Craig, Colorado – Over 100 years old

by Anna Aughenbaugh
Fort Collins, Colo.
Photo courtesy of Museum of Northwest Colorado.Craig in 1895.

Craig, the county seat of Moffat County in the Yampa Valley, has come a long way since 1881, when William Rose took up a homestead and built the first cabin on land that is now in the city limits. Soon other hearty homesteaders took up their land and stayed to become leaders of the community.

In 1887, there was talk of building a railroad through the area and W.H. Tucker of Glenwood Springs came looking for a place to start a town.After careful consideration, he decided to build on the ground where Craig now sits. Mr. Tucker needed investors, so after exploring the area, he went to Denver and got financing from Rev. Bayard Craig and Frank Russell. In 1889 he laid out the town site.

Mr. Tucker named the new town Craig, after his chief financial backer. He named streets for himself and Mr. Russell. Three leading families, Breeze, Ranney and Taylor, had streets named in their honor. Mr. Tucker built a house and a building to house a general mercantile business, then he put most of his efforts into advertising for people to come join in building a viable town. His advertisements must have glowed with enthusiasm that gave those looking for a new life hope of a good future because the town grew quickly. The Taylor brothers opened a blacksmith shop, William Woodruff had a livery and feed barn, J.W. Hugus and Co. opened a store, and The Craig Hotel, built by B.C. Hull, was ready for visitors.

Clarence Bronaugh brought his press and type to start a newspaper. He published the first issue of the Pantograph’in April, 1891. Bronaugh moved east in 1895 to receive a political appointment. The paper was re-established by Humphrey Jones who renamed it the Routt County Courier.

The town became the social and trading center for the huge area. A school was built that attracted students from outlying ranches. Dances and plays put on by hometown talent provided entertainment in the community building. After a devastating fire that destroyed the community hall and a number of buildings on Yampa street in 1897, the hall was rebuilt out of bricks, paid for by subscriptions from townspeople who wanted it to be an opulent showplace, which they named ‘The Opera House’. A dramatic club and literary society were founded and presented upscale plays.

Craig continued to grow, and by 1904 a barber shop, second saloon, two hotels and a second bank were built. The residents were earnestly talking about the need to incorporate the town in order to have the ability to create ordinances to make the growing community a place where people would want to reside. Some people were opposed to incorporating because they afraid taxes would rise. On Nov. 21, 1907, a meeting was called to debate the future of the town, and a week later Judge Coulter made a motion that Chairman C.M. White appoint three people to form and circulate a petition to incorporate. On April 21, 1908, voters were given the choice of yea or nay and it passed ” 79 to 40.

A.S. Robinson was chosen as Mayor and six men were elected as trustees and they appointed a marshal, treasurer, attorney and clerk, who were to make the first of the town ordinances. An official town seal was established and a department of health was formed to maintain public welfare and a dump site. One ordinance banned livestock, including most any domestic animals, from running free. It also defined fines for vandalism, public intoxication, and carrying or using weapons. Craig was now organized to become a thriving community that was here to stay.

David Moffat had seen the need for a railroad to the undeveloped coal fields of the Yampa Valley. He incorporated his Moffat Road as the Denver North-Western & Pacific on July 18, 1902, and became its president. It was an enormous challenge to get financing, to cut through the mountains and survive the terrible winter storms, but by 1903 the work was well on its way.

It took until Nov. 20, 1913, for the railroad to reach Craig. After that, the push to Salt Lake ended, but service between Craig and Denver continued. In 1953, the D&RGWRR, donated Moffat’s elegant private Pullman car, “Marcia,” named for his daughter, to the city of Craig. It sits in City Park as a symbol of the role Moffat and his railroad played in the development of Craig and northwestern Colorado.

In 1915 Routt county was divided and Moffat County was formed. Craig became the county seat. Today Craig is the economic hub of Moffat, County, with a population of almost 10,000. It has the feel of the old west when life was more simple, but with all the modern necessities.

Craig’s students can go from pre-school all the way to Community College.

There’s a hospital and a long list of physicians, able to meet the needs of residents and tourists. There are several denominations of churches, motels, restaurants and shopping are in abundance and make Craig a great place to use as a base for exploring the many recreational spots in Moffat county. There are enough antelope, elk, bear, and fish to draw hunters and fishermen from near and far.

When you want a break from outdoor activities, or the weather misbehaves, the Museum of Northwest Colorado is the place to be. It has exhibits of cowboys and gunfighters, the Moffat railroad, A.G. Wallihan’s wildlife photos, and war memorabilia from WWI to Iraq. All of this can be enjoyed with no admission fee. Craig is known as the ‘Elk hunting capital of the world’. To give local hunters a place to show off their trophies, Lou Wyman has a large area to display them in his Wyman museum.

Beginning in April and continuing on into December, Craig has an amazing number of exciting activities. Summer festivals begin Memorial Day weekend and attract visitors who want to experience the old west fun. For a week in June woodcarvers make awe-inspiring sculptures out of standing tree trunks. Food and craft vendors as well as music will add to the fun in City Park. Among the other events are the Colorado Wild Horse Festival, YVSR Motocross races, golf tournaments, Little Britches Rodeo, Ride-N-Tie, and High School Rodeos, and more.

Craig turned 100 years old in 2008. This historic town is alive with the excitement that comes from the friendly people who enjoy living there.Craig hosts lots of special events that will be fun for the whole family. This summer could be the perfect time to visit and enjoy nearby Craig, Colorado. For more information, call the Craig Chamber of Commerce at (970) 824-5689 or 1-800-864-4405; or log on to