Colona

by Jack and Barbara Rairden

 

An invaluable source of information regarding the unincorporated town of Colona in northern Ouray County is Dr. Doris Gregory's book: "The History of Colona and Pioneer Families", Cascade Publishing Co. (2003).  Dr. Gregory drew heavily on Lowell R. Golden’s manuscript titled: "Early History of Colona", 1986, which is available in the Montrose Public Library.  These documents are a "must read" for anyone interested in the Log Hill Mesa/Colona area!  We have used them extensively in preparing this narrative.

We also are indebted to Wanda Miller, a lifetime resident of the Colona area, for her consultation and advice.

Colona is located at the intersection of U. S. Highway 550 and Ouray County Road #1 - it is the northern gateway to Log Hill Mesa.  It has long served as a marketing center for LHM residents and others in the nearby area.  There are references to Colona dating back to 1875 when the Los Pinos Ute Indian Agency was established just north of present day Colona.

The Hotchkiss brothers, Preston and Roswell, are legendary figures in this area.  They moved here in the mid-1870s and became very active in buying and selling properties in Ouray County.  Their younger brother Enos also had moved to western Colorado.  He was engaged in road building activities with Otto Mears and mining activities in the Lake City area - Hotchkiss, CO, was named after him.

According to Golden, with the Ute removal from Colorado in 1881, Preston and Roswell obtained tracts of land on both sides of  Uncompahgre River.  The Colona land was homesteaded  by Roswell's son George in 1889 - he had already sold it in 1887 to Preston who deeded a right-of-way in Colona to the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.

Colona became increasingly important to the area when the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad extended their narrow gage line up the Uncompahgre Valley in 1887 with a stop at Colona.  A small wood frame depot was built in the early days on the strip of land beside the tracks that was purchased from Preston Hotchkiss.  Preston is Edgar Hotchkiss' great grandfather and Uri Hotchkiss is his grandfather.

 

The land for Colona was platted into nine blocks in 1902.  An amended plat for the town was filed in 1910.  Lots were sold through the years, but the plat was never fully developed.  A number of businesses have come and gone through the years in "beautiful downtown Colona".  The Pit Stop Cafe was built on the southwest corner of US 550 and CR #1 - the site of the Colona Depot.  It was built by Bill and Zona Humphrey who owned the Humphrey Ranch on Log Hill Mesa.  They leased it to Jim and Barbara Guyton in 1983.  The building has changed hands several times and now is occupied by Copper John Heating and Plumbing as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1: Copper John's in Colona

 

 

The restaurant located on the northwest corner of US 550 and CR #1 was built by the  Guyton's in 1987 and was known as "Jim’s Bar-B-Q".  It has changed hands several times since the Guyton's sold it in the mid-1990s.  It now is owned by Mr. Craig Jackman who is expanding and remodeling it as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2: Restaurant in Colona

 

 

 

 

 

The street name for the first block of CR #1 going west through town is Hotchkiss Ave.   On the south side of the street are three structures.  The first one is a small log cabin as shown in Fig. 3.  This was the early day home of Charlie and Etta Johnson.  Next door, to the west, is the two story structure which they built in about 1920 and used as a boarding house for teachers. (Fig. 4, below)

 

Fig. 3: Johnson cabin today.

 

 

After the Johnsons died, Larry and Joan Johnson eventually bought the structure and used it as their residence.  It continued to be used as a residence until it was purchased by Craig Jackman a few years ago - he has restored the name "Boarding House".

 

Fig. 4: Johnson Boarding House today.

 

 

 

 

The next structure going west was built by J. R. Frank in about 1926 for use as a general store and post office (Figs. 5a and 5b).  He stayed in business until he retired due to ill health.
Fig. 5a: The J.R. Frank Store today is owned by Mr. Craig Jackman.   Fig. 5b:  Colona Store and Post Office. (1965) Photo courtesy of Mina Voss

 

 

The building and property were bought by the Callaway Packing Co. in the 1950s for use as a slaughterhouse.  They constructed an addition to the west side of the store, a two-story building behind the store facing CR #1 (Fig. 6) and, on the south side, they built a corral for cattle that were to be processed.

Fig. 6: The addition and two-story building today.

The property as it appears today is shown in  Figs. 6-8.  It is owned by Craig Jackman who is in the process of remodeling the buildings and the corral.  The old corral now is the "Colona Stockyards" which is used for parties and get-togethers - there is a stage, a dance floor, a bar and a barbeque area.

 

 

Fig. 7: The Calloway Packing sign. Fig. 8: The Colona Stockyards

 

 

Just south of the Stockyards is the venerable Colona Community Church (Fig. 9) which was moved to Colona from Ouray in 1912.  The move was a very eventful affair as is described in Dr. Gregory's book.

With time, the church had fallen into disrepair.  In 1958, the members of Colona Grange #259 successfully took on the task restoring the church.  Church members today continue to make improvements.

Fig. 9: The Colona Community Church today - it is interdominational.  Rev. Dean Freed, Pastor.

 

Colona Grange #259 has been meeting in the Colona Schoolhouse (Fig. 10 and 11) since it was constructed in 1915 and dedicated in January, 1916.  Initially the school had grades 1 to 12.  By the early 1930s, it became a grades 1 to 8 school and continued as such until it was closed in 1948.

The building and lot were transferred to Colona Grange #259 in 1963 - it continues as a Grange Hall to this day.

Fig. 10: The Colona Grange Hall, nee Colona School House, in 1965.  Note the bell tower.  Photo courtesy of Mina Voss.

 

 

It also has served as a site for many community activities such as the annual talent shows which were fund-raisers for the Grange, and the annual Fortuna Tierra Club Bazaars that were fund-raisers for the club. There also have been dances, receptions, elections, parties, etc. held there.

The building has been designated a local landmark by Ouray County and it is on the Colorado State Register of historic Properties.  In 2006, it was included on the list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list by Colorado Preservation, Inc.

Fig. 11: Colona Schoolhouse, owned by Colona Grange #259 today.

 

 

The Grange members are undertaking the restoration of this historic structure.  The Grange was recently awarded a grant of $250,000 from the Colorado Historical Society.  This will cover the highest priority work to be done which includes the roof, the windows, the exterior stucco and a security system.

The challenge now is for the members is to raise ~$85,000 of the $250,000 as a matching fund contribution.  Plans are underway to launch a donations campaign soon.

In July, 2007, the Grange leased two rooms on the north side of the entrance hall to the Ouray County Ranch History Museum.  They have moved some of their collection of historic artifacts into these rooms and plan to open them to the public in May of this year.

 

During 2011, Phase 1 work to “Save the Colona School” was undertaken by Colona Grange #259 using funds from donations and a matching grant from the Colorado State Historical Society.  New roofing and underlayment were laid after the roof structure was reinforced.  Window and door restorations including exterior painting were completed.  Repairs were made on the exterior stucco.

 

Fig. 12: Restoration progress on the Colona School as of November,  2011.

 

 

The Colona landmark for those traveling along U. S. Highway 550 is the Colona Country Store on the east side of the highway as shown in Fig. 13 below.
Fig. 13: Colona Country Store.

 

 

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