An exciting topic that never gets boring is primary sources, first-hand testimony or evidence created by witnesses or recorders, regardless of format. For our purposes here in local history, we rely on manuscript accounts of family life in Eagle County, photographs, government documents, and oral histories to document the historical record. Very happily, I used some of these primary sources to track the L. M. Larson family in their move from Douglas County, Colorado, to Peachblow, eight miles west of Basalt in Eagle County, Colorado. [When Eagle County was carved from Summit County in 1883, rail transportation routes and not geography seemed to determine the county lines. Today, this leaves part of Eagle County along the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork Rivers with the majority of Eagle County along the Eagle and Colorado Rivers.]
I knew through Larson's descendants (thanks, Erik) that Louis Magnus Larson was living in the Castle Rock area (Douglas County) from the early 1880s to the early 1990s and was known to be a quarryman. I started searching by going to the Douglas County History Research Center There, in the Douglas County Business and Government Directory, from the Castle Rock Journal, 1886-1888 (Yes, a primary source!), I found a listing for an L. M. Larson of Castle Rock who was the superintendent of Colorado Manufacturing Company’s Stone Quarries. There were citations for Larson in the Castle Rock Journal on Feb. 7, 24, and October 13, 1886.
The Italianate building was constructed in 1887 for Benjamin Hammer. One of Castle Rock’s earliest stone houses, the colorful local rhyolite stone was quarried from the Castle Rock district.
The L. M. Larson family next appears in the 1900 U.S. Census (Yes, a primary source!) listed in the Ruedi Census Precinct (near Basalt in Eagle County). We as yet do not know when the Larsons moved to Eagle County or why. So, I turned to a superb secondary source for the Basalt area, The Roaring Fork Valley: an Account of its Settlement and Development, by Len Shoemaker, 1958. On p. 149, Shoemaker notes that: “A man named Wilson opened a stone quarry to cut and sell red sandstone building blocks. … It was first known as ‘Wilson’s Quarries’; then the railroad company built a loading spur connection and called it Peachblow. A few of the workmen were L. M. Larson, Gus Anderson, Albert Downey, and Dave Hull.” Peachblow sandstone is found in Glenwood Springs in the railroad depot, the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, and in the lower floors of the Hotel Colorado. In Aspen it is in the Wheeler Opera House, Hotel Jerome, and the Pitkin County Courthouse. Peachblow sandstone was shipped as far as Chicago.
Well, we’ve found our L. M. Larson working at a quarry in Eagle County; this answers the why he was in Eagle County--employment. But when did he start and how long was he here? Since we have the Tax Assessment Rolls for Eagle County (Yes, a primary source!), I decided to start there. Beginning in 1890, I wandered through the Rolls for Peachblow School District No. 15 and Ruedi School District No. 19. I found that Albert Downey owned lots 1,2 and 3 in Peachblow and there were several sandstone companies, Peach Blow [Survey No. 5298] and Sherwin Sandstone [Survey No. 5415]. In 1896, the Sherwin Sandstone Co. became the Midland Sandstone Co. I wandered all the way to 1905, watching quarry companies change hands but never saw L. M. Larson listed. If L. M. Larson was provided housing by the quarry or was renting from Albert Downey, he might not have been a property owner and would not be in the tax rolls. Gears were shifted and I next went to the Eagle County School Census (Yes, a primary source!), beginning in 1890. Peachblow School District 15 listed Downey and Hull children until 1894 when, happily, Lilly Larson age 10 and Elmer Larson age 8 are included in the census, parent listed as L. Larson. In 1896, Carl Larson age 6 joined his siblings and in 1898, Frank Larson age 6 was included. The last listing for the Larson children was in 1900. After that, there is no mention of them.
So, we know that L. M. Larson, a quarryman, and his family lived at Peachblow from 1894 -- 1900 by listings in the School Census records and the 1900 U.S. Census and this was confirmed in secondary sources as well. One small step for genealogy; one giant leap for primary sources! Don't forget to click on the images to enlarge them.