Gold Hill museum celebrates 20 years

Barbara Lawlor, Gold Hill.  Two decades ago, three Gold Hill residents got together and decided that their small mining town’s history needed to be preserved. Although many long-time residents had private collections that dated back to the mining boom, nobody had gathered these artifacts to create a visual record of the days gone by.


Barbara Finn, former owner of the Gold Hill Inn, Marilyn Soby, piano teacher and Edie Eilender, Gold Hill School teacher, became determined to create a museum of the town’s history. Soby recently announced her resignation from the board after 20 years of serving the museum.


Last Friday, August 10, Gold Hill residents were invited to celebrate the museum’s 20th birthday and at the same time join in the second community outreach event, which endeavors to bring the museum into all Gold Hill residents’ lives.


Newly elected president of the museum board, Debra Yeager, said, “The outreach program is an intimate gathering to wrap arms around our community and we are celebrating the birthday with ice cream and champagne.”


Most of the guests walked the dirt roads to the top of the hill where one couldn’t miss the sparkling white fence posts that rounded the building, probably making the structure look better than it ever did when it was built. Originally the St. James Chapel, the building was purchased in 1997, with a grant.


Before that the church had been owned privately, used as storage space for a glider. Long-time resident Bob Walter remembers using the fence posts for sword fights with other local kids. He says much of the yard was lost to street graders.

Once they had the building, it was up to the small committee to collect historic pieces that would reflect life in the 1800s.


Many of the items were from the Bluebird Lodge, townspeople donations from the town and the Boulder County mountain area. Last year the collection of Bluebird artifacts won the Top Ten of Best Artifacts in Colorado. Local Rick Skinner worked on the project and Marie Brookhard donated the on-loan items.


This year the new display is Frank Boyd’s cash register which was a part of Mr. Boyd’s Mercantile and is on loan from the Carnegie Museum in Boulder.


The first speaker was Ed Raines, the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum’s collections manager, who talked about the Copper King Mine in Gold Hill, which was actually a nickel mine put together in 1939. Nickel was a critical metal for wartime production. The Copper King Mine was managed by Ward Yeager and produced 25,000 tons of nickel ore.


Friday’s second celebration presenter was Chellee Courtney who focused on the life of Ann Yeager, Ward’s wife who lived in Gold Hill for dozens of years and became a legend among locals. Chellee lived in Boulder but spent her summers in Gold Hill. She has recently been writing a book about the Gold Hill Cemetery and Ann and Ward Yeager.


Ann Yeager was a well educated, beautiful woman whose parents were from Mulgravia. Gold Hill, at the time, consisted of many nationalities. The family lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but when Ann was 27 years old she became sick and was sent to the Rocky Mountains for the clean air. Ward and Ann bought land and cabins beyond the Colorado Mountain Ranch. She taught at the Gold Hill School from 1950-1958 and later rented out the cabins.


Chellee said that Ann kept many diaries and journals about Gold Hill life and these journals will be copied to be kept in the Gold Hill museum.


In 1967, Ward died, and Ann died in 1984 at the age of 91. She was buried in the Gold Hill cemetery. She had two dogs she adored and lived in her cabin up to her death.


After Chellee’s presentation, the locals were asked to share stories about Ann. One of the long-time residents says she remembers driving past the Yeager cabins and Ward came out and shot at them.


“Later, we would visit with Ann. She was an adventurous person, very impressive.”


Former Gold Hill Fire Chief Gretchen Diefenderfer said that she had been called out of a town meeting to a chimney fire in one of Ann’s cabins two years in a row and she finally wrote Ann a letter asking her to educate her tenants on chimney fire safety.


The anecdotes were recorded for museum archives.


Next year’s outreach program will be about the Switzerland Trail.


Gold Hill Museum contact information Pine St & Prospect St, Gold Hill, CO 80302. Phone: (303) 442-2249

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.