The mission of the Marble Historical Society is to preserve and protect the history of Marble and the Upper Crystal River Valley and to educate and inform residents and visitors to our community of the historical significance of Marble in our state and nation.
History of the
Marble Historical Society
Oscar D. McCollum
In August 1975 the mayor of Marble, Colorado, Lloyd Blue, appointed by proclamation an Historical Committee to work with the State Bicentennial Committee to prepare for the celebrations of 1976. He appointed Laverne Perchbacher the chairman, and added a number of other persons to the committee whom he believed to be interested in the area’s history. This committee planned and carried out appropriate activities in support of the Bicentennial. This included a public picnic and program at the Marble jail. It seems to have been the intent of the Historical Committee to permanently organize and become an historical society. However, after the bicentennial activities were completed nothing appears to have been done to incorporate or continue the committee’s activities.
By the summer of 1977 a group living in Marble decided a regular Marble Historical Society should be organized to collect, preserve and disseminate information on the history of the area. In Early August Oscar McCollum called a meeting of interested persons to organize such a society. About sixty persons attended and it was decided to proceed with the organization. On August 19, 1977 another meeting adopted a Constitution and Bylaws and elected officers. They were: Oscar McCollum, president; Fred Smith, vice-president; Jeanette Lyon, secretary; Lois Ann McCollum, treasurer; these to form the Board of Directors, along with other directors, Marjorie Orlosky, Blue Stroud and Martha Beamis. At this meeting Dr. Duane Vandenbusche, professor of history at Western State College, spoke to the group about Marble’s history and offered suggestions for the society’s consideration. The new board immediately started making plans for the operations of the society. The president consulted with officers of the Colorado Historical Society on organization matters, historical preservation, historic sites and grants. An attorney in Redstone , Williams Jochems, aided in the incorporation. A quarterly newsletter, “Marble Chips,” began publication in August, with McCollum as editor, and plans were made to open a museum the next summer.
By the end of 1977 the society had 198 Charter Members. The previous year the Small Business Administration had filed application for the historic Mill Site property to be entered on the National Register of Historic Places and this designation was granted the next year. Through efforts of the society public donations of money enabled the Town of Marble to purchase this site from SBA for a nominal sum, to use as a town park.
The Marble Historical Museum opened on July 1, 1978 in the old high school building, with the approval of the Town of Marble Board of Trustees, which was leasing the building from the Gunnison School District. Marjorie Orlosky and many other persons donated artifacts, documents and photographs for placing in the museum. During the following years many educational programs were presented to the public describing the area’s history, and in 1980 there were 2387 visitors to the museum. Oscar McCollum built a scale model of the Marble Mill building for the museum.
Marjorie Orlosky donated 60 old historic newspapers published in Marble and Crystal City and this became the nucleus of an extensive file. Later, Bill Deem donated 100 more newspapers he found in his house on Park Street, formerly the home of Ted and Theresa Herman. All these were later microfilmed by the Colorado and Kansas Historical Societys for preservation. Duane Vandenbusche and Rex Myers, authors of the book, “Marble, Colorado: City of Stone,” donated their royalties on the book to the society, and this has amounted to about $400 each year since. As former Marble residents visited the museum they often brought artifacts for the collections. Jack Clemenson allowed Oscar McCollum to make photo prints of Jack’s extensive collection of negatives made by Marble photographer, Henry Johnson, amounting to about 300 photographs.
Brief histories of Marble and Crystal City were researched and written by Oscar, and his son, Duncan McCollum, prepared a walking tour guide for Marble. Oscar made a persons index of the old newspapers and built an extensive file of documentary history. He also wrote historical articles which were published.
In 1980 negotiations were begun with the school district toward acquiring ownership of the old high school building. Much help from retired attorney, Fred Malo, in presentations to the Gunnison School Board finally resulted in the board’s donation of the building and four lots to the society at no cost. This made it feasible for the society to make major improvements, such a new metal roof, new fire escape, installation of electric wiring and replacement of the front steps. Later improvements included repair of plaster, painting inside and out, repair of broken windows, and placing the bell tower back on the porch roof.
A lot east of the town jail became available in 1981 and the society purchased it. Later, this lot was donated to the town to add to the jail lot and form a mini park. Wayne Brown supervised renovation of the jail for the society.
For several years the society provided management for the Mill Site Park and did much clearing and preservation, aided by staff and students from Outward Bound. Pictorial signs were built by Wayne Brown and were installed in the park.
The society helped organize the Grand River Museum Alliance in the early 1980s to aid museums in the area improve their services to the public. In 1987 over 110 persons attended the first Old Timers Reunion, which centered in the museum. Much additional historic information was gathered from “old timers,” three of who were over 90 years of age, through recording their recollections. The Colorado Masons held their annual meeting in Marble in 1988 and the society provided information on the former Marble Chapter and its Masonic Hall location.
With the plans developing to re-open the marble quarry, Oscar McCollum consulted with the president of the Colorado Yule Marble Company on historic and environmental aspects of their endeavor, in order to mitigate any possible negative aspects.
In November 1988 McCollum moved to Glenwood Springs and two years later found it necessary to resign as president of the Society and editor of Marble Chips. Wayne Brown agreed to take over care of the Society and publish the newsletter. He continued to publish it regularly and record current events in Marble. His other duties included filing the reports necessary to preserve the Society’s status as a not-for-profit organization. Each year Brown helped organize the Old Timers’ Reunions which were popular with the declining numbers of former Marble residents. In 1998 Brown passed control of the Society activities to Joe Manz and a new board.
Organization of the Marble Charter School in 1995 made it possible to return the old school building to its original purpose. Many persons worked hard to plan for the preservation and upgrading of the building through grants from the State Historic Preservation Fund and donations from many individuals and companies. The school’s use of the building still permits adequate space for the museum, with reorganized exhibits.
The Society worked closely with the town to preserve the old Marble City State Bank building and spearheaded efforts to raise funds for its renovation.
The General Ordinances of the Town of Marble
Ordinance #1, 22 Aug 1899, (Town Seal, etc.) p.1
Ordinance #82, 6 Dec 1943, (Budget), p.155