Huerfano County, Colorado

Contributed by: Louise Adams
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Loss of Historical Records

Letter to the Editor - La Veta Signature - August 30, 2001

Dear Editor,

On July 5, while vacationing in Colorado and attending the Huerfano County Genealogical conference, I spent time researching ancestral documents. In my quest for old tax rolls, I was informed at the Huerfano County Courthouse that these records were kept at the community center.

I proceeded to the community center and inquired of the same. An old janitor sadly led me to the records: they were piled helter-skelter in a tiny dirt-floor, unlit room underneath the stadium. Dust and dirt were piling up on them, and it was obvious that they are deteriorating fast, especially since summer thunderstorms have been active in the area, because of the poor conditions of storage, moisture and seeping through the ceiling and up through the floor.

The first reason I am writing to you is that this is an appalling way to care for the documents of our ancestors who were the pioneers of Colorado and of America.

The second reason I am writing to you is to inform you of the illegality of the storage of these documents and am doubly appalled that Colorado statute is being broken and nothing is being done about it. Last month, the Huerfano County Commissioners were informed of the situation but they have done nothing, nor have they informed Karen Mitchell, who alerted them of the situation, of what they plan to do.

It is obvious that these Colorado statutes are being violated and care must be taken to preserve our past before it no longer exists for future generation.
Thanking you in advance, I remain
Yours truly,
Shalane J. Sheley-Cruz

Did You Know - Huerfano World - December 13, 2001

Last week the Huerfano County Commission received a copy of a letter from Colorado State Archivist Terry Ketelsen to Karen Mitchell, the US GenWeb Project County Coordinator for Huerfano County. Mitchell has expressed concerns over the storage of old county records, which were discovered under the bleachers at Fiesta Park in Walsenburg. The records apparently had been stored there years ago, and after being discovered, the Commission called on the services of the state archivist to assist in proper cataloguing, cleaning and storage.

Upon Ketelsen's recommendation, some of the records were destroyed. Ketelsen's letter to Mitchell said, "As you were aware, the storage of records at this location was not good and I offered the county storage at the State Archives for those records the county was legally required to maintain in order to remove them from further possible damage by the element of rodents.

There were a few books of permanent value that were damaged by weather and the elements that were no longer readable. The (Commission) accepted this offer as they had no place to house these records at the time. I was shown a small room in the basement of the courthouse that may be used for record storage if funds permit. We have not completed our assessment and inventory of the records brought back to Denver yet, but will be happy to share this when it is finished.

The records that were destroyed were from 1900-1970 and included boxes and volumes of yearly tax schedules, paid bills and receipts, obsolete property tax appraisal cards, cash receipt books, warrant (check) ledgers and miscellaneous accounting ledgers. All of these records should have been destroyed many years ago by the county. Why there were not, I do not know. I double-checked with the county assessor and the county treasurer to determine if there was any special reason why the county had been keeping these records and they were not aware of any. Based on this information and my examination of the records storage area, I recommended to the Board of County Commissioners that the county transfer to the State Archives all records stored beneath the bleachers that have a permanent retention appraisal for their protection; and that all records that should have been disposed of years ago be taken to the dump.

I personally reviewed every book and box before it was placed in the truck for destruction. I brought back to the State Archives 80 to 100 volumes, a full van load of records, that need to be kept by the county. These records will be cleaned up as best as we can and made accessible to the public once the appraisal, inventorying and cleaning is complete. Should the county at a future date have the available space to properly store and access these records, they can be returned and potentially indexed by your group.

The County Commissioners asked for my professional expertise and recommendations and have followed it. The transferred records contain genealogical information and they have been protected from further damage. Once all is done here (State Archives), I will get you a copy of the record listing." The Commission stated last week it still hopes to be able to find a proper storage area for the records and will request the records be returned to the county if proper storage becomes available.


End Note: The County was requested to turn over any records slated for destruction to the Huerfano County Coordinator, but they refused. The records were taken out in the country and buried in a hole dug by the County Road Department, and covered over. We could not discover the location.

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