River Portal (East Portal), Colorado

I'm Irish & I'm a Mason...and I have a story to tell.

Sit By The River - Share My Journey

These entries document the stories of the men, women and children who lived at River Portal, Montrose County, Colorado while working on the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel - a historic pioneering project that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009.

Please read from the first entry forwards as I tend to have my own writing style that's more like reading a book than an entry that can be read individually. Reading the posts separate from each other doesn't really convey the story properly. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ireland to River Portal

I admire the courage of all those who left their homes and sailed across the ocean to a new country. Brave souls! Having spent so many years in the military lifestyle I can relate to picking up and moving on and starting over - but that's nothing compared to what our ancestors went through. We have better modes of transportation and communication. They had so little and yet had so much more to endure!

When John Patrick Mason left Ireland to come to America in 1905 he sailed on the S.S. Caledonia and he stated that he was heading to his cousin John Callaghan in Pueblo, Colorado. That's just about an hour south of me. (Odd that we both migrated in our own ways to Colorado.) Anna (Phillips) Mason came in 1906 on the S.S. Haverford with her 1 yr. old son - my grandfather John Joseph Mason. It must have been difficult for the young family to be apart for that year. My grandfather had suddenly become too ill to travel forcing Anna to remain behind with him. What were their dreams? Their hopes? Their fears? Their plans? I wish I could chat with them and ask them those questions...and so many more!

It didn't take John and Anna long to move on from Pueblo to Montrose County, Colorado. 1910 finds them in River Portal with three additional children: Theresa was born in March of 1907; James was born in January of 1909 and Daniel was born early in 1910. He died the same year. Theresa, James and Daniel are presumed to have been born in River Portal and Daniel to also be buried there.

The 1910 census for River Portal is only 3 pages long. It contains 29 households with just under 140 inhabitants. John and Anna are listed as household #17. I haven't yet found any family connection between them and the other people who dared to live at the bottom of this gorge. Life here was very difficult. Can you imagine going up and down a 17% grade road with horses and carts? Or imagine what it must have been like in the middle of winter. Makes me shiver to think about! The people who lived here were strong and perservering.

River Portal was a "company town" - built to support the work of the tunnel. Look around you...there's really not much here now. Can you imagine that it once had a power plant and a school and a dining hall? Everything needed to support the tunnel work and the workers was right here. Some of the people residing here were families. Others were individuals here for the work living in boarding house environments. To most people today they are just faces in pictures preserved over the years - faces that don't tell who they really were. I hope to help tell some of their stories. They're an interesting group. Who were they? Where did they go?

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