By the time Jack Green arrived on this Earth in 1917at
an elevation of 6,762 feet, on a parcel of land purchased in 1890 by
his grandfather native Americans
no longer camped there during summer months.
What remained of their existence were the arrowheads
that Jack foundand, once, he found
a white spearhead that dated back 12,000 years.
By the time the "young fella" was
old enough to load hay with a pitchfork at the Swan Hereford Rancha
spread of farmland clothed and accessorized with emerald grasslands
and a frosted, jade riverthe area's
last wild buffalo had crossed paths with a rifle. The name of his town
had long since been changed from Buffalo to Buffalo Creek to appease
the U.S. Postal Service.
Even the once-thriving lumberyards in Buffalo
Creek and Pine Grove, served by the narrow-gauge railway, had lost steam.
In 1930, the Colorado and Southern Railroad
began shutting down lines to make way for a dam planned for the canyon,
which was never built.
Now, Jack Green himself has passed into history,
to be preserved by local memory.
Jack died, Sunday, July 8, at the Exempla Colorado
Lutheran Home for rehabilitation. He was born John Lewis Green but given
the name "Jack" as a child.
"I always said I was born in Buffalo Creek,
but I wasn'tI was born in St. Joseph's
Hospital in Denver," Jack Green said in a recent interview before
his death. "My mother brought me home on the train."
But Jack most surely grew up in Buffalo Creek,
the oldest of three sons of John Wesley Green Jr., who ran the J.W.
Green Mercantile Co. at the corner of Foxton Road and Highway 126.
His granddad, the senior John Wesley Green,
started the store in 1883.
In its heyday, Buffalo Creek's population soared
to 1,000. There were boarding houses, hotels, saloons and a blacksmith
Over time, fires destroyed many of the buildings,
including the J.W. Mercantile, a wood structure that burned in the late
1890s. But the senior John Wesley built a granite store in its place,
and three years later he opened a post office in it.
"In those days a postmaster didn't take
teststhey were appointed by the president,"
Jack said of his granddad's appointment by Grover Cleveland.
When his granddad retired, Jack's father worked
the mail slots until he retired, followed by Jack's brother, Donald,
followed by Donald's daughter, Marywho
continues to run the store and distribute mail today.
Across from the store was the Little Red Schoolhouse.
It gave Jack an education, and it gave him a wife.
Jack was 20, cutting ice on Crystal Lake 4 miles
away, when the school caught fire during the winter of 1938.
Early each morning a hired hand built a fire
in the schoolhouse basement. That day, he built the fire bigger than
The room was toasty by the time the young teacher,
Wilma Barnes, and her dozen students arrived for school. Suddenly, flames
burst from a wall where hot pipes carried heat from the second floor
to the first.
Children grabbed coats and overshoes and marched
outside. Wilma grabbed her record book, sent a boy for help, sat down
The young teacher was from Wheat Ridge. She
had spent two years at Denver University and was there to earn her teaching
credentials. It was her birthday, and she had just turned 21.
But that loss came with a gift when she met
Jack Green, who delivered a potbelly stove to heat what remained of
the brick school.
"I had an old Model T Ford and could see
her walking up to the (Swan Hereford) Ranch," Jack recalled. "But
if that school hadn't burned down, I might not have met my wife."
Soon after, they locked arms at a Valentine's
Dance in Schaffers Crossing. But teachers in those days were encouraged
to stay single, and the local school board had a rule to that effect.
"Don't worry about thatI
have known those school board people ever since I was born," Jack
They kept the romance quiet for about three
months before somebody "got news of it." By then, Jack had
So, they eloped, traveling to the courthouse
in Central City. Up they went through Virginia Canyon in a Model A Ford
coupe, gasping the occasional "Oh, my God!" along the steep,
narrow trackan exclamation that fit
the dangerous drive and the secretive union.
"I am a Catholic; my wife wasn't,"
Jack said, remembering those days. "Her folksthey
weren't too strong on Catholics; and my dad, he wasn't strong on marrying
The pair were married 66 years, before Wilma
died in 2004. During that time they raised twin girls and a son and
"traveled all over the world" together.
For 30 years, Jack earned a living as a core
driller for agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of
Mines. The family moved frequently around the United States, and they
spent time in Spain and the Philippines.
In 1974, Jack and Wilma returned to Buffalo
Creek. They built a nice house on 40 acresacross
the road from the J. W. Green Mercantile Co., next to the Little Red
Schoolhouse, with views of the Swan Hereford Ranch.
Jack had retired, though he wasn't one to sit
around. He worked another 20 years for the U.S. Forest Service maintaining
nearby campgrounds and wells and winning awards for it.
Three years ago, Jack reluctantly moved closer
to his daughters in Arvada. But he called the J.W. Mercantile Co. virtually
every day to speak to his brother Don or niece Mary.
Jack turned 90 on April 7. In May, he fell and
injured his back, and that injury resulted in other complications.
Even so, he was too independent to dwell on
it. Six days later, he traveled to Buffalo Creek for the annual cleanup
of the Little Chapel in the Hills. He visited old friends and placed
a flower on his wife's grave.
By then, he was "going on sheer will,"
said his niece Mary.
When his mountain friends traveled to the city
recently to say their goodbyes, they marveled at the clarity of Jack's
mind. He could still identify every person, cabin and road in old photos
when they reminisced.
To Jack Green's friends and relatives,
he was a national treasure. To Jack Green, there was no better place
than Buffalo Creek to call home.