Big Timbers Museum interview transcript by Fox 21 News

         Caroline Hedge, Assistant to the Curator (left) and Kathleen Scranton, Curator of Big Timbers Museum in Lamar, Colorado


Fox 21 News recently came to Lamar for two days and filmed broadcast segments called “We are Southeast Colorado”.  Lamar’s Big Timber’s Museum was featured in the process.  The following is a transcript of that interview by Abbie Burke of Fox 21.

Southeast Colorado is the “Heart of the Old West.” The area is rich in history and family tradition, passed on by the pioneers. But it also has a wild and checkered past, and a town that came about through a hijacking.

Pioneers thought the area was the nicest spot on the Sante Fe Trail, this side of Council Grove, Kansas, and decided to create a homestead.

‘They said, ‘Thank God there’s trees up,’” said Caroline Hedge, Assistant to the Curator at the Big Timbers Museum in Lamar. Hedge said the early settlers were called from the trail by a large grove of Cottonwood trees. “It had a whole ecosystem under those trees. There were grapes, there were plums, there were medicinal plants Indians used.”

Originally cattle country, the land changed with the introduction of irrigation in 1875. “That started all the population coming,” said Hedge. And with the availability of water, came farming.

“A rich valley for orchards, grapes, vegetables, fruit,” said Kathleen Scranton, Curator at Big Timbers Museum. “With the irrigation, we settled on alfalfa and sugar beets, mostly, for many, many years,” said Hedge.

Then in the late 1880s, the Sante Fe Railroad rolled into town.

“The town founders, they were professionals,” said Hedge. “They started towns along the railroads, okay? They wanted a town here but they wanted it around the railroad station, but Mr. Black who owned his ranch there, he didn’t want a town in the middle of his ranch.” So in true Wild West fashion, a hijacking took place. “So it’s a long convoluted story, but the railroad was in on it and they sent him a telegram and got rid of him and came at midnight with a train and jacked up that station and brought it down here and put it down,” said Hedge.

And so Lamar was born. “We have some really great stories,” said Hedge. “They just moved their railroad station to Lamar because they wanted Lamar to be the county seat,” said Scranton. “And it worked out pretty well,” said Hedge.

To the west 60 miles, another town was settled along the Sante Fe Railroad.

“This was a junction, and the railroad was a big, big deal,” said Dave Hill, Board Member for the Otero Museum.

La Junta, which is Spanish for “junction” or “meeting place,” was officially formed in 1881. “Because of the location, the railroad split and went to Trinidad and then on west to Pueblo,” said Hill.

Despite the area’s colorful past, its present-day lifestyle is quite calm.

“It’s a typical small town, small-town environment, is what it boils down to,” said Hill.

The area remains rich in family tradition. “My parents were born here. I was born here. My children were born here and I grew up on the prairie,” said Scranton.

Those who live here today understand what those pioneers saw so many years ago and invite you to experience the Old West as it was.

“Growing up on the prairie, listening to the prairie wind, having a more quiet, slow, lifestyle and there’s just nothing else like it,” said Scranton.

#    #    #


Filed Under: City of LamarFeaturedHistory


About the Author: