The Valley of Opportunity: A History of West-Central Colorado
BLM Cultural Resource Series (Colorado: No. 12)
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Chapter X:

"It might be six months it might be a year. But when they got you down below what you could make a living off of, you was out of business."

—Glade Park Rancher

The end of the first World War, and the 1920s, was a watershed period in the history of west-central Colorado. Wartime demands led to increased production from all segments of the area's economy. During the 1910s, most residents predicted an era of prosperity for themselves. Adjustments were being successfully made to the Forest Reserve system and other manifestations of Federal power. Indeed, when the United States entered the "war to end all wars" in 1917, most, if not all, west-central Coloradans were optimistic about the future. However, these same people failed to realize that prosperity was based on artificial market conditions and that once the war ended and demand dropped, good times for the area would also end. By the 1930s, residents who previously had opposed Federal involvement now welcomed it.

The Armistice was signed during November 1919, and America's economy began a period of radical adjustment. Its various segments reacted at different rates but by late 1920, a full-scale depression swept the entire nation. The next year most of the country had recovered, but west-central Colorado did not. This was due, in large part, to the two largest sectors of the local economy—agriculture and mining—being caught up in a nationwide slump. This decline spread to all segments of the economy by 1923, and as the hard times continued, area citizens became more and more frustrated. They looked to many cure-alls to solve their woes, but it was not until the early 1930s, and the creation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, that west-central Colorado's plight changed significantly. [1] Farming, the leading industry of west-central Colorado, acted as a barometer of regional business activity throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Fruit, the basis of the valley's agricultural fame, shared in the wartime prosperity and also in the postwar recession. Problems faced by fruit growers included not only low prices, but also insects and the first instances of migrant labor troubles along with tight credit. [2] These problems resulted in an increasingly widespread disillusionment with fruit growing. Evidence of this is that Grand Junction's Peach Day was discontinued in 1923. [3]

The first problem, that of low prices, was tackled in a way typical of west-central Colorado before the War, using cooperative marketing. In 1923, the United Fruit Growers Association was founded. This new organization was somewhat more successful than earlier attempts due to a revision in Colorado statutes dealing with cooperative marketing associations. State law then allowed co-ops like any other corporation and also permitted members to be legally bound to the group. The United Fruitgrowers and others in the Grand Valley began looking for new markets. It was felt that the northeastern United States and Canada offered potential customers, as did areas to be settled after Boulder (Hoover) Dam was completed on the Lower Colorado River. [4] Despite the optimistic talk, demand for Grand Valley fruit continued to decline and by 1929, over 50 carloads of produce were left on the trees by farmers because prices did not cover picking and shipping costs. [5]

The second area of concern for Grand Valley orchardists was pest control. By the 1920s, farmers turned to arsenate of lead to ward off insects, particularly the codling moth. The problem started when the Federal government, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, started to inspect foods more closely in accordance with the Pure Food and Drug Act. Apple and pear growers around Fruita, particularly, were hard hit by these new regulations. They could not find an efficient, low cost method of removing the poisons without ruining the fruit. This situation and low market prices caused many orchardmen to pull up their trees in the late 1920s. [6] During that same decade, groups such as the United Fruit Growers Association helped finance studies searching for new, more practical pesticides. Farmers also requested Federal aid to find a solution. This assistance was forthcoming during the 1930s. [7]

As fruit production declined from 1920 to 1939, migrant workers used in orchard tending and harvesting became yet another problem for residents of the Grand Valley. Orchardmen came to depend heavily on these "fruit tramps," however, because of market uncertainties it was not known how many laborers would be required from season to season. In some years there were not enough hands available; in other years too many. Also, once in the area, they had to be housed which in turn drove costs up even further. Yet with all these dilemmas there was no record of violence or disturbance between growers and the migrants. [8]

The final obstacle many Grand Valley agriculturalists had to overcome was that of securing capital. As the agri-business recession deepened during the 1920s, many local banks and mortgage companies became reluctant to lend to farmers. Eventually the money supply dried up and people found it impossible to seek loans, especially for new farms. By the 1930s, many good farmsites were for sale with no buyers because of mortgage problems. [9]

