The Ute Indian Curse |

The Ute Indian Curse

Almost 150 years ago, the Ute Indians are said to have placed a curse on the Crystal River Valley because of a broken promise, forever dooming to failure “the white man’s” pursuits in the area.

The Crystal Valley was one of the last drainages left to the Ute Indians when places like Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Meeker were settled by miners and ranchers. According to “Marble, Colorado: City of Stone” by Duane Vandebusche and Rex Myers, Utes and local settlers signed an agreement in 1860 for the Utes to remain in the lush Elk Mountains as long as the “rivers ran and the grasses grew.”

But precious metals were discovered in the valley in the 1870s and the Indians were asked to leave. The book claims that Indians attempted to burn the valley before they were placed on a reservation. When asked why they were setting fires, Chief Colorow of the local Ute Tribe cursed the valley, saying that “anything the white man did in the future would be destined to failure.”

“It’s generally believed. There’s plenty of evidence that while the white man did prosper with the Marble quarry, there were many hard times,” says Sue McEvoy, caretaker of the Redstone Castle and local tour guide. “There was once a huge avalanche that wiped out the entire town, and other times when the owners of the marble operations were killed.”

McEvoy takes the story a step further, noting that in 1882 John Cleveland Osgood began to build his local coal empire, which his widow ultimately lost in a stock buyout to John D. Rockefeller.

“It was the pinnacle of his career, and Redstone was a showpiece of prosperity, but ultimately it was all lost,” she says.

Osgood operated the coal mines near Redstone for just 10 years, after spending millions of dollars on housing, a school and a store for his workers, not to mention his own 42-room mansion.

“It was a large industrial collapse,” McEvoy says. “A lot of books talk about Chief Colorow, and about his ghost coming back here because his wife was buried in the Crystal Valley.”

Even the post-Osgood history of the Redstone Castle has been tumultuous. Over the years the castle has bounced back and forth from owner to owner as a bed-and-breakfast, a spa, and a venue for cocktail parties and weddings.

In 2000 Debbie and Leon Harte purchased the castle for $6 million. But three years later, after an extensive investigation, the Internal Revenue Service seized the castle. Investors in the Harte’s Tranquil Options, LLC, claimed the Hartes had promised returns but instead used their money to buy the lavish castle.

The building is now in the hands of the IRS, and tours have stopped for the winter. Leon Harte died from a heart attack in June, and the castle’s future is uncertain. It seems that even the venerable Redstone Castle isn’t immune from the Ute chief’s curse.

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