When I arrived in Grand Lake for the summer of 2014, I could not help but notice that some of the cabins of the Matchless Mountain Cabins were being loaded up and moved to new locations. NOTE: to see the larger image just click on the pictures below.
One of the new locations.
Being a curious person, I stopped by the location and asked someone who looked like they were in charge, what was going on. I learned that the property had been purchased the year before and given to the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater group and they were getting rid of the buildings. Below is a photo of the original home on the lots.
I was told that several of the cabins on the back of the property were finding new homes but no one wanted the original house because it was going to cost quite a bit more to be moved. It would have to be taken out in at least three parts. I would love to have acquired the old house but I had no place in which to have it relocated.
After doing some investigation, I discovered that Donna Ready at Mountain Lake Properties in Grand Lake had been the listing agent. So, I went to talk to Donna. After learning a short history of the property, I left Donna with a book written by one of the previous owners titled A Dangerous Woman by Nell Pauly. I took my new book and headed west down Grand Avenue to the Hub with my trusty springer spaniel, Mia, to wet my whistle with a good cup of coffee and read a few pages in my new book.
It didn’t take me long to realize I had my own copy of the book back at the cabin. Several years earlier I had tried to read Nell’s book but just could not get into it. Now I had a good reason to learn what was between the covers. I wanted to discover what I could about her ownership of the property.
Nell Pauly’s book, “A Dangerous Woman” is the autobiography of Nellie Jo Donathan Young Pauly born in Oklahoma in 1905.
I need to take a short break here and talk about an article I read in the spring 2014 edition of AASLH’s History News. The article, “Telling stories with Objects in the Starring Role” is on page 23. It starts off with this: “In 2010, the British Museum launched a new museum theme with A History of the World in 100 Objects. Written by Neil MacGregor and compiled from a series of BBC radio episodes, the book has inspired similar projects, including The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects and the New York Historical Society’s The Civil War in 50 Objects, as well as a host of online offerings using the same format.” What the article inspired me to do was treat this old “Love Nest” cabin as an object and learn what I could about it.
In the paper work Donna gave me it stated that the house was built in 1916 and was purchased by the Fischers in 1973. I’m thinking that they changed the name to Matchless Mountain Cabins but at this time that is only conjecture.
Nellie Jo, the oldest child of Red and Ida Donathan in 1921 moved with her family to Hot Sulfur Springs, about 25 miles from Grand Lake. Offhand, I don’t remember how many brothers and sisters Nell had but there were a bunch. Also, in today’s medical terms, you would have to describe the family as dysfunctional, really dysfunctional and primarily caused by her mother. Here’s what she wrote about her mother on page 35. “Mama’s cruelty did not stop. She didn’t whip me so much for a while but her abuse was just as strong. When she did whip me, she told me, ‘Now don’t tell your Papa or I’ll whip you again, worse than ever.’ She need not have worried. I was too embarrassed to tell Papa that I was so bad that I got another licking. But I think he guessed.”
In 1922, at age 17, Nell married Jake Young from Grand Lake. Jake was born in Grand Lake in 1891 and had served in the Army in France during the “War to end all wars”, World War I. He was described as a 5’ 1” momma’s boy because at age 31 he still lived with his mother in the Rustic Inn Hotel on the west shore of the lake. But Nell was in love with the little Casanova and no one could dissuade her. In my view she was trying to get away from her abusive mother and saw Jake as a way to do it. What really happened was that she traded one dysfunctional family for another.
You have probably already guessed that Nell and Jake moved into the Rustic Inn with his mother right after the wedding. Nell went from being her mother’s slave to be Josie’s slave and working in the hotel. Here’s Nell description of Mother Josie from page 174, “I had already found out that Josie Young Langley was really one dangerous woman, in her mastering slavery of Jake or anyone else who happened to be around, and was vulnerable to her vicious temper tantrums, I suspected this early in my association with her and felt it in her presence for all the rest of her long life. One could never be sure what sneaking, conniving devilry she would be up to next.”