Farmers began to realize that their dependence on single cash crops made them vulnerable to any changes in market conditions. This led to diversification in the Grand Valley during the 1920s and 1930s. [10] While some individuals began to cultivate crops other than fruit, such as sugar beets, it was the depression after World War I that led to a wholesale movement away from specialized production and toward general agri-business. [11] The era witnessed a steady decline in orchard acres from 1920 until 1940. By the middle years of the 1930s, almost all Fruita's orchards were pulled up and replaced by general crops of grains, livestock or vegetables. [12] Crops such as pinto beans and potatoes replaced fruit as cash generators for farmers. [13] What little money crop sales raised was immediately spent on mortgage payments and other absolute necessities of life. Farmers in west-central Colorado, as throughout much of the nation, had plenty to eat but no money. [14]

While irrigators carried on their struggle for economic survival with limited success, dryland farmers also attempted to do the same, generally with less success. Many areas were opened for farming only slightly before World War I. In 1916, Congress passed the Stock Raising Homestead Act to encourage settlement of these lands. This, combined with the wartime boom, led to only marginal dryland prosperity. When the depression struck, in the early twenties, many of those agriculturists were forced out of business. As late as 1923, newcomers were trying to make a start on non-irrigated tracts north of Fruita, not realizing the difficulties they faced. [15] Despite the hardships, some dryland farmers did manage to stay in business on a marginal basis until the 1930s. However, the financial catastrophe that hit the United States in 1929, soon made its presence felt in west-central Colorado. Many dryland farmers who had managed to continue in business through the 1920s failed during the next decade. The situation became so bad, according to one observer, that almost all Glade Park-Pinon Mesa farms were sold for taxes at least once by 1940. [16]

The cultivators of west-central Colorado were not alone in their suffering. Livestock growers were also affected by the depression, especially cattlemen. Many were forced to reduce or stabilize herd size because of poor market conditions. Cattlemen also became part time farmers raising both stock and crops, thereby continuing an earlier trend. [17] Sheep raisers also faced an economic downturn, yet, flock size increased dramatically. Shepards trailed their charges unobstructed from Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction and other West Slope areas such as American Flats in southwestern Colorado. The "desert" west of Grand Junction became a popular range for "woolies." Basques became primary lamb tenders during the period and occassionally tensions flared between them and cattlemen, such as in the case of the death of Charlie Glass. [18] Statistics for all of west-central Colorado were not kept, however, in Mesa County alone the number of sheep doubled between 1920 and 1936, from 24,000 head to slightly over 48,000 by the latter year. [19] Other parts of the region, especially Wolcott, were also centers of sheepraising. Mutton production was one bright spot for farmers during the inter-war years.

Not only did low prices plague farmers, but periodic droughts and predators also inhibited prosperity. Coyotes and other animals attacked both cattle and sheep herds, causing losses for owners. Complaints and calls for assistance were sent out and Edward Taylor responded. In 1934, he succeeded in getting an appropriation to increase predator control for western Colorado. [20] Droughts were another matter. During the 1920s, dry years diminished returns from dryland farming and haying along the Grand Valley, from Parachute Creek west to Fruita. [21] The 1930s witnessed even more severe rainless periods throughout the West. The Great Plains entered a period referred to as the "Dust Bowl" and by 1934, west-central Coloradans feared it would spread to there. While dust bowl conditions did not occur, the summer of 1934 was unusually hot and dry, causing crop failures in addition to ruining a number of non-irrigated farms. The Federal government encouraged water conservation and started programs to reduce soil erosion but it was beyond the powers of Congress to make it rain. [22]

