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Ouray (the Arrow) was born in Taos, New Mexico, in 1820. He father was a member of the Ute tribe but his mother was an Apache. Well educated he learnt to speak both English and Spanish.
When his father died in 1860, Ouray became chief of the Tabeguache band of Utes. A close friend of Kit Carson, Ouray signed a peace treaty with the United States on 7th October, 1863.
In 1872 Ouray went to Washington to complain about the seizure of Ute lands by white settlers. Ouray pointed out that the land had been pledged to the tribe in perpetuity.
Nathan Meeker became the Indian agent of the White River Ute Reservation in 1878. He upset the Utes by trying to force them to become farmers. In September, 1879, Meeker called in the army to deal with the Utes. When he heard what was happening, Chief Douglas and a group of warriors killed Meeker and seven other members of the agency. This became known as the Meeker Massacre. The Utes also attacked Major Thomas Thornburgh and his troops heading for the White River Agency. In the fighting Thornburgh and nine of his men were killed.
Ouray now carried out peace negotiations with the American government. As a result the Utes were moved from Colorado and placed on a reservation in Utah. Ouray was rewarded with a $1,000 a year annuity.
Ouray died of Brights Disease on 27th October, 1880.
Originally established by miners seeking silver and gold in the surrounding mountains, the town at one time boasted more horses and mules than people. Prospectors arrived in the area in 1875. In 1877, William Weston and George Barber found the Gertrude and Una gold veins in Imogene Basin, six miles south southwest of Ouray. Thomas Walsh acquired the two veins and all the open ground nearby. In 1897, Walsh opened the Camp Bird Mine, adding a twenty-stamp mill in 1898, and a forty-stamp mill in 1899. The mine produced almost 200,000 ounces of gold by 1902, when Walsh sold out to Camp Bird, Ltd. By 1916, Camp Bird, Ltd., had produced over one million ounces of gold.  : 51, 84–86,91
At the height of the mining, Ouray had more than 30 active mines. The town—after changing its name and that of the county it was in several times—was incorporated on October 2, 1876, named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe. By 1877 Ouray had grown to over 1,000 in population and was named county seat of the newly formed Ouray County on March 8, 1877.
The Denver & Rio Grande Railway arrived in Ouray on December 21, 1887. It would stay until the automobile and trucks caused a decline in traffic. The last regularly scheduled passenger train was September 14, 1930. The line between Ouray and Ridgway was abandoned on March 21, 1953.
In 1986, Bill Fries, a.k.a. C. W. McCall, was elected mayor, ultimately serving for six years. 
The entirety of Main Street is registered as a National Historic District with most of the buildings dating back to the late nineteenth century. The Beaumont Hotel and the Ouray City Hall and Walsh Library are listed on the National Register of Historic Places individually, while the Ouray County Courthouse, St. Elmo Hotel, St. Joseph's Miners' Hospital (currently housing the Ouray County Historical Society and Museum), Western Hotel, and Wright's Opera House are included in the historic district.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 0.8 square miles (2.1 km 2 ), all of it land.
Ouray experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are warm in the day and mild to cool at night with brief thunderstorms often occurring in the afternoons in July and August sometimes resulting in intense, though short lived, rainfall. Autumn is cool and mostly clear with occasional rain. Winters are long and cold—though seldom extremely so—with considerable snowfall. Spring is generally cool with early spring often bringing the largest snowfalls late spring into early summer (mid-May through late June) is mild to warm and is usually the driest time of year. The Köppen climate classification for Ouray is Dfb. 
|Climate data for Ouray, Colorado|
|Record high °F (°C)||60 |
|Average high °F (°C)||37.0 |
|Average low °F (°C)||15.0 |
|Record low °F (°C)||−22 |
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||1.72 |
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||24.7 |
|Source: Western Regional Climate Center |
The majority of Ouray's economy is based on tourism. Ouray bills itself as the "Switzerland of America" because of its setting at the narrow head of a valley, enclosed on three and a half sides by steep mountains.
Much of the town tourism is focused on ice climbing, mountain biking, hiking, trail running and off-roading in four-wheel drive (4WD) expeditions into the San Juan Mountains. Ouray has also become a popular destination for motorcyclists, as it marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway. This stretch of highway connects Ouray to its neighboring cities of Silverton and Durango. The Million Dollar Highway is frequently regarded as one of the most beautiful roads in Colorado, but is also considered one of the most dangerous due to its sharp turns, steep ledges, and lack of guard rails.  Destinations include Yankee Boy Basin, Engineer Mountain, and Black Bear Road. Recording artist (and later Ouray mayor) C. W. McCall helped make Black Bear famous in the area. His song "Black Bear Road" borrowed the phrase, "you don't have to be crazy to drive this road, but it helps", from a sign once posted somewhere at the beginning of Black Bear Pass. 
Ouray is a popular destination for ice climbing.  The world's first ice climbing park, expanding on previously-popular natural falls, consists of dozens of frozen waterfalls from 80 to 200 feet (61 m) high farmed along more than a mile of the Uncompahgre Gorge. The water is supplied by a sprinkler system developed and maintained by a volunteer organization and supported by donations from local businesses, gear manufacturers and climbers. The Ouray Ice Park is free and attracts climbers from around the world. The annual Ice Festival is a weekend-long extravaganza of contests, exhibitions and instruction with many of the world's top ice climbers. Ice climbing has been a boon to the local economy as well, with hotels and restaurants that previously closed through the winter months now staying open to accommodate climbers.
There are five developed hot springs in Ouray and nearby Ridgway. These include thermal pools and vapor caves. Ouray Hot Springs is the largest facility with numerous pools. 
There are numerous waterfalls along the road from Durango to Ouray, and within the city limits there are two waterfalls within easy reach. Cascade Falls  is a short, 1/4 mile hike accessible from a parking lot on 8th Avenue. Box Canyon Falls is at the southwest edge of Ouray.
