Lebanon was a booming place in the Valley

Friday, March 1, 2013 11:50 PM
The Parker Hotel in Lebanon school around 1904.
Lebanon school students in 1932.
The Lebanon school and Methodist Church circa 1911.
Aerial view of Lebanon in 1940s.

S. H. Phlegar of Dolores wrote this story in February of 1934 about events in the Montezuma Valley in 1909. This is from the "Anna Florence Robison interviews in 1934."

Lively Times in the Montezuma Valley in 1909

Twenty-five years ago at Lebanon in the Montezuma Valley - well, those were the best days ever seen in the Montezuma Valley.

Everybody was a booster. Everybody had a pocket full of money. The country was full of new people all of the time. There were about 10 licensed real estate firms in the Valley, and they were all doing business. Six to eight real estate hacks were backed up to the depot in Dolores seven days a week. Two passenger trains arrived every day, and the Southern Hotel fed from 75 to 100 people off those trains at noon each day. Cortez was live; Mancos was live; Dolores was live. Cortez had two newspapers. The Dolores Star was also a live paper.

About that time the Colorado Land and Improvement Company with 300 stockholders was organized at Pueblo and came over and purchased more than a thousand acres of land and started the town of Lebanon and put the entire valley on the boom. (Around the Turn of the Century and prior to 1909, the Town of Lebanon was known as "Hard Scrapple, Colorado.")

Arriola was also started at the same time. H. F. Morgan opened a general store, and the village still has a store. A canning factory was built, however, never operated. Lebanon erected a new hotel building, at that time the best hotel in the valley, and never large enough at any time to take care of the trade. A new bank building was erected but a bank was never organized. Allen Hammond, Ben Porter, Sandy Garlinghouse, and S. H. Phlegar erected a three-story store building to be used also for offices and a public hall. A new Methodist Church was erected which was dedicated by ex-Governor Buchtell.

In 1909, the old log schoolhouse stood where the Greenwood store now stands, with 16 children of school age going to school. A few years later, the new building now standing was erected, with over 75 children attending school, showing the increase in population in about five years.

S. H. Phelgar organized the Lebanon Telephone Company, with the exchange at Lebanon that later was moved to Dolores. At that time Dolores was handled from Lebanon, and there were more than 200 subscribers in the Valley, Dolores, and Lebanon. A solid copper metallic circuit was constructed from there to Monticello, Moab and Bluff, Utah. Cortez at that time had its own phone system in town and was covering the lower valley, which was afterward connected with the present system. The Mountain States Telephone System did not take over the system here until in the late 1920s when the local management, in an attempt to make more money, had put on so many extra charges that whole neighborhoods had all phones taken out. At the present, in July 1934, the Dolores and Cortez exchange combined having between 250 subscribers in contract to the 200 which the Lebanon-Dolores district alone had 25 years ago. It is not all depression by any means. No phones remain that are not strictly necessary for business or to summon aid for the reason that the people in general have felt for years that the phone company was unfair when it cut the customary service they had to one-half in order to increase toll calls.

Lebanon in 1909 put on the biggest Fourth of July Celebration ever held in the Valley in that time, with over three thousand people in attendance. Special trains were run from Telluride and Durango, with special rates for the celebration, the trains remaining in Dolores all day and night. Sterl Thomas was sent to the reservation and brought up 50 Navajos and 50 Ute Indians for the occasion, who put on war dances with all their robes, paint and feathers. Rube Smith of Denver and Roy Como put on the first public prizefight ever held in the Valley, and there was not breathing room, much less standing room, in the big hall just completed. A dance followed, both up and down stairs. Seventeen hundred dollars was paid out for horse races, bands, and other amusements, and over $100 was left in the treasury when it was all over. Thus it was easy to see that conditions were some different then that now. (1934).

But, the good old days are coming back if all of the people of this section will come to life as they were in those days. The people of this section spent thousands of dollars for advertising. Everyone, young and old, was boosting and not knocking. The farmers were boosters. They subscribed money for the Chambers of Commerce for advertising. They helped to furnish and arrange displays and exhibits of farm produce to go to the State Fair, and to the apple shows held in Denver, and on to Chicago and Milwaukee, sending men with the exhibits and paying their expenses - all of which paid dividends ten fold.

Uncle George Clucas of Cortez, George

Longenbaugh, W. T. Bozman, Sandy Garlinghouse, and A. W. Dillon, all of whom have gone to their rewards in years past, were among the leaders to gather and arrange for many of the exhibits sent out in those days. H. F. Morgan, Jack Bozman and Harry Pyle, who are still living, were among the live ones, and they could be found almost any time during the growing season with their wagons or buggies going from ranch to ranch and selecting grains and other samples for exhibits. In those days we sent two or three cars of apples to the Denver Apple Shows, which lasted for one week in the Auditorium, where they were in competition with apples from every section of America including Canada, and we always got our share of the ribbons.

Thousands of people attended those shows from all over America and foreign countries. Montezuma County had piles of attractive and well-written advertising matter piled on the tables at the exhibit for those attending to carry away.

Cortez in those days had a 30-piece band, who were all artists. Uncle George Clucas and the Kermodes composed a quartet that were also artists. They were known as the Manx Quartet (from their native land). The band attended the apple show and played in the Auditorium and on the streets each day and night. On Wednesday night when there were 25,000 people in the auditorium and there was a public wedding on the stage, the lucky couple receiving more than $2,000 in cash and presents, the Cortez Band was awarded the pleasure of playing the wedding march, which they did with honor to themselves, their home town, and the Montezuma Valley. The quartet sang each night in the large dining room of the Adams Hotel, of which they were guests for the week. They also sang at the Auditorium and at several of the cabarets of the city. The band were also guests of the Adams Hotel during the week, and when the show was over, they left many new friends and admirers in Denver, all having had a splendid week in Denver and also having done an inestimable amount of advertising for our Montezuma Valley.

June Head is the historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society, and can be contacted for comments, questions or corrections at 565-3880.