Huerfano County, Colorado
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Huerfano World - July 20, 1989
Coal Car for Mining Museum
Contributed by Louise Adams
Walsenburg's Mining Museum on East Fifth Street got a promotional boost
Tuesday evening as City Council agreed to let a new committee place an old mining
car at the corner of Fifth and Main Street to call attention to the facility.
Huerfano County Historical Society Board Member Malcolm MacDonald asked the
Council for permission to place the car, which is being donated by John
Bechaver. MacDonald also updated Council on a new in-city committee which will work
to make the Museum a more viable attraction for visitors and residents.
Christine Schmidt, also a member of the Historical Society Board, is chairing
the new Walsenburg Committee which includes MacDonald, Bechaver, John Biondi,
Rudy Krist, Mary Bohannon, Charlotte Benedetti, Betty Ridge and Thelma
The committee hopes to open the Museum for longer periods of time during the
months of August and September - possibly 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily and
also allow for special tours for larger groups.
MacDonald told Council the Museum was being operated strictly on donations
received locally and from visitors, noting the financial burden for the
Historical Society for Fort Francisco Museum in La Veta was great.
Schmidt, Historian Nancy Christofferson and Artist Dianne Hanisch were
instrumental in putting the Mining Museum into place two years ago. Since that time
It has operated on an "as can" basis.
The new committee hopes to change that and is asking locals who would like to
volunteer to play host in the Museum to contact one of the members.
Councilwoman Joan Crump immediately volunteered for duty.
The committee is also most appreciative of any cash donations from residents
and visitors to help maintain the Museum.
Huerfano World - July 5, 1990
Walsenburg Mining Museum Observing 3rd Anniversary
Contributed by Louise Adams
Yesterday, July 4, marked the third anniversary of the Walsenburg Mining
Museum on Main Street. The brainchild of Jill Clark, former resident, the museum
took shape slowly through the dedication and contributions of many individuals
Clark, then secretary of Downtown Development, first interested that group in
the idea of establishing the museum. Undaunted by the monumental task she was
facing, she then approached Christine Schmidt, president of the Huerfano
County Historical Society, to request the society's sponsorship to help obtain
The old Roof and Dick building at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets was
targeted for the museum's home. Built in the 1890's, the spacious two-story
building was county-owned and largely vacant, though needing renovation. The
structure was secured for the museum with a 20-year lease for $1 per year.
Clark meanwhile was researching and writing grant proposals. Since most of
the grants available required in-kind donations or matching funds, money-raisers
were sponsored, such as Downtown Development's sale of little souvenir sacks
of coal, handcrushed by Clark and Dianne Hanisch. Donations were received from
such organizations as Civic League, Walsenburg Club, Knights of Columbus, the
City of Walsenburg and Huerfano County.
Major grants were duly received from the Boettcher and Gates Foundations and
Burlington Northern Railroad, which enabled Clark and Hanisch to begin
designing the layout of displays in the building.
The building was gradually renovated through the help of volunteers, chiefly
Tony Sandoval and Tom Standish, and of the city and county. Dianne Hanisch
became the project coordinator.
The first major contributor was John Biondi, who offered donation of mining
paraphernalia from his own extensive collection (he also gave many items to
Francisco Fort Museum in La Veta for its mining display) and much helpful advice.
Advice was also received from the directors of the Lafayette Mining Museum,
James D. and Beth Hutchison. Lafayette's museum opened in 1976 and its
directors believe it to have been the first in Colorado to concentrate solely on coal
mining, in fact, the ONLY one until the Walsenburg facility opened.
The Hutchisons, who finally visited the museum here last Wednesday after
years of correspondence, said that many Huerfano County miners ended up in the
Lafayette area, which covers western Weld and eastern Boulder counties. This was
the heart of the Northern Field, as Walsenburg and Trinidad were of the
Southern Field of coal mining.
Another important visitor to the museum was the original coal miner's
daughter, Loretta Lynn, who stopped by last summer.
Possibly the highlight of the mining museum's collection is the varied array
of photographs. On loan from the Colorado Mine Reclamation Bureau is a series
of "before and after" shots of some of the old camps, showing the buildings
and people of the boom years and what is left today. Other photos show the
interior and exterior of the mines, the miners and the hardworking mules which
labored both underground and above.
Maps and records kept by mining companies are exhibited. The maps are of
interest for their intricate detail, with tunnels and rooms sprouting every which
way and giving the overall impression of a complex maze. The old records have
the miners' names, hours worked and, occasionally, pay received.