Ouray was originally a mining town. The largest and most famous mine is the Camp Bird Mine, the second-largest gold mine in Colorado, established by Thomas Walsh in 1896.  Even though there was an operation permit filed in 2007, the mine still remains inactive.  During its lifespan, the mine produced about 1.5 million troy ounces of gold, and 4 million troy ounces of silver, from 1896 to 1990.  In 1995 the old milling equipment "The Crusher" was disassembled and sold to a smaller mine located in Mongolia where it operated for about two years.  The vacant mine can be seen on the steep 2WD road leading to the 4WD roads to Yankee Boy Basin and Imogene Pass.
|U.S. Decennial Census |
As of the census of 2010,  there were 1,000 people, 457 households, and 283 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,250 people per square mile (454.5/km 2 ). There were 800 housing units at an average density of 1,000 per square mile (363.6/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the city was 95.2% White, 0.1% (1) African American, 0.4% (4) Native American, 0.8% (8) Asian, 1.9% (19) from other races, and 1.6% (16) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.2% of the population.
There were 457 households, out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.1% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 38.1% were non-families. 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.76.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 21.7% under the age of 18, 28.1% from 18 to 44, 33.2% from 45 to 64, and 17.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $36,094, and the median income for a family was $45,313. Males had a median income of $35,217 versus $27,083 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,127. About 9.3% of families and 8.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.1% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.
The nearest airport with scheduled service is Montrose Regional Airport, located approximately 40 miles (64 km) to the north.
US 550 is the only paved road into or out of Ouray. U.S. 550 begins roughly 40 miles (64 km) north of Ouray in Montrose. It runs south to Bernalillo, New Mexico, via Durango, Colorado, and Aztec, New Mexico. The stretch of U.S. 550 that runs south from Ouray to Silverton is known as the Million Dollar Highway.
In the fall of 1968, the film True Grit was filmed in Ouray County, including some scenes in the city of Ouray and the nearby town of Ridgway, Colorado. The interior of the Ouray County Court House was also featured in the film.
In Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, the protagonist's secret hideaway was located in an unnamed valley in the Rocky Mountains called Mulligan's Valley or "Galt's Gulch." Rand later said that Galt's Gulch was inspired by Ouray, where Rand found inspiration to complete the novel. 
In the television series MacGyver, Ouray is the home of MacGyver's grandfather, Harry. The town and surrounds are used as the backdrop for the first-season episode, "Target MacGyver".
Telluride native David Lavender related his experiences working at the Camp Bird Mine in the 1930s in his memoir One Man's West.
Coors and Chevrolet have both filmed commercials in the area, particularly Twin Falls in Yankee Boy Basin.
Major League baseball pitcher Smoky Joe Wood was born in Kansas City but grew up in Ouray. 
The opening scene to the movie Over the Top with Sylvester Stallone runs straight through downtown.
The Netflix original series The Ranch is set in the fictional town of Garrison, Colorado, but the opening shot of the town during the credit sequence is of Ouray, and the San Juan Valley just north of Ouray.
Ouray is a significant location In Chuck Wendig's novel Wanderers.
Legends of America
“We do not want to sell a foot of our land that is the opinion of our people. The whites can go and take the land and come out again. We do not want them to build houses here.”
Chief Ouray was the leader of the Tabeguache (Uncompahgre ) band of the Ute tribe in western Colorado in the 19th century. Ouray was born near Taos, New Mexico in about 1833.
According to oral history passed down by Ute elders, he was born on a gloriously clear night when a magnificent display of meteor showers streaked across the black winter sky. The elders believed it was a sign a message from above of good things to happen.
Ouray’s mother was a member of the Uncompahgre band of Ute and his father, Guera Murah, was half Jicarilla Apache. Ouray grew up in the Taos area where Spanish and English were the prevalent languages and would not learn to speak the Ute and Apache languages until later in life. He spent most of his youth working for Mexican sheepherders and fighting against rival Sioux and Kiowa.
When he was about 18 Ouray traveled into Colorado, and became a member of the Tabeguache Ute band, where his father, despite his Apache heritage, had become the leader. In 1859, he married a Tabeguache Ute maiden by the name of Chipeta, who was actually a Kiowa Apache who had been adopted by the Ute as a child.
When his father died in 1860, Ouray became chief of the Ute Indians, including the Uncompahgre band. In Ouray’s role as chief, he was considered one of the Utes’ greatest leaders with strong characteristics of patience and diplomacy. He was often referred to as “The White Man’s Friend,” as he sought to work with the white settlers and the government.
In October 1863, Ouray negotiated a treaty in which the Tabeguache Ute were assigned a reservation, but, unfortunately for the Ute, the vast majority of their lands east of the Continental United States, ended up in government hands. In 1868, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent his people and was appointed “head chief of the Ute” by the government. A new treaty created reservation lands in Colorado for the Tabeguache, Moache, Capote, Wiminuche, Yampa, Grand River, and Uinta, but again, more land was relinquished.
Though Ouray always tried to secure the best possible conditions for his people while still remaining friendly to the whites, each subsequent treaty brought increasing losses of land for the Ute. For many of the Ute, building resentments began to form and a number of attempts were made on Ouray’s life. However, he survived and maintained his conciliatory attitude.
With the discovery of gold in Colorado, conditions for the Ute changed dramatically as miners flocked upon their lands. As a result, relations between the Indians and the whites deteriorated. In the spring of 1878, Nathan Meeker assumed the role of Indian Agent at the White River Agency. “Dictatorial” in his brand of management, Meeker undiplomatically tried to force the Ute to farm, raise stock, discontinue their pony racing and hunting forays, and send their children to school. Meeker, determined to convert the Ute from primitive savages to hard-working, God-fearing farmers, persisted in forcing his reforms, even when warned that he was making the Ute furious. But Meeker ignored the warnings and ordered that a horse racing track be plowed under to convert to farmland. He also suggested to one that there were too many horses and that they would have to kill some of them. The Ute, whose land Meeker was plowing under, resisted and a fist-fight occurred.
