Historical Research & Writing


I have been writing for the Boulder Daily Camera since 1977, starting with historical features, as well as a food column. From 1984 to 1988, I wrote historical features for the Longmont Times-Call. From 1996-1998, I wrote a history column for the Boulder Planet. During this time, I also contributed to the Coloradan (the University of Colorado's alumni magazine) and have freelanced for a number of national and international publications from the California Mining Journal and Evidence Technology Magazine to the British magazine Cornish World.

In 1998, I returned to the Camera as history columnist. Compilations of some of my history columns are in my books Only in Boulder: The County’s Colorful Characters and Boulder: A Sense of Time and Place Revisited (see Books page). I still write a history column for the Camera, sharing the position with long-time friend and colleague Carol Taylor.

Below are links to a couple of my recent history columns.

CU professor Mary Rippon had to completely separate her personal and professional lives in order to keep her job. (Carnegie Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

CU’s Mary Rippon defied convention with love affair

Camera, September 23, 2018

Mary Rippon arrived in Boulder in January 1878 as the third instructor (and first woman) to teach at the University of Colorado. She also was the first woman to teach at a state university anywhere in the country. Back then, no guidelines pertaining to teacher-student relationships had been put in place.

A decade later, when Rippon was a 37-year-old professor, 25-year-old Boulder resident Will Housel enrolled in one of her German literature classes. During a semester-long study of Faust, the teacher and student consummated a romantic relationship.. ..… Read more

Rippon Love Affair

Frederick Richardson’s gravestone recently was returned to his grave. It had been broken from its base and is missing an ornamental top.

Decades after vandalism, Richardson's stone returned to his grave

Camera, October 21, 2018

In 1980, when Denver resident Gerald Armstrong purchased a property in Mead (northeast of Longmont), a barn came with the land. Inside the barn was a damaged 53-pound gravestone. Still legible, however, was “Frederick Richardson, Died Feb. 11, 1876, Aged 73 Yrs. 19 Ds.”… Read more

Frederick Richardson Gravestone

This photo, facing east from 12th Street, now Broadway, shows the victory parade on Pearl Street on Nov. 11, 1918. (Carnegie Library For Local History)

A century ago, residents “drunk with joy of peace” at war’s end

Camera, November 18, 2018

Word of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's announcement of the end of World War I reached Boulder early in the morning on November 11, 1918. At 5 a.m., mill owner Charles W. Rowland ordered his employees to start blowing the whistle on his flour mill, located on the southeast corner of Walnut and 11th streets."

[The whistle] blew til breakfast time," wrote a newspaper reporter. Then the church bells began to ring, and soldiers from the University of Colorado's training camp drove through Boulder in an Army truck with buglers and an announcement that a "Victory and Peace Parade Jubilee" would start at 9 a.m. at 17th and Pearl streets... Read more

End of World War I

The circa-1898 dress is decorated with hand-painted landscape and railroad scenes, as well as the railway company's logo. (Carnegie Library, Boulder Historical Society collection)

Switzerland Trail dress remains a mystery

Camera, July 1, 2018
In 1898, when the Colorado & Northwestern Railway began an ambitious advertising campaign and asked the public's help with a name (or brand) for its new narrow-gauge railroad into the mountains west of Boulder, J. E. Snook came up with "The Switzerland Trail."

The C&NW added "of America." Promotional literature promised flatlanders (limited at the time by horse-drawn vehicles) a chance to experience unsurpassed mountain scenery only a few hours from home.

The company's brochures and photographs still exist today and are well-known collectors' items. But one obscure artifact -- a dress -- has railroad fans baffled. Read more

Switzerland Trail Dress

Several Boulder residents posed by the Twelfth Night bonfire on Jan. 6, 1949. (Carnegie Library for Local History / Museum of Boulder Collection).

Annual 12th-Night bonfire set ablaze Boulder for decades

, January 13, 2019

For most celebrants of Christmas, taking down the tree is more of a chore than an anticipated holiday activity. When Boulder, however, was still a small town, its residents enthusiastically participated in the old English tradition of Twelfth Night.

On Jan. 6 (the 12th day after Christmas) every year for several decades, city dwellers burned their trees in one big bonfire. In addition to disposing of the greenery, they enjoyed an evening of fun that brought together the community ... Read more

Twelfth Night Bonfires

In this undated photo (circa mid-1980s), Ethel Joan Bransall Stout (left) and her son Richard Stout (right), posed with an unknown woman, likely Ethel’s sister, Irene Bransall. Courtesy Jennifer Kerr

Friends replaced family for Ethel Joan Bransall Stout

Camera, December 16, 2018

Recently I was contacted by a complete stranger who mailed me a photo of the late Boulder County resident Ethel Joan Bransall Stout. The reason I became the recipient of the photo was because another woman in the photo was mistakenly identified as me!

Ethel, I soon learned, died in 2017 at the age of 92, with no known next of kin. She had survived the deaths of her parents, her siblings, and even her son. She had no nieces, nephews, or grandchildren. But, as it turned out, she had at least two very good friends. ..…. Read more

Ethel Joan Bransall Stout

Edward Baker’s grave has finally has been recognized, as documented in the Buffalo Soldier story. Below, in the first row, are a few photos from October 11, 2016 when members of the Buffalo Soldier Organization assisted Jack Box in setting the stone.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Long-term missing persons
Unidentified remains
Cold case homicides
Boulder County, Colorado, history