Also featured in the museum are the tools of the miners, from hard hats to
picks and from lunch buckets to augers. Displayed alongside the photographs,
these articles help the viewer understand the work and hardship of the early coal
Six rooms of the building are used for display of the collection and the gift
shop, where books and souvenir items are offered for sale. handouts
concerning the railroad, local history and ghost mining camps are also available.
Barbara Medina is senior aide of the museum, which is open from 9 a.m. - 4
p.m. Monday - Friday and from noon - 5 p.m. Saturday. Cost for a tour is $1 for
adults and 50 cents for children.
Huerfano World - July 14, 1994
Contributed by Louise Adams
County crews completed moving furniture, displays and equipment
Wednesday to the new location of the Walsenburg Mining Museum in the old
Huerfano County Jail. With one piece of machinery weighing over 1,000 pounds, the
men gained new respect for the hardworking coal miner of yesteryear, who is
memorialized throughout the displays of the museum. Old home of the museum was 502
Main; future site of Physicians Home Health Care Ltd. Grand opening for the
new Walsenburg Mining Museum will be announced after the exhibits are reset in
the newly remodeled building.
The Walsenburg Mining Museum is this week being moved into its new quarters
in the historic Huerfano County Jail and will be open to the public soon,
according to Christine Schmidt, chairman of the Mining Museum committee.
The old building, vacant since the new jail was opened in October 1989, has
been renovated to house the exhibits while retaining the original jail cells
and public rooms.
The building was constructed in 1896. One George Keyes of the Bullen Bridge
Company in Pueblo won the $5,210 contract for the stone and wood work, and the
Diebold Safe and Lock Company of Canton, OH, the bid for the cells and steel
work at $4,685, for a total of $9,895! The contracts were let in June with a
deadline for completion of the project set at Oct. 15 of the same year.
In the 1990s, the renovation process cost some $40,000 and plans and actual
work have taken over a year. Funding has been generated through a $24,560
preservation grant, written by Schmidt, from the Colorado Historical Society in May
1993. Much in-kind work has been provided by the county, Walsenburg Downtown
Development, the museum committee and the various contractors, some of whom
are still continuing work.
The original rooms downstairs, plus the 27 by 28 foot cell room behind, are
devoted to the coal mining displays.
Entering the museum, guests are in the old reception room, 14 1/2 by 18 1/2
feet, which will be used for exhibits.
To the right of the lobby is a 10 by 12 room built for the sheriff's office.
Two smaller rooms to the left of the old reception room were originally
devoted to storage and to the women's cell room. The builders evidently expected no
female crime sprees as the storeroom is the larger of the two at nine and a
half by 12 feet.
The storage area has been converted to a bathroom which remains. The women's
cell will probably house the Dick collection.
The large "bull pen" area contains four steel cells off a central hallway.
The first cell on the left, formerly the shower room, may house the gift
shop. Items available include postcards, books, historical maps, notecards,
stained glass, handicrafts, artifacts gathered from the local coal camps, weavings
and other collectibles.
Another of the cells will be a replica of a coal shaft, a third will contain
mining equipment, and the fourth will be refurbished to its original use as a
prisoners' cell. Heavy and large equipment belonging to the museum, such as a
jackhammer and bellows, will be displayed in the hallway between cells.
The upstairs of the old jail was designed as an apartment for the jailer and
his family, with a hallway and four rooms, now three. Later these rooms were
converted to the sheriff's office.
The second story will be the home of the Huerfano County Historical Society's
archives. Newly carpeted, these rooms have had UV-tinted windows installed
for climate control and to protect historic documents, newspapers and
The Walsenburg Mining Museum opened July 4, 1987, established through the
efforts of Schmidt and Dianne Hanisch. They were assisted by the late Malcolm
MacDonald, Louis Lenzotti, John Biondi and Tony Sandoval, along with volunteers
from the business community. Schmidt has been project director throughout the
succeeding seven years and, at times, has single-handedly kept the facility
The museum was housed in a county-owned building at Fifth and Main Streets
which was sold last year, necessitating the museum's move.
The collection includes unique photography displays of the mines, camps and
workers, a mine office, small machinery and equipment and other coal mining
Staffed by Florence Rogers, volunteers put in hours to greet guests, direct
tours and operate the gift shop. Among these are Betty and Richard Ridge,
Carolyn and Alfred Newman, Agnes and John Bechaver and Beulah Read.
Volunteers are always needed and may sign up with Rogers at the museum. They
are asked for just two or three hours a week.
