By Karen Griffiths (Western Reflections Publishing Company, 2008)
OURAY – Ouray County can add a new title to its short list of local history books. Reflections on Lake Lenore, by local resident and historian Karen Griffiths, raises the bar for thorough and exhaustive research, not to mention devotion to and sense of stewardship for a particular place, in this case the lake, the land and the people that make up Lake Lenore.
Griffiths’s topic lies close to her heart. She and her husband, Art, make their home at Lake Lenore, as do Art’s parents and brother. Reflections is sprinkled with poetry and verse, mostly by the author, that illustrate her profound connection to the place.
A fourth-generation Coloradan (she hails from farm country in northern Colorado), Griffiths saw the West through her grandfather’s eyes as a child.
“One thing that has always interested me since I was a kid was listening to my grandfather tell stories,” Griffiths said. “So I see how much the American West has changed. The new generation can grow up don’t even knowing what it was like there before or how it evolved to what it is now.”
To that end, Griffiths’s labor of love was to preserve some of the history of what she holds so dear. “This particular 180 acres is poised for change,” she said. “I want to do whatever I can to make a difference and preserve this one area.”
The Griffiths’s home at Lake Lenore was a vacation spot where the couple and their children spent many memorable moments, until the time when the two took an early retirement and made the place their permanent home, giving the author more time to focus on writing and other projects. The author began writing in earnest at the age of 10 and steadily broadened her horizons from school newspaper and literary publications in junior high, to publishing poetry and essays throughout college, to 25 years of teaching, including creative writing. Over the years, Griffiths has conducted several workshops on creative writing and oral history.
Her interest in oral history shows through in the book. Much of her information was derived from interviews with residents and others knowledgeable about the history of Lake Lenore. The final third of the book, in fact, which focuses on the lineage of ownership of the various lots in the subdivision, is in large part derived from interviews with current owners. The chapter reads rather like a collection of oral “contemporaries,” so to speak, though as time wears on the up-to-date information will take on the sepia-tone quality of good old fashioned storytelling.
As backdrop to this more current information, Griffiths’s first two chapters set the backdrop with the early history of the region, from the Utes through the miners and ne’er-do-wells to a thorough accounting of the Lake Lenore Company itself. She includes an exhaustive discussion of the land and its surroundings, and keeps the storytelling flowing with excerpts from historical newspapers that mention the lake. Plenty of images, poetry, historical maps, and mining charts round out the visual appeal of the tome.
For Griffiths, the research process had some surprising highlights. “I was surprised at how many women there were, they were right out there wheeling and dealing, their names were on the records. They were tremendously active,” she said. Griffiths also found a greater reverence for the lake’s early inhabitants, who made their lives in the remote mountain location without the modern conveniences she enjoys.
Griffiths’s Reflections is a visually elegant and informative volume that will find its way on to many a coffee table and bookshelf in the region.
The Ridgway Public Library will host a reading and book signing with the author on July 20 from 2-4 p.m. More presentations are in the works for later in the summer.