Editor’s note: A cornerstone of each year’s Range Call celebration is the re-enactment of the Meeker Massacre. The pageant was first presented in 1938 and has undergone considerable changes over the years as can be seen from this story, published in the July 4, 1968 edition of the Meeker Herald:
RBC I Mrs. Weaver Barrett is now well under way in the gathering of information concerning past pageants of the Meeker Massacre, which will be summarized and preserved for her own use and possibly for the historical society.
Mrs. Barrett, county superintendent of schools, has very capably and willingly served as director, and in the reading of past reviews of the pageant, she has already expressed her anticipation in next year’s presentation with the possibility of bringing back into the pageant parts that were once a part of the early show.
The first record of the pageant being presented was in 1938. Taken from the June 20 files of the Meeker Herald, Mr. Lyttle commented:
“We said there are all kinds of entertainment planned and there will be a pageant which will portray the history of the White River country from the time of the coming of the Spaniards up until after the valley was settled by the rancher and stockman. There is a wonderful historic setting and LaRoy Purdy and the Auxiliary are putting in hours and hours of hard work to make it a success.”
In 1939, the second presentation was again given, and this time titled “Echoes of the Past.”
“The ladies of the Auxiliary have worked for months on this program, which took so well last year. There will be a larger cast than last year and better lighting effects.”
In 1940, Douglas Sanderson directed “Echoes of the Past” with the assistance of Grettle Porter, Dorothy Tillinghast and May Norman, together with a cast of 150 people. The show was presented two nights and there was some disappointment as the crowd did not justify the two performances, and, in a word of appreciateion published from Douglas Sanderson, we read, “Due to the lack of people to take part, we were forced at the very last to entirely eliminate four new scenes which were to have taken place on the hillside and cliffs east of the grandstand.”
It was then dropped until 1954, when Mrs. Barrett finds it was again revived by Lenore Kyner, the Sheriff’s Posse and the Chamber of Commerce. This was under the direction of Eddie May. It was a part of a variety program including the Koshare Indians and fireworks by the firemen. Lenore Kyner did much research and wrote a script for the continuity and action.
The following year Elliott Roosevelt revised this material and became the narrator and director for the one given the following year, titled “The Last Days of the Utes.” From the Rocky Mountain News reprint we read the following account of the production.
The Rocky Mountain News gave the Meeker celebration some fine publicity in their Tuesday edition. Bill Brenneman, their roving reporter who is better known as “Willie Columbine,” was in Meeker Sunday and Monday for the celebration.
The following is Mr. Brenneman’s story:
Ol’ West Roars Back To Life in Meeker
Meeker, July 4: The old west roared back into lust life in this Western Colorado town Monday as more than 7,000 persons jammed in to celebrate the Fourth of July. Every hotel and motel has been long sold out and Cliff Meyers, president of the Commercial Club, Meeker’s Chamber of Commerce, said even camping space was at a premium.
The highlight of the weekend celebration was the re-enactment of the Meeker Massacre by the Mounted Sheriff’s Posse of Rio Blanco County.
Sheriff Russell Harp and Undersheriff Frank Beck led more than 250 townspeople and ranchers in recreating the famed Indian attack before a crowd of thousands at the fairgrounds.
Elliott Roosevelt, son of the late President Franklin Roosevelt, who now operates a commercial cattle ranch on the White River, 22 miles east of Meeker, narrated the events, which led up to and through the famous tragedy, the last stand of the Utes in Colorado.
Again the idea was dropped for a number of years.
During the winter of 1957 and 1958, the Range Call Committee with the Chamber of Commerce discussed the possibility of having the pageant. In ‘58, Curtain Call, a local little theater group, was asked to organize and produce it. They accepted and appointed a committee: Frank Cooley, Bob White, Jim Wilson, Sue Ann Smith and Rex Hester. Dorothy Barrett was asked to be the director and it is in this capacity that she continued.
At that time a great deal of research was done that spring; book lists and document lists were studied by members of the committee. Mrs. Dorothy Croisant was asked to write a script which might be used as a narration for the action. This is included in Mrs. Barrett’s scrap book.
From all these sources, John Wix, who happened to return to Meeker in 1958, wrote the script which he narrated with such meaning and expression that the audience is thoroughly captivated.
Some additions and changes are made each year, but history remains history and authenticity is still the backbone in the planning.