The Mining Museum Committee, headed by Schmidt, consists of JoVonne
Fitzgerald, Gerald Lamb, Viola Archuleta, Betty Ridge, Norma Lou Murr, Florence Rogers,
Carolyn and Alfred Newman, John Bechaver, Walter and Molly Bailey, Ben Eagle,
Nick Faris, Dianne Hanisch, Joyce Kramer, Vivian Price, Nancy Christofferson
and Pat Lepka, secretary.
In the June 17, 1896 issue of the Walsenburg World, the writer stated,
"Altogether the jail will be one of the best and safest in the state, and the
commissioners deserve great credit for the design and interest they have taken in
Today, the county commissioners again deserve thanks for making the project
possible and allowing the Walsenburg Mining Museum to occupy, and thereby
preserve, the historic structure.
Huerfano World - January 26, 1995
Mining Museum To Open In May
Contributed by Louise Adams
Walsenburg Mining Museum has targeted a May 1995 opening in the former
Huerfano County Jail behind the courthouse.
Work has continued throughout the winter months to refurbish the building
with electrical, plumbing and structural work.
The lower floor will be devoted to exhibits and the archives will be housed
in the rooms on the second floor.
Exhibits will include mining memorabilia and photographs as well as a room
furnished to resemble the home of a miner and family at around the turn of the
In keeping with the building's history, other exhibits will highlight law
enforcement and the prisoners who spent time there.
The committee working on the museum began work Wednesday on the first room,
destined to be a living room.
However, with the expansion of the displays, the committee is seeking certain
items from donors.
Needed are a small coal car for the mining area, and handcuffs, leg irons,
badge, large iron keys and black and white ticking bunk-size mattresses for the
Also, any size of mannequin is welcome.
Mining Museum by Carolyn Newman
Huerfano World - May 31, 2001
Contributed by Louise Adams
One missing brass check from the Miners Memorial board at the railroad depot
reminds us more than one coal miner did not return home from his day's work.
Each morning the miner took his numbered brass check from his mine's board.
If he returned safely he placed it back on the board. A missing check meant a
Woe be to the miner who forgot to replace his brass check - it meant his
fellow workers were searching the mine for him while he was safe at home eating
Brass check boards used in local mines are displayed in the Walsenburg Mining
Museum, housed in the 1896 county jail behind the courthouse.
In the museum is the story of a 1912 miner who placed his brass checks on
another man's loads of coal and thus got paid for mining the coal. The result: 60
days in jail.
In the museum the mine owner/operator's office is ready for the day's work.
Payroll books and coal prices are at hand, the spittoon strategically placed,
framed photos of the mines hanging on the walls. This room was furnished by the
Dick family, mine owners.
New this year are the bits and pieces dug out of hidden recesses between the
back cell bars and the walls. Although the pornographic pictures are not on
display, the variety of cigarette wrappers, candy wrappers, even coins and
playing cards give some idea how the men passed the time. Plenty more items
remain hidden if a volunteer wishes to take on the job of retrieval.
The blinds on the upstairs jail windows no longer mean the jailer's family is
living in the building and cooking for the prisoners. Now it means the
district attorney's office operates out of the former living quarters.
The big museum project this week is the Coal Camp Kids Reunion Saturday noon
at the Walsenburg Community Center. Photos and maps pulled out of the archives
and never displayed before will be on view for the first time. Words like
honeydippers (the men who yearly emptied the outhouses), fire boss, Ravenwood and
pumpkin coal will pepper the conversations.
Newcomers and the general public are welcome also to the catered luncheon
and short program. The $10 tickets are available mornings at the Chamber of
Commerce, Main Street Office Supply and Hollowpoint Sporting Goods as well as at
Local books and maps will be for sale. Even some coal candy. Several special
guests will be on hand.
Friday is a mine site tour through Trinidad State junior College, led by Vern
and Betty Story. Other heritage tours are scheduled throughout the summer.
The museum is run only with volunteer help under the guidance of the Huerfano
County Historical Society. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday
and some Saturdays. Weekend hours are by request. Telephone number is
Museum volunteers and board members include Kathleen Calza, Kathy Carpenter,
Sally Hix, Lois Holbrook, Elaine Lenzini, Mary McIntyre, Alfred and Carolyn
Newman, Vivian Price, Dororthy Ree, Betty Ridge, Jaye Sudar-Thomas and Jack
The Spanish Peaks library has a grant to place 1,000 pages of the Historical
Society's oral histories on the internet. John Thomas of the library is now
scanning the 1979-80 recollections of old timers.
Perhaps the next museum project will be photographing and recording the
dozens of mine camp houses which were moved into Walsenburg when the camps closed.
And watch for the museum float in the Black Diamond parade Saturday.
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