History – Who Needs History?

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Today we took a drive to an adjoining county.  In doing so we passed right through Manassa, Colorado.  Manassa is a small community that is out of the way but was home to William Harrison Dempsey, better known as the Manassa Mauler, or Jack Dempsey. 

Dempsey was born June 24, 1895, and died May 31, 1983.  He held the world heavyweight title from 1919 – 1926.   He is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Dempsey has one of the best knockout records in history with an unparalleled winning streak of 32-0 with 28 knockouts, including 17 of them in the first round! Jack Dempsey was not only one of the most exciting heavyweight champions in history he was also one of the ring’s greatest all time pound for pound fighters.

So what does Jack Dempsey have to do with the present?  He was one of the best fighters of all time and his birth place is just a short drive from our house.  Manassa is a very small town in South Central Colorado and has a Jack Dempsey museum and statute (see photo)  in the center of town.  One of the greatest fighters of all time came from this very small town in Southern Colorado near our homestead.  Homesteading in the mountains is unique inasmuch as we are constantly surrounded by history.  Most readers won’t know who Dempsey was but he was world champion fighter when the sport was one of our countries main forms of entertainment. 

Sometimes we take history for granted.  Every time we drive to get our mail we go past Ft. Garland, a fort that was commanded by Kit Carson and helped settle our area.  Then not 5 miles from our home is a limber pine tree that I measured and estimated  is over 2,100 years old.   That tree has had a lot of cultures pass by it.  If it could only talk.  Our country is only 219 years old by comparison.  Mother has a plethora of history packed in its 40 years.  Think what a tree that is over two thousand years old could tell us if it could just talk. 

Two years ago we visited Bonanza, Colorado, a  ghost town with an intact cemetery with graves that went back pre-Civil War. The lives and possibly heroes who were interred there.   Or Summitville, Colorado; another short drive for us.  It too is a ghost town and undergoing a long term EPA clean up.  Standing there, looking over the clean up, you can’t help but wonder what those who lived there during its prime would think of the current disaster.  Same with Bonanza which is contaminated by big mine run off. 

So history is important especially if you wonder about things like I do.  When I find a piece of  very old fence on our homestead, I wonder what the land looked like when it was strung by a cowboy or pioneer many years ago.  They were probably more concerned with survival than the highs or lows of the stock market, or the many other things we are bombarded with these days.  So who cares about history?  I care, we are surrounded by it and it makes me wonder when I am confronted with remains or artifacts of history.  While our homestead seems remote, there is no question that it has been crossed and crossed again by other cultures over the past several thousand years. History helps me realize that what I presently do needs to be done for those who will come in the future  and hopefully they will find it as clean as I found it when we moved here.   History therefore does have  value, especially when you are surrounded by it or you live in a county like we do, where the county seat is the oldest city in Colorado.  Every direction that we turn, history is right there to be seen and experienced. Our local area  has given inspiration to many western novels and I’m sure there are many more to be written in the future.  Cowboys, Indians, explorers, miners have all passed through here many times.  As they say now – we have history!!!History, Who Cares About History?

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