The government, after the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, took a more active role in agricultural stabilization and economic recovery. West-central Colorado benefitted from these programs due, in large part, to Edward Taylor and his constant urgings in Congress. He worked hard to assure his district an equal share of any program if it would genuinely help his constituents, such as the Taylor Grazing Act did. During the 1920s Taylor became associated with the "Farm Bloc." This group of Congressmen represented agricultural states and by 1925, had informally coalesced into a bi-partisan voting unit attempting to secure Federal aid for farmers. Taylor was particularly interested in relief for stockmen by using moratoriums on U.S. Forest Service grazing fees and extended payment plans for people who owed money to the Reclamation Service. He met with little success until 1932, when his colleagues on Capitol Hill acceded to his pleas and authorized measures reducing grazing fees and declaring a suspension of charges for Federal reclamation projects. [23] The relief given area farmers in 1932, proved to be a small part of what became a widespread government program.

The first major legislation passed as part of Roosevelt's "New Deal" was the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). The underlying premise of this statute was that produce prices were low, due to over-supply of basic commodities, so to cure this situation production must be controlled. Among the products included were sugar beets, cattle, sheep and goats. AAA administrators gave west-central Colorado producers quotas as to the quantities they could grow. In exchange for limiting output, farmers were paid directly by the government. This program satisfied most area farmers because prices were stabilized and they got relief checks to make up for any lost income. As part of the AAA's quantity control efforts occassionally livestock had to be killed. In west-central Colorado at least 4,000 goats were slaughtered to meet AAA quotas. [24]

Another Roosevelt farm relief project that affected the area was the Resettlement Administration. The goal of this organization was to help families put out of work by the Great Depression get a new start in farming. Resettlement Administration offices were located in Grand Junction and Fruita. At the suggestion of Congressman Taylor, tracts of public domain included in the Grand Valley Reclamation Project were made available for resettlement. In 1935, the first families were moved into the region and this process continued throughout the remainder of the decade. Eventually more than three dozen new farms were started in this manner. [25]

The last farm assistance program of the New Deal to touch west-central Colorado was the Federal Land Bank. This body's purpose was to encourage soil conservation by paying agrarians a small sum not to produce on parts of their farms. The regional office in Wichita, Kansas, came under fire from Taylor for allegedly slighting west-central Colorado. [26]

The Federal Land Bank and other relief programs stabilized the agri-business situation in western parts of the state. However, recovery was not achieved until World War II when increased demand and prices for all commodities occurred.

Since so many of the region's businesses depended upon farm trade, the agricultural depression had a widespread impact on many of the area's towns too. Grand Junction, as leading city of the Western Slope, continued its slow growth in both population and business from 1920 to 1940. In 1920, the Grand Valley Canning Company went into production and by 1930, two packing plants were still operating in Grand Junction. The year before Holly Sugar closed its beet sugar factory and consolidated its Western Slope operations at Delta, Colorado. [27] Despite the slow net growth, town boosters kept pushing Grand Junction. In 1925, they succeeded in convincing the state legislature to found Mesa College, as a state supported junior college in Grand Junction. [28] Four years later city fathers approved funding for construction of a municipal airport and the next year, 1930, Pike's Peak Air Commerce Company began regular flights between Denver and Grand Junction. [29] Throughout the 1930s, area promoters tried to establish an airmail route in Grand Junction, but the U.S. Post Office refused, saying the costs would be too great. [30] Nevertheless, the city continued its commercial dominance of western Colorado and eastern Utah. [31]

Other area towns conceded that fact by the late 1930s. Fruita resigned itself to being a small farm town and admitted that Grand Junction was the area's trade and cultural center. Aspen, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, and other regional towns found themselves in much the same predicament; ranching and mining activity decreased after World War I, business slackened and these communities stagnated. Glenwood Springs did have one notable summer of activity during the 1920s when in 1926, cowboy star Tom Mix and a cast of 55 came to town to film a movie The K&A Train Robbery. However, this prosperity was short-lived and by the next year, the town was suffering from a recession. [32] The next decade brought more economic gloom for these communities as banks, like the Citizen's National of Glenwood Springs, failed and money became more scarce. [33] That same city became a center for many of the destitute during the Great Depression and a large hobo jungle developed. [34]

These obvious manifestations of the depression were not the only indicators of social tension brought on by the economic troubles in west-central Colorado. The use of alcohol and flagrant violations of national prohibition were examples of this stress. At least one moonshine still was camouflaged in a peach orchard west of Grand Junction and all information indicates it to have been a very prosperous operation. This was due in part, to lax local tax enforcement of the law and a reluctance of juries to convict those arrested. [35]

general store
This general store at New Castle, Colorado, stocked nearly every need as this 1923 photograph illustrates. Photo by Garfield County Public Library.