I think it might have been in 1925 when Josie sold the Rustic Inn to The Grand Lake Lodge and they had it removed from the grounds. From page 175 Nell writes, “We had rented a nice, almost new, log house with log beams in the ceiling and four large rooms from Mrs. Dad Harbison. It was furnished for good living. It was only two blocks from the store and post office, and one block from the school, the main part of town in the wintertime. To be back with Jake in a place we could all call our home was like real heaven, and I thought it was even greater. Oh, Happy Day! Thank you God! …. The new house, where we were to live, was on the main mail road. It has a large bay window, and of all things, bore the name, ‘The Love Nest.’ …. This was the last summer we spent at the Rustic Inn. It was 1925. We had two small children. …. So it was that we moved into the nicest house we had since we had been married. .. Even yet, I do not know how we ever made it against every kind of obstacle. It was late October. A long, hard winter was upon us. We had between us $30.00 with which to start the long, cold, snowbound season.” Eventually that winter the four of them move out of The Love Next and back to the Bear House on the old Rustic Inn property.
In October of 1926 Nell and Jake were approached by Mom Harbison and wrote starting on page 184, “Jakie, I have a deal I would like to make with you and Nell. We know through our long years of dealings with you, that you are a reliable, honest man. I remember too, how you always said you would like to own my daughter Lorrain’s house. That precious little house, The Love Nest.” … “Oh, how proud I was. I could not stop fixing things up. …. I tried every way I could to help out, to pay for our new home. I did sewing for people, I did washing and ironing, and kept boarders and roomers. In winters we had our front bedroom for the boarders and roomers. We used one bedroom for ourselves, with little Raymond and Jody in a large-size youth bed.” During the summers Nell and family moved to the unfinished attic so all the rooms in the house could be rented.
Eventually Nell saved and borrowed enough to build these rental cabins and called their place Mountain Home Cabins.
Eventually I went through the old Love Nest and found it in pretty rough shape. Someone had gone through the place and torn parts of the ceiling down, wall coverings off and removed most of the more modern lights. After reading about how Nell and her family had lived in the attic I ventured up the steep stairs and took my first peek.
Most all the steep stair railing had been removed but that didn’t stop this old pilot who respects tall buildings but does not fear them.
Eventually I asked permission to take a look at what was in the attic. When I made the climb up the steep stairs and opened the small door I was amazed at how much “stuff” filled the entire three rooms, if you could call them rooms.
Looking west from the entrance door.
At the time I didn’t think about taking a photo of all the junk stored in the attic. To get in the the attic itself you had to move items. Thinking that I might find some old Nell Young items under all the junk I received permission to throw out all the junk and keep any “good stuff” for the GLAHS. For about a month my routine was to rise early, work in the attic until the sun hit the roof then go have coffee at the Hub and read more. Once the sun was up it became too hot for me pitch the junk out the door and haul it to the giant dumpster. Here’s a picture of the west room where I’m guessing Nell and Jake slept.
The south room below is probably where Nell’s children lived during the summers. Note the card board wall covering, giving some privacy to its occupants. The timbers were also rough cut and full of splinters.
This photo is looking back east toward the door. Notice that the child, less than 5’, is standing in the doorway. When I measured the height of the door it was 4’ 8”. I don’t remember how many times I hit my forehead on the door jam as I pitched trash out to the ground beneath. The bill on my ball cap obscured the top door jam.
One morning, after hitting my forehead several times on the jam, I walked over to see Bob Scott and learn what he knew about Nell. Bob has his Indian Jewelry business where Nell had her Mountain Home Cafe and got to know her a little when he spent his summers working for the James family at the Grand Lake Lodge. My first question to him about Nell was, “Bob, how tall was Nell?” He moved his left hand to his right shoulder and said, “She came to right about here.” I whipped my tape measure out and the distance from the floor to his hand was 4’ 8.” The same height as the attic door was tall.
Below is a photo of the third room and the old metal bed frame stored in it. This room had no floor in it and stored several old mattresses, several mummified large rats, rolls of insulation and hundreds of pine cones.
I did save the old bed frame, one mattress, two green painted wooden chairs with ducks on them, an old throw rung still in good shape, a metal children’s highchair/stroller, and a valentine card signed To our Nellie Jo from Mom and Dad. Nellie Jo was born April 1923. You can find these items in the administrative offices of GLAHS. As a note. It is my guess that the old metal bed and mattress were ones that Nell and Jake used because getting them out was such a chore. Once up there they probably stayed.
