MEEKER | The Rio Blanco County Historical Society started around 1949 when a group of women devoted time to preserving historic artifacts. They collected items and stored them in a spare room of the Taggert family home. Over time, the collection and building morphed into today’s White River Museum.
Thus began the story of volunteers who continue to oversee and preserve the history of Rio Blanco County. Over the years, many residents have contributed their time and talents to keep these endeavors going.
Sparky Pappas remembers growing up in the house where she again resides, next to the museum, and visiting daily. She encourages everyone to take or send your visitors for a tour of our local historical sights and invite them to contribute funds. Donations are always welcome.
In years gone by, locals would donate about anything they thought was an historic relic. At different times, a culling of the museum inventory was achieved through sale, trade, or auction. Today, gifts are curated, permanent (not on loan) and restricted due to space limitations.
Sparky has supported the board and museum on and off over the years. She says the current board challenges are staying focused, being fiscally responsible, and acquiring more volunteers and members.
Current board members are Niki Turner, president; Jay Sullivan, vice-president; Deirdre McNab, secretary; Chance Walker, Kay Bivens, Nancy Harmon-Richardson, Sparky Pappas, and Luke Trout; and Executive Director Teresia Reed.
The Society is developing several walking and driving tours called “Historic Points of View” which include:
Bank Robber’s Trail Underway is new signage and QR codes directing hikers on the path of robbers. It starts at the museum and goes through town on Main and 6th streets then heads up to the cemetery through Circle Park.
MEEKER BATTLE SITE
Marking the site of the Meeker Agency and the battle.
MILK CREEK BATTLE SITE
This epic spot of history has been preserved with outstanding entrance gates, monuments, a gazebo for a picnic in the shade, and signage to tell the story.
A devoted crew researched, documented, and installed signage recognizing all the places where early rural schools existed. A few years ago, they fully restored the Coal Creek school and are currently helping the BLM on a similar project for the Yellow Creek school.
Old Town to include the 35 buildings in downtown Meeker that have been designated by the state and federal registry as historically significant structures.
WHITE RIVER MUSEUM
White River Museum that preserves Rio Blanco County history, welcomes countless guests, and hosts events for every age group.
The Society also partners with other organizations to support community activities.
BANK ROBBERY RE-ENACTMENT
Every July 4th, the historic 1896 Bank Robbery is re-enacted by local citizens who save the town from the bad guys, complete with gunfire (blanks).
Heritage Cultural Center – a meeting place with up-to-date sound, lighting, stage, and a snack area is shared with the Meeker Arts and Cultural Council and available to all. Artisans, quilters, photographers – here’s a great place to display your talents with a professional hanging display system and lights. This space can be used for small theatre programs, movie nights, birthday parties, and other fun activities. It is free for members and available for a small fee for others.
The Society holds four membership meetings each year, the next scheduled for April 18, 2021, at 2 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend with a brown bag picnic, enjoy some entertainment, and gain updates from the board. Zoom is available for those who cannot attend. Contact email@example.com for the meeting Zoom link, updates, and questions.
Your membership fee of only $20/person ($10/seniors) helps support all these endeavors and preservation of history. After all, the museum and all these historic memories and artifacts belong to all of us. It’s our museum and our county heritage.
Volunteers are always appreciated for all the activities mentioned above needing support. Student groups, community service organizations, and/or individuals can contribute talents in both small and big ways. Kudos to Historical Society members and board for continuing this outstanding Meeker tradition.
Thanks to Sparky Pappas, Teresia Reed, and board members for their assistance with this article.
By KAYE SULLIVAN – Special to the Herald Times