This photo is of the opening of Cottonwood Pass in 1959. The people in the photo are from Buena Vista and Gunnison.
Cutting the ribbon, I believe, is Mavis Dennet BV Chamber director. The man on the far left is Linc McMullen who was Chaffee County Road superintendent.
They were celebrating the re-opening of the pass for the summer traffic. The state worked on it with convict labor and sections of it were rerouted.
The road was still unpaved but had been worked to remove the bogs on the west side which were passable only by 4-wheel drive vehicles. In 1990 the east side of the pass was paved to the top.
The trail over the pass was used by the Native Americans for many years. It was then used by prospectors and explorers. It was expanded and used by freighters as early as 1870.
Then Robert Hughes improved it as a toll road and freight wagons and stagecoaches started using it. There were many low swampy bogs on the trail. Logs were placed in these places to get the wagons over the bogs. And sometimes they had to winch the jeeps through. It was the route to Aspen then over Taylor Pass.
At the junction of South and Middle Cottonwood roads there was in 1869 a small settlement called Harvard City (There is now a horse stable and a couple of log buildings). It was a busy shipping point for the mines in the Cottonwood area and the freight going over the pass.
When the Meeker massacre occurred in 1879, this is where the men from Buena Vista waited to see if the Indians would come over Cottonwood Pass to this area as it was feared. But nothing happened.
There were way stations on the road. One was Osborne’s Half-Way House. This stop was about 18 miles up the pass from Buena Vista.
There was a hotel, saloon and stables. His wife provided meals for 50 cents. Hay and grain for the animals was available.
Osborne had a daughter who was enamored of a freighter, Joe Turnbull. After Osborne had an argument with Turnbull, Turnbull shot and killed him.
Turnbull fled over the pass and was never caught.
A freighter, John Borrell, told about his trip over the pass with a pack train of burros in April 1881.
He formed a partnership with a man, Flinchpaugh, and they bought 20 burros for $15 each.
They loaded the animal’s packs with 200 pounds of goods and in 3 days reached Aspen. They had purchased potatoes at $3 and flour at $3.75 per 100 pounds.
They sold out of all their supplies in 30 minutes upon reaching Aspen. They sold it all at $150 per 100 poundson their first trip.
Later they freighted over Independence Pass as it was a shorter trip.
In the 1940s and ‘50s, local people including Gib Gregg, editor of the paper, took trips over the pass in their jeeps.
Gib described taking “Dusty,” his faithful jeep, over the pass and fighting the bogs, logs and ruts. But what a glorious trip it was. Gib had one of the first jeeps from WWII.