Grand Junction
During the early 1920s Grand Junction was a growing, and as this view of downtown indicates, prosperous city. Photo by Museum of Western Colorado.

Another evidence of the underlying social tensions of the 1920s was the rapid spread of the Ku Klux Klan throughout Colorado during the first half of the twenties. The national rebirth of this organization came about in 1920. A 1915 film entitled The Birth of a Nation made by D. W. Giffith inspired men to remember the Klan and five years later Atlanta, Georgia, businessman William T. Simmons took action. Simmons, with the help of Edward Young and Elizabeth Tyler, two publicity agents, started advertising the new Secret Order of the Ku Klux Klan complete with secret codes, official "uniforms," and the trappings of a fraternity. Thousands of individuals joined and the organization soon reached outside the Deep South. [36]

Dr. John Galen Locke, a Denver dentist, saw the new Klan as a route to political power. The group's philosophy was based on white Anglo-Saxon supremacy and racial purity. Its propaganda played on the fears and insecurities of working class whites who saw their jobs threatened by minorities such as Blacks or, more significantly in Colorado, Mexican-Americans. This latter group also happened to be mainly Roman Catholic which violated a basic Klan premise, that of Protestant supremacy. The Colorado movement began in Denver, and grew powerful there but by 1925, it became a force in west-central Colorado. [37]

On the evening of July 24, 1924 the sky around Grand Junction glowed as Klansman burned three crosses, one each on Mantey Heights, Orchard Mesa, and Mt. Lincoln. This signalled the arrival of the KKK in the Grand Valley. Throughout that summer its numbers grew and on August 17, Grand Dragon Locke and other Klan officials came to town to charter the Grand Valley's first chapter. The presentation took place after church services and a hooded torchlight parade down Main Street. [38]

Spurred on by white supremacy editorials in the Red Cliff newspaper, Anglo-American males throughout west-central Colorado joined the Klan. [39] By the spring of 1925, all indications were that the KKK was a permanent part of life in the region. However, the national organization and the state's were on the verge of a rapid decline. In the 1924 Colorado General Elections, movement sympathizers were elected to many key state and local offices, including the Governorship. Locke and his "Hooded Knights" controlled the Republican party as well. [40] But political opposition to the Klan-sponsored legislative program, led by Democrats in the State Senate and an Internal Revenue Service investigation of Dr. Locke's finances, soon ended KKK power on the state level. [41]

In Grand Junction the Klan continued to expand its influence during 1925. Both the city manager and police chief were sympathizers and recruited members to serve in city jobs. The police were used to raid and harass anti-Klan groups and clubs. The Klan was opposed by the Editor of the Daily Sentinel, Walter Walker, and it was this opposition that eventually broke the KKK's hold over the city. The editor was attacked and when the police did not act swiftly, he started a new campaign that exposed local Klan corruption. While the organization's power dropped quickly, as late as 1927, membership still was used by politicians to attract voters. [42] The entire Ku Klux Klan experience, in many ways gave vent to frustrations felt by many local residents who had been disappointed by the economic failures after World War I.

Another hoped for item during the war was a post-war revitalization of tourism. This, too, failed to materialize in the twenties. Statewide efforts were made to attract visitors to Colorado. The Rocky Mountains' natural beauty was touted, as was the climate and sportsman's opportunities for successful hunting or fishing trips. [43] Organizations such as the West Slope Congress printed and distributed brochures proclaiming the wonders of a vacation in west-central Colorado. [44] All this boosterism accomplished little as only a few tourists came to the area between the World Wars.

