Gypsum celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 1982. People settled in Gypsum in 1881, according to one history book, but the tent erected by O.W. Daggett in 1882 somehow gained more historical attention. The post office was established there in June of 1883, but the town did not incorporate until October 17, 1911. Daggett, for whom Daggett Ditch was named, set up his tent on Gypsum Creek four miles south of where the town eventually grew up.
By 1884, 31 ranches existed in Gypsum Valley, and in 1888 Gypsum itself had a population of 50, according to “Early Days on the Eagle” by McDonald Knight and Leonard Hammock, former Eagle County superintendent of schools. Businesses around 1888 were numerous: blacksmith’s shop, general store, saloon, restaurant, hardware store and livery stable. By 1903 there were two hotels the Gypsum Hotel and the Ulin Hotel.
In 1899, William Schliff, born in Germany in 1850, was the “the first settler of Gypsum, where in 1881 he built one of the first houses.”
The date that the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad tracks were laid in Gypsum is debatable. Knight and Hammock’s book sets the year at 1887 and “Eagle County History” put it at 1884.
“Eagle County History” was put together by local students and their teachers in the early 1940s. Alan Clarke, then the Eagle County librarian, showed foresight in the preface he wrote, which included this: “I expect that it is mostly the eyes of strangers who look at this book, seeing in the portraits no family resemblance, reading in the text no familiar names. Nevertheless, I it’s the history of the ground that we stand on and of those who lived on it before us. We should not forget them.”
According to the book, when Daggett came to Gypsum in 1882 there were only four ranches between Red Cliff and Glenwood Springs and no wagon road into the valley.
Julius Oleson, born in Germany in 1876, managed the Riley Company in Gypsum and in 1904 married Miss Iva Beck, an Iowa native. She was a cultured lady who was principal of the school at Gypsum for two years.” Mr. Oleson, it continues, was “an emphatically self-made man and his friends are proud of the job.”
Samuel Oleson, Julius’ older brother owned two ranches in the area.
Jacob E. Borah was a guide for Theodore Roosevelt in the Roosevelt Hunt for two weeks in the spring of 1905. The small group of men killed 10 bears and two bobcats on Divide Creek. The governor of Colorado at the time wrote to Roosevelt giving him a special permit to kill deer and elk. According to the account in the Eagle County History, “Roosevelt replied that he could not use such a permit, as that would be violating the games laws of Colorado.
George Price of Gypsum owned the first automobile in the Eagle Valley – the year was 1903.
Survival came first in the dry area of Gypsum, and it did not take long for ranches to develop “water works” and dig “irrigating” ditches. Wilson A. Skiff went to Gypsum in 1886. In 1887 he homesteaded some land, built a house, barns and the necessities for irrigating his crops. By 1890, he set his sights to more urban interests and erected the town’s first hotel.
Frank Doll was a ranch owner in Gypsum. On his 1,600 acres he produced an abundance of grain, fruit and vegetables. He, too, broadened his concerns and built stores and a “roller flouring mill with every modern improvement.”
With houses built and businesses springing up, people began to have other pressing issues. Eagle County History reported that in 1910 “one of the biggest political fights in Eagle County occurred in Gypsum over the building of the Eagle County High School in Gypsum.” The cause for contention was not disclosed.