The Rise and Fall of White Pine, Colorado

by Duane Vandenbusche

The year was 1878 and prospectors R.E. McBride and the Boon brothers, unable to get good mining claims at Monarch, east of the Continental Divide, headed west. The three men went up a gulch past Waterdog Lakes, crossed the Divide and descended into the upper Tomichi drainage on the Western Slope. There, the men found good silver ore and filed claims. The following May, over 200 men swarmed into the area and uncovered the rich North Star, Eureka, Carbonate King and May-Mazeppa silver mines.

During 1879, all supplies had to come in via jack train from Monarch over Old, Old Monarch Pass. By May 1, 1880, the Monarch Toll Road was completed and a fledgling mining camp called White Pine was laid out along Tomichi Creek. The new camp was named for the dense growth of pines which covered the surrounding mountains. The two major routes into the camp were from Monarch on the Eastern Slope and Sargents on the Western Slope.

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Excerpts from ‘Around Monarch Pass’

Author Duane Vandenbusche, a professor of history at Western State College in Gunnison since 1962, is the author of several books on the Gunnison Country and Western Colorado. Until 2007, he doubled as a cross-country coach at the college, where his men’s and women’s teams won 12 national championships and produced three Olympians. In this volume, photographs gathered from libraries, museums, private collections, and old-timers – many of them previously unpublished – bring the rich history of Monarch Country alive.

We have been given permission to publish excerpts from the book for you here. Dr. Vandenbusche will be giving a presentation about Monarch Pass at the Salida SteamPlant on December 11 at 6:00 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

Photos and text reprinted with permission from “Around Monarch Pass,” by Duane Vandenbusche. Available from the publisher online at or by calling (888) 313-2665.

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Q & A with Gunnison author George Sibley

Colorado Central: How did you end up in Gunnison?

George: Have I ended up here? Well, I probably will. Can’t imagine where else I would go now. I came to the Upper Gunnison to be a ski bum, after flunking out of the Army, but despite my best efforts I began gravitating toward respectability. Got into the newspaper business – starting out as editor because anyone who knew anything about newspapering was too smart to try it here; went from that to freelancing and odd jobbing; tried to leave the Upper Gunnison but it didn’t take; and was lucky enough to slip into a position as academic odd jobber at Western State College. There, I finally fell into a full-time year-round job for the first time, at about age 46. Now, I am back to writing, when I am not trying to figure out the water-energy nexus. And I really can’t imagine being anywhere else: there’s something about the valley that makes me keep believing that it might be possible – not probable, but possible – to err and fumble our way into a society that at least approaches matching our scenery …

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College Students Who Could Save Your Life: The Western State College Mountain Rescue Team

WSC mountain rescue

by Luke Mehall

It started with a professor lost in the mountains of the Gunnison backcountry in the 1960s and it’s grown to be the top college-based mountain rescue team in the United States.

“We don’t have an exact record of when the team started, but the story is that a professor was lost in the mountains and a group of students and teachers banded together to find him,” Chip Lamar, team leader of the Western State College (WSC) Mountain Rescue Team said. “These types of searches continued to happen and then the team got involved in more technical, rock climbing rescues.”

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The Western W was never an N

Letter from Chris Dickey

Western State College – June 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ed and Martha:

Thought I’d drop a line to dispel the rumor about the “W” emblem signifying Western State College.

The “W” directly south of Gunnison on Tenderfoot Mountain was never an “N.” There once was an “N” on the smaller hill behind the college where the water tanks now sit, above the stadium. Dr. Charles Johnson, an early Western grad who went on to chair the Natural Science and Mathematics department, masterminded the building of the “W” shortly after Governor Sweet signed the bill in 1923 to change the name from Colorado State Normal School to Western State College of Colorado.

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