Hazel Schmoll

Ward, Colorado Resident  1890 - 1990

Colorado State Botanist and Museum Curator, 1930

First female Ph.D in Botany from the University of Chicago





















 Hazel Marguerite Schmoll



Perhaps the most well-known resident of Ward is Hazel Marguerite Schmoll, Ph.D, a member of the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, who passed  away in 1990.  


Hazel worked as Colorado state botanist in the 1930's, surveying and documenting the state's plant life. She began her botanical study of the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area in 1932 and identified 304 species on this site.  Astragalus schmolliae, Schmoll's Milk-vetch known in Chapin Mesa in Mesa Verde National Park and the Ute Mountain Reservation in Montezuma County, Colorado was named for her. 

 Hazel graduated from the 8th grade at the Ward School, received a degree in botany from the University of Colorado in 1913. 


For at least thirty years, Hazel Schmoll was the oldest person in Ward, and her memories, diaries, and papers, as well as historic newspapers,  provide the basis for much of what we know of the history of early Ward.  She described many of the historic lodges built for early tourism in the Indian Peaks, including Stapps Lake Lodge, Duck Lake cabins, Lodge of the Pines, Caribou Ranch, and Hazel’s own Range View Ranch, all of which are now privately owned and inaccessible to the public.


 Ward church built 1898, Hazel 8 years old


Early Family History


Hazel Schmoll moved to Ward in 1890 when she was 2 years old.  Her Uncle Bert Fairhurst was a miner from an old Colorado family that had come to Blackhawk before Colorado became a territory 1860.  Hazel’s mother’s sister, Emma, came to Caribou where she met and married Bert Fairhurst .  Emma was the first of Hazel’s mother’s family to come west.  Emma and Bert Fairhurst lived in Caribou where Bert was mining.  Emma persuaded Hazel’s parents, Amelia and William Schmoll, who were living in a homesteaded sod shanty in Western Kansas to come to Caribou.  




 Hazel's Aunt Emma Fairhurst



In 1892, Emma and Bert Fairhurst and Hazel and her parents moved to Ward.  Emma Fairhurst eventually owned and operated the famous Columbia Hotel in Ward (now a private residence), and William Schmoll opened a livery and purveyor’s business, eventually owning sixteen horses used to transport goods and tourists to and from Ward. 


Hazel remembered riding with her father in the buggy taking tourists to stay at the cabins at Stapps Lake. Over the years, Will Schmoll ended up owning considerable property in the Ward area which Hazel inherited when her parents passed away.  Hazel’s parents were active in town politics, serving on the town council, board of education, and as mayor.


Columbia Hotel, Pastel Painting by Carol Jenkins


Childhood in Ward


Hazel lived what she described as an "ideal childhood", riding her horse with her small cocker spaniel throughout the mountains.  She remembered Ward when the train chugged in on the Switzerland Trail (1990 – 1919)  bringing tourists and coal to the mines, and she remembered when whistles from up to 52 operating mines blew morning and night. 


Hazel said the children would scour the “mine dumps” for rich specimens from the ore that had been sorted and sell them at the depot to the tourists.




 Ward before the fire of 1900




When she was growing up,Ward had two churches, a school, several hotels, an opera house, boarding houses, restaurants, a bakery, newspaper, shops and many saloons.  Population estimates of the Ward District prior to 1900 range from 1000 to 5,000 people. 

 Columbia Mine at Ward, J.B. Sturdevant




The Ward Fire of 1900 changed that.  Before and after pictures confirm that most of the business area of the town burned down.  Locals saved the Ward School (now the Post Office and Town Hall) and the Ward Congregational Church.




Ward School before last addition 



Hazel attended the Ward School, built in 1886, through the 8th grade.  Long before Boulder had college graduates as school teachers, Ward’s school was taught by Professor Robbins, a graduate of the University of Colorado.  Hazel often remarked about being fortunate to have been taught by Professor Robbins, comparing her 8th grade education to a four-year high school education in other places. 


Ward fire destroys Schmoll home and livery


After the devastating Ward fire of 1900 when Hazel's family “lost everything” including their home and livery stable (the horses survived), the Schmolls lived on Utica Street  with John Rice who came west in 1885 and owned the Colorado Mine near the B&M Mine.  After the fire the people of Boulder sent food to Ward on the train – “a free blessing,” according to Hazel.

Many people left Ward after the fire, and the population never recovered.  Hazel’s father rebuilt his livery business. Hazel’s mother strongly valued education and the family bought property in Boulder so Hazel, who had finished the 8th grade, could attend the Preparatory School there.  Hazel kept her horse in Boulder during that time. 


Ward always billed itself as a tourist destination – gateway to the glaciers of what was first called The Snowy Range and later changed to The Indian Peaks. 


Hazel spent her childhood riding her horse, exploring the landscape, and learning from anyone who could scientifically identify local plants and trees. She loved to ride down to James Creek with her dog, eat her lunch, and sit by the water. 

