The major means of transportation in the early 1900s was by railroad, so it’s not surprising that the first cases of Spanish Influenza in Colorado were from 250 Montana soldiers who got off the train at Boulder for special training at Colorado University on September 20, 1918. On arrival, 13 of the soldiers were already seriously ill; by the end of the first week, 91 cases had developed. In do, trains came from Denver by way of Salida, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Lake City, Montrose, Ridgway, Ouray, Telluride, Dolores, Cortez, Durango, and Silverton, and continued on to Salt Lake City.
The coronavirus is now a household word and we are all wearing masks and social distancing to protect ourselves from what has become a world-wide pandemic. Thanks to P. Balaram, Emeriti Professor of Biochemistry, The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore, India, we have learned that one of the original mid 1960s discoverers of the corona family of viruses, Dorothy Hamre Brownlee, spent the last 21 years of her life living in Ouray.
One of the defining images of science in the 21st century may well be the iconic image of the corona virus, a deceptively simple spherical object with a surface covered by spikes. The havoc caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will remain etched in memory for decades to come. The principal actor in the ongoing drama, the coronavirus ( the virus family to which SARS-CoV-2 belongs), was unknown to the world of science until the mid-1960s. Other viruses that caused respiratory disease, notably the influenza virus and the common cold virus (rhinovirus) were better known. Who then can claim to be legitimately called the discoverers of the corona virus?
In the May 22 issue of Frontline I had described the work of Dorothy Hamre, at the University of Chicago, on the discovery of coronaviruses (unnamed at that time) in the mid 1960s. In my search for the discoverer of coronavirus strain 229E, the first human pathogen identified for this new class of viruses, I ended on the hopeful note that we would soon obtain an authentic photograph of this largely unknown but pioneering scientist. That goal has now been reached, with the discovery of material deposited by her husband, Alexander Brownlee, at the Cline Library Archives, North Arizona State University at Flagstaff.
In the early morning hours of Ouray County’s golden age of mining wagons and pack trains filled Ouray’s streets with smells and noise. Everything from lumber, coal, food, and equipment needed to be hauled up steep trails; the most valuable ore was found in higher elevations. And, in the evening, the wagons rolled back into town and burros and mules with pack-saddles of ore dropped off their heavy loads. Between the late 19th century and early 20th, John Ashenfelter ran his operation. He arrived in Ouray in 1882 with a few pack an imals bought on credit, and in the next twenty-five years, the became the largest freighting outfit in southern Colorado.
Many lawmen in the old west had short careers. Some served for a couple of years, or a few months. One southwestern Colorado lawman served his communities for more than 30 years, mostly in Ouray. He was fearless, a superb marksman, and steadfast in was also a successful businessman and a devoted family man. In his time and place he was a legend; today he is largely forgotten. His name was Jesse Benton.