Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The other day I mentioned that there was a good photo of former Mayor A. E. Robison in Guenin and Daily’s book, “Aspen: The Quiet Years,” to which a compadre responded, “His name was Robison, not Robinson.”
My reply might have been, “I know what I said,” having grown up just down the street from him and his wife, Honey, but I bit my tongue.
Robison’s sister-in-law, Mona Frost, was my sixth-grade teacher; one of his brothers-in-law, Dr. Ligon Price, mounted the head of my first elk kill, and the story could go on if I’d let it, including the fact that real estate magnate Eric Strickland is his grandson. The point being, however, is that we should be thankful for those who verbalize accuracy, even redundantly to those of us who believe we know the score.
Essentially, nobody called the mayor A. E., but more often referred to him as “Gene,” unless they were trying to put a finer point on a political disagreement, in which case SOB might have been uttered a time or two. Quite appropriately, this illustrates the point that it is all too easy for us to bastardize important historical names.
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The next time you head to the Back of Bell via the dark side and pass Seibert’s, think about it for a moment. Is it really “see-berts” or could it be “sigh-berts?” The latter is the correct pronunciation, and the seemingly more common former no doubt causes Vail founder and ex-Aspen Mountain ski patrolman Pete Seibert, namesake of the trail, to roll over in his grave.
You’d think a simple name like McLean would be hard to screw up, and when an entire parcel of the valley is named McLean Flats, it should be impossible. However, “McLain Flats,” just west of town, somehow came into vogue and now we’re stuck with it, no matter how incorrect. Originally, that area was called Poverty Flats (not to be confused with Horseshit Flats, close to Hunter Creek) due to the scarcity of irrigation water, although a hardy few tried to eke a living out of the soil, including settlers Gavin, Gray (today’s W/J) and Goodwin.
In 1904, my great-grandfather Jeremie Vagneur, with the backing of local investors, built the Salvation Ditch, which to this day supplies water to McLain Flats and Woody Creek. With the abundance that water could now afford, Poverty Flats was renamed McLean Flats in honor of original pioneer Donald McLean. Not McLain.
The ghost town of Ashcroft is not quite what it seems, either, and its route is a bit convoluted. First civilized as “Castle Forks City” in 1880 by the likes of Calvin Miller and buffalo hunter Amos “Panhandle” Kindt, its name was changed in 1881 to “Ashcraft,” in honor of one of the founders, T. E. Ashcraft. If you wanted to argue it, that’d still be the correct name, although you’d be hard pressed to find much support.
If you take a drive up to the preferred parking lot for the Capitol Creek trailhead, at the old guard station, you’ll pass an elegant sign on the left announcing the imminent locale of the Nickelson Creek Ranch. Only problem is, Nickelson Creek was named in honor of the Nicholson family, who settled that area and lived there for generations. It’s clearly not the present owner’s doing, but which Washington mapmaker should be shot for such reckless abandonment of honest intent?
And, once again, I would be entirely remiss not to mention Aspen’s embarrassing snafu over at Dean Street. Actually, it’s Deane Street, named after early settler and first Pitkin County Judge, Josiah W. Deane.
This is the kind of historical insensitivity that insults our forefathers and reminds us that bureaucrats and others in our community have no concept of important events previous to their arrival here.
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