 Jim Creek, painting by Anne Gillis



Hazel described seeing the most beautiful sunset she ever saw while traveling in a buggy with her mother, back from taking the mail from Ward to Allenspark.  It was on the ridge near Lodge of the Pines (currently the Gates Camp, Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Denver) near Tahosa Road.




Old Quigleyville Road near Lodge of the Pines



After Hazel graduated from high school in Boulder, her father purchased a house on Boston Street in Ward that was originally a log house built in 1885, and one of the few houses that had escaped the 1900 fire.  Over the years, he added to the original house, and well into her 90s, Hazel lived in that house and tended plants in the front sun room just as her mother had.


 Boston Street from Utica Street, showing small cabin in center (current site of newer Molfese house)and Crimmins cabin, center right, J.B. Sturdevant



Hazel left Colorado to teach and study


Hazel graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder with a degree in Botany.  At the same time her Aunt Emma Fairhurst on a trip to New York discovered that Vassar College was searching for a Botany instructor.  When Hazel heard of the opening, she applied, was accepted, and spent the next four years (1913 – 1917) working and teaching at Vassar, where she came in contact with famous poets, writers, artists, etc. 


Hazel also attended a summer “bug” program of the University of Michigan on Lake Michigan at Bayview, near Petosky, Michigan.  After four years at Vassar, Hazel returned to Ward for two years. 


Hazel Schmoll, Ph.D, Botany 


She entered the masters program at the University of Chicago in 1920, arranged field trips to the Indian Peaks for her professors and fellow students, and emerged as the first female Ph.D in what she called "ecological botany", study combining geology and botany in 1930.  She then accepted the position of Colorado State Botanist.


Hazel kept extensive notebooks which she donated to the Boulder Historical Society.  She said her Uncle Fairhurst, who graduated from the University of Michigan, always kept a diary in his hip pocket, so she too wrote extensively in her notebooks.


In Chicago, Hazel met Margaret Whyte Hill Boswell, a young woman working at the University.  Hazel invited Margaret to visit Colorado in the summer.  Margaret came, stayed two weeks with Hazel’s family, fell in love with the mountains, returned with her parents the following year, and met her future husband in Ward. 


Although Margaret settled in Boulder to raise her family, she and her husband bought a tiny “summer” log cabin in the center of Ward and returned each summer.   In 2006 that cabin remains in the Boswell family.


Will Schmoll purchases Range View Ranch


Between 1900 and 1922, Hazel’s father Will Schmoll purchased land seven miles north of Ward on the Overland Road to Jamestown from the Austin family.  Hazel recalls that when Mr. Austin passed away, Mrs. Austin wanted  Will Schmoll to have the Austin Ranch, a ranch described as very old at that time.  Hazel remembered that after Mr. Austin passed, Mrs. Austin who always wore a white apron, walked seven miles to Ward to “make sure it was father who bought that ranch.” 


When Hazel returned from Chicago in 1930, she spent time at that ranch and eventually developed Range View Ranch into first a camp for children, and later a summer guest ranch, guiding visitors to high mountains lakes in the Indian Peaks near Ward. 



 Dr. Schmoll returns from Chicago and is named State Botanist


Hazel was named botanist and museum curator for the State of Colorado in 1930. She catalogued and mounted a display of 10,000 species of native plants. 

 Hazel Schmoll at lab table 1930's



As a member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Mountain Club, Hazel personally lobbied the state legislature and is regarded as the driving force behind legislation establishing the lavender Columbine as the Colorado State Flower, and providing fines for destroying and/or picking the flower.  


Lavender Columbine, Colorado State Flower


When Hazel died in 1990, much of her property was donated for conservation.  Range View Ranch was given to the Christian Science Church.  Today it serves as a Christian Retreat and Conference Center.

Dr. Hazel Schmoll has been named a "Woman of Consequence" by the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame and is listed in "Women of Boulder County", Women of the West Museum.



to be continued



Next - Switzerland Trail, Ward Fire of 1900

Schmoll, Hazel. Vegetation of the Chimeny Rock Area: Pagosa-Piedra Region. (1932)  Dissertation: Thesis (PhD)  University of Chicago, Department of Botany.

Pagosa-Piedra region, Colorado. Chicago: iii l., 58 p. illus. (incl. maps) diagrs.
24 cm. Lithoprinted./ "Private edition, distributed by the University of Chicago
libraries, Chicago, Illinois."/ Bibliography: p. 57-58./ Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--
University of Chicago, 1932.by Hazel Marguerite Schmoll ...
Botany -- Colorado -- Archuleta County.
_______ Schmoll Hazel Marguerite. (1932). Vegetation of the Chimney Rock
area, Pagosa-Piedra region, Colorado. 1 v. Includes bibliographical
references./ Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Chicago, Dept. of Botany.