A Family Album

— Lucy Temple's bathrobe made from brightly colored ties and sewn together by a neighbor; her husband Shorty's rusted, swinging spurs once used on his dude ranch; and her son Jim's red scrapbook holding the first brochure of Storm Mountain with illustrated ski runs that were then no more than dreams

These are the artifacts that shed light on the Temple family history at the Foundations of Steamboat exhibit now showing at the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The family's more noticeable imprint on Routt County a successful working cattle and hay ranch, a dude ranch that brought guests from all over the country and the vision of what would one day become a world-class ski resort would be impossible to fit in the cozy corner room on the second floor of the museum.

But the story does. It is a story that begins in 1911 with Harry Reid Temple traveling 230 miles with five children and more than 100 head of cattle to settle in the Little Snake River Valley near the Wyoming border. His bother Charlie owned, and Harry Reid ran, the ranch just 15 miles from the Continental Divide and 52 miles from Steamboat.

The story continues with his son James B. "Shorty" Temple turning the land into an operating dude ranch in 1937, his daughter Pat owning the Clark Store and creating the Elk River Candle Co. in the 1950's and his son Jim founding the Steamboat Ski Area as he conducted ski feasibility studies, cleared trails and put in the mountain's first lifts.

The longer version of the Temple family history sits in the museum exhibit. Each year, the museum chooses a longstanding family who has had a significant and historical impact on the Yampa Valley.

Preceeded by other area families such as the Crawfords, Leckenbys and Withers, the Temple exhibit will run until May. Museum Curator Candice Lombardo said the main focus of the exhibit is on the Temple's Focus Ranch, but the role Jim Temple played in spearheading the development of the ski area is also an important part.

"Jim Temple was the person to open the ski area. And a lot of people don't know about that," Lombardo said.

The exhibit is blessed with excerpts from three family diaries and professional photographs taken of the family ranch in the 1940s.

The exhibit shifts easily through the first half of the 20th century as it takes visitors to the early years with a young Katherine Temple hanging clothes on skis to the World War II era as servicemen dance the "Snake River Hop" with pretty young girls at the Focus Ranch's Pep Hall and finally to the ski area's founding fathers clearing trails and building ski lifts on Storm Mountain, now named Mount Werner in honor of legendary skier Buddy Werner.

Lombardo said the information Pat Temple Edwards was able to pull together was instrumental in creating the exhibit, but for Edwards, gathering family history was nothing new.

"I collected it for years; any history stories any of the family had written I collected them," Edwards said.

With a lineage of female schoolteachers, the Temples had a tradition of recording their history through words, Edwards said. Her mother wrote of her days on the dude ranch and even Edwards, who taught at a nearby one-room schoolhouse, wrote about her years growing up on the dude ranch.

Although not a schoolteacher or female, Henry Lee Temple wrote the exhibit's first written history in his account of the family's arrival in Routt County in 1911 something Edwards said would have been forgotten if not for Henry Lee's diary.

The museum was also fortunate in using professional photographs taken by Denverite Ed Lane, who would trade his photos for a stay at the Focus Ranch in the mid-1940s.

Lane captured the workings and beauty of the Focus Ranch. Taken as snapshots, many of those photos were blown up to 8-by-10 pictures and captured the detail of ranch hands and guests harvesting hay and branding animals.

Lane captured a lifestyle Edwards said provided a childhood far different than most.

"It was a wonderful place to grow up. I have many, many happy memories. And it was a very different childhood," she said.

And a family that grew from early settlers to dude ranch hosts to ski area developers provides a story that is also wonderful and different than most.

Community comments

Note: The Steamboat Pilot & Today doesn’t necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy.

Post a comment (Requires free registration)

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.