MONTE VISTA — Peg Schall of the Monte Vista Historical Society and Transportation of the West Museum recently announced that a new artifact is on display at the Transportation of the West Museum in Monte Vista. A potato sorter from about 1921 was found in a South Park potato cave and donated to the society.
Schall explained that a potato cave was used by farmers to store their potatoes if they did not have a cellar.
“The cave that housed this sorter was starting to collapse, and it was pulled out of the cave and then donated to us,” Schall said.
The potato sorter in the museum is a good-sized sorter, but small when compared to modern-day sorters. The back end of the sorter has many holes in it, where bad potatoes were thrown out, along with dirt and debris from the sorter.
The front of the sorter has a push-and-pull wooden levy, that allowed the potatoes to move up from the back end of the sorter and fall to be placed in a bin after they were sorted. The bottom of the sorter has a step that was placed purposefully on the sorter to catch excess potatoes as they were falling.
The potato sorter was built by hand inside of a cave, approximately 100 years ago in 1921, according to Schall. The sorter was constructed on the Johnson homestead in Park County.
On one side of the sorter the words “Red MyCloor 26 Sacky” are engraved in the sorter, believed to be put on the sorter to indicate how many bags of potatoes could be filled from the sorter.
According to a historical article published on National Park Service.gov people began homesteading in Park County in 1920. Many homesteaders in Park County raised potatoes, and most of the potatoes raised were “Red McClures.” The potato was named after an Irish Immigrant named Thomas McClure, who left Ireland and begin raising potatoes during the Gold Rush in Colorado in 1910.
Red McClure potatoes have a ruddy-red look, and are fist sized, with deep eyes. At one time, Red McClure potatoes were the prominent potato of the San Luis Valley, but they have nearly ceased to be farmed over the years.
The potato sorter was donated to the museum by Joe Harding and his family. Harding’s mother and father grew Red McClure potatoes in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Harding helped grow potatoes when he was young, and his wife donated the sorter to the museum.
The Monte Vista Historical Society was founded and organized in 1987. The members of the society are volunteers, and they are committed to preserving the history of Monte Vista.
The museum houses historical photographs, including pictures from previous Ski-Hi Stampedes, along with documents, and many artifacts, including a horse-drawn buggy that appeared in a historical Ski-Hi Stampede Parade, along with a picture of the rider who rode the buggy and the actual habit clothing the rider was wearing in the parade.
The History Center at 110 Jefferson is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Transportation Museum at 916 First Avenue is open Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.