government ultimately stepped in to dictate who could graze where. Herold’s family raised both cattle and sheep.
It covers Yampa’s building boom in the early 1900s in anticipation of the railroad.
Herold examines the rise and fall of a number of industries — timber, lettuce, grain and wheat — and the entrepreneurial spirit that contributed to the booms, busts and industrial evolution of the area.
The book covers the establishment of schools, post offices, businesses and other community buildings and many of the cowboys and colorful characters who called Egeria Park home.
She writes about famous visitors, like author Zane Grey, who set and wrote his book, “The Mysterious Rider,” in Yampa. She writes about Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting trip traveling over the Flat Tops to Meeker.
Herold’s own happiest memories revolve around a childhood spent outdoors helping on the ranch. And that remains her happiest place today — the same lifestyle in the same place.
“Both Carl and I are ranchers,” Herold said of her husband. “We enjoy the ranch life. We are never going to get rich, but we enjoy the lifestyle. It’s a good place to raise kids and good place for the grandkids.”
She said she hopes the book brings new stories to other families with Egeria Park roots, in addition to preserving those of her own.
Another goal of the book is to illuminate life of a different era, in which people faced hardship and adversity, but “those people also enjoyed themselves and had a good time,” Herold said.
The entire Northwest Colorado region was close knit, she said. People rode long distances, but they knew people living in remote locations far and wide. From Browns Park to Burns Hole, “either you knew the people or you knew of them,” she said.
Herold’s first book event is an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the restored Crossan’s M & A Market in Yampa — one of the buildings that remains an integral part of the town’s Western heritage.
She will also have a short reading and book signing at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, at Off The Beaten Path in Steamboat Springs.
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