Bayfield museum volunteer wins coveted history award

Monday, July 2, 2018 12:23 PM
Anne Schrier displays her research project on the origins of pioneer families in the Pine River Valley. Her project won an award from History Colorado.

History Colorado, the state's major historical association, has bestowed a prestigious honor on Bayfield's Anne Schrier, a tireless volunteer for the Pine River Valley Heritage Society.

Schrier's exhaustive research project on the Pine River Valley's early pioneers, "A New Beginning: Pine River Valley Pioneer Roots," received a $500 honorable mention Caroline Bancroft History Project Award.

Through several interviews with pioneer descendants, Schrier compiled a massive book of stories and an interactive map retracing the early settlers' routes from Europe to America and eventually the Pine River Valley. The map and stories are all available at the Pine River Valley Heritage Museum on Mill Street in Bayfield.

"The judges were especially engaged by the map showing the point of origin and sharing family histories," said Elisa Phelps, director of Contemporary Collecting and Special Projects for Denver-based History Colorado.

Judges were also enamored with how Schrier's research unearthed the story behind the naming of Wolf Creek - the pass thousands of people drive over near Pagosa Springs.

Not until Schrier interviewed descendants of wagon master Ed Sommers did locals learn the salty tale of how Wolf Creek Pass got its name.

In April 1877, 140 years ago, the Hammond-Bates caravan made the arduous trek toward the Pine River Valley. Halfway up the pass, they allowed a guy named William Wolf to join the caravan despite his reputation for disobeying wagon-train rules.

When an argument escalated over Wolf's refusal to load some sore-footed calves into a wagon, Wolf grabbed a piece of wagon tongue, with the intent of assaulting the young wagon master. But Sommers pulled out his pistol and shot Wolf between the eyes. Boards were taken off wagons to fashion a coffin. Wolf was buried and someone wrote his name on a tree. The creek and pass have been called Wolf Creek every since.

Schrier, who lives in Forest Lakes, spent the winter of 2016-2017 on the project and continues to share her findings with museum visitors. The free, all-volunteer museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday until late September.