As a result, Meeker wired for military assistance, claiming that he had been assaulted by the Ute man, driven from his home, and severely injured. The government responded by sending 200 troops led by Major T.T. Thornburgh.
However, perceiving this action as an “act of war,” the Utes revolted. On September 29, 1879, before the troops arrived, the Indians attacked the agency, burned the buildings, and killed Meeker and nine of his employees. The incident is known as the Meeker Massacre. Meeker’s wife, daughter, and another girl were held as captives for 23 days. After the massacre, relief columns from Forts Fred Steele and D. A. Russell, Wyoming, defeated the Utes in the Battle of Milk Creek, Colorado, and ended the uprising.
Though Ouray had sent orders to the Ute band involved in the attacks to stop, his orders were ignored. Afterward, he did his best to keep the peace but it was too late. Area settlers demanded the Ute’ removal. One headline in the October 30, 1879 issue of Harpers Weekly screamed: “The Utes Must Go.”
Ouray found himself explaining to his people why they must leave their land. On March 6, 1880, the Southern Ute and the Uncompahgre acknowledged an agreement to settle respectively on La Plata River and on the Grand near the mouth of the Gunnison, while the White River Ute agreed to move to the Uinta reservation in Utah.
In the summer of 1880, Ouray and his wife, Chipeta, journeyed to the Southern Ute agency at Ignacio with the intent to negotiate once again with the white man. Though Ouray completed the journey, he was a sick man by the time he arrived. He died of Brights Disease on August 24, 1880.
He was buried secretly at Ignacio. Chief Ouray’s obituary in The Denver Tribune read:
“In the death of Ouray, one of the historical characters passes away. He has figured for many years as the greatest Indian of his time, and during his life has figured quite prominently. Ouray is in many respects…a remarkable Indian…pure instincts and keen perception. A friend to the white man and protector to the Indians alike.”
Forty-five years later, Ouray was re-interred in the cemetery southeast of the White River Agency and the grave was appropriately marked.
His wife, Chipeta, continued to work for the Ute. When sufficient agricultural land was not found for the Uncompahgre in southern Colorado, a new reservation was established in 1882. Chipeta then relocated to the reservation in northeast Utah, where she was highly valued and always sat in on the chief’s meetings. She passed away in 1924.
Ouray - History
The mission of OCRHM shall be to procure, preserve and exhibit items and artifacts related to educating the public about the ranch heritage of Ouray County, Colorado and our surrounding area.
Our Ranching HerItage
Ouray County was developed in 1877 with the Town of Ridgway in 1891. The mining boom brought settlers to this area as ranchers soon followed, working the land and helping support the mines with cattle & agricultural needs.
President Abraham Lincoln signed into law on May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act which encouraged Western migration by providing settlers 160 acres of public land. In exchange, homesteaders paid a small filing fee and were required to complete five years of continuous residence before receiving ownership of the land. After six months of residency, homesteaders also had the option of purchasing the land from the government for $1.25 per acre. The Homestead Act led to the distribution of 80 million acres of public land by 1900.
Our area still produces cattle and livestock for the nations beef industry.
The Ouray County Ranch History Museum was started at the request of local ranch families to preserve their family's legacy in this county. Stop by to see what ranch life was like starting from the 1870's and learn about the ranching that is still going on in our area today.
A look back in time.
Together with the Beaumont Hotel, Ouray County Court House, School House, and Miners Hospital (which now houses the Ouray County Museum), the Wright Opera House was one of the most imposing brick structures in Ouray during the late 1880s and early 1890s. This building “with its decorative iron front structural style and cast iron piers supporting the pressed metal front of the second floor was an addition the town could be proud of. Above the middle window of the second floor was a stained glass window and at the top and center of the building in pressed iron WRIGHTS HALL was clearly visible. A wrought-iron balcony extended in front of the three middle windows on the second floor,” all of which was manufactured by Mesker Brothers Iron Works of St. Louis, Missouri. It is one of about 19 structures on Ouray’s Main Street that are believed to be Mesker iron facades, which makes Ouray’s Main Street what is believed to be one of the largest concentration of Mesker fronts still extant in the United States. The hall was entered through a door level with a sidewalk on Third (Main) Street on the north end of the building and a stairway led up to the hall with the ticket office at the top.”
According to Darius Bryka of the Illinois Department of Historic Preservation and the expert on Mesker buildings, the Wright Opera House is the finest example of a Mesker Building that he has seen in the United States.
The grand opening of the Wright Opera House was held on December 4, 1888, with a benefit concert and ball given by the Magnolia Band to pay for uniforms. Later that month on December 19, 1888, Professors David and Laux provided a musical program consisting of piano and organ duets.
A number of years elapsed before the local residents began to accept this new cultural center for Ouray. Attendance was spotty until the collapse of the mining era. Then more and more activities were held in the Wright Opera House, including cultural activities for the school. Musicians were brought from Denver and other more culturally rich areas to perform for the people in Ouray County. Finally the Wright Opera House became the center of activities for the city of Ouray and the remainder of the County during the early part of the 20th century.
After a number of years of relative non-use of the Wright Opera House, it is once again being used for cultural events for the public. This structure which is very visible on Main Street makes a very significant contribution to the Ouray Historic District as stated in the Catherine Norman Survey of 2005 and is also a candidate for an individual listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Utes’ new reservation on the Western Slope covered some 20 million acres, but it didn’t take long before the US government again met with Ouray to acquire more Ute land. The San Juan Mountains were largely ignored during the Colorado Gold Rush of 1858–59, but by the early 1870s, prospectors had found promising deposits of gold and silver there and sought to claim the riches. Initially, the government ordered the miners out of Ute territory, citing the 1868 treaty, but when they refused to leave, state and federal officials began working on a plan to annex the rugged, remote mountains to Colorado.
