Pioneers settled up Parachute Creek
When Ivo Lindauer was young, he froze his face while riding horseback from his home on the East Fork of Parachute Creek to the Granlee School 3 miles away.
“I was riding behind my brother, and it was so cold you could hear the branches breaking on the trees,” Lindauer recalled. “I had to stay home from school almost a month.”
Consequently, the family soon moved to a new ranch a mile west of the town of Parachute, where the school commute would not be so long or bitterly cold.
Now 86, Lindauer is retired from a career at the University of Northern Colorado. He and his wife of almost 60 years, Betty JoAnn, or BJ, have traveled the world, but return to their home at Battlement Mesa.
Last year, Lindauer published a book called “Up the Creek: Parachute’s Pioneer Families and Energy Development, 1875-2015.”
The book tells the story of more than 50 pioneer families of Parachute Creek, as well as their descendants. Additionally, it looks at the changes wrought by the energy industry operating in and around Parachute Creek.
Lindauer said one thing that made Parachute Creek different was the level of education that second- and third-generation residents obtained. There were several doctors, numerous teachers and several people, including Ivo Lindauer, who received doctorates. Also, Willard Libby, who was born near Parachute Creek but raised primarily in California, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1960 for his work on radiocarbon dating.
Lindauer’s book points to another factor that sets Parachute Creek apart from many other ranching areas in western Colorado. Ranching continues in most of those areas. In Parachute Creek, however, the energy industry changed that pattern.
In 1910, there were 34 families living on Parachute Creek and its three forks. By 1950, that number had grown to 58 families.
But by 2012, “Only one of the original families still owned their ranch and farmed their property,” Lindauer wrote.
The ranching families willingly sold their property and water to energy firms. Many family members worked for the oil shale or natural gas industries, Lindauer said.
The first settlers in the Parachute region arrived in 1882, a year after the Utes had been forcibly removed from the region.
John “JB” Hurlburt and Martin Billiter brought 2,000 head of sheep from California, intending to settle near Meeker, but eventually choosing a site near the mouth of Parachute Creek.
Soon, others joined them, staking homesteads up and down Parachute Creek and its three forks.
Peter Lindauer, Ivo’s grandfather, was a native of Indiana who worked in Kansas and various locations in Colorado before opening a store in Parachute with his brother in 1898. In 1902, they sold the store and Peter bought a ranch near the confluence of the three forks of Parachute Creek.
His oldest son, Paul, was born in 1900 in Parachute. By the time he was a teenager, Paul was a good ranch hand, and he became a trapper, roper and rodeo cowboy. Paul married Bessie Shults in 1924, and in 1929 they purchased a ranch one mile up the East Fork of Parachute Creek, where Ivo was born.
They ran cattle on top of the Roan Plateau, which at the time could be reached by horse trail from the East Fork.
“I remember my dad would take me up on top of the mountain, put me under a tree and tell me to wait. I’d sit there while he rounded up horses and put them in the corral,” Ivo said.
But Bessie thought the ranch too cold and isolated for her children. So in 1937, she and Paul purchased the ranch a mile west of Parachute. Ivo and BJ own the ranch today with their daughter and son-in-law.
The Lindauers aren’t the only pioneer family with 21st century ties to the area. There are still descendants of JB Hurlburt in the community, along with those of other families.
Lindauer’s book offers detailed accounts of each of the pioneer families and their succeeding generations. The book is available at Barnes & Noble in Grand Junction and through Amazon.com.
‘GV’ FOR PARACHUTE
While employed by energy companies in Parachute most of the past 35 years, Susan Alvillar has worked with students and teachers at Grand Valley High School in Parachute to maintain the large “GV” on the side of a hill owned by the energy firms. The letters are visible from Interstate 70.
Last year, the school opted out of the maintenance effort, so Alvillar received permission from her current employer, Terra Energy Partners, to refurbish and stabilize the GV.
“I started my own informal poll, and I found that people here were appalled at the possibility it might go away,” she said.
So, Terra employees and contractors donated their time to put in support for the letters and repainted them with special paint.
Why the GV? The community was originally called Parachute, but the name was changed to Grand Valley in 1908. In the mid-1980s, it was changed back to Parachute, while the high school is still Grand Valley.
Parachute reportedly got its name originally because on maps, the three forks of Parachute Creek look like converging lines of a parachute. Parachutes were well-known devices in the late-19th century.
But Ivo Lindauer’s book includes an excerpt from a 1910 newspaper that says the town name is actually a corruption of the Ute word, “Pahchouc,” which reportedly meant “twins” and referred to the two peaks on either side of Parachute Creek.
The “GV” on the hillside was erected in 1948 or 1949, when Lindauer was attending Grand Valley High School. “I helped carry the rocks up there,” he said.
Information from this article came from interviews with Ivo and BJ Lindauer and Susan Alvillar, and from Lindauer’s book, “Up the Creek: Parachute Creek’s Pioneer Families and Energy Development 1875-2015.”