However, two locales, in particular, did receive substantial numbers of travelers. The first of these was the Mount of the Holy Cross. By 1921, Red Cliff area promoters advertised "miraculous cures" taking place near the mountain. From 1928 until 1938, annual pilgrimages led by ministers were made to the shrine and reports circulated of miracles that occurred. The mountain's reputation spread and in 1929, President Herbert Hoover proclaimed it a National Monument. [45]

Another annual event was the Lands End Auto Race on Grand Mesa. While records from this event are sketchy its route can be followed. The race ran from Kannah Creek up the Lands End Road to the top of Grand Mesa. This event appears to have been discontinued during the 1930s. [46]

Glenwood Springs, west-central Colorado's premier resort by 1920, suffered during the "Roaring Twenties" as did the rest of the region. The town experienced a sharp business downturn after 1926. This trend began before then, but in the years that followed, tourism declined further. The spa was promoted as the finest in Colorado and statewide publicity was given it, but to no avail. About the only people with money attracted to Glenwood Springs during the 1920s were underworld figures with the means to enjoy the "good life." "Diamond Jack" Alterie of Chicago made the Hotel Colorado his summer home. [47] His presence may have been colorful but it was not enough to bolster the spa's sagging economy. West-central Colorado continued to have considerable potential as a tourist mecca but it did not actually develop until after World War II.

One segment of area's development that did make progress during the 1920s and 1930s was transportation. While automobiles and airplanes became more popular as means of getting around, the railroad remained as the primary method of moving goods and people. After 1920, only two major rail companies remained to serve the region, the Denver and Rio Grande Western and the Denver and Salt Lake (formerly the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific.) The Colorado Midland had been abandoned at the end of World War I. The Rio Grande emerged from receivership in 1920, and continued to serve the area much as it had since the 1882. [48] However, the twenties and thirties were a period of dramatic developments on the Denver and Salt Lake.

Denver and Salt Lake management, plagued by continuing financial problems due to the 11,660 foot Rollins Pass, sought aid from the state to build a tunnel under the Continental Divide. Such a project would relieve the company of its Rollins Pass burden and improve service from Denver into northwestern Colorado. The idea of a bore under the Main Range dated to Moffat's original plans for the road in 1902. [49] Arguments supporting the tunnel included the commercial opening of northwestern Colorado, uniting the eastern and western Slopes and developing of area resources. [50] However, boosters of the project, such as Denverite William G. Evans, son of Governor John Evans, encountered opposition from many corners of the state.

Two cities in particular sought to stop state funding for the tunnel. Pueblo and Grand Junction both feared that with it the Denver & Salt Lake Railway (D&SL) might be able to find financial support and finish its mainline from Craig, Colorado to Salt Lake City. Such a route would be much shorter than that of the Denver and Rio Grande Western (D&RGW), thereby threatening each town's commercial position. During the 1910s, each time a proposal for tunnel aid came before the state General Assembly, representatives of these areas voted against the project. [51]

In June 1921, fate stepped in to help Evans and his associates when heavy rains in the Upper Arkansas Valley led to a flood which devastated Pueblo. Legislators from southeastern Colorado called on Governor Oliver H. Shoup to hold a special session of the legislature. The purpose was to create a Pueblo Flood Conservancy District. The Chief Executive, sympathetic to tunnel plans, agreed to a special session and when the lawmakers arrived in Denver they found two items on the agenda, creation of a flood control system and a Moffat Tunnel district. He announced that he would only support Pueblo's demands if the legislators also agreed to the railroad bore bill. Using this leverage both proposals were passed and signed into law in 1922. [52]

A year passed as the constitutionality of the Moffat Tunnel District was tested in the courts. State and Federal courts decided favorably in 1923, and construction began. Four years later the pioneer bore was broken through and on February 26, 1928, the first train passed through the 6.2 mile long tunnel. [53]

