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Sean Scott reflects on assembling histories for 'Around Frederick' book

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By Ben Wiebesiek

FREDERICK — Local history can often disappear if not documented; stories are forgotten and families move away.

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But a new book, “Around Frederick,” gathers the history of the community together in photos, letters and recollections to paint a picture of how the town came to be.

The book’s author, Sean Scott, put the book together over the last year and it was published this fall.

“I hadn’t necessarily planned on writing it, but because of my position as commissioner of the historic preservation commission, I was approached by Meghan Martinez, the town clerk, because Arcadia Publishing had talked to her to see if someone was interested in doing a book about the history of Frederick,” Scott said. “Now Arcadia originally wanted to do it about the Tri-Town area, but since they approached Frederick we decided to make the book just about Frederick. So, they came to me and asked if I would be interested in writing a book, and my first thought was, ‘Sure. How hard could it be?’ And that was November of last year.”

Scott said that Arcadia enforced a fairly strict publication schedule. 

“They set deadlines and you have to meet the deadlines. The major issue was whether we could get enough photographs. For some places that’s not a problem, but for us it was an issue because Arcadia wanted at least 220 photos,” Scott said. “So I had to put out calls, and I spent time in the basement of Town Hall looking for materials. And we weren’t just looking for photos, but also documents we could scan and use.

Scott credits the entire community for helping bring enough photos and documents together.

“They had to or there wouldn’t have been a book,” he laughed. “A couple of families and a couple of individuals provided a lot of photographs. The Constable Family, Barb Baker — they provided so much, and I was able to get a hold of some other people, such as the Hattels, who’ve helped the town before. And I also worked with a gentleman by the name of Pete Pascoff, and his father was a miner here, and his sister still lives just across the way.”

Scott credited Pascoff with providing a viewpoint on the mining industry that was centered in Carbon Valley, and the lives of the people in the nearby towns that supported the mines.

“What surprised me more than anything else, is that Frederick, and this entire area, grew up in a sort of vacuum,” Scott said. “In most Western towns, the railroad comes through or they have rivers, or the fur trade, or gold. And that’s Denver’s history, because the Platte and the Cherry Creek, that’s where they found gold and Denver grew up around that. Frederick, Firestone and Dacono didn’t have any of that, but they did have coal.”

Coal was the sole reason Frederick came into existence in the beginning, and Scott describes the mines as a central part of the community.

“Originally, people started by just scraping the coal off the surface. That’s what the Indians did,” Scott said. 

Then, around the 1890s, the first mine opened, and others followed.

His book documents how the work in the mines helped draw families of immigrants who settled in the Tri-Town area.

“Once immigrants saw that they could make a living, not a very good one but a living nonetheless, they got established and sent for their families,” Scott said. “There were a lot of Italian immigrants in Frederick, but in Dacono they had different ethnic groups, and in Firestone they had other groups.”

Once Scott started looking at the mining, he realized there was another important aspect that was connected: the water.

“You know, this town had tremendous amount of problems securing a water supply,” Scott said. “And then figuring out what to do with the excess water when it floods, because this place floods! Who would have thought that?”

Frederick’s original water supply was pulled from the mines, and Scott said that one of the very first documents he studied were letters establishing the first water system.

“So right away, around 1912, 1914, they were thinking about water,” Scott said. “But there was a fairly contentious political dispute in the 1950’s over securing water for Frederick. There was a big flood in 1953 that demolished Frederick’s water supply — contaminated it.”

While looking for a new water supply, Frederick turned its attention to Firestone lake, which is now Milavec Reservoir.

“They wanted to buy it, but the mayor at the time, he was opposed to that because he said the bond issue would be twice as much as the town’s appraised value,” Scott said. “So he didn’t see any sense in obligating the town to that much debt, and he blocked it. It then went to the voters and the voters turned it down once, and they turned it down again, and then there was a threat of recalling the mayor and his son, who was the town manager.”

Then the flood came, and voters approved the purchase.

Scott is humble about his work bringing the history of the town together in this book, and he stresses that the project was a collaborative effort between the community, the town and the publisher.

And the modesty is present at the very beginning of the book:

“This book is dedicated to the residents of Frederick, past, present and future.” 

“Around Frederick” is now available on Amazon.com.

Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.