This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, September 4, 1991

September 4, 1991 - Local History Notebook

It's like the old joke: I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that Douglas County has a fascinating history. Whole towns have vanished -- Acequia, for instance, once located north of Louviers, just off the railroad tracks.

Douglas County also has a history of legal drama. It happens that I'm writing this column on Labor Day. Douglas County was the site of the trials following Colorado's Ludlow Massacre -- precipitated by a mining strike in 1914 that involved the famous "Mother Jones" and eventually resulted in the murder by government troops of 11 women and several children.

People that have lived here for a while can tell many other stories. They can talk about the commercial center that once thrived west of Greenland, Colorado. They can talk about the flood that in more recent times nearly destroyed Larkspur, and the fire that did destroy the magnificent county courthouse in Castle Rock.

All this barely scratches the surface.

The bad news is that the character of Douglas County is changing so fast that much of this history is being lost. Some of the people that have lived here for scores of years are with us no more, and some of those who remain are trying to sell their land and move on. The records of the past -- everything from their living memories and treasured letters to the many volumes of county records that disappeared after the courthouse fire -- are in jeopardy.

As regions go, the traceable history of the west is still young. My ancestors arrived in America in 1680 -- but few pioneers made it as far as Colorado even as late as the 1850s. All the more reason, then, to let people know about the lives and times of the remarkable people who came before us, before every memory of their work, their thoughts and dreams, drifts like smoke into the irretrievable sky.

But there's more good news. Thanks to the extraordinary dedication of several library volunteers -- Joan Buttery and Sally Maguire, to name just two -- the Douglas Public Library District has compiled several shelves of local history notebooks, available at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. In these notebooks, you'll find:

* biographies of local people (we've got three notebooks alone consisting of photocopied clippings from the Douglas County News Press, State Historical books, obituaries, and any place else we could find them, all of which have been indexed by name -- again by volunteer help -- so you can find out in a matter of moments whether or not any of your kin are mentioned);

* town histories (we've got five notebooks about every town in the county, including several ghost towns);

* major events, the old courthouse, even library history;

* wildlife and geology;

* special events -- the Douglas County Fair, Centennial celebrations;

* Indian history (I mentioned above that the "traceable history of the west is still young," but long before people of European and African and Asian ancestry made it to Colorado, the Native Americans lived, loved, fought, and died here);

* the history of Douglas County schools, churches, Post Offices, railroads, and pioneer trails.

Last week I wrote that libraries do more than buy reference materials. We also create them. Thanks to the incomparable efforts of our volunteers, we are very pleased to offer these local history resources to anybody who finds them of interest.

I'd like to end this column with an appeal: if you're aware of anyone who has a unique insight into Douglas County history, whether because of something he or she might have stashed in an attic, or simply because of what that person might remember, please give the library a call.

Collecting stories, organizing information: that's our job. But we cannot do it without you. Ultimately, the stories we tell are the ones you live.

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