History Here and Now July 03, 2009
Kannah Creek — a soft whisper in the harsh winter months, blanketed with a soundproof layer of ice, until it awakens into a raging torrent when springtime run-off waters flow down from Grand Mesa, where the creek begins.
Kannah Creek —the Ute Indians named it (once spelled Kah-nah) after the various trees along the banks that furnished them with teepee poles.
Kannah Creek — where early settlers found a supply of fresh, clean water for their homes and their livestock.
After the Utes were driven from their homeland to deserts to the west, settlers arrived to homestead. Most of these early settlers made their living by raising cattle. Others farmed, raised dairy cows, pigs, bees, crops and prime alfalfa for the hay markets of Grand Junction.
Soon they realized that Kannah Creek’s adequate water in the spring and early summer later ran low, and occasionally dried up completely. Area ranchers discovered they could capture some of the water that raced by in the spring, into reservoirs atop the Mesa, and release it as needed during the dry months. An efficient irrigation system was developed, using hand power and horsepower.
Frank Bradbury hauled equipment up to the Mesa by horseback, from his homestead on the present U.S. Highway 50, to build some of these reservoirs: Juniata, Hollenbeck, Scales, Anderson, Flowing Park, Carson Hole, Deep Creek and Raber-Click. Many reservoirs were named after those who toiled to build them.
The annual Beef Ride was the high point of the year, when the cows and calves were moved to lush pasture and the steers were rounded up for market. After the hours of hard work were put in to accomplish all this, everyone celebrated with a big dance at the Claybaugh Cabin on Grand Mesa.
Life was harsh and making a living was a struggle, but the good land and good people pushed on. Neighbor helped neighbor – whether delivering a new child, baling hay, fighting a fire, or delivering a meal during hard times.
By 1883 there was a need for a school, so Downing School was built near the Kannah Creek and North Fork intersection. The first Pride School, built in 1900, was near the corner of U.S. Highway 50 and Blair Road. When that space was outgrown, Pride 2 was built and the original became a teacherage (a home for the teacher).
When Pride 2 burned, Pride 3 was built and operated until the schools were consolidated and the building was moved to Blair Road, where it is still being used as a private residence.
Another school, “Number 2,” was built up Kannah Creek a few miles to equalize the travel distance for students. Elk Glen School was on Purdy Mesa for a time. In 1912 the Purdy Mesa School was built, where it operated until closed by school consolidation.
If you look close when you drive up Purdy Mesa Road, you can still see the remains of this old school – the steps, the flagpole, the horse barn and more. Purdy Mesa School was once the activity center of the community, housing plays, dances and meetings almost continually.
Crimes were rare but there was a double murder, in 1883, when a couple separated and the wife returned to find her husband with another woman. Both women died in the scuffle and the husband, killer of one, mysteriously escaped. Oh, there were cattle rustlers and shoot-outs, but most were the peace-loving sort.
Accidents and epidemics took many of the young people to lie in the Historic Whitewater Cemetery, on a hill near the highway. At one time, there was a store or two, a post office, a Civil Conservation Corps Camp, even a ski jump, oil well and a coal mine. Many treasures remain as a part of the area known as Kannah Creek.
Carol M. Anderson came to western Colorado in 1975. She is the author of “Kannah Creek: The People, Their Stories & the History” and “Whitewater: The People, Their Stories & the History.”