Colorado is home to many small towns that many have not heard of, but each one has a unique history. Long before colonists settled Colorado, there was a campgroundsettled by the Ute Indians named Saguache (pronounced Sa-watch). It is home to a museum that holds artifacts that are unique to the region.
Saguache was originally called sa-qua-qua-chi-pa, which means blue earth or water at the blue earth. The first appearance of settlement was not recorded until 1866 and the original town of Saguache was a meager 110 acres that was donated by seven ranchers in the area. The town was hailed as the best supply town for neighboring communities as well as a lodging town for the many miners traveling from Poncha Pass or Cochetopa Pass. As the community grew it became tighter knit and so begin the first community school started in 1874.
Nestled within the town, the Saguache County Museum is an older adobe building that was partially constructed in 1870. Over the years it has been a school, a temporary courthouse and a residence for jail-keepers and their families. The building was also once an old jail that was constructed in 1908. The inside of the building held a sheriff’s office, a women’s cell and an escape proof security cage. The jail was used until 1958 and the original graffiti from the prisoners can still be seen etched on the walls.
One of the most alluring displays at the museum is the exhibit and artifacts about Alferd E. Packer. Packer’s story is known because of the impact it had on Saguache and Lake City. Packer is known as “The Colorado Cannibal” because of a remarkable story which happened during the blizzard of 1874. Packer was on a trek to reach gold prospects in Breckenridge. The party became stranded during the blizzard just above Lake City and Packer was the lone survivor. After his return, Packer left to Saguache and became “a big spender’ at the saloon. When asked what had happened to his group, Packer retold many stories none of which matched. After some time Packer admitted to killing one person and was taken to the Saguache jail, but he escaped from custody and was found years later in Wyoming. The remains of his team were coincidentally found the day he escaped. When Packer was found again, he was sentenced to be hanged for murdering, robbing and eating his companions. But he appealed to the courts and served 40 years, after which he moved to Denver and became a “role-model” citizen. The museum displays artifacts from the Packer story and the exhibit has become one of the most popular displays at the museum which staffers are eager to share with visitors.
The museum also houses a Spanish-Indian Room that is filled with various authentic items from the different cultures in the area. There is a rug that displays the “Four Winds” (a symbol that is no longer in use because of its similarities to Adolf Hitler’s swastica). The room also displays artifacts from around the area including potteries, arrow and blankets.
The Saguache Museum also has management rights to the Hazard House Museum down the street that was built in 1913.
Georgie Mari Hazard Givan gifted the house to the museum in 1994 and it was opened to the public in 1997. The home is now used to depict what life was like for Sagucahe familes in the 1920s and the 1930s and includes furnishings and life-styles of that era.
The Saguache Museum is located on 439 8th St. (U.S. Hwy 285) and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information please call, 719-665- 2557.