The government’s first attempt to acquire the San Juans from the Utes was a dismal failure from the US perspective, as Ouray and other Ute representatives unanimously refused to sell any more of their land. But soon after attending that first meeting, Felix R. Brunot, chairman of the Board of Indian Commissioners, learned that Ouray’s son had been taken captive. Brunot persuaded the Ute leader to agree to sell the San Juans if the government could reunite him with his son. Although the effort to find Pahlone ultimately failed, Ouray became convinced of Brunot’s sincerity and eventually helped him induce the other Ute bands to relinquish a 4-million-acre piece of the San Juans in exchange for hunting rights in the mountains, an annual payment of $25,000 to the Utes, and other deliverables.
Since Congress declared in 1871 that the United States would no longer recognize the sovereignty of Indian nations, the agreement that ceded the San Juans to the United States was not a treaty rather, it became known as the Brunot Agreement. Signed in 1873, it included an annual stipend of $1,000 for Ouray as well as land for him and Chipeta near present-day Montrose.
Legends of America
Main Street in Ouray, Colorado by Carol Highsmith.
Ouray, Colorado is a historic mining town located on the Million Dollar Highway in southwest Colorado. Sitting in a natural rock amphitheater at an elevation of 7,792 feet, the community that is so beautiful it is often called the Switzerland of America.
The town is named for Chief Ouray of the Ute Indian tribe, who had long made this area home before miners began to arrive. The nomadic Tabeguache Ute Indians had utilized this beautiful valley in the summer months for centuries, hunting the abundant game and soaking in what they called “sacred miracle waters.” The Ute called the area “Uncompahgre,” which was their word for “hot water springs.” Chief Ouray once lived in a small cabin at the foothills of the natural amphitheater.
When white men began to push into the Ute territory in the 1860s, Chief Ouray initially dealt with them with patience and diplomacy, so much so that he was often referred to as “The White Man’s Friend.” This changed, however, with the discovery of gold in Colorado, and miners in great numbers began to encroach upon their lands. After several treaties were made and broken, the Ute were finally pushed out of the area, and miners flooded the region.
“Ouray was a friend of the white man and protector to the Indians.” – The Denver Post
The town of Ouray had its beginnings in 1875 when prospectors from Silverton worked their way into the area via Bear Creek and the Uncompahgre River, searching for ore. The first recorded claims were made by A.W. “Gus” Begole and John Eckles in July. After they returned to Silverton for supplies, they were followed back north by several others, and a mining camp was established.
Nearby, prospectors made claims on the Cedar, Clipper, Trout, and Fisherman lodes. Another site called Mineral Farm was also located about 1.5 miles south of the mining camp and became one of the most prosperous early workings in the area.
Ouray Miners, courtesy Denver Public Library
On August 28, 1875, a notice was filed for the townsite of Uncompahgre, and a number of log cabins were built, and a post office was established in October. Otto Mears was awarded the contract to carry the mail to the various mining camps in the area. During these early days, the mail was often carried by dog sleds and skis in the winter. At one point, the snow was so bad that Mears’ carriers declared they could not get through, and Mr. Mears, rather face a charge of breach of contract, personally carried the mail on snowshoes. This mail contract probably led Mears to build the Ouray-Lake Fork Toll Road, known for years as the “Mears Toll Road.”
By the spring of 1876, more miners made their way to the area, and the town was surveyed and formally incorporated in October 1876 as the town of Ouray. It boasted a population of 400 people and 214 buildings within no time, most of which were made of logs. These structures included a school with 43 students, four general stores, one sawmill, an ore sampling works, two hotels, and a post office.
Third Street, Ouray, Colorado, 1881, courtesy Denver Public Library
In the meantime, more rich discoveries were made at nearby Imogene and Yankee Boy basins. Ouray became the major supply center for these new strikes.
In January 1877, Ouray County was formed out of San Juan County, and Ouray became the county seat. At that time, the town was called home to about 1,000 residents.
By 1880, significant ore deposits had been found in the area, with the greatest concentration of high-quality ore found in the Ironton area 10 miles south of Ouray and the Sneffels District and Imogene Basin workings to the west and southwest. Ouray became the shipping point and supply center of the region at that time, a role that it would serve for over 90 years.
Ouray Toll Road, by Detroit Photographic Co., 1900
The Red Mountain Mining District came into its own in 1882, and Otto Mears constructed a toll road from Ouray to the new district. By that time, Ouray was taking on a true urban center’s trappings, as brick buildings began to replace the wooden ones.
By 1885, Ouray boasted a population of 1800 people, two weekly newspapers – the Ouray Times and the Solid Muldoon, an ore sampling works, a 10-stamp mill, a bank, three churches, several schools, and numerous restaurants, hotels, saloons, and fraternal organizations.
The same year, Otto Mears, who had built an extensive network of toll roads throughout southwestern Colorado in the past decade, finalized his “greatest road” – the predecessor of the “Million-Dollar Highway” between Silverton and Ouray. This rugged toll road followed the Uncompahgre River gorge, crossed Red Mountain, and skirted a narrow ledge hundreds of feet above the canyon floor.
The 1886 Beaumont Hotel in Ouray, Colorado by Carol Highsmith.
In addition to mining, people were drawn to Ouray for its numerous hot springs and magnificent setting. As a response to this trend, the three-story Beaumont Hotel was built in 1886, and it was destined to become one of the finest hotels in the West. The lavishly furnished hotel, with its elegant dining room, opened in July 1887. Due to declining tourism, the hotel closed in 1964 and sat empty for more than 30 years. However, in 1998 it was meticulously restored to its original grandeur. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places today, it once again serves guests.
The same year the Miner’s Hospital opened in August 1887. Frank Carney built it on land donated by the Catholic Church with funds contributed by Ouray citizens. It remained open until 1964 and became the Ouray County Historical Society and Museum’s home in 1971. It is located at 420 Sixth Avenue.
