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Local History at its Best

When I learned of June Simonton’s passing, I could only wish to thank her again for the legacy she left to Eagle County history. June and her husband, Don, arrived in Vail in 1967, to build what was to become the Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church.  They were also among those building the new community of Vail on the heritage of those who were first pioneers on Gore Creek.  Their love for those pioneers and the early history of the area was evident in the research that they did, the people whose stories they recorded, and the written work they published.  In 2004, they were presented the Nimon-Walker Award for their efforts. Simonton1 Moving west of Vail, geographically, The Beaver Creek Historical Study that they undertook provided the Eagle County Historical Society with many historical photographs of the area and families that homesteaded there.  In 1980, June published Beaver Creek: the First One Hundred Years.  As she notes on p.33, “The histories of Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch are closely linked.  In some of the earlier records there is no distinction made between the two.”

Guy Cates, Doc Rodgers and Ed Rodgers loading lettuce at Bachelor Gulch. Guy Cates, Doc Rodgers and Ed Rodgers loading lettuce at Bachelor Gulch.

 

June also wrote Vail: Story of a Colorado Mountain Valley, published in 1987.  To locals, it is well-known that Vail sits in the Gore Creek Valley, a long-time home to shepherds and lettuce growers.  Now, when Vail seems to encompass the entire Eagle River Valley [witness the Eagle-Vail Airport in Gypsum], it is especially important to remember what was in Gore Creek before the return of the World War II veterans.  The families that contributed to agricultural development have left their names on street names and ski runs throughout the valleys:  Henry’s = Henry Antholz, Ruder’s Route = Leonard Ruder and family, Beano’s Trace = Frank Bienkowski.

The old Fleming sawmill on the ”potato patch” in Gore Creek. Highway 6 is visible in the background, as well as Red Sandstone Rd. The sawmill burned on August 31, 1954. The old Fleming sawmill on the ”potato patch” in Gore Creek. Highway 6 is visible in the background, as well as Red Sandstone Rd. The sawmill burned on August 31, 1954.

 

The First Pioneers: a Squaw Creek History was published in 1991 to document the Squaw Creek [and part of Bellyache Mountain] history for the Cordillera development.  Incorporating parts of Mary Fenno Thomas’ memoir, The Good Life: Growing Up On Squaw Creek, June’s obvious love for the people she met shows through: “They [the pioneers] lived on the satisfactions of building their own homes on their own land, the pleasures of family talk, first seeds sprouting in early summer, the hard work of harvest, dances at the schoolhouse, a picnic under the spruces—the gatherings of young and old over all those years to celebrate their life in a high, clean Colorado valley.” –p.32

Mounds of hay at the Fenno Ranch, Squaw Creek. Mounds of hay at the Fenno Ranch, Squaw Creek.

 

A Glossary of Vail Valley Names was compiled by June in August 1990, and revised by Don in May 1997.  This has been an invaluable reference for all those “How did that get its name?” questions that invariably arise. The Simontons have done us a tremendous service by loving the Gore Creek and Eagle River valleys and recording those pioneer histories.

The Gore Range farthest away, Battle Mountain, Gilman and U.S. Highway 24 at midground. The photo was taken by Si Ostermeier from the top of Notch Mountain. The Gore Range farthest away, Battle Mountain, Gilman and U.S. Highway 24 at midground. The photo was taken by Si Ostermeier from the top of Notch Mountain.

 

   

Comments

I love your descriptions of people and places..... what a great job you have!!!! thank you, once again.

They keep paying me...!

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