One of the first names that comes to my mind when I think of women in Colorado history is Ruth Marie Colville. Besides having a fascinating history herself, her work to record and preserve the history of the San Luis Valley lives on.
The first things that struck me when I met Ruth Marie Colville were her vibrant spirit and her smile. At the time, I was working my way through college as a staff writer for the Courier, and I had scheduled the interview because she had just published one of her books.
It didn’t take long before I was caught up in her passion for the history and cultures of the San Luis Valley. For her, history was more than a string of dates and events – it was about people for whom she felt a strong connection, and she loved sharing their stories. As she talked, I became fascinated and began to see the Valley in a different light.
Ruth Marie was born in Pennsylvania in 1904, and was in her eighties when I met her. Even then, I found myself wishing I had half of her energy and enthusiasm. When I read of her passing in 2003, I felt a mixture of sadness in her passing and celebration of the fullness of her life.
In 1928, she came to the Valley to teach in Del Norte. Besides having a degree in history, Ruth Marie had a degree in English and was a skillful and gifted writer. She documented local history through a series of presentations, interviews and books.
Her love for history and culture led her to become actively involved in her community. She helped found the Barlow and Sanderson Stage Station Restoration, San Luis Valley Historian, Rio Grande County Museum and Cultural Center, Twin Mountain Symphonette, the Old Spanish Trail Association, and the Windsor Hotel Restoration.
Among her many achievements was the publication of “La Verada: A Trail through Time,” which traces the 1694 route into southern Colorado of Don Diego de Vargas, governor of Spanish colonial New Mexico.
In recognition of her work, Adams State University has dedicated the Ruth Marie Colville Room in the Nielson Library, which houses valuable material on the history of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, with a focus on the San Luis Valley. Also, the Ruth Marie Center for the Community in Del Norte was dedicated to her in 2002.