Basalt grad traces her family roots back six generations to 1881 in valley |

Basalt grad traces her family roots back six generations to 1881 in valley

Jordan Arbaney is preparing for graduation at Basalt High School on June 2. Her family roots in the Roaring Fork Valley trace back six generations to an 1881 homesteader.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times


The Basalt Regional Historical Society is helping organize an all-school gathering that will be held Saturday, Sept. 1 at Basalt High School. It will be a potluck gathering open to any graduate of any year. More details will be released closer to the gathering.

In a valley where change is the norm and roots rarely burrow far beneath the surface, Basalt High School senior Jordan Arbaney is an exception.

Jordan is a sixth generation midvalley resident whose great-great-great grandfather was among the early homesteaders in the 1880s.

The significance of her family’s link to the past isn’t lost on Jordan. She doesn’t have a superior, me-first attitude about it, just an appreciation of the stability.

“Especially the fact that I’m a senior now and there are a lot of kids here that weren’t here when I was a freshman,” she said. “It’s kind of like, not only have I been here since I was a freshman, my family’s been here, like, forever. It goes deeper than a lot of people realize.”

Her ancestor, W.H. Harris, arrived in the valley in July 1881, following his brother Charles who arrived the year before, according to the book “Basalt: Colorado Midland Town,” by Clarence and Ralph Danielson.

W.H. Harris settled a ranch 5 miles “below” downtown Basalt, according to the book. The Harrises were among the early settlers who contributed their hard labor for the greater good, establishing the Reed-Harris Ditch in 1881 to 1884 and building a road that would help them get their goods to Aspen quicker.

W.H. Harris married and had three sons, including Ralph (Jordan’s great-great grandfather). Ralph married and had a daughter Alice “Irena” Harris. That’s where the Arbaney connection comes.

Irena married Laurent Arbaney Jr. in 1936, according to Michelle Arbaney, Jordan’s mom.

Laurent Arbaney Sr. came to the U.S. from Aosta, Italy, where so many ranching families in the Roaring Fork Valley originated. The widower got into railyard work, which eventually landed him at Aspen Junction, the early name for Basalt, in the 1890s, according to Michelle. Laurent Sr. fell in love with the Roaring Fork Valley, bought land, returned to Italy to remarry and settled a ranch at the present site of the Roaring Fork Club, a golf and fishing retreat on the east side of Basalt.

Laurent Jr. and Irena had one son, Kelvin, who is Jordan’s grandfather. He and his wife, Lois, now live in Parachute. Their son Brian and wife Michelle are Jordan’s parents.

That all adds up to 137 years and six generations that lead to Jordan.

Jordan received a First Settlers’ Scholarship recently from the Basalt Regional Heritage Society during the senior awards evening. Society co-director and valley native Janice Duroux took the stage and went through the Arbaney family history before calling Jordan up on the stage.

“It was pretty cool because she started talking about how the Arbaneyes are family friends of hers then she called me up there. I was like, ‘Oh, OK, this is about me,’” Jordan said.

“Friends were texting me afterward saying, ‘That was cool. That was interesting family history. I didn’t now that you were so famous in this valley,’” she added.

Duroux, also a descendant of a ranching family that migrated from Acosta, said the small scholarship was about community and recognizing how few graduates these days can trace their roots to homesteaders. In addition, she will be the fifth generation of her family to graduate from a midvalley school.

“It’s just so exciting this family stayed the valley this long,” she said.

Michelle noted that her branch of the Arbaney family won’t be keeping the family name going, as the result of only children and females. Two other branches of Arbaneys in the valley are distant relations.

Michelle said she believes the family connection means something to Jordan.

“When we moved to Glenwood two years ago, she wanted to stay in the Basalt High School,” Michelle said. “She was aware that her great-grandmother was on the committee that selected Basalt’s colors of purple and gold.”

Duroux said Irena was part of the Basalt Union High School class of 1932. That class, which included her father, Oscar Diemoz, selected the Longhorn as the school mascot, as well as the school colors.

Jordan, who recently turned 18 and graduates June 2, is taking a gap year to save money to attend college. Her plan is to go to Naropa University in Boulder to pursue music therapy.

“I just have a strong passion for music and a strong passion for helping people,” Jordan said. She hopes to get into the emerging field of using music to help babies born with a drug addiction recover quicker.

Wherever adventures take her, her path will always lead back to the Roaring Fork Valley, she said. The Harris-Arbaney connection will continue.

“This valley is just my home,” Jordan said. “It’s heaven on Earth and it’s a place I’d like to return to, no matter how much I travel.