WOODSTOCK SNOWSLIDE, March 10, 1884
On March 10, 1884, a snow slide devastated the settlement of Woodstock, near the tracks of the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railway in Chaffee County, Colorado. Woodstock was an early settlement with “primarily a boarding house, living quarters, telegraph office, water tank, a few miscellaneous buildings, and a double track spur over 500 feet long.” Denver, South Park & Pacific by M. C. Poor. It served as shelter for contractors and freight agents. There was also several mining operations in the vicinity, so Woodstock also had several miners’ cabins and a saloon.
Mrs. Marcella Doyle ran the boarding house and lived in the structure with her six children. J. S. Brown was the telegraph operator. Although Woodstock was small, it did provide shelter and provisions for the surrounding mountain residents.
Problem was, Woodstock had been located below a significant slide area and the chances of just such an occurrence were notable. In March 1884, an avalanche completely inundated the settlement, burying and destroying the human-made structures. Even the D, SP & P tracks were torn up and carried toward Missouri Gulch, far below the railroad grade. Thirteen people were killed, including J. S. Brown, the telegraph operator; and all of the Doyle family except for Mrs. Doyle.
Ironically, a Denver, South Park & Pacific train had just pulled away from Woodstock and was heading up the curves for Palisade when the avalanche buried the town. The heavily moving white mass appeared a mountainside moving, carrying building fragments, trees and rocks down into the distant gulch as if they feathers floating on cotton. The rescue party snow-shoed in from Pitkin, Gunnison County, Colorado.
Dead from the Doyle family: Martin, Andrew, Katy, Marcella, Maggie, and Christopher, aged 23 to 10; Jasper M. Caswell of Tomichi; James Tracy, George Alexander, and Michael Shea. Bodies of J. S. Brown, Joseph Gerazo (saloon keeper), and Joseph Royegno remained in the slide for some time yet. Miss Celia Dillon was rescued after being buried for fifteen hours; and, Mrs. Doyle after twelve hours.
Hugh Alexander, Peter Wallpole, and Walter Hoyt were also rescued. Mrs. Doyle later brought suit against the D, SP & P for building the railway station in the path of the avalanche. When Woodstock was rebuilt its construction was located further up the tracks, out of the path of evident avalanches.