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in Ouray, Colorado by Russell Lee, 1940
The Denver & Rio Grande Railway arrived in Ouray on December 21, 1887. The railroad allowed low-grade ore, previously ignored because of exorbitant shipping costs, to be profitably exploited. The railroad soon built a depot, an engine house, a turntable, and other supporting buildings. Today, all of the railroad structures are gone.
The first of the narrow gauge railroad excursions came to Ouray in August 1888, which were promoted as “Around the Circle” tours. The original route traveled from Pueblo to Salida, over Marshall Pass to Gunnison and Montrose, before making its way to Ouray. Travelers then took stagecoaches from Ouray to Chattanooga to board the Silverton Railroad to Silverton and Durango, then over La Veta Pass back to Pueblo.
The 1888 Ouray County Courthouse by Carol Highsmith.
More magnificent buildings were erected in 1888, including Wright’s Opera House at 472 Main Street. It was built by Edward and Letitia Wright, who owned the Wheel of Fortune Mine. The Ouray County Courthouse was built the same year and today remains much the same as when constructed. It is located at 541 Fourth Street.
In 1890, Ouray reached its peak population of 2,534. At the height of the mining, the Ouray area boasted more than 30 active mines.
In 1891 a new city hall building was erected. The one-story building held city offices, a jail, and a fire department. Soon after the new building was in use, Thomas Walsh funded a second story for a library, gymnasium, and a free public hall. The exterior of-of the red-brick building, topped by a clock tower and a bell tower was designed to resemble Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Now called the Ouray City Hall and Walsh Library, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 320 Sixth Avenue.
The three-story Western Hotel was built the same year and opened in 1892. Situated near the Denver & Rio Grande Railway, it was immediately successful. Today the 28 room hotel continues to serve guests and includes a frontier-style bar and dining room. It is located at 210 Seventh Avenue.
Mill at the Camp Bird Mine, Ouray County, Colorado, by Russell Lee, 1940
The silver crash of 1893 proved a temporary disaster to Ouray and the entire San Juan region, which had primarily been a silver mining area. After a brief depression, Ouray continued to grow and thrive because of rich gold mines which had been developed on Gold Hill, just north of Ouray in the Paquin Mining District, the continuing major production of the Virginius-Revenue Mine at Sneffles, and the recently discovered Camp Bird Mine between Ouray and Telluride.
In 1897, Thomas Walsh opened the Camp Bird Mine, adding a 20-stamp mill in 1898 and a 40-stamp mill in 1899. The mine produced almost 200,000 ounces of gold by 1902 when Walsh sold out to Camp Bird, Ltd. By 1916 the Camp Bird Mine produced over one million ounces of gold.
Shortly after the turn-of-the-century, work began on the Joker Tunnel, which drained the rich silver mines of the Red Mountain District. In 1900, Ouray’s population was 2,196.
In 1927, the Ouray Hot Springs Pool opened. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places today, the pool features hot mineral water from seven natural springs. Amazingly, the pool has not changed much since construction. The 750,000-gallon sulfur-free mineral pool is open year-round. It is located at 1200 Main Street.
Yankee Girl Mine near Ouray, Colorado by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
In the early decades of the 20 th century, mining decreased, resulting in the fall of population. Ouray was called home to just 707 people by 1930, but large portions of the city were never abandoned in Silverton and Telluride. Simultaneously, people were using automobiles instead of the railroad, and passenger service on the Denver & Rio Grande Railway was discontinued in September 1930.
In 1939, the Idarado Mining Company was founded, which consolidated many of the existing mining claims in the area, including the Black Bear, Treasure Tunnel, Barstow, and Imogene Mines. During World War II, the Idarado Mine became a major producer of needed war metals. Eventually, the company’s operations almost reached Telluride. Idarado’s mining operations continued until 1978.
The Denver & Rio Grande Railway to and from Ouray was abandoned in 1953. In 1972, Ridgway’s line to Montrose was also abandoned, ending 85 years of railroad operations in Ouray County.
Ouray reached its all-time population low in 1990 with just 644 people. However, in recent decades, more people have been drawn to the area, which now boasts a population of over 1,000 people. Its economy is based on tourism.
The town’s history is very evident in its many well-preserved historic structures. Unlike many other mining towns, Ouray never experienced a fire that consumed a large portion of the town, resulting in a significant number of 19th-century commercial buildings remaining. The Ouray Historic District encompasses nearly the entire town. The vast majority of buildings span from 1886 to 1915, the height of Ouray’s importance as a supply center for nearby mining regions. The Historic District includes 331 buildings. In the commercial district are many brick structures ornately finished with cast-iron facades or Italianate or Romanesque brickwork. Numerous predominantly Queen Anne style homes can be found in the southeast section of town. A historical walking tour begins and ends at the Ouray County Museum at 420 6th Avenue.
In addition to Ouray’s rich history, visitors enjoy numerous recreational activities, including horseback riding, four-wheel drives, rafting, and hiking or climbing in the mountains. Also located in Ouray are the Box Canyon Waterfall, the Ouray Ice Park, and the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.
Ouray is situated at the north end of the Million Dollar Highway and on the San Juan Skyway. These drives providing visitors with numerous scenic views and opportunities to visit the area’s many ghost towns. The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway is also located nearby and can be accessed with 4-wheel drive vehicles.
The western Ute bands originally occupied about 23.5 million acres or around 45 percent of the present state of Utah. By the 1870s, however, Utah’s Utes were confined to less than 10 percent of that area, slightly over 2 million acres on the Uintah Reservation. The Ute lands grew to over 4 million acres in 1880 when the federal government removed the White River and Uncompahgre bands from Colorado and created the Ouray Reservation in Utah. Although Ouray, the prominent chief for whom the new reservation was named, died before the forced relocation, he had spent his life negotiating with government officials and trying to assure a peaceful existence for his people.
