Reminiscences of a Graduate of the College

During its early history, the Mount Lookout observatory was used by the college and the public.  One of the College’s first graduates in 1891, Harriet F. (Buck) Williams recalled: “Prof. Frank Notestein was instrumental in getting and installing a telescope on Mt. Lookout.  Here he conducted many classes in astronomy made interesting to the students.”

Williams further wrote: “Established in 1885, the highest observatory, with the strongest instrument west of the Mississippi.  Under the supervision of Prof. Frank Notestein, teacher of mathematics in the Presbyterian College of the Southwest.  The demonstrations to interested classes were unusual.

The high position, clearness of atmosphere lend a favorable condition to the study of the heavens.  Jupiter with its satellites, Mars with its rings [sic], the moon whose surface resembles a field of open mouthed volcanoes.

A star only visible a short time during the season spoken of as the Star of Bethlehem, visible at 3:00 a.m. interested Dr. Goodell of the college as well as the students.  It was shaped like Jupiter.

Senator Thomas M BowenMy stepfather, Howell Davis, took a group of us up Lookout Mountain as far as a sturdy team of horses could climb.  We went on by our own power, had a camp breakfast, then viewed the Star of Bethlehem under the instruction of Dr. Goodell, then president of the College.

Senator Thomas Bowen of Del Norte and Summitville, was very helpful in regard to the college and observatory.  He took scholarships which he presented to young people who could not afford them.  He bought the lens for the telescope.  Rev. George Darley gave his all, his best to the college and observatory. …"

The Cornet Band Visits the Observatory

The May 22, 1886 issue of the San Juan Prospector observed that, “A large party of Del Norters, headed by Prof. Frank N. Notestein and the Del Norte Cornet Band, visited the observatory on the summit of Mt. Lookout, last Wednesday evening.

The evening was enjoyable indeed, and, while the sky was somewhat hazy, the observations were very entertaining.  The people in attendance felt thankful for being granted the privilege of using the telescope.

The evening was enlivened by music by the cornet band, assisted by Prof. Geo. V. Meserole, of the noted cow-boy band, who very kindly consented to assist the home performers. ….”

Note also was made that …. Postmaster Hathaway’s lecture on astronomy was a pleasing feature of the entertainment at the observatory last Wednesday evening.”  This happy event evidently occurred just prior to Prof. Notestein’s resignation from the College.

The Lunar Eclipse of 1888

Recent Lunar EclipseIn February of 1888, according to the San Juan Prospector, “The passage of the moon through the earth’s shadow, last Saturday evening, was witnessed by Del Norters from many points of observation.

Jupiter - courtesy NASA The mammoth telescope on Lookout mountain aided very materially in the observations taken.”

Then in June of that year, “Several parties have been up to the observatory this week during evenings, watching Jupiter.  The sky has been unusually clear and trips to the observatory have not only been pleasant but instructive.”

A Jolly Good Time

According to Nina Belle (McCarthy) Weiss, who was in the first graduating class of Del Norte High School in 1892, the instructors of the College and those at the Del Norte public school worked cooperatively:

“Our high school course in those days required some study of the sciences.  How well I remember the thin little books we were given for a short study of chemistry, geology, botany, and especially astronomy.  This gave us knowledge of the firmament, the heavens, the constellations, as well as a study of the sun and the moon and the stars.

Trips up the old mountain and the telescope at the top were great events. It was usually the occasion for a picnic supper and a jolly good time.”

Contact Us

The Lookout Mountain Observatory Association

PO Box 432
Del Norte, CO  81132

Or Email Alva Hibbs

Thanks to Dr. A.J. Taylor of the Rio Grande County Museum for compiling these stories for us.