Nell writes in her book that she was an artist and I’m guessing she painted the wooden chairs green, as well as the mallard ducks on them. It would have been cheaper to purchase raw wood chairs and finish them yourself.
The week my son Todd and his family were at the lake with me I took his two children, Naomi and John to Nell’s attic to show them where they might have lived in GL back in the mid to late 1920s. Once they were in the attic their answer was “No Way!”
Eventually The Love Next was boarded up and I no longer had access to it. One day I drove by and this is what was left of the old Nest.
Then it looked like this. That was a sad day for me and probably other old timers who had become accustomed to it always being there.
As a side note, Nell and Jake eventually built the Mountain Home Cafe on Grand Avenue. In 1935 Nell owned a vacant lot on Grand Ave. and Jake had been laid off from the saw mill when it folded so she decided to start another business, one that would be open year round. The story of it’s construction is where Nell got the name, A Dangers Woman and you can find it in her book by the same name.
This is a copy of her advertising post card showing both the cafe and cabins.
Here’s what Nell’s café looks like today. It’s not a cafe any longer and it’s only the left half of the Indian Jewelry store as you look at it. It had eight tables for guests.
I found the two books written by Nell Pauly A Dangerous Woman and The Day Before Yesterday, which I read the summer of 2014, chuck full of old GL names, dates and very interesting facts. I would recommend obtaining a copy of each, settling in at the Hub and enjoy learning about GL from the 1890 until the early 1970s.
The other book I read that summer is titled The Day Before Yesterday copyright 1972 and is full of stories from a long list of people who lived in the GL area as permanent party or summer residents. Most of them being buried in the town’s cemetery located within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain Park, just a short distance NW of town. I found the stories fascinating and it was fun learning more about some of the names I recognized. My father has mentioned on many occasions that Lon Osborn built the fire place in our family lake cottage in 1909. Nell writes about Lon many times in both books.
I will share one short story in her book about Little Bill Lehman (The Moonshiner) starting on page 135. “Little Bill, as he was known to his relatives and the townspeople of Grand Lake, who had known him all his life, as “Little Bill” because of his slight, almost pathetically small stature and because he was the younger of two cousins, both buried in the Grand Lake Cemetery.” I find it interesting she referred to “Little Bill” was pathetically small when she was only 4’ 8” and her husband Jake only 5’ 1”.
Anyway, it seems that Little Bill had a difficult time keeping a job so he went to making and selling moonshine whisky. Per Nell, “He was born on board ship crossing the stormy Atlantic Ocean in the 1880’s to a bewildered German peasant girl. His whole life was a sad one of utter turmoil because of infant insecurity, poverty and neglect. He was not as sharp or mentally equipped as some of his young associates.”
It appears that Little Bill hid is moonshine whisky in and near a small creek just out of town and sold it to whomever wanted it, including his cousins Big Bill and Art Lehman and a man called Barney McCoy. When his cousins knew he had made a new batch of rot gut whisky they would go looking for it and frequently absconded with their findings. After this happened several times …”Then one day Little Bill, being desperate and his temper at the breaking point, shook his fist at cousin Art, the worst offender, and said, Art, I warn you now for the last time, the next time you steal my whiskey I’m going to blow you to kingdom come. He patted his trusty .22. Art laughed and said — now would you?”
As you have probably already guessed, Art and friends eventually raided Little Bill’s stash and Bill went hunting his cousin. “Raving mad he took his .22 and made his way to the back door of the friend’s house. He knocked. The door was flung open by Art who had one hand up on the door frame and the other on the door knob. Little Bill had his gun ready and fired point blank at Art. In his frenzy he miscalculated his aim and shot under Art’s raised arm and hit Barney McCoy almost dead center in the heart.”
Bill is eventually tried and convicted to life imprisonment in Canyon City, Colorado, for the criminally insane. He eventually spent the next twenty years there and didn’t make it back to the Grand Lake Cemetery.
Even more interesting to me is Nell’s story about Barney McCoy on page 139 titled “In Defense of Barney McCoy. If you go looking in the Grand Lake Cemetery you will discover a nice granite headstone with the name Max K. Fraughton on it. Actually it should read Max K. Fraughton AKA Barney McCoy.