Like an odometer tracking the historic mileage of Ouray County, we just rolled over to our 141st year this week. The Silverton Standard and the Miner is two years older, being the oldest operating business on the Western Slope.
The paper has been through a lot, including several name changes and an ownership duo who, according to former owner/publisher Joyce Jorgensen, drank and argued frequently until one torched the newspaper office out of vengeance on the other.
One of the original owners, Henry Ripley, established the Ouray Times with his brother, William, printing the first edition June 16, 1877, just one year after the city of Ouray was incorporated. A train of six wagons brought the type and press from Cañon City, which also happened to be the first press in Colorado Territory, having been used to print the Cherry Creek Pioneer in Denver City, among other first papers in Colorado communities.
Henry, in his book entitled "Hand-clasp of the East and West," described reaching Colona in 1877, passing Chief Ouray's house and the agency there and deciding to take his wagon over "the Log Mesa" instead of going up valley over the river road with its numerous crossings. He climbed to the top but decided that was not the way to go and turned around.
Over Dallas Creek and and through the Uncompahgre Park, he crossed the Uncompahgre River several times on the way to Ouray. There he was welcomed by "the good people of the town, who appreciated what the advent of a newspaper meant to them." Presses, racks, trays, type, everything needed in the day to print a small town paper was set up. Ripley described it as thus:
"A great day it was for Ouray when the first paper was printed. All day long men came to the office to see how things were progressing. The first copy, as was usual in such cases, was put up at auction and sold for ten dollars. This brought forth much joking and laughter. Others came in and, grabbing a paper, rushed out to show it to the others. The paper was made as much of as the advent of the first baby, and well it might, for its travail in getting there had been long and hard."
A tattered image of that four-page issue, perhaps three-quarters intact, can be viewed online at coloradohistoricnewspapers.org. In it you will find an ad for the Ouray Meat Market, its proprietor thankful for "past favors" of patronage. You'll see an ad for R.L. Wood, surgeon and physician, whose office was located at the "Court House-Residence east side of 5th Avenue, between 4th and 5th streets." There's a story of Mark Twain's early experiences in Nevada, a report of the war in Europe and even a story of Russian intrigue in the United States.
There are also local stories of the Mount Sneffels District, the local health office and mining, of course. In one piece, the paper clamored for "the great want" of the town for the capacity to reduce ore. "Mines that will produce an abundance of good ore are near at hand," it read, "and many of them lie idle because the ore cannot be realized upon."
This week, we look back at and thank all the owners in our lineage, names like Ripley, C.A. Ward, L.N. White, E.C. Bacon, Preston Walker, Joyce Jorgensen, Guy and Marcia Wood and David Mullings, not to mention a long line of previous owners of The Ridgway Sun, introduced in 1908 by Grant Turner, and continued by John J. McCarthy, E.W. Rosco and others. It's a time to remember, for us as owners, that we're just the stewards of the living history of this county, watching the odometer roll over each week until a new owner is at the helm.
Speaking of papers, the Trojan Tribune publishes its last issue of the school year in this week's paper. Our thanks, as always, to Ouray School teacher John Kissingford, Tribune Editor (and Plaindealer employee) Mackenzie Gibbs and the entire Tribune staff and student body. We value the contribution each year to our pages, and look forward to having it grace our pages in just a few short months. Thanks also to our sponsors: 4-J+1+1 RV Park and Campgrounds, Mountain Fever Shirts and Gifts, Voyager Youth Program, Western Slope Business Solutions, Cooling's Heating and Air Conditioning, Alpine Bank, City of Ouray, Ouray Real Estate Corporation, Citizens State Bank and The True Grit Café.
Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.