Dear Maia and Isaac,
Republished from former blog site: Last weekend was Labor Day, so I decided to take my dogs camping at Pearl Lake State Park in Colorado. I have always wanted to take you camping there because that lake is named for your great, great grandma, Pearl Hartt.
How does a lake get named after someone?
I don’t know how every lake gets named, but I do know what Pearl Lake State Park was named after my grandmother. My grandfather had a huge sheep business in Wyoming in the early 1900’s – His name was John Kelly Hartt. He came west from New England on a train. He wanted to make it to the West Coast, but he ran out of money so they put him off the train in Wyoming. To support himself, my granddad learned a lot about helping with sheep and cows.
Over the next few years, my granddad started buying sheep for himself. Eventually, he had one of the largest sheep companies in the United States. He lived in Wyoming in the winter but brought the sheep to the place where the lake is in the summer. The problem with sheep is they eat the roots of the plants, so the cattleman from Colorado didn’t like having Wyoming sheep on their land. In fact, there was something called a “range war” going on between the Colorado cattle people and the Wyoming sheep people. My granddad was hunted by a famous cowboy named Tom Horn and hired men who worked for a famous robber, Butch Cassidy.
After a few years, grandpa married grandma on a trip back to New England for his mom’s funeral. Grandma always talked about getting off the train in Wyoming (a new bride) and having someone say to granddad “They shot Wilkes last night, sir”. This surprised your great-great grandma because she had never been to the Wild West before. Eventually, my grandparents built a house near where the lake is now. My mom spent the summers there when she was growing up. There was still no lake in those years.
After World War II, the sheep business got less busy and my grandpa died. Grandma kept having her grown daughters come home for the summer. That is where I came into the picture. I loved the big family – my aunts, uncles, and cousins. There was still no lake, but my cousin Patrick and I hunted frogs all day in the creek near grandma’s house.
My grandma had a friend who was a Forest Ranger. He was concerned that if grandma sold all of the extra land from the sheep companies to just anyone, that it would become too commercialized. He felt nature up there should be preserved. So, grandma sold the land where all the sheep once lived to the Forest Service and they built a lake near the cabin where I spent summers as a kid. Grandma kept some of the land for us to live on in the summer. Part of the deal with selling the land to the Forest Service was that the lake would be named for Grandma.