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21 August 2010: Judy Buffington Sammons tells ghost stories

The original 1881 Fairview Schoolhouse now stands on the old Easterly place

On August 21st, after a delicious buffet of potluck dishes, local historian Judy Buffington Sammons gave a talk about the subjects of two of her recent books. The first, By an Act of Congress, is a biography of Lewis Easterly, an early Gunnison settler, one of the founders of the Fairview School, and a member of the school board for fifty years. After the newer school (the present schoolhouse) was built, Easterly removed the old school to his ranch down the road on runners, where it can still be seen on the side of Ohio Creek Road.

Lewis Easterly in Union uniform, 1929. He was in his late 70s at the time

The title refers to the fact that Lewis Easterly was one of the youngest people who served in the Civil War. He signed up at age 8 and was a fife-and-drum boy, seeing grisly sights at a young age. As a grown man, when he tried to collect his Civil War pension, he found the records of his service had been lost, and it took an act of Congress to restore his right to a pension. In later life, Lewis gave talks on the Civil War to local groups dressed in a Union uniform. He was quite a character and not the easiest husband and father, apparently; there were times when his wife made him go live in the schoolhouse! After his death, his children ended up selling the ranch to the Buffington family and Judy grew up in the old Easterly house. She and Bob Easterly, Lewis’s great-grandson, wrote the book together, using family history and records.

Judy’s second book, Riding, Roping, and Roses, is about women ranchers in Colorado. Judy chose to write about the rare women who made a go of ranching on their own, without a husband by their sides. One of them was Vevarelle Outcalt Esty of Gunnison, whose husband suffered from his First World War injuries and died in 1947, leaving her alone to manage¬†Esty Ranch, a job considered unsuitable for a woman at the time. From 1947 till 1994, Vevarelle managed Esty Ranch herself, putting it on a firm footing as one of the most prominent in the region.

Judy told fascinating stories of some of the other women in the book. Eccentric Marie Scott of Ridgway collected land the way other women might collect jewelry, including parts of what are now Ralph Lauren’s spectacular Double RL ranch and the Great American Ranch not far from Telluride. ¬†Judy also told of meeting independent cowgirl Barbara East of Boulder, Tubemate Free Download who herds cattle alone in the most difficult conditions. But Judy really got the crowd’s attention when she started telling stories of her own childhood as a rancher’s daughter in the Ohio Creek Valley, and especially when she mentioned that we may have a ghost down the road!

Marie Scott's vast ranch holdings included what is now Ralph Lauren's Double RL Ranch in Ridgway, Colorado

In Schooldays

Haverhill, Massachusetts, where Whittier grew up

Still sits the school-house by the road,
a ragged beggar sleeping;
around it still the sumacs grow,
and blackberry-vines are creeping.

Within, the master’s desk is seen,
deep-scarred by raps official;
the warping floor, the battered seats,
the jack-knife’s carved initial;

the charcoal frescoes on its wall;
its door’s worn sill, betraying
the feet that, creeping slow to school,
went storming out to playing!

Long years ago a winter sun
shone over it at setting;
lit up its western window-panes,
and low eaves’ icy fretting.

It touched the tangled golden curls,
and brown eyes full of grieving,
of one who still her steps delayed
when all the school were leaving.

For near it stood the little boy
her childish favor singled;
his cap pulled low upon a face
where pride and shame were mingled.

Pushing with restless feet the snow
to right and left, he lingered;—
as restlessly her tiny hands
the blue-checked apron fingered.

He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
the soft hand’s light caressing,
and heard the tremble of her voice,
as if a fault confessing.

“I’m sorry that I spelt the word:
I hate to go above you,
because,”—the brown eyes lower fell,—
“because, you see, I love you!”

Still memory to a gray-haired man
that sweet child-face is showing.
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave
have forty years been growing!

He lives to learn, in life’s hard school,
how few who pass above him
lament their triumph and his loss,
like her, because they love him.

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

Color photos from 1939-1943


These were published by the Denver Post, but they’re from the Library of Congress. The Library has many archival photo collections that have been put online on a section of their website called American Memory.

These boys were in a small schoolhouse in Texas. They should call up memories for a lot of Gunnison people too.

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Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.