The exact date of Ouray’s birth is unknown, but most authorities believe he was born in 1833 in Taos, New Mexico. He spent most of his youth working for Mexican sheepherders and fighting against rival Sioux and Kiowas. He learned Spanish, English, and several Indian languages that became very useful to him in later treaty negotiations. After the death of his first wife, Ouray married Chipeta, a beautiful Uncompahgre Ute toward whom he always showed deep devotion.
In 1863 Ouray helped to negotiate a treaty with the federal government in which the Utes ceded all lands east of the Continental Divide. In 1868 he traveled to Washington, D.C., to represent his people and was appointed “head chief of the Utes” by the government. Ouray and his wife made several visits to the nation’s capital and on one occasion met President Ulysses S. Grant.
Ouray always attempted to secure the best possible conditions for his people while still remaining friendly to the whites. Nevertheless, each additional negotiation brought increasing losses of land for the Indians, and some resented Ouray’s friendship with the whites and the special favors he received from them. Disgruntled Utes made various attempts on Ouray’s life, but he survived and maintained his conciliatory attitude.
With the discovery of gold in Colorado and the resulting influx of miners, Indian-white relations deteriorated. Finally, in the spring of 1878, Nathan Meeker, an Indian agent, triggered a series of events that led to the relocation of Ouray’s people to Utah. The White River Utes had become infuriated over Meeker’s attempt to force them to farm. Meeker called in federal troops, but the Indians succeeded in killing him and seven other whites and took several women as captives. When the government appealed to Ouray for help, the influential chief intervened and secured the release of the hostages and even welcomed them into his home while the situation was defused.
Repercussions from this incident were devastating for the Indians. In 1880 Ouray traveled for the last time to Washington where he signed a treaty providing for the removal of the White River Utes as well as his own Uncompahgre band from Colorado to the Uintah and newly created Ouray reservations in Utah. Shortly after his return from Washington, Ouray died and was buried in southern Colorado. His wife, Chipeta, moved to Utah with her people and died in poverty and exile in 1924 on the reservation named for her husband.
Ouray Genealogy (in Ouray County, CO)
NOTE: Additional records that apply to Ouray are also found through the Ouray County and Colorado pages.
Ouray Birth Records
Colorado, Birth Records, 1910-present Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Ouray County Births 1891-1902 Colorado State Archives
Ouray Cemetery Records
Ouray Census Records
Federal Census of 1940, Ouray, Colorado LDS Genealogy
United States Federal Census, 1790-1940 Family Search
Ouray Church Records
Ouray Death Records
Colorado, Death Records, 1900-present Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Ouray Histories and Genealogies
Ouray Immigration Records
Ouray Map Records
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ouray, Ouray County, Colorado, August 1886 Library of Congress
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ouray, Ouray County, Colorado, February 1893 Library of Congress
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ouray, Ouray County, Colorado, January 1900 Library of Congress
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ouray, Ouray County, Colorado, October 1890 Library of Congress
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ouray, Ouray County, Colorado, October 1908 Library of Congress
Ouray Marriage Records
Ouray Newspapers and Obituaries
Ouray Herald, 1896-04-02 to 1922-11-16 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
Ouray Times 08/02/1879 to 02/04/1882 Genealogy Bank
Ouray Times, 1877-06-16 to 1880-06-12 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
Plaindealer, 1901-01-11 to 1911-12-29 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
Silverite-Plaindealer, 1896-01-10 to 1901-01-04 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
The Daily Muldoon, October 17, 1882 - November 9, 1882 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
The Ouray Herald, April 2, 1896 - November 16, 1922 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
The Plaindealer, January 11, 1901 - December 29, 1911 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
The Silverite-Plaindealer, January 10, 1896 - January 4, 1901 Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection
Offline Newspapers for Ouray
According to the US Newspaper Directory, the following newspapers were printed, so there may be paper or microfilm copies available. For more information on how to locate offline newspapers, see our article on Locating Offline Newspapers.
Ouray County Herald. (Ouray, Ouray County, Colo.) 1939-1969
Ouray County Plaindealer and Ouray Herald. (Ouray, Colo.) 1969-1980
Ouray County Plaindealer. (Ouray, Colo.) 1980-Current
Ouray Herald and the Plaindealer. (Ouray, Ouray County, Colo.) 1921-1936
Ouray Herald. (Ouray, Ouray County, Colo.) 1894-1920
Ouray Herald. (Ouray, Ouray County, Colo.) 1936-1939
San Juan Silverite. (Ouray, Colo.) 1892-1890s
Silverite-Plaindealer. (Ouray, Colo.) 1894-1901
Ouray Probate Records
Ouray County Probate Cases 1878-1919 Colorado State Archives
Ouray School Records
Additions or corrections to this page? We welcome your suggestions through our Contact Us page
Ouray - History
Photo taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net - (May 2005)
(All rights reserved)
Ouray is located on the ultra- scenic San Juan Skyway
Ouray has been a special destination of world travelers for more than 100 years. This small intimate community is nestled in some of the most
rugged and towering peaks of the Rockies. Set at the narrow head of a valley at 7,792 feet and surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot
snowcapped peaks - Ouray has been eloquently nicknamed the "Switzerland of America."
Remarkably, two-thirds of Ouray's original Victorian structures, both private and commercial, are still occupied, and have been lovingly
restored in order to preserve their turn-of-the-century charm.
Ouray County lies in the southwestern corner of Colorado in the heart of the San Juan mountains. Ouray County's landscape is dominated by
mountain peaks with 12 peaks 13,000 ft or higher.
The county covers 542 square miles and has a population of around 4,560. Two municipalities lie within the county, the city of Ouray and the
town of Ridgway. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the primary industries in the county were mining and agriculture. With the
decline of the mining industry, tourism increased with many drawn to Ouray County for its natural beauty and variety of outdoor activities.
