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Family, Long Ago, in the Upper Valley

Aspen Historical Society


What happens when you’re not from a place… but maybe your family was...years and years ago? Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher finds out. She had heard that she had ancestors in the Upper Valley during the turn of the last century… so she set out to find the real story.

When I moved to Aspen last March, my older sister Anne said “Congratulations!” And, she sent me a link about our family history. 

“I've done a little bit of digging myself, but nothing more than some internet, and I thought oh good! now we have someone on the ground, in the town.”

Someone who can go check out a certain guy in our family tree. His name is George Worth Thatcher, and he’s my great great grandfather. Now, I’ve made my way to the Aspen Historical Society, and they’re going to help me out. Anna Scott handles the archives here. 

“One of the first things that we can do is just see if he even appears in our database.”

We’re at Scott's computer-- and I should note anyone can do this, if they want to check out their genealogy in Aspen.

“For some reason it didn’t like that name…typing, spelling it right, there! And it looks like in our archives we have four items that relate to him. There is a mining deed collection that we have in our database…”

So we start looking through a list of what those papers are..

“Says G. W. Thatcher, in 1884, it’s the type was an agreement, that says it’s for the Broadway and Monarch lodes. That included George Thatcher, Frank Fisher, and Thomas Rucker."

Lodes are a section of valuable minerals in rock-- and George’s name is on a lot of legal papers about mining. To get a better sense for him, Anna also checked what’s called a directory from 1885.

“What we call them now are phone books, but they didn’t have the phones in the early days... We find [G.W. Thatcher] again, and here it says he’s still in mining, but this time he resides at 230 East Hopkins Avenue. And we’re going to see 1892 and see where he’s at. Typing… but this is interesting. Amanda Christison, was a servant for GW Thatcher, in 1892.”

I’m not going to lie, this moment makes me really uncomfortable. But, Scott says servants were paid...which puts my heart a little more at ease.

“Probably typical housecleaning and cooking, and whatnot, I’m not sure. So he was well off enough that he could pay somebody to come into his home and help him out.”

And turns out old George had a coachmen to drive him around, too, so he can stay out of the mud. This was long before paved roads... and handy because the family had moved to a bigger home in the West End of town, farther away from all the action. I say the family, because there were three other people in the 1900 census.

“Mary E. Thatcher, that’s his wife, she’s 42, her father was born in Ireland, and her mother was born in New York. And then George B. So we have Junior, essentially, and then a Hubert.” 

Both the boys are in their teens. And… I should mention, my brother’s name is Hugh and my dad’s name is George, so this is all very dejavu.

We end up finding an answer to why they made the move to a larger house. There’s a history book conveniently parked on Scott’s desk. She cracks it open, and finds this section:

“President of the Rio Grande Railroad paid 150,000 in cash, most of it Captain George Thatcher, the principal owner, for the SIlver King property. So that’s 1891, that might be why he then got a servant and a coachman.”

Elise: “And moved to the West End?”

Scott: “And moved to the West End!” laughs

I called my sister Anne, to tell her what I found, and we had a good chuckle over the idea that, at one point, the family had a place on Main Street. And then she said:

“So the other thing I’m really curious about is there anybody out there that we’re related to?”

Shoot, I didn’t think of that. Hmmm… I guess I’ll be going back to the archives!