The Denver and Salt Lake did not realize much profit from the tunnel and because of the Great Depression was unable to extend its line west from Craig. West-central Colorado businessmen, unaided by the tunnel, but fearful that someday the line would be finished to Salt Lake City, started a campaign to connect the D&RGW with the D&SL at some point west of the Continental Divide. This would enable them to share in any benefits to be gained from a shorter haul to Denver. [54] The idea of link was not new. As early as 1903, David Moffat, founder of the D&SL, had his engineers examine possible routes between his road and the Rio Grande. One line was particularly well suited to his plans. It ran along the Colorado River from Bond on the D&SL to Dotsero on the D&RGW. [55]

The advantages offered by the Moffat Tunnel were not lost on D&RGW management. After negotiations for lease of the route failed, Rio Grande officers decided to buy the other company and thereby gain access to the tunnel. In late 1929, they put their plans into action. Throughout 1930 and 1931, purchase efforts continued, after the Interstate Commerce Commission approved the plan. Eventually the D&RG purchased enough D&SL stock to achieve control of that corporation. Once this was accomplished, efforts to physically link the two lines got underway. [56]

Support for the cut-off came from all over west-central Colorado. Businessmen, farmers and others, all saw advantages from such a route. The 173 mile shorter line to Denver not only would decrease rates, but it also would make eastern markets more accessible to the Western Slope. Proponents of the scheme also promised that direct rail service would increase outside interest in area industries, such as coal mining or food processing. [57] With all this regional support, railroad management found it easy to convince Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) members of the plan's merits.

In 1924, with the tunnel under construction, D&SL leaders incorporated the Denver and Salt Lake Western to build a line from Bond to Dotsero. They did not formally apply to the ICC for approval until 1928. Debates on the application, complicated by the D&RGW's purchase of the D&SL, continued for four years. On September 12, 1932, the ICC recommended in favor of the plan. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) a Federal agency aimed at business revitalization from the Depression, lent nearly $4 million to the D&RGW to complete the cut-off. [58] After two more years the Dotsero Cut-Off was finished and on June 16, 1934, formal opening ceremonies were held, reminding onlookers of 50 years earlier when railroads first reached the region. The new 34 mile long line gave west-central Colorado shorter, more dependable access to eastern slope markets, something area boosters had sought for 40 years. Moreover, it marked completion of the last transcontinental rail route to be built in the United States. [59]

While these developments occurred, other railroads in the region were experiencing hard times typical of the inter-war years. By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, all the area's minor roads had ceased operation except the Crystal River and San Juan which lasted until 1941. [60] The precipitous decline in west-central Colorado commercial activity was partially responsible for these abandonments.

The second factor was increased competition from automobiles and trucks. After World War I, "The Good Roads Movement" continued to gain strength throughout the state. Legislators, both state and federal, appropriated monies for highway construction. Many new thoroughfares were built, such as the route over Vail Pass. The new roads encouraged people to buy their own car, despite little problems like radiator boil-overs. [61] The use of trucks to carry freight also increased, cutting into railroad profits. Furthermore, motorbuses replaced branchline passenger service because decent roads were available. [62] Area businessmen supported this trend and lobbied for more roads. Grand Junction became the highway center of the Western Slope. A transportation revolution that would reach maturity after World War II was occurring in west-central Colorado. Roadbuilding became a popular way for government agencies to spend relief funds during the Great Depression.

Dotsero Cutoff
The Dotsero Cutoff, connected west-central Colorado with the Moffat Tunnel, a route 180 miles closer to Denver. This view of the cutoff at Bond, Colorado was taken June 11, 1934. Photo by Colorado Division of State Archives.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was another way that Federal funds were spent in west-central Colorado to aid recovery and improve the area. The CCC was part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Its goal was to provide jobs for teenage boys outdoors, away from the problems of the nation's large cities. The Corps efforts were directed by officers of the United States Army. In Colorado, the first local commandant was Colonel Sherwood A. Cheney who organized the state's effort in 1933. As many as 7,000 youths were given jobs in Colorado by the CCC. They were scattered about the state in groups averaging 200. Their efforts focused on the public lands, doing various jobs from fighting fires to building roads. Millions of dollars were spent throughout Colorado on these projects. All of the west-central region benefited from this New Deal Program. [63]