Originally established by miners chasing silver and gold in the surrounding mountains, the town at one time, boasted more horses and mules
than people. Prospectors arrived in the area in 1875 searching for silver and gold. At the height of the mining, Ouray had more than active 30
mines. The town was incorporated on October 2nd, 1876, Ouray was named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe. By 1877
Ouray had grown to over 1,000 in population and was named county seat of the newly formed Ouray County on 8 March 1877.
The Denver & Rio Grande Railway arrived in Ouray on 21 December 1887, it would stay until the automobile and trucks caused a decline in
traffic, the last regularly scheduled passenger train was 14 September 1930. The line between Ouray and Ridgway was abandoned on 21
The entire town is registered as a National Historic District with most of the building dating back to the late 1800's. The Beaumont Hotel, Ouray
City Hall, Ouray County Courthouse, St. Elmo Hotel, St. Joseph's Miners' Hospital (currently the Ouray County Historical Society and Museum),
Western Hotel, and Wright's Opera House are all on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the fall of 1968 the film True Grit was filmed in Ouray County, including some scenes in the town of Ouray, most notably the Ouray County
Unlike other mining towns, Ouray never experienced a large fire that consumed a large portion of the town. As a result, a significant number of
19th century commercial buildings remain in town.
Summer 2015 dates :
July 18th, 2015: Guided Cemetery Walking Tour, $10, meet at Cedar Hill Cemetery at 9:00 am. Preregister at: 970-325-4576
August 22nd, 2015: Guided Cemetery Walking Tour, $10, meet at Cedar Hill Cemetery at 9:00 am. Preregister at 970-325-4576.
The Cedar Hill Cemetery tour takes visitors through Ouray’s beautifully maintained 120-year-old burial ground. Learn the stories of both the
upstanding and infamous citizens who shaped Ouray County. Many of the most ornate headstones mark the graves of children who perished
from childhood disease and the harsh environment. Others belong to prominent citizens such as brick mason Frank Carney who built many of
Ouray’s existing buildings and later became lieutenant governor of Colorado. (Keep an eye out for the legendary white ghost cat who guards
his owners’ graves.)
Ouray County Historical Society/Museum
420 6th Avenue, Post Office Box 151 Ouray, CO 81427-0151
For assistance during the time we are closed call: Museum Manager Maria Jones @ 970-325-4576
St. Elmo Hotel
426 Main Street
Above photos taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net- May 2005
Catherine "Kitie" Heit built, owned and operated this Queen Anne hotel. She also was the owner of the Bon Ton Restaurant, a Western
Vernacular frame building that was located on the site adjacentto, and north of the hotel. The Bon Ton was in existence in 1886. Kittie bought it
in 1890. It wastorn down in 1924. The present day Bon Ton opened in 1977 and is located in the hotel's lowerlevel. The hotel lobby and most
of its rooms are furnished today much as they were in the earlydays. A wide staircase leads to the second floor. There is a skylight in the roof,
the light fallingupon this beautiful stairway. This building is one of several in Ouray that is thought to be haunted.
Source: Ouray County Historical Society
(The old St. Joseph's Miners' Hospital)
420 Sixth Avenue
Photos taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net - (May 2005)
The Miners' Hospital opened its doors for business on August 27, 1887 under the auspices of the Sisters of Mercy. This stately old Italianate
building was built with dressed native stone and bracketed roof overhangs. It has three floors and a partial basement with a dirt floor. There
are 34 rooms in the building, 27 of which are now devoted to the history of Ouray County. The hospital was in existence for seventy-seven
years, closing permanently in 1964. By 1971 the newly organized Ouray County Historical Society leased space for exhibits and in 1976
purchased the property in order to develop a museum. Here you can learn about the Tabeguache Ute Indians who roamed this area for
centuries, mining, ranching, the railroads and other early transportation, minerals of the area, Ouray County's natural history, details about the
hospital itself and much more.
It is reported to be one of the haunted buildings in town.
'Things do happen around here that I can't explain," said Historical Society Volunteer Barbara Kneisler. "A light will go on that I know for sure I
turned off - little things.
"But of course, old buildings do creak, so I don't pay attention to every little sound."
Telluride Daily Planet
Ouray County Historical Society
Photo taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net - (May 2005)
The Courthouse today remains very much as it was upon completion, both inside and out. It was built of locally manufactured brick with cut
stone trim by Frank Carney. It embodies an unusual blend of architectural styles, primarily Queen Anne and Romanesque.
The first floor houses the county clerk's and treasurer's offices just as it did when it opened. The long wide central hall is used to exhibit many
historic photographs taken throughout the county.
The second floor district courtroom is 40' by 56' with an 18' ceiling. Its natural light comes through large arched windows. This room contains
many of its original furnishings. Jury rooms and other offices associated with the court are on this floor.
In 1976, the courthouse was enlarged by constructing an extension on the southeast side. The building attached to the back of the courthouse
was originally the county jail. Today it is office space for the County Sheriff's Department.
The courtroom scenes in the movie, True Grit, were filmed here.
At the Ouray County Courthouse, one spirit has made her presence known to men far more frequently than to women, said Deputy County
Clerk Paulette Crabb.
"We had someone working late at night," Crabb said. "He came out in the hall and saw a woman dressed in the style of the early 19th century.
She introduced herself, and gave her name as Sally Beaudreau.
"When he went to shake her hand, she wasn't there."
So strong is Ouray's reputation as a hangout for ghosts, the courthouse recently hosted two living visitors - paranormal researchers - intent on
capturing the ephemeral spirit on film, said Ouray County Clerk and Recorder Michelle Olin.
"Two ladies came in and set up cameras and audio," Olin said. "They had the kind of cameras that can see at night, but I have no idea if they
If the cameras and audio did turn up evidence of a paranormal presence, the researchers promised to share their findings, said Olin, who said
she has never seen any sign of a ghost in the courthouse.
Crabb and co-worker Jamie Nixon are not bothered by the possible presence of a ghostly visitor either.
"We have heard weird noises," Nixon said. "But we don't work at night."
