Historical society may get restarted

The Yampa of 1909 was very busy.

There were three big hotels, nine saloons, two banks, three real estate offices, a hospital, two drug stores, an opera house, a bowling alley, four general stores, two churches, a creamery and a butcher shop, all in the middle of town.

The area was surrounded by successful ranching and farming operations, with about a dozen saw mills churning constantly to fan the lumber industry.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, the area was a hotspot for growing lettuce and spinach.

"It was an incredibly vibrant area," said Wendy Moreau, director of the Yampa Egeria Museum in downtown Yampa.

To Moreau, all of that activity means two things: The area is rich in history, and that history needs to be recorded, classified and displayed.

Moreau is working to restart the Yampa Historical Society, which would involve volunteers from the entire Egeria area, spanning from just south of Phippsburg to State Bridge, in efforts to find area residents who can help preserve that history.

The first meeting of the new historical society will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Moreau's downtown Yampa home.

The beginnings of the Yampa Historical Society are almost as rich as the town's history.

There was a women's club that started in the 1920s, in which women would give luncheons and take turns giving talks. Often, Moreau said, the topics covered pioneer life in the Egeria region.

The club got a building, which previously was a bank, and displayed pioneer items.

During the past forty years, there have been various historical societies, but most only stay active for a year or so, Moreau said.

"People had to have jobs, and more and more, as businesses left this community, people had to commute, and it just becomes very difficult to support anything that's not necessary," she said.

Now, she said, she wants the society to have another shot.

"I just know that we're going to make it go," she said. "I guarantee by the end of this year, we'll have a real active (group) here."

Moreau said she is not sure how many people will show up for the first meeting but plans that the group will grow.

Moreau has experience with starting historical programs. She began the Yampa Egeria Museum, which is owned by the town, a year and a half ago. The building originally was constructed in 1903 and already had various collections that Moreau could use.

Now, the museum's collections include one of more than 200 hats and another of old tools, which are "what really won the West," Moreau said.

With help from a historical society, preservation efforts could grow, she said.

The society's first priority will be to interview residents who are the town's "beloved old-timers" who have a wealth of memories.

"Every time we lose someone, an incredible portion of our history they remember is gone forever," Moreau said. "I just feel a real sense of urgency trying to record what we have left to record."

The resulting collection of stories and memories would form an oral history for the area, which would be listened to and read by future residents.

The next priority, Moreau said, would be to complete a digital inventory of old buildings, including homesteads, still-standing saw mills and others. The inventory could include before and after photos of the old buildings and a series of maps.

The museum's collections that Moreau has not inventoried herself need to be inventoried and recorded, as well.

The society could organize and run various fund-raisers, such as the traditional community dinner on the Fourth of July and new events such as a ladies tea, Moreau said.

Volunteers also would have a role in running the museum, which Moreau now does herself.

To Moreau, the most exciting result of re-opening the museum, and now getting the historical society going again, would be that community children will have the chance to learn about the area's history and get involved.

For instance, a goal for the museum has always been to provide a reading room where children can do research for schoolwork, or residents can look up genealogical information.

With more volunteers and a revitalized historical society, it's more likely that the history that is central to the area's beginnings will not be lost or forgotten, but will be saved, Moreau said.

Just as many area residents have contributed through donations of items, time and money to get the museum started, Moreau hopes that residents also will contribute to the historical society, which in turn will keep the area's history alive and accessible.

"History doesn't belong in a dusty old warehouse where it's put away and brought out on special occasions," Moreau said. "It should be right there in your face all the time.

"It's exciting. And people need to appreciate how we got here."

If you are interested in the Yampa Historical Society, call Wendy Moreau at 638-4676, or come to the group's first meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 184 Lincoln St.

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