How the Mancos Public Library Oral History Project began

Installment #1

We were contacted by Elizabeth Manus , author and writer and editor, back in early May of this year.  She was anticipating a move to CO from NY City.  She proposed that we collaborate with her to collect oral histories, heart stories, from the Mancos Valley residents who have been here from a while, or perhaps their ancestors who helped settle the Valley. 

We had quite a few discussions on how we could make this happen.  As it ended up she relocated to Denver, and didn’t feel that she could be a part of this project, but she hoped that we would pick up the torch.  We have done just that!

The Project began at the library in late June.  Our first inclination was to begin with the Centennial Quilt makers who appear on the quilt that is found in the main hallway at the Library.  We tracked down some of them, figured out who quilted the squares and unearthed quite a bit of information that was hiding in the supply closet.  Some of the quilt square makers have passed away and some are still with us.  We will honor each quilter as we launch the Oral History Project. 

Since we announced the project, many folks have come forward and expressed interest in telling their stories.  They will be shared on the Library website in a month or so. But let’s begin with a brief overview of how the quilt came to be.

The Centennial Quilt was crafted in 1994, for the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Mancos, Colorado and tells the story in stitches on fabric.  During that winter (1994) Mary Ann Ott researched our history and developed a story line for 25 illustrations in fabric.  Each volunteer for this project chose one of the themes that Mary Ann researched and developed. The labeling on the  blocks has been limited to the “firsts”…the first teacher, prospectors, cowboys, etc.

We will be giving you a serialized version of the quilt over the coming weeks, with an installment weekly at the Website,  then we will move on to share the interviews.   

Let’s begin with the words of Vergie Robbins Edwards  about the Mancos Valley:

“The sparkling streams, hardy grasses, forested hillsides, and mineral rich La Plata Mountains attracted the early settlers.  By 1894 a vibrant village, providing goods and services to the valley and mining camps had grown along the Mancos River. The first town government convened on October 9, 1894 with George Bauer elected mayor and Charles B. Kelly, David H. Lemmon, Louis B. Armstrong, Henry Caldwell, Harry V. Ausburn, and Harry N. Sprague serving as councilmen, and George Carr, town clerk.” 

The Centennial Quilt