By cvlopez | email@example.com
IN 1972, Ruth Marie Colville got wind that the historic Barlow Sanderson Stagecoach Cabin was going to be sold and moved out of town. Understanding the significance of the 1876-era cabin because of her work as local historian, she joined forces with town friends Lindy and Joe Hartman and raised the money to save it.
She and the Hartmans, along with the San Luis Valley Historical Society, had the nearly 150-year-old stagecoach cabin relocated from where it sat on US 160 – the site of the present-day Family Dollar – to the community park across from the Del Norte Town Hall.
It’s been there ever since, but sadly never has gotten the ongoing care and attention needed to serve as a treasure and reminder of the period when people came by stagecoach into stage stations in towns like Del Norte, then the only town in the western part of the San Luis Valley.
That’s about to change.
“It’s been 50 years with no maintenance and so now it needs all kinds of stuff,” said Patti Kelley, a modern-day do-gooder of Del Norte. She and Suzie Off, Ruth Marie Colville’s daughter, and with the town’s
HOW TO CONTRIBUTE
Contributions to the Barlow Sanderson Stagecoach Cabin restoration will be handled by the Del Norte Public Library.
Make donations to the Del Norte Library Cabin Restoration Fund. Donations can be mailed to the Del Norte Public Library at 790 Grande Ave., Del Norte, CO 81132. Donations are tax-deductible.
blessing, will be working to have the cabin restored in a way that more generations of Del Norte residents and others who visit can understand the significance of its historic past.
Kelley and Off plan to do what Ruth Marie and the Hartmans did – get dozens, if not hundreds of townspeople and anyone else they can appeal to, to donate the money to restore the Barlow Sanderson Stagecoach Cabin. The cabin itself is “about 15 x 20 feet, built of red spruce logs, hand hewn, with square nails, dirt roof, two windows on the east wall and a door on the south wall,” according to a description Ruth Marie gave in a 1998 edition of the periodical The San Luis Valley Historian.
The restoration cost will be around $24,000 to deal with rotting logs, and replace the roof and windows, among other fixes. If all goes well, the work can begin as early as the fall, with Del Norte resident Matt Espinosa doing the restoration.
The goal, said Kelley, is to restore the cabin to its historical trueness by keeping a wooden roof on it, and being able to open the door and the windows so visitors get a sense of the cabin from its heyday period in the 1800s.
“We want to stage it to the day, so there’s a map in there of the route … and people can look inside. Right now it’s just a rotten cabin.”
Left: A close-up of the cabin’s sign. Right: Patti Kelley, left, and Suzie Off examine the deteriorating side of the structure.
Barlow Sanderson Stagecoaches
It was with their stagecoaches that Bradley Barlow and Jared Sanderson carried passengers, mail and freight town to town before the expansion of western railroads in the 1870s.
Ruth Marie, who arrived in Del Norte to teach at the local school in 1930 following her graduation from Wellesley College, turned her attention to the local history of the area and the tracing of the Barlow and Sanderson’s Southern Overland Mail and Express Company.
She did so because in 1931 she married Alexander Colville, and in those days school teachers like Ruth Marie weren’t allowed to be married. So instead she delved into the history of the Del Norte area, the Spanish Trail and the broader San Luis Valley.
In the periodical The San Luis Valley Historian she would write about the old Barlow and Sanderson stage stations of the 1870s and 1880s that lay between the towns of Del Norte and Lake City. Those were booming periods for gold and silver
rush in the San Juans between Del Norte and Lake City, Del Norte being the only town on the western end of the San Luis Valley.
“She was a pretty classy lady,” Suzie Off said of her mother, recalling the stories she published of the stage stations and her exploration of the Spanish Trail.
An educator by training and a historian out of necessity, Ruth Marie was instrumental in documenting the influencers of the 1800s and then Del Norte and the Valley of the 20th century.
Having the restoration of the Barlow Sanderson Stagecoach Cabin fall on her daughter, Suzie, and community angel Patti Kelley, seems only fitting all these years later.
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