With word that the Governor has appointed a Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board, Allen Best dug this post out of The Mountain Mail archives. Sir St. George Gore is the villain of this story:
Renaming of Gore Range gathers local support
Might less Gore be more in north-central Colorado? That’s the proposal from Summit County, where part of the county line is defined by the range of 13,000-foot peaks. It’s called the Gore Range.
There’s a Gore Creek that flows through Vail and then farther north, a Gore Canyon, where the Colorado River thrashes its way through the range, the steepest three or four miles of descent in the river’s 1,450 mile journey. There’s also a crossing, Gore Pass, and a brass plaque is affixed to a granite boulder remembers an Irish baronet after whom all these Gores are named.
The baronet, Sir St. George Gore, traveled to the United States in 1854 and hired Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man and guide, to show him the sights and lead him to rich hunting grounds.
It was an extravagant expedition. His entourage included a valet, an expert at tying flies, a dog-handler, 20 greyhounds and foxhounds, 100 horses, 20 yoke of oxen, and 4 Conestoga wagons, each pulled by 6 mules.
Jeff Mitton, a professor at the University of Colorado, in a 2010 op-ed in the Vail Daily, further noted that Gore had an arsenal of 75 rifles, a dozens shotguns and many pistols.
There were also abundant creature comforts: a carpet, a brass bedstead, a carved marble washstand, and a big bathtub. There were also enough men, 40 altogether, to create the hot water needed to make a bath in the wilderness, a luxury.
If Lord Gore, as he was remembered colloquially, suffered few wilderness discomforts, he caused great pain to the wildlife that came within range of his armory during his three years in the West. He claimed to have killed 2,000 bison, 1,600 deer and elk, and 105 bears.
In his first summer, he ventured as far as today’s Kremmling, but then spent the next two years in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas before returning across the Atlantic Ocean.
Shouldn’t this princely geography be named for somebody more deserving? Or maybe something altogether, perhaps a name given it by the Utes who lived there?
(Although it should be noted that when John Fremont traveled through the Blue River Valley in June 1844, he saw much evidence of Arapahoe Indians, too, and a few miles away, in South Park, turned down an invitation from the Utes to join in a battle with the Arapahoes).
Mitton, in his 2010 op-ed, proposed keeping the same name—but to honor a different Gore, as in the former U.S. vice president named Al, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to heighten public awareness about climate change.
“All that we have to do is to mount a new plaque on the granite boulder on Gore Pass,” he said.
Now comes the efforts of Summit County resident Leon Joseph Littlebird, who has persuaded county officials to take up the cause.
“It’s one of the most beautiful and spectacular areas we have,” Littlebird recently told the Summit Daily News. “Considering Lord Gore was a pretty bad dude —the stories are really horrible, really scary —it would be great to see it recognized as what it really is, instead of for a guy like that.”
Summit County has adopted a resolution seeking a name change. It has received support from the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, a local group, and the Colorado Mountain Club. A meeting was planned for Monday night to take public input, including ideas on what the range should be named.
The final arbiter in such matters is the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, an agency nested within the U.S. Geological Survey. John Wesley Powell was second director of that agency, from 1891 to 1894. His name lingers on Mt. Powell, which is the range’s highest peak, at 13,586 feet.
Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist who publishes an e-magazine called Big Pivots. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.463.8630.