Digitized newspapers yield history and a lost ear

  • Primus

The Gunnison Historic Newspaper Digitization Team, consisting of members from Western Colorado University, Gunnison Public Library, and the Gunnison Historic Preservation Commission, is happy to announce the completion of the first phase of its goal to digitize early Gunnison city newspapers.

During this phase, one representative newspaper from 1880 through 1902 was digitized, totaling 11,486 newspaper pages.

Numerous donations made the work possible. Support came from the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection, Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, the Gunnison Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Gunnison County Historic Preservation Commission, the U.S. Forest Service’s heritage program, and the Western Colorado University Leslie J. Savage Library.

The group hopes to raise additional money next year to continue digitizing newspapers through 1924.

The digitized newspapers are available free to the public at the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection (CHNC) website: https://www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org/.

The collection is easy to use, allowing filtering by county, date, or newspaper title. The best feature is the ability to search for any word or phrase, allowing researchers to find articles on any topic. People researching family genealogy can easily search a family name. Librarians at Gunnison Public Library or Western’s Savage Library are glad to offer assistance.

As an example of how powerful this can be, allow me to relate a personal story. For many years, I have researched the history of ranches and resorts now covered by Blue Mesa Reservoir. I have met many descendants of families displaced by the reservoir who have graciously shared their stories and other informa-tion with me. Probably the best known resort was the Sportsmen’s Hotel at the confluence of Cebolla Creek and the Gunnison River. Founded by J.J. Carpenter in 1882, it was visited by thousands of hunters and fishermen (and women) over the years.

I became a good friend of the late Sonny (Hugh) Carpenter, J.J.’s great-grandson. Sonny was born at Cebolla, and I enjoyed hearing his many tales of the early days at the resort.

More recently I have helped his brother George and daughter Lynn research their family, trying to find facts that backed up some of Sonny’s stories. In the past few years, George often used the CHNC website, but only a few Gunnison-area newspapers were available.

One of Sonny’s stories was about J.J’s brother, H.S., and two cousins, X.L. and L.M. The brother and cousins were ranching near the nowsubmerged town of Sapinero. According to Sonny, one day they got into an argument about their shared ditch water. The argument escalated, and L.M. chewed off H.S.’s ear! Sonny pointed to a picture of H.S., saying, “See, my great-uncle Henry has no ear, just as I remember as a small boy.”

Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when George called me and excitedly said, “You won’t believe what I found! I was bored, so I went to the CHNC website, searched for `ear’ and ‘Carpenter; and found an article about the fight!”

The article, in the Gunnison Tribune, July 7, 1899, describes the fight in detail: “L.M. struck H.S. with a pistol aimed at his head, and in warding off the blow with his arm, that member was broken below the elbow. He was then knocked down and L.M. bit his ear off close to his head. X.L. stood by to see that a good job was done. The brothers were arrested yesterday, charged with assault with intent to kill and maiming H.S. Carpenter.” I realized George had stumbled across the recently digitized newspapers, only made available on the CHNC website a week before.

I hope you enjoy exploring Gunnison’s early history by accessing this wonderful collection of Gunnison newspapers.

(Dave Primus lives in Gunnison. Before the pandemic, audiences frequently packed the Gunnison Library to hear his history talks.)