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RBC I The Rio Blanco Historical Society met Sunday for their first general membership quarterly meeting in 2012. The meeting was followed with a presentation by Bob Silbernagal on the topic of his newly-published book entitled “Troubled Trails” about the Meeker Massacre and the events that followed.
Author Bob Silbernagal’s presentation began with his recognition of Jonas Grant Sr., a Ute from Ft. Duschene, Utah, who helped him with his project. Grant and his wife attended the meeting and he shared some verbal history of the event.
Grant is a member of the War Bonnet Society and a direct descendent of some of the most influential Ute Indians involved in the incident.
Silbernagel’s book covers events leading up to the Milk Creek Battle and describes the 1870s as the worst decade for Indian wars. The book provides maps of the areas and population numbers that give fresh perspective to the Sept. 29, 1879, event. It also offers insight into the trail the hostages took as they left the area. Silbernagel describes Susan Johnson, a Ute who protected the hostages taken during the incident, as a “heroine.”
When the Ute people and the hostages left the area, there were nearly 800 people in the group, along with 3,000 horses and cattle. The trail Silbernagel believes they used went from the Milk Creek battleground, across the White River below Powell Park, through Josephine Basin, into the Piceance Creek area to the head of the creek and over to Flag Creek. From there he believes they followed Rifle Creek and rested near the base of Rohn Creek, finally arriving near Mesa, Colo., where the negotiations were made to release the hostages.
There were two investigations following the rescue of the hostages and the book talks about the political efforts to force the Utes out of Colorado that followed. Silbernagel’s work is an account of the events that were so influential at the time, and still have an effect today. The book will be available for purchase at the White River Museum once the second printing is complete. It is also available on Amazon.com.
Steve Wix, who has served as president of the historical society for seven years, shared the financial reports. He is now serving on the Milk Creek Battlefield Park committee.
Joe Sullivan reported on the Milk Creek project. The work he and Dr. David Steinman have done has transformed the park a place to learn about the significance of the event. The committee’s goal is to give recognition to both sides of the battle, as it was the last military encounter the U.S. Army had with the Ute Indians.
Marge Rogers gave a report on the Rural School House Project that she, Janet Clark, Ellen Reichert and others are working on. They have spent hours researching schoolhouses in the area and hope to create a travel brochure that will highlight the more than 30 historic schoolhouses in Rio Blanco County. The project’s goal is to create informational signs at the school locations. Rogers asked that anyone with information or pictures of any of the RBC schools would contact her. They have found every site except the South Side School in Powell Park. Phyllis Lake is helping to get town contractors and potentially the high school wood shop program to help make the signs.
Bob Amick gave a report on the lighting project for the museum. The current lights at the museum are so old replacement bulbs are no longer available. The goal is to replace the lights with LED lighting that will not damage the pictures and materials in the museum. In addition, the efficiency of the LED lights will save money for the museum. WREA has donated $5,000 for the project.