Modern technology plugs OCCHS into past
Until three years ago, pretty much all that was known locally about Jacob Schmidt was that he'd owned a bar in Colorado City in the early 1900s.
But thanks to the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) website, the mystery of his life has largely been solved. The volunteer group that owns and operates the Old Colorado City History Center now knows where he came from, his wife's love of baking and aversion to the liquor business, how Colorado going dry shut him down and prompted his suicide in 1914, what happened to his family members, and which of them are actually buried under the large “Schmidt” tombstone in Fairview Cemetery.
Even now, the OCCHS is staying in touch with Catherine Dymkoski of Idaho, who “keeps digging up stuff,” on the Schmidt family, explained OCCHS co-founder and past president Dave Hughes. “She sends it to us and we revise our text. So we have a living document that's being changed and added to by family members who don't even live in Colorado.”
The Schmidt contact is just one of 15 resulting in significant additions to Old Town lore since the website was established in 1997, and there are 2 more that “we're working right now,” he said.
What's happening is numerous people using the Internet to trace their genealogy. “Everyone's looking up their ancestors,” Hughes said, noting that with all the people who came through this area during the “Pikes Peak or Bust” era, it's not surprising that the History Center gets contacted. “If they enter 'Old Colorado City,' they will find our website,” he said.
Hughes, who formerly had an internet-provider business in Old Colorado City, led the creation of the OCCHS website in 1997 and still provides it with no-cost high- speed wireless Internet connectivity from his house nearby.
Uncovering new history is a major bonus, as in Schmidt's case. The other is financial support of the OCCHS, as family members, grateful for the chance to exchange information, often become paying OCCHS members. Hughes said this bears out his long-held argument that the OCCHS needs a powerful website for its future welfare. “It's not just the fun and games of learning history, but it's also a revenue source,” he said.
Here are a few examples of information on other historical characters resulting from people finding the OCCHS on the Internet:
One of the most recent OCCHS Internet contacts involved Lucy Maggard, who was known for being a strict housekeeper in her small hotel where the Denver-area legislators stayed for the one session in 1862 when Colorado City was the territorial capital. One version of the story is that the visiting legislators decided to move the capital to the Denver area because the lodgings here weren't comfy enough. A contact with Sharon Knapp of Superior, Montana, provided additional information about Maggard's life running hotels (she was always known as a good cook) in different parts of the West, starting in Kansas and ending up in Montana. Also, the OCCHS learned that Fedelia, her daughter, was Colorado City's first-ever bride in 1861.
“I'm a great-great-great granddaughter of Lucy Maggard,” Knapp said in a phone interview from her 5 ½ acre farm this week. She laughingly described her genealogical studies as an “addiction,” adding that it stems from being raised in a broken home where family information was passed on that was often wrong. Knapp has never visited Colorado Springs. “The closest I've been to your area was with my husband in a semi-truck,” she said.
Hughes would like to see better cooperation with the Pioneers Museum, which is the city's official historical repository and often the first place contacted by genealogy researchers. In several cases where people had Colorado City family ties, the museum was unable to help but did not refer them to the OCCHS, Hughes said.
Westside Pioneer article