Q: Where can I find information about my great-great-grandfather?

A: There are a few ways you can find information about family members who lived in Custer County:

  • Search online using research databases from the library website via https://www.westcusterlibrary.org/resources-research-tools/
  • Look through the book “Family Maps of Custer County, Colorado: Homesteads Edition” (call number 978.852 Boyd), which contains original homesteader names and the parcels of land they purchased. A copy is available for checkout in the nonfiction section and a copy is available in the reference section of the Local History Center (REF LHC 978.852 Boy) for use within the library.
  • Microfilm of the Wet Mountain Tribune newspapers from the 1880s through 2011 are currently available for viewing at the library.
  • Search Custer County’s six historic newspapers on Colorado Historic Newspapers Online, which are available for the years 1859-1926.
  • Start genealogical research on the MyHeritage database. This resource is available in the library and from home using your library card number to log in. From here, you can search for family records using a name and geographical location.

Q: Which local newspapers are available on Colorado Historic Newspapers?

A: Click here to access the Colorado Historic Newspapers Online. Below is the list of the available local newspapers:

  • Daily Herald (Silver Cliff): April 3, 1882 – November 29, 1882 (165 issues)
  • Rosita Index: January 14, 1886 – November 18, 1886 (41 issues)
  • Sierra Journal (Rosita): June 9, 1881 – December 31, 1885 (146 issues)
  • Silver Cliff Rustler: December 16, 1886 – December 16, 1908 (1123 issues)
  • Silver Cliff Weekly Herald: February 16, 1882 – December 9, 1882 (30 issues)
  • Wet Mountain Tribune: January 21, 1899 – October 22, 1926 (1408 issues)

Q: I searched for my family member in the Historic Newspapers but didn’t receive any results that were relevant. Does this mean there’s no information available on them?

A: While there is no guarantee that there is information available pertaining to your family member, changing your search terms (e.g. keywords) and checking their spelling may help. The search tools of the online resources we offer do not function like a Google search, meaning extra or misspelled words may confuse the search engine. Simplify your search to just a name, location, or subject. Try using strategic quotation marks to better control your search. For example, searching for John Smith will return results for the name John and the name Smith separately. In order to search the records for mention of John Smith as a name, place both names inside of quotation marks: “John Smith”. Additionally, it is important to consider alternate spellings or versions of names which may have been used, as historical records are not necessarily known for their consistency. If you need help navigating these searches, a library staff member will be happy to help.

Q: Where can I find a general overview of the history of the Westcliffe/Silver Cliff/Custer County area?

A: The best resource for a general but relatively comprehensive history of the area is “Custer County at a Glance: Featuring Rosita, Silver Cliff, and Westcliffe” by Joanne West Dodds. We have multiple copies in our nonfiction section (call number 978.852 Dod), which are available for checkout, and a copy in the Reference section of our Local History Center (call number REF LHC 978.852 Dod) that you can browse in the library.

Q: My family member graduated from Custer County High School in 19XX. How do I find her yearbook from when she graduated?

A: The library has yearbooks on loan from the Custer County Alumni Association that you can look at in the library, but they are not for checkout. They can be found in the Reference section of the Local History Center (call number REF LHC 978.8 CCHS). The following years are available:

  • 1941-1942
  • 1950-1996
  • 1999-2004
  • 2013-2019

The Custer County Alumni Association is looking for donations of the missing yearbooks. If you are able to donate a Custer County Schools yearbook, please contact the library at info@westcusterlibrary.org or call 719-783-9138.

Q: Why is Custer County named after George Armstrong Custer?

A: Custer County began as a part of Fremont County. Following the split, a bill was passed in 1877 naming the new county in honor of General George A. Custer who perished in battle with his soldiers the previous year.

Q: What happened to the ski area?

A: The ski area, known as Conquistador, was a short-lived endeavor which operated in the 70s and 80s, and then again very briefly in the early 90s. Low snowfall amounts were a significant challenge, along with local dissension regarding the development, among other factors. Photos and further information are available online in the Past Perfect archives while additional ephemera relating to the ski area, such as brochures and newspaper articles, can be viewed in the library’s archives. If you are interested in the “lost” ski areas of southern Colorado, we suggest checking out the book “Lost Ski Areas of Colorado’s Central and Southern Mountains” by Caryn and Peter Boddie, which is available in the library’s nonfiction section (call number 796.9309788 BODDIE), and discusses Conquistador, along with other defunct ski areas in the region.

Q: How can I find a grave in one of the cemeteries?

A: Cemetery and burial records for Custer County can be found in the Reference area of the Local History Center (call number REF LHC 929 Cem and REF LHC 929 Cus). These materials can be used within the library. There is a binder with an overview of all of the cemeteries and an individual spiral bound book for each cemetery. Each book includes a map showing their locations and lists of names, while some include maps of the cemetery plots.

Q: Where can I learn about the historic buildings in the area?

A: A copy of the “Then and Now: Custer County Historic Touring” booklet can be picked up from the library circulation desk. It provides photos of and information on the majority of the notable historic buildings throughout the area. Simply ask the circulation desk staff member for one the next time you’re in the library. For more in-depth information regarding the historic buildings in Custer County, refer to the “Custer County Historic Buildings Survey”, which is available in the Reference section of the Local History Center and can be browsed while in the library (call number REF LHC 978.852 Col). For historic photos of the buildings, refer to the white Bud Piquette photo binders in the Reference section of the Local History Center (L2011.014.001-007). For information on the historic schoolhouses in the area, refer to “One-Room Schoolhouses: Custer County, Colorado” by Irene Francis (call number 978.852 Fra), available for checkout in the nonfiction section.

Q: How can I find out where local mines and ghost towns are located?

A: Here is a list of a few of the resources available in the library which discuss mines and ghost towns (Some of these are available for checkout in the nonfiction section, while others are Reference materials in the Local History Center which may only be used inside the library):

  • Atlas of Colorado ghost towns: volume 1 / Leanne C. Boyd and H. Glenn Carson (978.8 Boy)
  • Colorado’s lost gold mines and buried treasure / Caroline Bancroft (REF LHC 978.8 Ban)
  • Colorado ghost towns and mining camps / Sandra Dallas (978.8 DALLAS)
  • Ghosts of the Sangre de Cristo area : a guide to the ghost towns and mining camps of the greater Sangre de Cristo Mountains / John K. Aldrich (REF LHC 978.8 ALDRICH)
  • Guide to the Colorado ghost towns and mining camps / Perry Eberhart (917.880433 EBERHART)
  • Unique ghost towns and mountain spots / Caroline Bancroft (978.8 BANCROFT)

Q: Can I use one of the historic photos that I found?

A: The copyright information is listed on many of the photos in the record on Past Perfect Online. If copyright information is not listed or you need help understanding what it means, please inquire directly with the library. Some photos may be able to be used for exclusively educational purposes, but it is recommended that you contact the library regarding use of an image.