Photo: 2018 Grand County Pioneers, Ida Sheriff and Barbara Mitchell, founding members and current Board members of the Grand County Historical Association (GCHA) love and share this important community heritage at the Middle Park Fair & Rodeo, while greeting many friends and GCHA members at their history educational table at this year’s annual event in Kremmling.    Photo by Penny Hamilton


Kremmling-The Middle Park Fair & Rodeo Board honored Ida Sheriff and Barbara Mitchell as their 2018 Pioneers of the Year recently. In the historic Dance Hall on the Fair Grounds, Larry Banman was the MC for the light-hearted award ceremony packed with family and friends.

The Dance Hall was a perfect location to honor Ida Sheriff, life-long resident of Grand County because Ida met her late husband, John, at a community dance. Ida then moved from one side of the Cottonwood Pass from her parent’s Liberat & Bertha Marte 1912 homestead  to the historic Sheriff ranch in Hot Sulphur Springs which was homesteaded in 1881 by John’s family. The Sheriff Ranch Bar Double S brand is still the longest standing brand to remain in one family in all of Colorado.

Ida loves the land and especially the history. She is one of the founding members of the Pioneer Society which had the sole purpose of preserving Grand County history and that of its pioneer families. Later, this grew into the Grand County Historical Association (GCHA).

GCHA Board member, Barbara Mitchell, also has deep roots in the original Pioneer Society. After living in Grand County for 79 years, Barbara Mitchell has a great love for her community. She described life in Parshall in 1939. Many areas still did not have electricity or even indoor plumbing. The Great Depression hit rural communities very hard. The economic crisis combined with the “dust bowl” dry conditions were hard on people and animals. But, the community worked hard and helped each other.

Without electricity for ranch chores, conditions could be dangerous when frozen water had to be melted and heated with fire wood which had to be hand-chopped. Kerosene lights were used. Now, we just flip a switch for instant light. The average life expectancy of a ranch wife of 1900 was 48. With the arrival of rural electrification on the ranch, their life expectancy soared to over 65 by the 1940s.

Both women supposedly “retired” from employment but not from their many and varied projects. Barbara even had a quilt entered into the annual Exhibit Hall competition and both ladies enjoyed greeting Grand County Historical Association members and fair goers at the GCHA educational table before their Pioneer Lunch.

Often, in the reporting and recording of HIStory, HERstory is overlooked. This year the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo Board selected two very deserving Grand County Super Stars in Ida Sheriff and Barbara Mitchell.  The Winter Park Times salutes on these rugged pioneers who made our community what it is today with “grit and grace.”