This area was inhabited by Ute Indians for centuries and is named for one of their great leaders, Chief Ouray (1833-1880). He was chief of the Tabegaucho Utes but the US government considered him the leader of the entire Ute Nation. He and his wife, Chipeta, considered this their summer home, but ended up living here year round. He was a beloved and wise leader who was known for his intelligence (fluent in four languages) and foresight. There is a room in the museum dedicated to the Utes.
Ouray's mining era was from the 1860s to the 1950s. Ranching and railroad industries that supported mining also grew during that time. There are three stories of the museum with 27 rooms dedicated to various aspects of the history of Ouray County. Following is a brief review of just a few of the many exhibits found at the museum.
Soda Fountain (c 1920), Mercentile Store, heavy-duty sewing machine.
Edison Cylinder Triumph Phonograph and vintage cameras
Evalyn Walsh McLean, daughter of the owner of the Camp Bird gold mine, was the last private owner of the famous Hope Diamond (now displayed at the Smithsonian). She paid $30,000 to a well-known Hungarian painter for the portrait shown here in 1925. In 1971 it sold at auction for $800. Below is a display of items donated by her family.
This is the first piano (c 1880) to arrive in Ouray (by freight). It was ordered for a saloon in the red light district of the town. Also shown is an organ used in church.
The museum is housed in the Ouray Miners Hospital that was built in 1887. There are various displays of medical artifacts. Below is an the doctor's examining room, an operating room, delivery room, and dentist office.
The law office of Colonel George Todd, attorney (licensed in OH-1855, Iowa-1858, Colorado-1876, arriving in UT in 1877). He was also civil war veteran and mining promoter and served as the county judge in Ouray from 1890-1906. Also shown is the county jail.
There is a room dedicated to Ouray residents who served in the military with uniforms and other artifacts on display.
Shown is a wedding dress (1905) and graduation dress (1893). The black dress is a honeymoon dress (1895)...a little somber for the occasion!
A special exhibit of quilts is currently on display. Most were sewn in the late 1800s and can be seen at various locations throughout the museum.
In the basement of the museum are exhibits related to the mining industry. The first photo is of an assayer office followed by displays on mining tools and various minerals found in the county.
There are two cabins on display next to the museum. The first, The McIntyre Cabin (1878) was built by one of the first settlers of Ouray. It is furnished with authentic period pieces from 1878-1896. It was moved to the museum site in 1978
The second is a turn-of-the-century cabin also furnished with period pieces.
You could spend a several hours here taking in the many displays. The museum provides insight into the life and times of the county of the mountainous region of Southwestern Colorado.