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Local history center opens soon

by Carolyn Newman

WALSENBURG- When Alton M. Tirey died at 99 years of age on Jan. 30, 2005, he had no family left so he willed his considerable fortune to 11 charities and one family.

    Huerfano County Historical Society was one of the charities along with a school, churches and other local helping agencies.  Society president Elaine Lenzini and other Society members spent several years arranging for the transfer of assets and setting up the accounts.   The interest from that historical money is now going to rent the Washington School library for the Alton M. Tirey Local History Center.

    The public is invited to an open house and ribbon cutting by local officials Sunday, June 7, 2 to 4:30 p.m.  Refreshments will be served.

    Tirey′s interests were churches, the First National Bank of Walsenburg (now Community Banks of Colorado) where he was a shareholder and director, and ranching in the Gardner, Malachite, Redwing area.  He also wanted that area of the county to be recognized and the artifacts and photos preserved.

    Now other generous donors have offered precious county records to the Center.  The Jay Crook family donated all the old local newspapers from the late 1880′s to the present and photographs.  Huerfano County Commissioners gave old county ledgers.  Here is where one can find the old brand books, land plats of ranches, and even lists of those dozens who needed whisky during prohibition "for medicinal purposes."  A few school records, coroner′s reports on mine accidents and tax rolls are in the mix.  A special plaque is being designed to recognize major donors.

    Historians and genealogists and families may use these resources – at this time the Society asks only that you make a donation.  Supplies to preserve these materials properly need to be purchased.  By arranging with a Historical Society board member, access is available with volunteers to open up the center.  No regular hours have been established as most members already volunteer at the Walsenburg Mining Museum or Francisco Fort in La Veta, now both open for the summer.  The Society board aims to make this center one of the premier research centers in Southern Colorado.

    The decision to use the interest only, not the principal of Tirey′s bequest, was made in a day-long session led by a professional facilitator from out of town.  Present were some 30 representatives from the La Veta Town Board, private citizens from Walsenburg and La Veta, museum volunteers and historical society members.  The decision was unanimous.

    The Huerfano County Historical Society members who may arrange use of the Center are Betty Elwell and Marna Brister from La Veta, Elaine Lenzini, Margaret Gleisberg, John Carlson, Carolyn Newman, Chris Landrum, Ben Ree, Marge Figal, Jerry Skrzynear and Jewel Geiger from Walsenburg.  The Society would welcome more La Veta year-around board members.   A Society member will be present during the research to assist the patron.