Guest column: Historical spellings that have morphed in Aspen
March 30, 2015
Historical spellings occasionally morph, as recently evidenced with the dustup over the spelling of Trainor/Trainer/Traynor Ridge on Aspen Mountain in a recent Aspen Times clarification article. One thing leads to another, and a few other odds and ends come to mind, as well. But remember that revisionism is the ketchup of history.
From 1881 through the turn of the century, Aspen saw 12 different newspapers and one in Ashcroft. With the tedious process of setting lead type one letter at a time, the papers tried to spell the fanciful names as the mine claimants filed them, for legal reasons if not for posterity.
The "Echoes From the Hills" column in the Aug. 2, 1884, Aspen Weekly Times mentioned that "the Traynor is sending the sampler some fine lead ores." The June 21, 1890, Aspen Daily Chronicle referred to "The Traynor Mine on West Aspen Mountain" (now Shadow Mountain) and later noted a lead and silver strike in "the old Traynor tunnel … as big as a house." The Aug. 6, 1900, Aspen Democrat headlined a story with "Traynor Lease a Good Thing."
The July 14, 1883, Rocky Mountain Sun said the claim is one of the oldest on Aspen Mountain and attributes the mine in 1880 to John Traynor. Two tunnels yielded both silver and lead in the now "Traynor" ski dumps. Lead prices were good in 1890 and added profit to a silver mine. Often, the lead was used locally to forge counterweights for the tram-line towers built to carry ore down from mines.
Bear with me through a few other historic spellings from the old papers that contradict the corrections of modern would-be Miss Thistlebottoms. What is now the Bonnie Bell Dump on Aspen Mountain was originally the "Bonnybel" in countless articles, including an Aspen Times Nov. 15, 1889, headline, "The Bonnybel-Durant Suit."
Aspen's Dean Street, the first main street in town, was originally Deane (with an "e"), named after 1880s pioneer Judge J.W. Deane, a partner in the Traynor claim. A Nov. 4, 1884, ordinance posted in the Rocky Mountain Sun, signed by Mayor J.D. Hooper and the Aspen clerk and recorder, granted "the right of way" for the Midland Railroad to build a track "along Deane Street and Ute Avenue." An 1896 Times real estate ad reads, "Three room plastered house, Deane Street, only $275."
And Snowmass was originally Snow Mass in the old papers. In 1967, the name was coopted by Snowmass-at-Aspen (formerly Mount Baldy), which necessitated adding "Old" to the original downvalley burg of Snow Mass. Lo Semple and Roger Marolt might want to hash this one out — Mr. Wingers notwithstanding.
Moving on, Ajax is not really Aspen Mountain. Original newspaper stories exactly describe "Ajax Hill" across from the town of Tourtelotte Park as the top knob of Aspen Mountain where the current Sundeck stands. The Ajax Mine (probably named after Ajax blasting powder or possibly the Trojan War hero of the "Iliad") was located at the head of Queen's Gulch, just east of the Sundeck, according to The Sun. But the pudding is in a 1947-48 Aspen Mountain trail map, which pictorially labels the top knob where the original octagon Sundeck was as "Ajax Hill" and says that two lifts rise "to the top of Aspen Mountain and then to the summit of Ajax Hill."
Some recollect that Aspen Mountain gained the nickname Ajax from 1950s and '60s locals who were looking for their own niche among headstrong townies but that the handle never sat well with the Aspen natives, who preferred the original name. Along the way, constructionists held strong with Aspen Mountain, and Ajax became a nouveau locals' meme and a shortcut for headlines. These days, in the subtleties of local status, using "Ajax" lumps folks in with newer Aspenites who quickly learn all the street names, while seasoned locals say "Aspen Mountain" and don't quite know the street names but rather identify locations by what used to be there.
The former and latter chatter is just for the record. Feel free to line your birdcage with it.
Tim Cooney lives in Aspen and has been a member of the Aspen Mountain ski patrol since 1978.