Starting in 1934, camps began to spring up throughout the region, from Eagle to Colorado National Monument. In that year, CCCers based at Glenwood Springs helped fight fires in the White River National Forest. [64] They also worked to reforest lands along the Frying Pan River. [65] For recreational use, the CCC built trails to Hanging Lake Park at Glenwood Springs, as well as Rifle's Mountain Park and the Red Mountain ski run. [66] The largest CCC project in eastern west-central Colorado was the construction of a trail and visitors center on Notch Mountain for tourist use viewing the Mount of the Holy Cross. This cost over $120,000. [67] However, not all projects were recreational. CCC labor also was used to build Glenwood Springs municipal airport. [68]

Communities such as Glenwood Springs were pleased to have the Corps camps in their towns. Merchants of that city donated paint, flowers, grass seed, and books to the boys, all to make these strangers feel welcome. [69] At Grand Junction, businessmen, through the city council, supplied the CCC with warehouses and an auto repair facility when it was learned that the Western Slope district office was to be located there in August of 1935. [70]

With headquarters at Grand Junction, it was only natural that some projects were carried out in the vicinity. CCC workers concreted portions of the Grand Valley Reclamation Project canals in an effort to find a solution to seepage problems that damaged the fields. [71] At Glade park, and north of Fruita, these young men labored to improve public rangelands for use by the Grazing Service. [72] However, the most spectacular Corps project in west-central Colorado was the construction of Rimrock Drive in Colorado National Monument. This road made much of the park accessible to motorized vehicles. [73] While the projects made positive contributions to the area, the workers were not always pleased with their lot. At Colorado National Monument, the boys caused nine commanders to be replaced because the youths staged strikes and leveled complaints at their bosses. [74] The CCC was just one of numerous New Deal programs that helped soften the Great Depression for the west-central part of the state.

Another was the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA's efforts were directed at relieving unemployment by putting people to work on public projects. In Glenwood Springs, an auditorium, the county hospital, and a sewage plant were built using Federal funds. [75] The county fairgrounds at Rifle were rehabilitated in the same manner. [76] Additionally, WPA crews worked on various roads in the area. [77]

Elsewhere in west-central Colorado, WPA workers helped on other projects. Among them were the Pabor Library in Fruita and the Fruita district elementary and high schools. [78] These jobs helped keep men off the soup lines and were beneficial to area communities. [79]

The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) provided another source of aid for the region. Edward Taylor caused this agency to support construction and improvement of fifteen airports on the Western Slope including Grand Junction and Rifle. [80] The Rural Electrification Administration (REA), another New Deal bureau, began electrification projects to provide residents of farms in outlying areas the benefits of modern technology. It was through REA efforts that many Grand Valley farmers finally received power lines. [81] The final Federal effort at relief to affect the west-central region was the Civil Works Administration (CWA) which carried on many programs, among them the collection of interviews of long time area residents concerning memories of the past. [82] These documents have proved invaluable to historians trying to recreate the region's early beginnings.

The period from 1920 until 1940, witnessed significant changes in west-central Colorado. No longer was the area a booming, optimistic frontier with unlimited visions of future development. While the hopes died hard, they did pass by the 1930s and a rather grim picture of the years ahead developed. From the New Deal on, the Federal government was to play an ever increasing role in the region. This began with the conservation movement of the 1890s and the Great Depression assured that Federal involvement would be the case as the area's economy proved incapable of coping with the changing times. Such inability was due, in part, to the already weakened condition of the region's economy before the crash of 1929, which only exacerbated an already bad situation. Depression extended to all sectors of west-central Colorado's industries, mining, previously a co-equal partner to prosperity, also proved a companion to misery.

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Last Updated: 31-Oct-2008