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The Good Old Days 
What with all the problems and controversies today, don’t you sometimes wish for the peace and decorum of days gone by?
We get all wound up about controversies in Tahosa Valley, but we forget the controversy that swirled around the name itself.
Most of us know that Tahosa was one of the names considered for our state, but most don’t know much about the valley of Elkanah. It was called that for a number of years, after one of its most prominent residents, Parson Elkanah Lamb. Charles Edwin Hewes of the Hewes-Kirkwood Inn (now the Rocky Mountain Music Camp) published a poem: “‘Tis Evening in the Valley of Elkanah,” in 1914.
But Enos Mills thought the name inappropriate, claiming it had no connection with the valley, even though it was Mills who had bought Lamb’s Longs Peak House, later Longs Peak Inn, and had written the introduction to Lamb’s 1905 memoirs.
Enos might have thought a better name would be -- let’s see-- how about Mills Valley?
The Colorado Geographic Board, however, thought Mills had enough named after him, with Mills Moraine, Mills Glacier, and Mills Lake. They thought Tahosa a better name, apparently derived from a Kiowan chief who signed an 1837 treaty with that name, meaning “Dwellers of the Mountain Tops.”
That seemed appropriate to many residents, but it touched off another fight. Burns Will, the owner of Copeland Lake Lodge and a county commissioner, didn’t like Indian names in general and Tahosa in particular, and said so in a three-man delegation to the Colorado Geographic board. He was too late. The maps had already been printed by the U.S. Geologic Survey as Tahosa. The bureaucratic wheels turned and the name was approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in 1916. A great many residents were upset, but they’re all dead now and it no longer seems to matter much, but people were really steamed about it at the time and various people were mad at each other for years. Sound familiar?
As for decorum, in July of 1917, just as my grandfather was thinking about buying a homestead, L.C. Way, the second superintendent of RMNP probably cooked up a rather indecorous publicity stunt for the new National Park with Al Birch, the promotion manager of The Denver Post.
They arranged for Agnes Lowe, a student at Michigan whose family had a summer cabin near Estes Park, to prove that a modern girl could live in the wilds. The 30 July issue has a picture of Agnes standing by a tree, waving good-bye to her mother. Touching, really. She is wearing a leopard skin from a very big leopard which covers her quite well but was probably considered shocking in 1917. A few days later she took refuge from the rain. More pictures. Then on 6 August she returned to the wilds, seen off by 2,000 people. The Post must have been thrilled. The Boulder Daily Camera, by the way, took no notice at all of these goings on.
Agnes dropped out of sight for four days. In fact, Ranger Dixie McCracken, following orders from Way, took her to an inn (whereabouts unknown) and then returned her to Wild Basin. On the 10th she served a lunch to Mr. Way and Enos Mills made from the fruits of the wild: pine bark soup, trout, mushrooms, chipmunk peas, wild honey and chokecherries. A talented and resourceful young woman indeed.
On the 13th she reappeared at Longs Peak Inn, having spent a week near Thunder Lake at the upper end of Wild Basin, according to the paper. A month later there was a three-part article in the Post written by Agnes with more pictures, including one of an unhappy young man wearing a bearskin who was supposed to have been pursuing her. Only the intervention of the Park Rangers saved her from a fate worse than death!
Oh, for the peace and decorum of the good old days!
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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