Above historic photo: The Western Hotel
@ 1885 ( www.photoswest.org )
. A mysterious face painted on the bar room floor of the historic Western Hotel's saloon.
(Photo taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net - May 2005)
. One local "haunt" favored by unexplained phenomena is the Western Hotel.
"I was helping to remodel the Western in 1976," Ouray resident Kevin Haley said. "We saw shadows on the windows on a pretty regular basis.
"We were chipping away some little tiles at one point, and when we got up the next morning, our tools were all scattered around," Haley said.
While tales of spirited happenings at the Western abound, hotel owner Rosemarie Pieper has never felt the least bit unsettled - even while
doing laundry late at night.
"I am very comfortable with the hotel," Pieper said, adding that, when it comes to ghost sightings, "I think it is personal for everybody.
. One of the oldest , still standing all wood hotels in the West. My hairdresser told me that while an art workshop was going on there, two lady
artists saw, at different times, a lady on the staircase in old fashioned dress (1800s). They both drew or painted her picture and compared
them. They were of the same woman. The employees say there are several rooms upstairs that are haunted. After closing up one night, they
were sitting in the front lobby when they heard the cash register start operating in the adjoining bar.
Ouray: Historic Western Hotel: "Terror-ific? Yes, but just because of all the GHOSTS!"
April 14, 2003: A TripAdvisor Member, Longmont, CO
Wow, maybe the season makes the difference, because last August my Husband and I had the best experience of our lives at the Historic
Western Hotel. We checked in around 1:00 and was greated immediatley by a very helpful girl behind the counter. We were showed up to our
room (which was only $35, by the way) and walking up the stairs and down the hall, we creaked and squeaked all the way there. It was
CLASSIC! We felt like we were in one of those old western movies! When we got to our room, we were delighted to see that there were no
phones, contributing even more to our back in time feel. We were told that our shared restroom was down the hall (there are two suites @
about $60 with their own, but come on! where is your sense of adventure!) and when we got there, we were delighted to find an old clawfoot tub
and those hot/cold two fixture fausets!
I think the best part of our stay was when we found the guest book in our nightstand. In it we read all the stories of past visitors and how they
encountered ghosts at night :) All of this swept me away and I had vivid dreams of ghosts walking in the hallway woke up in the middle of the
night with my heart pounding! It was terror-ific.
We loved our stay and plan on going back soon, If you go, be sure to eat downstairs in the restaurant, it's inexpensive and the food was great!
. All of the rooms at the lovely Historic Western Hotel have journals where guests can record their
ghostly experiences! (**Names omitted for privacy.)
Photos taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net - (May 2005)
The Beaumont Hotel
505 Main Street
Photos taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net - (May 2005)
. There are some who say the Beaumont is haunted by the spirit of a young woman slain there in the
Photo taken by www.hauntedcolorado.net - (May 2005)
Newly and gorgeously renovated, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman who was brutally raped and killed by one of the chefs
working there. Apparently, he was never brought to justice over the murder and it is said that she occasionally has been seen on the balcony
crying out because of the injustice. Last Fall, we by chance met up with one of my husband's old classmates. She said that as a child, she and
her family had stayed in one of the upper rooms in the hotel, just before they closed it for sooo many years.
Years later, when they had opened the Beaumont briefly for the local residents to tour, she found her way to that same room she had stayed in
all those years before. She said no one went into the room with her. She took several pictures of the room. She took one photograph of an old
picture hanging on the wall. When she got the pictures developed, there in that picture on the wall is the reflection of two men standing in old
clothes. One has a scrolled up paper in one hand. They are standing as though talking to one another but stopping just in time to look toward
her. She gave me a small scanned copy of that photo. Very interesting indeed.
Source: ***P. 149: From Book- Something In The Wind- Maryjoy Martin.
This three story brick building sits at the corner of Fifth and Main in Ouray, a town nicknamed the Switzerland of America that lies in the
shadows of the San Juans. Built to lure investors, architect O. Bulow drew up plans for the elegant hotel and work began in 1886. The official
opening ball was held July 22, 1887 with much fanfare. The interior was modeled after Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel and featured a rotunda
encircled by balconies, cathedral glass skylights, rosewood paneling, and a sweeping oak staircase. The building was lighted by electricity,
and is believed to be one of the West’s first hotels wired with alternate current electricity. Steam heating and hot water were also featured.
The hotel sat across the street from six saloons and became a grand centerpiece of the promising mining town. In its heyday, the hotel
attracted guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Chipeta (wife of Ute Chief Ouray), and Lily Langtry. Sarah Bernhardt was
known to belt songs from the balconies and King Leopold of Belgium demonstrated his mountain-climbing skills by dangling from the second-
By the early 20th century, the hotel suffered from financial setbacks, but tourism picked up again after World War II. Falling into disrepair, the
once chic hotel, painted a raffish pink, sat empty for more than 30 years. Known by the locals as the pink elephant, it was an eyesore with
broken windows and crumbling façade. To add insult, the roof partially collapsed in the mid-80s.
Locals swore the ghost of a waitress, who was murdered by a drunken pastry cook shortly after the hotel opened, haunted the building.
Despite the dilapidated condition and ghost, Dan and Mary King purchased the hotel in 1998 for $850,000 and began the painstaking task of
rehabilitating the building. Anything that could be saved was restored, including marble sinks, wainscoting, the glass atrium above the lobby,
and the rooftop weathervane. Although the restoration project qualified for a State Historical Fund grant, the new owners turned it down as the
time frame would have exceeded the target opening date of July 2002, the hotel’s 115-year anniversary. Listed in the National Register of
Historic Places, the Beaumont Hotel was the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation in 2003. The Kings were also
presented with a 2004 Preserve America Presidential Award.
Source: The Colorado Historical Society website: Office of Archaeology & Historic Preservation
Columbus House Bed & Breakfast/ Silver Nugget Cafe
746 Main Street