Revealing history and keeping it alive – Historic Douglas County
By Lynne Marsala Basche
Imagine triggering the 1858 Colorado Gold Rush by finding gold flecks in Cherry Creek and the Platte River. Think about trekking up to the Devil’s Head summit in the late 1800s to what would become one of only four fire lookout stations along the Front Range. Picture the few telephone operators early in the morning of August 3, 1933, frantically trying to notify as many people as possible that the Castlewood Canyon Dam broke, releasing an estimated 1.7 billion gallons of water that was heading from Franktown to Denver. These are just a few of the events that helped shape the rich history of Douglas County and a culture that Historic Douglas County (HDC) hopes to preserve.
HDC became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2009 with a mission to expand and enrich public awareness of Douglas County history through education. The organization supports every historical group in Douglas County and beyond. The five-member, volunteer board operates more like a business and uses raised money to pass through and support local historical organizations.
Many Douglas County residents have moved to the area, and the only focus on learning Colorado history is in elementary school. With such a vibrant history, founding HDC members Jim Weglarz, Mary O’Pry and Larry Schlupp knew that it was unlikely people would learn about the ruts in the Cherokee Trail or the Sears, Roebuck & Co. homes still dotting the area without being exposed to the past.
Weglarz and Schlupp are filled with engaging stories to share like the Crull Hammond cabin, which was built in the 1870s and was the first territorial post office and stage stop for travelers. In the early 2000s, while renovating their house and not knowing the home’s history, residents discovered a log cabin underneath their existing home. The year 1874 was found etched on one of the logs. The property is now preserved by Douglas County and enjoyed by the public as an example of early life on the frontier.
HDC’s body of educational resources is robust and available to the public. Resources are available by way of programs, the enactment of characters/events from Douglas County’s past (available to schools), and books. Information about resources, programs and much more is provided at www.historicdouglascounty.org.
HDC’s operating funds come from sponsorships by area businesses, donations and fundraising activities, including the sale of books and memorabilia of Douglas County and surrounding geographic areas. As part of this effort, HDC is sharing Douglas County’s history in a five-year calendar project with each year from 2016 through 2020, addressing a specific era of history.
Be sure to stop by HDC’s booth at local events, such as the Douglas County Fair, the Schweiger Ranch Festival, and Castle Rock Starlighting. Become enthralled with Douglas County’s history!
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